By Colleen Pressprich
On November 3 the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Martin de Porres. While lesser known than his good friend, St. Rose of Lima, St. Martin is a saint all kids should know.
All About Saint Martin de Porres
Juan Martin de Porres Velazquez, or Martin as he would be known, was born in 1579 in Lima, Peru, the mixed-race son of Ana Velazquez, a freed slave, and Don Juan, a Spanish nobleman. Raised in poverty after his father abandoned the family (Martin had a sister named Juana), Martin bore the double stigma of being illegitimate and mulatto. When he was old enough, he was apprenticed to a barber/surgeon and learned how to practice medicine.
Feeling called to religious life, Marine began volunteering with the Dominicans at 15. He worked in the kitchen, did the laundry, and cared for the sick brothers. Then, when he was old enough, he was apprenticed to a barber/surgeon and learned how to practice medicine.
Martin wasn’t allowed to join the Dominican Order as a full brother because of his mixed-race status. He was, however, allowed to become an oblate, a lay brother, and even this was an exception made because Martin was exceptional.
Martin continued to serve in many capacities. He was known for his constant prayer and deep devotion to the Eucharist. He always cared for the poor, ministering especially to the enslaved Africans who arrived in Lima. Even during his lifetime, stories of his healings abounded.
When Martin died in 1639, his funeral was public and held with great honor. He was beatified in 1837 and canonized in 1962.
St. Martin is usually depicted with a broom, a symbol of his willingness to serve, and with a dog (or sometimes a mouse) for his kindness to animals.
Lessons for Kids from St. Martin’s Life
St. Martin’s life offers many lessons for children and adults alike. For my kids, when we learn about St. Martin, I focus on the fact that during his lifetime Martin was mistreated and suffered many injustices. He could have easily let those make him cynical or turn him away from God, but instead, he chose to love, to heal, and to serve. He’s the role model I want for my kids in a world that doesn’t always teach humility.
The second lesson that I touch on alongside this is that injustice still exists today. I talk with my kids about the importance of seeing people for who they are, not how they look, and remembering that every person is made in the image and likeness of God. This is something that Martin lived, even if he did not always experience it himself.
Finally, and most importantly, St. Martin offers a beautiful example of a life given in service to the Lord and one’s fellow human beings. His life was centered on prayer, and especially the Eucharist. I want them to remember that all of his service flowed from Jesus being the first priority in his life. We talk about the different ways they can love God and the ways they can love each other well.
Ways to Celebrate the Feast of St. Martin de Porres
There are lots of great ways to celebrate St. Martin’s feast. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Find a way to serve: Take some time to do a family service project, whether it’s cleaning up trash at a playground, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or visiting the elderly at your local nursing home.
Head to mass or adoration: Visit Christ in the Eucharist in whatever way you can to honor a man who had a deep and abiding love of Christ in the True Presence.
Colleen Pressprich is a homeschooling mom of five and the author of Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children, The Women Doctors of the Church, and The Jesse Tree For Families. You can learn more about her, order her books, and read more of her writing at elevatortoheaven.com.