In a year when racial injustice and “colonialism” have become hot topics, there is no better saint for Election Day than Saint Martin de Porres.
Martin de Porres (1579-1639) was born the illegitimate child of a freed black slave and a Spanish knight in Lima, Peru. His father acknowledged that Martin and his sister were his children, but he virtually abandoned them and their mother when they were young. To learn a trade and support himself, Martin was apprenticed to a barber-surgeon, but he decided to enter the Dominican order as a lay brother when he was fifteen years old.
Martin was born in a poor family without an absent father and was a racial minority in a stratified society. What (or better, who) lifted Martin out of a potentially bitter, miserable life? It was God Himself.
Martin, as a faithful Catholic, knew that God loved him and had created him as a unique person in His own image. Nothing about the circumstances of his birth, life events, or even personal temperament were unknown to God, and none of those things could keep him from becoming a saint.
Because of his poverty, Martin knew that he needed to learn a trade, so he did. When he heard God’s call to become a vowed religious, his previous training as a barber-surgeon helped him care for the sick, and not only in the infirmary of his community, but also the poor of the greater community.
God gave Martin a naturally gentle disposition; this made him very approachable to those who found themselves in need of help. It is probably also the reason that the tenderhearted man established an animal shelter for cats and dogs, even though he had to locate it at his sister’s house since, as a Dominican, he had no private property of his own. His mixed race also opened doors for people of many ethnicities to see Martin as a sympathetic and understanding listener to their problems.
No fallen human being can become humble without the grace of God and a lot of effort, and everyone agrees that Martin was humble. Dominicans beg for money to support themselves, and Martin therefore had to beg money from people for the support of the community from time to time. But when his sister’s daughter needed a dowry so she could marry, Martin begged for her sake too, and he raised all that was needed in just a few days. Oh yes, and he somehow managed to beg enough financial support so that he could establish an orphanage and a hospital for the children in his city, something that literally would not have existed if he had been too proud to beg.
However stable or unstable your family of origin, however gentle or irascible your natural disposition, however lowly or exalted your opinion of yourself, Saint Martin de Porres teaches us that God can help you become a saint.
Saint Martin de Porres, help me become a saint.