Martin, Bishop of Tours, 397

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, and then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About the Commemoration

Martin, one of the patron saints of France, was born about 330 at Sabaria, the modern Szombathely in Hungary. His early years were spent in Pavia in Italy. After a term of service in the Roman army, he travleled about Europe, and finally settled in Poitiers, whose bishop, Hilary, he had come to admire.

According to an old legend, while Martin was still a catechumen, he was approached by a poor man, who asked for alms in the name of Christ. Martin, drawing his sword, cut off part of his military cloak and gave it to the beggar. On the following night, Jesus appeared to Martin, clothed in half a cloak, and said to him, “Martin, a simple catechumen, covered me with his garment.”

Hilary ordained Martin to the presbyterate sometime between 350 and 353, and Martin, inspired by the new monastic movement stemming from Egypt, established a hermitage at nearby Liguge. To his dismay, he was elected Bishop of Tours in 372. He agreed to serve only if he were allowed to continue his strict, ascetic habit of life. His monastery of Marmoutier, near Tours, had a great influence on the development of Celtic monasticism in Britian, where Ninian, among others, promoted Martin’s ascetic and missionary ideals. The oldest church in Canterbury, which antedates the Anglo-Saxon invasions, is dedicated to St. Martin.

Martin was unpopular with  many of his episcopal colleagues, both because of his manner of life and because of his strong opposition to their violent repression of heresy. He was a diligent missionary to the pagan folk of the countryside near his hermitage, and was always a staunch defender of the poor and helpless.

Martin died on November 11, 397. His shrine at Tours became a popular site for pilgrimages, and a secure sanctuary for those seeking protection and justice.


I. Lord God of hosts, who didst clothe thy servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and didst set him as a bishop in thy Church to be defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II. Lord God of hosts, you clothed your servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and set him as a bishop in your Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalm 15


Isaiah 58:6-12

Galatians 6:1-2

Luke 18:18-30

Preface for a Saint (2)

6 thoughts on “Martin, Bishop of Tours, 397

  1. Ahhhh. Martin appears. Deo gratias.

    New New Testament Reading: Though it seems appropriate, but it is just two verses!
    What would be the minimum number of verses for a reading? One?
    I’m just saying. 🙂

  2. Martin on Veterans’ Day seems appropriate, especially since theother traditional feast of Martin is July 4th.
    I’m not sure the Luke passage is an improvement on the Matthew 19:27-29 reading in LLF. Galatians is a good addition, even though it is incredibly short.

  3. Would the heading be improved if it read “Martin of Tours? I resist the temptation to inform them that he is also the patron saint of travel agents 🙂

    Add “and Missionary” to the subheading.

    Line 4 of the first paragraph: add “(in west-central France)” after “Poitiers”.

    Line 4 of the third paragraph: amend to read “in 372, he was elected Bishop of Tours, the largest city in central France.”

    We should never overestimate our readers’ knowledge of European geography.

  4. The bio appears to me to be good, and the collect well suited for both the commemoration and the general use of those at prayer. (I did wonder what the exact nuance “catholic” carried in this context — universal in the sense of post-Constantinian? Anti-heretical ? Relating to the Eastern/Western ecumenical atmosphere? Celtic rootage in a largely continental milieu? I can’t quite see that it has any particular meaning, but I suppose it’s a matter of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” (“Christian” sounds good to me.)

    The Psalm is perfect. The OT lesson is great. The two verses of the epistle are fine, and could easily be expanded to verse 4, or even verse 9 without incurring the “excessive verbiage tax.”

    The gospel would be good if it ended at verse 2, but the full version assumes (a) Luke’s unique communal economic context that sounds like ownership (and wealth) are hazardous (if not verboten) to Christian virtue, and (b) that monastac life per se (including the vow of poverty) is somehow an ideal of Christian living, instead of one way (among others) of constellating the ideal of Jesus’ life, teaching, community and the new covenant. True — that Martin was a hermit. Not true — that any good Christian should “go do thou likewise.” I’d love to see the gospel highlight one of the Benedictine vows rather than the all too common stereotype of “holy poverty”: Emphasizing “holy stewardship” would be a refreshing change! .

    Given the set as presented, I like it. Thank you — whoever worked on it! Feel free to change the gospel if you own private property.

    • Gospel? “Love your enemy,” “Good “Samaritan,” “if he asks for your coat give [more]” — as alternatives?

    • Two points: The term “Catholic Church” antedates Constantine by at least two centuries. Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John, uses it in a letter dated to, I think, 117 A.D.; the Celts dominated western Europe before the Romans. The Gauls and the Britons are the more famous of the Celtic branches.

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