Saint Martin of Tours
Blessed Agnes of Bavaria, Poor Clare V (PC)
Died 1532. Agnes was the daughter of Louis IV, duke of Bavaria. She was educated by the Poor Clares of Saint James in Munich, Germany, where she died at age seven (Benedictines).
Blessed Alradus of Isenhagen, OSB Cist. (PC)
(also known as Abrad, Araldus)
Died c. 1250. Alradus was a knight who laid down his arms to become a lay-brother of the Cistercian abbey of Isenhagen (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Athenodorus of Mesopotamia M (RM)
Died c. 304. The Roman Martyrology relates that the martyr Saint Athenodorus "was tormented with fire and tried with other punishments . . . at length he was condemned to capital punishment, but when the executioner fell to the ground and none other dared smite him with the sword, he fell asleep in the Lord in prayer" (Benedictines).
Bartholomew of Rossano, Abbot (RM)
(also known as Bartholomew of Grottaferrata)
Born at Rossano, Calabria; died 1065. Of Greek extraction. Saint Nilus of Rossano (Sept. 26) selected Grottaferrata at Frascati in the Alban hills as the permanent home of his monks, but it was his third successor, Saint Bartholomew who established the house on a firm and lasting basis, directing it for some 40 years. The monastery was under Saint Basil's Rule and in the Greek rite. He was a personal disciple of Saint Nilus, and like his master, a hymn writer and skilled calligrapher. He 'could not bear to see anyone in affliction without giving him comfort,' says his biographer. It was he who persuaded Pope Benedict IX to reform his life and do penance at Grottaferrata (Attwater, Benedictines).
Blessed Bartholomew of Marmoûtier, OSB B (AC)
Died 1067. This abbot of Marmoûtier was consecrated archbishop of Tours in 1052. He worked tirelessly in the face of many difficulties, especially to bring back Berengarius to the Catholic faith (Benedictines).
Bertuin of Malonne, OSB B (AC)
(also known as Bertuin of Maloigne or of Namur)
Died c. 698. Saint Bertuin was an Anglo-Saxon monk of the small abbey of Othelle. He was consecrated a missionary bishop, left for Rome, where he spent two years, and finally became the abbot- founder of the abbey of Malonne, in the territory of Namur, henceforth the center of his missionaries activity (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Montague).
Cynfran of Wales (AC)
5th century. A Welsh saint, one of the sons of the chieftain Saint Brychan of Brecknock and founder of a church in Carnavonshire, where there is a Saint Cynfran's well (Benedictines).
Martin of Tours B (RM)
Born in Sabaria in Upper Pannonia (Hungary), c. 316; died November 8, 397.
Most mortals only have to deal with a collective devil (or so they think)--the devil of communities and families, the occult force which appeals to the lowest parts of our nature, the dark god of the city at night. To have a personal devil seems to be a "privilege" reserved for saints. The greatness of a saint is measured by the greatness of the temptation he has to overcome because the life of the saint stands out in contrast with the work of the devil.
Martin was the son of a pagan army officer who moved with his family to his father's new post in Pavia, Italy. Martin had placed himself in the catechumenate at the age of 10 against his parents' will. He took lessons at the local church and, by the time he was 12, his love of God was so ardent that he wanted to retire to become a hermit. At 15, as the son of an army veteran, he was compelled to join the army against his will. Although Martin had not formally become a Christian, he had lived more the life of a monk than a soldier for several years.
While stationed at Amiens in France in 337, a semi-naked beggar approached him in bitterly cold weather. Martin's name became immortal at that moment, for he sliced his military cloak in two and gave half of it to the starving man. That night in a dream he saw Jesus wrapped in the half of the cloak that he had given away. Jesus said to him, "Martin, yet a catechumen, has covered me with this garment." Following this dream, he "flew to be baptized," according to his biographer.
When he was about 20, barbarians invaded Gaul. He was presented to Julian Caesar with his companions to receive a donative, but Martin refused it saying, "I have served you as a soldier; let me now serve Christ. Give the bounty to these others who are going to fight, but I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight."
