Nov. 12, 2019

November 12, 2019: POPE ST. MARTIN I

November 12, 2019: ST. MARTIN I, POPE AND MARTYR

Rank: Simple.

This saint fought even unto death for the law of his God, and feared not the words of the wicked; for he was founded on a firm rock.

Prayer (Collect).

O God, who, by the yearly solemnity of blessed Martin, thy Martyr and Bishop, rejoicest the hearts of thy faithful: mercifully grant that we, who celebrate his martyrdom, may enjoy his protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.


While the concourse of pilgrims to the sepulchre of the Bishop of Tours [St. Martin of Tours; feast Nov. 11] induced his third successor Perpetuus, to raise over his precious remains the basilica, in which so many prodigies were to be wrought all through the middle ages, Rome herself was dedicating to St. Martin one of her noblest churches, uniting with him as joint titular her own illustrious Pontiff and Confessor Sylvester. Adorned with this twofold glory, St. Martin-on-the-hill worthily inaugurated in the eternal City the cultus of Confessors side by side with that of the Martyrs. But another honour awaited the venerable sanctuary. Beside the wonder-working apostle and the pontiff of peace, both vanquishers of idolatory, who had escaped the sword only through the conversion of the persecutors, the last of the martyr-popes, also Martin by name, came to seek a resting-place, long after the pagan persecutions had ceased. “Martin I,” says Baronius, “fared better than any of his predecessors since the time of Constantine. Found worthy to suffer more than all of them for the Name of Jesus Christ, he had the good fortune to find a Decius and a Diocletian in a baptised prince.”

The emperor thus stigmatised by the great annalist was Constans II. From his grandfather Heraclius, who at least had given the world a few years of glory, he inherited nothing but the Byzantine pretension of imposing his dogmatic edicts upon the Church. Like the Ecthesis of Heraclius, the Type of Constans aimed at silencing the Catholics in their struggle with the Monothelites. St. Leo II, on the 28th June, has already initiated us into these contests concerning the integrity of the two natures, divine and human, in the Man-God. Could the Church, without protesting, allow it to be said that her Spouse had taken from Adam a mere appearance of humanity, a half-formed nature without a will, such as the new sectaries imagined?

More clear-sighted than Honorius, Martin I understood the danger, and knew how to repair the past, while securing the future. Scarcely had he ascended the apostolic throne, when he gathered, in the Church of our Saviour, one of the most beautiful assemblies ever held there. “Sound the trumpet, cry out upon the mountain; soldiers of God, awake!” Thus from its very opening did the Lateran Council of 649, repair the fatal silence and avenge the Church's honour. On reading its splendid and ample definitions, which present to the world the Son of the Virgin Mother in all his adorable integrity, we are reminded of the solemn declaration in the pretorium on the great Friday: “Behold the Man!” only that this time it was proclaimed in triumph and by those who loved him. Truly, O God our Saviour, thou art the most complete, the most perfect, the most beautiful of the sons of men.

What a solace to the mind, to see the imperial lucubrations returned, with the qualification of wicked and impious? To the Byzantine Cӕsar, who held the defenceless Pontiff at his mercy in still dependent Rome! Martin I like St. Paul, could take the Church of God to witness that he had not neglected his duty of enlightening the flock; he could remind the pastors of the price at which Christ had purchased the sheep committed to their care: he himself was ready for everything. His martyrdom was to secure the final triumph, of which the sixth general Council and St. Leo II were destined to gather the fruits.

The Greeks celebrate on the 13th April the feast of this glorious Pope, whom they call a “corypheus of divine dogmas, the honour of Peter's See, the pontiff who maintained the Church unshaken on the divine Rock.”


Rome gives the following brief notice of him in her Liturgy.

Martin was born at Todi in Umbria. Upon ascending the pontifical throne, he strove by letters and embassies to recall Paul, Patriarch of Constantinople from his wicked heresy to the true Catholic faith. But, supported by the heretical emperor Constans, Paul was so carried away as to exile the legates of the Apostolic See to various islands. The Pope, indignant at this outrage, summoned a council of one hundred and five bishops at Rome, in which he condemned Paul.

Upon this Constans sent the exarch Olympius into Italy, with orders either to kill Pope Martin or else to bring him to the emperor. Olympius, on reaching Rome, charged a lictor to assassinate the Pope as he was celebrating Mass in St. Mary's at the Crib. But the man, attempting to do so, was suddenly struck blind.

