Friday, November 11, 2011

Martin of Tours
316-397 AD

The Church honors one of its earliest saints and perhaps the first man to be proclaimed a saint without the sacrificing of his own life.  Martin was a man who was born of pagan parents.  Ultimately, he became a follower of Jesus' gospel life.  Martin has always been a popular saint in the eyes of Catholics around the world.  Why?  He was a man who wanted to be a monk after a short stint in a local army.  After leaving the world of the military, Martin turned to the world of faith, the world of religion.  At the age of 18 Martin was baptized.  Legend records that when 23 Martin was leaving the army but would not take the stipend awarded military personnel, insisting that the funds be given to those who would carry on the battles.

Tradition has it that Martin did become a monk ... but a travelling monk.  When the man we know as Saint Hilary of Potiers was brought back to his episcopal see in France, Martin came to France where he established what some call the first monastery in France.  The people of Tours "demanded" that he be consecrated the Bishop of Tours which eventually happened.

Throughout his life Martin was recognized as a defender of the faith as well as a defender of so many different people even heretics.  The picture above relates to a story of Martin's care of the needy.  When travelling, he encountered an elderly man who have few clothes.  Martin removed his own cloak, used his sword to divide the cloak and gave the poor man half of the garment for his own clothing.  Again legend has it that later, during the night, Martin saw Jesus in a dream.  He came to Martin dressed like the poor man, dressed in the half of the cloak Martin had offered the needy man.  Supposedly he heard Jesus say "Martin, still a catechumen, has covered me with his garment."

Martin was also recognized as a man who stressed the importance of acting upon one's conscience.   Throughout his life his adherence to acts of conscience were challenged because they involved risk.  For Martin most matters of conscience were calls to action.  For him to "not decide is to decide."  He never turned his back from making a decision because it was difficult.  Avoiding difficult situations was far from prudential behavior. 

Today, I do not hear much about Martin of Tours.  However, just reading a few accounts of his life has put before me a model for contemporary living:  a man of principle, a man of determined will, a conscientious man, a man of prayer, a man of the gospels.  Martin surely was a man committed to what we today call evangelizing.