St. Martin of Tours (Feast: November 11)
Martin was born in German Sabaria about the year 316. His father, a military tribune, was transferred to Pavia when Martin was still quite young and the boy accompanied him to Italy.
Upon reaching adolescence, Martin was enrolled in the Roman army in accordance with the recruiting laws of the time. Touched by grace at an early age, he was among the first attracted to Christianity, which had been in favor in the military camps since the conversion of Emperor Constantine.
Martin's regiment was soon sent to Amiens in Gaul, and this town became the scene of the celebrated "legend of the cloak." One bitterly-cold winter day, Martin met a shivering and half-naked beggar at the gates of the city. Moved with compassion, Martin divided his coat into two parts and gave one to the poor man. The part he kept for himself became the famous relic preserved in the oratory of the Frankish kings and known to all as “Saint Martin’s cloak.”
Martin, who was still only a catechumen, soon received Baptism and was finally released from military service at Worms on the Rhine. Freed from his obligations, he hastened to set out to Poitiers to enroll himself among the disciples of St. Hilary, the wise and pious bishop whose reputation as a theologian was already spreading beyond the frontiers of Gaul.
However, he desired to see his parents again and returned to Lombardy across the Alps. The inhabitants of this region were infested with Arianism and bitterly hostile towards Catholicism. Martin did not conceal his faith and was very badly treated by order of Bishop Auxentius of Milan, the leader of the heretical sect in Italy.
He was very desirous of returning to Gaul, but learning that the Arians also persecuted their opponents in that country and had even succeeded in exiling St. Hilary to the Orient, he decided to seek shelter on the island of Gallinaria, now Isola d’Albenga, in the middle of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
As soon as Martin learned that an imperial decree had authorized St. Hilary to return to Gaul, he hastened to the side of his chosen master at Poitiers in 361.
After having obtained permission from him to embrace the life of a hermit, which he had adopted in Gallinaria, he settled in a deserted region now called Ligugé.
is example soon drew a great number of monks who settled near him. Such was the beginning of the celebrated Benedictine Abbey of Ligugé. Martin remained about ten years in this solitude and often left it to preach the Gospel in the central and western parts of Gaul where the rural inhabitants were still plunged in the darkness of idolatry and given up to all sorts of gross superstitions. The memory of these apostolic journeys survives to our day in the numerous local legends where Martin is the hero and which roughly indicate the routes that he followed.
When St. Lidorius, second Bishop of Tours, died in 371 or 372, the clergy of that city desired to replace him by the famous hermit of Ligugé. But, as Martin remained deaf to the prayers of the deputies who brought him this message, it was necessary to resort to a ruse to overcome his resistance. A rich citizen of Tours by the name of Rusticius went and begged him to come to attend to his wife who was in the throes of death.
Without suspicion, Martin followed him in all haste, but hardly had he entered the city when, in spite of the opposition of a few ecclesiastical dignitaries, popular acclamation constrained him to become Bishop of Tours.
Consecrated on July 4, Martin fulfilled the duties to his office with all the energy and dedication that he had demonstrated in the past. He did not however change his way of life. He fled from the distractions of the large city and settled himself in a small cell a short distance from Tours, beyond the Loire. Other hermits soon joined him there and thus was gradually formed a new monastery that surpassed the Ligugé and came to be known as the Majus Monasterium, the “great monastery” or Marmoutier.
Thus, by an untiring zeal and great simplicity Martin administered to his pastoral duties and so succeeded in sowing Christianity throughout the region of Touraine. Nor was it a rare occurrence for him to leave his diocese when he thought that his appearance in some distant locality might produce some good. He even went several times to Trier, where the emperors had established their residence in order to plead the interests of the Church or to ask pardon for some condemned person.
His role in the matter of the Priscillianists and Ithacians was especially remarkable. Martin hurried to Trier, not to defend the Gnostic and Manichaean doctrines of Priscillian, but to remove him from the secular jurisdiction of the emperor. The Council of Saragossa had justly condemned the Spanish heresiarch Priscillian and his partisans and angry charges were brought before Emperor Maximus by some orthodox bishops of Spain, led by Bishop Ithacius.
Maximus at first consented to Martins’s request but when he departed, Maximus yielded to the solicitations of Ithacius and ordered Priscillian and his followers to be beheaded. Deeply grieved, Martin refused to communicate with Ithacius. However, when he went again to Trier a little later to ask pardon for two rebels, Narses and Leucadius, Maximus would only pardon them on the condition that Martin make his peace with Ithaeius. To save the lives of his clients, Martin consented to this reconciliation, but afterwards reproached himself bitterly for this act of weakness.
After a last visit to Rome, Martin went to Candes, one of the religious centers created by him in his diocese and there he was stricken with a malady, which ended his life. Ordering himself to be carried into the presbytery of the church, he died there at the age of about eighty-one, with the same exemplary spirit of humility and mortification that he had always practiced in life.
DAILY QUOTE for January 18, 2021
One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian.