November 3, 2015

November 3, 2015 — The Optional Memorial of Saint Martin de Porres

St. Martin de PorresToday the Church celebrates the optional memorial of St. Martin de Porres, who lived a life of fasting, prayer and penance as a Dominican lay brother. He was born in Peru of a Spanish knight and a Negro woman from Panama. Martin inherited the features and dark complexion of his mother, and for that reason his father eventually threw Martin out of the house.

After a turn as a surgeon's apprentice, the young Martin joined the Dominicans as a laybrother and was put in charge of the infirmary of a friary in Lima. Soon he was caring for the sick of the city and the slaves brought to Peru from Africa, not to mention the animals with which he is often pictured. Martin had the gift of miracles; and although he had no formal training, he was often consulted on theological questions by great churchmen of his day. St. Rose of Lima and Bl. John Massias were among his close friends. He is unofficially called the patron of social justice.

The Life of St. Martin de Porres

St. Martin de Porres was born in Lima, Peru, in 1579. He was the illegitimate son of a Spanish gentleman. His mother was a freed-slave from Panama, maybe black but also possibly of Indian blood. At fifteen, he became a laybrother at the Dominican Friary at Lima and spent his whole life there — as a barber, farm-laborer, almoner, and infirmarian, among other things.

Martin had a great desire to go off to some foreign mission and thus earn the palm of martyrdom. However, since this was not possible, he made a martyr out of his body, devoting himself to ceaseless and severe penances. In turn, God endowed him with many graces and wondrous gifts, such as aerial flights and bilocation.

St. Martin's love was all-embracing, shown equally to humans and animals, including vermin, and he maintained a cats' and dogs' hospital at his sister's house. He also possessed spiritual wisdom, demonstrated in his solving his sister's marriage problems, raising a dowry for his niece inside of three days' time, and resolving theological problems for the learned of his Order and for Bishops. A close friend of St. Rose of Lima, this saintly man died on November 3, 1639 and was canonized on May 6, 1962.

— Taken in part from Lives of the Saints, Rev. Hugo Hoever, S.O.Cist., Ph.D., Catholic Book Publishing Company

St. Martin is the patron of: African-Americans; against rats; barbers; bi-racial people; hair stylists; hairdressers; hotel-keepers; innkeepers; inter-racial justice; mixed-race people; mulattoes; paupers; Peru; poor people; public education; public health; public schools; race relations; racial harmony; social justice; state schools; television.

From Today's Collect:

God, who led Saint Martin de Porres by the path of humility to heavenly glory, grant that we may so follow his radiant example in this life as to merit to be exalted with him in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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