Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. -- Saint Augustine of Hippo from “The City of God

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Saint Martin of Tours

Saint Martin of Tours (also known as Martin the Merciful; The Glory of Gaul) was born around 316 A.D. at Upper Pannonia (in modern Hungary) of pagan parents. His father was a Roman military officer and tribune. Saint Martin was raised in Pavia, Italy. He discovered Christianity, and became a catechumen in his early teens. He was baptized into the Church at age 18.

He joined the Roman imperial army at age 15, serving in a ceremonial unit that acted as the emperor's bodyguard, rarely exposed to combat. He became a cavalry officer, and was assigned to garrison duty in Gaul (modern France). Once, while on horseback in Amiens in Gaul , he encountered a beggar. Having nothing to give but the clothes on his back, he cut his officer's cloak in half, and gave it to the beggar. He later had a vision of Christ wearing the cloak. Just before a battle, Martin announced that he was Christian, and that his faith prohibited him from fighting. This resulted in his being charged with cowardice, he was jailed, and his superiors planned to put him in the front of the battle. The invaders sued for peace, the battle never occurred, and Martin was released from military service at Worms.

After he was released he journeyed to Poitiers to labor under Saint Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers. There he organized a community of monks, erected the monastery of Liguge, and in 371 became Bishop of Tours. He later founded the monastery of Marmoutier and resided there. He was an opponent of Arianism. After a last visit to Rome, Martin went to Candes, one of the religious centers created by him in his diocese, where he died in 397. By his request, he was buried in the Cemetery of the Poor on 11 November 397 and his relics rested in the basilica of Tours until 1562 when the catheral and relics were destroyed by militant Protestants. Some fragments of his tomb were found during construction excavation in 1860.

He was the first non-martyr to receive the cultus of a saint.

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