Martin de Porres v. Maximus the Confessor

Congratulations! You have nearly made it to the end of the Round of 32. One spot remains up for grabs in the Saintly Sixteen. Will it belong to Martin de Porres? Or will Maximus the Confessor stake his claim? That's up to you and your single vote.

Yesterday, whether or not you consider it poetic justice, John Donne made it past Juan Diego to advance to the next round.

Tomorrow begins the Saintly Sixteen as Augustine squares off against Joanna the Myrrhbearer. But that's for another day. Go vote!

Martin de Porres

“Please be welcome.” As the patron saint of mixed-raced peoples, innkeepers, barbers, and interestingly, public health workers, Martin de Porres invites us in. He invites us to Christ, invites us to love, invites us to be included, and invites us to experience the transcendent God.

Martín De Porres Velázquez was born December 9, 1579, the illegitimate child of a wealthy Peruvian nobleman and a freed African slave. He grew up scorned, unacknowledged by his father because of his African features and harassed for his mixed-race heritage. Neither the culture of his mother or father welcomed him. He spent his youth dodging bullies and begging on the streets of Lima to support his mother and his little sister. Yet, although he was poor, Martin was known to give extra groceries and meals to others.

At the age of 12, his mother apprenticed him to a barber-surgeon where he learned herbal remedies, wound management, and other healthcare skills. He also began to learn the practices of a spiritual life.

Martin felt a call to serve a religious life around age 15 and approached the local priory to further his education. Unfortunately, racism did not stop at the doors of a religious organization, and Martin was only invited to serve as a donado—a servant of the monks. In humility, he cared for the needs of the brothers by service in the infirmary, laundry, and kitchen, all while continuing the development of his prayer life and devotion to God.

After eight years of servitude, a holy leader in the monastery, Brother Juan de la Lorenzana, was more open-hearted than his predecessors and invited Martin to seek religious profession. During the remainder of his call, Martin oversaw the infirmary at the priory. He was widely known for serving all people, from lords to slaves, from those with much to those with little and everyone in between. Martin saw a place for all of God’s people at the table and lived by that belief to the end.

Martin died November 3, 1639, after suffering illness for almost a year. He was canonized by Pope John XXIII on May 6, 1962, and he continues to look over those who care for the poor, the lonely, the misfits, and those in-between. Indeed, he looks over all of us.

Collect for Martin de Porres
O God, by whose grace your servant Martin, kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Anna Fitch Courie

Maximus the Confessor

Maximus the Confessor was a seventh-century monk and a wandering rebel theologian. In the time he lived, Christianity was no longer a small movement of the followers of Jesus but part and parcel of the politics of the Byzantine Empire. In fact, the church had become its own empire of priests, bishops, popes, and patriarchs. Maximus became known as the “Confessor” because he ended up as the Last Monk Standing against the Monothelite heresy.

Maximus was born in Constantinople to noble parents or, as a few sources contend, in Palestine to an unmarried Persian servant girl. Either way, we know that he ended up at a monastery south of Constantinople where he wrote many letters to various Christians, including some at the imperial court. He became known and greatly admired by many people: imagine letters as the social media of the ancient world! But this also brought him to the attention of people in power, who worried that fights over ideology would threaten the unity of the empire. And so began his wandering: Maximus spent his life fleeing persecutions. He and his followers kept moving to monasteries farther away from both Rome and Constantinople until they finally arrived in North Africa.

At the heart of the ideological battle was the Monothelite heresy. While Monotheletes insisted that Jesus’s will was part of his divine nature, Maximus disagreed, saying that the only way that our wills could ever be healed was if Christ’s human nature included a fully human and yet sinless will. He believed this with such conviction that he left the safety of North Africa to debate the heresy at a church council in Rome in 649. A furious Emperor Constans II began to eliminate and exile his opposition—even arresting and exiling the pope. Soon, Maximus was the only opponent left standing. He and two of his disciples were seized and tried for treason, not once but twice. The second time, when he was about 80 years old, Maximus’s tongue was cut out and his right hand amputated because these were the body parts he used to teach and preach. Not long after being sent into exile to modern-day Georgia, elderly and maimed, Maximus died in 662. When the theology he died for was restored as part of the church canon, 20 years later in 680 at the sixth ecumenical council, no mention was made of Maximus the Confessor, the Last Monk Standing.

His feast days are August 13 and January 21.

Collect for Maximus the Confessor
Almighty God, who gave to your servant Maximus boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

— Heidi Haverkamp


Martin de Porres: Anonymous author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Maximus the Confessor: Bopox, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


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46 comments on “Martin de Porres v. Maximus the Confessor”

  1. No locked doors or cold hearts could deter
    Good St. Martin the infirmarer.
    Though despised as mixed-race,
    He dispensed with God’s grace
    Food and healing to each sufferer.

