Our Patron Saint

 
APOSTLE OF CHARITY
 
(1579 - 1639)

By Mr. Roger Zielk

 
 

 

Martin had great charity for friend and foe, and his love for animals was comparable to that of St. Francis of Assisi. Race, color or creed did not matter to our saint; his first thought was to help others in any way that he could; be it giving them food or money, binding their wounds, or giving them sound spiritual or practical advice – no act of charity was left undone. Since his youth, Martin had learned to be humble. And in the monastery, he humbled himself; always taking the lowest place and never defending himself. At a time when everyone knew about Martin's holiness, and the most prominent ecclesiastics and laymen begged him for advice, a fellow religious asked him, "Brother Martin, would it not be better for you to remain in the house of his Excellency, the Archbishop of Mexico, rather than stay here cleaning the toilets of the monastery?" Without hesitation he replied, using the words of King David: "I have chosen to be an abject in the house of my God." Psalm: 83; 11.


The First Years

 

 

 
Map of Peru

Martin was born in Lima, Peru, in South America, on December 9, 1579. By then, the Spaniards had taken over parts of South America, and many of them had become masters of cruelty, leaving crowds of native Indians, poor and destitute. It's amazing that the Catholic faith was established among the Indians, who were treated so terribly. During these times, even though God warned the greedy Spaniards to amend their lives; through priests, saints, or earthquakes, they persisted in their errors. Our saint was the illegitimate son of John de Porres, a Spanish nobleman and Knight of the Order of Alcantara, and Anna Velazquez, a freed, black, slave woman. At first, John was up in arms when he noticed that little Martin was black like his mother, and not tan, like a Spaniard. But later he repented and legally acknowledged Martin and his sister Joan, born two years later, as his own children. Because John, whom she finally married, was away most of the time, holding a government position in another country, poor Anna cared for her two children as best as she could. Finding what jobs she could, she somehow was able to make ends meet. She would often send little Martin to shop at the market place, and many a time he would come back home with an empty basket and no money! There were so many poor in Lima, and the boy could never refuse giving alms to the poor, even when it wasn't his own money, and even though he knew that his mother would scold and punish him when he returned home. On one of his visits to Lima, John took his two children, Martin who was eight and Joan who was six, and returned to Guayaquil, Ecuador. There he wished to educate his children and care for them as a true father. But this lasted for only about four years, and Mr. de Porres was given a new post at Panama. Joan was then left with her great uncle in Guayaquil and John took Martin back to Lima to be with his mother. John now gave Anna sufficient funds to allow their boy to complete his education and enough funds for both of them to live on. When Martin was around twelve years old, he decided to learn a barber's trade, and apprenticed under Marcel de Rivero. Now in those days, a barber not only gave haircuts and shaves, but he also treated wounds and fractures, did blood letting, and prescribed medicine for ordinary types of illness. Martin was intelligent and before long, he knew the barber trade well. Marcel would even leave the young boy alone, to bind the wounds of the sick people that would come to the barber shop. On one of these occasions, an Indian who had been severely beaten in a street brawl was carried to the shop. Our saint set to work washing and binding the poor man's wounds and in a few days the Indian returned to his work, strong and well. These and other incidents spread throughout Lima and in time, the sick preferred to be cared for by Martin rather then Marcel. With the money he made as a barber, our saint could have become very wealthy and lived in comfort with his mother. But Martin was not concerned with amassing large amounts of money or living in comfort. He still loved the poor and wanted to help them even more, now that he had the means to. When he did not accept money from his patients, his mother didn't mind, she was not a frivolous woman and she was satisfied that now John de Porres had provided for his little family.


At The Dominicans

 

 
St. Martin sweeping cloisters and corridors

 

Young Martin always put in a full day. He would set out at daybreak and on the way to the shop, he would stop in for a long time at the Church of St. Lazarus, serving as many Masses as he could. Then after helping the poor and afflicted who would come to the barber shop, he would shut himself up in his room to read and pray. And when he prayed, Martin would kneel, motionless; his face bathed in tears, his arms outstretched in the form of a cross, and his eyes fixed on a crucifix.

