Saint Martin of Tours was born in Sabaria, Hungary on an unknown date during the year 316 A.D. Although he was attracted to Christianity from an early age, both his parents were pagan. As a matter of fact, he was named after the Roman god Mars. However, Martin became a catechumen at the young age of 10. It is very likely that his parents had no idea that he had done this.
Martin’s father was a respected tribune in the Roman Army. Martin spent most of his childhood in Italy and, at the age of 15, he had no choice but to join the army as well. His years in the army were not overly happy.
The most famous occurrence in the life of Saint Martin of Tours took place when he was stationed in Amiens, France around the year 334. It was the middle of winter and Martin noticed a poorly dressed beggar outside the city gates. After watching several people ignore the man, he cut his military cloak in half and gave part of it to the beggar.
That night, he had a dream in which Jesus Himself appeared wearing the half-cloak. Martin then heard Our Lord praise him for doing such a good deed even though he was not yet a Christian. After this, Martin made sure he received baptism as quickly as possible. In 336, he was discharged from the army after his religious views kept him from fighting.
After leaving the army, Marin went to Tours, France where he met Saint Hilary of Poitiers. Several years later, he had a dream that told him to return home. After doing so, he converted his mother, though not his father, and zealously fought against the Arian heresy.
In 371, Martin, against his wishes, was consecrated the Bishop of Tours. He had always been attracted to monastic life and, in 372, he founded an abbey in Marmoutier. Martin would go here every time he needed solitude.
In 384, a bishop named Priscillian was condemned as a heretic by Martin and the other bishops of the Synod of Bordeaux. One of the bishops asked the Roman emperor if Priscillian and his followers could be put to death. Martin immediately stepped in and said that bloodshed was uncalled for. Although he did everything he could, Martin blamed himself when Priscillian and several other men were beheaded in 385.
Saint Martin of Tours died of natural causes in Tours, France on November 8, 397. He is considered the patron saint of alcoholics and of the Pope’s Swiss Guards. His feast day is November 11.
Source: Butler’s Lives of the Saints