Saint Gatian, revered as the first bishop of Tours, was a disciple of the Apostles and part of a significant mission to evangelize Gaul. Alongside contemporaries like Saint Denys in Paris, Saint Trophimus in Arles, Saint Martial in Limoges, Saint Saturninus in Toulouse, Saint Sergius Paulus in Narbonne, and Saint Austremoine in Auvergne, Gatian embarked on a crucial journey to spread Christianity.
Upon his arrival in Tours, Gatian encountered a populace deeply entrenched in the worship of both ancient idols and Roman deities. He observed their devotion to a myriad of superstitions and began his mission by challenging their beliefs in the multiplicity of gods and the vanity of idols. He sought to dismantle the fear and misconceptions surrounding the Roman gods, introducing the people to the faith of the Gospel and the concept of a singular, true God. Gatian’s teachings emphasized the necessity of Redemption and the significance of the Second Coming of Christ as a judge of humanity.
Saint Gatian’s mission was not without challenges. He frequently faced interruptions and harassment during his teachings. Even when denounced to local magistrates and subjected to mistreatment and death threats, his resolve remained unshaken. His perseverance and unwavering spirit eventually won over several converts to Christianity.
Choosing to leave the city, Saint Gatian established a base in a simple grotto surrounded by thorn bushes, where he conducted divine services. His exemplary virtues, previously unknown to the local people, gradually attracted many to the truth of his teachings. Accompanied by devoted disciples, he traveled the region, preaching, performing acts of mercy, curing illnesses, and driving away demons with the sign of the Cross.
As the pagan altars began to be forsaken, the establishment of small oratories was permitted, allowing the faithful to gather and sing praises to the true God. Saint Gatian also focused on developing a cadre of clerics to lead these congregations. He founded a cemetery outside the city for the burial of Christians, further cementing the Christian presence in the area.
Saint Gatian’s life culminated in a profound spiritual experience. In his advanced age and during his last illness, he reportedly saw Jesus Christ, who awakened him from sleep and administered Holy Communion as Viaticum. Gatian passed away seven days later. Today, the Cathedral of Tours houses a few remnants of his relics. These relics, once placed in the church by Saint Martin, have endured through wars and persecutions, though much has been lost or scattered over time.
Photo credit: via Wikimedia Commons
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