St. Martin of Tours - Bio
St. Martin was born in the year 316, in the city of Sabaria in what is now Hungary (at that time it was a Roman province). His father, a non-Christian, was a high officer in the Roman army. As a child Martin was left much in the care of the family servants, several of whom were Christians. From them the boy learned a little about their religion and liked to go with them to Mass. But what really impressed him was the difference between the pagan boys and the Christian boys with whom he played: Others were loud and foul-mouthed, quarrelsome, jealous, and dishonest. The Christians, on the other hand, were quiet and clean and friendly; they did not lie, or cheat, or steal. When young Martin asked about this he was told that the Christian religion forbade lying, stealing, quarreling, cheating, unclean speech, and the like. Martin liked this so well that later his fellow soldiers testified that he was never heard to curse or to speak unkindly of anyone.
A Just Roman Soldier
When his father learned that the fifteen-year-old boy was interested in Christianity he was angry. At once he had the young Martin enlisted in a cavalry troop. Now, the Roman army was no school for saints: at this time the Christian religion had been made legal in Rome, but the army was still largely pagan, with a good many brutal men from the Roman provinces.
Martin's father should have been safe, then, in thinking that in the army his son would lose his love for Christianity. But the boy had a will of his own, a strong love of virtue, courage, and a mind that he used so well that he was soon promoted. When the troops were ordered to Gaul the seventeen-year-old officer went with them.
Conversion to Christianity
In Gaul, Martin was free to do as he wished. Once he encountered a poor, lightly clad man along a Roman road. Moved with compassion he divided his soldier's mantle to clothe him. According to tradition, Martin had a dream that night in which Jesus appeared as that poor man in the road. When he awoke his mantle was completely restored. At eighteen, he was baptized and given minor orders. Resigning from the army as a conscientious objector, he returned home to lead his father to Christ. He failed in this, but did have the happiness of seeing his mother baptized before her death.
After a few years he went back to Gaul, and was later ordained a priest, and then Bishop of Tours. There, he did great work for God, bringing many people to Christ and building up the Church. He constructed the first monastery in France. But his people knew him for his kindness to all, especially to the poor, and the miracles he performed in Jesus' name. They honored him, too, for his humble, penitential life style and for his love of prayer. When he died in 397 at the age of eighty years, he was loved and venerated by all his people. To this day, he is considered one of the greatest Saints of the Church who inspired many men and women to lead a holy life. His life is celebrated each year by Catholics, Lutherans, and Anglicans on November 11th, Veteran's Day. He is the Patron Saint of France.
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