Catholic World – A Legend of Saint Martin

[Saint Martin of Tours]After many strifes and battles, and after having been for years iministrator of Thrace, Asia, and Egypt, with Dacia and Macedonia, to which the dethroned and executed Emperor of the West, Gratian, had appointed him, Theodosius I, the Roman emperor, returned from Thessalonica, his former headquarters, to Constantinople.

The day was cold and stormy, and many a one of the emperor’s suite wrapped his cloak closer around his shivering body, as the snowflakes fell thicker and faster, covering the road quickly in the white mantle of winter.

The troop had just entered a small village, when the emperor’s horse was stopped by a man miserably clad and trembling with cold. Impatient of the detention, Theodosius pressed his spurs into the sides of his steed, and flew past the wretched beggar.

But a knight called Martin, from Pannonia, who followed next, halted and looked pityingly upon the poor trembling form. Willingly would he have given him money or clothing, but a soldier seldom has much to give, and, except his hat and coat, the knight possessed nothing. One moment only he reflected, and the next he drew forth his sword, and cut in two the large cloak hanging over his shoulders. Handing the one half to the beggar, and wrapping himself closely in the other, he followed the emperor with lightning speed, without listening to the words of blessing which fell from the lips of the mendicant.

After the sun had set, the emperor and his followers took quarters for the night.

All had gone to rest, and Knight Martin also had laid himself down, and soon was fast asleep. Shortly, however, he felt as if his eyes were forced open by a most brilliant and dazzling light. He sat up, and perceived at his feet a man upon whose head was a crown of thorns. Shining angels surrounded him. and the mantle which Martin had given to the beggar hung around his shoulders. Pointing to it, he asked Saint Peter (who stood by his side) in sweet and gentle voice: “Do you see this mantle?”

“From whom did you receive it?” Saint Peter questioned.

“From Martin here,” was the reply, given in a heavenly voice, his linger pointing at the same time to the astonished soldier. “Rise, my son,” he then continued and his angelic smile was ravishing to the eyes of Martin ” I have chosen thee henceforth to be my servant. Until now thou hast been a blind heathen : thou shalt now become a shining light in my army. Put up thy sword ; thou shalt be a soldier of God.” And then Martin knew that it was the Lord himself who spake to him.

An angel kissed the mantle’s border and Martin awoke.

The morning broke. He rose quickly, and left the place, never resting, never stopping, until he had reached the portal of a cloister ; there he knocked and entered.

Soon he became famous for his goodness and piety, and, as bishop, served his Master with spiritual rather than material weapons.

– from Catholic World, April 1873