Such spirituality was bound to bear fruit and when Martin was about 16 years old, he decided to join the Dominican Monastery. The young man had a thirst for perfection; Christ had given His all for him and now he wanted to give his all to Christ. He quit his job and presented himself to the Dominican Friars at the Monastery of the Holy Rosary. There he requested the humblest post in the monastery – he asked for the habit of a "donado"; a Third Order member. These members offered their services to the monastery and lived there permanently, receiving food and lodging as compensation for their work. They took upon themselves the heaviest tasks and were considered as ranking below the lay brothers. When Martin received the habit, he felt that it was worth more than his freedom, his profession, and his apostolate in the world. In the monastery, he took on the lowest tasks; he swept the cloisters and corridors, and cleaned the toilets. And because of his earlier profession he was given the post of community barber; cutting hair, binding wounds and performing minor surgery.

One day Martin had learned that the prior had gone out to sell several valuable objects from the monastery in order to pay off some debts and provide for the community. Running through the streets of Lima, he soon overtook the prior, begging him, "Don't sell these objects that you have with you, but sell me, since the monastery is wasting its funds keeping me, a poor idiot and mulatto; while a slave merchant would pay well for me because I am strong and can work. And it will be a great blessing for me to find, at last, someone who would treat me as I deserved." The prior was dumbfounded; at first he did not understand, but when he realized what Martin had said, his eyes filled with tears, "Go back to the monastery, Brother. You are not for sale!"

Cloisters at old Monastery


An Infirmarian Patient And...Efficacious!

In time the Superiors noticed Martin's medical skills, so they entrusted him to the care of the sick in the infirmary. Seeing Christ in each afflicted soul, the holy brother served the sick with great love, taking care of all their needs, especially the most repugnant, with utter devotion. Often he served them on his knees, "with the flaming heart of an angel", as one person put it. That was the position he preferred, especially in the presence of the priests of the order. He never sat down in their presence and because they were preachers of the Gospel, he would kiss their feet. Taking care of the sick wasn't always an easy job. When patients repaid his devoted care with insulting words, he took it all in stride. Martin knew how suffering could cause a person to be impatient and moody. So he sympathized with his patients and was happy to serve as a scapegoat for their bad moods. And he felt that he should be grateful to those who rebuked or insulted him. "I must take better care of him and love him more," he said of a patient who had treated him rudely, "because he knows me better than the others." Martin's humility resisted praise as it resisted insults and his reaction to the insults of those who were his equals or inferiors was the same as it was to those who were his Superiors..

Depending on the situation, our saint would use herbs or his medical skills for healing, even when the herb was not necessary. Our friend had indeed the gift of healing… Br. Ferdinand was near death, the doctors had given up all hope of him surviving – he had a terrible pain in his side and he could hardly breathe. That night Martin came to the scene and applied his remedy. He wound a long bandage around the chest of the sick man and slipped some clover leaves between the folds of the bandage. Br. Ferdinand slept well after the treatment and in the morning he was perfectly cured and was able to go about his duties. Fr. Christopher had developed a severe toothache. After several days he decided to have the tooth extracted, but a lay brother who did so, was so rough that he tore the gums and the tooth socket, and caused a hæmorrhage. After a week of bleeding, no food, and sleepless nights passed in terrible pain, Fr. Christopher began to despair of being healed and became discouraged. Martin came to see the sick priest and tapped him on the cheek. Then he took some thread and put it into the tooth socket. Suddenly the hæmorrhaging stopped and the pain vanished. But at 1:00 the next morning, the pain returned, worse than ever. Even though Martin was praying in the choir, he suddenly appeared and removed the thread from the tooth socket. He tapped Fr. Christopher on the cheek again and this time the priest was healed for good.

One of the greatest miracles that our saint worked was with old, Br. Thomas. He lay dying in his cell and another brother was assigned to watch over him. The brother left the cell for a short while and when he returned, Br. Thomas was dead! Martin was called and he prayed before the crucifix for the cold, dead man. Suddenly he was inspired to cry out, "Brother Thomas!" in the dead man's ear. Thomas responded with a faint sigh. Martin called his name again and the old brother sighed again. Then when our saint called Thomas' name a third time, the face of the old brother assumed a living color; he was alive and well.


