St. Martin de Porres
Fr. Scott A. Haynes
Bilocation is a rare and special charismatic gift in the Christian life that our Lord grants to his saints on earth to fulfill some part of God’s plan. Through bilocation the saint is in one place at a given time, and at the same moment, by God’s mysterious influence, is in another place a distance away, where impartial witnesses hear him speak and see him move in a normal fashion. Bilocation is physically impossible on a natural human level. It is contrary to all the conditions of created matter at present known to us. Yet God can suspend the laws of nature which He created to perform some miracle as He wishes.
St. Martin de Porres died on November 3, 1639. He was beatified by Pope Gregory XVI on October 29 1837. On May 6, 1962, three hundred and twenty-three years after Martin's death, Pope John XXIII canonized St. Martin de Porres in Rome. According to the 1962 Missale Romanum, we celebrate the feast of St Martin de Porres (d. November 3, 1639) annually on November 5th.
It is a certainty that St. Martin de Porres spent all his religious life at the Dominican Monastery of the Holy Rosary in Lima, Peru; yet, according to reliable witnesses, he was seen at different times in Mexico, China, Japan, Africa, the Philippine Islands and perhaps even in France.
The accounts of these bilocations are well authenticated, especially that which took place in Mexico City. A merchant who had resided in Lima and was a good friend of the Saint went on business to Mexico City, but before leaving he visited his friend to implore his prayers for a safe journey and success in his business undertakings. Upon his arrival in Mexico, he became desperately ill.
At the height of his sufferings he asked,
“O my God! Why isn’t my good friend Brother Martin here to take care of me when I am so desperately ill?” Immediately the Saint was beside him. The sick man, full of questions about the Saint’s providential arrival, was told, “I just arrived.”
After ministering to the merchant, setting the room in order and prescribing a medicinal draught, the Saint reassured the merchant that he would soon recover. The saintly Dominican then disappeared as mysteriously as he had arrived. The merchant promptly returned to health, and hoping to thank his benefactor, whom he thought was visiting Mexico City, he tried to locate him.
He first visited the Dominican friars at their monastery but learned that they had not been visited by anyone from Lima. He went to the residence of the Archbishop of Mexico, but without success. After inquiring at hostels and inns he learned that no one could give him information about his friend. It was not until the merchant returned to Lima that he understood what had taken place. After telling his story to the priests of the Saint’s monastery, he learned that Br. Martin had never left Peru. The merchant then understood that Martin had not only prayed for the success of his Mexican trip but had also extended his promise by supernaturally ministering to his needs.
A native of Peru returned to Peru after spending many years in China and listened with astonishment as St. Martin conversed with him on the customs of the Chinese Empire. The Saint also gave him a minute and accurate description of a holy Dominican lay brother of extraordinary virtue who resided in Manila, whom St. Martin had met in the Philippines in some mysterious way.
The Saint himself alluded to his gift of bilocation when he was tending to a patient who was suffering agonies from erysipelas. The Saint advised that the blood of a fowl be applied, but the patient objected, expressing a repugnance to the treatment. The Saint persisted, saying,
“I do assure you it is an efficacious means of relieving your sufferings—for I saw it used successfully in the hospital at Bayonne, in France.”
What is regarded as the most substantiated case of St. Martin de Porres’ bilocations was vouched for under oath by a man named Francisco de Vega Montoya and concerns the Saint’s miraculous visits to northern Africa. A man whom Francisco knew well had been held captive in Barbary. Many times, he saw the Saint carrying out his mission of mercy among the captives: caring for the sick, comforting the afflicted, clothing the naked and encouraging the prisoners to remain steadfast in their faith. After regaining his liberty, the man travelled to Spain, and after a time journeyed to the city of Lima.
One day, while visiting the monastery of the Dominican friars, he spied Brother Martin. Rushing up to him, he thanked the Saint for all his acts of kindness in Africa, but the Saint merely motioned for him to be quiet. When they were alone, the Saint begged the man not to mention his presence in Africa to anyone. The man later learned from one of the Saint’s companions the supernatural nature of the Saint’s visits. With enthusiasm he went about telling everyone of the supernatural grace afforded the humble lay brother.
On the lighter side, often we see Martin pictured in his Dominican habit holding a broom, with a mouse and dog at his feet. There is an interesting anecdote about mice. One time there seemed to be a mouse "convention" in the wardrobe room of the monastery, where they feasted on the finest linen garments and sheets, leaving the old ones untouched.
Some of the monks wanted to poison the rodents, but Martin would not hear of it. One day he caught a little mouse and held him gently, and said,
"Little brother, why are you and your companions doing so much harm to the things belonging to the sick? Look; I shall not kill you, but you are to assemble all your friends and lead them to the far end of the garden. Every day I will bring you food if you leave the wardrobe alone."
After Martin let go of the mouse, there was scurrying from every nook and cranny and the procession started towards the monastery garden. Martin, tall and slender, with long strides, led the mice to their new home. Every day he brought them a meal and no mouse ever set claw or tooth in the monastery wardrobe.
Martin's renown grew and people outside of Lima - commoners and ecclesiastics - began coming to him for spiritual counseling, material aid, prayers, and cures. Although Martin wished to remain obscure, he continued because he saw it as the will of God.
In January of 1639 when Martin was sixty, he became very ill with chills, fevers, tremors and agonizing pain. He had several bouts of illness throughout the year and told his fellow monks that this would be his last illness. When his time had come and lay dying, he was tormented by the Devil who was making his final and vile attempt to obtain the pure soul of Martin himself.
The struggle continued unmercifully as the evil one tried to trick and persuade Martin into believing he had wasted his life on fruitless works and prayers. Between these battles, though Martin continued to have ecstasies where the Blessed Mother, St. Dominic, and St. Vincent Ferrer, and other saints and angels appeared to him.
When death was imminent, he asked for Viaticum and the Last Sacraments. As the Salve Regina was sung and the Creed intoned, the crucifix which Martin had been holding slipped out of his hands and his soul departed his body. It was around 9:00 P.M., November 3, 1639, in the Rosary Priory. After the prayers of the monks were completed, they looked through Martin's meager possessions and came across a new tunic. Father Barbazan then remembered Martin's words,
"This is the habit I am to be buried in."
For a "poor mulatto," Martin's funeral was that of a high ranking official, rather than a humble Dominican Friar. The cortege consisted of religious and friends of the monastery, the Chapter of the Cathedral, superiors of monasteries, lay dignitaries, and military officials. Father Gaspar de Saldana, the Prior, officiated, and Martin's body was borne by four of his most intimate friends - the Viceroy, the Archbishop of Mexico, the Bishop of Cuzco, and John de Penafiel, Judge of the Royal Court. Martin was buried among the Priests because he was judged worthy of this honor. Later that evening, Archbishop Felician de Vega remarked,
"Yes, this is the way saints should be honored."