Franciscan Footprints

St. Francis and St. Martin de Porres: Two Saints Shown with Animals: Part 1

Saint Martin de PorresWhen you look at most quick bios of Saint Martin de Porres, you don’t see any reason to connect him with animals.  However, he is often depicted with a broom, dog, cat and mouse.  In most hard copy biographies, the animal stories relay how Martin “devoted himself passionately to taking care of others….If men came to him, he took care of him; if animals came to him, he gave no less attention.”  In the majority of cases, Martin did not go in search of animals1.  It seemed like instinct would bring wounded animals to his infirmary, where St. Martin would fix them up and allow them to rest in his room until they were cured.  From dogs to cats to mice and turkeys & chickens, St. Martin was always welcomed warmly by the animals, as they greeted him with joy, as if grateful for his charity.

From EWTN’s website:
St. Martin de Porres, a Dominican Mystic
Feast Day: November 3
Born: December 9, 1579, Lima, Peru
Died: November 3, 1639, Lima, Peru
Beautified: October 29, 1837 by Pope Gregory XVI
Canonized: May 6, 1962 by Pope John XXIII

Patron of:

    • black people
    • hair stylists
    • innkeepers
    • mixed-race people
    • Peru
    • poor people
    • public education
    • public health
    • public schools
    • race relations
    • social justice
    • state schools
    • television
    • Peruvian Naval Aviators2

Brief biography from St. Martin de Porres National Shrine & Institute:
 “St. Martin was born in Lima, Peru, in 1579, the son of a Spanish nobleman and a black Panamanian woman. Abandoned by their father at a young age, Martin lived with his mother and sister in poverty.

As a youth, Martin was apprenticed to a barber where he learned the healing arts. As a young man, Martin asked to join the Dominicans in Lima. For several years he served as a lay helper, doing such menial tasks as sweeping floors, cleaning the refectory and toilets. Martin also used his healing skills to care for the sick. Finally, Martin was persuaded to receive the habit as a brother.

Martin became widely known for his depth of spirituality, humble service, healing powers, and love of all God's creatures. Martin was reported to have the gift of bilocation. This means he could be in more than one place at a time. As Martin's fame spread, people came from far and near to ask for his prayers, healing, and spiritual counsel. He treated every person with dignity and respect, regardless of their state in life.

Martin died in 1639 at the age of 60. He has been declared the patron saint of social justice. Today, St. Martin is loved by people of many different races and ethnic groups3.”

SassyWhen I first learned of St. Martin de Porres, it was the very first day I ever listened to EWTN Radio: they were giving a brief biography of the Saint for the Day.  When I heard of his love for animals, I prayed for his intercession for a year-old cat I had begun to foster from the animal shelter, only days before.  The kitty was only 3-lbs and couldn’t keep weight.  Skipping to the end of this story, that kitty, Sassy, is now a mostly-healthy cat of nine years living with my Godparents.  (Placement of Sassy was an answered prayer in & of itself when I entered as a Postulant!) I happily claim that Saint Martin de Porres is her patron saint.

Now that we have some background on St. Martin de Porres, future blog articles may compare animal (and other) stories of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Martin de Porres – who are saints for our times!

1Cavallini, Giuliana, St. Martin de Porres: Apostle of Charity, B. Herder Book Co., 1963, p. 139-140.

2"EWTN's Saints and Other Holy People Home." EWTN's Saints and Other Holy People Home. EWTN Global Catholic Network, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

 3"Saint Martin De Porres." National Shrine and Institute Homepage. Saint Martin De Porres National Shrine and Institute, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

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