Patron Saint of Racial Harmony and Social Justice
He lived from: 1579 – 1639 A.D
Feast Day: 3rd November
Related Article : St Teresa of Avila
The Little Doctor of Peru and the Father of Charity
Martin was born in Lima, Peru on 9th December 1579. He was the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a black slave from Panama. When he was still very young, his father abandoned him, his mother and his younger sister, leaving them in deep poverty. Due to being mixed-race, he was bullied and ridiculed by many others.
After a few years, Martin was placed with a barber/surgeon where he learnt how to cut hair and to understand the basics of medicine. At that time, the law in Peru, prevented all descendants of either African or Indians to become full members of any religious orders. Martin, who spent long hours in prayer, asked God if he could be accepted into the Dominicans at the Holy Rosary Priory in Lima, initially as a volunteer. The Priory being later renamed Convent of St Domingo.
“Everything, even sweeping, scraping vegetables, weeding a garden and waiting on the sick could be a prayer, if it were offered to God.”
Performing the most menial tasks in the monastery, he was eventually allowed to wear the habit and lived within the religious community. After eight years Martin was granted permission to become a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic, devoting much of his time to helping the poor and needy. Over the years, he established an orphanage and a children’s hospital for those living in the slums. Martin had a great love for animals. He built a shelter for stray cats and dogs in order to try to nurse them back to health. He was known for his devotion to the Eucharist and constant prayer. At night he would experience visions of Christ and Our Lady. He frequently fasted and never ate meat as an act of austerity.
In 1639 he contracted a fever and died at the age of 60. All of Lima acclaimed him as a holy man. Several miraculous cures occurred at his tomb as well as during his life time. There were many calls for him to be made a Saint and the process began in 1660. However, it wasn’t until 1962 that he was canonised by Pope John XXIII.
In the United States, St Martin has been adopted as a patron saint of racial harmony for his caring charity to people of all ethnic backgrounds. St Martin was a contemporary of St Rose of Lima whose profile we included a couple of months ago. They are both buried at the Convent of Saint Domingo in Lima.
Thank you for reading and God Bless,