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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Saturday, 3 November 2012

NOVEMBER 3rd: ST MARTIN DE PORRES & I buy my ticket

This small post is to celebrate the fact that, after over a year in England for chemotherapy and its aftermath, I have just bought my ticket back to Peru and to the monastery of Pachacamac.  In one of those coincidences that are common in the Christian life, today is November 3rd, the Feast (Solemnity in Peru) of St Martin de Porres.   

When I lived up in northern Peru, I used to stay with the Dominicans in Lima.   Their Convento Santo Domingo has many memories of St Martin.   His cell is now a chapel, and there is a statue of him, made, it is said, by someone who had known him.   He is large, powerfully built, his dark brown face with a high forehead and European nose and lips.    His father was a Spanish hidalgo and his mother was a freed African slave from Panama.   His father did not recognise his illegitimate son until the boy was thirteen, and the baptistery registry in Lima Cathedral tells us that his father was unknown.   However, he had him apprenticed to a pharmacy when he was sixteen.   Martin entered the Convento at nineteen as a doorman/ oblate.   Only after many years was he made a lay brother because his father insisted on it; but only on the condition that he was allowed to keep the lowest place.   There are several scenes where his miracles took place, one where he and St John Masias, another Dominican lay brother, did a miracle together.   In the sacristy is a crucifix high on the wall, One day, the Prior sent a brother to fetch Brother Martin.   Martin was in an extasy, floating in the air and kissing the feet of the crucified Christ.     St Martin also practised bi-location.   Perhaps his best known characteristic was his effect on animals.   There is a famous scene of a dog, a cat and a mouse, all drinking milk from the same bowl.   On one occasion, the Prior put him under obedience not to work any more miracles because they were disrupting the community.  Of course, he obeyed.   However, he was not principally famous for his miracles but for his great charity for the poor, putting beggars up in his bed, feeding and clothing them.  He used what was given to him by grateful people for the good of the poor, bought an orchard for the street children which became their property, and he always treated poor people free of charge.   Being always humble, nevertheless, he was put in charge of the health of the whole Dominican community in Lima and of the workmen and their families on the considerable estates of the convent.   H e was not meek and mild whenever he saw someone mistreating slaves, and he once tried to sell himself in a slave ship instead of another black man who was to be separated from his family.   Martin died when he was sixty.   You might suppose that the Dominicans were very happy to have a lay brother like St Martin in their community.   Some were, but some resented his fame and the fact that when the doorbell rang, it was more often for him than for themselves.   They were all against slavery, but some thought black people should know their place.   The paradox is, then as now, that although Martin always sought the lowest place, he is the most famous Peruvian of all time, and nobody can remember their names.


Now, back to my community whose photo you can see at the top of this post.   Let me introduce you to them.   From left to right:  the first, with the beard, is Father Luis, the first Peruvian in history to be solemnly professed as a Benedictine monk inside Peru and the only other priest beside myself.  He is superior of the monastery while I am away.   The next is me, in my pre-beard and pre-chemotherapy days, old and doddery, but still game for anything.   Slightly in front of me to the right is Brother Percy, the sacristan and bursar and maker of very saleable artifacts, who is studying for the priesthood.   Next to him but behind is someone in lay clothes who left as a second year novice.  I was sorry to see him go, but you can't keep 'em all.   In front of him, wearing glasses, is Brother Mario, a medical doctor with a brain like a knife.  He has been engaged in defending our legal right to land which speculators wanted to take away from us.  He is also novice master, but is without any novices at the moment.  Again to our right, is Brother Wilmer who is guestmaster - guests (retreatants)  being our principal source of income, infirmarian and in charge of the kitchen, which includes buying food.   He is an ex-nurse who, along with Brother  Mario, makes sure that our diet is one of the most healthy in any monastery anywhere.  Behind him and to our right is Brother Alex who is studying at Blackfriars, Oxford, and has all the makings of an academic and a first class "writer" of icons.   He will be, God willing, the next to be ordained a priest.   Finally, there is Brother Juan Edgar, who is the only monk from the Peruvian jungle, an ex-infants teacher, who is also studying for the priesthood.   He looks after the books in his spare time.  

 That is my community which was founded by the present abbot who, much to his regret, had to leave Peru twelve years ago to take his present position at Belmont.  I shall be returning in early December.  Pray for them and for me.

Not my monastery, American rather than Peruvian; but it does illustrate what we are trying to do:

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