Proclaim St Martin of Tours Louisiana's Patron Saint

From their earliest days, Christians have always honored the saints and asked for their prayers and help.  The great 20th century saint of the Orthodox Church, St John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco (+1966), explains why:  

'Holiness is not simply righteousness, for which the righteous merit the enjoyment of blessedness in the Kingdom of God, but rather such a height of righteousness that men are filled with the Grace of God to such an extent, that it flows from them, upon those who associate with them. Great is their blessedness, which proceeds from personal experience of the Glory of God. Being filled also with love for men, which proceeds from love of God, they are responsive to men's needs and upon their supplication, they also appear as intercessors and defenders before God.'1  

We draw near to the relics of these saints to experience the consolation of God’s Grace in our own lives:  

'Why do we venerate saints and their relics? Certainly, the saints do not NEED to be glorified by us as saints. The only reason the Holy Orthodox Church glorifies saints is to help us. The Lord's saints manifest themselves to us who are still on earth in order to assist us. The Lord gives to us the relics of His saints as a means of grace for us — a visible and tangible means of contact, and as a vehicle of innumerable miracles — just as He gives to us icons and the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) as vehicles of Divine Grace.'2

So it is that we find this written about St Polycarp of Smyrna (martyred in the mid-2nd century), the disciple of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John:  

'The centurion then, seeing the strife excited by the Jews, placed the body in the midst of the fire, and consumed it. Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps.'3  

Furthermore,  

'From the very earliest Christian times, the Divine Liturgy has been celebrated on the tombs of the martyred saints, (those who bore witness to the Faith), where, on the anniversary of the saint's martyrdom, the faithful would go to the catacombs (in Rome) or other place of burial, and celebrate the Divine Liturgy.'4  

The veneration of saints has declined in recent years, owing in some degree to the idea that God is a lone, solitary Being, Whom we can experience only in isolation from others, and also to the idea that to honor the saints is to diminish God’s glory.  But both notions are false.  The Holy Trinity is always surrounded by hosts and hosts of angels and saints (see Isaiah 6 or Revelation 5, for example); our experiences with God always happen together with them, whether we are aware of it or not.  Likewise, God’s glory is not diminished by the honoring of holy men and women.  Rather, it is increased, since God, Who made the saints great, is the One Who actually receives the praise and honor we offer to His holy ones:  

‘God is wondrous in His saints’ (Ps. 67/68:36, Orthodox Study Bible).  

‘ . . . he (man) is the image and glory of God’ (I Cor. 11:7 KJV).5  

For their virtues, for their extraordinary self-emptying love for God and neighbor and for all the creation, God shows His favor towards the holy martyrs and all the saints by working abundant miracles through them.  St Martin of Tours (+397) is one of those wonderworkers.  St Gregory of Tours (+594), one of the great historians of France, relates the following about St Martin:  

'The miracles which the Lord our God deigned to work through the blessed Martin, his bishop, when living in the body, He still deigns to confirm daily in order to strengthen the faith of believers. He who worked miracles through him when he was in the world, now honors his tomb with miracles, and He who at that time sent him to save the perishing heathen, [now] bestows through him blessings on the Christians. Therefore let no one have doubt about the miracles worked in former time when he sees the bounty of the present wonders bestowed, when he looks upon the lame being raised up, the blind receiving sight, demons being driven out and every other kind of disease being cured through his healing power. As for me I will establish belief in the book written about his life by earlier writers, by relating for posterity at God's command his present­day miracles as far as I can recall them.'6  

St Martin was a soldier, monk, bishop, and missionary; a friend to the poor and to the rich alike, and to the persecuted.  But most importantly, he was a man overflowing with the Grace of God, one of those whom St John spoke of at the opening:  

'NO one ever saw him enraged, or excited, or lamenting, or laughing; he was always one and the same: displaying a kind of heavenly happiness in his countenance, he seemed to have passed the ordinary limits of human nature. Never was there any word on his lips but Christ, and never was there a feeling in his heart except piety, peace, and tender mercy.'7  

This same St Martin was instrumental in spreading the Christian faith throughout Western Europe, from Hungary to Italy to France.  But it was mainly in France where he did his greatest work, and founded his great monastery of Marmoutier.  This monastery would go on to train further generations of missionaries who would enlighten other regions of Western Europe that would deeply impact Louisiana’s history, like Ireland and Scotland, England and Germany.   St Martin was likely influenced in his monastic practices by the Desert Fathers of Africa, St Anthony the Great of Egypt (+356) in particular:  

'Monasticism initially took root in the East, but at an early date the West received a model for this way of life in the personal example and writings of St. Athanasius of Alexandria, who lived in exile in Treves, Gaul, beginning in 335. Since Athanasius knew St. Anthony the Great and had found refuge among the monks of upper Egypt during a period of great danger, one can surmise that the Gauls heard at this time about the blessed Anthony and the ascetic exploits of the Egyptian monks.  

