St. Martin de Porres was born at Lima, Peru, in 1579. He was the illegitimate son of a Spanish gentleman. His mother was a freed-slave from Panama, maybe black but also possibly of Indian blood. At fifteen, he became a laybrother at the Dominican Friary at Lima and spent his whole life there — as a barber, farm-laborer, almoner, and infirmarian, among other things.
Martin had a great desire to go off to some foreign mission and thus earn the palm of martyrdom. However, since this was not possible, he made a martyr out of his body, devoting himself to ceaseless and severe penances. In turn, God endowed him with many graces and wondrous gifts, such as aerial flights and bilocation.
St. Martin’s love was all-embracing, shown equally to humans and animals, including vermin, and he maintained a cats’ and dogs’ hospital at his sister’s house. He also possessed spiritual wisdom, demonstrated in his solving his sister’s marriage problems, raising a dowry for his niece inside of three days’ time, and resolving theological problems for the learned of his Order and for Bishops. A close friend of St. Rose of Lima, this saintly man died on November 3, 1639 and was canonized on May 6, 1962.
—Taken in part from Lives of the Saints, Rev. Hugo Hoever, S.O.Cist., Ph.D., Catholic Book Publishing Company