A Saint for All Creatures

Posted by Pia

As I was researching ideas for a post on St. Valentine's day that related to animals, I came to learn about a particularly humane saint by the name of Martin de Porres, who lived in Peru in the 16th and 17th centuries.

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Drawing by Stephen Foss of Virginia.
In Stephen's own words,

1 Drawing by Stephen Foss of Virginia. In Stephen's own words, "St. Martin de Porres was a man who worked hard, studied hard and then dedicated himself to caring for the most helpless people and animals. His life was difficult at first but he didn't waste time wishing it were different. He used his gifts to bless God's creatures." Gallery Photo 1

Martin de Porres believed in being of service to even the smallest creatures.
Gallery Photo 2

2 Martin de Porres believed in being of service to even the smallest creatures. Gallery Photo 2

The lives of humans and non-humans were said to have been made better by his good works.
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3 The lives of humans and non-humans were said to have been made better by his good works. Gallery Photo 3

He aided the sick and needy regardless of species.
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4 He aided the sick and needy regardless of species. Gallery Photo 4

St. Martin de Porres was never one to ignore a creature in need.
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5 St. Martin de Porres was never one to ignore a creature in need. Gallery Photo 5

His open arms embraced all who needed him.
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6 His open arms embraced all who needed him. Gallery Photo 6

Many refer to St. Martin de Porres as the St. of Social Justice.
Gallery photo 7.

7 Many refer to St. Martin de Porres as the St. of Social Justice. Gallery photo 7.

St. Valentine's Day has come to stand for the expression of romantic love regardless of religious beliefs. I share what I've learned about St. Martin de Porres in the same vein: with attention to the sentiment and values represented by him rather than any religious message.

That said, I'm digging this Martin de Porres guy! While many of us are singing the praises of Mr. Valentine this time of year, I thought it'd be nice to meet this very special colleague of his, whose story is likely to resonate with us animal lovers.

What I find so compelling about him is that his compassion was strong, inclusive and undiscriminating. One story has him gathering up the mice in the monastery and relocating them to a safer place rather than allowing them to be exterminated. He then maintained and fed them -- not unike a modern-day trap-neuter-return program for feral cats! He is said to have healed the monastery dog who had served the monks for years and to have aided a mule whom he discovered suffering in a field -- all while tending to poor and ailing human animals with equal care and concern. He was even a vegetarian!

You DW'ers know that I often speak of our responsibility and compassion towards non-human animals in the context of social justice. I believe that acknowledging the value of another life, and protecting it from suffering, regardless of it's species is as much a part of social justice as are efforts to preserve human rights. Our society tends to focus on what separates one being from another more than on what living creatures share, such as the ability to suffer, the need for affection, and other similarities. Our tendency to place different levels of worth on the lives of "others" causes suffering of every kind.

The story of St. Martin de Porres offers a very powerful message by including our responsibility toward all animals, human or not, in a definition of compassion. There is a simplicity to this that we seem to know as children but then "unlearn" as we grow older.

So for what its worth, I say bravo and rock on St. Martin de Porres! I'm glad that all animals, human or otherwise, have you in their corner.

Oh, and please send my regards to St. Valentine!

In kinship,
Dr. Pia Salk

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Comments (9)

  • Thank you as always Dr. Pia. Thanks for bringing Martin de Porres' kindness into the light. :smile:

  • Dr. Pia, you are the best!! I am making sure a friend of my Dad's reads this blog today. He is not very nice in his thinking about critters. He says we don't have souls. He is without a soul if he says such a thing. I hope he reads this and believes a little more kindly about all the creatures of the world. As always Dr. Pia, thank you for bringing us this insight. You are the best and Happy Valentine's Day to you and your's.
    Love & licks,
    Basil

  • What a great story of St.Martin de Porres! I also love St. Assisi and his story, and his love for animals as well.
    What an adorable drawing by Stephen Foss of Virginia...

    Thank You for sharing all this!

  • Thank you for recognizing San Martin de Porres! He's always been an important and central figure in my family. His work is an inspiration that I try to live up to everyday.

  • Hi Dr. Pia, Once again you are absolutely overwhelming and your blog posts keep getting more interesting every week! St. Martin de Porres, a Saint for all Creatures, is a wonderful person to know about. Wouldn't it be super if more humans would follow how he believes in ALL Creatures?! Life would be so much better for ALL! Look forward to your next blog post! Jan

  • Yes, very beautiful post. His feast day is November 3. Very Lovely!

  • Thank you for expanding our notion of social justice to include animals. It is the greatest moral imperative that we extend our love and service to all life. Whether one is religious or not, the meaning and experience of of being human is similar. We are all looking for that which is larger than ourselves.

  • What a great story of authentic Christian compassion, modeling God's love and mercy for His creation. If we could all learn to be so caring, what a wonderful world this would be! Oh, and thank you for sharing his feast day, its my birthday! Wow! That is something to celebrate! Love animals, EAT PLANTS!

  • thank u vry much for this great insight

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