Remembering St. Martin of Tours

November 11th or 12th (OS), 2012: Orthodox Christians commemorate the memory of St. Martin of Tours.  St. Martin was the son of a Roman cavalry officer; as a result, even as a young man, he was required to be a member of the equine order. He was born in Panonia, but brought up in Italy.  One day, while stationed in Gaul (modern day France), he saw a poor beggar at the gates of the city of Amiens.  St. Martin cut his cloak in half in order to cover the poor man in the cold.  Later that night, he had a vision, in which he saw Christ wearing the cloak and saying, “Martin, yet a catechumen, and unbaptized, hath clothed me!”

Later, when the barbarians invaded Gaul, Selpucius Severus, St.  Martin’s biographer describes the following:

“IN the meantime, as the barbarians were rushing within the two divisions of Gaul, Julian Cæsar, bringing an army together at the city of the Vaugiones, began to distribute a donative to the soldiers. As was the custom in such a case, they were called forward, one by one, until it came to the turn of Martin. Then, indeed, judging it a suitable opportunity for seeking his discharge–for he did not think it would be proper for him, if he were not to continue in the service, to receive a donative–he said to Cæsar, “Hitherto I have served you as a soldier: allow me now to become a soldier to God: let the man who is to serve thee receive thy donative: I am the soldier of Christ: it is not lawful for me to fight.” Then truly the tyrant stormed on hearing such words, declaring that, from fear of the battle, which was to take place on the morrow, and not from any religious feeling, Martin withdrew from the service. But Martin, full of courage, yea all the more resolute from the danger that had been set before him, exclaims, “If this conduct of mine is ascribed to cowardice, and not to faith, I will take my stand unarmed before the line of battle tomorrow, and in the name of the Lord Jesus, protected by the sign of the cross, and not by shield or helmet, I will safely penetrate the ranks of the enemy.” He is ordered, therefore, to be thrust back into prison, determined on proving his words true by exposing himself unarmed to the barbarians. But, on the following day, the enemy sent ambassadors to treat about peace and surrendered both themselves and all their possessions. In these circumstances who can doubt that this victory was due to the saintly man? It was granted him that he should not be sent unarmed to the fight. And although the good Lord could have preserved his own soldier, even amid the swords and darts of the enemy, yet that his blessed eyes might not be pained by witnessing the death of others, he removed all necessity for fighting. For Christ did not require to secure any other victory in behalf of his own soldier, than that, the enemy being subdued without bloodshed, no one should suffer death.

The life of St. Martin is recorded by Severus here. The miracles he performed after Baptism and embracing the monastic habit, are too numerous to enunciate here. He raised men from the dead, he battled and converted the Arians, was one of the most worthy candidates for the episcopal order hitherto known.  His monastic brotherhood subsisted and grew.  Heathen altars and temples were destroyed by him, and the demons and the Devil himself, fled from the Grace of God present in the Holy Man of God, Martin.

During the time of the rise of the Priscillianist heretics, St. Martin would have nothing to do with the move to have them executed.  He even besought the emperor on their behalf; not that the endorsed their heresy, but, that he business of the state was not compel the souls of men in belief.

Around the year 397, at Candes, France, St. Martin finished his earthly course amidst one of the monastic brotherhoods he had founded. The monks surrounded him, begged that he would not leave them. Yet, St. Martin assured them that Christ would be with them.  As his life left him, he asked to be carried into the presbytery of the church. There he gave up the ghost to God, at the age of 81.

“Oh how blessed a man was Bishop Martin; he neither feared to die, nor refused to live.”