Saturday, November 5, 2011

Good St Martin de Porres

I heard Mass of St Martin de Porres, juxta formam ordinariam, on Thursday the 3rd; I read Lauds of his feast to-day, according to the pre-Conciliar Dominican Calendar and Breviary, while waiting to go to confession.  How good to have a Saint twice over, to be an intercessor and support!  (It reminds me of a few years ago, when I kept Epiphany twice – once transferred to the Sunday, once on the 6th of January itself – and also Christmas twice! – once according to the Gregorian, and once the Julian Calendar.)

I am reminded again of one of great St Martin's miracles, worked here in Australia some decades ago: a lady, unsure of whether to accept a proposal of marriage (having been jilted before), came out from the confessional, knelt down to pray, turning all this over in her mind, and looking up beheld none other than St (or as he was then, Blessed) Martin kneeling in front of her: he sagely nodded his head to confirm the verdict of Providence on her suitor's suitability, and then, when she looked away, disappeared.  She and her husband lived a long and happy marriage ere they too passed into eternity – pray for them – and their son is now a Dominican priest.

The Collect of St Martin in the Dominican Rite:

Deus, humilium celsitudo, qui beatum Martinum Confessorem tuum ad cælestia regna transire fecisti: ejus meritis et intercessione concede nos ejus humilitatem ita imitari in terris, ut cum ipso exaltari mereamur in cælis. Per...

(O God, exaltation of the humble, Who didst make blessed Martin Thy Confessor to pass over to the heavenly kingdom: by his merits and intercession grant us so to imitate his humility on earth, that with him we may merit to be exalted in heaven. Through...)

I like the way this collect plays on the contrast between humility and exaltation (humilium celsitudo... humilitatem... exaltari) and also the interesting manner in which "kingdom", "earth" and "heaven" are in fact all plurals in the Latin (regna... terris... cælis).

The Lord solemnly warned us, "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled: and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted" ( St Matthew xxiii, 12) – and again, "Because every one that exalted (or exalteth*) himself shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" ( St Luke xiv, 11 and xviii, 14b*): I am proud, and must learn the way of humility – which is but the way of reason, since what have I to boast about?  Whatever I have, I have received from the Lord.  As the Apostle put it, "Or what hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" (I Cor. iv, 7).  As the Forerunner taught, "He must increase: but I must decrease" (St John iii, 30).  The very word humility is derived from humus, the earth, from which we come and to which we shall return: to be humble is but to acknowledge the truth of our finitude.  Pride, as well as being the deadly sin at the root of all, is stupid foolishness, mere braggadocio, pretending to what is not really in our possession.  Yet so hard it is to eradicate it!

St Martin de Porres, pray for us.

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