“Compassion, my dear Brothers, is preferable to cleanliness. Reflect that with a little soap I can easily clean my bed covers, but even with a torrent of tears I would never wash from my soul the stain that my harshness toward the unfortunate would create.”
– St. Martin De Porres, spoken to his Dominican brothers when admonished for bringing an elderly, dirty beggar off the streets and allowing him to take the saint’s own bed while he cared for the sick man.
A Brief Biography of St. Martin
On November 3rd, the Church honors and remembers Saint Martin De Porres, the first black saint of the Americas, who would be come well known for his humility and help of the poor and in hopeless causes. He is often depicted with a broom, and even affectionately referred to as the ‘Saint of the Broom,’ because he considered all work to be sacred, no matter how menial.
The saintly man was born to modest beginnings, the illegitimate son of a Spanish Nobleman and a freed former slave in Lima, Peru in 1569; he had one sister, born in 1581. All his life Martin was profoundly humble, and had a great sense of the magnanimity of God. Even as a child, Martin would spend hours each night in prayer. He was joyous when at age 10, he was placed with a surgeon to learn the medical arts; this path in life would allow him to exercise charity to his neighbor and care for the sick while earning his living.
Soon after this time, Martin became a servant in the Holy Rosary Dominican priory in Lima; in time he was placed in the infirmary to work, having become known for both his medicinal knowledge and the tender way he cared for the sick. At age 24 he would take vows as a Dominican brother. He would remain working in the infirmary, caring for the ill until his death at age 60.
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