Mystic Mantra: A soldier’s heart

Martin continued to live a holy life, spending a great amount of his time in contemplative prayer and meditation
Last Sunday, in many churches in Europe children had a special celebration, including skits and pantomimes depicting a legendary Roman soldier, now known as St. Martin of Tours. His feast is celebrated on November 11 every year and which used to be a school holiday before Europe turned so secular. Neither Martin’s father, an Army officer in the Roman army in 4th century, nor his mother, were Christians, as then Christianity was still opposed by the Romans. Remember, it was under the Roman regime that Jesus was crucified. When Martin was hardly ten, he was drawn to the doors of a church, but being too young his request to be baptised was not entertained. At the age of 15, according to the law then, he was made to join the Roman Army, though he actually wanted to be a monk.
There is an interesting story about Martin soon after he was promoted as an Army officer. On a bitterly cold winter day, the young Martin rode through the gates, dressed in the full regalia of his unit — gleaming, flexible armour, ridged helmet, and a beautiful white cloak whose upper section was lined with lamb’s wool. As he approached the gates of the garrison he saw a beggar, practically naked, shivering in the cold. Martin, overcome with compassion, took off his mantle and in one quick stroke with his sword, he slashed the lovely mantle into two and handed half to the beggar, keeping the other with himself. Many in the crowd jeered at this but some saw it as a great gesture of Christian charity. That night Martin dreamt that he saw Jesus wearing the half mantle he had given the beggar. He also heard Jesus telling the saints and angels, “See! This is the mantle that Martin, not yet baptised, gave me.” Martin was only 18 then.
Despite being a soldier, Martin continued to live a holy life, spending a great amount of his time in contemplative prayer and meditation. He continued to nurture his original aspiration to be a monk. Interestingly, when he did succeed in starting a monastery, apart from others, many of his co-soldiers joined the monastery. It was a tradition in schools in Europe, which continue in churches now, to celebrate and act out Martin’s generous act towards the poor beggar, instilling in them from a tender age that basic Christian value of caring for the poorest and the most needy. It is probably this spirit cultivated from childhood onwards, which stands them now in good stead as they continue to welcome the huge flood of refugees entering into Europe everyday.
I always remember my encounter with a Hindu sanyasi once at Varanasi Ghats telling me, “Narayan (God) can appear to you in any form, including a beggar”.

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( Source : dominic emmanuel )
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