Celebrating Black Saints

Posted on February 25, 2021 in: Prayer and Worship

Celebrating Black Saints


St. Martin de Porres

St. Martin de Porres was born in Lima, Peru in 1579, the illegitimate son of a Spanish gentlemen and a freed slave from Panama. His mother was of African or possibly Native American descent. Martin's father abandoned his family, leaving Martin to grow up in deep poverty. After two years in primary school, Martin was placed with a barber/surgeon where he learned to cut hair and was trained in medical arts.

As Martin grew older, he experienced a great deal of ridicule for being of mixed-race. At that time in Peru, by law, all people who were of African or Native origin were not allowed to become full members of religious orders. Martin spent long hours in prayer. He asked the Dominicans of Holy Rosary Priory in Lima to accept him as a volunteer. He was accepted and given menial tasks in the monastery. In return, he was allowed to wear the habit and live within the religious community. When Martin was 15, he asked for admission into the Dominican Convent of the Rosary in Lima and was received as a servant boy.

During his time in the Convent, Martin used his trades of barbering and healing. He also worked in the kitchen, did laundry and cleaned. After eight more years with the Holy Rosary, Martin was granted the privilege to take his vows as a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic by the Prior, Juan de Lorenzana, who decided to disregard the law restricting Martin based on race.

Martin became a Dominican lay brother in 1603 at the age of 24. Ten years later, he was put in charge of the infirmary where he would remain until his death. Martin was praised for his unconditional care of all people, regardless of race or wealth.

Martin's life reflected his great love for God and all of God's gifts. It is said he had many extraordinary abilities, including aerial flights, bilocation, instant cures, miraculous knowledge, spiritual knowledge and an excellent relationship with animals. Martin also founded an orphanage for abandoned children and slaves.

By the time he died, he was widely known and accepted. Talks of his miracles in medicine and caring for the sick were everywhere. When he was exhumed 25 years after his death, his body exhaled a splendid fragrance, and he was still intact.

He is the patron saint of people of mixed race, innkeepers, barbers, public health workers and more. His feast day is November 3. (Excerpted and edited from Catholic Online)

Saints Perpetua and Felicity

Sts. Perpetua and Felicity were Christian martyrs who lived during the early
persecution of the Church in Africa.

Vivia Perpetua, a well-educated noblewoman, made the decision to become a Christian, although she knew it could mean her death. Her pagan father was frantic with worry and tried to talk her out of her decision. Perpetua's answer was simple and clear. Pointing to a water jug, she asked her father, "See that water jug lying there? Can you call it by any other name than what it is?" Her father answered, "Of course not." Perpetua responded, "Neither can I call myself by any other name than what I am -- a Christian."

She was known for her gift of "the Lord's speech" and receiving messages from God.

She met a young slave, Felicity, when they were both in imprisoned. Both suffered in the stifling heat, overcrowding, and rough handling; Felicity suffered more – she was eight months pregnant. Pregnant women could not be executed – and she worried that she would not be executed with her friends. Her friends also, did not want to leave “so good a comrade” behind.

Two days before their execution, Felicity went into a painful labor. The guards made fun of her, insulting her by saying, "If you think you suffer now, how will stand it when you face the wild beasts?" Felicity answered them calmly, "Now I'm the one who is suffering, but in the arena, another will be in me suffering for me because I will be suffering for him." She gave birth to a healthy girl who was adopted and raised by a Christian woman of Carthage.

The new Christians and their teacher went to the arena with joy and calm. Perpetua met the eyes of everyone along the way. We are told she walked with "shining steps as the true wife of Christ, the darling of God." (Excerpted and edited from Catholic Online)

St. Augustine

Son of St. Monica, born in Africa, St. Augustine spent many years of his life in wicked living and in false beliefs. He had been brought up a Christian, but his sins of impurity and his pride darkened his mind so much, that he could not see or understand the Divine Truth anymore. Through the prayers of his holy mother and the preaching of St. Ambrose, Augustine finally became convinced that Christianity was the one true religion.

Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could never live a pure life. One day he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted on reading the life of St. Antony, and he felt terribly ashamed of himself. "What are we doing?" he cried to his friend Alipius. "Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!" Full of bitter sorrow, St. Augustine cried out to God, "How long more, O Lord? Why does not this hour put an end to my sins?" He heard a child singing, "Take up and read!" Thinking that God intended him to hear those words, he picked up the Letters of St. Paul and read the first passage his gaze fell on. In it, St. Paul says to put away all impurity and to live in imitation of Jesus. That did it! From then on, St. Augustine began a new life.

He was baptized, became a priest, a bishop, founder of religious priests, Doctor of the Church and one of the greatest saints that ever lived.

St. Augustine overcame strong heresies, practiced great poverty and supported the poor, preached very often and prayed with great fervor right up until his death. "Too late have I loved You!" he once cried to God, but with his holy life he certainly made up for the sins he committed before his conversion. (Excerpted and edited from Catholic Online)

St. Monica

Saint Monica is St. Augustine's mother. She was born in Tagaste, which is present-day Algeria.

When she was very young, she was married off to the Roman pagan Patricius, who shared his mother's violent temper. Patricius's mother lived with the couple and the duo's temper flares proved to be a constant challenge to young Monica.

For years Monica prayed for her husband and mother-in-law, until finally, one year before Patricius's death, she successfully converted them. When Patricius died, she sent the 17-year-old Augustine to Carthage for schooling.

While in Carthage, Augustine became a Manichaean, which was a major religion that saw the world as light and darkness, and when one died, they were removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light, which is where life comes from When Augustine completed his education and returned home, he shared his views with Monica, who drove him from her table. Though it is not recorded how much time passed, Monica had a vision that convinced her to reconcile with her wayward son. Monica went to a bishop, who told her, "the child of those tears shall never perish." Monica followed Augustine to Rome, where she learned he had left for Milan. She continued her pursual and eventually came upon St. Ambrose, who helped her convert Augustine to Christianity following his seventeen-year resistance.

Augustine was baptized in the church of St. John the Baptist at Milan. Mother and son were led to believe they should spread the Word of God to Africa, but at the Roman city of Civitavecchia, Monica passed away. (Excerpted and edited from Catholic Online)