Monday, November 11, 2013
Feast of St. Martin of Tours
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Double (1955 Calendar): November 11

Happy Martinmas!

When November 11 arrives each year, we are accustomed to seeing civic displays of patriotism and honor for the nation’s veterans. Originally known as Armistice Day – in honor of the ending of World War I, which concluded on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – the United States in 1954 amended the holiday to include a remembrance of all the living and the dead of the nation’s veterans. And the name was subsequently changed to Veteran’s Day on June 1, 1954.

However, to the Catholic, November 11 is more than a day to honor the nation’s veterans and even more than a day to pray for the repose of the souls of all who have died in battle for the country’s defense.

November 11 is the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, the great worker of charity who is said to have raised three persons from the dead. Known as Martinmas, this day of celebration featured numerous festivities in honor of the life and charity of St. Martin of Tours, and it is still observed by some Catholics who keep the tradition alive of carrying lanterns and eating a traditional meal of goose on this day. Note: No goose allowed, of course, on years when November 11 falls on a Friday.

In fact, Father Francis Weiser, in the Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, shows that Martinmas was the ‘Thanksgiving Day’ of the Middle Ages. This is not a day we should forget:

“The most common, and almost universal, harvest and thanksgiving celebration in medieval times was held on the Feast of Saint Martin of Tours (Martinmas) on November 11. It was a holiday in Germany, France, Holland, England and in central Europe. People first went to Mass and observed the rest of the day with games, dances, parades, and a festive dinner, the main feature of the meal being the traditional roast goose (Martin’s goose). With the goose dinner they drank ‘Saint Martin’s wine,’ which was the first lot of wine made from the grapes of the recent harvest. Martinmas was the festival commemorating filled barns and stocked larders, the actual Thanksgiving Day of the Middle Ages. Even today it is still kept in rural sections of Europe, and dinner on Martin’s Day would be unthinkable without the golden brown, luscious Martin’s goose.”

Traditional Matins Reading:

Martin was born at Sabaria in Pannonia. When ten years old he fled to the church, against his parents’ will, and had himself enrolled among the catechumens. At the age of fifteen he became a soldier, and served in the army first of Constantine and afterwards of Julian. On one occasion, when a poor naked man at Amiens begged an alms of him in the name of Christ, having nothing but his armour and clothing, he gave him half of his military cloak. The following night Christ appeared to him clad in that half-cloak, and said: Martin, while yet a catechumen has clothed me with this garment.

At eighteen years of age, he was baptized; and abandoning his military career, betook himself to Hilary, bishop of Poitiers, by whom he was made acolyte. Later on, having become bishop of Tours, he built a monastery, where he lived for some time in a most holy manner, in company with eighty monks. He was seized with a violent fever at Cande, a village in his diocese; and he earnestly besought God to free him from the prison of the body. His disciples hearing, asked him: Father, why dost thou abandon us P or to whom dost thou leave us in our desolation? Martin, touched by their words, prayed to God in this manner: O Lord, if I am still necessary to thy people, I do not refuse to labour.

When his disciples saw him praying in the height of the fever, lying on his back, they besought him to turn over for a little while, that he might get some rest and relief. But Martin answered: Suffer me to gaze on heaven rather than earth, that my spirit, which is about to depart, may be directed on its way to our Lord. As death drew nigh, he saw the enemy of mankind, and exclaimed: What art thou doing here, thou cruel beast? Thou wilt find no evil in me. While uttering these words he gave up his soul to God, at the age of eighty-one. He was received by a choir of Angels, whom many, and in particular St. Severinus Bishop of Cologne, heard singing the praises of God.

Tomb of St. Martin of Tours

Tomorrow is the beginning of St. Martin's Lent, the true Advent Fast. For this reason, this is a 2nd "Mardi Gras" today.

Prayer:

O God, You see that we cannot depend upon our own strength. Mercifully preserve us from all harm through the intercession of Your blessed confessor bishop Martin.

Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal

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