Saint Martin was born, in the year 316 in Pannonia, or Hungary, of pagan parents, but he received secret instruction in the Christian religion, and in his tenth year was received into the number of the catechumens, that is, of those who are preparing themselves to receive holy Baptism. At the age of fifteen he became a soldier, being, as is probable, forced to do so by his father, to whom the religion of the boy had become known. Out of love of God he not only kept himself aloof from the excesses so common in this state of life, but he took advantage of it to practise love for man, by dividing his pay among the poor. Being one day solicited for alms by a beggar, and having nothing but his arms and his cloak, he gave him half his cloak. The following night Christ appeared to him, wearing that half of the cloak, and said to him:
“Martin, who is yet a catechumen, has clothed Me with this garment.”
Moved by this comforting apparition, he received holy Baptism, gave up the life of a soldier, and betook himself to Saint Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, in France. As he was careful for his own salvation, so also was he careful of the salvation of others, particularly of his parents and relatives, for the sake of whose conversion he undertook a journey to his native land. On his return he built, not far from Poitiers, the first convent in France, into which he received twenty-four monks, with whom he led a strict and virtuous life. His great faith made him like the apostles in regard to miracles, and the fame thereof spread abroad to that degree that, in spite of his refusals, he was chosen Bishop of Tours. This high dignity made no change in his manner of living; rather it increased his humility, his patience under the greatest persecutions, his zeal for the glory of God, his love for his neighbor, and particularly for his enemies. After he had in such manner ruled over his diocese for twenty-six: years, being then over eighty years old, the strength of life left him. He thereupon collected his disciples about him, and said:
“Children, I am dying.”
They wept and mourned. Moved by their teats, he in his prayers professed himself willing to labor longer if it were God’s will. But he had labored for heaven enough, and God desired to place upon him the long-merited crown. With his eyes raised to heaven, he prayed incessantly, allowing himself no relief. At his last moments the enemy sought to confound him by a horrible apparition, but, full of confidence in God, the saint cried out:
“What do you seek, cruel monster? In me you will find nothing that is yours.”
And soon after his spirit gently sank to rest. Would that we might learn from this saint truly to love God, and to care not only for our own salvation, but for the welfare of our fellow-men in body and soul! Then we, too, might have nothing to fear in death.
O God, Who seest that we cannot subsist by any strength of our own, mercifully grant that by the intercession of blessed Martin, Thy confessor and bishop, we may be protected against all adversity. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
Epistle: Ecclesiasticus 44,45
Behold a great priest, who in his days pleased God and was found just, and in the time of wrath he was made a reconciliation. There was not found the like to him who kept the law of the Most High. Therefore by an oath the Lord gave him glory in his posterity. He gave him the blessing of all nations, and confirmed His covenant upon his head. He acknowledged him in his blessings, He preserved for him His mercy; and he found grace before the eyes of the Lord. He glorified him in the sight of kings, and gave him a crown of glory. He made an everlasting covenant with him, and gave him a great priesthood, and made him blessed in glory. To execute the office of the priesthood, and to have praise in His name, and to offer Him due incense for an odor of sweetness.
Gospel: Luke 9:33-36
At that time Jesus said to the multitude of the Jews: No man lighteth a candle, and putteth it in a hidden place, nor under a bushel but upon a candlestick, that they that come in may see the light. The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body will be lightsome; but if it be evil, thy body also will be darksome. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If then thy whole body be lightsome, having no part of darkness, the whole shall be lightsome, and as a bright lamp shall enlighten thee.
What does this gospel teach us?
1. The same that it once taught the Jews: thus,
A. Jesus is always the light of the world, and He has not left Himself without witness that He is so. This light is ever shining upon the world in His doctrines, His life, His acts, in His Church, and in the mysteries of grace mid up therein, in the growth and preservation of that Church, and in the miracles which to this hour continue to be wrought within it.
B. Hence, if we do not know Him, if we do not obey and reverence His Church, it is but blindness and obduracy on our part; there is wanting to us a pure, sincere mind, that loves only the truth. This gospel accordingly admonishes us:
2. That we should acquire such a mind; for, says Jesus, as a sound, clear eye keeps the whole body always in the right direction, and guides it in all its movements, while an eye that is awry, or otherwise defective, causes the body to fall, in like manner a heart that is pure and always turned towards God gives the right direction to our thoughts, wishes, and actions, and causes us to see the light of truth, whereas a heart fixed upon the various goods of the world, but blinded to God, fills our thoughts, wishes, and actions with corruption and sin. How great in that case must be the darkness, the depravity, the misery!
3. This gospel contains the emblem of that which,
A. all superiors, masters, heads of families, parents – and particularly priests – should be, namely, lights, like Jesus Himself. For this they are set upon the candlestick. They are, accordingly, to give light by their teaching and life, by their avoidance of scandals;
B. of that which every Christian should be – a light, by his faith, his good works.
C. Finally, of the temper with which the faithful and all inferiors should meet those who are set over them, with believing and trusting minds.
Prayer to Saint Martin
O Saint Martin, precious heart of the priesthood, loving father of the poor, bright example of the religious, who, out of zeal for the glory of God, couldst neither be overcome by labor nor by death itself, at whose departure hence the angels therefore rejoiced, I implore thee, through thy powerful intercession, to obtain for me a heart full of compassion for the needy, for the apostolic pastors of the Church, true zeal, and for all, on the bed of death, the grace by which, after this life of misery, we may together enter into that joy of the Lord which thou, as a good and faithful servant, already possessest. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.