Irritated by this stance, Julian accused him of cowardice. Martin replied that he was willing to go into battle unarmed and stand between the opposing parties in the name of Christ. He was thrown into prison, but that night the barbarians demanded and obtained an armistice. Martin sought and received his discharge c. 339.
Thereafter he lived for some time in Italy and Dalmatia before he went to Poitiers, and Bishop Saint Hilary took him as a disciple. Martin sought him out knowing that in serving this holy man he would be serving God. Hilary recognized Martin's extraordinary merit and would have ordained Martin a deacon, but he could not overcome Martin's humility.
To keep Martin in his diocese, Hilary assigned him the duties of exorcism--so it was in that official capacity that Martin first made the acquaintance of the devil. It was still only the general devil, for he did not yet have his own private one. Martin, however, learned how to ward off evil spells and parry thrusts from the devil's horns, a lesson that would always be useful.
Martin had a dream that called him home, and he returned to Pannonia, converting his mother and others, including a group of bandits who would have killed him, during the visit. Shortly thereafter the devil appeared to him in human form and told him that no matter where he went or what he did, the devil would oppose him.
In Illyricum his vocal opposition to the Arians led to his being publicly scourged and exiled by Auxentius, the Arian bishop. Returning to Italy, Martin found that Hilary had been exiled. He retreated to a place near the walls of Milan, where he entered the monastic life. Auxentius, when he seized the see of Milan, caught up with Martin and drove him from the diocese. Martin then joined company with a virtuous priest. The duo retired to the deserted island of Gallinaria in the gulf of Genoa where he lived as a recluse until 360, when the banished Saint Hilary was allowed to return to Poitiers.
It was true for Martin as for most saints that the more Martin grew in holiness, the more his private devil became differentiated from the collective devil. More and more the devil clung on to his soul, forcing him to be ceaselessly on his guard. It was like the scientific principle of communicating vessels: as Martin rose like mercury towards saintliness, the devil hastened to fill the empty space behind him.
One day while he was still living in seclusion on the island, Martin ate a poisonous plant that almost killed him. The chronicles call this plant 'hellebore' which is doubtless a mistake, since hellebore is no more fatal than it is a cure for madness, and, according to herbalists, contains nothing worse than a drastic purgative.
Perhaps the plant wasn't there by chance? There is a variety of hellebore called 'Christmas rose' that is a mandrake. A saint could easily confuse the two. Nevertheless, when Martin felt the poison at work, he began to pray--which proves that he realized that there was nothing natural about his sickness--and God cured him.
Martin's devil was capable of transforming himself into many different shapes. He was particularly fond of taking the form of the gods and goddesses of mythology, appearing sometimes as Jupiter, sometimes as Mercury. But though Martin was always alarmed by Mercury, he dismissed Jupiter as 'a stupid animal' and 'a fool.'
The devil also liked to disguise himself in the form of women. One day he appeared as Venus, the next as Minerva, always exuding a strong smell of sulphur and always being put to flight by the sign of the cross. As you can see, he wasn't a bad devil, in spite of some corny tricks. He was probably more stupid than wicked. He was a nonentity.
After learning that Hilary was returning to Poitiers, Martin travelled to Rome to meet him en route and accompany him back to his see. As Martin wished to live as a solitary, Hilary gave him some land, now called Ligugé, where he was joined by other hermits--and thus the first monastic community in Gaul was founded. It was a famous monastery until 1607, and was revived in 1852 by the Solesmes Benedictines. He lived there for 10 years, preaching and reputedly performing miracles in the area, including raising a catechumen and a hanged slave back to life.
Soon matters with the devil began to get worse. One day while the saint was at prayer in his cell the devil came in without knocking, holding in his hand a horn covered with blood. "I've just killed one of your people," he told the saint, and in fact the monastery's carrier had just been gored by a bull. Thereupon Martin resolved to fight the surrounding devils by destroying all the pagan temples in the district. He was soon seeing devils everywhere, and this enabled him to keep out of the way of his own devil. Around 371, Tours chose him as its third bishop. He was unwilling to take the office; the people tricked him into visiting a sick person in the city and then took him to the church. His poor appearance did not impress the bishops who had come to assist at the election, but the people overruled their objections and Martin was consecrated on July 3, 371.
