Today, we remember one of my dear and greatly-beloved Dominican Saints, St. Martin de Porres (1579-1639). My home province, here in the southern United States is under his patronage.
St. Martin is one of our early Saints of the Americas, having lived his life in Lima, Peru. He was of mixed race; his father was a Spaniard, and his mother was a black freed slave. He worked as a servant in the local Dominican priory, but at the time, people of color were not allowed to join the Order. St. Martin contented himself with serving the Order in whatever way he could, eventually being put in charge of the infirmary. St. Martin had been blessed with great and often miraculous healing powers. He used them to tend to the poor, the needy, the orphaned, and even animals. His great gifts and his great charity for others convinced the Dominicans to drop the prohibition against black people becoming Dominicans, and St. Martin became a lay brother (as shown by the black scapular that all lay brothers wore until fairly recently, as opposed to the white scapular worn by the ordained friars).
St. Martin is sometimes known as “Martin of Charity” or as “The Saint of the Broom.” He is often pictured holding a broom, as a representation of his humility and the way he dedicated himself with love to even the most menial of tasks.
Among other things, he is the Patron Saint of: African-Americans, black people, mixed-raced people, poor people, public education, public health, race relations, racial harmony, and social justice.
Here is a prayer for the intercession of St. Martin de Porres:
O Gracious God, you have given us a model of charity in St. Martin de Porres. May this humble Brother’s care of the poor, destitute, and lonely inspire us to follow his example. St. Martin, you proclaimed the Gospel in your every action as a true son of St. Dominic. Even the animals of the field knew your care.
Intercede for us that we may take seriously our baptismal commitment and bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to all we meet. In our joys and sorrows, may your life remind us of God’s infinite mercy, our call to holiness, and our salvation through the cross of Christ. We make this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Dear St. Martin, pray for us, especially those who are ailing in any way: physically, spiritually, mentally, or financially. And please pray in a special way for your brothers and sisters in the Dominican Province of St. Martin de Porres.