Born about 316 in Roman Pannonia (modern Hungary) to pagan parents (though his mother later converted), his father was a Tribune (officer) in the Roman Army.
In his early teens, Martin began to follow Christian teachings and became a catechumen. At 15, Martin enlisted in the Roman army and was posted to the same unit, the Imperial Horse Guard in which his father had served. While on patrol in Gaul Martin came across a beggar who was cold, so Martin cut his winter cloak in half and shared it with the man. That night Martin had a vision of Christ wearing the same cloak and saying to some angels "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised; he has clad me.", Martin was Baptized soon after.
In 336, Martin's unit was preparing for battle against one of the Germanic tribes when Martin came to his superior officer and said "I am a soldier of Christ. I cannot fight." Martin was charged with cowardice and placed in jail to await punishment, being placed at the front of the battle line unarmed. On the eve of the battle the Germans sued for peace and Martin was spared that fate, though he was discharged from the army.
Martin traveled to Tours, where he became a disciple of St. Hilary of Poitier, then a leading figure of catholic Christianity against the Arian heresy. Martin was a excellent student and ardent supporter of Hilary's. When Hilary was exiled by an Arian bishop, Martin left as well and carried catholic teaching to contentious areas in the hope of stemming Arian influence.
Returning from Illyria, he was confronted by the Arian archbishop of Milan Auxentius, who expelled him from the city. According to the early sources, he decided to seek shelter on the island then called Gallinaria, now Isola d'Albenga, in the Tyrrhenian Sea, where he lived the solitary life of a hermit.
In 361 Hilary was returned to his see, Martin rejoined Hilary and helped to establish a monastery nearby (the first in Gaul) and in 371 Martin succeeded Hilary as Bishop and was followed by the founding of another monastery at Marmoutier and a rudimentary parish system within Martin's bishopric.
Martin's love for his fellow man, his piety, orthodoxy and gentle nature became known far and wide and he was held in high regard by both commoner and emperor alike. Martin died 8 November 397 and was buried 11 November in the cemetery of the poor in Candes by his request.
Propers for Martinus of Tours - 11 November - Soldier, Monastic, and Bishop
O GOD, who by thy Holy Spirit didst enable thy servant Martin to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil: Grant that we, in the same Spirit, may with pure hearts and minds follow thee, the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Epistle - Isaiah 58:10-12.
IF thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt he called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
The Gospel - St. Matthew 25:34-40.
THEN shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred. and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred. and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
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