From that time many calamities befel the emperor Constans, which however made him no better; and he sent Theodore Calliopus to Rome to seize the Pope. By his deceitful dealing Martin was arrested and led prisoner to Constantinople. Thence he was banished into the Chersonesus; where, on the eve of the Ides of November, he died worn out by his sufferings for the Catholic faith, and not without the glory of miracles. His body was afterwards translated to Rome, and placed in the church dedicated to Saints Sylvester and Martin. He governed the church six years, one month, and twenty-six days. He held two ordinations in the month of December, and ordained eleven priests, five deacons, and thirty-three bishops for divers places.


Another account of Pope St. Martin I

A.D. 655

St. Martin was a native of Todi, in Tuscany, and became renowned in the clergy of Rome for his learning and sanctity. Whilst he was deacon of that church he was sent by the Pope Theodorus, in quality of apocrisiarius or nuncio, to Constantinople, where he showed his zeal against the reigning heresy of the Mouothelites. Upon the death of Theodorus, after a vacancy of near three weeks, Martin was elected pope, in July, 649, and, in the October following, held in the Lateran church a council of one hundred and five bishops, against the Monothelites, in which he condemned the ringleaders of that sect, particularly Sergius and Pyrrhus, who had been formerly bishops of Constantinople, and Paul, who was then in possession of that see. The Ecthesis of Heraclius and the Typus of Constans, two imperial edicts, were likewise censured: the former, because it contained an exposition of faith entirely favourable to the Monothelites: the latter, because it was a formulary by which silence was imposed on both parties, and it was forbid by it to mention either one or two operations in Christ. “The Lord,” said the Lateran fathers, “hath commanded us to shun evil and do good; but not to reject the good with the evil. We are not to deny at the same time both truth and error.”

The Emperor Constans sent Olympius, his chamberlain, in quality of exarch into Italy, with an order either to cause Martin to be massacred, or to send him prisoner into the East. Olympius, coming to Rome whilst the council was assembled, endeavoured to raise a schism; but not succeeding by open violence, had recourse to treachery, and commanded one of his attendants to murder the pope whilst he was administering the communion in the Church of St. Mary Major, which might be more easily done, as the pope carried the communion to every one in his own place. The servant who had undertaken to execute this commission afterwards swore that he had been struck with blindness, and could not see the pope. Olympius, therefore, seeing the pope had been thus protected by heaven, declared to him the orders which he had received, made his peace with him, and marched into Sicily, then in the hands of the Saracens, where his army perished, and he died of sickness. The emperor then sent Theodorus Calliopes exarch, with Theodorus Pellurus, one of his chamberlains, with a strict charge to seize Martin, whom he accused of heresy, because he condemned the type; and charged him with Nestorianism, as the Egyptians did all Catholics. The new exarch and the chamberlain arrived at Rome with the army from Ravenna on Saturday, the 15th of June, 653. The pope, who had been sick ever since October, shut himself up in the Lateran church, but sent some of his clergy to salute the exarch, who inquired where the pope was, saying, he desired to adore him, which he repeated the next day. Two days after, on Monday, Calliopas accused him of having arms concealed; but the pope bade him search his palace, which he did; and no arms being found, the pope said, “Thus have calumnies been always employed against us.” Half an hour after, the soldiers returned and seized the pope, who lay sick on a couch near the gate of the church; and Calliopas presented the clergy a rescript of the emperor, commanding St. Martin to be deposed as unworthy of the popedom. The clergy cried out, “Anathema to him who shall say that Pope Martin hath changed any point of faith, and to him who perseveres not in the Catholic faith till death.” Calliopas, fearing the multitude, said, “There is no other faith but yours; nor have I any other.” Several of the bishops said, “We will live and die with him.” The pope was led out of the church into the palace, and, on the 18th of June, taken thence at midnight, and carried in a boat down the Tiber to Porto, where he was put on board of a vessel to be conveyed to Constantinople. After three months' sail he arrived at the isle of Naxos, where he stayed with his guards a whole year, being allowed to lodge in a house. For a long time he was afflicted with a dysentery, and a loathing of food. When the bishops and inhabitants sent him any provisions, the guards plundered them, and abused with injurious language and blows those who brought him presents, saying, “Whoever shows any kindness to this man is an enemy to the state.” St. Martin was more afflicted at the injuries which his benefactors received than at his own sufferings. He was brought to Constantinople on the 17th of September, in 654, and, after much ill usage, lay in a dungeon without speaking to anybody but his keepers for near three months, from the 17th of September to the 15th of December. In one of his letters he wrote as follows: “It is now forty-seven days since I have been permitted to wash myself either in cold or warm water. I am quite wasted and chilled, and have had no respite either upon sea or land from the flux which I suffer. My body is broken and spent, and, when I would take any nourishment, I want such kind of food as is necessary to support me; and have a perfect aversion and loathing to what I have. But I hope that God, who knows all things, when he shall have taken me out of this world, will bring my persecutors to repentance.” On the 15th of December he was examined by the Sacellarius, or treasurer, in the chamber of that magistrate, in presence of the senate, which was then assembled there. He was removed thence to a terrace, where the emperor might have a sight of him from his window, and the Sacellarius ordered his guards to divest him of the marks of his episcopal dignity. Then delivering him into the hands of the prefect of the city, he said, “Take him, my lord prefect, and pull him to pieces immediately.” He likewise commanded those that were present to anathematize him. But not above twenty persons cried out anathema; all the rest hung down their heads, and retired overwhelmed with grief. The executioners, laying hold of the saint, took away his sacerdotal pallium, and stripped him of all his clothes, except a tunic, which they left him without a girdle, having torn it from the top to the bottom, so that his naked body was exposed to sight. They put an iron collar about his neck, and dragged him in this manner from the palace through the midst of the city, the gaoler being fastened to him, and an executioner carrying the sword before him, to show that he was condemned to die. The people wept and sighed, except a small number who insulted him; but the martyr preserved a calm and serene countenance. Being come to the prӕtorium, he was thrown into the prison with murderers; but about an hour afterwards was taken thence, and cast into the prison of Diomedes, so much hurt and bruised, that he left the staircase besmeared with his blood, and seemed ready to give up the ghost. He was placed on a bench, chained as he was, and almost dead with cold; for the winter was very severe. He had none of his own friends or servants about him but a young clerk who had followed him weeping. The gaoler was chained to him, and the order for his execution was expected every moment, and the holy pope impatiently waited for martyrdom. But it was delayed, and his irons were knocked off.

