Martin of Porres

Monk, Peru.


Martin of Porres
Martin of Porres
Monk, Peru

The illegitimate son of a Spanish knight, John de Porres, and Anna, a coloured freewoman from Panama. His mother apprenticed him at the age of 12 to a barber-surgeon (medieval doctor/surgeon who especially looked after soldiers and wounded after a battle), but 3 years later he received the habit of the 3rd order of the Dominicans. He was admitted to the friary in Lima, and was then invited to be professed as a Dominican lay brother on account of his extraordinary devotion to the poor.

As an almoner (official in charge of the money and other donations) of the friary, Martin was entrusted with the daily distribution of material help to the poor, a task in which he showed both method and loving care. He used his medical training, such as it was, to care for the sick both outside and inside the friary. Martin cared deeply and unceasingly for the unfortunate, the sick, the poor, and those at the lowest levels of society, the African slaves. His care was extended to all without regard to race or colour. This is why he is regarded (by Roman Catholics) as the patron saint of interracial justice and harmony.

Martin is credited with establishing an orphanage and a foundling hospital. Martin's good nature extended to animals also, and not merely domestic animals but even vermin in a culture and time, not noted for its care of animals. Although he was a layman, many people sought his counsel, while his readiness to perform the most menial tasks earned him the nickname, "Brother Broom".

Many visions and miracles are attributed to Martin. He spent a large part of his life seeking reconciliation within a multiracial and exploitive society. On his death he was accounted a saint by popular acclaim, but he was not beatified until 1837. He was finally canonised in 1962.

BORN: 9 November 1579, Lima, Peru.

DIED: 3 November 1639, Peru.