Lives of the Saints
THE great St. Martin, the glory of Gaul and the light of the western church in the
fourth age, was a native of Sabaria, a town of Upper Pannonia, the ruins of which
appear upon the river Gunez, in Lower Hungary two leagues from Sarwar, upon the
Raab, near the confines of Austria and Stiria. St. Gregory of Tours places his
birth in the year 316, or before Easter in 317, the eleventh of Constantine the
Great. His parents carried him with them in his infancy to Pavia in Italy, whither
they removed, and the saint had his education in that city. His father was an
officer in the army, and rose to the commission of a military tribune, not much
different from that of a colonel or rather of a brigadier among us. Our saint from
his infancy seemed animated with the Spirit of God, and do have to relish for
anything but for his service though his parents were idolaters. At ten years of age
he made his way to the church against the will of his parent and desired to be
enrolled among the catechumens. His request was granted, and he assisted as
often as possible at the instructions that were given to such at the church: by
which he conceived so ardent a love of God, that at twelve years of age, he was for
retiring into the desert; and would have done it had not the tenderness of his age
hindered him. His heart, however, was always set upon the church and
monasteries. An imperial order being issued to oblige the sons of veteran officers
and soldiers to bear arms the saint's own father, who very much desired that his
son should follow that profession, discovered him, and at fifteen years of age he
was compelled to take the military oath, and was entered in the cavalry. He
contented himself with one servant, and him he treated as if he were his equal:
they ate together and the master frequently performed for him the lowest offices.
All the time he remained in the army, he kept himself free from those vices which
too frequently sully and degrade that profession, and, by his virtue, goodness, and
charity, gained the love and esteem of all his companions. He was humble and
patient above what human nature seemed capable of, though he was not yet
baptized. He comforted all those that suffered affliction, and relieved the
distressed, reserving to himself out of his pay only what was as sufficient for his
daily support.

Of his compassion and charity St. Sulpicius has recorded the following illustrious
example. One day, in the midst of a very hard winter, and severe frost, when many
perished with cold, as he was marching with other officers and soldiers, he met at
the gate of the city of Amiens a poor man, almost naked, trembling and shaking for
cold, and begging alms of those that passed by. Martin seeing those that went
before him take no notice of this miserable object, thought he was reserved for
himself: by his charities to others he had nothing left but his arms and
clothes upon his back; when, drawing his sword, he cut his cloak into two pieces,
gave one to the beggar, and wrapped himself in the other half. Some of the
bystanders laughed at the figure he made in that dress, while others were
ashamed not to have relieved the poor man. In the following night St. Martin saw
in his sleep Jesus Christ dressed in that half of the garment which he had given
away, and was bid to look at it well, and asked whether he knew it. He then heard
Jesus say to a troop of angels that surrounded him: "Martin, yet a catechumen, has
clothed me with this garment." This vision inspired the saint with fresh ardor, and
determined him speedily to receive baptism, which he did in the eighteenth year of
his age; but still continued almost two years in the army at the request of his
tribune, with whom he lived in the most intimate friendship, and who promised to
renounce the world when the term of the service and commission in which he was
then employed, should be elapsed. During this interval Martin was so entirely
taken up with the obligations of his baptism, that he had little more than the
name of a soldier, and expressed much impatience at being detained one moment
from devoting himself solely to the divine service. Upon an irruption which the
Germans made into Gaul, the troops were assembled to march against them, and a
donative was distributed among the soldiers. Martin thought it would be
ungenerous and unjust to receive the donative when he had thoughts of quitting
the service. He therefore begged that his donative might be bestowed on some
other person, and asked his dismission, that he might give himself up totally to
the service of Christ. He was told that it was for fear of the battle that was
expected next day, that he desired his dismission. Martin, with surprising
intrepidity, offered to be placed in the front without arms, saying, "In the flame of
the Lord Jesus, and protected not by a helmet and buckler, but by the sign of the
cross, I will thrust myself into the thickest squadrons of the enemy without fear."
That night the barbarians demanded and obtained peace; upon which Martin easily
procured leave to retire, after having served in the army about five years according
to the most probable act court. *

