NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Saint of the Month - November 2015: Saint Martin de Porres

St. Martin de Porres
A Saint for ALL People ~ Feast: November 3rd

This month's featured Saint is beloved by people of all racial backgrounds - Hispanics, Blacks, and Caucasians - and it's because he embodies the best of all of us.  Martin de Porres was born in Lima, Peru, on December 9, 1579; the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed Panamanian slave of mixed African/Native American heritage.  The boy's father actually abandoned him and his mother and a young sister when he was but a child, leaving the trio to live in grinding poverty.  Martin's father later experienced a measure of remorse and arranged for his son to be trained as a Barber, which back in the Saint's time, also meant being somewhat of a medic; performing blood-letting and minor surgical procedures, when needed.

Among St. Martin's many spiritual gifts
was the ability to levitate.
The youthful Martin trained in his profession with great skill, but deep in his heart, he knew it wasn't what he truly wanted to do.  He was deeply pious and longed for the religious life, despite the fact natives and colored people were restricted by law from full profession with religious orders. The 15-year-old Martin found a way around it by offering himself as a servant to the Dominican Monastery of the Holy Rosary in Lima.  There, he was allowed to wear the habit, but was assigned the most difficult chores that no one else wanted to do.  In addition to the menial work, he was looked down upon by some of the friars for being bi-racial.  

Martin was grateful to be among the Dominicans and persevered despite the prejudice and other challenges. His background as a barber/medic made him indispensable to the monastery. His humility, charity, and piety also came to be well-respected by the friars and he was eventually accepted as a lay-brother in 1603 when Martin was 24-years-old. He was later assigned to run the infirmary, which he did admirably for 36 years.

A facial reconstruction of St. Martin's features,
created by a team of forensic scientists.
God confirmed Bro. Martin's sanctity with multiple spiritual gifts, among which were the gifts of Bilocation, Healing, and Prophecy. Often, the patients in the infirmary would just need to mentally formulate a request to Martin and, through the power of God, he would mysteriously appear to fulfill the request... sometimes even walking through locked doors or the walls.  The nature-loving friar also had a special affinity with animals.  One of his most famous miracles was the ridding of the monastery of an infestation of mice by simply calling on the rodents and leading them out to the barn where he fed them on scraps.  The friars had intended to poison the mice, but gentle Martin, in his love for all God's creation, interceded on behalf of the poor mice. 

Bro. Martin's wonders became so commonplace among his brethren, the other friars could have easily taken his miraculous feats for granted.  But his spiritual gifts in no way distracted him from his duties, but rather, the humble friar lived his vocation of charitable service, effectively, for many years - performing his routine chores and ministering to the sick-poor during the day; spending his nights in deep ecstatic prayer in the monastery chapel... sometimes raised several feet above the ground and surrounded by a luminous glow!

Needless to say, the humble mulatto came to be highly revered in his lifetime.  He was a confidante of St. Rose of Lima and a friend of St. Juan Macias, who was also a friar in the same monastery.  Bro. Martin fell seriously ill in the beginning of 1639 and passed away at aged 60 on November 3, 1639, deeply mourned by all of Lima.  In his lifetime he had managed to bring about a measure of peaceful unity among the various races - rich and poor - through his example of charity and unconditional love.

St. Martin de Porres was canonized by Pope John XXIII on May 6, 1962, and for obvious reasons, he is considered the Patron Saint of Barbers, Surgeons, and of Social Justice.  May St. Martin pray for our personal needs and the needs of the Universal Church.

A Reflection
Sanctity comes in a variety of colors!

A Short Prayer
Lord, help us to see beyond the color of a person's skin; to clearly recognize your innate presence and beauty within each soul.  Amen.

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