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Catholic Activity: Martinmas: Clothing the Naked

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November 11 is the feast of St. Martin of Tours. He is best known for giving half of his cloak to a beggar, who later appeared to him as Christ with the half cloak. We can imitate this generous saint by giving clothes for the needy.

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St. Martin's day once used to rival St. John's day, so much was it given to rejoicings and festivities. So often did Martinmas bring with it a brief return of warm weather that the days around the feast are still called to this day "St. Martin's summer." All types of people claimed Martin as their patron — "monks, priests, soldiers, knights, travelers, inn-keepers, charitable organizations of every kind." Why these last claimed Martin as patron the office of his feast makes clear: "At the age of 15 he became a soldier and served in the army, first of Constantius, afterwards of Julian. On one occasion when a poor naked man at Amiens begged an alms of him in the name of Christ, having nothing but his armor and clothing, he gave him half his military cloak. The following night Christ appeared to him clad in that half cloak, and said; `Martin, while yet a catechumen, has clothed me with this garment.'"

How better could one honor St. Martin's day than by living it in that spirit of his? Martin gave away half his cloak: we can go through our wardrobe and select any clothes that are at all superfluous — if we would really resemble Martin we should give more than what can be spared — and we can immediately send or give it to someone in need, either directly, or indirectly through some organization. It is important to remember, though, that Martin gave the cloak he was actually wearing, that is to say, something that was fit to be worn. The idea is not to give away merely old clothes, but garments in such condition that we ourselves would be willing to wear them. After all, when Martin saw his cloak, not on the beggar but on Christ himself, it was reality that he saw. Any clothes, any single thing that we give to another person we are giving to Christ himself.

Activity Source: Candle is Lighted, A by P. Stewart Craig, The Grail, Field End House, Eastcote, Middlesex, 1945

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