'In the 4th century the fire of Christianity began to burn fiercely in Orthodox Gaul. This was largely due to the example and inspiration of the growing monastic movement throughout the Christian world.  

'Two of the greatest saints of this time in Gaul were St. Hilary of Poitiers and St. Martin of Tours. St. Hilary, known as the “Athanasius of the West,” was the spiritual father of St. Martin. St. Martin is considered Gaul’s first great monastic saint. His example of “bloodless martyrdom” through asceticism was embraced by many.'8  

Such was the love of the French people for St Martin that after his repose he became the Patron Saint of the French people.  He has been so venerated by the French, in fact, that

'Even today over 2,000 villages in France are named after him and 4,000 churches are dedicated to him. And the surname 'Martin' has become the French equivalent of 'Smith'.'9  

Centuries later, when French immigrants began to settle in Louisiana, they brought this deep love for St Martin with them, dedicating a church, St Martin de Tours Catholic Church (est. 1765), in St Martinville, which lies within St Martin Parish (both named after St Martin of Tours).  And in this church rests a bone relic of the Blessed Martin, which in itself is a miracle, as most of St Martin’s relics were destroyed by the Huguenots in 1562 and the atheists during the French Revolution in 1793.10  This relic of St Martin is one of the greatest treasures of Louisiana, perhaps THE greatest.  

The prayers of St Martin of Tours are a roof of protection covering Louisiana.  He is a devoted father watching over his children here.  How much more would he do for us if we would only ask?  His connections to Africa and Western Europe, especially France, make him an ideal Patron for Louisiana.  In a time of fierce division, we need to unite around what is good and holy more than ever.  By proclaiming St Martin of Tours as the Patron Saint of Louisiana and ever honoring him as such statewide, we would promote and receive that much sought-after unity.  

Plan of Action  

If any reading this are in agreement that St Martin should be made Louisiana’s Patron Saint, please consider doing the following:  

1. Sign this petition.

2. Share it with other Louisiana residents.

3. Contact the Louisiana Governer, Lt Governor, and your La. State Representative and Senator.  Send them a link to this petition and ask them to begin laying the groundwork for the proclamation.

4. After the Louisiana elections are finalized and all officials have been sworn in (Jan. 13, 2020), contact the same four officials and ask them again to issue an official proclamation about St Martin.  At that time the petition organizers will send certified letters to the Governor, Lt Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate President with the final petition numbers and requesting St Martin be officially recognized by an act of the State Legislature and with the concurrence of the Governor as Louisiana’s Patron Saint.  

To look up State Legislators: http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/FindMyLegislators.aspx  

To contact the Governor: http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/form/home/4  

To contact the Lt Governor: https://crt.state.la.us/lt-governor/contact/  

Honoring St Martin  

How should we honor St Martin as our Patron Saint?  We would recommend these ideas:  

1. In honor of St Martin’s main feast day, Nov. 11th, all government departments should close.  Private businesses would be called upon to consider closing as well.  If Nov. 11 falls on a Saturday, let all have Friday off.  If it falls on a Sunday, let all have Monday off.

2. A statewide gathering at St Martin de Tours Catholic Church in St Martinville should be held, and a service in honor of St Martin conducted.

3. For those unable to travel to St Martinville, local churches should hold a service in honor of St Martin as well.  

Additionally, a festival held after the services in a God-befitting way, in keeping with the holiness of the event, and in honor of St Martin ought to be considered, featuring the best of Louisiana’s folk music, food, and dance.  

In closing, it is worth noting that Louisiana has an official State bird, dog, and so on, but no official Patron Saint.  We need to remedy that oversight.  Through the prayers of St Martin of Tours, may God grant us all success in having him proclaimed as Louisiana’s Patron Saint on a day not far from now and honored forever onward among us as our Heavenly Patron.  

Notes  

1 ‘The Canonization of Saints’, http://orthodox.cn/catechesis/johnmx/canonization_en.htm  

2 Sister Ioanna, ‘Why Relics?’, https://www.stinnocentchurch.com/whyrelics  

3 The Martyrdom of St Polycarp, https://www.orthodoxroad.com/voices-from-the-past/the-martyrdom-of-st-polycarp/  

4 ‘Why Relics?’  

5 Fr Stephen Freeman has written often about these themes at his blog site, https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/  

6 The Four Books of the Miracles of St. Martin, https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/gregory-mirac.asp#modesty  

7 Sulpicius Severus, On the Life of St. Martin, http://www.users.csbsju.edu/~eknuth/npnf2-11/sulpitiu/lifemart.html  

8 Monk Nicodemus, ‘The Church of the Gauls. Part 1’, http://orthochristian.com/7364.html  

9 Fr Andrew Phillips, ‘On the Spiritual Regeneration of France’, http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/oefranc1.htm  

10 Fr Seraphim Rose, ‘Preface’ to St Gregory of Tours, Vita Patrum, p. 66, available to download here:  http://startingontheroyalpath.blogspot.com/2012/06/vita-patrum.html

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