St. Martin, having quitted the camp, went to St. Hilary, who had been made bishop
of Poitiers in the year 353 or 354. That great prelate soon became acquainted with
the saint's extraordinary merit, and, in order to fix him in his diocese, would fain
have ordained him deacon, but was not able to overcome his humility, and was
obliged to be content only to make him exorcist. Martin was very desirous to pay
his parents a visit in Pannonia; for which he obtained the leave of St. Hilary, who
made him promise he would return to him again. In crossing the Alps he fell into
the hands of a company of robbers, and one of them lifted up his sword over his
head to kill him; but another held his arm. They admired his modesty and
intrepidity, and asked him who he was, and whether he was not struck with fear at
the sight of a sword lifted up to kill him. He answered that he was a Christian, and
that he had never been more calm and secure than under that danger, because he
certainly knew that the divine goodness is always most ready to protect us in
life or in death, and is never more present to us than in the greatest dangers; but
said he was only grieved that they, by the lives which they led, deprived
themselves of the mercy of Christ. The robbers listened to him, admired the
courage and confidence in God which virtue inspires, and he who had attempted to
kill the saint put him in his road, became a Christian, led a penitential religious life
in a monastery, and himself afterwards related this circumstance. Martin continued
his journey through Milan into Pannonia, and converted his mother and many
others; but his father remained in his infidelity. In Illyricum he with so much zeal
opposed the Arians who prevailed there without control, that he was publicly
scourged by them and banished the country. In Italy he heard that the church of
Gaul was sorely oppressed by those heretics, and St. Hilary banished: upon which
melancholy news he chose a retreat near the walls of Milan, where he entered upon
a monastic life. Auxentius the Arian invader of the see of Milan, soon became
acquainted with his zeal for the orthodox faith, and the council of Nice, and drove
him out of that diocese. The saint in this distress fell into the company of a very
virtuous priest, with whom he agreed to retire to the little desert island of
Gallinaria, upon the coast of Liguria, near Albenga. Here, while he lived in great
abstinence or roots and wild herbs, he happened unawares to eat a considerable
quantity of hellebore, enough to have caused his death, if he had not
been restored to his health when brought to the last extremity, by having recourse
to prayer. Understanding, in 360, that St. Hilary was returning to his bishopric, he
went to Rome to meet him on his road, and finding there that he was already gone
by, speedily followed and overtook him, and being most affectionately received by
him, accompanied him to Poitiers. It being Martin's earnest desire to pursue his
vocation in holy solitude, St. Hilary gave him a little spot of land, called
Locociagum, now Luguge, two leagues from the city, where our saint built a
monastery which was standing in the eighth century, and seems to have been the
first that was erected in Gaul. Among others who were received by the saint in this
house, was a certain catechumen, who, shortly after, while St. Martin was absent
for three days upon business relating to the divine service, fell ill of a fever, and
died suddenly, beyond all expectation, and without baptism. The saint returning
home found his monks in great affliction and the corpse laid out in order to be
buried. Bursting into a flood of tears he fixed his eyes on the corpse; and feeling in
himself a divine impulse to work a miracle, he ordered the rest to go out of the
chamber, and, like an other Eliseus, stretched himself upon the dead body, and
prayed for some time with great earnestness, till, perceiving that it began
to revive, he rose up and stood by it, while, in less than two hours, the deceased
person began to move his limbs, and at last opened his eyes. Being restored to life
he related how, after his departure, his soul seemed to be presented before the
divine tribunal, and sentenced to a dark dungeon, but that two angels represented
to the judge that St. Martin poured forth his prayers in her behalf; and that the
judge ordered them to restore her to the body, and raise it to life. The person was
immediately baptized, and lived many years. Another time the saint restored
to life, in the same manner, a slave of a neighboring rich man, who had hanged
himself. These two miracles exceedingly spread his reputation. and in the year 371
he was chosen the third bishop of Tours, and consecrated on the 3rd of July. St.
Gatian, who came from Rome about the same time with St. Dionysius of Paris, in
250, had first preached the faith there, founded that see, and governed it fifty
years, as St. Gregory of Tours affirms. His successor, after the see had been
several years vacant, was St. Litorius: upon whose death the people demanded St.
Martin for their bishop. A stratagem was made use of to call him to the door of his
monastery to give his blessing to a sick person, and he was forcibly conveyed to
Tours under a strong guard. Some of the neighboring bishops, who were called to
assist at the election, urged that the meanness of his dress and appearance, and
his slovenly air, showed him to be unfit for such a dignity. But such objections
were commendations of the servant of God, who was installed in the episcopal
chair.

