St. Martin de Porres is a particularly relevant saint for our time. He had a Spanish father and a mother with African slave and native American blood. He was most definitely of a mixed race. His father, Juan de Porras, was a nobleman who father several children illegitimately through his mother Ana Velázquez. St. Martin’s father eventually abandoned his family, leaving them destitute in Lima, Peru. That this happened in the 16th century indicates to us that family problems are not particularly new.

These days, unlike in previous eras, there’s an attack on the family unit, what we know to be the Domestic Church. Whereas back in St. Martin’s time there was a social structure that attempted to keep family together and occasionally it broke down, today having an irregular family arrangement is rather the norm. Eventually, St. Martin found himself at the doorstep of the Dominican Priory in Lima, where the friars took him in. Unfortunately, even in religious life he felt the brunt end of racism from the brethren themselves.

St. Martin, while he did not overcome these petty persecutions, his holiness shone forth. The friars recount several miracles to him, including bi-location, the ability to speak with animals, always found food for the poor despite there never being enough, and far more. Ultimately the Church recognized his sanctity and canonized him, even though it too more than 300 years.

It’s particularly important for me to bring a relic of St. Martin de Porres on this expedition to Mt. Kilimanjaro. For centuries, Africa was the primary source of slave labor throughout the colonies of all the European powers. Having him with us will give us new inspiration on how we can work toward Christian living through the Sacraments. St. Martin de Porres, pray for us!

Sculptor Fr. McGlynn, OP, works on his rendering of St. Martin de Porres


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