November 4

Reflection

Yesterday was the feast of Martin de Porres, the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a young freed black slave. Experiencing rejection Martin could have become a bitter man but he did not. Although he grew up in poverty, Martin learned some medicine and the care of the sick by working with a surgeon-barber. He became a servant in the Dominican priory in Lima, Peru.  Placed in charge of the Dominican’s infirmary, he was recognized for his tender care of the sick and for his ability to effect cures. Animals also received his care.  Martin set up a shelter for stray cats and dogs and nursed them back to health.

His superiors dropped the stipulation that “no black person may be received to the holy habit or profession of our order” and he took vows as a Dominican brother. He then established an orphanage and children’s hospital for the poor of the slums. As a man who endured racial prejudice, was compassionate to those who were ill or in need, and was sensitive to the sufferings of animals, he is an appropriate model for us in our ongoing struggle with racism, poverty and ecological justice.

“Martin related to others with that profound love which comes from pure faith and humility of spirit.  He looked on them as God’s children and as his own brothers and sisters, tireless in his work with criminals and with the sick.  He did all he could to care for poor farmhands, blacks, and mulattoes who were looked upon as slaves, the dregs of society in their time. He forgave the bitterest injuries, comforted the sick, provided food, clothing and medicine for the poor.”
From a homily by Pope John XXXIII

Prayer

Ever-loving God, your care extends beyond the boundaries of race and nation to the hearts of all who live. May all prejudice crumble.Help us to find in one another the love to live as sisters and brothers.

Action

Consider the norms by which we judge people. Compare them to the teachings of the gospel. Where do your prejudices lie?

Suggested Reading

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Gal 3:28

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and God’s love is perfected in us.
1 John 4:11-12

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
James 1:22

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Philippians 2:1-4

Forgive my error, and please instruct me, for I did not know that the precept of obedience took precedence over that of charity.
Saint Martin de Porres (to his superior after being reprimanded for taking an injured Indian to his room.)

Compassion is preferable to cleanliness: with a little bit of soap I can clean my bed, but think of the flood of tears I would require to clean from my soul the stain that harshness against this unfortunate would leave.
Saint Martin de Porres

 

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