Prayer And Penance

Martin was a man of prayer; he had learned the art of prayer before entering the monastery, and after his entry his whole life became a prayer. In all his duties, whether he was assisting the sick, sweeping the floor, or helping the poor, his thoughts were always fixed on God. And often as he went about his duties, when he passed a statue or holy image in the monastery, he would bow his head or drop to his knees and offer a little prayer. Then there was the Chapel of the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary; how Martin loved that chapel. He would go there to tell the Blessed Virgin of his heart's desire to love her Son, and he would always present every difficulty to her. There, every night, he begged Mary, "Watch over me and do not permit me to fall into sin." As a sign of his love for Mary, every morning before sunrise, he was in the bell tower, ringing the Angelus bell, and even when he became advanced in age and feeble, he never relinquished this duty. Mary taught Martin much wisdom and one night when he had stayed later than usual praying to her; to prevent him from stumbling in the dark, as he ran to the choir for prayers, she sent two angels in snow white robes, with lighted candles, to escort him to choir.

Another powerful attraction which drew Martin's heart to the Chapel of Our Lady was the Blessed Sacrament. Sometimes, instead of praying in the chapel, he would climb up under the roof of the church where he had discovered an ideal nook. There he would gaze at the tabernacle without being seen by those below. One day he was found there on his knees, but elevated and floating in the air. And each time the holy brother passed along the upper cloister, in which there was a window lighting the Rosary Chapel, he would drop to his knees and adore the Blessed Sacrament.

 
 
St. Martin
caring for the sick

Martin loved the Mass, the feast of Corpus Christi, the third Sunday of every month, and all Thursdays. When the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for adoration on these days dedicated, to the Eucharist, our saint would spend hours before the monstrance, motionless like a statue.

In those days the lay brothers usually received Holy Communion on the great feasts of Jesus and Mary, and every Sunday. Martin had obtained permission to add all Thursdays to these days. And when he approached the altar to receive Our Lord, his face was lit up like a burning coal. After Mass he would hide in the chapter room, where no one could easily find him. Thus, the days in which he received Holy Communion were days given to sweet conversation with Our Lord. Night time was Martin's principal period for prayer. He rarely slept at night and often napped a little during the day for a few moments, while he waited for someone to call on him. Often he would pray in the Chapter room. Sometimes, his fellow religious would find him levitating in the air at the height of the great crucifix above the altar. His arms would be extended in the form of a cross and his hands would be on the crucified hands of Jesus. Martin learned that mortification was necessary for progress in prayer. Every night he took the discipline three times, as St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominicans had done. He would scourge his bare back with an iron chain encrusted with iron points because he wished to undergo what Jesus had suffered when he was bound to the pillar and scourged. After midnight he scourged himself with a knotted cord, for sinners, and finally near dawn, the holy brother would beg some soul to strike him without mercy, with the branch of a tree. This he did for the souls in Purgatory. During the day he wore a hair shirt and an iron chain around his waist. And he fasted for practically the entire year, even though this was not a rule of the Order.

As with the Curé of Ars, the devil stood close by Martin. On different nights when it was necessary, the holy brother would visit the infirmary. He used an old worn out stairway that was the quickest route between his room and the infirmary. One night, with his arms full of supplies, he approached the old stairs. A monstrous body with flashing eyes barred the way. Martin knew who it was. "What are you doing here accursed one?" he asked. The devil answered, "I am here because it pleases me to be here, and because I expect to profit by being here." "Away with you to the cursed depths where you dwell!" cried the holy brother. The monster refused to move so Martin took off his belt and began to whip the monster with it. Then the devil vanished, because he knew that he could gain nothing by staying.


The Three Vows And The Virtues

For nine years, Martin lived an exemplary life as a donado. Seeing that the brother was holy, humble, obedient and full of charity, the Superiors asked him to make his profession as a lay brother. So one day in the presence of the entire community, gathered in the Chapter room, after having implored the mercy of God and the Dominican Order, Martin made his solemn profession. Exteriorly, nothing changed in the good brother, but interiorly, his soul was bathed in the grace and mercy of God – he would now run forward like a giant, in the spiritual life.

Martin loved poverty and he practiced it to a heroic degree. He never used anything new, and his clothing was always secondhand. He told others that he preferred ugly and used things so that he would not have to take too much care of them, or think much about them. His sister, Joan, once tried to give him a new habit so that she might wash the one he was wearing, but he refused her gift saying, "When I wash my habit, the under garment suffices while the habit is drying, and when I wash the under garment, I can very well get along with just the habit, as I always do. It would be altogether superfluous to have two habits." And his shoes were chosen from among those discarded by the other brothers. Martin's poverty even went so far as not having his own cell – he used the storage room, and this is where he kept his bed of planks. And on the walls of this room, was a bare wooden cross, and a picture of Mary and St. Dominic.