St. Martin in this new dignity continued the same manner of life, retaining the
same humility of mind, austerity of life, and meanness of dress. He lived at first in
a little cell near the church, but, not being able to endure the interruption which he
met with from the many visits he there received, he retired to a monastery which
he built two miles from the city, which is the famous abbey of Marmoutier, the
most ancient that now subsists in France, and belongs to the congregation of St.
Maur. The place was then a desert, enclosed by a high steep rock on one side, and
by the river Loire on the other, and the entrance into it was only by one very
narrow passage. The holy bishop had a cell built of wood: several of his monks had
cells made in the same manner, but the greater part took up their dwellings in
narrow holes which they dug in the side of the rock: one is still shown in which St.
Martin is said to have lodged for some time. He had here in a short time about
fourscore monks: among them no one had any distinct property: no one was
allowed to buy or sell, as was the practice of the greater part of the monks with
regard to their work and sustenance. No art or business was permitted among
them, except that of writing, to which only the younger were deputed: the more
ancient attended to nothing else but to prayer and spiritual functions. Very rarely
any went out of his cell, except to the oratory where they assembled at the hours
of public prayer; and they ate all together in the evening after the hour of the fast.
Wine was never afforded to any one, unless sickness required it. Most of them had
garments of camel's hair, that is, of coarse camlet, and it was esteemed a crime to
wear any soft clothing. There were nevertheless many persons of quality among
them, who had been educated in a tender and delicate manner. Many bishops were
chosen out of this monastery; for there was not a city which did not desire so have
a pastor who had been bred under the discipline of St. Martin. The bishop was
frequently, employed in visiting all the parts of his diocese. Not far from his
monastery stood a chapel and an altar, erected by the concession of his
predecessors, over the tomb of a pretended martyr. The place was
much reverenced by the people: but St. Martin, who was not over-credulous, would
not go thither to pray, not hearing any assured account of the relics. He asked the
eldest of the clergy what they knew of them, and not receiving satisfaction, he
went one day to the place with some of his brethren, and standing over the tomb,
besought God to show him who was burned there. Then turning to the left he saw
near him a pale ghost of a fierce aspect, whom he commanded to speak. The ghost
told his name, and it appeared that he had been a robber who was executed for his
crimes, whom the people had honored as a martyr. None but St. Martin saw him:
the rest only heard his voice. He thereupon caused the altar to be removed, and
freed the people from this superstition. * Formerly bishops canonized saints, or
declared them such; but, to prevent the danger of abuses, this has been long since
reserved to the most mature discussion and solemn approbation of the apostolic
see of Rome. To honor relics without a prudent or moral assurance of their
authenticity, or without the due authority of pastors as the canons require, is
to fall into superstition. Where these rules of prudence are observed, even though
a mistake should happen, it is of the same nature as if a person by incapable
inadvertence, kissed some other book instead of the Bible; and the primary object
of such religious actions, which is to glorify God in his saints, is always certain,
whatever mistakes may happen in facts, or such like human means which
excite our devotion. But the example of St. Martin, St. Gregory the Great, St.
Charles Borromeo, and all other holy prelates ought to excite all pastors to be
diligent and severe in examining and removing relics which are not sufficiently
warranted.

The utter extirpation of idolatry out of the diocese of Tours and all that part of
Gaul, was the fruit of the edifying piety, miracles, and zealous labors and
instructions of St. Martin. Soon after he had entered upon his episcopal charge he
was obliged (probably on account of the heathenish temples, or some such affairs)
to repair to the court of Valentinian I., who generally resided in Gaul. That prince,
who was a good soldier, was a most passionate, rough, and proud man,
and though he had been remarkable for his zeal in the reign of Julian the Apostate,
seemed on certain occasions afterwards too favorable to idolatry; or too indifferent
about religion, as appears amongst other instances from the following: The church
never admitted comedians to baptism till they had quitted that profession, so that
the pagans dreaded lest any of their comedians should turn Christians, as a
prejudice to their public diversions. Valentinian therefore decreed that if any
comedians in sickness desired baptism, the magistrates should be informed, that
they might cause them to be visited, and see if they were really in danger, before
they were allowed to be baptized. * This prince, knowing that St. Martin was come
to beg of him something in favor of the Christian religion which he had no mind to
grant, gave orders that he should not be admitted into the palace. Also his wife
Justina, who was a furious Arian, endeavored to prepossess him against the holy
bishop. St. Martin, having attempted in vain twice or thrice to get access, had
recourse to his ordinary weapons. He put on hair-cloth, covered his head with
ashes, abstained from eating and drinking, and prayed day and night. On the
seventh day he was ordered by an angel to go boldly to the palace. Accordingly he
went thither, found the doors open, and nobody stopping him he went to the
emperor, who seeing him at a distance, asked in passion why they had let him in,
and would not vouchsafe to rise; but the place where he sat was suddenly all in a
flame; which soon forced him to get up, says Sulpicius Severus. * Then finding that
he had felt the divine power, he embraced the saint several times, and
granted him all that he desired, ever before he had time to mention his requests.
After this, he gave him audience several times, often made him eat at his table,
and, at his departure, offered him great presents, which the saint modestly
refused, out of love to the poverty he professed This must have happened before
the year 375, in which this emperor died.

