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St. Martin de Porres

St. Martin de Porres by Br. Arturo Olivas, OFS

Artist Narrative:

To you Saint Martin de Porres we prayerfully lift up our hearts filled with serene confidence and devotion. Mindful of your unbounded and helpful charity to all levels of society and also of your meekness and humility of heart, we offer our petitions to you. Pour out upon our families the precious gifts of your solicitous and generous intercession; show to the people of every race and every color the paths of unity and of justice; implore from our Father in heaven the coming of his kingdom, so that through mu tual benevolence in God men may increase the fruits of grace and merit the rewards of eternal life. Amen.

His feast day is November 3.

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Martin de Porres was born in Lima Peru in 1579, the illegitimate son of John de Porres, a Spanish knight, and a negro free-woman named Anna. Martin's father acknowledged him as his son after eight years, but then abandoned the family when their second child was born. Young Martin was brought up in poverty, compounded by having to bear the stigma of mixed blood. At the age of 12, he was apprenticed to a barber-surgeon where he learned to cut hair and draw blood for the accepted medical procedure of the day - bleeding a patient - and to prepare and administer medicine.

When Martin was fifteen, he began working with the Dominicans (the Order of Preachers founded by St. Dominic) as a lay helper and, eventually became a professed Lay Brother. He tended the sick in the monastery infirmary, which he kept well-stocked through ingenious means, such as frugality of material goods for his fellow Dominicans so as to provide necessities for the care and comfort of the sick and infirm. Also, Martin was responsible for the daily distribution of food alms for the needy in the town, which often times was supplied through miraculous intervention. (One of his closest friends was another Dominican, St. Rose of Lima, canonized in 1671, the first saint of the new world.)

Because of his social station as a person of mixed blood, there were many times when he was ridiculed and debased. But Martin never retaliated. All of the insults and denigration aimed toward him were offered to God as sacrifice. It is said that his "profound and consummate humility was based on his knowledge of the greatness of God," and made him ever-aware of avoiding any form of pride. For example, Martin insisted upon wearing one habit until it disintegrated into mere threads and fibers, opposing attempts to buy him a second one.

Martin was a very spiritual man, spending time in prayer, sometimes surrounded by a brilliant light, and doing severe penance several times a day. There are many recorded instances of when his brother monks found him in the chapel before the Blessed Sacrament so filled with love for Jesus that he levitated in pure ecstacy, In other instances, Martin was able to bi-locate, and pass through locked doors in order to help a sick or dying person in another part of the monastery. He was able to know if the person in his care would or would not recover. If he tended to them solicitously, they knew they would not recover, because Martin was very patient and caring with the dying. But, if they felt "neglected" by him, he told them to take heart because it meant they would be well soon.