The winter of 337 AD was the coldest that anyone could remember in ancient Gaul of Earth. The old man had lost everything, his family had died of hunger and cold as the winter wore on. Sick and unable to pay his bills and taxes, his business closed, and finally his home and all of his earthly belongings had been confiscated.
It was the end of the day, and probably of his life, when the poor man gathered what was left of his clothing around him, huddled into a ball and leaned against the stone wall. Hoping that some of the sun’s warmth might seep into his body from the wall, he held out a quaking hand to passersby, begging for some tidbit of food…water…humanity to be passed his way.
This was the tableau the Martin, a soldier a Caesar’s army, and a man devoted to his creator, came upon as he entered the city. Martin was moved by the plight of this old man so he got off of his horse to approach him. As a soldier, full of empathy, he had no money to give to the beggar. All he had with him, were the clothes he had on his back.
And so, young Martin removed his cloak, cut it in half, and gave half to the beggar.
People were so moved by this action, that his cloak (or cappa as they were known) was kept and venerated as a holy object. King’s carried the cloak into battle with them, believing it would give them victory. The keepers of the cloak became known as cappellas, which has become the word Chaplain.
This is what Chaplain’s today are. We are keepers of the cloak. We are those who have chosen, in whatever fashion, to come alongside of and to provide covering for all of the beings in our care. Without prejudice. Without judgement.
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