St. Martin destroyed many temples of idols, and felled several trees that were held
as sacred by the pagans. Having demolished a very ancient temple, he would also
have cut down a pine that stood near it. The chief priest and other pagans
opposed; but at length agreed that they themselves would fell it, upon condition
that he who trusted so strongly in the God whom he preached would stand under it
where they should place him. The saint, who was directed in these extraordinary
events by a divine inspiration, consented, and suffered himself to be tied to that
side of the tree on which it leaned. When it seemed just ready to fall upon him he
made the sign of the cross, and it fell on the contrary side. There was not one in a
prodigious multitude of pagans that were present, who did not upon the spot
demand the imposition of hands in order to be received amongst the catechumens.
Another time, as he was pulling down a temple in the country of ئdui, that is, in
the territory of Autun, a great number of pagans fell upon him with great fury, and
one attacked him sword in hand. The saint took away his mantle, and
presented his bare neck to him: but the pagan, being miraculously terrified, fell
backwards, and begged he would forgive him. His zeal exposed him on many
occasions to the hazard of his life. Wherever he destroyed temples, he
immediately built churches or monasteries; and continued frequently to perform
great miracles. At Triers, he cured a maid who was sick of a palsy, and just ready
to expire, by putting some oil that was blessed into her mouth. He restored to
health a slave who belonged to Tetradius, formerly proconsul, that was possessed
with a devil. At Paris, as he entered the gate of the city, followed by a great
crowd, he kissed a most loathsome leper, and gave him his blessing, and he was
forthwith healed. Small threads of the clothes or hair shirt of St. Martin often cured
the sick when applied to them. One time the saint, as he was going to Chartres,
passed through a village, the inhabitants of which were all idolaters, yet they all
came out to see him pass by. The holy prelate seeing this multitude of infidels was
moved with extreme compassion, and with earnest affection lifted up his eyes to
heaven. Then he began to preach to them the word of God in the manner that he
was accustomed, and sweetly to invite them to eternal salvation, with such
pathetic words, voice, and energy, that it appeared plainly that it was not he who
spoke, but God in him. A woman brought to him at that very time her only son, a
child who was dead, and besought him, as the friend of God, to restore him to life.
The saint judging that this miracle might occasion the conversion of many, made
his prayer, and, in the presence of all the people, restored the child alive to the
mother, who was amazed and out of herself for joy. The people who had seen this
miracle, cried out aloud to heaven, ran to the saint, and cast themselves at his
feet, beseeching him to make them catechumens, and to prepare them
for baptism. St. Martin rejoiced at the conversion of so many souls to God, much
more than any one could have done for the conquest of a kingdom, or all temporal
advantages. Paulinus, who flourished with so great reputation for sanctity at Nola,
being seized with a violent in his eye, where a cataract was beginning to be
formed, St. Martin touched him with a pencil, and he was immediately cured. *
Many other miracles wrought by St. Martin are related by St. Sulpicius Severus,
especially in casting out devils, whom he did not expel with threats and terrors as
other exorcists were accustomed to do; but clothed with rough hair-cloth, and
covered with ashes, he prostrated himself upon the ground, and, with the arms of
holy prayer, subdued them, and forced them at length to yield. The same venerable
author recounts several instances of revelations, visions, and the spirit of prophecy
with which the saint was favored by God. An extraordinary prudence, particularly in
the discernment of spirits, was the fruit of his profound humility, perfect purity of
heart, spirit of prayer, and contemplation. By this he discovered various subtle
illusions and snares of the spirit of darkness. One day, when St. Martin was praying
in his cell, the devil came to him environed with light, clothed in royal robes,
with a crown of gold and precious stones upon his head, and with a gracious and
pleasant countenance, told him twice that he was Christ. Humility is
the touchstone which discovers the devil's artifices in all which a spirit of pride
reigns. By this the saint after some pause discerned the evident mark of the angel
of darkness, and said to him: "The Lord Jesus said not that he was to come clothed
with purple, and crowned and adorned with a diadem. Nor will I ever believe him to
be Christ who shall not come in the habit and figure in which Christ suffered and
who shall not bear the marks of the cross in his body." At these words the fiend
vanished, and left the cell filled with an intolerable stench.

While St. Martin was employed in making spiritual conquests, and in peaceably
propagating the kingdom of Jesus Christ, the western empire was shaken with
horrible convulsions. Maximus was proclaimed emperor by the Roman legions in
Britain in 383, and, passing into Gaul, was acknowledged by the mutinous soldiery
there, made Triers the seat of his empire, and defeated Gratian near Paris,
who was betrayed by his own forces, and assassinated by Andragathius at Lyons
on the 25th of August, in 383. The churches in Spain and Gaul were at that time
disturbed by the Priscillianists, * who renewed many errors of Simon Magus, the
Gnostics, and the Manichees, to which they added their favorite tenet of
dissimulation and lying, it being an avowed principle amongst them, "Swear,
forswear thyself; betray not the secret." Maximum found Ithacius a Spanish bishop
the warmest accuser of the Priscilllanists, waiting for him at Triers. Idacius his
colleague joined him there. The new emperor received them favorably, and
commanded the ringleaders of the heretics to be conducted thither from Spain, and
confronted with their two accusers. St. Martin happened to go to Triers to intercede
with the tyrant in favor of certain persons who were condemned to death for
adhering to their late master, Gratian. Many at the same time came from different
parts to pay their court to Maximus with the most fawning adulation. But our saint
always maintained his apostolical authority, imitating herein St. Ambrose, who had
been there before him upon an embassy from Valentinian II., Gratian's younger
brother, who remained in possession of Italy. Though St. Martin was Maximus's
subject, which the other was not, he discovered the utmost reluctance to
communicate with Maximus; and, when he was invited to dine at the emperor's
table, he refused a long while, saying boldly, that he could not eat at the same
table with a man who had deprived one emperor of his dominions, and another of
his life. Maximus protested that he had not accepted of the empire voluntarily, but
that it had been forced upon him by the soldiery, that his incredible success
seemed to testify the will of God, and that not one of his enemies had perished,
except those who lost their lives in the battle. St. Martin at length was prevailed
upon to accept the invitation, which gave the emperor the utmost satisfaction, who
ordered a great entertainment to be made, and invited the most considerable
persons of his court, and, among others, his uncle and brother, both counts, and
the prefect of the praetorium. The priest who accompanied St. Martin was seated in
a most honorable place between two counts, and on the same couch; and St.
Martin on a low seat near the emperor. In the midst of the entertainment, an
officer presented the cup as usual to Maximus, who ordered it to be given to St.
Martin, expecting to receive it from his hand; but, when the bishop had drank, he
gave it to his priest, as the most worthy person in the company; which action was
exceedingly applauded by the emperor and the whole court. The empress, who
attended night and day to the bishop's discourses, sat always at his feet upon the
ground, and would needs give him an entertainment in her turn, to which she
invited the emperor consented with the utmost reluctance, for though he was
above seventy years old, he never conversed with women except on necessary
spiritual affairs. But he found it unavoidable, as he had several things to petition
for; such as the delivery of prisoners, the recalling several that were in
banishment, and restoring estates that had been confiscated. The empress herself
waited upon him at table in the humble posture of a servant.

