|God, Beyond All Names By Bernadette Farrell
At King's, we have the privilege of gathering almost daily for the celebration of the Eucharist. It is unusual for us to have more than twenty people in attendance. Regardless of the small crowd, the celebration assists all of us in remembering our identity and it provides us food for our journey.
Whenever possible, I try to speak to the saint of the day. The witness of the saints was important in my youth and I am confident that our young people need new (and old) heroes and heroines.
Fact checking is always important. With hundreds of saints listed in the calendar, I regularly get a place of birth, a century or a miracle attributed to their intercession mixed-up. americancatholic.org is a great resource. They provided the following biography regarding of the Dominican friar St. Martin of Porres:
"Father unknown" is the cold legal phrase sometimes used on baptismal records. "Half-breed" or "war souvenir" is the cruel name inflicted by those of "pure" blood. Like many others, Martin might have grown to be a bitter man, but he did not. It was said that even as a child he gave his heart and his goods to the poor and despised.
He was the son of a freed woman of Panama, probably black but also possibly of Native American stock, and a Spanish grandee of Lima, Peru. His parents never married each other. Martin inherited the features and dark complexion of his mother. That irked his father, who finally acknowledged his son after eight years. After the birth of a sister, the father abandoned the family. Martin was reared in poverty, locked into a low level of Lima's society.
When he was 12, his mother apprenticed him to a
barber-surgeon. He learned how to cut hair and also how to draw blood (a standard medical treatment then), care for wounds and prepare and administer medicines.
After a few years in this medical apostolate, Martin applied to the Dominicans to be a "lay helper," not feeling himself worthy to be a religious brother. After nine years, the example of his prayer and penance, charity and humility led the community to request him to make full religious profession. Many of his nights were spent in prayer and penitential practices; his days were filled with nursing the sick and caring for the poor. It was particularly impressive that he treated all people regardless of their colour, race or status. He was instrumental in founding an orphanage, took care of slaves brought from Africa and managed the daily alms of the priory with practicality as well as generosity. He became the procurator for both priory and city, whether it was a matter of "blankets, shirts, candles, candy, miracles or prayers!" When his priory was in debt, he said, "I am only a poor mulatto. Sell me. I am the property of the order. Sell me."
Side by side with his daily work in the kitchen, laundry and infirmary, Martin's life reflected God's extraordinary gifts: ecstasies that lifted him into the air, light filling the room where he prayed, bilocation, miraculous knowledge, instantaneous cures and a remarkable rapport with animals. His charity extended to beasts of the field and even to the vermin of the kitchen. He would excuse the raids of mice and rats on the grounds that they were underfed; he kept stray cats and dogs at his sister's house. He became a formidable fundraiser, obtaining thousands of dollars for dowries for poor girls so that they could marry or enter a convent.
Many of his fellow religious took him as their spiritual director, but he continued to call himself a "poor slave." He was a good friend of another Dominican saint of Peru, St. Rose of Lima.
At Martin's canonization in 1962, Saint John XXIII remarked: "He excused the faults of others. He forgave the bitterest injuries, convinced that he deserved much severer punishments on account of his own sins. He tried with all his might to redeem the guilty; lovingly he comforted the sick; he provided food, clothing and medicine for the poor; he helped, as best he could, farm labourers and Negroes, as well as mulattoes, who were looked upon at that time as akin to slaves: thus he deserved to be called by the name the people gave him: 'Martin of Charity.'"
There is something in the presentation about St. Martin's outlook that struck a cord with me. In brief, I think it is remarkable that despite incredible odds against him, Martin's humility and fortitude created a world of mercy and love for a people who otherwise would have known great suffering.
As I sit here typing, I also struggle with the ways in which I have judged students or others in the community based on their family of origin, their social status, their ability or their ranking in my class. I have often failed to recognize their dignity and my own dignity as a child of God. I have expected too little, set the bars too low and have let mediocrity prevail.
Jean Vanier, the founder of the L'Arche is considered by many to be a living saint. His work to build bridges of inclusion and to establish communities of love, challenges us in our day to live in a manner, which reflects the values of the gospel. If you do not know much about him, a simple search on Google will provide you a library of information. Here is a small piece of his story, in his own words, which might give you some further food for thought.
|Jean Vanier - "Seeing God in Others"
For the grace to see others and ourselves with the eyes of Christ, we pray.
Yours in His Service,
Michael Bechard (Rev.)
Director of Campus Ministry