Son of a Conquistador
St. Martin was born in the Porres section of Lima, Peru on December 9, 1579. It had been less than 50 years since the Spanish conquistador Francis Pizarro had resolved to obtain his own wealth and power by conquering the Incan empire which was centered in modern day Peru. Sadly, the reign of the Spanish was brutal to their defeated opponents as the desire for gold and political control overruled any humanitarian concerns.
After Juan de Porres left, the family was reduced to poverty. In order to scratch out an existence, Anna began to take in laundry which allowed her to house, clothe, and feed her family. Despite the family's struggles to survive, St. Martin developed a kind heart toward the poor. Even at a young age, he would give to others in need out of the scarcity that was his.
The Barber's Apprentice
Money was still very tight and Anna wanted to have her son apprenticed as soon as possible. Soon after turning 12, the father arranged for young St. Martin to be the apprentice of a barber named Marcel de Rivero. Back then barbers did much more than give a shave and a haircut. In fact, barbers provided medical services, including dental work, and performed minor surgeries. The origin of the barber pole with its red and white stripes is related to the bloodletting and bandages that were used by barbers.
Throughout his young life, St. Martin had grown in his faith and relationship with Jesus. After leaving home, he continued to ground himself by spending his free time in church or in prayer at night in his rented room. The boy with a heart for the poor decided to keep himself for God rather than joining his peers in activities that were not pleasing to the Lord.
Serving the Dominicans
As he had done throughout his life, he gave to the poor, and eventually was give the position of almoner which gave him more freedom to distribute to those in need. St. Martin did not fail to grow in his spiritual life. He made use of his access to the brothers and priests, and he spent as much time as he could praying before the Eucharist.
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A Lay Brother and a Healer
At the age of 24, St. Martin took the vows of a Dominican lay brother. Although St. Martin preferred to accept the menial jobs, he was placed in charge of the infirmary where he served the ill for decades. The skills he had learned as a barber apprentice were applied in his care for those in the infirmary. He also displayed the most gentle bedside manner in keeping with his kind nature.
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Healing the Archbishop
At one point in time, Feliciano de la Vega Padilla had been selected as the next archbishop of Mexico. The bishop (for he had already been consecrated a bishop) was traveling to his new diocese when he became ill while staying at the residence of the bishop of Lima. The illness became very serious, and it appeared that he would die as the doctors had given up all hope of a cure.
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Feast Day: November 3 (Memorial)
Patron of African-Americans
Patron against rats
Patron of barbers
Patron for social justice
Patron of hair stylists
Patron of the poor
Patron of public schools
Patron of race relations
Patron of racial harmony