The Feast of Saint Martin on November 11

Saint Martin's Gala anticipates feast day

It is fitting that Saint Martin’s University should host its hallmark Gala celebration just days before November 11, the feast day of its patron saint, Martin of Tours. In medieval times — a period when saints’ feast days were occasions for much merrymaking as well as devotion — Saint Martin’s Day was a gala in its own right. Local festivals celebrated the fruits of the harvest and, like our Gala, featured the finest food and wine. Revelers satisfied their appetites knowing that the day was their “last hurrah” before winter; shortly after Saint Martin’s Day began a 40-day period of fasting, called Quadragesima Sancti Martini (“the 40 days of Saint Martin”). This period leading up to Christmas later became known as “Advent” in the Church.

Born in Hungary, Martin moved to northern Italy as a young boy when his father, an officer in the Roman army, was transferred to Pavia. Martin followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a Roman soldier. Legend has it that Martin, while a soldier, chanced upon a shivering beggar clutching his rags about him in the bitter cold. Martin cut his woolen cavalry cloak in two and gave half to warm the beggar. Some time after this encounter, he had a vision in which the beggar revealed himself to be Jesus Christ. Martin obtained a discharge from the army and committed himself to Christianity. He lived in Milan and Genoa before eventually moving to France, where he served as a missionary and, later, bishop of Tours.

Saint Martin’s Day is still celebrated today, most notably in Northern Europe as “Martinmas” or “Martinstag” — and right here on the Saint Martin’s University campus. So, sit back, relax and enjoy the revelry of tonight’s Gala. Consider it an early celebration of our patron saint’s feast day.

While you’re lifting your glass for a toast, think of Saint Martin. He is said to have been quite a vintner, and is even credited with introducing the Chenin Blanc grape varietal. More importantly, remember Martin’s willingness to share his cloak with a stranger in need. This spirit of generosity lives on through us at the Gala, as we open our hearts to support the students of Saint Martin’s University.

Thank you for being a part of the 2013 Saint Martin’s Gala!

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