Martin was a young Roman soldier stationed in France, then known as Gaul, in the fourth century. His fortress was in Amiens, in the windy northern valleys of France. The winters were long, and snowy, and cold.
One day, young Martin was passing through the city gates when he saw an elderly beggar. The man was dressed in rags, and shivering in the winter wind. Martin had no money, but he had a long, woolen cloak—a soldier’s cloak, designed to withstand the elements. Martin drew his sword, and cut the cloak in half. He wrapped the beggar in one of the pieces.
That night, Martin had a dream. Jesus Christ appeared in heaven, wrapped in the half-cloak Martin had given away. Christ was boasting to the angels and the saints. “Martin,” he said, “has covered me with his cloak.”
Martin was not yet baptized, but he rushed to the parish Church and asked to be baptized a Christian immediately. Some months later, he reported to his commanding officer. “I have served you as a soldier; allow me henceforth to serve Christ,” he told him. “I am a now soldier of Christ.”
Martin left the army and became a hermit. Other men followed him and they established a monastery. He was chosen as the bishop of Tours, and was carried from the monastery to serve as bishop. Martin became renowned as a preacher, and he converted tens of thousands, including his own family. He built dozens of churches and he combatted heresy. Eventually, he retired his bishopric and entered a new monastery, where he spent his remaining years training priests, several of whom became bishops.
Martin died with the name of Jesus on his lips. Thousands attended his funeral. A church has continually stood over his grave.
Today we remember Martin, the “soldier for Christ,” as St. Martin of Tours. His life in Jesus Christ was extraordinary. He sowed seeds of faith across Europe that continue to bear fruit, even today. But his life in Jesus Christ began with one simple act of generosity; with the kind of missionary discipleship to which each one of us are all called.
All that St. Martin accomplished was the fruit of his discipleship—of generous commitment to serve the poor.
When we are generous, Christ draws us into a deeper relationship with him. Our charity is a form of the imitation of Christ, who poured himself out for us on the cross, and was reborn in the resurrection. Martin of Tours poured himself out, in a simple act of charity. He was reborn—transformed—in a new relationship with Jesus Christ.
The fruit of discipleship is a life transformed in the friendship of Jesus Christ. The fruit of discipleship is holiness.
This week, the Diocese of Lincoln is engaged in the annual Charity and Stewardship Appeal (CSA). This appeal supports programs to feed and clothe the poor, to teach the faith, to proclaim the Gospel. Most especially, it supports the good work of our parishes and schools across the Diocese of Lincoln.
The invitation to support the Charity and Stewardship Appeal is about more than just giving to good works. The invitation is an opportunity to engage in an act of missionary discipleship—to “cut our cloaks in half,” follow after Christ, and to be transformed by him. When we are generous, we come to know Christ more intimately. And by the fruit of our discipleship, others are brought into the loving embrace of the Father.
Many of us, I know, want to be great saints for Jesus Christ. We want to serve him in extraordinary ways. In the life of St. Martin of Tours, great service began with an ordinary, simple act of generosity—placing him on the path to a life of missionary discipleship.
I pray that you will support our Diocesan Charity and Stewardship Appeal. And I pray that in your generosity, and by the fruit of your discipleship, your life will be renewed and transformed in Jesus Christ.