Commemoration of Martin of Tours, Pastor
Sunday, November 11, 2012
The Lord be with you
Martin was born into a pagan around the year 316 in what is now a part of Hungary. His father was a Roman legionary. He spent his boyhood in Pavia in Lombardy where he came under Christian influence, and at the age of ten he decided on his own to become a catechumen. When he was fifteen, being the son of a soldier, he was drafted to serve in the army. He was apparently a good soldier and popular with his comrades.
According to a very old legend, one winter night when he was stationed in Amiens, Martin saw a poor old beggar at the city gate shivering in the cold. Having nothing to give him, Martin took his sword and cut his cavalryman’s cloak in two and gave half to the man. The next night Martin dreamed of Christ in heaven wearing his half-cloak and saying, “Martin, still a catechumen, has covered me with his cloak.”
As time passed, the young soldier found it increasingly difficult to combine his own ideal of a Christian life with the duties of military service. Eventually, he decided to be baptized and asked to leave the army, since he was no longer willing to kill. He was released when he was twenty.
He attached himself to Bishop Hilary of Poitiers, however first he returned home to share the gospel with his family and friends. On his way back to Hilary, he learned that the bishop had been exiled by the Arians, and instead of going on to Gall, he stayed a while in Milan and then went to an island where he lived a hermit’s life until Hilary was restored to his see.
Martin spent the next ten years in a hut outside the city of Poitiers. Here he was joined by others until the settlement became, in effect, a monastery and the center of charitable work and missionary activity. This is considered the first French monastery and the beginning of the expansion of the monastic movement which began in Egypt. People from the surrounding countryside came to St. Martin for help, and in 371, when the see of Tours became vacant, they got him to the city by a ruse and then insisted that he become their bishop. He finally agreed, but only after the people agreed that he could maintain his monastic life-style.
So, Bishop Martin lived in a cave in the cliffs of Marmoutier, two miles from Tours. His office space for the work of the diocese was a hut nearby. The new bishop’s way of life was quite different from that of his fellow bishops in other cities, which led to some friction there, but he succeeded in establishing Christianity in rural areas of Gall; previously it had been limited mostly to the cities. He traveled all over his vast diocese carrying the gospel to peasants and tribes-people, fighting paganism and Arianism, and setting up centers of Christian life and faith. He was courageous in his dealings with the pagans, and he did not hesitate to speak forcefully to emperors on behalf of the people, but basically he was a gentle and peace-loving man. During the Priscillianist controversies in Spain and Gall (Priscillian, charged with practicing magic, was executed by Emperor Maxmillian in 386, the first instance of capital punishment for heresy in the history of the Church), Martin strongly opposed the death sentence imposed by the government for heresy and raised important questions concerning the relations between Church and state.
Martin died November 8, 397, in a distant outpost of his diocese, and the date of his commemoration recalls the day of his burial at Tours.
Prayer for the day: Lord God of hosts, Your servant Martin the soldier embodied the spirit of sacrifice. He became a bishop in Your Church to defend and spread the Christian faith. Give us grace to follow in his steps so that when our Lord returns we may be clothed with the baptismal garment of righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Other things you might pray about:
- For the spirit of generosity to the poor
- For the hungry and the homeless
- For those who courageously make their witness for peace
- For strength to support those under attack for the Christian faith
- For all who serve in the military forces
- For the church in France
- For the spread of the Gospel
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert