As we celebrate today the feast of the patron saint of our Southern Dominican Province, Saint Martin de Porres, I find myself thinking about our self-image and self-esteem. Why? Because Martin de Porres was just about at the bottom of the social pile in his time and place. He was an illegitimate mulatto—his father a Spanish military officer in 16th century Peru and his mother a freed black slave who was unmarried at the time of Martin’s conception and birth. And yet, despite those social handicaps, God showered upon this chosen man great gifts of heart and soul. He was hired by the Dominican friars in one of their priories in Lima as a sort of janitor and general factotum. Because of his great concern for, and kindness to, the poor who came to the priory for assistance, his fame spread as a very charitable man and a holy one. The friars wanted him to enter the Order and become a friar himself. Martin thought that that was far above him and refused to consider it. But their persistence finally prevailed and he entered the Order and made religious vows as a brother, not a priest. Today, much of the world knows the name of Saint Martin de Porres; very few people could name any of his superiors or the priests with whom he lived.
Here in the priory where I live, we have in our beautiful patio between the church and our rectory a larger-than-life-sized bronze statue of Saint Martin. I often think with a chuckle how amazed he would have been had it been revealed to him during his lifetime that one day he would be canonized as a saint, and that far to the north, in a region called Texas and a city yet to be founded or named at all, a statue of him would be erected and venerated by his Dominican confreres and many of the laypeople to whom they ministered. Inside the church, there is a stained glass window that was placed there when the church was built in 1933 and Saint Martin was Blessed Martin. The window has never been corrected and still reads “Blessed Martin de Porres.” He was canonized by Pope [Saint] John XXIII in 1962—quite recently as church history goes.
Back to self-image: how does God regard us? Is he pleased with us? Just because some people flatter us, let’s be careful not to put much stock in that. God does not see as man sees; man considers the external surface; God looks into the heart. So let us study the gospels constantly and do our best to model our lives—thoughts, words, and actions—upon them. God’s opinion of us is the only one that is of any real importance. And Our Lord says to us, “If you love me, keep my commandments. Then my Father will love you and we will come to you and make our abode with you.” THAT is the kind of divine opinion we should strive for and the union with God that we should do our best to achieve. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.