  2. When I was in Vietnam, our tour guide knew of Martin de Porres, and referred to him as Black Martin; so my vote today is for Black Martin.

  3. Overcoming mixed race ostracism and beatified by Good Pope John 23 gives my vote to Martin.

  4. This was a toughie. One leader’s open-mindedness allows Martin to flourish into his fullness. Another leader exiles and maims Maximus because of the strength of his words. I voted for Martin, and am filled with admiration for both saints

  5. I have loved Martin de Porres since first being introduced to him in Lent Madness. His story moves me deeply. However, today I cast my vote for the rebel theologian, Maximus the Confessor, for his courage and his insight, and his refusal to be cowed by the powerful. Looking at the votes cast, I expect to support Martin in the next round.

  6. I was deeply moved by Martin de Porres's story, but then I thought of how Christianity might be different without the steadfast witness of Maximus. I'm going to have to give my vote to Maximus today. The humanity of Christ is so important to my love for God.... what God would willingly choose to become fully human with all its indignities and pain. So, Maximus gets my vote.

  7. What a difficult choice! I will gladly support whoever wins this round and mourn the loss of other at this early stage. Both have much to offer us as guides to a more faithful life. One suffered rejection but persevered to become a blessing to many. The other held to an ideology that has shaped our faith and understanding and suffered terrible human torture. How to choose? Martin seems like the more attainable route, or maybe thinking about what Maximus suffered for his belief makes me coward to the pain. I will attempt to imitate Martin's example and love all God's people.

  8. Let’s hear it for stalwart monk Maximus,
    Who argued for Jesus’ full humanness.
    Though Constans disagreed,
    And his exile decreed,
    Max stood firm as a faithful Georgian for us.

  9. Although Maximus the Confessor could be a patron saint of dissenters from contentous trends in ordinations, blessings, and materialism in church practices today, I feel more drawn to the patience and humility of Martin de Porres, who looks over those who care for the poor, over the lonely, the misfits, and those in-between, and whose virtues are sorely needed today as well.

  10. As the daughter of a former hairdresser, herb gardener and natural remedy maker, I had to vote Martin. For a time my Mom also did care work in nursing homes.

    There are so many folks around us doing deep, deep caregiving which goes unnoticed.

    There is an old saying about housework, it goes unnoticed until it stops getting done. Isn’t that the truth?

    I feel this one.

    There is nothing more hospitable than genuine caring. That is Jesus. 🙂

    Maybe Martin will go all the way.

  11. Maximus the Confessor's story is a clear lesson to those who dare insist that they know the true nature of God and that their way is the only way, and all else is heresy. The "truth" will change as the next Holy leader brings new insights and beliefs. There are many ways to God. My heart today goes with Martin, but my vote goes to Maximus who provides a lesson that the world should heed.

  12. Martin de Porres, for many reasons -- such as his humility, his mixed-ethnic background, his connection to the healing arts.

    My vote is also against Maximus, although his fate was a bitter one, and it feels bad to vote against someone who suffered as he did. However, I strongly disagree with this statement: "Christ’s human nature included a fully human and yet sinless will." That's an oxymoron if ever there was one. "Sinless will" automatically cancels out "fully human." "Fully human" must, IMO, include all the temptations and flaws of being human, or else how would Jesus be a figure with whom all people can identify?

    PS: The term is "mixed-race peoples," but can we please acknowledge racism and racialization as socially constructed categories without falling prey to using "race" as a descriptor? To say that Martin was *regarded* as a mixed-race person is different from saying that he *was* a mixed-race person. I'm not splitting hairs; this is an important point.

    1. Regarding the sinlessness of Christ, the Scriptures and the tradition of the Church both teach very clearly, with Maximus, that Christ is both fully human and completely without sin. This is so because sin is not an intrinsic part of human nature, which was created by God in his own (sinless) image. Indeed, to sin is to act against our human nature, insofar as sin is a movement away from or against God and so obscures his image in us. Thus to be fully human is to be without sin, which is why we look to the sinless Jesus as the fullness, the perfection of our human nature, in whose fullness we share by faith and baptism.

  13. Anyone who fights heresy in the Church has my vote. Thank God for vigilant theologians!

  14. "Give a reason for the hope that is in us." In our day so-called "Christian" white nationalist groups are attacking public libraries as peddlers of "porn" (for loaning out books about transgender people and providing books on sexuality and gender) and seeking to impose by force "traditional values" (those "values" being racism? patriarchy? gun fetishism? abstinence-only sex "education"?). Sound the clarion for Maximus the Confessor! "Christian nationalism" is a heresy. Who profits from "Christian nationalism"? What worldly power structures does it illicitly support? The church has urgent need of her rebel theologians.

