St. Martin of Tours

Lord, if your people need me, I will not refuse the work. Your will be done.

In his early years, when his father, a military tribune, was transferred to Pavia in Italy, Martin accompanied him thither, and when he reached adolescence was, in accordance with the recruiting laws enrolled in the Roman army. At the gates of the city, one very cold day, Martin met a shivering and half-naked beggar. The part kept by himself became the famous relic preserved in the oratory of the Frankish kings under the name of "St. Martin's cloak". Martin, who was still only a catechumen, soon received baptism, and was a little later finally freed from military service at Worms on the Rhine. As soon as he was free, he hastened to set out to Poitiers to enroll himself among the disciples of St. Hilary, the wise and pious bishop whose reputation as a theologian was already passing beyond the frontiers of Gaul. The inhabitants of this region, infested with Arianism, were bitterly hostile towards Catholicism, so that Martin, who did not conceal his faith, was very badly treated by order of Bishop Auxentius of Milan, the leader of the heretical sect in Italy. Martin was very desirous of returning to Gaul, but, learning that the Arians troubled that country also and had even succeeded in exiling Hilary to the Orient, he decided to seek shelter on the island of Gallinaria (now Isola d'Albenga) in the middle of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

As soon as Martin learned that an imperial decree had authorized Hilary to return to Gaul, he hastened to the side of his chosen master at Poitiers in 361, and obtained permission from him to embrace at some distance from there in a deserted region (now called Ligugé) the solitary life that he had adopted in Gallinaria. Martin remained about ten years in this solitude, but often left it to preach the Gospel in the central and western parts of Gaul, where the rural inhabitants were still plunged in the darkness of idolatry and given up to all sorts of gross superstitions. The memory of these apostolic journeyings survives to our day in the numerous local legends of which Martin is the hero and which indicate roughly the routes that he followed. When St. Lidorius, second Bishop of Tours, died in 371 or 372, the clergy of that city desired to replace him by the famous hermit of Ligugé. But, as Martin remained deaf to the prayers of the deputies who brought him this message, it was necessary to resort to a ruse to overcome his resistance. Without any suspicions, Martin followed him in all haste, but hardly had he entered the city when, in spite of the opposition of a few ecclesiastical dignitaries, popular acclamation constrained him to become Bishop of the Church of Tours.

Consecrated on 4 July, Martin brought to the accomplishment of the duties of his new ministry all the energy and the activity of which he had already given so many proofs. Thus, to an untiring zeal Martin added the greatest simplicity, and it is this which explains how his pastoral administration so admirably succeeded in sowing Christianity throughout Touraine. Against Priscillian, the Spanish heresiarch, and his partisans, who had been justly condemned by the Council of Saragossa, furious charges were brought before Emperor Maximus by some orthodox bishops of Spain, led by Bishop Ithacius. Martin hurried to Trier, not indeed to defend the Gnostic and Manichaean doctrines of Priscillian, but to remove him from the secular jurisdiction of the emperor. Maximus at first acceded to his entreaty, but, when Martin had departed, yielded to the solicitations of Ithacius and ordered Priscillian and his followers to be beheaded. Deeply grieved, Martin refused to communicate with Ithacius. To save the lives of his clients, he consented to this reconciliation, but afterwards reproached himself bitterly for this act of weakness.

After a last visit to Rome, Martin went to Candes, one of the religious centres created by him in his diocese, when he was attacked by the malady which ended his life. Ordering himself to be carried into the presbytery of the church, he died there in 400 (according to some authorities, more probably in 397) at the age of about 81, evincing until the last that exemplary spirit of humility and mortification which he had ever shown. The Church of France has always considered Martin one of her greatest saints, and hagiographers have recorded a great number of miracles due to his intercession while he was living and after his death. His cult was very popular throughout the Middle Ages, a multitude of churches and chapels were dedicated to him, and a great number of places have been called by his name. His body, taken to Tours, was enclosed in a stone sarcophagus, above which his successors, St. Britius and St. Perpetuus, built first a simple chapel, and later a basilica (470). St. Euphronius, Bishop of Autun and a friend of St. Perpetuus, sent a sculptured tablet of marble to cover the tomb. A larger basilica was constructed in 1014 which was burned down in 1230 to be rebuilt soon on a still larger scale This sanctuary was the centre of great national pilgrimages until 1562, the fatal year when the Protestants sacked it from top to bottom, destroying the sepulcher and the relics of the great wonder-worker, the object of their hatred. In December, 1860, skillfully executed excavations located the site of St. Martin's tomb, of which some fragments were discovered. These precious remains are at present sheltered in a basilica built by Mgr Meignan, Archbishop of Tours which is unfortunately of very small dimensions and recalls only faintly the ancient and magnificent cloister of St. Martin. On 11 November each year the feast of St. Martin is solemnly celebrated in this church in the presence of a large number of the faithful of Tours and other cities and villages of the diocese.

Prayer to Saint Martin of Tours in Time of Need

Blessed Saint Martín of Tours,
full of the Spirit of the Lord
always having inexhaustible charity for the needy.

You, who full of love and generosity
when you saw the begger that was freezing from cold,
without knowing that in truth he was Christ,
did not doubt to give him half of your cape,
and did not give it completely to him
since the other half belonged to the Roman army;
you, who did not seek recognition
but only to favor your neighbor,
found glory before the Lord.
And when the Savior appeared to you
dressed with the half-cape
so as to express appreciation for your gesture
and He told you "today you covered me with your mantle",
you decided to no longer serve the army
and to dedicate your life to God
and to the salvation of souls,
being from then on a propagator of the faith
and a holy man totally dedicated
to whomever was in need.

Glorious Saint Martin,
you who worked miracles and prodigies,
who with joy, amiability and
the most exquisite goodness
won over the hearts of all
and did not cease to ever work for their wellbeing:
give me your hand and help me to come out
of all lack and scarcity
which today afflicts me and weighs me down.

Glorious Saint Martin, my blessed patron,
I humbly ask you with great faith
that you attain from God,
the fount of all Mercies
that my ways on this earth,
my work and my toils
be cleansed and opened with clarity.
In the name of Omnipotent God,
Saint Martin of Tours,
remove all that harms me
and give me work and prosperity.
O blessed relief, give me your saintly protection,
assist me, I beg you, in these difficult times:

(with much faith ask now for what you need)

You, noble Saint Martin, who have miraculous power
take my supplications with haste to the Heavens,
ask for my home all that is good;
may sorrows, ruins and miseries leave,
and may the Lord deign I merit
blessed fortune in my work (business),
and with it, abundance and prosperity,
so I may give freely to all in need.

Saint Martin, blessed Bishop of Tours,
may your virtues and charity
accompany me always.
I will not cease to pray to you
and to thank Almighty God
for all the favors granted;
and I promise to be charitable
and giving with all my brothers and sisters in need.

Saint Martin please intercede for me;
free and protect all my loved ones and I
from all that is evil.

Pray the Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary and Gloria

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