(Optional) Memorial of Saint Martin de Porres, religious
(Romans 9:1-5; Luke 14:1-6)
St. Martin de Porres has been named the patron saint of interracial justice. He was the son of a Spanish father and a Panamanian (African) mother in Lima, Peru. He knew racial prejudice growing up. As a child, he felt called to be a Dominican friar, but he was not permitted to join the order. Because he had African parentage, it was not supposedly possible for him to become a religious. He did not abandon his vocation but offered himself as a servant for the local Dominican monastery. Faithfully serving the friars in menial tasks, he was put in charge of distributing the community’s alms to the poor. In time he was allowed to take the one vow of obedience which all Dominicans make. He cared for Lima’s sick with his knowledge of herbal medicine and was known as a friend to all kinds of animals.
Martin not only reconciled peoples of different backgrounds but also various kinds of animals. He tore down walls of hateful discrimination by showing love and patience to everyone. Like him people of African descent in American society have waited patiently for equal treatment. Yes, some have demonstrated openly their disgust with being treated with suspicion and contempt. And there is a disproportionate amount of social pathology in African-American communities. But most of the people there work hard and deserve to be duly respected.
In today’s first reading St. Paul writes of the Jews as his “own people.” Becoming a Christian, he did not forsake identifying himself with his nationality. Likewise, we need not imagine a color-blind American society. African-Americans have a culture and a tradition that have helpfully contributed to American life. They should not be considered inferior but should enjoy equal dignity with citizens from other backgrounds.