Martin was also a model of purity. All those who knew him in life agreed that he preserved his virginity intact to the moment of his death. He strove to increase and perfect this virtue in an ever more intimate union with God. Every gesture, action and word, manifested the purity of his heart, and his countenance radiated such grace that it aroused others to devotion. And merely by looking at him, the afflicted were consoled.

Martin's obedience was based on such a deep sense of respect for authority that it amounted to veneration. This applied to all authority, both ecclesiastical and civil because he saw God's authority in them. One priest testified that the holy brother "obeyed and revered both religious and diocesan prelates, and all persons invested with either ecclesiastical or secular dignity , as if venerating God in them, and His authority and delegated power." And a brother said that Martin "fulfilled the vow of obedience with a prompt, joyful and virile will."

Being far advanced in the science of the saints, Martin would often settle a dispute which the students might have, or would answer their questions by giving them a direct answer to a problem. Though he had no time to read, because of all his extended duties, he even had knowledge of the Summa Theologica. When he heard one brother discussing a certain question proposed by St. Thomas Aquinas, he said, "Why get so excited about it, when St. Thomas himself resolved the difficulty?" Then at once he gave the brother the exact place in the Summa where the answer was. As St. Bonaventure and other saints have done, Martin obtained much of his wisdom from meditating on Christ crucified and from the many hours he spent before the Blessed Sacrament.

His love for souls was boundless. Every day, after he had served dinner to the sick and the servants of the monastery, and had given food to the poor, Martin gathered together a group of young boys and other laymen who worked at the monastery. Then he would teach them Christian doctrine and prayers, and explain to them how to live a good Catholic life. But more important, they listened to the holy brother eagerly and tried to put his teachings into practice.

 
 
St. Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221)

Our saint went to great lengths to save souls and he made a special project of saving the souls of children. There were a lot of poor orphans wandering the streets of Lima and he made it his business to establish the Orphanage of the Holy Cross for them. Martin also made the orphanage a place where these children could be educated. Knowing that it was necessary to have a staff completely dedicated to this work, he chose carefully his teachers and assistants. And to secure the best he made sure they also had a good salary.

The holy brother wanted to turn the orphans into men and woman who would lead good Catholic lives. He realized that a good education would enable a boy to face life with a fair chance of survival. And as was the custom at that time, he arranged for girls to receive an adequate dowry when they left the orphanage.

It took great sums of money to run the orphanage, but that did not matter to Martin. He had many friends – wealthy people, noblemen, and even the viceroy, gave to him willingly and with great generosity because they were sure that he would use their donations according to God's will. And God blessed the rich who opened their purses for the sake of the poor; He increased their capital that they may be even more generous.

Bilocation; the ability to be in more than one place at the same time, is a gift given to few saints. Martin was one of the saints blessed with this ability. He longed to work for the spread of the faith in China and Japan, and to give the supreme proof of his love of the Catholic faith by dying the death of a martyr. Though the good brother was not able to go to the Orient, God was pleased with his desire. Witnesses have stated that Martin was seen several times during his life, in China and Japan. There he would gather the oriental children around him and teach them Catholic doctrine. And at the end of the lesson he would give them candies, little holy pictures or exotic fruit, which they had never tasted. Sometimes Martin would bilocate to comfort Catholics who were prisoners of the Turks and who were in danger of losing the faith. There is one story of a man who had been a prisoner of the Turks, who came to Lima after he had been freed. He told the friars in the Holy Rosary Monastery that he had been a slave of the Turks for many years. Martin had come to visit him and his companions in slavery and gave them what help he could. The saintly brother brought bread, money and other needs, took care of the sick, and exhorted all the prisoners to remain firm in the Catholic faith. Our saint's visits were the sole moral support the man had during the long years of imprisonment, and he had been able to pay his ransom only because the holy brother had brought him the money, little by little. One night Martin bilocated, leaving the monastery through locked and barred doors. He went to the hospital of St. Anne, in Lima, to the bedside of a dying Indian. He spoke a little to the dying man and asked if he was baptized. The Indian answered that he was not, and in a few minutes the holy brother sent for the hospital chaplain. The priest baptized the Indian, who died shortly after, and our saint went back to the monastery again, through locked doors.

