Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Among November's Saints

SAINT MARTIN DE PORRES was born in 1579 and raised poverty-stricken in Lima, Peru. At the age of fifteen he desired to become a Dominican Friar, but at that time persons of mixed race were not allowed to enter religious life. Martin, desiring to get as close to religious life as he could, became a lay-helper (a volunteer), asking only to be given a broom so he could sweep the cloister walkway.

The community was so impressed by his kind charity and humble willingness that they gave him the white and black habit and allowed him to make the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. At a particularly poor time for the friary, Martin offered himself to be sold as a slave so the bills could be paid. "You're not for sale," the superior said.

It is said that animals, which were natural enemies (cats, dogs, mice) would eat and drink from the same dish in his company causing him to be recognized as a patron of reconciliation and the healing of relationships. He opened a home for the homeless-sick and stray animals in his sister's house. She should be canonized a saint too!

Martin was known to sneak the sick and the weak into the friary, placing them in his own bed. He was apprenticed as a barber, which enabled him to practice some primitive medicine. His skills as an herbalist, which he learned from his mother and grandmother, enabled him to offer relief to the sick.

As his ministrations to the sick extended beyond questions of race and social status, Martin is the patron of those who seek to build and enhance race relationships. He was canonized a saint by Blessed John XXIII in May of 1962, a time of great social pain in our own country.

This sensitive and fine bronze statue of Saint Martin de Porres is found in the Dominican Father's Church of Saint Vincent Ferrer ~ 869 Lexington Avenue, New York City, at 66th Street. It is the work of Father Thomas McGlynn, O.P. (1962). Entering this church on a sunny day is like stepping into a kaleidoscope. The statue, which draws one immediately into serenity and prayer, is placed through the iron gates of a little side chapel on the left. When I am in New York City and even remotely in the area, I make a point of visiting this place.

In the image Martin has paused in his sweeping. His  broom rests against his side as he presses a cross to his heart. He isn't troubled by the rats at his feet. Indeed, he has likely just fed them.

A Poem-Prayer to Saint Martin de Porres 
in the style of an Eastern Troparion

When you passed through death to life
all of Lima turned out
to celebrate your memory,
O Brother Martin.

From the deep well of your
vulnerable heart,
no living thing escaped your love:

the leper ~ your bed,
the animals ~ your dish,
the sick ~ your healing herbs,
the orphan ~ your bread,
the slave ~ your word,
the dying ~ your restorative glass of water.

O holy donado, pray to Christ-God
for the softening of hearts
throughout the Americas.

(donado = volunteer)
Martin's Feast Day is November 3.


  1. Let us imitate St. Martin, who was humble in all all things. Let him be an example to us; teaching us to embrace all living things as creatures of God. We must accept God's will and carry out His plan as Martin did.

  2. You propose two very important ideas here: humble and teaching us. They go hand in hand. A humble person is teachable. Docility is a good word - from the Latin docere - to teach. Too much talking and too much noise makes docility near impossible.

    1. So very true Father. We need to take the time to listen. And we need to have the openness to learning and growing. So much teaching falls on deaf ears these days. It is like we are a society closed off to God. Thank you for trying to enlighten us to the lives of the saints, and how to call upon Jesus and the Blessed Mother for direction when we feel lost. Amen.