Martin de Porres’ example of love astounds us still

Bill Scholl is the archdiocesan consultant for social justice. You can email him at:
Bill Scholl is the archdiocesan consultant for social justice. You can email him at:

St. Martin de Porres, the patron saint of social justice, should befuddle most “social justice” activists

by Bill Scholl

How could it be that a black man so meek and hum- ble should be the patron of a movement that most of us associate with the oppressed rising up, chanting, “Fight the power!”?

When he discerned a call to religious life, the Dominicans would not allow him to become a full monk until many years later because of the dark color of his skin. Rather than resentment, his response was complete self-abandonment. He even once begged his superior to sell him as a slave, rather than valuable objects from the monastery.

Fortunately, his prior told him, “Go back to the monastery, brother. You are not for sale.”

Were these scenes to be shown in a movie, how many activists would cringe? Though canonized in modern times, we moderns do not understand St. Martin’s humble love of others, a love so deep-seated that he abandons himself completely.

Social justice is the Gospel’s guide to restoring right relationship in society. St. Martin is its patron because complete self-abandonment is the antidote to the selfishness of today.

In our fallen world, post “Me generation,” the universal human calling to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” gets lost because we lost track of the score in our favor. We justify ourselves in all situations.

St. Martin mirrors Christ crucified so completely he both attracts and repels. We admire his love for the lowly, but recoil in horror because he shows us our own selfishness.

Soon-to-be saint Pope John XXIII said at Martin’s canonization:

“Saint Martin, always obedient and inspired by his divine teacher, dealt with that profound love which comes from pure faith and humility of spirit. He loved men because he honestly looked on them as God’s children and as his own brothers and sisters. Such was his humility that he loved them even more than himself and considered them to be  better and more righteous than he was.

“Sad to say, not all of us understand these spiritual values as well as we should, nor do we give them a proper place in our lives. Many of us, in fact, strongly attracted to sin, may look upon these values as of little moment, even something of a nuisance, or we ignore them altogether.”

Jesus Christ came to restore all of creation to its original purity by his total gift of self on the cross. St. Martin shows us how to reply to God’s gift of his son by giving ourselves completely to those in need, for that indeed is the best way to fight the power.

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