Today and tomorrow, we’ll look at a pair of American saints from the Roman Catholic tradition that share a date (tomorrow’s) in the Episcopal calendar: Martin de Porres and Rosa of Lima. Both are Peruvian, both have connections to the Dominican Order (more on that later this week) but they are not the same person. Neither do they share the same charisms, witness or meaning for the church. So, consider it a certain Late2Church brand of justice for us to tease out their stories a bit and present them as the individuals that they are.
Sts. Martin and Rose (Rosa) were, in fact, contemporaries, but it is unclear whether or not they ever met. I don’t really have a sense of the reality of Lima, Viceroyalty of Peru in the late 16th century, but the fact that they come from different classes, and were of different genders, suggests that they may not have ever met.
Martin was born the illegitimate son of a Spanish colonialist and a slave of either african or indigeounous decent. Raised by a single mother and of mixed heritage, he was a perpetual parriah not only within the sucular communities of his father and his mother, but also within the church of his day. The Dominican Order was not even willing to accept the vows of those of mixed race . . . strange.
Yet, Martin persisted. After years of living his vocation as a barber and laborer (rather than a monk) he was finally accepted as a Dominican Friar. Sadly this was not, however, out of a general change of hear on the part of the Dominicans, but rather thanks to the willing direguard of convention and rule by the local superior.
So, what was the effect? During Martin’s lifetime, many reported the miraculous cures recieved by his hand (recall that in his era, barbers and doctors were more closely related than they are today). Moreover, the devotion to St. Martin among those of American and mixed-race decent is a tribute to the importance that we all should place on the notion that those mariginalized by society (even Church society) can be powerful witnesses for the Gospel.
Sermon at Christ Church Cathedral: