Posts Tagged ‘History/Biography’

St. Martin the Veteran

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

Today is Veterans’ Day, instituted first as Armistice Day after WWI, then Veterans’ Day after WWII (although my mother occasionally still called it Armistice Day) as a tribute to veterans of both world wars. It’s also the Feast of Martinmas, which is less well known in this country, although having been raised Catholic I grew up familar with the story of Saint Martin of Tours. It seems somehow fitting that Veterans Day is celebrated on the festival of a former Roman soldier.

Martin was born in the 4th century in what later became Hungary but what was then Pannonia, a province of the Roman Empire. His father, an important officer in the Roman army, naturally expected his son to follow in his footsteps. Martin had been named for Mars, the god of war, presumably to encourage that military spirit. But apparently young Martin was an easy-going, sociable fellow, more curious about strangers, and generous with handouts, than aggressive toward them, so to get him into the army his father arranged for his kidnapping and forcible enlistment by his soldiers, hoping that Martin would grow accustomed to military life through daily exposure. I bet Dad didn’t get many loving letters from the front. Today this method of recruitment is frowned upon.

However, there was Martin, a soldier at last, obliged to serve the Emperor for three years, outfitted with a Roman uniform and a sword. Even in the army, Martin was open-handed, and his military salary usually found its way into the hands of the unfortunate. His unit was sent to Gaul, as part of an ongoing attempt to civilize the native barbarians. Civilization in Gaul was eventually attained at a level far beyond their wildest dreams, but that’s another story.

One winter day, the story goes, Martin arrived at the gates of Amiens, where he encountered a poor ragged beggar shivering by the side of the road. Martin had already given away all his extra clothing, but, taking pity on the beggar, Martin unsheathed his sword and cut his warm woolen (army-issue, uh-oh) cloak in half and wrapped one half around him.

That night, Martin dreamed that Jesus appeared to him wrapped in Martin’s half-cloak saying, “Martin has covered me with this garment.” This made him determined to leave the army permanently, at the end of his term. When he attempted it, however (inconveniently during a barbarian invasion), he was accused of cowardice, in response to which he offered to advance alone against the enemy. Instead he was imprisoned. Eventually he was released at the conclusion of an armistice, and was finally able to pursue his vocation, settling in Gaul, founding an order, living very simply and developing a reputation for feeding the hungry and healing the sick.

Over the years our homeschooling group celebrated Martinmas (sometimes in combination with Diwali, Festival of Light, which can occur at around the same time—this year it falls on the 14th) with storytelling, a night-time walk in the park carrying lanterns and singing songs about light, and afterward gathering to share dessert. Happy Martinmas! Happy Diwali! Happy Veterans Day, everyone!

(A re-post from an earlier year.)

Confirmation Bias

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

Excellent talk at the Alliance for Justice on Carl Hulse’s new book, which I am now reading. Not for the faint of heart.

Lur

What Every Girl Should Know

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

If there is a YA child, neighbor, or friend in your life, here is a book for their gift list. At Politics and Prose Bookstore, author J. Albert Mann spoke with author Mary Quattlebaum about What Every Girl Should Know, Mann’s new historical novel featuring the adolescent Margaret Sanger (reminder: Sanger was an early advocate of birth control and women’s rights). Young Margaret sounds as spunky, tenacious, and funny as the author did herself during the discussion.

Greg

 

 

Staunton, Part 2: History and Pastry

Friday, March 8th, 2019

New Castle Adventure

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

A weekend with my delightful daughter in the charming town of New Castle, Delaware, which neither of us had before visited, and in which we landed by sheer chance during the May Flower Market (proceeds benefit the town’s public parks and gardens).

Katie

Thoughts and Prayers

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

Click twice for the large size.

Meadow

Bercy/Bibliothèque Nationale

Monday, June 12th, 2017

Off to explore a quartier which has greatly changed since we lived in Paris. The formerly industrial neighborhood is now home to a cultural-educational-flower-filled park edged with spiffy apartment towers, and the 19th century stone wine warehouses now accommodate shops and restaurants. It’s an easy walk across the Seine to the four controversial towering volumes of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, today packed with students cramming for the Bac.

Those Pesky Immigrants

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

Columbus Day is an opportunity to ponder immigration, an especially rich subject during the current election season. The image below, created for this holiday, is part of the all-media Op-Ed exhibit at the Art League Gallery at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia. Come to the opening reception October 13th for a look at a range of opinionated work.

(click twice to enlarge)

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Celebration

Monday, January 18th, 2016

So fittingly on this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we listened to many touching, fascinating, and funny reminiscences during the moving celebration of Al Bronstein. This is a man who infused all his life’s undertakings—from social justice to education to family life to fabulous cooking—with his fierce determination, courage, brilliance, humor and kindness. Thank you, Al.

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Matilda

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Susan

VE Day/Jour de la Libération

Friday, May 8th, 2015

This year is the 70th anniversary. Schools and offices are closed.

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Mr. Darcy