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Saint Martin de Porres (1579–1639) November 3 Martin de Porres was born in Lima, Peru, the son of a freed African woman and a member of the Spanish
nobility. He and his sister were raised in extreme poverty because his father abandoned the family.
When Martin was 12, he became an apprentice of a barber-surgeon. In Martin’s day, many sick people went to barbers for treatment. These practitioners knew which herbs to use to treat aches, fevers, and wounds. They even set broken bones and pulled diseased teeth. Martin took to this occupation and became famous in Lima as a healer.
He joined the Dominicans as a lay helper, doing humble tasks around the monastery in exchange for room and board. While he did not think he was worthy, his superiors encouraged him to become a brother, and he served as barber, surgeon, in rmary worker, and wardrobe keeper.
In this last job, Martin became known as a friend of all creatures, much like Saint Francis of Assisi. Rats and mice had invaded the monastery and were raiding not only the larder but also the sacristy, where they were chewing on the vestments the priests wore at Mass. The story is told that Martin caught up with the leader of the rats and mice and made a deal with him. If all the rodents would leave the monastery and live outside, Martin promised to feed them every day in the garden. Martin was rewarded with a procession of rats and mice leaving the monastery. Martin also established a shelter and hospital for stray animals at his sister’s house.
Martin extended even greater charity to people. He set up an orphanage and a hospital for abandoned children. Sometimes he would bring the ill and injured of Lima to his own small room for treatment. He was particularly concerned about the sad condition of African slaves and looked after them with great care.
Many miracles were attributed to Martin. When the monastery’s soup kitchen would run short of food, the food seemed to increase miraculously. Despite all his hard work, Martin seemed to sleep and eat very little. People said he could pass through locked doors to reach those who needed him. He was even said to bilocate, that is, to be in two places at the same time to o er his charity and love to all.
When Martin died at the age of 60, nobles and bishops competed to carry his co n to its resting place. He was canonized in 1962 by Pope John XXIII, who named him the patron of social justice and racial harmony because of his charity.
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