November 11, 2014 - SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS:

TITUS 2:1-8,11-14 ; LUKE 17:7-10

We hear an added note of earnest concern that lends an urgency of tone in Saint Paul's pastoral letters to Timothy written around the same period as the letter to Titus that we have just heard.  The reason for this becomes evident in the second letter to Timothy, his close collaborator, when Paul, who is writing from prison, states explicitly that he expects to be put to death in the near future.  "I am now being poured out and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought the good fight, my course is now completed, I have kept the faith.  The crown of justice is reserved for me that the Lord will present to me on that day."  (2 Tim 4:6-8) This same consciousness of arriving at the end of his ministry probably accounts for the detailed recommendations contained in his writings to both of these close associates to whom Paul had entrusted pastoral responsibilities for their respective Churches.

That his ministry put him in the way of danger and strenuous opposition was not a new development for the vigorous apostle to the Gentiles.  He spoke on an earlier occasion of the danger he faced when he went to Jerusalem to give assistance to the Catholic Jews there, and ended being manhandled by a rioting crowd, incensed by his message.  He well knew that Timothy and Titus would be meeting with opposition in their ministry and sought to advise them in detail on their mission to the Churches that they were sent to help.  Paul, however, is never so immersed in practical human affairs that he loses sight of his fundamental message. He relates the vision inherited from Christ himself to the task facing his disciple Titus: He writes: "For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires . . . as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and our savior Jesus Christ."

This same hope became the motivating force in the life of Saint Martin of Tours whom we commemorate with honor in this mass we are celebrating together.  Martin had an unusual preparation for his work as a bishop in the French Church.  He was born in Panonia, modern Hungary, and in his teens joined the Roman army.  A convert to the Catholic faith not long after.  After he was ordained as exorcist by Saint Hilary of Poitiers.  He was a natural leader gathered followers and lived with them as a monk.  Made bishop of Tours he combined his work as a fervent and capable bishop with community life.  He founded the first parishes in France as well as the monastery at Marmoutier.

Right after his death in 397 he was honored as a saint by his successor.  Uniting prayer, community life, and, a vigorous apostolate Martin became a popular and admired patron of the French Church.  We still celebrate today as Veterans Day in our country, for it was on Martin's Feast Day that the French chose to end the Great War in 1918.

In his peaceful spreading of the Gospel St. Martin of Tours remains a symbol of the love and grace of God in Christ Jesus who has become our peace and our hope by his self-sacrifice.  It is the eternal peace he won for us on the cross that we thank him for as we renew the mystery of his death and resurrection on this Memorial Day.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger