Martin the Charitable

Today the universal Church celebrates the feast of St. Martin de Porres, one of my family”s favorite Dominican saints. He lived in Peru at the turn of the sixteenth century, born of a Spanish father and a Black mother, and lived a remarkable life as a lay brother devoted to the poor and the sick.

Many stories attest to St. Martín”s exceptional piety. Sometimes he was surrounded by a bright light when he prayed, while other times he levitated off the floor of the chapel in a state of ecstasy. He lived for days on bread and water, and undertook other severe penances. Martín was said to be capable of bilocation (being in two places at once–wouldn”t that come in handy!), and individuals from both Africa and Mexico swore that they had encountered him in their home villages even though he was never known to have left Lima. Patients under his care spoke on several occasions of his having walked through locked doors in order to render medical help–help which sometimes produced miraculous results. [more]

Here”s what Pope John XXIII said at St. Martin”s canonization in 1962, which is found in the Office of Readings for today:

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 your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and second, by loving your neighbor as yourself.

When Martin had come to realize that Christ Jesus suffered for us and that he carried our sins on his body to the cross, he would meditate with remarkable ardor and affection about Christ on the cross. 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 and with that profound love which comes from pure faith and humility of spirit. He loved men and 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 did not blame others for their shortcomings. Certain that he deserved more severe punishment for his sins than others did, he would overlook their worst offenses. He was tireless in his efforts to reform the criminal, and he would sit up with the sick to bring them comfort. For the poor he would provide food, clothing and medicine. He did all he could to care for poor farmhands, blacks, and mulattoes who were looked down upon as slaves, the dregs of society in their time. Common people responded by calling 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 come 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’2012-04-24 18:33:33′s commandments.  If only everyone could learn this lesson from the example that Martin gave us.

For a recent photo of “St. Martin de Porres,” check out my Facebook wall at!/profile.php?id=1075165711

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