Profiles of the Saints and Feasts |
Monday, November 11, 2002 - VETERANS' DAY:
Double Feast of Saint Martin of Tours, Bishop and Confessor, Patron Saint of Soldiers and the uncle of Saint Patrick of Ireland; and the Traditional Feast of Saint Mennas, third century martyr
Saint Martin of Tours
Saint Martin, born in Pannonia (Hungary), followed his father, a military tribune in the service of Rome, to Italy. Although he was raised in paganism, he felt nothing but contempt for its cult, and as though he were Christian by nature, he took pleasure only in the assemblies of the faithful, which he attended despite his family’s opposition. When he was fifteen years old, he was forcibly enrolled in the Roman armies and went to serve in Gaul, the land he was predestined to evangelize one day. What would become of this young boy, when exposed to the libertinage of the camps? Would his faith not be obliterated? No, for God was watching over His vessel of election.
The most famous episode of this period in his life is his meeting with a poor man almost naked in the dead of winter, and trembling with cold. Martin did not have a penny to give him, but he remembered the text of the Gospel: “I was naked, and you clothed Me.” “My friend,” he said, “I have nothing but my weapons and my garments.” And taking up his sword, he divided his cloak into two parts and gave one to the beggar. The following night he saw Jesus Christ in a dream, clothed with this half-cloak and saying to His Angels: “It is Martin, still a catechumen, who covered Me.” Soon afterwards he received Baptism.
Disinterested charity, purity, and bravery distinguished the life of the young soldier. He obtained his discharge at the age of about twenty. Martin succeeded in converting his mother, but was driven from his home by the Arians. He took refuge with Saint Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers. After having given striking proofs of his attachment to the faith of Nicea, he founded near Poitiers the celebrated monastery of Ligugé, the first in Gaul. The brilliance of his sanctity and his miracles raised him in 372 to the episcopal throne of Tours, despite his lively resistance. His life thereafter was but a continual succession of prodigies and apostolic labors. His flock, though Christian in name, was still pagan at heart. Unarmed and attended only by his monks, Martin destroyed the heathen temples and groves, and completed by his preaching and miracles the conversion of the people. His power over demons was extraordinary. Idolatry never recovered from the blows given it by Saint Martin.
After having visited and renewed his diocese, the servant of God felt pressed to extend his journeyings and labors beyond its confines. Clothed in a poor tunic and a rude cloak, and seated on an ass, accompanied only by a few religious, he left like a poor missionary to evangelize the countryside. He passed through virtually all the provinces of Gaul, and neither mountains, nor rivers, nor dangers of any description stopped him. Everywhere his undertakings were victorious, and he more than earned his title of the Light and the Apostle of Gaul.
Source: Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l’année, by Abbé L. Jaud (Mame: Tours, 1950).
Tuesday, November 12, 2002:
Semi-Double Feast of Pope Saint Martin I, Martyred in 655
Proper of the Saints:
EPISTLE: 1 Peter 5: 1-4, 10-11
GRADUAL: Psalms 106: 31-32
GOSPEL: Matthew 16: 13-19
Pope Saint Martin I
Pope Saint Martin, who occupied the Roman See from 649 to 655, was a native of Toscany, and became celebrated amid the clergy of Rome for his learning and his sanctity. When he was elected Pope, Rome echoed with cries of joy; the clergy, the Senate and the people gave witness to their great satisfaction, and the emperor approved this happy choice. He did not disappoint the hopes of the Church; piety towards God and charity to the poor were his two rules of life. He repaired churches falling into ruin and restored peace between divergent factions, but his greatest concern was to maintain in the Church the precious heritage of the true faith.
For this purpose he assembled in the Lateran Church a Council of a hundred bishops, which condemned the principal heads of the eastern Monothelite heresy, again raising its head. Saint Martin himself sent out an encyclical letter to all prelates, showing that a spurious Credo circulating in the east was erroneous, and excommunicating all who followed it. He incurred the enmity of the Byzantine court and even of two patriarchs, by his energetic opposition to their errors, and the Exarch of Ravenna, representing the oriental Emperor Constant II in Italy, went so far as to endeavor to procure the assassination of the Pope while he stood at the altar in the Church of Saint Mary Major. The would-be murderer, a page of the Exarch, was miraculously struck blind, however, and his lord refused to have any further role in the matter. But the eastern Emperor’s successor had no such scruples. After having the holy Pontiff accused of many fabricated misdeeds, he seized Saint Martin — who did not resist or permit resistance, for fear of bloodshed in Rome — then had him conveyed to Constantinople on board a vessel bound for that port. None of his clergy were permitted to accompany him; he was boarded at night in secret.
After a three month’s voyage the ship anchored at the island of Naxos in the Aegean Sea, where the Pope was kept in confinement for a year, then finally brought in chains to the imperial city in 654, where he was imprisoned for three months. When he appeared before his judge he was unable to stand without support; but the pitiless magistrate heard his accusers and sentenced him to be chained and dragged through the streets of the city. He bade farewell to his companions in captivity before he left, banished to the present-day Crimea (the Chersonese in those days), saying to them when they wept: “Rejoice with me that I have been found worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus Christ.” There, where a famine prevailed, he lingered on for four months, abandoned to sickness and starvation but maintaining perfect serenity, until God released him by death from his tribulations on the 12th of November, 655. In a letter he sent from there, which has been conserved, the Pope wrote: “For this miserable body, the Lord will have care; He is near. What is there to alarm me? I hope in His mercy, it will not be long before it terminates my career.”
Reflection: There have been times in the history of Christianity when its truths have seemed on the verge of extinction. But there is a Church whose testimony has never failed — it is the Church of Saint Peter. Where Peter is, there also is the Church! When the Pope is unable to speak, his deeds speak more eloquently still.
Source: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).