He lived in a cell by the church but soon retreated from the city and its distractions to a place that would become an abbey at Marmoûtier, which became another great monastic center. It was a desert, with a steep cliff on one side and a river on the other. Before long, eighty monks had joined him. The hermit monks engaged in no art or business. The older ones were engaged solely in prayer, while the younger ones were deputed to write. Many bishops were chosen out of this monastery because every city wanted a pastor who had been bred under the discipline of Saint Martin.
Here Martin lived privately as a monk, while publicly he devoted himself with burning zeal to the discharge of his episcopal duties. Every year he visited each of his parishes in rural regions, travelling by foot, by donkey, or by boat. He was an innovator in that he worked to convert rural regions, to which he introduced a crude parochial system. Previously, Christians had been confined primarily to urban areas.
His biographer and friend, Sulpicius Severus--reported that he extended his apostolate from Touraine to Chartres, Paris, Autun, Sens, and Vienne. Although he is said to have ruthlessly destroyed pagan temples, his reputed miracles did much to aid his progress: he is said to have cured Saint Paulinus of Nola of an eye disease (this is disputed; Paulinus attributed it to the prayers of Saint Felix of Nola), healed lepers, and raised a dead man to life. Martin is reputed to have experienced visions and revelations and was gifted with the ability to prophesy. As an exorcist, Martin did not threatened demons, rather he would prostrate himself on the ground and subdue them by prayer.
He was one of the greatest pioneers of Western monasticism before Benedict--who had a particular veneration for him. During this time, Priscillian, the leader of a Gnostic-Manichean sect, was attacked by Ithacius, the bishop of Ossanova, who accused him of sorcery and urged the emperor to put him to death.
Martin, together with Pope Saint Siricius and Saint Ambrose, stood against the capital punishment of Priscillian and other heterodox Spaniards by the civil authorities including Ithacius and Emperor Maximus. He believed that the state should not intervene in an ecclesiastical matter. Martin pleaded with Maximus not to execute the heretics but to simply allow them to be excommunicated.
Ithacius then accused Martin of heresy. Maximus told Martin that he would execute no one, but after Martin left him in Trier, Maximus was prevailed upon to remand the case of the sect to the Prefect Evodius. The sect was found guilty and the members were beheaded, marking this as the first judicial death sentence for heresy. Both Maximus and Itacius were censured by Pope Siricius for their roles in the affair.
Martin returned to Trier, Germany, to arbitrate for the Spanish Priscillianists--in danger of persecution--and for two followers of the late emperor Gratian. Maximus agreed to spare their lives provided Martin reconcile himself to Ithacius. His delicate position led Martin to maintain an alliance with Ithacius, which troubled him greatly afterward.
Martin encountered a good deal of opposition in his later years, one of his chief critics being the firebrand Saint Brice, who succeeded him as bishop. But his awe-inspiring spiritual power was too much for the 'unspeakably bloody ferocity' of Count Avitian, who refrained from intended barbarities in Tours.
He became ill at rural Candes in Touraine. As he lay dying as a Christian, stretched out on his bed of ashes, ready to draw his last painful breath, while the bells were already tolling to mark his passing, he asked his disciples, "Leave me, my brothers, so that I may fix my eyes on heaven rather than on earth and set my soul on the path which leads to the Lord."
But the devil was waiting at the bedside of his old enemy. He knew only too well the subtle workings of the death agony. He knew just where to put his hand at that last moment when the soul, white-hot with the heat and effort to tear itself away from the body, has become as soft and malleable as molten glass; and the devil was waiting to seize the soul at that moment and carry it off to the fires of hell. He was much too busy to talk, and besides he had long ago used up his stock of wiles. And so, heavy, black, and watchful, he worked in silence on the body of the dying man.
