St. Martin de Porres

Apostle of Charity

Giuliana Cavallini



I first encountered St. Martin de Porres (1579-1639) through Hilda Charleton’s lecture about him in Saints Alive! I fell in love immediately and searched high and low for a biography that did him justice. This account by Giuliana Cavallini is the book I was looking for – you can almost feel Martin next to you, so vividly is his life retold.

I think that most of us can benefit from coming to know St. Martin de Porres, but most especially I think his story would be a wonderful addition to those saints that most Waldorf schools teach our children about in 2nd grade. Here is a saint of the New World, whose life and work have so very much to do with our own world. My hope is that adults will read this books and then tell story after story about this saint – I think anyone who does this will find themselves before children held in rapt attention, awaiting each and every word.

This saint’s heart was so big that it seemed to radiate with the warmth of the sun itself. And what he accomplished for children, the poor, his fellow monks – and for us! He was a consummate healer, he created schools that poor children could attend, fed those who were hungry, inspired the rich to give generously and joyously to his many causes, established an orphanage in which the boys were taught a trade and a dowry provided for the girls (so that they would not have to become prostitutes to support themselves – this was the early 1600s), and created the first social services agency on record so that no one in Lima, Peru would have to go hungry or suffer an illness untreated.

He did all this as a mulatto who was called to the Domincan Order at Holy Rosary Church in Lima, Peru where he entered as a lay brother in 1591. Actually, he was barred from entering as anything else, for the Dominicans at that time had a rule against allowing mulattos or blacks into their order. However, Martin’s heart was so big and his devotion so inspiring that the Domincan’s side-stepped their own rule and insisted – despite Martin’s protests that he deserved no honors – that Martin become a friar. St. Martin is therefore called the Patron Saint of Civil Rights – he may well be the first saint to have broken down codified race barriers, and he did it not by attacking them, but simple by melting the hearts of those arround him with his love.

St. Martin de Porres is a joy to get to know – I wish you all this happiness.

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