St Martin and Armistice Day
11/November/2008 Filed in: Jottings
St Martin has a special place in the affections of all Benedictines because he was the first bishop in the west to live a monastic life. Everyone knows the story of the soldier-saint sharing his cloak with a beggar. It would have been so much easier simply to give the whole cloak; but to share, to make oneself look slightly ridiculous in order to spare the feelings of another, shows real delicacy and generosity of spirit. It is one of the ironies of history that today, as we commemorate St Martin, we also recall the Armistice which ninety years ago ended the fighting of World War I. Few, I think, could claim that it ended the war. Wars are ended with peace treaties, and there are few who would dispute that the seeds of World War II were sown in the humilating terms eventually imposed on Germany. Today I shall think of St Martin and his readiness to serve; I shall also think of the World War I battlefields — of Verdun, perhaps, and the terrible waste of lives produced by eight months of shelling (60,000,000shells!). If we do not learn the lessons of history, we shall surely be obliged to repeat them.