November 3

St. Martin de Porres

St. Martin de Porres

St. Martin de Porres looking up in a church with light streaming in
St Martin de Porres 2

The Poor Mulatto Boy

Martin de Porres was born on December 9, 1579 in Lima, Peru. His father was Don Juan de Porres, a Spanish nobleman and adventurer, and Ana Velasquez, a freed daughter of slaves from Panama. He was a mulatto, a person of mixed white and black ancestry. They were abandoned by his father when Martin and his sister Juana were very young. Their mother supported them by taking laundry.

Though they lived a difficult life, poverty did not embitter Martin. In fact, this made him sensitive to the plight of the poor, especially the orphans to whom he would devote much of his time and resources. Even when he was still a child, Martin would give the family’s scarce resources to the beggars whom he saw less fortunate than himself.

When Martin was eight years old, his father had a change of heart and decided to claim his children. He made sure that both of them were given good education and had sufficient money for the family not to suffer hardship. At age twelve, Martin became an apprentice with a barber/surgeon named Marcel de Rivero. He was extremely skillful at his work and soon customers came to prefer and ask for him.

A Humble Brother

Years later, Martin wanted to join the Order of Preachers or the Dominicans. However, during his time, the law in Peru did not allow persons of other races or mixed race to enter religious life. Nevertheless, because of his ardent desire, Martin was accepted as a “donado”, a lay person allowed to live with the community and wear the habit in return for performing menial tasks such as sweeping floors, answering the door and gardening.

St. Martin de Porres sitting in a garden filled with flowers
St Martin de Porres action

Martin frequently insisted on performing such hard and menial tasks as caring for the Order’s horses in the evenings, even when informed that servants were available for these chores. He would argue that the servants were tired from their day’s work while he, Martin, had done very little. He also extended his healing gifts, going to the servants’ quarters and treating their ailments.

Lover of the Poor

Martin’s piety and spiritual practices were legendary. He would often fast for hours, taking only bread and water. He loved overnight vigils where he prayed kneeling or lying down. There were reports that while he prayed, Martin was a foot or more off the floor. He was also recalled for his love for animals.

Martin fed, sheltered and healed hundreds of families. He established the Orphanage and School of the Holy Cross which took in boys and girls of all classes and taught them trades and homemaking skills. Faced with criticisms, Martin insisted that the school staff should be paid well and justly so that they would give their best service.

Martin died on November 3, 1639, surrounded by his brothers. His funeral was attended by thousands of Peruvians from all walks of life, especially those who have experienced the goodness of Martin. He was buried in the Convento Santo Domingo in Lima, Peru. Miraculous cures were claimed at his tomb, but it was 1837 before Pope Gregory XVI beatified him. Pope John XXIII canonized him on May 6, 1962. His feast day is November 3.

Five Interesting Facts About St. Martin de Porres

  1. St. Martin de Porres is the patron saint of those who suffer discrimination, of people of mixed race, and also of barbers, hairdressers and social workers.
  2. Due to his race, St. Martin de Porres was discriminated against by some of his brothers. Some called him a “mulatto dog”.
  3. In Christian art, St. Martin de Porres is depicted holding a broom, with a dog, cat, and mouse at his feet. This was because he loved animals and was said to have solved a rat problem in their monastery by simply asking the rats to leave.
  4. One of St. Martin de Porres’ closest friends was St. Rose of Lima.
  5. St. Martin de Porres was known to be a formidable fundraiser. He obtained thousands of money for dowries for poor girls so that they could marry or enter a convent.

Prayer to St. Martin de Porres

O God, who led Saint Martin de Porresby the path of humility to heavenly glory,grant that we may so follow his radiant example in this lifeas to merit to be exalted with him in heaven.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, for ever and ever. Amen.