Neither St. Ambrose nor St. Martin would communicate with Ithacius or those
bishops who held communion with him, because they sought to put heretics to
death. We cannot wonder at the offense these saints took at their prosecuting
Priscillian in such a manner, when we consider how much the church abhorred the
shedding of the blood even of criminal.), and never suffered any of her clergy to
have any share in such causes. St. Martin continually reproved Ithacius for his
conduct, and pressed him to desist from his accusation. He also besought Maximus
not to spill the blood of he guilty; saying, it was sufficient that they had been
declared heretics and excommunicated by the bishops, and that there was no
precedent of an ecclesiastical cause being brought before a secular judge Ithacius,
far from hearkening to his advice, presumed to accuse him of this heresy, as he
usually did those whose manner of life seemed to him too rigid. But Maximus, out
of regard to St. Martin's remonstrances, caused the trial to be deferred all
the while he stayed at Triers, and even promised him that the blood of the persons
accused should not be spilled. But after the saint had left Triers, he suffered
himself to be prevailed upon, and committed the cause of the Priscillianists to
Evodius, whom he had made prefect of the praetorium. This severe judge convicted
Priscillian of several crimes by his own confession, as of holding nocturnal
assemblies with lewd women, of praying naked, and other such things.
Ithacius was the accuser, and was even present when Priscillian was put to the
torture. * Though after this he withdrew, and did not assist at their condemnation
to death. Evodius laid the whole proceeding before Maximus, who declared
Priscillian and his accomplices worthy of death. Evodius therefore pronounced
sentence Priscillian his two clerks named Felicissimus and Armenius, Latroeinius a
layman, and Euchroeia were beheaded. The bishop Instantius, who had been
condemned by the council of Bourdeaux, was banished to the islands of Sylina, or
the isles of Scilly, beyond Britain. Soon after Afarinus and Aurelius, two deacons,
were condemned to death: Tiberian was sent to the same islands, and his estate
confiscated, and others were punished for the same cause. * Ithacius and his
associate bishops were supported by the emperor, so that several who disapproved
their conduct, durst not condemn them. Only one bishop, named Theognostus,
publicly declared against him.

The Ithacians prevailed upon the emperor to send tribunes into Spain with a
sovereign power to search out heretics, and deprive them of their lives and
possessions. No one doubted but many innocent persons would
fall undistinguished in this search: for the paleness of a man's countenance, or his
dress, was enough to bring him into suspicion with those people. The day
after they had obtained this order, they heard, when they least expected it, that
St. Martin was almost got to Triers; for he was obliged to go there very often about
affairs of charity. The Ithacians were greatly alarmed at his coming, and when they
found that he abstained from their communion, they told the emperor that, if the
obstinacy of Theognostus was supported by Martin's authority, their reputation
would be entirely ruined. Maximus therefore represented mildly to the holy
man that the heretics had been justly condemned for their crimes by the imperial
judges, not by the bishops. But perceiving that St. Martin was not moved, but
urged that the bishops had carried on the prosecutions, Maximus fell into
a passion, and going away, gave immediate orders that the persons for whom he
came to intercede should be put to death. These were count Narses, and the
governor Leueadius. who were obnoxious to Maximus for having adhered to
Gratian's party. The holy man had still more at heart to prevent the tribunes being
sent into Spain, and this not only for the sake of many Catholics, out also for the
heretics, whose lives he was extremely desirous to save. His not communicating
with the Ithacians was only meant by him to prevent the mischiefs which might
arise from the scandal of their unjust deportment: but, as they were not
excommunicated, it was no violation of any canon to communicate with them. St.
Martin therefore in this extremity ran to the palace again, and promised the
emperor to communicate with Ithacius, provided he would pardon
those unfortunate persons, and recall the tribunes which had been sent into Spain.
Maximus immediately complied with his demands. The next day being pitched upon
by the Ithacians for the ordination of Felix, the newly elected bishop of Triers, St.
Martin communicated with them upon that occasion, that so many people might be
rescued from slaughter. The day following, he left Triers with some remorse, or a
grief for his condescension. But he was comforted by an angel at prayer in
the wood near Andethanna, now Echternach, five miles from Triers, who said to
him, that he had reason to grieve for a condescension which was a misery, but
charity rendered it necessary and excusable. * St. Sulpicius adds, that St. Martin
used to tell them with tears in his eyes, that, from this time, it cost him more
difficulty and longer prayers to cast out devils than formerly. Some weakness,
imperfection, or venial sin is often an occasion of a substraction of sensible
devotion or grace, till it be recovered by greater humility and compunction; though
such substractions are frequently sent merely for trials.

