Little or nothing is known of the early life of the seventh century pope and martyr St. Martin I. A member of the Roman clergy, he was elected pope in 649, and immediately found himself in the center of a religious and political controversy.
In the Byzantine (Eastern) Empire there was a heresy, or false teaching, known as Monothelitism, which said that Christ, while on earth, had no human will, but only a divine one. (The Church teaches that Jesus has two wills: a full and perfect divine one, and a full and perfect human one.) Several of the Eastern emperors had favored Monothelitism, supported by the patriarch, or bishop, of the imperial city of Constantinople.
Soon after his election, Pope Martin convened a Church council in Rome which officially rejected this teaching and condemned the efforts of the patriarch and emperor to promote it. An angered emperor tried to discredit and later to assassinate the pope. Failing in these efforts, the emperor sent troops to Rome with orders to arrest Martin. Already in poor health, Martin made no resistance, and in the imperial city he suffered torture and imprisonment. He later wrote, “For forty-seven days I have not been given water to wash in. I am frozen through and wasting away with dysentery. The food I get makes me ill. But God sees all things and I trust in Him.”
Pope Martin was exiled to Crimea, where he died in 655. St. Martin I is honored as a martyr because of his death in exile; he was the last pope to suffer martyrdom.
1. Truth is sometimes “politically incorrect,” but, as St. Martin knew, followers of Christ must defend the Faith nonetheless, even at the risk of controversy and personal suffering.
2. St. Martin suffered greatly at the hands of his enemies, but was sustained by his trust in God. We too must remember that God sees all things, including the difficulties and injustices we experience, and that remaining steadfast will result in vindication and glory.
Other Saints We Remember Today
- St. Hermenegild (585), Martyr
- Blessed Margaret of Castello (1320), Virgin, Religious