My Favourite Saint

St. Martin de Porres. Source:

One of my favourite saints is St Martin de Porres.  I would even go so far as to say that Martin is my dear friend.

Martin was a humble lay brother in the Order of St Dominic in sixteen century Lima Peru. He was the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed slave of African and native descent Ana Velazquez.  After the birth two years later of his sister Juana the father a Spanish nobleman abandoned the family.

Ana supported her children by taking in laundry.  So Martin grew up in poverty and when his mother could no longer support him he was sent to a primary school for two years.  He was then placed with a barber/surgeon to learn the medical arts, skills that served him well when he was finally accepted into the order.  Because of his racial heritage Peruvian law at the time banned his entry into religious community.

He was 34 when the superior disregarding the law welcomed him into the community.  In the beginning some of the priests treated him with disdain to which he only responded with love.  He was blessed with a deep love for all people but especially for the poor.  He also loved animals and they trusted in him.  Apparently in his presence a dog, cat, a mouse and a bird were all eating together from the same dish.

He also planted fruit trees on the hillsides so that the poor would have their nourishment.  All this flowed from his passionate love for God.  He would spend many hours of the night in prayer.  Sometimes the room where he was praying became full of light.  Would that Martin would help me to at least stay awake during my times of prayer.

I suppose some of my love for Martin comes from the fact that I too am of mixed race.  My dad in his early twenties emigrated from Jamaica and like most Jamaicans is a mixture of several races.  My maternal grandmother was from Northern Ireland and her husband was African/American.

In any case when I feel the need of some special grace Martin always comes through.   There is a story that once Martin and a group of novices had gone on a long walk.  On the way back towards the monastery as night was falling they realized they were going to be very late for evening prayers which was no small issue in this strict monastery.  Miraculously they were home with time to spare.

So sometimes when I’m driving somewhere important and running late I ask Martin to get me there safely and on time and he usually does, but don’t ask me how.

One November evening there was a sudden snow squall just as I was driving into a long curve down to a busy highway.  It looked for certain that the car was going to crash sliding backwards against the concrete guard rail.  Spontaneously and to my own surprise I cried out “Martin de Porres”.  The car stopped within inches of the concrete.  I managed to get turned around and a bit shaken drove down and eased into the flowing traffic thanking Martin as I continued on my way.

I could go on with other stories of Martin’s care and protection of me, however little things that are important to me would likely seem trivial to others.   What I want to say is that over the years Martin de Porres and I have become good friends.  As he loved people of all levels of society and all walks of life I am sure that he loves me just the way I am and that he can help me to be more loving.

Bill Clarke, SJ, is a member of the team of spiritual directors at Loyola House of Ignatius Jesuit Centre of Guelph and continues his commitment to L'Arche.

  • Caroline Maloney
    Posted at 01:52h, 27 November Reply

    Inspiring story of how we are so richly blessed through the “communion of saints”. Thank you, Fr. Bill, for sharing that story of how we can call out to our “favourites” for help and then be assured of their help!

  • Paul Desmarais
    Posted at 01:58h, 27 November Reply

    Thank you, Bill. A very moving personal story. Much appreciated.

  • Friederika Priemer
    Posted at 03:39h, 27 November Reply

    Father Clarke, Many thanks for the interesting biography of St. Martin de Porres and for your amazing experience with him. Blessings from Cologne, Friederika Priemer

  • Peggy Spencer
    Posted at 04:26h, 27 November Reply

    What a beautiful story and sharing of your dear friend, Martin. My Irish mum also loved Martin and named my youngest brother after him. Thank you.

  • Sheila Profit
    Posted at 08:01h, 27 November Reply

    Thanks so much for this. Wonderful information

  • olga Ann Protz
    Posted at 08:39h, 27 November Reply

    Bill thank you for this. To share our personal stories of faith are remarkable in how they help others, yours helped me today! thank you.

  • Beth Porter
    Posted at 09:04h, 27 November Reply

    Thanks so much, Bill. This story is a source of blessing for me this morning.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 13:25h, 27 November Reply

    Thank you Bill!

  • Rodney Bel.
    Posted at 13:26h, 27 November Reply

    He was my wife’s favorite Saint. We visited his grave in Lima and his father’s church in Spain (at a small village called Pores)

  • Charles Pottie-Pâté
    Posted at 13:56h, 27 November Reply

    thanks Bill for this inspiring reflection on Martin de Porres. He’s one of my favorite saints too… he’s one of early canonized saints from South America….. and he loved the poor and marginalized…..

  • Rosemary McGinn
    Posted at 20:00h, 27 November Reply

    Thanks Bill for your Stories of Martin.I see how he is a Faithful Friend,always at your side.Know your Retreats and conversations,help me to grow in my Prayer life.Gratefully Rosemary McGinn CSJ.

  • Jim Radde
    Posted at 23:46h, 27 November Reply

    Bill, Thank you for sharing your relationship with Martin de Porres.
    St. Paul,MN

  • doreen mcguire
    Posted at 11:35h, 29 November Reply

    First off was the Artist’s sketch of a face that seems to include an ancestry that looks out from eyes with experience of humanity and journey with God. Doreen

  • Hernab
    Posted at 20:48h, 29 November Reply

    Martin de Porres, O.P. is my twin brother. It’s just that he was born 422 years earlier lol. I am a Dominican Brother just like him, speak Spanish, love dogs and cats, and most of all see all people as beautiful.

    Bro. Herman Johnson, O.P.

  • Br. Herman Johnson, O.P.
    Posted at 20:49h, 29 November Reply

    Martin de Porres, O.P. is my twin brother. It’s just that he was born 422 years earlier lol. I am a Dominican Brother just like him, speak Spanish, love dogs and cats, and most of all see all people as beautiful.

    Bro. Herman Johnson, O.P.

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