Tuesday, March 7, 2017

St. Martin de Porres

The following was inspired by reading a great book, called "Hounds of The Lord" by Kevin Vost.

Dr. Vost describes St. Martin not as a saint who changed the world on a grand scale with massive theological repercussions, but as a one-on- one saint and example of "active love and tenderness."  Learning about him is good for those of us who know that we aren't going to be the next great founder of a religious order.  He's a saint for those of us who, although we enjoy philosophy, we just aren't going to make it to the heights of Catholic theological thought.  Those saints are awesome to look up to, but it's also great to have a saint that shows us that sanctity simply lies in using our own gifts for God's will.

We all have the capacity to love, if we are open to the Holy Spirit and letting God's love grow in us.  He is one of the Dominican "lovers" that Dr. Vost speaks of who show us not only their influence on the global scale, "but in how they turned the simple and ordinary duties of their daily lives into hymns of God's glory and acts of mercy and love to all those they encountered."

St. Martin- The "Mulatto Dog"

Martin de Porres was born on December 9, 1579 and died in 1639.  He was the illegitimate son of a Spaniard and a freed slave of African origin.  He is the patron saint of Peru, of biracial people, those seeking racial justice, public health, public education and social justice and the patron saint of hairstylists and barbers.

Martin learned around the age of 12 the ways of a barber.  Apparently in that time period, the barbers also had surgical skills, dental skills and pharmacology and nursing roles (It's kind of interesting, even nowadays, your hairdresser may know a lot more about you than your doctor- they can see proof of lifestyle choices and ailments and even if you are pregnant through what your hair looks like- who knew?)

Martin's father had wanted him to be made a religious brother, but Martin was content to be a humble member of the order.  He lived a simple life.  St. Martin was a lay Dominican brother, so he did not formally preach, but his words and deeds did preach the gospel

St. Martin was a very gifted healer, and while the beautification process was occurring, numerous accounts of healing of all sorts of diseases were reported.  As Dr. Vost said, "he saw each of his patients not only as an illness or a limb or even as a mind-body whole, but as a child of God."  He aimed not only to heal, but to bring souls to Christ.

The next time you are scrubbing the floor or cleaning the toilets, think of St. Martin.  Yes, that might not be the most sanctimonious way to think of him but think of how he used these tasks as a means to provide for the needs of the poor and prayer for the healing of the sick.

Not only was he barber, pharmacist, floor cleaner, nurse and surgeon, he was also a veterinarian for the Dominicans and to the people of Lima.

There is some information to say that St. Martin may have been one of very few saints who had the gift of bilocation- this means to be in multiple places at once (wouldn't every mom like that gift).  He used this gift to possibly gain medical knowledge in France, and travel to Japan, China and Africa for ministry to souls- he had always wanted to be a missionary and it appears God may have helped him with this desire.

As a veterinarian, I was intrigued by the stories of Saint Martin's interventions- there was even one story where he had a dog, a cat and a mouse eating peacefully out of the same bowl.  This story may have had some significance in the harmony he sought to bring between races.

I personally loved the following story, as it remind me of my kitty.  Apparently, St. Martin would wake up early each morning to ring the priory's bell to call the brothers to prayer.  Apparently, a cat would work its way into Martin's room and pull on his garments until he woke up.  My own cat is an expert at waking me up in the morning, she even has gone to the length of pulling my eyelids open with her paws.  Makes me think that maybe I should use her initiative to make my days a little holier.

Also, for all those animal lovers out there- he had established a dog hospital at the priory- and was ordered to clear them out- fortunately he was able to move them to the house of his sister.

It sounds like his smile was also a window into his soul and many testimonies about his memorable smile were given at the time of his canonization.

A Saint for Vegetarians?

At the time of his final illness, he refused any medicines that were procured by the killing of animals.

A Saint who is Timely

Saint Martin was declared a blessed in 1837, not long before the Civil War and he was not canonized until 1962, the time of the great civil rights movement who Dr. Vost also aptly points out shared his name with another leader of African descent who had the name Martin.  Coincidence or Godincidence?

A great resource for this text was "Hounds of The Lord" by Kevin Vost, PhD.  Please consider reading more about St. Martin and numerous other Dominican saints in this wonderful book.

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