St. Martin De Porres (1579-1639)
Patron of Interracial Harmony, The Poor and Sick
Feast Day: November 3
Canonization: May 6, 1962
St. Martin de Porres, born in Lima, Peru Dec. 9, 1579, was the illegitimate son of a Spanish man and a freed slave woman from Panama — either of African or Native American descent. His parents never married, and his father abandoned the family when Martin was young, leaving him to grow up in poverty.
Martin’s mother apprenticed him in youth to a barbersurgeon, where he learned to cut hair, draw blood, care for wounds and administer medicine. Being of mixed race, Martin encountered deep prejudice, but was a man of prayer, penance, charity and humility.
At 15, Martin worked in the Dominican Convent of the Rosary in Lima as a servant. He spent his days nursing the sick and caring for the poor, regardless of color, race or social status. He devoted nights to prayer and penitential practice.
He became a Dominican lay brother at 24 and was later assigned to the convent’s infirmary, where he remained in charge until his death at 59. Pope St. John XXIII canonized him on May 6, 1962. He is a patron for social justice, race relations, African-Americans, barbers and hairdressers.