    1. Well put, St. Celia! It is way too easy for us Christians to say "Our way is the only right way!" Fortunately, I belong to an Episcopal parish which might be termed "middle-church", or "broad church," and there are a variety of folks who are members.

    2. Yes, Public libraries face challenges; public School Libraries, however, have more demands: neither propaganda nor indoctrination of innocents. Serve that Public and its Youth: school libraries' budgets and duties have no room for promoting lifestyles. Meet the needs of the community.

      1. Trans and gay people are part of the community. Having books available is not "indoctrination"; it is meeting the needs of community members. I would say that "indoctrination" is a term belonging to the agenda of those volubly attacking the vulnerable and seeking to strip them of rights; I would say further that there is nothing "innocent" about erasing "Others" from society. Minors exploring their gender identity should be allowed their innocence, and adults and public institutions should support them in their quest for information and for mirroring peers. That's called "democracy"; that's called "the beloved community."

  15. Yes, Martin de Porres was persistent in the face of racism and led a hard life, but Maximus had far more influence and impact on the church overall, so I'm going with him.

  16. Two great saints to choose from.
    Bad pairing by the SEC. I can think of a dozen winners in the first round who would have lost if pitted against either of these two. Looking forward to this next round and to next year!

  17. Just a note of trivia for the last day of the round of 32. I keep track of which Celebrity Blogger is presenting us which saints. Whoever advances today, one of the bloggers will be out of contention for the rest of Lent Madness. Thanks to both Anna Fitch Courie and Heidi Haverkamp and all the other Celebrity Bloggers without whose insightful and inspiring write-ups Lent Madness could not function.

    1. Thank you, Kathy, for that note of gratitude. Our celebrity bloggers are the lifeblood of our journey getting to know these remarkable people.

  18. M&M battle today! Easier choice than from the many varieties of the candy available now! Martin de Porres gets my vote today because the first words I heard in a Episcopal church were : “Welcome! Would you like to join us in the Eucharist “

  19. Maximus the Confessor's steadfast courage and faith are such important building blocks in the architecture of our faith, and he would have instantly received my vote.
    But the all-inclusive love and service of the kind and humble Martin de Porres won me over to the point of rooting for him to win the Golden Halo.

  20. Once the Jesus followers movement was firmly established, those ruling over the then dominion culture promptly subverted Jesus’s teaching of non violence and love. That culture promenently featured religious leaders leading the charge against ‘heresy’ ie a challenge to their domination. Maximus sacrifice reminds us of the twisted ends to which Jesus’s message has always been put: religion to control ordinary people, to profit from, to do exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught.

  21. “Wandering theological rebel…..” Hmm. “Heretical”? Yeah, ok, I resemble that remark, haha. Let’s go, Maximus!!

  22. I voted for Martin because he seems so much more ;real' than Maximus. It will be a long time before the image of that little kid fades from my memory. Unacknowledged by his privileged pa and scorned by his mother's family, bullied by his peers, begging on the streets to help support his mother and sister, Martin was still able to feel the love of God and share it.

  23. I am almost 68 and I remember alot of things but one memory that is outstanding to me is that I grew up having a statue of St. Martin de Porres in our home, he was a constant. That is why I voted for him today and also in honor of my friend, Eduardo, who St. Martin guided through a liver transplant.

  24. If emulating the saints is a main reason for celebrating them, I'd say it's safer to emulate Martin than Maximus.

    Important as dogma is, it's a dangerous master, and those who appoint themselves Defenders of the Faith Once Given to the Saints tread a hazardous road, full of the risks and temptations of divisiveness, judgmentalism, and self-righteousness. We've all seen this again and again in our lifetime.

    But devotion to the kind of work that Martin did bears abundant fruits of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." And "against such things there is no law," which I take to mean there is no downside, no pitfall, in following this way.

  25. Tough pairing, however it seems I'll get another chance to support Martin.
    But if insisting on Christ's full humanity makes one a "wandering rebel theologian," then I'm on the road with Maximus to the max! Without the Incarnation, without God entering into all human life and suffering and death in Jesus, fully God and fully human, then the whole Gospel is just another myth about the gods, and Christ's death and resurrection mean nothing -- nothing at all. Where would we be without Maximus standing firm in the glorious Truth that changes everything?

  26. This was a tough one. I had expected to vote immediately for Martin de Porres, having remembered him from a previous Lent Madness. But it truly is terrifying to speak truth to power and Maximus certainly did that. To stand against Empire is courageous indeed, and he suffered for it. I did vote for Martin in the end but I was moved by Maximus and his example.

  27. I recall hoping Saint Martin de Porres would win the Golden Halo last time he appeared in the brackets. Getting my hopes up again, snd giving Martun my vote, worthy as Maximus is to advance.