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Fast of Saint Martin of Tours



Our CFP Rule and Constitutions state:


RULE: Section 9

9. They are to fast daily, except on account of infirmity or any other need, throughout the fast of St. Martin from after said day until Christmas, and throughout the greater fast from Carnival Sunday until Easter.


a. Penitents are to observe a pre-Christmas fast from November

12, the day after the Feast of St. Martin, until Christmas and a pre-Easter fast from Ash Wednesday until Easter.



Those who have completed their tenth lesson of their second Novice year are to observe this part of the CFP Rule unless dispensed from doing so by their spiritual directors. The fast is to be followed according to the guidelines in the CFP Rule, enumerated in Chapters II and III of the CFP Rule and Constitutions and in Appendix A of the Constitutions.


All other penitents, who have not yet completed Lesson 10 of their second Novice year, could also embrace some sort of penance during the Fast of Saint Martin, to keep the spirit of the Pre-Christmas Fast.  Some suggestions might be to give up sweets during the Fast of Saint Martin or to pray a decade of the Rosary daily for the intentions of the Holy Father.   Those wishing to observe the Fast, yet not yet obligated to do so, could discuss possible penances with their spiritual directors and/or their Regional Ministers.



One of the most popular saints of medieval times, Saint Martin of Tours was born in 316, the son of a pagan army officer in Sabaria, Pannonia, on the Danube, which today is Hungary.  From there he moved with his family to Pavia, Italy where his father was transferred.  Martin was attracted by Christianity whose principles he began to study and, at the age of ten, became a catechumen.


At that age of fifteen, Martin was forced into the army  where he lived more like a monk than a soldier.  In 337, in  Amiens, France, Martin's heart was deeply moved by a freezing, nearly naked beggar who was pleading for alms at the city gate.  In an act of great generosity, Martin, who had no money, drew his sword and cut his military cloak in two, giving half of it to the shivering man.  That night, Martin was granted a vision of Christ, wearing half of his cloak, Who said, "Martin, yet a catechumen, has covered me with his garment."  The vision prompted Martin to be baptized immediately.

When Martin was twenty years old, his army defeated a barbarian invasion of Gaul.  Refusing his war bounty, Martin relinquished his sword to take up the armor of Christ.  When the emperor Julian accused Martin of cowardice, he offered to enter the battle unarmed.  Instead of being taken up on the offer, Martin was thrown into prison where he remained until being released during an armistice and then discharged from military duty.  Martin then went to Poitiers where the bishop St. Hilary received him as a disciple.


Upon his return home, Martin's zeal converted his mother and sisters to Christianity.   Martin fought Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ, and was publicly scourged and banished.  When St. Hilary, who had also been banished for his own battle against the Arians, was allowed to return to Poitiers in 360, Martin joined him  and became a hermit at Liguge, the first monastic community in France.  Martin was gifted with many mystical graces and was the outstanding monastic pioneer before Saint Benedict.

In 371, the local clergy and people of Tours demanded that Martin be made

their bishop.  When forced to accept this office, Martin continued to live simply and poorly.  To discourage frequent visitors, Martin founded Marmoutier Abbey in a desert place enclosed by a steep cliff on one side and a river on the other.  From here, he governed his diocese, visiting his outlying parishes yearly.

Paganism greatly decreased in Tours through Martin's teaching and his active destruction of pagan temples,  sacred groves, and other objects.  Some of these incidents involved miracles and other extraordinary spiritual happenings.  Martin was also favored with revelations, mystical visions, and prophecies.  His prayers brought about healings and obtained mercy for prisoners. 


When Priscillianists, heretics who believed in two Kingdoms, one of light and one of darkness, were being marked for death, Martin interceded, asking that they be excommunicated but not murdered.  His plea was only partly successful.


Martin fell mortally ill at Candes, a village in his diocese where he had gone to foster peace.  When the people begged him not

to die, he replied, "Lord, if thy people still need me, I will not shirk the toil. Thy will be done."   God, however, was calling Martin home, and, after receiving a premonition of his death, Martin died November 8, 397.  By his request, Martin was buried in the Cemetery of the Poor in Tours on November 11.  Martin's relics were transferred to the basilica of Tours, a scene of huge medieval pilgrimages and many miracles.  



The Fast of Saint Martin is meant to prepare the penitent to celebrate the Solemnity of Christmas.  The fast reminds the penitent of several truths:


a. Our lives must be centered on God, not on self.


b. Our self denial is a prayer of the body to Our Lord Who came as an Infant to teach us and to redeem us.


c. Martin's act of cutting his cloak in two was both penitential and loving.  All penances, if they are to have any merit spiritually, must be done in love.

d. We must be willing to give up anything and everything which keeps us from full union with God.


e. As soldiers of Christ, our struggle is to be against evil, not against others.  We are always to be peacemakers as Martin was.

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