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 and he would have been safe with anyone but Martin. 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 Catholicism
In Gaul, Martin was free to do as he wished, and at eighteen he was baptized and given minor orders. Resigning from the army, he returned home to try to convert his father. 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 later was made bishop of Tours. Here, he did great work for God, making many converts and building up the Church. He built the first monastery in France. But his people knew him for his kindness to all and especially to the poor. They honored him, too, for his severe penances and his love of prayer. Thus, when he died 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.

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