St. Martin continued his journey to Tours, where he was received as the tutelar
angel of his people. In his great age he relaxed nothing of his austerities, or of his
zealous labors for the salvation of others; and he continued to the end of his
life to confirm his doctrine by frequent and wonderful miracles, as we are assured
by St. Sulpicius Severus. This great man * renouncing the world, chose for his first
retreat a little cottage upon an estate which he had at a village upon the
borders of Aquitaine, now in Languedoc, called Primuliac, and afterwards Mount
Primlau, a place not now known. He made several visits to St. Martin, and squared
his life by his direction. Upon his arrival, the blessed man himself presented water
to him and his companions to wash their hands before eating, ordered them to be
served with a moderate corporal reflection: then fed them with the spiritual food of
his heavenly discourses, strongly exhorting them to renounce sensuality, and the
pleasures and distraction of the world, that, without hindrance, they might follow
the Lord Jesus with their whole hearts. In the evening he washed their feet
with his own hands. St. Sulpicius assures us, that though a stranger to secular
learning, he was in his discourses clear, methodical, pathetically vehement, and
powerfully eloquent: that he was very ready in solving intricate difficulties of holy
writ, in answering questions upon spiritual matters, and in giving to every one
suitable advice that no one confuted errors and infidelity, or set off the truth of the
Christian religion with greater perspicuity or force. This illustrious author adds, that
he never heard any man speak with so much good sense, with so much knowledge
and penetration, or with purer language: and that the gravity, dignity and humility,
with which he delivered himself, were not to be expressed. Nevertheless, his
strongest exhortation to perfect virtue was the almost irresistible influence of his
example and wonderful sanctity. No one ever saw him angry, disturbed, sad, or
vainly laughing: the same tranquillity of mind, the same serenity of countenance
appeared in him in prosperity and adversity, and under all the vicissitudes of
human accidents, even beyond what seemed possible in this mortal life. Christ was
always in his mouth and in his heart. Nothing reigned there but sincere humility,
piety, peace mercy, and goodness. He was very cautious never to judge others,
and to interpret every one's actions, if it was possible, in the best part. Injuries,
slanders, envy, and the jealousy of persecutors, which, in the whole course of his
life were never wanting, he recompensed by weeping bitterly for their sins, and by
seeking every opportunity of serving them, and of heaping benefits upon them,
never excluding any one from his holy friendship. He would never lose any time in
the day, and often passed whole nights in labors and watchings. To his body he
allowed only that refreshment and repose which extreme necessity required, lying
on the bare ground, covered with a coarse sackcloth. Amidst his exterior
employments his heart was always closely united to God, and he seemed never to
lose sight of his presence, either in words or actions. And as smiths, when they
have no Iron bar before them to work on, strike sometimes on the anvil through
use; so St. Martin, whether he read, or wrote, or treated with men, through habit
was continually recollected in the interior man, and conversed sweetly with the
heavenly Spouse, and with the Giver of all graces. He was accustomed to gather
profitable spiritual lessons and thoughts, and to kindle holy affections from all
things which occurred. Once when he saw a sheep newly shorn, he pleasantly said
to those that were with him: "This sheep hath fulfilled the precept of the gospel,
because having enough for two coats, it hath parted with one to such as have
need: so should you likewise do." Seeing a man keeping swine, very cold, and but
half covered with a poor scanty coat of skins, he said: "Behold Adam driven out of
Paradise; but let us, leaving the old Adam, clothe ourselves with the new." In
visiting his diocese, arriving once at a river, he saw a great quantity of fowl very
busy in gorging up the fish; whereupon he said: "These ravenous birds resemble
much our infernal enemies, which lie always in wait to catch unwary souls, and
suddenly make them their prey." * But he commanded the fowls to leave the
waters, and betake themselves to the hills and moors, which they instantly did. In
this manner every creature served the saint's purified eyes as a lively glass of
truth; and, from all things, he gathered without study or labor, and even with
delight, wholesome lessons, to maintain his heart always in pure and heavenly
thoughts. In like manner he endeavored that his subjects should exercise their
souls constantly in prayer that they might be disposed to afford a clean and
agreeable lodging to the heavenly Spouse. It was by keeping his mind ever
fixed on God and by the excellent purity of his heart much more than by the natural
vivacity of his wit, and by his reading, that he attained to so high a degree of true
science, and heavenly eloquence, and acquired that strength with which, as a great
captain of the spiritual warfare, he by all means continually waged war against the
prince of this world, and wherever he went, dispossessed him of its ancient tyranny.

