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. Martin became a Christian catechumen and was baptized when he was 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
He was ordained an exorcist. Martin became a monk, living
first in Milan and later on a small island. When Hilary was restored to his see
following his 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.
The people of Tours demanded that he become their
bishop. Martin was drawn to that city by a ruse—the need of a sick person—and
was brought to the church, where he reluctantly allowed himself to be
consecrated bishop. Some of the consecrating bishops thought his rumpled
appearance and unkempt hair indicated that he was not dignified enough for the
Feast day is celebrated on November 11th.