An Ecumenical Ministry in the Parish of St Patrick's Catholic Church In San Diego USA


Saturday, June 27, 2020

A Saint Forged in the Midst of Racism and Plague

A Saint Forged in the Midst of Racism and Plague

While on the one hand we continue to pray for the end of the pandemic, on the other hand, we’re perhaps being led to growth patience and greater awareness that we are not in control as a human species of the rest of creation. No matter how much our scientific and technological advances progress, parts of the natural world will remain elusively out of our control. Only God has absolute control, and to God we entrust ourselves in humility.

Perhaps this act of entrusting oneself is an exercise we could do on a regular basis. On top of a pandemic, we are becoming more aware of racial tensions and other systems of oppression, which could lead to more division and violence, or to deeper conversion and healing.

The lack of easy answers, and the elusive nature of a world becoming more unpredictable, could lead some people to experience a long-lasting state of apprehension i.e. anxiety.

In looking to our Catholic heritage, I wondered if there was a saint who lived through similar times of pandemic and racism, to whom we could pray and find inspiration, and I quickly came across a saint in the 1600s who lived through both racism and epidemic: St. Martin de Porres.

St Martin was the son of a freed woman of Panama, probably black but also possibly of indigenous ethnicity, and a Spanish nobleman of Lima, Peru. Martin inherited the features and dark complexion of his mother. The father abandoned the family when Martin was a child, leaving them in poverty, in a society where people of Black or indigenous ancestry were barred from many resources and opportunities.

By Peruvian law, people of African or indigenous heritage were not allowed to become full members of religious orders. Since he could not formally enter the Dominicans, when he was fifteen, Martin approached the Dominican monastery in Lima to become a volunteer.

Martin did a lot of work for the monastery, and increasingly was given more responsibilities in various ministries, such as kitchen and caring for the poor. Then there was a great epidemic in Peru where many people died. Martin courageously took care of the sick.

Martin lived through racism, along with the poverty he grew up with, and later an epidemic, and entrusted all to God, and God in turn transformed his suffering into compassion and healing for others. God worked through him miracles of physical healing, and also healing of soul among his religious brothers who treated him with contempt because of his race. After years of being a volunteer who did so much for the Order, and in whom they recognized such holiness, the Order broke with the unjust law, and asked Martin to profess religious vows as a Dominican friar.

Martin did not enjoy discrimination any more than Jesus enjoyed being crucified. Both, however, had the grace to remain rooted in the Father’s love. Through and in Christ, Martin received the grace that transformed his suffering into compassion and love for all.

St Martin de Porres, pray for us!
Fr. Carlos, OSA

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