 

 
St. Martin
with Children

 

Martin watched over the supplies of the monastery and infirmary with a keen eye. He always made sure that each brother's clothing was clean and neat and he would place it on a shelf with a designated number for each brother. There were some intruders that would often make holes in the sheets and clothes and they would leave behind an unpleasant odor. One day our saint caught one of these intruders – a mouse; and he told the mouse, "Little brother, why are you and your companions doing so much harm to the things belonging to the sick? Look; I shall not kill you, but you are to assemble all your friends and lead them to the far end of the garden. Every day I'll bring you food, if you leave the wardrobe alone." The mouse understood; he jumped to the ground and disappeared. Suddenly there was a great rustling – from the wardrobe, the joists in the ceiling, and from the cracks in the floor, mice sprang out. When all the mice were assembled, they ran to the far corner of the garden where there was space enough for them to dig holes. Then every day, after Martin had served dinner to the sick, the servants, and the poor, the holy brother would bring the mice their meal. From that time on there were no more holes in the linen or the clothes – the monastery was free of mice.

A Father To The Young Religious

Though Martin was not the Master of Novices, he acted like a father to each of the novices. When one of them needed a shirt or a book, he went immediately to help whoever was in need. He outdid himself for the novices and students so that they would not be discouraged by the lack of anything in religious life. In short, he was like a guardian angel to the novices and students when they were in good health or sick. He provided the best possible conditions of study for these young members and he would remind them, "Boys, study attentively because the credit and the glory of the province will one day depend on you." Then he would encourage them and enkindle their enthusiasm for the ideal of their Order. There is the case of Br. Francis who had been in the novitiate for about one month when his retired father came to take him home. His father had been secretary of the treasury for the king and he was now retiring and leaving this post to his son. When Francis' father arrived, he arranged to take his son home at night, through a break in the wall around the monastery. That evening, Martin chided Francis for his wanting to leave the monastery and told him, "What you were unwilling to do out of love of God, you will do out of fear of God." As soon as the young novice sat down to supper, he began to shiver and develop such a high fever that he was forced to go to bed – his plans for escape had vanished into thin air. In a month when he was well, he planned to escape again. He got sick again, got well again and planned to escape one more time. He fell ill again but this time God won his heart and Francis stayed on as a good religious. One time the Master of Novices sought out Martin – two novices had disappeared and could not be found anywhere. That evening the holy brother asked the prior permission to go out and look for the missing novices. He walked several miles and found them inside a house. He entered through the locked door and finding the two novices, he encouraged them towards the religious life. They were ashamed of what they had done and re-entered the monastery with our saint, even though the doors were barred.

 

 

 
St. Martin at bedside
of a dying man

Sometimes the Master of Novices sent his novices to Martin during recreation. On one occasion they went to the good brother's room and while he went out to get them some lunch, the novices rummaged around and found some fruit in a drawer, and a silver coin. When our saint returned, he said that the fruit which they had taken was theirs to eat. But after the novices had eaten their lunch and were about to leave, Martin said to one of the novices, "Brother, put the money back where you found it, it is not ours, it belongs to someone else!" When the guilty novice tried to act innocent, our saint replied, "Take it out of our shoe. It is wicked to take what belongs to Jesus Christ's poor." Another time, thirty novices went with Martin for an afternoon walk in the country. When they arrived at a certain hill the good brother took out a picnic lunch that he had packed for the novices. They ate their lunch and talked freely. The day passed by and as evening approached, the novices suddenly realized that they should have been already on their way back to the monastery, and now they would arrive late! But Martin was not worried; he said a prayer and they all started out. When they were about one and a half miles from the monastery, the Ave bell sounded. Then without knowing how, the novices found themselves at the monastery in less than four minutes, just in time to join the other religious for Compline!

Not only did our saint help and counsel the novices, but he counseled others who came to him for advice as well. In fact he was the counselor for the whole monastery and though he shrank from such a position, he realized that this talent was a gift from God, meant to be shared with others. Martin helped at the time of elections in the monastery when no agreement could be reached. Like and angel of peace he would tell a candidate, "You are not suited for that office," and to another, "You are not yet mature enough." All accepted the holy brother's judgment as God's will, and no one felt wounded by his advice.

