Thursday, November 3, 2011

(22) Learning From St. Martin de Porres

    There's so much we can learn from saints......finding the Lord and then walking with him; their examples of holiness and heroic virtue; how they bore the crosses of life and took advantage of them as an opportunity to grow closer to God and offer them up as a dynamic prayer for an intention of your choice; how they handled the temptations, tests, and trials of life; how they kept the faith and trusted in God even when everything seemed to be going wrong and often reaped great fruit either now and/or after their deaths. If they can do it, by the grace of God, so can we!!! Let's look at St. Martin de Porres, a Dominican Mystic.

Feast Day:
November 3
December 9, 1579, Lima, Peru
November 3, 1639, Lima, Peru
May 6, 1962 by Pope John XXIII (Declared Venerable in 1763, Beatified in 1837)
Major Shrine:
Church and Convent of Santo Domingo, Lima, Peru
Patron of:
black people, barbers, innkeepers, mixed-race people, Peru, poor people, public education, public health workers, race relations, social justice, state schools, television, Peruvian Naval Aviators. 

       St. Martin de Porres was born in Lima, Peru in 1579, the illegitimate son of a Spanish knight, John de Porres and a freed Panamanian slave named Anna. He grew up in poverty and, when his mother and sister could not support him, Martin was confided to a primary school for two years, then was placed with a surgeon-barber to learn the medical arts. This caused him great joy, though he wasonly ten years old, for he could exercise charity to his neighbor while earning his living. Already he was spending hours of the night in prayer, a practice which increased rather than diminished as he grew older.

        Being of mixed race or mulatto, the future saint was a victim of racial prejudice and only allowed to be a lay brother in the Dominican monastery in 1594. Martin served in various menial jobs.......barber, farm laborer, hospital orderly, nurse, janitor, etc. Martin was assigned to the infirmary, where he was placed in charge and would remain until his death at the age of fifty-nine. His superiors saw in him the virtues necessary to exercise unfailing patience in this difficult role, and he never disappointed them. Outside of the monastery he became known for his tender loving care of the sick and the poor. Martin founded an orphanage and a children's hospital and ministered to African slaves brought to Lima. In normal times Martin succeeded with his alms to feed 160 poor persons every day, and after begging, distributed a remarkable sum of money every week to the indigent.

San Martin de Porres recognized the importance of little things offered to God as prayer.  That would include crosses such as illness, handicaps, problems, and setbacks, and suffering in general offered up to the Lord as a prayer for intentions such as the poor souls in Purgatory, our country, peace, our loved ones, etc.
       He maintained an austere lifestyle, which included fasting and abstaining from meat. Among his many mystical gifts were levitation, bilocation, aerial flights, miraculous knowledge, instantaneous cures, and an ability to communicate with animals. Martin was deeply attached to the Blessed Sacrament. One night while deep in prayer in front of it, the step of the altar on which he was kneeling caught fire. Throughout all the confusion and chaos that followed, he remained where he was, unaware of what was happening around him.

        He was aided by his close friend, St. Rose of Lima, who respected his penances and labors. St. Thomas Masias was also a good friend of St. Martin. It is unique for a country to have three saints who were contemporaries and knew each other.

        When an epidemic struck Lima, there were in this single Convent of the Rosary sixty friars who were sick, many of them novices in a distant and locked section of the convent, separated from the professed. Martin is said to have passed through the locked doors to care for them, a phenomenon which was reported in the residence more than once. The professed, too, saw him suddenly beside them without the doors having been opened. Martin continued to transport the sick to the convent until the provincial superior, alarmed by the contagion threatening the religious, forbade him to continue to do so. His sister, who lived in the country, offered her house to lodge those whom the residence of the religious could not hold.

        St. Martin's love was all-embracing, shown equally to humans and to animals, including vermin, and he maintained a cats and dogs hospital at his sister's house. He also possessed spiritual wisdom, demonstrated in solving his sister's marriage problems, raising a dowry for his niece inside of three day's time, and resolving theological problems for the learned of his Order and for bishops.

         Martin was known to the entire city of Lima. Word of miracles attributed to him in his work had made him known as a saint throughout the region.

         In holy pictures such as the one above, he is pictured with a broom while feeding a cat, a rat, and a dog, all getting along in harmony and eating from the same plate. Thus when enemies are re-conciliated or at least talking to each other in the same room, Peruvians call it, “El milagro de San Martin” or the miracle of St. Martin. He is also pictured with a broom, since he considered all work to be sacred no matter how menial.  Let us pray with St. Martin for reconciliation among enemies throughout the world, especially among nations and religions.  
         Incidents of Bilocation. This brother had always wanted to be a missionary, but never left his native city; yet even during his lifetime he was seen elsewhere, in regions as far distant as Africa, China, Algeria and Japan. A slave, who had been in irons when captured in Africa said he had known Martin there when he came to relieve and console many like himself, telling them of heaven. When later the same slave saw him in Peru, he was very happy to meet Martin again and asked him if he had had a good voyage; only later did he learn that St. Martin had never left Lima.
        When a merchant from Lima doing business in Mexico fell ill, he said aloud: “Oh, Brother Martin, if only you were here to care for me!” and immediately saw him enter his room. And again, this man did not know until later that he had never been to Mexico
        When Martin lay dying in Rosary Convent on November 3, 1639, the viceroy, the count of Chichon, knelt by his bed, seeking Martin's blessing. After he died, the miracles and graces received when people prayed for his intercession multiplied. His body was exhumed after 25 years and said to be found intact and exuding a fine fragrance.

      Martin, who is the patron of interracial justice, was canonized by Blessed Pope John XXIII (r. 1958-1963), becoming the first black saint in the Americas in 1962, 323 years after his death, just at the time when the civil rights movement was beginning to heat up. Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington the next year in August 1963 before thousands.  Let’s ask for his intercession for interracial harmony since he is the son of a Spanish knight and a freed slave.  He was ridiculed for his interracial illegitimate birth.

        Today, Martin is commemorated by, among other things, a school building that houses the medical, nursing, and rehabilitation science schools of the Dominican University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines. A program of work is also named after him at the Las Casas Institute at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford. He is also the titular saint of the St. Martin de Porres Marianist elementary school in Uniondale, New York. He is also included in the Calendar of Saints of the Church of England on November 3. More than one church in the United States was named after him, including the two below.


             At the top is St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church in Jensen Beach, Florida and below it is San Martin de Porres Catholic Church in Laredo, Texas.

Our Sunday Visitor's Encyclopedia of Saints

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