A Man. A Mouse. A Ministry.
Saint Martin de Porres born in 1579 in Litna, Peru to a Spanish nobleman and Anna Velasquez, a black woman. He was eight years old before his father acknowledged him as his son and agreed to educate him. Given his birthright, he might have become a bitter, violent, and estranged person; but his heart, faith, and energy were poured into the poor and discarded of his country. He apprenticed to a cirujano, doctor/pharmacist/ barber) and served as a medical apostle among the poor. Martin was admitted as a lay helper to a monastery of the order of Saint Dominic. His life was one of humility, obedience, prayerfulness, penance, miraculous cures and astonishing love of all animals and people. Martin later became a religious brother and the spiritual director of the monastery. He was chosen by his community because of his humility, unremitting care of the sick and concern for the poor. Martin’s sanctity and social ministry were so clearly recognized that he has been called “Father of Charity” and “Father of the Poor.”
Legend has it that Martin attracted mice to the monastery because in his compassion, he couldn’t bear to see them starve. He left crumbs of food around for the mice. Martin soon learned that some of his brothers in the monastery were distressed by the presence of mice, so he struck a deal with the mice: “I’ll feed you if you will stay in the barn and not crawl about the monastery.” Legend holds that when a mouse appears, it is a sign that Saint Martin will answer your prayers.
For over a decade, the Benedictine Sisters of Ridgely, Maryland had been aware of the large population of needy people in the Mid-Shore area. Two sisters, wanting to help alleviate some of the suffering of these people, turned to prayer; and on November 3, 1982, since it was the name day of Saint Martin de Porres, these women prayed for his guidance and intercession. Later that same night, a third sister exclaimed excitedly, but with authority: “Someone in the house is praying to Saint Martin.” Stunned, the praying sisters asked: “How did you know?” “Because a mouse just ran into my room,” answered the third sister. So with Saint Martin at their side, in 1983, the Sisters formally began what is today Saint Martin’s Barn – an outreach ministry to Christ’s poor which provides direct service: food, clothing and limited funds for preventing evictions and electricity cutoffs. Ten years later, June, 1983, Saint Martin’s House became a reality – a transitional residence which seeks to empower homeless women and children to work towards self-sufficiency in a safe and stable environment.