St. Martin was above fourscore years old, when God was pleased to put a happy
end to his labors. Long before his departure he had knowledge of his approaching
death, which he clearly foretold to his disciples. Being informed that a scandalous
difference had arose amongst the clergy at Cande, a parish at the extremity of his
diocese, at the confluence of the Loire and the Vienne in Touraine, upon the
borders of Poitou and Anjou he went thither to compose the disturbance, attended
as usual by a great number of his disciples. Having remained there some time, and
settled all things to his satisfaction, he was preparing for his return, when he was
seized with his last sickness, and found, on a sudden, his strength fail him. As
soon as he was taken ill, he called his religious brethren about him, and told them
that the time of his departure was come. At this news they all with tears and with
one voice said to him: "Father, why do you forsake us? or to whom do you
recommend us? The ravening wolves will fall upon your flock. We know you desire
to be with Jesus Christ; but your reward is secure, nor will be a whit diminished by
being deferred awhile. Have pity on our necessity, who are left amidst great
dangers." The servant of God, moved with their tears, wept also, and prayed thus:
"Lord, if I am still necessary to thy people, I refuse no labor. Thy holy will be done.
As if he had said, says St. Sulpicius; my soul is unconquered by old age, weakness,
or fatigues, and ready to sustain new conflicts, if you call me to them. But if you
spare my age, and take me to yourself, be the guardian and protector of those
souls for which I fear. By these words he showed that he knew not which was
dearest to him, either to remain on earth for Christ, or to leave the earth for
Christ; and has taught us in prayer for temporal things to remit ourselves with
perfect resignation and indifference to the divine will, begging that God may direct
all things in us and through us to his greater glory. The saint had a fever which
lasted some days notwithstanding which he spent the night in prayer, lying on
ashes and hair cloth. His disciples earnestly entreated him that he would suffer
them at least to put a little straw under him. But he replied: "It becomes not a
Christian to die otherwise than upon ashes. I shall have sinned if I leave you any
other example." He continually held up his eyes and hands to heaven, never
interrupting his prayer, so that the priests that stood about him, begged he would
turn himself on one side, to afford his body a little rest. He answered: "Allow me,
my brethren, to look rather towards heaven than upon the earth, that my soul may
be directed to take its flight to the Lord to whom it is going." Afterwards, seeing
the devil near him, he said: "What cost thou here, cruel beast? Thou shalt find
nothing in me. Abraham's bosom is open to receive me." Saying these words, he
expired on the 8th of November, probably in 397. * He died seven months after St.
Ambrose, as St. Gregory of Tours assures us. They who were present wondered at
the brightness of his face and whole body, which seemed to them as if it were
already glorified. * The inhabitants of Poitiers warmly disputed the possession of
his body; but the people of Tours carried it off. The whole city came out to meet it:
all the country people and many from neighboring cities flocked thither, with about
two thousand monks, and a great company of virgins. They all melted into tears,
though no one doubted of his glory. He was carried with hymns to the place of his
interment, which was in a little grove at some distance from the monastery, where
certain monks lived in separate cells. The place was then five hundred and thirty
paces from the city, as St. Gregory of Tours informs us, though at present it is part
of it, and the walls were carried so far as to encompass it in the beginning of the
roads of the Normans. St. Brice, St. Martin's successor, built a chapel over
his tomb, and St. Perpetuus, the sixth bishop of Tours, about the year 470,
founded upon that spot the great church and monastery, the saint's sumptuous
tomb being placed behind the high altar. These monks secularized themselves in
the seventh century. Towards the close of the eighth, pope Adrian I. at the request
of Charlemagne, placed there regular canons, and Alcuin was shortly after
appointed their abbot. These canons were secularized in the reign of Charles the
Bald, in 849, and have continued so ever since. The king of France, from the time
of Hugh Capet, is the abbot and first canon: besides eleven dignitaries, and fifty-
one canons, &c., here are ecclesiastical honorary canons, namely, the patriarch of
Jerusalem, the arch. bishops of Mentz, Cologne, Compostella, Sens, and Bourges,
the bishops of Liege, Strasbourg, Angers, Auxerre, and Quebec; and the abbots of
Marmoutier, and St. Julian's at Tours; and lay honorary canons, the dauphin, the
dukes of Burgundy, Anjou, Brittany, Bourbon, Vendome, and Nevers: the counts of
Flanders, Dunois, and Angouleme: also the earl of Douglas, in Scotland, before
that family had changed its religion. The extraordinary devotion which the French
and all Europe have expressed to St. Martin, and to this church for the sake of his
precious tomb, would furnish matter for a large history. The Huguenots rifled the
shrine and scattered the relics of this saint, but this church recovered a bone of his
arm and part of his skull. * Before this dispersion, certain churches had obtained
small portions which they still preserve. The priory of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields at
Paris is possessed of a part: two of his teeth are shown in St. Martin's at Tournay.
The cathedral at Tours was built by St. Martin in honor of St. Maurice: but since the
year 1096, bears the title of St. Gatian's. Its chapter is one of the most illustrious
in France; the bishop of Tours was suffragan to Rouen till he was made a
metropolitan. A vial of sacred oil is kept at St. Martin's; with which Henry IV. was
anointed king instead of that from Rheims. St. Sulpicius relates that St. Martin
sometimes cured distempers by oil which he had blessed, and that this oil was
sometimes miraculously increased. *

