I am just a poor mulatto–sell me.

Saint Martin de Porres, upon learning of the financial hardships facing his Dominican priory.

Today, November 3, is the feast day of St. Martin de Porres. Born in Lima Peru, in 1579, he died on this date in 1639. He was canonized by Pope John XXIII in 1962. He is recognized as the first black canonized saint in the Western Hemisphere. He was a mulatto Dominican brother. He is among other things, the

St Martin de Porres "Saint of the Broom"

patron saint of barbers, and the patron saint of the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi. Known also as St. Martin of Charity because of his work among the poor, and “the Saint of the broom” because of his devotion to work. His mother, a free woman of color when he was born, had been a slave; his father was a Spanish merchant.

At the age of ten, when his mother could not support him, Martin was apprenticed to a surgeon-barber. It was during this time that he learned to care for the sick and others. He greatly enjoyed the work.

Later, he became a servant at Lima’s Dominican priory. He chose at a young age to live a life of poverty, piety, and austerity while serving others. He spent hours at night in prayer. It is said that one night as Martin prayed before the Blessed Sacrament, the step of the altar on which he was kneeling caught fire. He remained where he was, seemingly oblivious to the conflagration.

Martin felt the call to the Dominican order; however, the order at the time had a rule that “no black person may be received to the holy habit or profession of our order.” Martin continued to work at the priory, displaying patience and compassion with the sick.

Soon miracles were being attributed to Martin. It was said that he could cure the seriously ill with just a cup of water.

He is said to have passed through locked doors to care for the ill. Though he never left Lima, he was seen elsewhere, in Mexico, Africa, China, and Japan.

In Lima, Martin de Porres built an orphanage and school. A vegetarian, he also cared for animals and founded a shelter for dogs and cats.

Impressed by Martin’s piety and the miracles, the Dominicans dropped their racial restrictions and welcomed him fully into the order.

During his lifetime, Martin was a close friend of both St John Macias and St Rose of Lima.

Martin de Porres died in Lima, Peru, on November 3, 1639. He was beatified in 1837 by Pope Gregory XVI and canonized in 1962 by Pope John XXIII. In addition to being the patron saint of barbers, he is the patron saint of mixed-race people and all those seeking interracial harmony.

Martin de Porres is widely revered throughout the world, but has been especially embraced by the African-American Catholic community. In 1936, the Southern Dominican Province of the USA built the St Martin de Porres Shrine in South Carolina, along with a school and a church to serve the African-American community. Now known as the St Martin de Porres Shrine and Institute, the establishment was relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, in 2001.

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