St. Martin continued in the prison of Diomedes near three months, to the 10th of March, 655, when he was ordered to be banished to the Taurica Chersonesus on the 15th of May. The famine was so great in that country, that the pope assured his friends in one of his letters, “Bread is talked of here, but never seen. If some relief is not sent us from Italy, or Pontus, it is impossible to live.” He wrote another letter in September, wherein he says, “We are not only separated from the rest of the world, but are even deprived of the means to live. The inhabitants of the country are all pagans; and they who come hither, besides their learning the manners of the people of the country, have no charity, nor even that natural compassion which is to be found among barbarians. Neither do they bring anything from other places in the barks which come hither to be loaded with salt; nor have I been able to buy anything but one bushel of corn, which cost me four gold pence. I admire the insensibility of all those who have heretofore had some relation to me, who have so entirely forgot me, that they do not so much as seem to know whether I am in the world. I wonder still more at those who belong to the church of St. Peter, for the little concern they show for one of their body. If that church has no money, it wants not corn, oil, or other provisions, out of which they might send us some small supply. What fear hath seized all these men, which can hinder them from fulfilling the commands of God, in relieving the distressed? Have I appeared such an enemy to the whole church, or to them in particular? However, I pray God, by the intercession of St. Peter, to preserve them steadfast and immovable in the orthodox faith. As to this wretched body, God will have care of it. ‘He is at hand;’ why should I give myself any trouble? I hope in his mercy, he will not prolong my course.” The good pope was not disappointed of his hope; for he died on the 16th of September, in 655, having held the holy see six years, one month, and twenty-six days. He was interred in a church of the Blessed Virgin, within a furlong from the city of Chersona; a great concourse of people resorted to his tomb. His relics were afterwards carried to Rome, and deposited in a church dedicated long before in honour of St. Martin of Tours. He is honoured by the Latins, on the 12th of November, the day of the translation of his relics to Rome, and by the Greeks on the 13th of April; also on the 15th and 20th of September. By the Muscovites on the 14th of April. His constancy and firmness appear in his letters. They are well written, with strength and wisdom; the style is great and noble, worthy of the majesty of the holy see.

The saints equally despised the goods and the evils of this life, because they had before their eyes the eternal glory with which momentary labours and sufferings will be abundantly recompensed. Can we be called Christians, who, by our murmuring and impatience under the least trials, and by recoiling at the least harsh word, show ourselves to be strangers to the spirit, and enemies to the cross of Christ? It is only by bearing the marks of his sufferings, and by practising the heroic virtues which tribulation calls forth, that we can enter into the bliss which he has purchased for us by his cross. If with the saints we look up at the joys which are to be the recompense of our patience, and consider attentively the example of Christ, we shall receive our sufferings, not only with resignation, but with joys, as graces of which we are most unworthy.

Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. VI, Edition 1903;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.


Pope St. Martin I, pray for us.