It is the day of Martilmasse
Cuppes of ale should freelie pass;
What though Wynter has begunne
To push downe the Summer sunne,
To our fire we can betake,
And enjoye the crackling brake,
Never heeding Wynter’s face
On the day of Martilmasse.
~~From an Old English Ballad
Today is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. This is not a feast day I'd planned on celebrating (most feast days we just read about the saint's life, some we enjoy some special foods or crafts), but there are lots of fun traditions surrounding his feast day! It is also Veteran's Day and St. Martin is an excellent saint for Veteran's Day.
Here's a brief biography from Catholic Culture:
St. Martin was born (c. 316) at Sabaria, a town in Pannonia near the famous Benedictine monastery dedicated to his name. Against the wishes of his parents he associated with Christians and became a catechumen at the age of ten. At fifteen he entered the army and served under the Emperors Constantius and Julian. While in the service he met a poor, naked beggar at the gates of Amiens who asked alms in Christ's Name. Martin had nothing with him except his weapons and soldier's mantle; but he took his sword, cut the latter in two, and gave half to the poor man. During the following night Christ appeared to him clothed with half a mantle and said, "Martin, the catechumen, has clothed Me with this mantle!"
Martin was eighteen years old when he received the sacrament of holy baptism. At the pleading of his superior officer, he remained two years longer in the army. Then, upon requesting dismissal, Julian accused him of cowardice. "With the sign of the Cross," Martin answered, "I shall more certainly break through the ranks of the enemy than if armed with shield and sword."
Want a bit more? Here is a nice biography of St. Martin and a history of traditions from Fisheaters. I thought this was particularly interesting:
St. Martin's remaining piece of cloak became a very revered relic. In fact, the building where his cloak -- "cappa" in Latin -- was preserved was known as the "cappella," the root of our words "chapel" and "chaplain."
Some ideas for celebrating:
- Since St. Martin is known for giving half his cloak to a poor man, perhaps today would be a good day to purge your wardrobe for clothes that could be given away. (Or, if you are like me, take that bag of clothes you already purged and has been sitting in the garage for a month to GoodWill.)
- Enjoy some traditional Martinmas foods: roast goose, wine or grapes, horseshoe shaped cookies or cake. Here are some other ideas.
- Enjoy an online tour of St. Martin's Cathedral in Tours, France. And some good interior views.
- Watch a YouTube presentation (2 minutes).
- Explore Catholic Culture's page on Martin of Tours.
St Martin's tomb
A blessing at table:
Lord God, source of all that is good, we praise your holy name on this day in which we celebrate the memory of your faithful servant, Martin of Tours. By the example of his life, renew in us the desire to follow daily in the footsteps of Christ, your Son. Bless this nourishment, which we receive from your bounty. May it strengthen us for your service. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
~~From the book Table Blessings: Mealtime Prayers Throughout the Year by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette