St. Martin de Porres: Community Life – His First Preaching

November 3, 2011

Bro. Ignatius Perkins, O.P. gave the following presentation last Tuesday at Aquinas College in Nashville, TN. Br. Perkins serves at the College as Dean and Professor of Nursing.  Saints Martin de Porres, O.P. a seventeenth century Dominican Friar, was born in Lima, Peru on December 9, 1575 and lived with three other saints, Juan Macias, Rose of Lima and Turibius of Mongrovejo, Archbishop of Lima. Their lives and ministries are the cause of great interest in the work of evangelization, not only because of their holiness, but also because of their presence and importance for the Church in Lima at that time. Martin de Porres’ ministry was expressed through caring for the sick and the dying of his Dominican community, of those among the despised of the streets of Lima, and of those who had no hope. Assigned as the community infirmarian of Holy Rosary Priory, which at the time numbered nearly three hundred friars, Martin applied his skills acquired as a barber-surgeon to the brothers of the community. Caring for his brothers in his community was his first preaching. Martin’s compassion and charity for the sick and the aged, bringing the Gospel of hope and healing to those who were orphaned and homeless in the slums and barrios of Lima, to those suffering from stigmatized illnesses or lifestyles, was his lived expression of the life of St. Dominic as consoler of the sick and those in distress. His influence in caring for the poor and the sick of Lima resulted in the establishment of an orphanage and a hospital for children. Martin also had a devotion to all God’s creatures especially those who were suffering. He had a special affection for animals, which is often displayed in Dominican iconography. What does the life of St. Martin mean for us today? If we have been awaked and informed of systemic changes in our world today, we cannot help but be aware of the plight of the poor, the disenfranchised, the unwanted and the unloved. We find such persons in our families, among our students and colleagues, in the places where we pray, in our neighborhoods and cities, and indeed throughout the world. Their numbers are countless. We know too well that the moral compass of life has dramatically shifted away from a moral ethic that promotes and defends human dignity and freedom toward an ethic built on relativism, individualism, autonomy, and the commodification of the human person. The vocation of consoler of the sick and to those in distress that we find in the life of St. Martin de Porres and which was lived, breathed and embraced by his brothers, finds its roots clearly in Jesus’ own ministry to the sick, to the dying, to those troubled in any way and especially to the despised of his day. Caring for one another with compassion, affirming and protecting human dignity and freedom, living the virtue of charity and practicing forgiveness toward all, valuing the sacredness of human life of every person comprise the gift that St. Martin DePorres’ embodies. Our lived response to fulfilling this mission will not be any easier today than it was in the times of St. Martin. Like Martin we too will discover that we are called to live along the lines of human brokenness, to respond to all persons especially those who are wounded, unwanted and unloved, to our brothers and sisters who live in families, in communities, and in nations, particularly those who live under oppressive conditions that crucify humanity in its flesh and in its unity.1 In this encounter, we will experience the privilege and the grace to see, to touch, to nourish, and to care for our brothers and sisters in community, the lost, the least and the last among us, all of whom are masterpieces of God’s creative love for us. Official Biography: Cavallini, G. (1963). St. Martin de Porres. St. Louis: B. Herder Book Company.

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