From the Rev: St Martin of Tours

Nov 12, 2017

Today, we pay homage to St Martin of Tours. St Martin is the patron saint of chaplaincy. His recognized feast day in the church is recognized on November 11. The English word ‘chaplain’ comes from Martin’s life story.

Martin, as a Roman soldier, one day was headed into the city of Amiens, France with his troops. On the side of the road, he saw a man shivering from the cold. Moved with compassion, Martin cut a piece of his cloak and offered it to the man as a covering from the cold.

Later that night, in a dream, Jesus appeared to Martin.

Martin, who is still but a catechumen, clothed me with this robe.

The compelling words of Jesus encouraged Martin to seek a discharge from the military and to pursue a life of service to God. Martin was a bit of reluctant leader, rising in his position with the church, but seemingly always a bit uncomfortable with living above the austere conditions he felt were part of his calling. He trained others to serve others, to cover them at the point of their need.

When Martin died, his followers enshrined the half of the cloak. This tangible reminder of how Christians are called to serve, memorialized Martin’s life and work. Eventually, the place where the cloak was enshrined took on the name of the cloak. In Latin, capella, became called chapelle in French and those who took care of the cloak and its memory were known as chapelains.

As a chaplain with Soccer Chaplains United, this story of St Martin serves as a reminder — of how we are to serve, of our aims and our goals in ministry. Others may have their agendas or desires to utilize the platform and power of sport. Others might desire to create discipleship and ministry movements amongst athletes or in sports environments. But, for a chaplain, the goal and focus is on the pastoral and spiritual care of the person — over and above any works of evangelism or discipleship.

Martin’s life and story remind us that there is a space where God can reach and affect the heart. If we just be willing to have open eyes to see people in need. And often, the sacrificial cut and covering will come from what we have — no matter how great or how small. We, too, like Martin, must be willing to give it away with nothing promised in return.


— Rev Brad Kenney

  1. Peter Clark

    Shirt swopping on the field of play after the contest is common place but I’ve yet to see a sharing of the two shirts!
    Has anyone witnessed such a practice?

    1. Brad Kenney

      Shirt swapping in the game of football has the basis of mutual respect. One opponent for another. In the context of St Martin, the sharing of his cloak isn’t comparable. Martin gives to the one in need with perhaps the only basis of respect being the shared humanity of the two. Perhaps, the closest parallel in football might be when a player gives his shirt to the young person or the disabled person, on the sidelines. The gift spans the gulf of disparity — whatever that disparity might be, whether ability, socio-economic, or otherwise.

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