Friday, March 7, 2014

St. Martin de Porres

Most humble Martin de Porres, your burning charity embraced not only the poor and needy but even the animals of the field. For your splendid example of charity, we honour you and invoke your help. From your place in heaven, hear the requests of your needy brethren, so that, by imitating your virtues we may live contentedly in that state in which God has placed us. And carrying our cross with strength and courage, may we follow in the footsteps of our blessed Redeemer and his most sorrowful mother, so that at last we may reach the kingdom of heaven through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
As some of you know, I have a link to a novena to St. Martin de Porres on the sidebar. Every single day that I've ever checked the stats, there has been at least one person who has reached this blog by doing a Google search for St. Martin--often there will be 6 or 7. Even when I go long periods of time without posting, I get comments from people about St. Martin--usually something brief. Up until recently, most of what I knew came from a children's biography that I read to my daughter, St. Martin de Porres, the Story of the Little Doctor of Lima, Peru, by Mary Fabyan Windeatt, and various things that I've read online.

Then, a couple of months ago I finally read a book that I picked up at a book sale long ago, Saint Martin de Porres, Apostle of Charity, by Giuliana Cavallini. While I was reading the book, I couldn't help but notice that Ms. Cavallini refers to St. Catherine of Sienna constantly, and so it was no surprise to me to find that she was chiefly known for her scholarship concerning St. Catherine. She was apparently very well know in her field, in fact, there is a letter to her on the Vatican website from John Paul II congratulating her on an award that she had won because of her research.

Her study of Martin is drawn from the testimony given during his canonization process. There was a great deal of information because even though he was not canonized until 1963, there were official investigations into his sanctity very soon after his death when many people who knew him were still living. I had wondered when I read the children's book about St. Martin if it was accurate, and I find that in every case it was.

I started to write this post two or three weeks ago, but there was so much I wanted to say that it was overwhelming. Then the other day, it occurred to me that instead of trying to write it all at once, I could use the novena prayers as a spring board and talk about one aspect of Martin's life every day. I probably won't write about him on 10 (including this introduction) consecutive days, but who knows.

The prayer at the beginning of this post is the prayer that begins each day of the novena. Bill and I have prayed this novena over and over again on our way to work in the morning ever since 2008, so I have said this prayer hundreds of times. It sounds like you typical novena prayer, but it wasn't until I read Ms. Cavallini's book that I began to understand how splendid his example of charity really was, or how very difficult it would be to imitate his virtues. Likewise, the daily prayers seem pretty standard, but I've come to see that they barely give one a glance of St. Martin's life. I hope that what I write in the next couple of weeks will bring him to life for you a bit.

The above picture is over the door which separates the sanctuary of St. Peter's Catholic Church in Memphis from the Shrine of St. Martin. The painting is based on a statue that's in the chapel. I don't get to go there often because it's 40 miles from my home, and it's almost always locked except for the the daily Mass at noon on weekdays. It's a very lovely little chapel, very simple and conducive to prayer. If any of you ever come to Memphis, I will take you there.