Learning Gratitude from St. Martin de Tours

The Thanksgiving holiday invites us to reflect on the true meaning of giving thanks. St. Martin de Tours, whose feast day is November 11, reminds us that giving thanks is more than acknowledging what we’ve been given. It is a call to live all of life in gratitude.

St. Martin de Tours was raised as a military man but as a young adult converted to the Catholic faith and eventually became Bishop of Tours. While many miracles and inspiring stories can be told of St. Martin’s life, one from his days as a soldier is especially moving. Young Martin joined the army at the age of fifteen, following his father’s path. While riding towards his station in Gaul on a cold winter’s day, Martin noticed a poor beggar near the gates of the city. The man had barely any clothes to shelter him from the bitter cold. Moved by the sight of the suffering man and the many others passing him by without a second glance, Martin drew his sword, cut his own cloak in half, gave one part to the beggar and kept the other for himself. The next night in his sleep, Martin saw a vision of Christ surrounded by angels and wrapped in half of the soldier’s cloak. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels “Martin, as yet only a catechumen, has covered me with his cloak.” Immediately after this event, Martin rushed to be baptized. He then gave his life to Christ, pursuing a monastic life of preaching and prayer.

St. Martin’s story shows us the true nature of gratitude. He understood, even before fully converting to Christianity, that all he owned were gifts from God—from the cloak on his back to his talents and time. Martin realized that it wasn’t enough to thank God in solitude. Rather than keeping all of these gifts to himself, Martin shared what he had with others. This is the true nature of gratitude. It calls us out of ourselves and towards others. When we are truly thankful for what we have and recognize its true source, the Creator of all things, we can’t help but want to share it with everyone.

Though St. Martin was called to an extraordinary life, we can still follow his example in our ordinary circumstances. He teaches us that everything we have is a gift from God and meant to be shared. This Thanksgiving, and always, we are called to live more like St. Martin de Tours. We are called to a life of gratitude. How will you start living a life of gratitude this holiday season?

Let’s conclude with a prayer to St. Martin asking that we may live like him:

Blessed St. Martin of Tours, obtain for us not only forgiveness, but also a spirit of love towards neighbor enabling us to be compassionate. Obtain for us the grace to love all people as brothers and sisters with a pure and disinterested heart. May we, like you, one day enjoy the blessed vision of God forever and ever. Amen.

-Jennifer Andersen is the Communication Intern for Catholic Rural Life.