November 11: St. Martin of Tours, Bishop and Confessor

On the discovery of the sacred relics of St. Martin of Tours on December 14, 2869, and how the Venerable Mr. Leo Papin Dupont (1797-1876), the Apostle of the Holy Face and the “Holy Man of Tours” was the primary force behind this discovery and the restoration of the cultus of St. Martin in the City of Tours and all of France:

In the midst of works of zeal and charity of which Leo Dupont filled his life, finding the location of the tomb of St. Martin of Tours became a priority. St. Martin was, for Leo Dupont, the model of charity, and he desired to restore devotion to the great Bishop of Tours, and begin the process for the eventual rebuilding of his basilica that had been destroyed by the Revolutionaries.

When the pious Creole from Martinique came to live in Tours in 1834, the cult of Saint Martin had almost completely fallen into disuse.  A secret attraction drew him every day to the corner of Rue Descartes and Rue Saint Martin, where he stopped to pray. But very few people in Tours then shared his devotion to the glorious Patron of the city, much less had it in mind any thought of rebuilding the old church, once so famous worldwide.  This was especially true because two roads now covered the location of St. Martin’s tomb, purposely constructed to obliterate the memory of St. Martin from the devotion of the faithful.  Around 1848, following the suggestions of Mr. Dupont, the Cathedral of Tours began to restore the festivities surrounding the Feast of St. Martin on November 11th.  On Wednesday of Holy Week in 1851, Leo Dupont organized the first nocturnal adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.  One of Mr. Dupont’s primary prayer intentions before the Blessed Sacrament was to discover the sacred tomb of St. Martin.

Later on, in 1856, Mr. Dupont, along with others who joined him in nocturnal adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, approached the Cardinal-Archbishop with their desire to begin raising the funds to purchase the buildings and land now occupying the former site of the basilica and to make the necessary excavations to locate the tomb of St. Martin.  Soon, the “project of restoration of the basilica” received the blessing of the Holy Father (now Blessed) Pius IX.  This blessing was the subject of great joy and great hope for all of them.

Mr. Dupont was able to personally present the Cardinal-Archbishop, Msgr. Guibert, with the necessary funds to purchase the houses and buildings standing in the way of the excavations.  Soon, Leo and his fellow adorers of the Blessed Sacrament busied themselves with searching for the holy tomb, and assisted with the excavations.  At one point, after several hours of work, the workers found themselves in the presence of two parallel sides of the small cave or tomb in which, after the ravages of the Huguenots’, the ashes and what left of St. Martin’s sacred relics had been previously kept.  Leo Dupont and his colleagues began to pray, and within minutes the location of the tomb of St. Martin was found.  Leo and his fellow workers continued to search for the sacred relics, hidden and lost for seventy years under vulgar and profane buildings.  Then, at last, they were discovered.  The news was greeted with a transport of joy and indescribable emotion.  The Magnificat was solemnly intoned, and prayers of thanksgiving were said.  It was December 14, 1860.

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