Born: Dec. 19th, 1579
Died: Nov. 3rd, 1639
FEast: Nov. 3rd
Patron of: barbers, social workers, hospitality workers, people of mixed race, social justice
Martin was born in Lima, Peru. He was the son of a Spanish aristocrat and a woman who was part Native and part African and had been freed from slavery. When his younger sister was born, Martin's father abandoned the family completely, leaving them in poverty. Martin's mother had a job doing laundry, while he was apprenticed to a barber, from whom he also learned minor medical training. He was only able to go to school for two years, but Martin longed to be part of a religious community.
Peru's laws at the time, however, stated that any Native American or African descendants were not allowed to fully join religious communities. At 15, then, Martin asked the Dominican Order if he could at least be a volunteer, performing daily tasks for the brothers. They agreed, and he continued to do for them what he was already used to - cleaning, cutting hair, and washing clothes. Even then, he wasn't treated well by all members of the Order. He was called names due to his parentage, he was ridiculed, and even some of the priests were known to mock him.
It wasn't until 9 years later that he was allowed to fully enter the Order - not because times and rules had changed, unfortunately, but because he was obviously such a holy and faith-filled person. Martin refused this at first, knowing how much worse his treatment might become, and he never did fully become a priest. He was instead assigned to working in the monastery's infirmary, where he worked for the rest of his life.
While in this position, Martin took care of anyone, treating them with dignity and respect - no matter their social status, wealth, cleanliness, or friendliness. He had enough patience to endure caring for the sick, no matter the circumstances. Martin often took them into his own home, and his sister offered him the use of hers as well when the other Brothers became alarmed at how many contagious people Martin had brought to the monastery. He also founded an orphanage, took care of the enslaved people who arrived from Africa, and gave generously - whether it was physical objects, prayers, or treats! He also raised money through fundraisers so that girls in poverty could afford to either marry or enter a convent. He befriended St. Rose of Lima, and was a spiritual director for many people. When the monastery fell on hard times financially, Martin even suggested that they "sell" him to get the help they needed.
Between Martin's daily chores for the Brothers and his care of the sick, it is reported that many miracles occurred because of him. When an epidemic passed through the town, many of those infected were locked away in an isolated room, and reported seeing Martin come to care for them, passing right through the locked doors. He was known to have been able to be in two places at once, fly into the air, have light fill rooms, cure people instantly, and know much more than an average person.
Martin was also known for his connection to animals. Some say he could talk to them and that they would listen. He often fed stray cats and dogs and excused the mice that would break into the kitchen.
When Martin was 60, he battled a fever and chills with an ongoing illness for a year. He was very well-known and loved by the time he passed away.
Imagine what your life could have been without racism. You could have been loved, achieved, & respected so much more without the hideous sin of racism.& yet you cared for people, animals,& your tasks so lovingly. Help us destroy our prejudices & treat all with equal kindness.
A bird sits on Martin's shoulder, symbolic of his connection to animals. He wears a Dominican cross and his clothing is representative of colors found frequently throughout his home, Peru. He is looking up with his eyes shut - to block out the hate - so that he can rejoice in the faith that he loves so much that inspires him to do his life's work.