Martin de Porres Biography

St. Martin de Porres, a beloved Peruvian friar, dedicated his life to serving humanity. Despite a difficult childhood marked by poverty and social harassment, he emerged as a compassionate and prayerful individual. Initially working as an apprentice, he later joined the Convent of the Rosary as a lay-helper, where his dedication and prayerfulness led to greater responsibilities. Despite his mixed racial heritage, he was allowed to take his religious vows. Throughout his life, he tirelessly worked to raise donations, build schools and orphanages, and heal the sick. Notably, he possessed a unique ability to communicate with animals, showcasing his love for all creatures.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Martín de Porres Velázquez, St. Martín de Porres
  • Died At Age: 59
  • Family:
    • Father: Don Juan de Porres
    • Mother: Ana Velázquez
    • Siblings: Juana de Porres
  • Born Country: Peru
  • Died on: November 3, 1639
  • Place of Death: Lima, Peru
  • City: Lima, Peru

Childhood & Early Life

Juan Martin de Porres Velázquez was born on 9 December 1579 in Lima, the capital city of the Viceroyalty of Peru. He was the result of a liaison between a Spanish nobleman and a freed slave of African-Native-American descent. His parents, Don Juan de Porres and Ana Velázquez, never got married. He had a younger sister named Juana de Porres. Due to his African features, his father initially refused to acknowledge him, and his baptizing certificate did not bear his father’s name.

Life after Father’s Departure

After his father left the family, life became difficult for Juan Martin de Porres and his mother. They were poor and belonged to the lowest rung of Spanish colonial society. Additionally, Porres had to face the stigma of his illegitimate birth and mixed racial heritage. Despite these challenges, he remained deeply religious and compassionate. He spent his time praying and often gave away groceries to those less fortunate than him.

Embarking on Religious Life

At the age of twelve, Porres began working under a barber-surgeon, where he learned about administering herbal remedies and dressing wounds. During this time, he also decided to devote himself to religious life. However, Peruvian laws at the time did not allow people of Indian or African ancestry to become monks. As a result, Porres volunteered as a donado, a lay helper who lived in the monastery and performed menial tasks.

Taking Religious Vows

Around 1593-94, Porres entered the Convent of the Rosary in Lima. He started with various menial tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry. He also served in the infirmary, dressing wounds and drawing blood. Despite facing racial harassment, Porres remained dedicated to his religious life. He refrained from eating meat, wore the same robes until they fell apart, and refused to sleep on a bed.

Continuing to Serve with Humility

Porres was eventually promoted to the post of almoner, in charge of distributing money. He would collect donations and distribute them among the poor and needy. Despite facing insults and harassment, he remained humble and dedicated to serving humanity. He built orphanages and schools, served the slaves and the poor, and became a great fundraiser.

Death & Legacy

Juan Martin de Porres died on 3 November 1639, leaving behind a legacy of love and respect. He was beatified in 1837 and canonized in 1962. Today, he is considered the patron saint of people of mixed race, innkeepers, barbers, and public health workers. The Chapel of St. Martin de Porres, located inside the Basilica of Santo Domingo, holds his remains and an urn containing the timber of his bed. Many churches, schools, and edifices around the world have been named after him.

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