Vintage religious icons: St. Martin de Porres
Today we'll learn about St Martin de Porres, the first black saint of the Americas.
Born in Lima, Peru in 1567, he was the illegitimate child of a Spanish nobleman and a freed black slave. He spent his childhood in poverty and prayer. At that time, natives and slaves were not allowed to become monks, so he begged to work in the monastery, performing menial tasks in return for the privilege of wearing the habit and living with the religious community. They soon changed the rule for him.
He was placed in charge of the infirmary, where he was said to have cured people miraculously. He also established an orphanage, and cared for stray animals. For this reason he is often depicted with a dog, cat, or mouse. He is also depicted with a broom, because he considered all menial work sacred.
I was elated to find this old plaster statue of Saint Martin, with glass eyes and feathery eyelashes. You can see the mouse on his shoulder and a candle can be held in the bread basket, though I worry it would damage the paint. It looks very old, but he was only canonized in 1962, so it was likely made after that.
He is the patron saint of: mixed-race people, barbers, innkeepers, public health workers, and all those seeking racial harmony. What a life to aspire to!