Sunday, November 11, 2007

St Martin and Solidarity

On this feast of Martin of Tours -- the fourth-century French monk-bishop -- B16 used today's Angelus to highlight the saint and his "commitment to sharing":

Beneath a cold and rain swept winter’s sky, the pontiff recalled that today the Church celebrates St Martin of Tours, the first person in the history of the Church to become a saint not because of a cruel martyrdom for the faith, but because he dedicated his life to evangelisation and charity.

The Pope outlined the life of St Martin: “Born to a pagan family in Pannonia, modern day Hungary, around 316 his father destined him for a military career. In his adolescence he encountered Christianity, and overcoming many obstacles he joined the catechumens to prepare himself for Baptism. He received the sacrament in his early twenties, but was forced to remain in the army where he gave witness to his new way of life: respectful and understanding of all those he met; he treated his servant as a brother and avoided vulgar entertainment. On leaving the military he made his way to Poitiers, France, to the Bishop and Saint Ilarian. Ordained by deacon by him, he chose a monastic life and founded along with some disciples one of Europe’s oldest monasteries in Ligugé. Ten years later the Christians of Tours, deprived of a pastor declared him their Bishop. From then on, Martin dedicated himself with ardent zeal to evangelising the rural countryside and formation of the clergy”.

But above all Benedict XVI recalled the famous gesture of charity of the saint: his sharing of his cloak with a poor beggar “shriven and trembling with the cold”. “That night – continues the pope – Christ appeared to him in a dream, smiling and wearing that same cloak”.

St Martin’s gesture clarified the pope, follows Christ’s logic, who multiplied bread for the starving crowds and gifted himself in the Eucharist. This is why he became a model for the global community: “St Martin helps us to understand that only through a common commitment to sharing, can we answer to the great challenger of our time: that is to build a world of justice and peace, where every human being can live in dignity. This can only happen if a global model of authentic solidarity prevails, capable of insuring that all of the worlds’ people have food, water, healthcare, but also work and recourse to energy as well as culture and scientific and technological knowledge”.

Immediately after the Angelus prayer, Benedict XVI recalled the current situation in Lebanon where tomorrow’s elections for the president of the republic were due to have been held. Yesterday evening the vote was postponed for the third time to November 21, three days before current President Emile Lahoud’s mandate expires. Tensions between pro-Syrian parties and the government and the divisions among Christian deputies (the president must be a Maronite Christian), have failed to bring consensus on a candidate and risk plummeting into all out civil war, fomented by Syria and pro-Iranian Palestinians.

The pope recalled that the election of a head of state is a “crucial passage on which the very survival of Lebanon and its institutions depends”. And he added “I make the concerns recently expressed by the Maronite Patriarch, his Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, my own and I repeat his wish that all Lebanese may recognise themselves in the new President. We appeal to the intercession of Our Lady of Lebanon, that she may inspire the interested parties to distance themselves from personal interests and to a true passion for the common good”.

PHOTO: AP/Alessandra Tarantino