Saint Martin de Porres: The Animal Whisper
Today November 3rd, we celebrate the feast of Saint Martin de Porres.
Saint Martin de Porres was also known as the Animal Whisper, and patron of animal shelters,” much like St. Francis was.
He is the patron saint of mixed-race people, barbers, public health workers, and innkeepers. He was born in Lima, Peru, the illegitimate son of a Spanish gentleman and a freed slave from Panama.
Saint Martin was a Third Order Dominican who served the Lord in Peru. He was a very holy man who focused on caring for the poor, establishing an orphanage and a hospital for children. He was also rewarded with the supernatural gifts of bilocation. And the ability to know things beyond the powers of man, healing, and levitation.
He is the first recorded saint known to be funded various animal shelters. To Saint Martin de Porres, all creatures in creation were equally loved, and he inaugurated the first shelters for stray cats and dogs.
The Animal stories
One day, some of his fellow Dominicans, novices, brought two bulls to the monastery. When they began to fight, Saint Martin had a little talk with the beasts, telling them to behave themselves. He brought food to them and asked the older bull to allow the younger bull to have his fill first. The bull obeyed — and even kissed Saint Martin’s habit.
It’s the story of Saint Martin and the mice, though, that is most famous. The monastery became overrun with them, which caused a lot of damage. Mice, being rodents, must chew, chew, chew to keep their teeth from growing so large that they become unable to eat. In response, Saint Martin met with the furry little creatures, beckoning them to the garden, where they met him as a group. He told the hundreds of gathered mice that if they remained outdoors, he would care for them. And like the bulls, they, too, obeyed.
Both sides kept to their agreement, and Saint Martin has been invoked ever since to prevent mice and rat infestation. Martin used menial labor as a time of prayer and communion with God. He developed deep wisdom from this form of mediation. Archbishops, city officials, and students came to him for spiritual guidance.
Despite all the hardships our saint endured, nothing prevented Saint Martin from practicing love and care of all people and all God’s creations. And for his compassion, he became renowned.
Saint Martin’s symbols
Mice: Martin fed the mice every day in exchange for them keeping out of the monastery.
Cats: Martin started the first animal shelters.
Grain: Martin nurtured both humans and animals with the same degree of compassion and love.
Note: There is a book for children, first published in the 1960s, about the story of St. Martin and his mice friends. It’s entitled “Saint Martin de Porres and the Mice,” and you can find it on Amazon.
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