January 1 - 30, 2016
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.
Martin’s spiritual practices were legendary. He would often fast for extensive periods of time on bread and water. He loved all-night vigils, frequently praying by lying down as if crucified, sometimes kneeling but, miraculously, a foot or more off the floor. He would “take the discipline”, scourging himself with chains, three times a day: for the souls in Purgatory, for unrepentant sinners, and, finally, for his own soul.
Equally legendary was his love of animals. He would feed and heal all animals that came into his vicinity and they understood and obeyed him. St. Martin is often portrayed with mice because, according to one story, the monastery was tired of their rodent problems and decided to set traps. Martin 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.
However, it is St. Martin de Porres’ charity that made him the patron saint of social justice. Martin fed, sheltered and doctored hundreds of families. He also provided the requisite dowry of 4,000 pesos to enable at least 27 poor young women to marry. Last, but not least, he established the Orphanage and School of the Holy Cross which took in boys and girls of all classes and taught them trades or homemaking skills. Over much criticism, he insisted that the school staff be well-paid so that they would give their best service.
St. Martin de Porres died on November 3rd, 1639. He died surrounded by his brothers and reciting the Credo, his life ending with the words “et homo factus est” (and was made man). His funeral was attended by thousands of Peruvians from all walks of life who vied to get a piece of St. Martin’s habit as a relic. These pieces of the saint’s habit have been associated with innumerable miraculous cures.
St. Martin de Porres was declared “Blessed” by Pope Gregory XVI and his feast day was set for November 5th. He was canonized by Pope John XXIII on May 6th, 1962 before a crowd of 40,000 people. St. Martin de Porres continues to be greatly revered, especially in the Americas, for his commitment to racial and social justice.
Portrait of St. Martin de Porres, c. 17th century, Monastery of Rosa of Santa Maria in Lima.
This portrait was painted during his lifetime or very soon after his death, hence it is probably the most true to his appearance. In addition, this is the painting upon which the facial reconstruction of St. Martin was based on.