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St. Martin de Porres: an example of humility and generosity

Maria Montemayor

Thursday, November 3, 2022

A statue of St. Martin de Porres in Lima, Peru. Photo by Maria Montemayor
Today is the feast day of St. Martin de Porres, one of my favourite saints. St. Martin was born in Lima, Peru on December 9, 1579 to a Spanish nobleman and a freed slave from Panama. His parents were never married, and his father abandoned his family after St. Martin's sister was born. St. Martin was raised in poverty which made him sensitive to the needs of others. As a child, he would give away goods to the homeless and beggars. At twelve years old, he began an apprenticeship with a barber-surgeon. St. Martin learned how to cut hair, draw blood, care for wounds, and administer medicine.
St. Martin started to volunteer with the Dominicans when he was fifteen years old and became a Dominican oblate (lay helper) in 1601. He was devoted to the Eucharist and constant prayer. His days were spent tending to the sick, doing basic chores, and distributing food and alms to the poor. St. Martin had compassion and love for people regardless of their race or status. His compassion also extended to animals. St. Martin would feed and medically treat all animals, including those that were considered to be vermin. 
St. Martin died of a fever on November 3, 1639. He is the patron saint of social justice, barbers, hair stylists, inn keepers, public health workers, mixed-race individuals, and those who seek racial harmony. 
Seven years ago, I had the opportunity to volunteer in Lima, Peru and was able to visit St. Martin’s home and tomb. In addition to assisting at a school for children with disabilities, I visited child burn victims at a local hospital and a home for young girls whose parents were incarcerated. Looking back on that trip, I feel a closer connection to St. Martin, who established an orphanage and cared for children in Lima. I also relate to his work ethic and love for animals since my grandfather was a barber, and I have fostered and adopted animals. 
On this day, let us ask for St. Martin’s intercession and try to follow his example of humility and generosity.     
Prayer to St. Martin de Porres
To you, St. Martin de Porres, we prayerfully lift up our hearts filled with serene confidence and devotion. Mindful of your unbounded and helpful charity to all levels of society and also of your meekness and humility of heart, we offer our petitions to you.
Pour out upon our families the precious gifts of your generous intercession; show to the people of every race and every colour the paths of unity and of justice; implore from our Father in heaven the coming of His kingdom, so that through mutual love in God we may increase the fruits of grace and merit the rewards of eternal life.
St. Martin de Porres, pray for us.

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