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.
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.
Martin de Porres: Anonymous author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Maximus the Confessor: Bopox, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons