St. Martin de Porres
Born: December 9, 1579
Canonized: May 16, 1962
Feast Day: November 3
Patron Saint of: barbers, hairdressers, racial harmony
The illegitimate son of a Guatemalan mother and a Spanish father, Martin had to bear very early on the humiliation of being both a bastard and a half-breed. He entered the Order in Lima (Peru) after becoming a male nurse. He asked to be received as a "resident oblate" for he considered being a lay brother too honorable a state for him. After nine years he finally accepted the status of lay brother.
In the convent of Lima, Martin did the humblest tasks. He lived a life of deep prayer, austerity and charity. He took care of the sick brothers with great affection and efficiency, all while remaining very humble. Martin is a great example of humility and a sign of hope for all those who are humiliated because of ethnic or racial discrimination.
His kindness knew no bounds; he distributed alms to the poor and took care of them. The demands on him were so great that he had to open up a clinic in his sister's house. He also took care of animals. He talked to them and asked them not to harm humans. He had an enormous love for all of creation. Martin is an inspiration for all those who commit themselves to protect creation and promote life in all its forms.
Martin created an institution for needy children so that they could get a complete education and learn a trade. He also established an open garden with fig trees in it that was accessible to all the needy. His charity was therefore both imaginative and boundless and he remains a model of proximity to the poor and of advocacy on their behalf.
Martin did not hesitate to share his small cell with those who were unhappy, nor to involve his convent in his struggle against misery... This caused difficulties between himself and his superiors who saw their house flooded with destitute people, who were often living very dramatic situations. For Martin, charity was more important than any other value in religious life and one was never to refuse to help another. He is reported to have said concerning a very dirty poor man to whom he had given his bed to lie on: "Compassion is preferable to cleanliness: with a little bit of soap I can clean my bed, but think of the flood of tears I would require to clean from my soul the stain that harshness against this unfortunate would leave.'' Martin's extraordinary kindness and his love of prayer and humility brought him many friends from all social classes making it possible for him to alleviate the misery of many. His popularity gave rise to many legends concerning the particular charisma that Christ seemed to have bestowed upon him... All of these charisms were at the service of the poor and he worked tirelessly to promote their cause.
Martin was canonized in 1962. He is a very popular saint for those who feel despised or who experience deep suffering.
[ Thanks to Janette King for this contribution ]