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A Saint, His Cloak, and Us

St Martin’s Day falls on November 11th. Coming at the end of autumn, Martinmas was a traditional time in Europe for agricultural festivals, for testing the new wine vintage, and for the slaughter of geese, cattle, and, in Spain, of hogs. The saying “A cada cerdo le llega su San Martín” (every hog will get his Martinmas) reflects this custom as it offers a fateful warning to the proud and the greedy.

Many also know November 11th as Veterans’ Day, or Armistice Day. As the end of the Great War approached late in 1918, the choice of Martinmas as the date for signing the armistice was profound. France, where so much of the slaughter of a dubious war had taken place, celebrated peace under the patronage of one of its greatest and oldest saints, himself a soldier who had laid down his arms and embraced peace.

Last year Martinmas fell just after a momentous election. In St Luke’s Chapel at the Berkeley Center I listened on November 11, as we often do there on such days, to a summary of the s…

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