St. Martin of Tours: Patron Saint of Conscientious Objectors

Saint Martin of Tours Cutting His Military Cloak in Half

Today, on Armistice Day, 18 American military vets will commit suicide. This weekend, military veterans are gathering in Washington, D.C., for the second Truth Commission on Conscience in War.

“War inflicts terrible, tragic consequences on all touched by it,” says Truth Commission member Herman Keizer (U.S. Army ret.). “Moral conscience should not be one of its casualties.” St. Martin of Tours, pray for us.

St. Martin was born about the year 316 in Sabaria, Upper Pannonia, a province comprising northern Yugoslavia and western Hungary. His father was an officer in the Roman army. While Martin was still a child, his father was transferred to northern Italy. There the boy learned of Christianity, became drawn to it, and became a catechumen.

As the son of a military veteran, at the age of 15 Martin was required to begin service in the army. While young Martin was stationed at Amiens, in Gaul, an incident occurred which tradition and art have rendered famous.

As he rode toward the town one winter day, he noticed near the gates a poor man, thinly clad, shivering with cold, and begging alms. Martin saw that none who passed stopped to help the miserable fellow. He had nothing with him but his military uniform, but, drawing his sword from its scabbard, he cut his great woolen cloak in two pieces, gave one half to the beggar, and wrapped himself in the other.

The following night, Martin had a dream. In his sleep he saw Jesus, surrounded by angels, and dressed in the half of the cloak Martin had given away. A voice interrogated him: Look closely. Do you recognize this cloak?

Martin then heard Jesus say to the angels, “Martin, as yet only a catechumen, has covered me with his own cloak.” After this experience, Martin “flew to be baptized.”

When Martin was about 20, Gaul was attacked. However, his conversion to Jesus made him realize that the military life was not compatible with his faith. He refused military service and was taken off to prison. St. Martin was probably one of the earliest conscientious objectors. He made a protest, refused to fight, and lived through one war in prison.

When he was released from prison, he asked to be ordained a deacon. In 360 he became a monk and was one of the pioneers of western monasticism. In 372 he was made bishop but continued to live in his monk’s cell first at the cathedral in Tours and then at the monastery of Marmoutier. During his long life he established many religious communities and traveled around his diocese by donkey, boat, and on foot, preaching the gospel’s peace and healing. His emblems are a tree, armor, a cloak, and a beggar.

Earlier I wrote about Iraq Veterans Against War’s “Operation Recovery.” Their campaign continues to make an impact. (Motto: Friends Don’t Let Friends Deploy Who Are Wounded Warriors.) Here are a couple of news clips that used my photos:

Veterans Day: IVAW’s Operation Recovery Update

In an effort to raise public awareness about Operation Recovery to stop the deployment of traumatized troops, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will be exposing information about the different forms of trauma troops and veterans experience. In the weeks leading up to Veterans Day, IVAW has been giving public presentations to educate the public about the realities of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Military Sexual Trauma (MST), conditions that affect hundreds of thousands of military members and veterans.

Afghanistan & Iraq Vets Call for End to Deployment of Traumatized Troops

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) in conjunction with other progressive leaning Veterans and Military family groups has been planning Operation Recovery and now IVAW is ready to publicly release details of their campaign.

Read more about veteran suicide rates here: This Veteran’s Day, 18 Will Die By Their Own Hands

1 thought on “St. Martin of Tours: Patron Saint of Conscientious Objectors”

  1. Martin’s life made me realize that most parents don’t always think the same and to have faith on hard times!

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