A conscientious objector who wanted to be a monk; a monk who was maneuvered into being a bishop; a bishop who fought paganism as well as pleaded for mercy to heretics—such was Martin of Tours, one of the most popular of saints and one of the first not to be a martyr.
Born of pagan parents in what is now Hungary and raised in Italy, this son of a veteran was forced at the age of 15 to serve in the army. He became a Christian catechumen and was baptized at 18. It was said that he lived more like a monk than a soldier. At 23, he refused a war bonus and told his commander: “I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ. Give the bounty to those who are going to fight. But I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight.” After great difficulties, he was discharged and went to be a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers.
He was ordained an exorcist and worked with great zeal against the Arians. He became a monk, living first at Milan and later on a small island. When Hilary was restored to his see after exile, Martin returned to France and established what may have been the first French monastery near Poitiers. He lived there for 10 years, forming his disciples and preaching throughout the countryside.
As death approached, his followers begged him not to leave them. He prayed, “Lord, if your people still need me, I do not refuse the work. Your will be done.”Saint of the Day