Pray for the people of Iraq as they prepare to go to the polls for their first general election under their new constitution. As is obvious in the news, enemies of the constitutional process are attempting to foment civil war and social chaos. Those who bomb markets, schools, hospitals and places of worship purely to murder civilians won’t hesitate to attack polling places. The bravery of the Iraqi electorate to this point is inspiring to all friends of liberty, including those living under oppressive regimes in the region. The political way ahead for Iraq is not easy; its unique religious and ethnic issues greatly complicate its future. Those who work (and fight) for a free, unified and prosperous Iraq future deserve our prayers and our support.
Iraqis are holding elections, and this is a great thing. It’s another step in bringing to fruition what so many paid so high a price to achieve. Whatever happens in Iraq, it will not approach perfection. The mission will remain incomplete. The result will be something of a disappointment because our hopes are so high. The cost was so high.Nobody hopes more for the peace of Iraq than those who fought there. And yet, we as a nation have learned once again that there is only so much you can accomplish even with the smartest of smart weapons, even with the most prepared and dedicated fighting force in the world. The truth, if you haven’t figured this out already, is that we will never bring in the Kingdom of God with the force of arms. The best we can do, if we’re fortunate, is to make the world a little bit more peaceful and a little bit more just.
The Legend of Saint Martin
In the fourth century, a Roman soldier serving in northern Gaul met a scantily dressed beggar. The soldier’s name was Martin, and although he had been reared in a pagan Roman household, he had begun the process of inquiring into the nature of the Christian faith. Seeing the beggar, he impulsively cut his own military cloak in half and shared it with the poor man. That night, he dreamed of Jesus wearing the half-cloak he had given away. He heard Jesus say to the angels: “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clad me.” The dream confirmed Martin’s faith and he was baptized. Sometime later*, Martin left military service, became a monk, an evangelist and ultimately bishop of Tours.
During the Middle Ages, the relic of St. Martin’s cloak, (cappa) became one of the most sacred relics of the Frankish kings. It would be carried everywhere the king went, even into battle, as a holy relic. The priest who cared for the cloak in its reliquary was called a cappellanu, and ultimately all priests who served the military were called cappellani. The French translation is chapelains, from which the English word chaplain is derived. One of the many services a chaplain can provide is spiritual and pastoral support for military service personnel by performing religious services at sea or in the battlefield.
* The classical account of Martin’s life says that he left military service about two years after his baptism. Following historian Jacques Fontaine, many (if not most) scholars now date his birth earlier and believe he served in the army for about twenty years after his baptism.