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holy discourse. She sat on the floor, at his feet, and seemed unable to leave him. She invited him to a feast in her turn; but his modesty and humility could with great difficulty be overcome. At last the simple faith of the devoted lady touched his heart, and he bethought him of the prisoners whom he had to deliver, the exiles to recal, and the confiscated goods to restore, and he gave his consent. She prepared his food with her own hands, and would not sit at table with him, but was content to serve him. She placed a seat for him, gave him water to wash, and stood at a distance in the humble posture of a handmaid. When the repast was ended, she gathered up even the smallest crumbs, and preserved them with the greatest care. When his mission to Treves was accomplished he returned home.
Ithacius was not content with the death of Priscillian and his principal supporters, but he persuaded Maximus to send tribunes into Spain, with unlimited authority to search for heretics, and to punish them with the loss of goods and of life. A number of the Gallican bishops had come to Treves, to assist in filling up the vacant see, and they all communicated with him, and espoused his cause, except Theognostus. They had just gained the permission of the emperor to send the commissioners into Spain, when they were alarmed by the news that S. Martin was coming to Treves. This was his fourth and last journey, to beg the lives of two noblemen, who had forfeited them in the cause of Gratian, and to intercede for the Priscillianists. At the request of the bishops, Maximus sent to forbid him to enter the city, unless he would preserve peace with his
brethren. He replied that he would keep the peace of the Lord Jesus. He entered by night, and went to the church to pray; and the next day he presented himself at the palace. Maximus received him with respect, but put off granting his petition for a few days. Meanwhile the bishops, seeing that S. Martin kept aloof from their communion, represented to the emperor that their reputation was at an end if the obstinacy of Theognostus was encouraged by the authority of Martin. They said that he ought not to have been allowed to come into the city; and that they had gained nothing by the death of Priscillian, if the bishop of Tours became his avenger. They threw themselves at the emperor's feet, and conjured him with tears to employ force against him.
But Maximus dared not use violence towards the saint, though he was attached to the cause of the bishops. He took him aside, and mildly argued with him that the heretics had been justly condemned by a sentence of the bishops, and that he had no good reason for refusing to communicate with Ithacius; he said that Theognostus alone opposed him, and that a council, only a few days before, had pronounced him innocent of any crime. S. Martin was unmoved by any of these reasons, and the emperor left him in great anger, and issued orders for the instant execution of the persons for whom he had interceded. The news reached the saint late at night. He flew to the palace, and promised to communicate with the Ithacians on the next day, if the lives of the condemned were spared, and if the tribunes were recalled from Spain. Maximus granted all that he asked.
On the morrow, Felix, the new bishop of Treves was consecrated, and S. Martin, for that day only, joined in communion with the friends of Ithacius. But in spite of all their efforts he would not sign the deed of consecration, as a token of communion. He left Treves suddenly, on the following day, groaning within himself as he went along for the share which he had taken, against his will, in that criminal communion. He lingered for a little while in a wood, near Echternach in Luxembourg, to allow his companions to go on before. And while he was dwelling in his mind on all the melancholy circumstances which had happened, an angel stood beside him, and said, "Thou art deservedly grieved, but thou couldst not otherwise escape. Repair thy fortitude, resume thy constancy, lest thou endanger not thy glory only, but thy salvation." From that time he carefully avoided the communion of the Ithacians. And during the remaining years of his life, he was never seen at any council or assembly of bishops. And he would sometimes confess to his disciples, with tears, that he felt a diminution of his miraculous power over the possessed ever after that unhappy day.
The year of his decease is variously stated; but it most probably happened in 397. He had foretold its approach for a long time before. Hearing that there were dissensions among the clergy of Cande, in the extremity of his diocess, he went himself to compose them, attended by a great number of his disciples. Let Sulpicius Severus relate the rest. 'Having stayed a little while in that town, and restored peace among the clergy, he bethought him of
returning to his monastery; but his strength of body suddenly began to leave him; and calling his disciples, he told them that he was departing. Then sorrow and grief burst forth from all, and one voice of wailiug; 'Why dost thou desert us, father? or to whom wilt thou leave us desolate ? Ravening wolves will invade thy flock; and who will keep them from devouring us, when our shepherd is struck down? We know, indeed, that thou desirest to be with Christ, but thy reward is sure, and if it is delayed, it will not be diminished. Have pity then rather on us whom thou art leaving.' He then, moved by these tears, so that his tender mercies in the Lord overflowed, fell a weeping, and turning to the Lord, he answered his sorrowing disciples, Lord, if I am still necessary to Thy people, I refuse not the labour. Thy will be done.' Thus placed between hope and fear, he was in doubt which he would rather; for he was neither willing to leave us, nor to be longer separated from Christ. Yet renouncing his own wish, and leaving it not to his own pleasure, he committed himself to the decision and the power of God...
"When he had now lain in fever for some days, yet he ceased not from the work of God. All night, in prayer and vigils, he compelled his fainting body to serve the spirit, on that noble bed, lying in sackcloth and ashes. And when he was asked by his disciples to allow at least a little straw to be put under him: 'It becomes not a Christian, my children,' he said,' 'to die except in ashes. If I leave you any other example, I have sinned.' His eyes and hands were ever directed towards
heaven; and he released not his unconquered spirit from prayer. When he was asked by the priests, who were gathered around him, to relieve his poor body by changing to one side, he replied, 'Suffer me, suffer me, my brethren, to look on heaven, rather than on earth; that my spirit, now about to go on its journey to God, may be shown the way.' Having thus spoken, he saw the devil standing near. Why standest thou here, thou cruel beast?' he said; thou shalt find nothing in me, O wicked one. The bosom of Abraham shall receive me.' With this word, he yielded up his spirit to heaven, deeply meditating on the works of God; and those who were there bore witness to us, that they saw in his lifeless body the glory of a glorified man. His face shone more brightly than the light, and his other members not one stain dimmed'." He passed at midnight, on Sunday, the 8th of November. The circumstances of his burial and translations are related on the festival which commemorates them. The 11th of November, which is now observed as his principal feast, was probably the day on which the funeral train arrived at Tours. His disciple, S. Sulpicius Severus, had a vision of his bliss within a few days after his decease, and before the news of it had reached him. The holy bishop left no writings behind him; his life was a daily homily on the law of Christ.
His fame soon spread over the whole Church. The place where he died, as well as his tomb, was the scene of miracles. Bona remarks, that he is the
1 Sulp. Sev. Epist. iii. ad Basulam.