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True Saints: Making life better for all

True Saints: Making life better for all

Commemoration of Martin de Porres, Rosa de Lima and Toribio de Mogrovejo

Stretch out your hand to the poor,

so that your blessing may be complete.

Give graciously to all the living;

do not withhold kindness even from the dead.

Do not avoid those who weep,

but mourn with those who mourn.

Do not hesitate to visit the sick,

because for such deeds you will be loved.

In all you do, remember the end of your life,

and then you will never sin. – Sirach 7:32-36

Today’s commemorees are all linked with Peru, Martin and Rosa were Peruvian born, Martin of a very poor family and Rosa from one with more wealth and status. Each became affiliated with the Dominicans and spent their lives caring for and fighting for the poor in a society where the Spanish influence created a great gulf between the haves and the have-nots along with all the prejudices that come with that stratification. There is much to be admired about their lives, even without miracles ascribed to them. They exemplified what the word “Saint” has come to mean — someone who comes into the world and works to make it a better place for all, including those who would be left behind if equality, safety and freedom were based solely on power and prestige.

Turibius de Mongrovejo.jpgI had some trouble with Toribio de Mogrovejo, though, when I read the first few lines of his hagiography. He had been trained as a lawyer and was a brilliant one. The king of Spain rewarded that brilliance by making him the chief judge over the court of the Inquisition even though he was a lay person. There’s where I got stuck. How could I honor someone associated so closely with such a thing? I have read that the Inquisition was not as severe or as wide-spread as maybe my Protestant religious education might have intimated (or come right out and said) but still, say the word “Inquisition” and I cringe. The more I read about the time following that period, the more I realized that his was a path like Martin and Rosa’s, just on a different level. He was ordained a priest and then sent to Peru to be the new archbishop, this despite the fact that he had not been appointed and consecrated a bishop much less elevated and consecrated as an archbishop before reaching Lima. When he got there, he didn’t just sit around the ecclesiastical palace. He actually walked through his entire archbishopric, tending the sick, teaching, baptizing and confirming thousands of people as well as establishing the first seminary in all of the Americas. Now how could I dislike a guy like that?

SANTA ROSA DE LIMAOne thing the hagiographies of all three recorded was that they were chastised and sometimes punished for their following the gospel mandate to care for the poor and unfortunate. Martin himself had a tough time because of his mixed heritage and the fact that his father had abandoned the family when he was a small child, leaving his mother to care for two children without any assistance. Rosa’s family was the opposite, very much opposed to her desire for chastity and to join a religious order instead of marrying as she was expected to do. Opposition seemed to make the two stronger and more dedicated to doing what they felt they had to do to obey the teachings of Jesus.

In this age of “I’ve got mine, too bad about you,” the same problems of poverty, sickness, despair and inequality still exist. We don’t have to look far; just checking the morning newspaper or the evening news on TV, not to mention the social media tweets and Facebook commentary keep the fact that there is really a world full of life-and-death stories, each involving real people and, most often, those people are seen by another group as somehow less deserving or less faithful or some other qualifier.

Jesus said that the poor would be always with us as opposed to his being on earth but a short time. I don’t think he really intended for us to take that first part as a given and accept that that is how it is supposed to be or even mandated by God.

People like Martin, Rosa and Toribio did what they could to improve the lives of thoseSaint_Martin_de_Porres_Church%2C_Tlalnepantla%2C_Mexico_State%2C_Mexico_03.jpg around them who were suffering. They showed that one person could and did make a difference, even if it wasn’t on the scale of millions or even thousands. To each person they helped, it probably felt like they changed the world. We have people who are like today’s honorees-missionaries and doctors who go to Africa to try to fight Ebola. negotiators and relief workers in Gaza trying to bring peace and needed medical supplies, food and water to the suffering, Kurds trying to help rescue Yazidis seeking refuge from a group that seeks to annihilate them if they do not convert to Islam, and others both known and unknown who try to make the world a better, safer, more equal place. Each person is an individual but they believe that one person can make a difference. How much of a difference did it make to Ferguson, Missouri, to have a Highway Patrol captain leading a peaceful march to protest the murder of an African-American, an event that has sparked reactions reminiscent of the violence and mayhem following the murder of Martin Luther King Jr as well as similar actions after the Rodney King verdict in LA. Peace seems very far away when injustice, oppression and poverty abound.

So what are we doing to end the cycle of perpetual poverty and all that comes with it? What are we doing to end injustice that feeds on separation and stratification on the basis of something that a person or group has no control over such as skin color, gender or orientation? Whose tears are we wiping as they mingle with our own? Whose burden do we share because we are all human beings and children of God, whether we share a religious faith, race, gender or any other difference?

Maybe one person can’t change the whole world, but looking at Martin, Rosa and Toribio, it’s easier to see that one person can make a difference to people who were suffering and in need. Like the little boy on the beach full of stranded starfish, maybe throwing one starfish back into the water doesn’t accomplish much but it makes a world of difference to that one.

Where can I make a difference today? I don’t have to join a religious order to do it, I don’t even have to go to church to do it either. There’s a world of starfish out there — all I have to do is toss one back into the ocean that is its home, its refuge, its world. Now to find that starfish…

Linda Ryan co-mentors 2 EfM Online groups and keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter . She lives in the Diocese of Arizona and is proud to be part of the Church of the Nativity in North Scottsdale.

Turibius de Mongrovejo” by User en:User:Polylerus on en.wikipedia The image was transferred from (en:Image:Turibius.jpg) under the {{PD-old}} license tag. Wars. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.


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