St. Martin de Porres
"Father unknown" is the cold legal phrase sometimes used on baptismal records. "Half-breed" or "war souvenir" is the cruel name inflicted by those of "pure" blood. Like many others, Martin might have grown to be a bitter man, but he did not. It was said that even as a child he gave his heart and his goods to the poor and despised.
He was the son of a freed woman of Panama, probably black but also possibly of Native American stock, and a Spanish grandee of Lima, Peru. His parents never married each other. Martin inherited the features and dark complexion of his mother. That irked his father, who finally acknowledged his son after eight years. After the birth of a sister, the father abandoned the family. Martin was reared in poverty, locked into a low level of Lima's society.
When he was 12, his mother apprenticed him to a barber-surgeon. He learned how to cut hair and also how to draw blood (a standard medical treatment then), care for wounds and prepare and administer medicines.
After a few years in this medical apostolate, Martin applied to the Dominicans to be a "lay helper," not feeling himself worthy to be a religious brother. After nine years, the example of his prayer and penance, charity and humility led the community to request him to make full religious profession. Many of his nights were spent in prayer and penitential practices; his days were filled with nursing the sick and caring for the poor. It was particularly impressive that he treated all people regardless of their color, race or status. He was instrumental in founding an orphanage, took care of slaves brought from Africa and managed the daily alms of the priory with practicality as well as generosity. He became the procurator for both priory and city, whether it was a matter of "blankets, shirts, candles, candy, miracles or prayers!" When his priory was in debt, he said, "I am only a poor mulatto. Sell me. I am the property of the order. Sell me."
Side by side with his daily work in the kitchen, laundry and infirmary, Martin's life reflected God's extraordinary gifts: ecstasies that lifted him into the air, light filling the room where he prayed, bilocation, miraculous knowledge, instantaneous cures and a remarkable rapport with animals. His charity extended to beasts of the field and even to the vermin of the kitchen. He would excuse the raids of mice and rats on the grounds that they were underfed; he kept stray cats and dogs at his sister's house.
He became a formidable fundraiser, obtaining thousands of dollars for dowries for poor girls so that they could marry or enter a convent.
Many of his fellow religious took him as their spiritual director, but he continued to call himself a "poor slave." He was a good friend of another Dominican saint of Peru, Rose of Lima (August 23).
Racism is a sin almost nobody confesses. Like pollution, it is a "sin of the world" that is everybody's responsibility but apparently nobody's fault. One could hardly imagine a more fitting patron of Christian forgiveness (on the part of those discriminated against) and Christian justice (on the part of reformed racists) than Martin de Porres.
At Martin's canonization in 1962, Saint John XXIII remarked: "He excused the faults of others. He forgave the bitterest injuries, convinced that he deserved much severer punishments on account of his own sins. He tried with all his might to redeem the guilty; lovingly he comforted the sick; he provided food, clothing and medicine for the poor; he helped, as best he could, farm laborers and Negroes, as well as mulattoes, who were looked upon at that time as akin to slaves: thus he deserved to be called by the name the people gave him: 'Martin of Charity.'"
Patron Saint of:
Saint of the Day
Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.; revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
Dear Lord as I come to you today
Fill my heart and my whole being
with the wonder of your presence
Lord, may I never take the gift
How do I find myself today?
Reading 1 phil 2:1-4
Brothers and sisters:
Responsorial Psalm ps 131:1bcde, 2, 3
R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.
Gospel lk 14:12-14
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
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Do I notice myself reacting as I pray with the Word of God? Do I feel challenged, comforted, angry? Imagining Jesus sitting or standing by me, I speak out my feelings, as one trusted friend to another.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
Saint Martin de Porres, Religious
Complete my joy. (Philippians 2:2)
A man risks his life to save his child who has fallen into a well. A firefighter goes back into a burning building to rescue an elderly couple. A seasoned teacher takes a pay cut to work with at-risk children in a struggling school.
Stories of self-giving warm our hearts. We love to read about people heroically putting themselves aside to help someone else. But why do these stories touch us so deeply?
Part of the answer is that this kind of self-giving love is encoded into our DNA. We identify with heroic selflessness because deep down, we all yearn to be the same way. It's how we would like to be known.
As with just about everything else, we can trace these desires back to the way God made us. Created in his image and likeness, we were fashioned with a drive toward the same self-giving, self-sacrificial love that is at the heart of the Trinity. Whether we recognize it or not, we all want to be like Jesus, who considered us "as more important" than himself when he took on human flesh to save us (Philippians 2:3). Deep down, our hearts urge us to be like the One whose love moved him to empty himself and take on "the form of a slave" so that our sins could be wiped away (2:7).
For example, think about how proud you feel when your children or grandchildren offer to help someone unload their groceries or hold a door open for someone else. Think of how gratifying it feels after you have spent some time volunteering in your parish or after you have put aside your comfort to care for a sick child or an aging relative. Something inside tells you that this is how things are supposed to be. That's because you recognize in these actions a reflection of God's own character. Not only do you feel better, but you also bring great joy to your heavenly Father!
Who would have thought that the key to happiness is sacrifice? May we all become more fully the Christlike people God has made us to be!
"Father, you have made me like you, even to the point of wanting to give of myself in love for other people. Help me complete your joy by reflecting your love!"
Psalm 131:1-3; Luke 14:12-14