Chaplaincy

Poppies painted by Pam Kelly
Today is a day to remember.
 
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,They fell with their faces to the foe.We will remember them.
Also it is the day we celebrate St Martin of Tours – patron saint of France. Martin was a soldier who changed sides. He was a Roman soldier who became a “soldier of Christ” whereupon he declared, “I cannot fight”.Martin is famous for having halved his cloak to share it with a beggar. The cloak became an important relic which was specially cared by a priest in its reliquary. Wikipedia tells us that this priest was called “acappellanu” and “ultimately all priests who served the military were called cappellani. The French translation is chapelains, from which the English word chaplain is derived.”

St Martin and the Beggar by El Greco

This gives a fascinating insight into Christian ministry with “chaplaincy” grounded in this act of love – the sharing of the cloak. There is a further twist to the story in that Martin discovered his cloak restored when he woke one morning. Love defies the accountant and moves us into a world of magic and mystery. How can one cloak become one and a half cloaks, or even two cloaks? (Because I bet it wasn’t only Martin who was so blessed). Jesus defies accountancy logic when he declares that “whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life me will find it” (Matt 16:25). This mystery means that those who are determined to give of themselves don’t need to count the cost.


Those who give their life for their friends have a love which is supreme. There is no greater love than this – and there is no waste in such love. Simon Marsh has a wonderful story on his blog about the war veteran being greeted by a grandchild from one of the villages he helped to liberate. Such stories highlight the life-giving commitment of people who share Martin’s vocation as soldiers and chaplains. But Martin’s declaration sounds a warning at a time when we tend to avoid the hard questions of war – when life is wasted and brutalised. “I am a soldier of Christ. I will not fight.”

 

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