Then Saint Martin, rousing himself from his death throes, confronted the monster with these words: "What are you doing here, savage beast? You'll find nothing in me that belongs to you, accursed one, for I shall soon be in the bosom of Abraham!"
And having exorcised the demon from his body, Martin turned his face to the wall and gave up his soul to God. Such, since the beginnings of the world, have been the relations between the saint and the devil.
Martin is buried at Tours. His successor Brice built a chapel over his grave, and it was later replaced with a basilica. He was one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages, and his shrine was a great site of pilgrimage where many miracles are wrought.
As an evangelizer of rural Gaul and the father of monasticism in France, Saint Martin of Tours was a figure of great importance. His fame spread from Ireland to Africa and east. In England, Saint Martin's Summer is a spell of fine weather that sometimes occurs around the time of the feast. Many churches in England were dedicated in his honor, including Saint Martin's at Canterbury and Saint Martin-in-the-Fields in London.
Although the saint longed to be a hermit, the church forced him to lead the life of a loving, energetic Bishop of Tours (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth, Monceaux, Severus, Walsh, Watkin, White).
Saint Martin is most generally portrayed as a young soldier on horseback dividing his cloak with a beggar, but sometimes he is shown as a bishop with a beggar at his feet or near him, or in armor, with episcopal symbols. His emblems are a globe of fire over his head as he says Mass, or a goose, whose migration often coincides with his feast (Roeder).
Other portrayals of Saint Martin by Simone Martini include:
St. Martin Dividing His Cloak
St. Martin Knighted
St. Martin Renouncing the Sword
The Dream of St. Martin
The Death of St. Martin
Saint Martin is venerated at Tours. He serves as patron of armorers, beggars, cavalry, coopers, domestic animals, France, geese, girdlers, glovers, horses and horsemen, infantrymen, millers, innkeepers, soldiers, tailors, wine growers and wine merchants (because his feast falls just after the vendange), and wool-weavers (because he divided his cloak) (Roeder). He is invoked against drunkenness, storms, and ulcers (Roeder).
Menna of Egypt M (RM)
(also known as Menas, Mennas)
Died c. 295 or 303? Mennas was probably born in Egypt and martyred there. All the earliest representations of him agree in showing him accompanied by two camels, so he may well have been a camel- driver before he enlisted in the Roman army. He was also a Christian. When his legion reached Phrygia the persecutions under Diocletian began. Mennas deserted his post in order to escape death and hid in a mountain cave.
But as more and more Christians were put to death under Diocletian's edicts, Mennas decided he too ought to make a public profession of his faith. He carefully chose his time. During the annual games in the arena at Cotyaeum in Phrygia, Mennas suddenly appeared before the spectators and announced that he was a Christian. He was tortured and beaten, but would not recant, and so he was put to death by beheading. After his death Saint Mennas's body was taken back to Egypt for burial.
This basic story has been expanded and embellished with preposterous marvels and the fame of the hero as one of the so- called soldier-saints grew in proportion: the little terracotta bottles (ampullae) for water from his shrine, brought away by pilgrims, have been found in all countries bordering the Mediterranean.
That shrine was at Karm Abu Mina, southwest of Alexandria and Lake Mareotis, on the edge of the Libyan desert, where the ruins of the church and ancillary buildings have been laid bare, and many tokens of the cultus of Saint Mennas found. He has been popularly looked on as one of the great saints of Egypt down to today (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Encyclopedia).
Saint Mennas is portrayed as a young knight with a halberd. A 6th century ivory includes two camels in the piece. Sometimes he is shown with his hands cut off and eyes plucked out. He was greatly venerated in the Middle Ages. Patron of wandering peddlers and those falsely accused (Roeder).
Mennas of Santomena, Hermit (RM)
6th century. Saint Mennas, a Greek from Asia Minor, became a hermit in the Abruzzi, Italy, probably at Santomena (Sanctus Menna) in the diocese of Conza. Saint Gregory the Great (Dialogue, 111, 26) enlarges upon his virtues and miracles (Benedictines).
