Saturday, November 11, 2017

Happy Martinmas!

Today is the feast of St. Martin of Tours, one of the first non-martyr saints, a confessor for Christ. He is best known and most frequently depicted as a soldier mounted on a horse, handing half of his cloak to a beggar. I've chosen a different image: St Martin leaves the life of chivalry and renounces the army (fresco by Simone Martini). After his conversion, brought about by a visit from Jesus revealing Himself to have been that beggar, Martin left the Roman army, became a hermit, and eventually was ordained priest and bishop. We have an early life written by Sulpicius Severus, who knew him!

More about Martinmas, one of those feasts that anchored the Medieval year in custom and liturgical observance:

Famous for his generosity towards a drunken beggar, with whom he shared his cloak, St Martin is the patron saint of beggars, drunkards and the poor. As his feast day falls during the wine harvest in Europe, he is also the patron saint of wine growers and innkeepers.

As Martinmas coincided with the gathering in of the harvest, during the Middle Ages it was a time for feasting, to celebrate the end of autumn and the start of preparations for winter. Martlemass beef, salted to preserve it for the winter, was produced from cattle slaughtered at this time. Traditionally, goose and beef were the meats of choice for the celebrations, along with foods such as black pudding and haggis.

Martinmas is also a Scottish term day. The Scottish legal year is divided into four term and quarter days: Candlemas, Whitsunday, Lammas and Martinmas. On these days servants would be hired, rent would be due and contracts would begin or end. Traditionally therefore, Martinmas was also the time of hiring fairs, at which agricultural labourers and farm hands would seek employment.

Liturgically, the feast of St. Martin of Tours ended the Octave of All Souls Day, an intense period of prayer for our beloved dead. Today, I'll be attending the funeral of the sister of a high school classmate. He is a priest and will be officiating at her Funeral Mass. Her parents serve as lector and sacristan at our home parish--he was the lector at my mother's funeral while she prepared the Altar that day. In your kindness, please pray for the repose of the soul of Karen. 

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon her. 

May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.


In the USA, today is Veterans Day. In Europe, today is Armistice Day: at the 11th hour on the 11th day in the 11th month of 1918, the War to End All Wars ended--and as we know, probably sowed the seeds that blossomed into World War II. Peace!

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