Nov 11 – Memorial for St. Martin of Tours, bishop
St. Martin (316-397) was born to pagan parents. His father was a Roman military officer and tribune. Martin was raised in Pavia, Italy, where he discovered Christianity and became a catechumen in his early teens. He joined the Roman imperia army at the age of 15, serving in a ceremonial unit that acts as the emperor’s bodyguard, and was rarely exposed to combat. He became a cavalry officer and was assigned to garrison duty in Gaul.
Trying to live his faith, he refused to let his servant wait on him. Once, while on horseback in Amiens in Gaul (modern France), he encountered a beggar. Having nothing to give but the clothes on his back, he cut his heavy officer’s cloak in half, and gave it to the beggar. Later, he had a vision of Christ wearing the cloak.
Martin was baptized into the Church at the age of 18. Just before a battle, Martin announced that his faith prohibited him from fighting. Charged with cowardice, he was jailed, and his superiors planned to put him in the front of the battle. However, the invaders sued for peace, the battle never occurred, and Martin was released from military service at Worms.
On a visit to Lombardy to see his parents, he was robbed in the mountains but managed to convert one of the thieves. At home, he found that his mother had converted, but his father had not. The area was strongly Arian, and openly hostile to Catholics. Martin was badly abused by the heretics, and at one point, even by the order of the Arian bishop. Learning that the Arians had gained the upper hand in Gaul and exiled St. Hilary of Poitiers, his spiritual teacher, Martin fled to the island of Gallinaria (modern Isola d’Albenga).
In 361, Martin learned that the emperor had authorized Hilary’s return, and Martin ran to him and became a hermit for ten years in the area now know as Ligugé. A reputation for holiness attracted other monks, and they formed what would become the Benedictine abbey of Ligugé. He preached and evangelised through the Gallic countryside. Many locals held strongly to the old beliefs, and tried to intimidate Martin by dressing as the old Roman gods and appearing to him at night, but Martin continued to win converts. He destroyed old temples, and built churches on the land.
When the bishop of Tours died in 371, Martin was the immediate choice to replace him. Martin declined, citing unworthiness. Rusticus, a wealthy citizen of Tours, claimed his wife was ill and asked for Martin. When he arrived in the city, he was declared bishop by popular acclamation, and was consecrated on Jul 4, 372.
He moved to a hermit’s cell near Tours. Other monks joined him and a new house, Marmoutier, soon formed. He rarely left his monastery, but sometimes went to Trier to plead with the emperor for his city, his church, or his parishioners. Once when he went to ask lenience for a condemned prisoner, an angel woke the emperor to tell him that Martin was waiting to see him; the prisoner was reprieved.
Martin himself was given to visions, but even his contemporaries sometimes ascribed them to his habit of lengthy fasts. An extensive biography of Martin was written by Sulpicius Severus. When he died, he was buried, at his request, in the Cemetery of the Poor. Martin was the first non-martyr to receive the cultus of saint. His relics rested in the basilica of Tours, a scene of pilgrimages and miracles until 1562, when the cathedral and relics were destroyed by militant Protestants. Some small fragments on his tomb were found during construction excavation in 1860.
St. Martin of Tours is patron against poverty, alcoholism, hotel-keepers, quartermasters, soldiers, among others.
Prayer to Continue to Fight for God
“Lord, if your people still have need of my services, I will not avoid the toil. Your will be done. I have fought the good fight long enough. Yet if you bid me continue to hold the battle line in defense of your camp, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. I will do the work you entrust to me. While you command, I will fight beneath your banner.” – St Martin of Tours, Italian Soldier, Hermit, Bishop
- Patron Saint Index
He did this so that we should be justified by his grace…
It is interesting how people react when I tell them that I am working on losing weight.
“You must control your diet.”
“Control! If you can’t lose weight, it’s because you have no self control.”
“You should hire a personal trainer and work out with a programme.”
The number of “musts” and “shoulds” I have received are overwhelming, actually.
I suspect that as Christians, we are guilty of delivering these, or at least I am. I may not always verbalise it, but I know I am guilty of thinking these thoughts. Just look at the recent controversy around our Holy Father’s comments recorded on a documentary. I have heard views from supporting ones to expressing shock at what was shared.
When I look at this incident, what strikes me is that our pope is taking a position of LOVE in how we are to interact with our brothers and sisters with same-sex attraction. Traditionally, we have taken a position of how our faith does not allow anything other than the traditional family unit structure. What this incident reminds me is that without even realising it, is how we actually become judges of whether someone has sinned or not.
The reality is that ONLY God is the judge. What we are called to do is to love the sinner, and this ‘sinner’ that I am talking about is, yes, ALL of us.
Another verse in the first reading jumped out at me — “justified by faith”. This is a perpetual point of contention between Catholics and Protestants. The latter believe that because of Jesus’ dying and resurrection, we already have our place in heaven, while Catholics believe that while our eternal redemption is assured, this MUST be accompanied by good works.
I take the position of the Catholics.
Simply put, if I have experienced a life-changing relationship with our God, this experience MUST change all areas in my life — I would become more loving, more exuberant about life, more open to helping others, to name just a few possible attributes. Under no circumstances would I hide this new-found joy “under a bushel”…a life-changing relationship must leave some evidence of change.
What I am particularly troubled with is that this justification by faith could lead Christians to adopt a ‘club membership’ mentality, which Jesus warns us against having, in various parts of the Gospel. One example can be found in Matthew 7:21-23. Brothers and sisters, we need to be on our guard against having such a mentality — we need to live our renewed life with exuberance. And this renewal MUST leave clues for those around us.
(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)
Prayer: Father God, we pray that we may refrain from having a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude towards others. Help us to treat each other with an attitude of love.
Thanksgiving: Thank You for sending Your son, our brother, Jesus for showing how to live, and for dying for our sins. We praise You and Thank You!