Rhedius of Wales (AC)
(also known as Rhediw)
Date unknown. A Welsh saint whose name is perpetuated by the dedication of a church in his honor at Llanllyfni in Carnarvonshire (Benedictines).
Theodore the Studite, Abbot (RM)
Born at Constantinople in 759; died at Akrita, 826.
Saint Theodore was the son of an imperial treasury official. Theodore became a novice at a monastery established by his father on his estate at Saccudium (Sakkoudion) near Constantinople, where he was sent to study by his uncle Abbot Saint Plato of Symboleon.
He was ordained in 787 in Constantinople, returned to the monastery, and in 794 succeeded his uncle as abbot of the monastery of Sakkoudion in Bithynia. He and his monks were banished for a short time in 796 for his refusal to countenance Emperor Constantine VI's divorce and remarriage to Theodota but they returned when Constantine's mother, Irene, seized power, dethroned and then blinded her son.
Theodore reopened Sakkoudion but in 799 he transferred his community to Constantinople to escape the Saracen raids. There they occupied the monastery founded by the Roman consul Studius in 463 and he was again named abbot. The Studios Monastery was famous partly because of its age, but it had been neglected and rundown. Under Theodore's direction this house developed remarkably from 12 monks to a thousand.
Theodore's ideals and regulations have had a far-reaching influence in Byzantine monasticism. He encouraged learning and the arts, founded a school of calligraphy, and wrote a rule for the monastery that was adopted in Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and even on Mount Athos. He restored liturgical prayer, community life, enclosure, poverty, and manual labor among his monks. These reforms and developments were brought about under great external difficulties.
When he opposed the emperor's appointment of a layman, Nicephorus, to succeed Tarasius, who had died in 806 as patriarch of Constantinople, Theodore was imprisoned by the emperor.
From 809 to 811 Theodore was in exile on Prince's Island with his uncle Plato and his brother Archbishop Joseph of Thessalonica on account of further troubles arising out of the late emperor's adultery. At that time the emperor dispersed the monks of Studios. Theodore returned to Constantinople on the emperor's death and was reconciled to Patriarch Nicephorus in a common fight against Emperor Leo V the Armenian, who revived iconoclasm as an imperial policy. When Nicephorus was banished, Theodore organized public resistance, and he was again exiled to Mysia in 813.
For seven years he was confined at various places with extreme rigor, even to being flogged by his jailers. But he continued by letter to encourage his followers to keep up the struggle, and he sent an appeal to Pope Paschal I (emphasizing the primacy of the bishop of Rome), who sent legates to Constantinople; but they achieved nothing except Theodore's removal to Bonita in Anatolia (now in Turkey). He endured great hardships for the three years he was imprisoned there and was then transferred to Smyrna and placed in the custody of an iconoclast bishop who wanted him beheaded and treated him with great harshness.
After the violent death of Leo V in 820, Theodore was released, but was again faced with a renewed iconoclasm under Emperor Michael the Stammerer, and was not allowed to return permanently to the Studite monastery. Theodore left Constantinople and visited monasteries in Bithynia, founded a monastery on Akrita for many of his monks who had followed him, and he died there in semi-exile on November 11. Saint Theodore stands out as a champion of the Church's religious independence of civil power, a defender of the legitimacy of sacred images, and a monastic reformer of genius. He has been called an incomparable agitator: he was certainly strong-willed and intransigent, even domineering; but there was a less rigid side to him, which can be seen in some of the more personal of his very numerous extant letters. There have also survived, as well as polemical writings, catechetical works, sermons, hymns, and epigrams. Saint Theodore was also a skilled calligrapher, an art which he fostered among his monks (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Gardner).
This anonymous Russian icon shows Saint Theodore with Saint Theodosius the Great.
Valentine, Felician & Victorinus MM (RM)
Died c. 304. Martyrs at Ravenna under Diocletian (Benedictines).
Veranus of Lyons B (RM)
5th century. Although the Roman Martyrology ascribes Saint Veranus to Lyons, he is probably identical to Saint Veranus of Vence, who was the second son of Saint Eucherius and later bishop of Vence (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.