Martin Of Tours
Who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions…. won strength out of weakness. Hebrews 11:33, 34
When the Emperor released Martin from the army, he had to walk all the way home. It took him weeks. His mother joyfully became a Christian, but his father, whose pride was hurt, turned him out. So Martin walked all the way back to France. There, he offered his help to Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, who ordained him a deacon.
Martin wanted to live in solitude, so after a time he went to the quiet village of Liguge and built himself a little cell – the first in Europe. He was not alone for long. He would rise from prayer to respond to human needs. One day he tended a leper; another day he prayed for hours over a man who had hanged himself, whose life returned; a madman was cured. God’s power was mightily at work in him, so it was not surprising that, when the local Bishop of Tours died in 572 all the people were determined to make Martin their next bishop.
As Bishop Martin made evangelistic visits to pagan villages. One pagan priest challenged him to be bound to a tree as it was felled, to test whether His God could save him. The tree turned away from Martin as it fell and the whole population turned towards Christ. Martin used his privilege of being a guest at the Emperor’s table to ask for the release, before he ate anything, of innocent prisoners in Tours. The Emperor deeply respected Martin’s Christian example.
Martin did not live in a comfortable palace, he lived like a monk. He inspired many young men to live like this, and they built a large monastery, with individual cells cut into the rock, large gardens, fields stables and chapel. They only spoke when necessary .
Martin has an honoured place in the Celtic calendar for two reasons. He pioneered an informal monasticism which, following the Eastern model, combined individual freedom of movement with a framework of common fellowship. The second reason is that Martin did not stay in the towns only; he healed and evangelised even in moors and mountains all over France until he died at the age of eighty.
Great God, thank you for Martin, soldier, servant and soul- winner.
Inspire us by his example
to live lives of discipline and compassion
and to have an eye for building others up.