Many miracles wrought at the shrine of St. Martin, or through his intercession,
immediately after his happy death, some of which are recounted by St. Gregory of
Tours, Fortunatus, and others, excited exceedingly the devotion of the people.
Some have imagined that he was the first saint publicly honored by the church as a
confessor; but this is not so much as insinuated by any ancient author: and St.
John the Evangelist, St. Thecla, and many others, were not properly martyrs, not to
mention St. Petronilla St. Praxedes, and St. Prudentiana. The principal feast of St.
Martin is kept on the of November; that of his ordination and the translation of his
relics, on the 4th of July; that of bringing them back from Auxerre to Tours, called
Relatio, on the 13th of December.

The virtue of St. Martin, which was the miracle of the world, was founded in the
most profound humility, perfect meekness, and self-denial by which he was dead to
himself, in his continual meditation on religious truths, in his contempt of the
world, to which his heart was crucified and; lastly, in the constant union of his soul
to God, by the exercise of holy prayer, and by the entire resignation of himself to
the divine will in all things, without reserve. Such a disposition could not but be
accompanied with the most ardent fraternal charity, zeal for the divine honor, and
all other virtues. Whatever our state and circumstances may be in the
world, unless by learning the same virtues, and studying daily to improve them in
our hearts, we put on the spirit of Christ, bear his image in our souls, and wear his
livery, we cannot hope to be owned by him at the last day, or to find admittance
into the company of his elect; but shall be cast forth with the reprobate into outer
darkness.


For the history of St. Martin we are chiefly indebted to his illustrious disciple St.
Sulpicius        
Severus, no, in an elegant and classical style wrote his life some time before his
death. The name        
of Constantius for Constantine, and some other such mistakes, crept into this work
through the        
negligence of copyers, who often use abbreviations, especially in names. To supply
omissions in        
this life, eight years after Martin's death, St. Sulpicius wrote three dialogues;
in the first,        

Posthumian introduces the discourse by relating certain miracles and edifying
instances of        
virtue, especially of the love of poverty an the blind obedience of several Egyptian
monks. In the        
second and third dialogues, St. Sulpicius on under the name of Gallus, a disciple of
St. Martin,        
recounts several remarkable circumstances of his life. Others he mentions in four of
his        
epistles; and in that to Bassula his wife's mother, then living at Triers, he relates
the        

circumstances that attended the holy bishop's happy death. He speaks of him also
In the account        
he gives of the Priscillianists, with which he closes his sacred history, 1 2, c.
50, 51. Though this        
author imitates the style of the purest ages, yet he declares that he neglects
elegance, and he        
takes the liberty to use certain terms and phrases familiar in his time, or necessary
to express        
our holy mysteries, which are not of the Augustan standard. These Clerc finds fault
with, but      

even Cicero allows philosophers to invent new terms to express new notions or
things. How        
shocking c de delicacy of Bembo, who conjures the Venetians per
Deos. immortales, and Uses        
the words Deo Lauretanal or that of Justus Lipsius who used fatum or destiny for
providence        
because this is not a Ciceronian word. for which some or his works were
condemned, and by him        
recalled. A certain Paulinus of Perigueux, in 461, and Fortunatus of Poictiers about
the year        

590 wrote the life of St. Martin, rough heroic verse; wholly copied from St. Sulpicius
Severus, so        
as only to have disfigured the colors by changing the canvass. St. Gregory of Tours
speaks of St.        
Martin in his history, . 1, et 10, and finished his four books of the Virtues and
Miracles of St.        
Martin; some of which miracles were was an eye-witness and the rest he learned
from persons        
of credit Martinis at Tours, afterwards bishop of Horren, who was massacred in his
mission,        

With all his attendants, by the Caraibes or Cannibals the 20th of November, 1729.
See also the        
critics of Dom. Bad Badier the Maurist monk, Hist. de l' Abbaye de Marmoutier, et
de l'Eglise        
Royale de S.       


(C)
St Martin Bishop of Tours and Confessor
A.D. 397