San Martin De Porres, also known as “the Saint of the Broom”, is no stranger to rejection, abandonment, racism, and prejudice. He was born on December 9th, 1579 in Lima, Peru.
Martin de Porres Upbringing
His father was a Spanish nobleman and his mother was a freed slave from Panama. During that time period, there was not wide acceptance of diversity or mixed marriages. His father didn’t accept him as his son until he was about eight years old. In his baptismal record, Martin is described as “son of an unknown father.” His father did pay for his son to attend school for a year but eventually moved away and left Martin living in poverty with his mother and sister.
When he was 12 years old, his mother apprenticed him to a barber-surgeon. Martin learned how to cut hair and also how to draw blood. During this time, he became a member of the Third Order of the Dominicans. He did manual work to earn his room and board.
Rejected in Religious Life
A law preventing people of mixed race from joining religious orders kept him from entering the Dominican Order as a religious brother until 1603. Before he made his vows, he worked in the infirmary caring for the sick. He earned his nickname, “Saint of the broom” for completing all of his menial tasks with hard work and dedication.
He ministered to African slaves brought to Lima and founded an orphanage and hospital for the poor. He was aided by Saint Rose of Lima, who respected his penances and labors. He also planted fruit orchards for the poor, who were allowed to take one day’s supply.
Deep Devotion to Our Lord
Depictions of the Saint often include cats, dogs, and even rats too. One account of St. Martin of Porres says the monastery was tired of their rodent problems and decided to set traps. The Saint was so distressed that he spoke to the mice and cut a deal with them that if they would leave the monastery, he would feed them at the back door of the kitchen. From that day forward, no mouse was seen in the monastery.
He referred to himself as a “poor slave” and happily embraced his circumstances, using it as a way to serve the poor and care for the sick. His compassion was limitless as he served the poor, destitute, outcast, marginalized, and animals too!
Saint Martin lived in self-imposed austerity, never ate meat, fasted continuously, and spent much time in prayer and meditation with a great devotion to the Holy Eucharist.
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.’ (source)
The First Black Saint of the Americas
San Martin of Porres became the first Black Saint of the Americas. He was beatified on October 29th, 1837 and canonized on May 6, 1962 by Pope Saint John XXIII. San Martin of Porres is buried at the Basilica and convent of Santo Domingo, Peru alongside his dear friend Saint Rose of Lima.
Here in the U.S. there is a National shrine dedicated in his honor.
If Martin were with us now, undoubtedly he would avail himself to victims of Covid-19. Like many healthcare workers today, he would work tirelessly to relieve the distress of their symptoms. He would provide particular comfort to the elderly who are dying. Through his care they would face death knowing the strength of the glorified Christ. (source)
Prayers to Saint Martin of Porres
Lord Jesus Christ, you called Saint Martin de Porres as a prophetic witness to be a source of racial and physical healing. During this time of racial tension and global pandemic,may his prayers help to bring about the healing you and your children so earnestly desire.We ask this in your name. Amen. (source)
Live Like Martin
- Find a dominican ministry near you to see how you can get involved.
- Take some time to look at racism and other issues regarding the dignity of the human person.
- Watch and Listen to the We are the Church series from Blessed is She to become more informed on the issues surrounding the sin of racism and how just a simple conversation with friends and family members can be a source of enlightenment and healing.
- Go to your local parish gift shop or shop online for a statue of Saint Martin of Porres and invite this inspiring Saint as well as other Saints of color into your home. Welcome them into your domestic Church. God has blessed us with the beauty of the Universal Church but it is up to us to incorporate it into our daily lives.
Saint Martin de Porres, pray for us!
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