|Ostheimer St Martin and the Beggar|
So what does this ancient Saint mean for us in our world today, and what can he teach us? And how can we celebrate this with our children? And is it meaningful to children in Australia?
St Martin was a fourth-century Roman soldier in southern France, who made a spontaneous charitable gesture when he shared his cloak with a beggar outside the city of Tours. His subsequent dream in which the beggar appeared to him as Christ on high was the decisive event in his life. Afterwards Martin tried to make peace instead of war and was granted a discharge from the army. After a period of solitary contemplation Martin founded a monastery in France – one of the first Christian monasteries – which included a library of the very best of Greek and Roman philosophical texts. At his death, his popularity was so large that as his coffin was carried by the river for the funeral, people flocked to the banks carrying lanterns (which is guess is how the association with the lantern walk came about).
Martinmas comes just over 40 days before Christmas. In religious customs the number 40 has always been associated with a time of preparation. There are 40 days of Lent leading to Easter. It is the perfect time therefore to begin discussion and sharing as a family in preparation for Advent and Christmas. The story of St Martin can teach children the value of giving and caring for others, and for creating peace in our world.
I have been reflecting this evening that this year as my two girls are growing older they are very much ready to step into the "giving" aspect of Christmas. The young child is full of the "magic" of Christmas, the anticipation, the excitement of receiving the gifts from Santa Claus, which is part of the joy and wonder of childhood today. But perhaps for the older child it can be a time of greater maturity (as well as enjoying some magic still!) and of thinking what can be "given", not just in material things, but from our hearts and souls.
...for us I think St Martin's day will become the "turning towards Christmas", the time we will begin to think of what we can make for those we love, what we can clear out and giveaway in terms of those possessions we no longer need or use.
I would love to hear how your family celebrates your special festivals and days, so please feel free to share...
These lovely books have been an inspiration to me over the years...
Festivals with Children