Saint Martin of Tours was born in in Savaria, Pannonia in either the year 316 or 336 AD. That region is what is today the nation of Hungary. His father was a tribune, which is a high-ranking officer in the Imperial Horse Guard. Martin and his family went with his father when he was assigned to a post at Ticinum, in Northern Italy. It is here that Martin would grow up.
Just before Martin was born, Christianity was legalized in the Roman Empire and the bloody persecution of Christians soon came to an end. It was not the official religion of the State, but it could be practiced and proclaimed openly. The Gospel message soon flourished in ancient Rome, transforming the empire. Martin’s parents were pagans, but at the age of 10, Martin chose to respond to the call of the Gospel and become a Christian.
At the age of fifteen, Martin was required to follow his father into the cavalry corps of the Roman military. By the time he was 18, Martin is believed to have served in Gaul, and also eventually Milan and Treves. Scholars think he served as part of the emperor’s guard.
As a young soldier, Martin encountered a beggar in Amiens. The beggar was unclothed and it was very cold. Martin removed his cloak and with his sword, he cut it in half. He gave this half to the beggar and dressed himself in the remnant. That night, Martin had a vision in which Christ appeared to him. The vision spoke to him, “Martin, a mere catechumen has clothed me.” A catechumen is one who is being instructed in the Christian faith. In the early centuries of Christianity, that was a long process of instruction – and Martin was deeply dedicated to it.
Learn more on St. Martin of Tours: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=81