Saint of the Day: St. Martin of Tours (11/11/09)



For Veteran's Day, we celebrate our men in uniform, past and present. St. Martin of Tours, the soldier monk whom we also celebrate today, gives us an interesting perspective on the life of a soldier. St. Martin, pray for us!

I wish I had started this a couple days back, so Blessed John Duns Scotus could have been the first one for this blog. By my very rough Latin, I've always thought "Duns Scotus" meant the "dumb Scot"--wouldn't that have been the perfect way to begin ... with a good dose of humility? Oh, and I'm pretty sure Duns Scotus was the first one to work out a theological basis for the Immaculate Conception, which is pretty stinkin' cool.

Anyway...

Today is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. At first blush, all I know is that Charles Martel must be the hero of Tours if not the saint. Remember how he and the Frankish armies were victorious at the Battle of Tours? Charlie Martel, the Hammer? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tours)

He deserves a nod, too, I think: thanks for saving Europe from the Muslim hoardes, Chuck, good going.

Ok, so ... Martin of Tours. Let's see what I can find on this guy.

Here's El Greco's depiction of St. Martin: (By the way, I LOVE El Greco)

Here's a good site for saints of the day: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saintofDay/

Since we're on the topic, it seems that--in his own historical context--Martin fought against the death penalty. Along with St. Ambrose, Martin rejected the then prevailing principle of putting heretics to death. He even interceded on the behalf of one such heretic, Priscillian, who was slated for execution by petitioning the emperor. For his efforts, Martin was unfortunately charged with the same heresy. Hey, don't the Beatitudes say something about being blessed when persecuted for the sake of righteousness? Yeah, Martin was definitely on his way to beatitude. Lucky...

Martin's life was unique in other ways, too. He is most commonly known as a conscientious objector. At the age of 23 after refusing a war bonus, he told his commander: "I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ."   

There's also a cool legend about him, his charity and a vision of Christ. The El Greco painting above is meant to depict this legend, I think (see him using his sword to slice the garment?). I'll let AmericanCatholic.org tell the story:

On a bitterly cold day, a famous legend goes, Martin met a poor man, almost naked, trembling in the cold and begging from passersby at the city gate. Martin had nothing but his weapons and his clothes. He drew his sword, cut his cloak into two pieces, gave one to the beggar and wrapped himself in the other half. Some of the bystanders laughed at his now odd appearance; others were ashamed at not having relieved the man's misery. That night in his sleep Martin saw Christ dressed in the half of the garment he had given away, and heard him say, "Martin, still a catechumen, has covered me with his garment." 

Before I end, I'll also mention that he was a powerful exorcist and the founder, perhaps, of the first French monastery. Not bad for a lifetime.

It seems, more than anything, Martin's life is marked with the grace of bearing false persecution. He was not made for the world in which he found himself. How many of us, in our pursuit of Christ, feel this way? It is a blessing, though. Take heart. St. Martin is praying for us.

For an end to the death penalty; for our lives to be marked by a culture of life, not death; for all the unjustly imprisoned, whatever their prison; and especially for our soldiers, of whom Martin is patron; we ask for his intercession as we pray to the Lord.

Lord, hear our prayers.

1 comment:

  1. 'Duns' is actually thought to be the name of the town where Scotus was born. But he was the original 'dunce' insofar as the humantists and protestants regarded his followers as backwards and stupid.

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