Saint Martin the Merciful the Bishop of Tours
Saint Martin the Merciful, Bishop of Tours, was born at Sabaria in Pannonia (modern Hungary) in 316. Since his father was a Roman officer, he also was obliged to serve in the army. Martin did so unwillingly, for he considered himself a soldier of Christ, though he was still a catechumen.…
At the gates of Amiens, he saw a beggar shivering in the severe winter cold, so he cut his cloak in two and gave half to the beggar. That night, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to the saint wearing Martin’s cloak. He heard the Savior say to the angels surrounding Him, “Martin is only a catechumen, but he has clothed Me with this garment.” The saint was baptized soon after this, and reluctantly remained in the army.
Two years later, the barbarians invaded Gaul and Martin asked permission to resign his commission for religious reasons. The commander charged him with cowardice. St Martin demonstrated his courage by offering to stand unarmed in the front line of battle, trusting in the power of the Cross to protect him. The next day, the barbarians surrendered without a fight, and Martin was allowed to leave the army.
He traveled to various places during the next few years, spending some time as a hermit on an island off Italy. He became friendly with St Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers (January 14), who made Matrin an exorcist. After several years of the ascetic life, St Martin was chosen to be Bishop of Tours in 371. As bishop, St Martin did not give up his monastic life, and the place where he settled outside Tours became a monastery. In fact, he is regarded as the founder of monasticism in France. He conversed with angels, and had visions of Saint Peter and SAint Paul (June 29) and of other saints. He is called the Merciful because of his generosity and care for the poor, and he received the grace to work miracles.
After a life of devoted service to Christ and His Church, the saint fell ill at Candes, a village in his diocese, where he died on November 8, 397. He was buried three days later (his present Feast) at Tours. During the Middle Ages, many Western churches were dedicated to St Martin, including St Martin’s in Canterbury, and St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.
In 1008, a cathedral was built at Tours over the relics of St Martin. This cathedral was destroyed in 1793 during the French Revolution, together with the relics of St Martin and St Gregory of Tours (November 17). A new cathedral was built on the site many years later. Some fragments of the relics of St Martin were recovered and placed in the cathedral, but nothing remains of St Gregory’s relics.
Dismissal Hymn of Saint Martin. Fourth Tone
Be quick to anticipate
In signs and in miracles thou wast renowned throughout Gaul; * by grace and adoption now thou art a light for the world, O Martin, most blest of God. * Almsdeeds and compassion filled thy life with their splendour; * teaching and wise counsel were thy riches and treasures, * which thou dost dispense freely unto all them that honour thee.
Kontakion of Saint Martin. Plagal of Fourth Tone
As first-fruits of our nature
As a devoted man of God, thou didst proclaim His mysteries. * And as a seer of the Trinity, thou didst shed thy blessings on the Occident. * By thy prayers and entreaties, * O adornment of Tours and glory of all the Church, * preserve us, O Saint Martin, and save all who praise thy memory.