St Martin de Porres

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Dominican lay brother. Patron saint of race relations. Born in 1579, in Lima, Peru, St Martin was the illegitimate son of a Spanish knight, John de Porres, and a free black woman, Anna Velasquez. As a boy he was apprenticed to a barber-surgeon. He spent his free time helping the Dominicans in their work with the poor. Eventually he became a lay brother, working during the day with the sick as a barber, gardener and counsellor. At night he prayed.

St Martin soon earned a reputation as a healer. He also had tremendous skill with animals. The Dominicans recognised his holiness to such an extent they would come to him for spiritual direction. They called him the 'father of charity', while he described himself as a mongrel.

St Martin died suddenly in 1639 of a fever. Almost immediately after his death, many miraculous healings began to take place. He was beatified in 1837 and canonised by Pope John XXIII in 1962.


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