Very often, God provides the saints with a friend and confidant who is also a saint or holy person. Br. Martin had a wonderful friend; St. John Massias. He was also a Dominican, and he lived in the St. Mary Magdalene Monastery, in Lima. The two saints had permission to visit each other from time to time, and when they were together, they spoke of God, and shared experiences, gifts and graces which God had bestowed on them, and they encouraged each other to run in the paths of holiness. Then the two saints would end their conversations by disciplining themselves to the point of blood.


A Benefactor And Friend For The Poor, And Other Creatures

Martin loved the poor and they loved him. At the dinner hour our saint usually grew restless – he had no peace until he was in their midst. He would put his own dinner into a large pot first, and then taking the pot and a cup, he would make his rounds in the refectory, gathering up all the food he could find for the poor. When Martin had gathered up all he could from the community meal, he would go to the infirmary kitchen where the poor would be waiting for him – even dogs and cats were among these poor. And besides all this, there was a long line of bowls belonging to the poor of the neighborhood, who could not walk. Somebody had brought their bowls to the monastery to be filled. One day Martin went to the small infirmary refectory to collect food for the poor. But on that day there were many sick religious there and Br. Sebastian was short of food. He was having a difficult time dividing up the small portion of food for their dinner – there would certainly be nothing left for the poor! Our saint came to the aid of the brother, telling him, "You should not be discouraged or downcast by such a minor problem. God surely can provide since He sustains the world!" Then taking the ladle out of Br. Sebastian's hand he went on preparing the plates with generous proportions. There was enough for everyone, and a great deal left over for the poor. Before distributing food, the holy brother would bless the food, saying, "May God increase it through His infinite mercy!" Then he began to fill the bowls, cups and little pans. Even when there was only enough food to feed a few people, Martin would continue to pour out food until he had filled the last bowl – and after this, even the dogs and cats would get their share!

God gave animals, in the surrounding area of the monastery, the instinct to know that Martin was a friend who would help them. At one time he was tearing an old sheet into strips. A brother seeing this asked if someone in the monastery was hurt and our saint replied, "At the moment, no, but shortly someone will need these dressings!" The next moment, a large dog entered the room – he had a large wound in his belly and his intestines were hanging out. Martin replaced the entrails in the dog's body and sewed up the wounds. Then he prepared a bed of sheepskins and ordered the dog to lie down on it and the dog obeyed. The holy brother kept the dog for a few days, and when the dog was healed, he told the dog, "Now go and work for your master!" And the obedient dog went back to his master. Another time a dog pushed his way through the crowd of sick people, waiting in line to see Martin. The poor dog had a weapon protruding from one side of his body to the other – in all he had four gaping wounds. The dog let out a few yelps and our saint took the dog by the ear to his room and sewed up his wounds, as the dog bared his teeth. Martin was enlightened to know that the dog was a bully and he warned the dog, "You had better be quiet and learn to be good, because bullies end badly!" In a few days the dog was better and he showed his gratitude by following our saint everywhere that he could. In spite of the holy brother's good advice, the dog had not changed. He growled and showed his teeth to anyone who came near Martin. One day when a brother asked our saint for information, the dog almost bit the brother. Martin held the dog back and warned him, "Brother, when are you going to learn to be good? Look out, or the next time you will be chased out with a stick!" A few days later, the dog attacked a religious. Then some friars armed with sticks, thrashed the dog and chased him out of the monastery. Martin's warning had come true. On yet another occasion, there was an 18 year old dog that belonged to Br. John, the steward of the monastery. The dog had mange as well as other infirmities of old age, and the brother thought that he could no longer ask the community to endure his faithful companion – especially since the dog had such a terrible odor. He ordered a man to kill the dog and he did so by smashing its head with a large stone. Being dead, the man carried the dog's body away; he was going to throw it into the river. Suddenly Martin appeared on the scene. He scolded the man and carried the dog to his cell, and laid it on the floor. Then a wonderful miracle took place – as soon as the dog's body touched the pavement, it pulled itself up to a sitting position. Martin took the poor dog's head into his hands, cleaned it and sewed it up. Four days later, the dog was completely cured, not only of the head wound, but also of the mange. Then the dog went to see Br. John, who was happy to have his old friend back again.

Dogs were not the only animals that benefited from Martin's charity; he also cured cats and a wounded turkey. When he fed his mixed clientele he would tell them, "Now, little brothers, don't fight, and eat together like good brothers – otherwise I must send you away!" And those who watched, always marveled to see dogs and cats and at on time even a mouse, eat in peace, together, out of the same dish. Martin also had command over farm animals. When he went to a farm, they would welcome him warmly; chickens would come near and let him handle them, donkeys and bulls were gentle in his presence and all the animals showed him some type of affection by rubbing against him or licking his clothes.


