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St. Martin of ToursPrintable Version

November 11

St. Martin of Tours

November 11th, commonly known in the United States as Veterans Day, is the feast day of Martin of Tours, venerated by Catholics as the patron saint of conscientious objectors. He was born in what is now Hungary in 316, the son of an officer in the Roman army.

He soon felt called to the life of Christ and became a catechumen in his early teens. He joined the Roman imperial army at age 15. Trying to live his faith, Martin refused to let his servant to wait on him. Once, while on horseback in Amiens in Gaul (modern France), he encountered a beggar. Having nothing to give but the clothes on his back, he cut his heavy officer's cloak in half, and gave it to the beggar. Later he had a vision of Christ wearing the cloak.

St. Martin was baptized into the Church at age 18. Soon after, he felt that military service and Christianity were incompatible. Just before a battle, he announced that his faith prohibited him from fighting. Charged with cowardice, he was jailed. Later, the invaders sued for peace, and the battle never occurred. Martin was released from military service.

St. Martin became a disciple of St Hilary of Poitiers and was baptized. From 360 onwards, Martin devoted himself to the monastic life; indeed, he is regarded as the virtual founder of Western monasticism. His houses were firstly at Ligug near Poitiers. In 372 he was elected Bishop of Tours by popular acclaim and his foundation at Marmoutier became a thriving monastery. In an age when Christianity was largely confined to towns, Martin saw monasteries as a way of promoting rural evangelization based on spiritual centers. He himself was a most assiduous bishop, visiting his flock and defending doctrine. He died on November 8th, 397.

His great popularity as a saint was promoted largely by the biography of him, written by his friend Sulpicius Severus. In England, 'Martinmas' was a key time of the year; it was the time for hiring new servants and for beginning to salt meat to last through the winter.

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