In last week’s issue we situated the Solemnity of All Saints (November 1) in the context of the “Communion of Saints”, All Saints Day celebrating all the saints – those officially canonised by the Church, as well as the host of faithful who lived saintly lives following in the footsteps of Jesus. This weekend (Nov 3) we celebrate one of our country’s best loved saints – St Martin de Porres. Two parish churches bear this saint’s name – Gonzales in Port of Spain and Coryal. Here is St Martin’s story.
Martin was the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a black former slave fromPanama. He was born on December 9, 1589. Martin inherited the features and dark complexion of his mother. This displeased his father and it was only after eight years he finally acknowledged his son. After the birth of his sister, Juana in 1581, his father abandoned the family and Martin was reared in poverty.
When he was twelve years old, his mother apprenticed him to a surgeon-barber to learn the medical arts. There he learned how to cut hair and to draw blood for medical purposes; care for the wounded and prepare and administer medicine. He spent hours of the night in prayer, a practice which increased as he grew older.
After a few years in this medical apostolate, Martin applied to the Dominicans to be a Lay Helper, not feeling worthy to be a Religious Brother. After nine years the example of his prayers and penance, charity and humility led the community to request him to make full religious profession. He became the procurator for both priory and city. When his priory was in debt, he said, “I am only a poor mulatto, sell me, I am the property of the Order.”
Side by side with the daily work in the kitchen, Martin’s life reflected God’s extraordinary gifts, ecstasies, bilocation, miraculous knowledge, miracles and a remarkable rapport with animals.
Many of his brothers took him as their Spiritual Director, but he continued to call himself a poor slave.
He was beatified in 1837 by Pope Gregory XVI and canonised in 1962 by Pope John XXIII. He is the patron saint of mixed-race people and all those seeking interracial harmony. The Pope made him the Patron Saint of theAmericas.
St Martin de Porres is a wonderful example for us in theCaribbean. With many mixed marriages in our society, St Martin de Porres reminds us of the peace, harmony and compassion that can exist amongst peoples.
He is also an exemplar for all catechists that prayer is extremely important when doing God’s work. – Sr Mary Martin,OP, Archdiocesan Catechetical Office