Feast day: 3rd of November
Martin de Porres was born in Lima, Peru, in 1579 of John, a Spanish nobleman, and Anna Velasquez, a freed slave. As a boy he studied medicine which later, as a member of the Order, he put to good use in helping the poor. Martin was received as a servant at the priory of the Holy Rosary in Lima where he was finally admitted to profession as a co-operator brother in 1603. In his life of prayer, Martin was especially devoted to the Blessed Sacrament and to the passion of our Lord. He was noted for his care of the poor and the sick. He died at Lima on November 3, 1639.
During the homily given by Blessed Pope John XXIII on the occasion of Brother Martin’s canonization, the Holy Father proclaimed the following:
The example of Martin’s life is ample evidence that we can strive for holiness and salvation as Christ Jesus has shown us: first, by loving God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind; and second, by loving our neighbours as ourselves.
When Martin had come to realize that Christ Jesus suffered for us and that He carried our sins in his body on the cross, he would meditate with remarkable ardour and affection about Christ on the cross. Whenever he would contemplate Christ’s terrible torture he would be reduced to tears. He had an exceptional love for the great sacrament of the Eucharist and often spent long hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. His desire was to receive the sacrament in communion as often as he could.
Saint Martin, always obedient and inspired by his divine teacher, dealt with his brothers with that profound love which comes from pure faith and humility of spirit. He loved men because he honestly looked on them as God’s children and as his own brothers and sisters. Such was his humility that he loved them even more than himself and considered them to be better and more righteous than he was.
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 the Charitable.’
The virtuous example and even the conversation of this saintly man exerted a powerful influence in drawing men to religion. It is remarkable how even today his influence can still call us toward the things of heaven. Sad to say, not all of us understand these spiritual values as well as we should, nor do we give them a proper place in our lives. Many of us, in fact, strongly attracted by sin, may look upon these values as of little moment, even something of a nuisance, or we ignore them altogether. It is deeply rewarding for men striving for salvation to follow in Christ’s footsteps and to obey God’s commandments. If only everyone could learn this lesson from the example that Martin gave us.