November 12: Saint Martin I, Pope and Martyr     (A.D. 656?)

St. Martin was a native of Todi in Umbria, renowned among the clergy of Rome for his learning and holiness. Whilst he was deacon he was sent by Pope Theodore I as apocrisiarius or nuncio to Constantinople, and upon the death of Theodore Martin himself was elected pope in July 649. In the October following he held a council at the Lateran against Monothelism (the denial that Christ had a human will), in which the orthodox doctrine of the two wills was affirmed and the leaders of the heresy anathematized. Two imperial edicts, the "Ekthesis" of Heraclius and the "Typos" of Constantine III [commonly known as Constans II], were likewise censured: the first because it contained an exposition of faith entirely favorable to the monothelites, the second because it was a formulary by which silence was imposed on both parties and it was forbidden to mention either one or two wills and energies in Christ. "The Lord," said the Lateran fathers, "has 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 error and truth"--which sounds like a reference to Pope Honorius I, though he is not mentioned. These decrees were published throughout the West, Martin invoking the energy of the bishops of Africa, Spain and England for the putting down of Monothelism, and in the East he appointed a vicar to enforce the synodal decisions in the patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem.

The emperor, Constantine III, was infuriated. He had already sent an exarch to Rome who had failed in his mission of sowing dissension among the bishops at the synod, and he now sent another, Theodore Kalliopes, with orders to bring the pope to Constantinople. Martin, who was sick, took refuge in the Lateran basilica, where he was lying on a couch in front of the attar when Kalliopes and his soldiers broke in; he refused to make any resistance, and was taken secretly out of Rome to be put on board ship at Porto. The voyage was long and Martin suffered greatly from dysentery. He arrived in Constantinople in the autumn of 653 and was there left in jail for three months; he wrote in a letter: "I have not been allowed to wash, even in cold water, for forty-seven days. I am wasted away and frozen through, and have had no respite from dysentery. . . . The food that is given me makes me feel sick. I hope that God, who knows all things, will bring my persecutors to repentance after He will have taken me out of this world." The pope was eventually arraigned before the senate on a charge of treason and condemned unheard (His real offense, as St. Martin pointed out to his accusers, was his refusal to sign the theological "Typos"); then, after shameful public indignities and ill-treatment, which aroused the indignation of the people, he was returned to prison for another three months. His life, however, was spared (at the intercession of the dying patriarch Paul) and in April 654 he was taken into exile at Kherson in the Crimea.

From there St. Martin wrote an account of the famine, his own difficulty in getting food, the barbarism of the inhabitants, and the neglect with which he was treated.

I am surprised at the indifference of all those who, though they once knew me, have now so entirely forgotten me that they do not even 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 a small supply. What fear has seized all these men that it hinders 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 trouble myself? I hope in His mercy that He will not prolong my course.

St. Martin was not disappointed in his hope, for he died perhaps about two years later, the last of the popes so far to be venerated as a martyr. His feast is celebrated in the West on November 12 and in the East on various dates, the Byzantine liturgy acclaiming him as a "glorious defender of the true faith" and an "ornament of the divine see of Peter." A contemporary wrote of Pope St. Martin I as being a man of great intelligence, learning and charity.
Herbert Thurston, S.J. and Donald Attwater, Butler's Lives of the Saints (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1956), vol. 4, pp.319-320.



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