Thursday, November 03, 2011

Humility and Saint Martín de Porres

Holy Card from Peru belonging to my father

The virtue of humility defines a great saint. In that respect, one of the Catholic Church's greatest saints has to be Saint Martín of Porres or as he is affectionately known in Peru as San Martincito de Porres.

He was born in Peru the illegitimate son of a Spanish officer and a black woman from Panama. Because of the class status which was very important at the time, his father could not or would not acknowledge Martín or his sister as his own children. It was very sad that this loving little boy was not shown the love of his earthly father.  His father did love them but could not openly show any affection or love for his children.  His mother on the contrary, loved both her children. Because of the circumstances surrounding her love her the children's father, life could not have been easy for her or her little family. Yet it was because of her that her son Martin grew to know and love God very much.

By know everyone should know the story of how he grew up and wanted to serve God. He was apprenticed as a barber which was comparable to being assistant to a doctor. He also wanted to serve God by entering the Dominican order.  He thought himself unworthy to become a priest.  Instead, he wanted the most humblest job in the monastery. He requested the habit of a "donado" who were ranked lower than the lay brothers. He was only 15 or 16 years of age.
"In itself, humility is a hidden virtue which escapes our perception. It exists in the depths of the souls, and no one can say with certainty if it is truly there or not, because no created eye can penetrate to those depths. But when humility exists in the soul, it has a companion which serves as an indication of its presence: patience, which holds the field for humility without avoiding assaults, but rejoices int eh battle and 'through suffering, wins.'"

Holy cards usually depict Saint Martín de Porres holding a broom and surrounded by animals, usually a dog, a cat, and mice. The broom symbolizes his humility.  The animals symbolize how he was able to communicate with them and how they listened to his gentle way of talking to them.  He was able to rid the monastery of a mice infestation that way.  He accepted the lowest tasks in the monastery one of which was to sweep the floors of the entire place. He also continued to use the medical knowledge he learned as a barber's apprentice to heal people.

People grew to love and respect him because of his kindness towards all and his generous and helpful spirit. But not everyone felt like that. There were a few who treated him badly and called him vicious names. One such person was a novice named Francis in the same order as Martín. He called Martín "a mulatto dog, a hypocrite, a cheat" and this all happened as Martín was tending to him. Instead of becoming angry or indignant...or even stop helping this brother, Martín patiently continued to tend to Francis. Martín was actually grateful to the brother for treating him like that.  

Later it was brought to the novice master's attention how Francis had treated Martín.  Martín asked the Novice master to forgive the young novice because "he Martín was really a great sinner, and his mother was a poor Negress, and therefore the title of 'mulatto dog' fitted him perfectly. Why punish someone who had spoken only the absolute truth? Francis did not deserve punishment, but a reward."

Even after being forgiven because of Martín, Francis continue to make life hard for Martín who always responded in a patient and loving manner. Inevitably, Francis' eyes were opened and he began to watch Martín closely.  He also began to follow Martín example in imitating the saint's holy life. Martín had won him over with patience and humility.

God has given us many saints like Saint Martín de Porres whose feast we celebrate today, for us to imitate. Let us thank God today for St. Martín, a gentle and true humble brother who became a great saint by loving God and his neighbor.

Source of the quotations Saint Martín de Porres: Apostle of Charity by Giuliana Cavallini


Veronica said...

I love St. Martin de Porres, and I just finished re-reading that book you took your quotes from. Humility and charity. Those were his virtues.

He's is one of my favorite saints, and I am most fortunate to possess a First Class Relic of him.

Thank you for posting this, Esther! God bless you and keep you. Your blog is a breath of fresh air on the internet.


Esther G. said...

Veronica, what a blessing to own a first class relic! He is one of my favorite saints too. I have another book on his life: Life of St. Martin de Porres: Patron Saint of Interracial Jusice by Stanislas Fumet but I haven't read it yet.

Thank you very much for your kinds words. God bless,