The Last Moments

Between looking after the temporal and spiritual affairs of people and helping poor animals, Martin's life carried on, but all things must come to an end and just like everyone else, the holy brother's days were numbered. No doubt, the brothers of his monastery and the poor of Lima would loved to have had the holy brother live near them for at least a hundred years, but God's ways are not our ways. By the summer of 1639, Martin was 59 years old. At that time Archbishop Felician de Vega was made Archbishop of Mexico and he stopped in Lima on his way to his new post. There, Martin; his old friend and advisor, cured him of pneumonia, which had stricken him during his journey. The Archbishop asked the Fr. Provincial if he could take Martin to Mexico and with a heavy heart, the Provincial said, "Yes." Our saint was delighted when he learned of his Superior's decision. Life in Lima was becoming a burden to him and he detested people calling him, "Holy Brother Martin". In Mexico he would be unknown and besides, he hoped that it would be a step closer to Japan, a land sanctified by the blood of many Dominican martyrs. He was not to leave for a few more months and one day the other religious were amazed to see him wearing a new habit. This was the first time in forty-five years that Martin had ever put on a new habit. He felt that it was necessary to wear new attire in the company of the Archbishop. A few days after our friend had put on his new habit, he became ill with a violent fever and severe pains in his whole body, especially his head. Autumn had arrived and every year, during this season, he always suffered from a recurrence of quartan fever. The very day that the fever struck him, Martin told his Dominican brothers that this would be his last illness. The doctor was called, but to no avail; there was no cure for the holy brother. The fever consumed him and wore down his ailing body. But during this time, in spite of his suffering, Martin remained calm and serene. News of his illness spread throughout the city, and his friends outside the monastery came to see him and to ask for his advice, for the last time.

Seeing his last chance to snatch the holy brother's soul, the devil too made a last visit to Martin. He tempted him to pride, saying, "Now you've won! You have spurned all obstacles beneath your feet; you're a saint! You can cease beating your breast; now is the moment of triumph!" But the good brother was not one to be fooled. He repulsed the devil by redoubling his acts of humility. The devil persisted, and Martin resisted. Suddenly, our saint fell into ecstasy. The Virgin Mary, St. Dominic, St. Vincent Ferrer and many other saints and angels had come to visit him. Martin made a general confession and begged everyone's forgiveness for his bad example. He then received Viaticum and extreme unction. Soon the clappers were sounded and the whole community came rushing to his cell. They crowded in as much as possible and while the brothers were chanting, the holy brother closed his eyes and went to his heavenly reward. Archbishop Felician de Vega was also there; and in a chocked voice he told the community, "Brethren, let us learn from Brother Martin how to die. This is the most difficult and most important lesson," then he returned to his palace. When some religious were preparing Martin's body for burial, they were astounded and overcome with emotion at seeing his wounded body. As they were dressing him in his new habit, suddenly, the infirmary was filled with piercing cries – Fr. John de Vargas was suffering intensely. Some friars who had just left Martin's cell told the priest to invoke Martin. Then as Fr. John invoked the holy brother, his pains vanished, and after a good night's sleep, he was completely cured. Martin had died in the odor of sanctity and when his body was exposed, it gave off a most delightful perfume that filled the whole church, and penetrated the soul with a sense of joy. Wave after wave of people came to see the holy brother and his body had to be clothed more than once, because they tore and cut his habit to shreds, keeping pieces as relics.

Many people, both secular and religious, prayed to Martin de Porres and obtained cures and favors. In time, his cause was introduced to Rome and finally on October 29, 1837, Martin was declared Blessed, a week after his friend John Massias, had been raised to the altar! Later on May 16, 1962 our saint was canonized by Pope John XXIII. During his canonization homily the pope said that; "St. 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 . …

Sad to say, not all of us understand these spiritual values as well as we should; we do not 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." ?

St. Martin de Porres,
Pray for Us!

Note:    Special "Thank You" to Rev. Fr. Juergen Wegner, District Superior, of the Society of Saint Pius X, District of Canada  for granting permission to reprint this article, on (March 4, 2011).    http://www.sspx.ca/Communicantes/Jun2006/St_Martin_de_Porres.htm