St. Martin of Tours

St. Martin of Tours

St. Martin of Tours was born around 316 in a territory that is now part of Hungary. His father, an officer in the Roman army, conscripted Martin into military service at the age of fifteen.

While Martin was still a soldier, there occurred the famous incident memorialized by many artists. One day while at the gates of the city of Amiens he saw a scantily clad beggar. Martin cut his own military cloak in half and shared it with the beggar. That night Martin dreamed that Jesus was wearing that same half-cloak he had given away. Martin had for some time considered becoming a Christian. He was promptly baptized and made the decision to dedicate his life to Christ.

Martin became a follower of St. Hilary of Poitiers (January 13) who gave him land where the first monastery in Gaul (present-day France) was established. It is the first monastery known to be established north of the Alps. Christianity was largely confined to urban areas, and Martin saw monasteries as rural spiritual centers from which evangelization in the countryside could take place. He was zealous in bringing people to Christ.

In 371, a time when bishops were chosen by the faithful, Martin was tricked into coming to Tours to be elected bishop. He was well-known for his evangelizing, personal holiness, healing ministry and compassion toward the poor. It was also well-known that Martin would never agree to be a bishop. A man from the city came to Martin and begged him to visit his sick wife. When the kindhearted Martin got to Tours crowds of people came out of hiding and surrounded him. Unable to escape, he was swept into the city and, overwhelmed by the will of the crowds, became their bishop.

Martin maintained his lifestyle as a monk and exercised stewardship of the diocese on foot, horseback and by boat. His profound personal witness met with great success in an area that was largely pagan. Martin died on November 8, 397, and his feast is November 11, the day he was buried in Tours. He is a patron saint of France.

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