Nov 11 – Memorial for St. Martin of Tours, bishop
Martin (316-397) was born to pagan parents. His father was a Roman military officer and tribune. Martin was raised in Pavia, Italy, where he discovered Christianity and became a catechumen in his early teens. He joined the Roman imperia army at the age of 15, serving in a ceremonial unit that acts as the emperor’s bodyguard, and was rarely exposed to combat. He became a cavalry officer and was assigned to garrison duty in Gaul.
Trying to live his faith, he refused to let his servant 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.
Martin was baptized into the Church at the age of 18. Just before a battle, Martin announced that his faith prohibited him from fighting. Charged with cowardice, he was jailed and his superiors planned to put him in the front of the battle. However, the invaders sued for peace, the battle never occurred, and Martin was released from military service at Worms.
On a visit to Lombardy to see his parents, he was robbed in the mountains – but managed to convert one of the thieves. At home, he found that his mother had converted, but his father had not. The area was strongly Arian, and openly hostile to Catholics. Martin was badly abused by the heretics, and at one point even by the order of the Arian bishop. Learning that the Arians had gained the upper hand in Gaul and exiled St. Hilary of Poitiers, his spiritual teacher, Martin fled to the island of Gallinaria (modern Isola d’Albenga).
In 361, Martin learned that the emperor had authorized Hilary’s return, and Martin ran to him and became a hermit for ten years in the area now know as Ligugé. A reputation for holiness attracted other monks, and they formed what would become the Benedictine abbey of Ligugé. He preached and evangelised through the Gallic countryside. Many locals held strongly to the old beliefs, and tried to intimidate Martin by dressing asthe old Roman gods, and appearing to him at night, but Martin continued to win converts. He destroyed old temples, and built churches on the land.
When the bishop of Tours died in 371, Martin was the immediate choice to replace him. Martin declined, citing unworthiness. Rusticus, a wealthy citizen of Tours, claimed his wife was ill and asked for Martin. When he arrived in the city, he was declared bishop by popular acclamation, and was consecrated on Jul 4, 372.
He moved to a hermit’s cell near Tours. Other monks joined him, and a new house, Marmoutier, soon formed. He rarely left his monastery, but sometimes went to Trier to plead with the emperor for his city, his church, or his parishioners. Once, when he went to ask lenience for a condemned prisoner, an angel woke the emperor to tell him that Martin was waiting to see him; the prisoner was reprieved.
Martin himself was given to visions, but even his contemporaries sometimes ascribed them to his habit of lengthy fasts. An extensive biography of Martin was written by Sulpicius Severus. When he died, he was buried, at his request, in the Cemetery of the Poor. Martin was the first non-martyr to receive the cultus of saint. His relics rested in the Basilica of Tours, a scene of pilgrimages and miracles until 1562 when the cathedral and relics were destroyed by militant Protestants. Some small fragments on his tomb were found during construction excavation in 1860.
St. Martin of Tours is patron against poverty; alcoholism; hotel-keepers; quartermasters; soldiers, among others.
Prayer to Continue to Fight for God
“Lord, if your people still have need of my services, I will not avoid the toil. Your will be done. I have fought the good fight long enough. Yet if you bid me continue to hold the battle line in defense of your camp, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. I will do the work you entrust to me. While you command, I will fight beneath your banner.” – St Martin of Tours, Italian Soldier, Hermit, Bishop
Romans 16:3-9, 16, 22-27
My greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked death to save my life: I am not the only one to owe them a debt of gratitude, all the churches among the pagans do as well. My greetings also to the church that meets at their house.
Greetings to my friend Epaenetus, the first of Asia’s gifts to Christ; greetings to Mary who worked so hard for you; to those outstanding apostles Andronicus and Junias, my compatriots and fellow prisoners who became Christians before me; to Ampliatus, my friend in the Lord; to Urban, my fellow worker in Christ; to my friend Stachys; Greet each other with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.
I, Tertius, who wrote out this letter, greet you in the Lord. Greetings from Gaius, who is entertaining me and from the whole church that meets in his house. Erastus, the city treasurer, sends his greetings; so does our brother Quartus.
Glory to him who is able to give you the strength to live according to the Good News I preach, and in which I proclaim Jesus Christ, the revelation of a mystery kept secret for endless ages, but now so clear that it must be broadcast to pagans everywhere to bring them to the obedience of faith. This is only what scripture has predicted, and it is all part of the way the eternal God wants things to be. He alone is wisdom; give glory therefore to him through Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?
‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’
The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and laughed at him. He said to them, ‘You are the very ones who pass yourselves off as virtuous in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God.’
“You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.”
Recently, we had fellowship tea after a community meeting. Each of us contributed an item of food to share with the group. One of our ministry members brought 3 curry puffs (of which he downed one) to share amongst some 20 of us. We all joked that that’s how rich people get richer. I could not help but be a little disgusted with him. He has got to be one of the more well of people in the group and yet he was less than generous.
A year ago, I was the co-chairperson of our parish’s fund raising committee, raising money needed for the renovation of our new church annex building. I was very nervous and unsure if we could raise the amount needed because of donor fatigue – there were many other churches also raising money, and we were tapping on the same Catholics to contribute. However, I was humbled by the generosity of our parishioners and friends of the parish. They contributed so generously that we met our target amount and more. Yes, we have some well-to-do donors who were very generous. But what touched me most were the contributions from the everyday, working class parishoners who pitched in so wholeheartedly. Many donated anonymously, and they contributed generously according to their means.
I am reminded of the story of the widow’s mite – the humble gift of a poor widow. Jesus said she had contributed more than anyone else that day. But how could it be when the rich people had contributed large sums? The difference is one of proportion. The rich were giving large sums, but they still retained their fortunes; the widow put in everything, all she had to live on. Hers was a true sacrifice; the rich had not begun to give to the level of her sacrifice.
Why do I share these 3 stories? The theme of good stewardship continues from my sharing of yesterday’s readings. Whatever we possess today, belongs to God – our wealth, our health, our jobs, our homes… everything. We are called to be generous in the way we use these gifts. It’s not about how much we give to others but it’s the intent and what’s in our hearts that matter to God. Are we fair and just as employers in how we remunerate our staff? Are we giving monies to the school fund so that we can ‘buy’ a place in that school for our kids? Why do we choose certain charities to contribute to? Because it is a good cause or for the tax incentives? Are we only good and kind to people because we genuinely love them or is it because they are ‘important’ and of use to us? When we see a brother or sister struggling, do we render our help?
Brothers and sisters, we are all sinners and we certainly fall short of His glory. But as we mature in our faith and grow closer to Him, God shows us our sins and ugliness and purifies our heart. Will we shut our eyes to what He is showing us, or allow Him to work in our lives? Our God is an omniscient God. He knows and sees everything. There is nowhere we can hide. I am not perfect and, in many areas, I know I fail miserably. But today I choose God. He leads and guides me. It’s not always where I want to go, but He knows best.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Jesus, you know and see everything, past and future. You see the condition of our hearts. Though we hide behind masks of love and charity, you see the ugliness and the selfishness. Help us to be more giving and loving. Teach us to be faithful and honest in the small things today. Prepare us for the true riches of heaven.
Thanksgiving: For everything that we have today, we thank you. Thank you for giving us a discerning heart, to know what’s right and what’s wrong. And with this knowledge, may we always do what’s right, just and life giving.