Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Commemorating St. Martin of Tours and Soren Kierkegaard

Today, the Church remembers both St. Martin, Bishop of Tours and Soren Kierkegaard.  Their lives, stories, and societies are very different.  We remember them together because both died on the date of November 11.

St. Martin was born in the year 315 AD.  The most popular story regarding St. Martin occurred during his brief military career.  As a member of the ceremonial cavalry unit which protected the Roman Emperor, Martin wore a white cloak which was lined with wool.  One winter day while wearing his uniform, Martin came across a homeless beggar; the beggar was so poor that he was nearly naked during the winter months.  Martin's reaction was one of compassion: he took off his cloak, used his sword to cut the cloak into two halves, and gave one half of the cloak to the beggar.  Later, Martin had a dream in which Jesus, who was wearing the cloak which Martin had given to the beggar, told several angels what Martin had done.  Years later, Martin would be elected as bishop by the people of Tours because they valued him as a model of holiness.  St. Martin is also known for refusing to continue in the Roman military after his baptism, playing a role in a man's miraculous healing, and for intervening on behalf of heretics against whom other bishops were using the civil authorities to prosecute and execute.  Read this summary for a fuller telling of St. Martin's life.

Soren Kierkegaard was a Danish Lutheran philosopher and theologian.  Kierkegaard is credited as the founder of existentialism, although "later existentialists had significantly different agendas than his."  He is also known as a fierce opponent of "cheap grace" and Christendom because he believed that an easy Christian life without pain, suffering, cost, or risk was not truly a Christian life at all.  Kierkegaard is also credited for writing beautiful prayers, poems, and hymns.  You can read more about Kierkegaard in this article from "Christianity Today."

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