Today, 11 Nov 2011, the Church recalls the life of St Martin of Tours, soldier, monk and bishop. He lived from around 336 until 397, mostly in Gaul, and was the first person to be declared a saint who was not a martyr. Mostly he is remembered for chopping his cloak in half to provide for a beggar, who turned out to be Jesus, but this was only the beginning of St Martin’s life-long service to Jesus.
The ‘Life of St Martin’ by Sulpicius Severus contains many wonderful stories about St Martin. To get to appreciate him better, we will look at three of them.
On a journey through the Alps, St Martin fell into the hands of robbers. He wasn’t harmed, but he was bound and stripped. Something in the way St Martin was responding to this ill treatment caused one of the robbers to get curious about him. A conversation began between them where Martin revealed that he was a Christian and that he felt completely safe because he knew the Mercy of the Lord would be with him especially when he faced difficulties. Expressing his sorrow that the robber, by his lifestyle, was rejecting the Mercy of Christ led to a lengthy conversation about Gospel Truths. God’s grace worked deeply in the heart of the robber, leading him to set St Martin free and then to pursue a Christian life for himself. St Martin did not complain, he trusted God and soon found that he had been handed an opportunity to evangelise and to bring a soul back to God. He took that opportunity with both hands.
St Martin was journeying once more, when from a distance he saw a pagan procession. It was a funeral procession, but it easily could also have been a sacrificial procession in honour of false gods. Being concerned that it could be the latter, when Martin got close enough to them he lifted up the sign of the Cross and commanded the procession to stop and to put down the burden they were carrying. They were bewildered when they found that they could not move forward. As soon as Martin worked out that it was indeed a simple funeral procession, he raised his hand, and the procession continued upon its way. This story shows St Martin’s zeal to eradicate demonic rites and his belief in the power of the Holy Cross.
The good Lord often used St Martin to heal people. In a town that Martin visited was a girl who was terribly afflicted with paralysis. As soon as the father of the girl heard that Martin was in town, he rushed to find him and to beg of him the cure of his daughter. Martin was reluctant to go, because he considered himself an unworthy instrument in the hands of the Lord. The bystanders begged him to go as well to the girl. Once at her house, Martin prostrated himself on the ground and prayed earnestly for God’s grace. Arising, he called for oil, which he blessed and then poured some into her mouth. At this her voice returned, and then gradually the use of each of her limbs returned. Such is the combined power of humility, prayer and the life of self-denial to obtain miracles from God’s generous hand.
These stories grant us but a glimpse of wonderfully strong relationship of love that St Martin had with the Most Blessed Trinity. St Martin continued serving God as diligently and readily as any soldier until the time the Lord considered all of his tasks on earth completed.
St Martin of Tours, pray for us
Novena to St. Martin of Tours
St Martin of Tours from a young age your heart yearned for God and sought His truth. You followed the way He marked out for you all through life ; learning of Jesus and living according to His Gospel, even when it earned your father’s displeasure. When a beggar in need came to you, compassion and generosity was your response. Ridicule, contempt and the threat of prison did not dissuade you from giving up everything in order to become a soldier of Christ. With zeal, joy and perseverance you served Jesus as a monk, an exorcist and as a bishop. Please intercede for me that I may come to know and love Jesus like you did, and for the happy outcome of my special intentions……………………
St St Martin please help me to make your prayer my own… “Lord, if Your people still have need of my services, I will not avoid the toil. Your will be done. I have fought the good fight long enough. Yet if you bid me continue to hold the battle line in defence of Your camp, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. I will do the work You entrust to me. While You command, I will fight beneath Your banner.”
Lord God, You were glorified by the life and death of St Martin of Tours. Through his intercession renew the wonders of Your grace in our hearts so that neither death nor life may separate us from Your Love. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Our Father…Hail Mary… Glory Be…