Born the son of a black freed slave and a Spanish knight, Martin de Porres (feast day 3rd November) began life in 16th century Peru greatly disadvantaged. His father disowned him because of his colour. At baptism he was named as ‘of an unknown father,’ and so considered illegitimate, which placed him in a position of social and economic disadvantage. At the age of fifteen he applied to be a lay helper in the local Dominican monastery. He was assigned menial tasks. The order recognised that he had healing skills and he began working with the sick and injured of the city.
Martin’s love and kindness was especially for those whom society counted as nothing. He himself suffered racial discrimination, he was restricted in what he could do in his own religious order by the colour of his skin. He had a special ministry to the poor and the sick, and to African slaves – to whom he would deliver gifts of drink and food, and offering healing whenever he could. His love and care extended to animals and he has been called the St Francis of Latin America.
We can be often concerned for those less fortunate than ourselves. Does this concern lead to practical help?
We pray for those treated unjustly, those who are on the margins of our own society. Does our prayer lead to action?
In our prayers may we give thanks for the life and witness of Martin de Porres, the patron saint of race relations and social justice.