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St. Martin de Porres, statue
*On this date in 1579, St. Martin de Porres was born. He was a Black patron saint.
From Lima, Peru he was often called Saint Martin of Charity; and the Saint of the Broom (for his devotion to his work, no matter how menial). De Porres was the Illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed Black slave, he grew up in poverty. De Porres spent part of his youth with a surgeon-barber where he learned some medicine and how to care for the sick. At age 11 he became a servant in the Dominican Priory.
Promoted to Almoner, he solicited (begged) more than $2,000 a week from the rich to support the poor and sick of Lima. He was put in charge of the Dominican's infirmary and was known for his care of the sick and for his spectacular cures. His superiors dropped the stipulation that "no black person may be received to the holy habit or profession of our order."
De Porres also took vows as a Dominican brother; established an orphanage and children's hospital for the poor children of the area's slums. He even set up a shelter for stray cats and dogs and nursed them back to health. Martin de Porres lived in self-imposed austerity, never ate meat, fasted continuously, and spent much time in prayer and meditation.
He had a great devotion to the Eucharist and was venerated from the day of his death. The first Black saint in the Americas, Martin de Porres died of fever in 1639.
An Encyclopedia of African American Christian Heritage
by Marvin Andrew McMickle
Judson Press, Copyright 2002