Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sulpicius Severus, The Life of Martin, 15

Happy St. Martin's Day! As it is the feast day of St. Martin (and the Patronal festival for the church I attend), I figure that this is a good time to translate some more Sulpicius Severus, even if it is rather short section.


I will report on even what happened in the district of the Aedui, where, while he was overturning a temple in much the same way, a furious multitude of rustic pagans rushed at him. When one of them, bolder than the rest, attacked him with a drawn sword, after he threw back his mantle, he supplied his naked neck to be struck. (2) The pagan did not delay striking, but when he raised his right arm higher, he fell on his back. Thrown into confusion by divine fear, he prayed pardon. (3) That incident was not dissimilar to when someone wanted to strike Martin with a knife while he was destroying an idol. As he was making the actual blow, the knife was struck from his hands. (4) Most of the time, however, when rustics spoke against him so that he would not destroy their altars, he soothed their pagan hearts with holy words so that, having had the light of truth shown to them, they overturned their own temple themselves.

We have reached a transition section as we move away from miracles performed on St. Martin's cleansing of the countryside around Tours from pagan altars and temples. Here we have two murder attempts supernaturally prevented. This is in line with the stories which emphasize St. Martin's invulnerability. It also underscores the often violent resistance of pagans in the area of Tours to the Christianization of the countryside.

The final line underscores ability of St. Martin to soothe and convince the general population to drop their pagan ways. Whatever else we say about St. Martin, it does seem he has the humility and prescence to persuade all but the most stubborn pagan to convert.

The next section seems to deal with miracles involving various cures, so changes focus away from the countryside. More on that next month.


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