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Feed the Hungry, Care for the Sick

St. Martin de Porres

Feast: Nov. 3

St. Martin de Porres (Dec. 9, 1579 – Nov. 3, 1639) was a lay Dominican brother from Lima, Peru. He was known to have been given many miraculous gifts such as levitation, bilocation, healing, and even the ability to communicate with animals. However, his greatest witness remains his charity.

St. Martin was born Juan Martin de Porres. He was the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a former slave. This translated into a life of poverty and hardship for the young Martin. However, at 15, he was admitted to a Dominican convent as a servant boy. As his duties grew, he was led to join the order as a tertiary. Initially, his race prevented him from becoming a friar, but this restriction was later overturned as a result of his piety and miraculous cures and he was admitted fully into the order.

He was later placed in charge of the infirmary where his care for the sick impressed his superiors. He also extended care to those outside the walls of the convent. From a glass of water to offering his own bed to an aged beggar covered with ulcers, St. Martin sought to bring the Lord’s compassion to all who suffered from illness.

One story that demonstrates his unwavering commitment to those in distress concerns his encounter with a poor native. The native was bleeding from a dagger wound, so St. Martin took the man to his own room until he could be transported to the hospice he had set up at his sister’s house in the country. His superior was furious when he found out about the incident and reprimanded St. Martin for disobeying an earlier prohibition about lodging the sick at the convent. St. Martin only replied, “Forgive my error, and please instruct me, for I did not know that the precept of obedience took precedence over that of charity.” At that, the superior allowed him to continue his exercise of mercy uninterrupted.