Martin de Porres was the unwanted child of a Spanish grandee and a freed African slave. He was born in Lima, Peru in 1579 just forty years after the bloody destruction of the Inca Empire. He was an unusual, bright and gifted child with a mystical bond with nature. Even in early childhood he was fascinated by plants and felt that plants had healing properties.

     Martin pretty much raised himself and on his own apprenticed to a surgeon so that he would have a trade. When only fifteen years old he began his long relationship with the Dominican Order beginning as a tertiary and later becoming a brother with vows. Martin had a deep longing for God and an overwhelming desire to help all who were poor and destitute.

     Because of his lonely difficult and often painful childhood he was compassionate and generous with every one. Once he joined the Dominican order and because of his early training with the surgeon he doctored Limas, sick people and animals alike. He saw no difference. To Martin all living beings were sacred and he loved and ministered to each the same.

Martin the Herbalist

     Because of his great love for the natural world and his attunement to plants and their healing properties he became an herbalist. Surgery in his day was quite primitive so he began treating illness with herbs and became a master herbalist. With his herbs he treated ailments ranging from infections and fevers to intestinal disorders, parasites and even sprains and fractured bones. He offered his services as a doctor and herbalist free of charge and distributed many thousands of dollars worth of food and clothing to the poor each week-all of which he begged from wealthy families. He founded an orphanage for homeless children and staffed it with the best teachers, nurses and guardians he could find. On the hills of Lima he planted orchards to feed the poor.

     Martin wore the oldest clothing he could find and spent many hours a day in prayer sleeping very little. He was known by his Dominican brothers as the "flying brother," because he was seen on many occasions because he often bilocated in distant places like Japan and Africa and the Philippines, where he was seen by Peruvian merchants who knew him. He would sit before the chapel altar and was often seen there floating several feet above the chapel floor. He was gifted with prophecy and clairvoyance.

Martin Opens a Hospital for Animals

     Martin loved animals, and like St. Francis of Assisi considered them children of God. He cared for them with the same tenderness and reverence with which he treated his human charges, mixing herbal formulas for them and performing surgery when necessary. Like St. Francis his love for the animals was well known and he could be seen walking along the streets of Lima with a following of animals who were magnetized by his loving radiance. He never passed by a sick or suffering animal, but took each home with him. He would lovingly nurse their wounds with herbs and their spirits with prayers. He eventually opened a hospital for sick and injured animals, an amazing thing to do in his time.

     He died at the age of sixty of a prolonged high fever. He remains today one of the most beloved saints of the Americas

     Since childhood I have kept a picture of St. Martin de Porres (the one you see above) along with a picture of St. Francis in my room. These same pictures now have a special place on my desk at Anaflora. 

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