Livonia, Michigan

St. Martin of Tours

Saint Martin of Tours was born a pagan in what is now Hungary around 316, but he was raised in Italy where his father, a tribune, was posted. At 15 he was compelled to serve in the Roman military, though he was already a catechumen. There is a popular legend that while on campaign the saint cut his cloak in half to share with a cold beggar. That night he dreamed of Jesus and his cloak was restored. He was baptized at 18. Only two years after his baptism, he was released from the military, he had refused his battle pay and to fight saying he was a soldier for Christ. He is the first recognized conscientious objector.

After his release from the military, he became a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers. He worked diligently against the Arian heresy, which denies the divinity of Jesus Christ, and established a community of hermits near Poitiers in 361, the first French monastery.

In 371 he reluctantly became bishop of Tour. Nearby, he founded a second monastery, Marmoutier, because he preferred the life of a monk he retreated often. In 384 there was a popular heresy infecting the Church in Spain, led by the bishop Priscillian and his followers. The emperor Magnus Maximus became involved, ordering the execution of the heretics. Saint Martin opposed the executions and protested the emperor’s involvement in Church matters. Unfortunately, the Priscillians were executed anyway.

Saint Martin died in Candes-Saint-Martin, Gaul in 397. He is notably one of the first saints who was not martyred. He is the patron saint of France.