Feast Day Mass of St. Martin of Tours

Broadcast from St. Ignatius Chapel at Martyrs' Shrine

Thank you for attending this special online virtual Mass aired on this day of Remembrance honouring the life of St. Martin of Tours as well as the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to our country. Mass is presided by Father Michael Knox, SJ., Director of Martyrs' Shrine in Midland, Ontario

Please note that we acknowledge that Remembrance Day services will be conducted today and in respecting this, this Mass is scheduled to air on this page beginning at 1:00pm on November 11, 2021.

A Patron Saint of Soldiers

St. Martin of Tours was born around 316 A.D. in Sabaria, Pannonia (modern day Hungary) and died on November 8, 397 in Candes, Gaul (modern day France).

Martin was brought up by pagan parents, including his father who was a Roman military veteran. Martin was drafted into the army from a young age but from the age of 10 years, Martin was increasingly more fascinated with Christian teachings, a minority faith at the time.

Legend has it that whilst serving in the army, Martin witnessed a scantily clad beggar on the street sick and cold. He cut his riding cloak in half and offered it unto the beggar so that he could stay warm and would later dream of Jesus himself wearing that halved cloak. When Martin awoke, his cloak was restored. This vision and miracle cemented his faith in Christianity, and from there he sought to finish his religious study and become baptized at age 18. Martin would later petition the Roman emperor to be released from the army, stating that he was a soldier of Christ and was unable to fight. The emperor viewed him as being a coward and had him imprisoned.

Martin was later released and would settle in Poitiers and under the guidance of the local Bishop, would become a missionary around the modern Balkan Peninsula. He founded the first known monastery in Europe and in 371 was tricked into becoming the Bishop of Tours. Once Bishop, he began work on building Marmoutier, a new monastery outside of the city of Tours which would later serve as a nucleus for missionaries across France.

During his lifetime, Martin acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, and he was one of the first non-martyrs to be publicly venerated as a saint. Saint Martin has become a model for leading a good Christian life throughout history. He was a soldier, who gave what he could to the poor, undertook military service, followed orders diligently and respected secular authority. He has become a paragon of justice, fairness and piety.

Feast Day of St. Martin

Saint Martin’s Day is celebrated on November 11, coinciding with the date of his death. The Feast Day originated in France and has since spread all over Europe. It not only celebrates the life of Saint Martin but also the end of the agrarian year and the end of harvest. The Advent season is derived from a 6th century Christian tradition, whereby worshippers would fast from Saint Martin’s Day until January 6, the day of the Feast of the Three Wise Men.

Saint Martin’s day is often referred to as Martinmas, the day where Saint Martin is honoured with a Mass. As the Mass coincides with the end of harvest, traditionally fresh wine would have just been produced and farm animals slaughtered in accordance with winter preparations. This is why Saint Martin’s day is celebrated with feasts and bonfires.

On St. Martin's Day, children in many European communities still participate in paper lantern processions,  often started at a church and lead by a man on horseback dressed as St. Martin. Children travel door-to-door in their neighbourhoods, sing songs about St. Martin and receive fruit and treats in return, similar to trick-or-treating on Halloween. The processions usually end at a public square with a at a large bonfire - Martin’s Fire.

The luminous processions are to celebrate the life of Saint Martin and to symbolize the holy light that keeps the darkness at bay. These celebrations reflect the hope and faith that Saint Martin inspired through his actions. However, while the celebrations endure, the story and life of Saint Martin has slipped into obscurity.

The food traditionally eaten on the day is goose, as according to legend, Martin was reluctant to become bishop, so he hid in a stable filled with geese. The noise made by the geese betrayed his location to the people who were looking for him.

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