August 23: Martin de Porres, 1639, Rosa de Lima, 1617, and Toribio de Mogrovejo, 1606, Witnesses to the Faith in South America

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About this commemoration

Martin De Porres
Martin De Porres

Martin de Porres was born in Lima, Peru, on December 9, 1579, the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a young black former slave. Because Martin inherited the dark skin of his mother, his father abandoned the family.

Martin apprenticed to a barber-surgeon and after learning the trade, he applied to the Dominicans to be a “lay helper.” Placed in charge of the infirmary, he was known for his tender care of the sick and for his spectacular cures. His faithfulness led the community to request his religious profession. The stipulation that “no black person may be received to the holy habit or profession of our Order,” was dropped, and Martin took vows as a Dominican brother in 1603.

Martin was a good friend of Rosa de Lima, who shared his passion for the sick and the poor. Rosa was exceedingly beautiful and, because of her family’s fading fortunes, she feared being married off to a wealthy man in exchange for her dowry. Not wanting this to happen, Rosa disfigured herself. In order to contribute to her family’s upkeep, Rosa took in sewing and served as a gardener.

Her passion for the poor, however, eventually led her to the Third Order of St. Dominic where she became a recluse. Out of her prayer grew a strong desire to do works of mercy for the poorest of the poor, particularly for Indians, slaves, and others on the margins of society.

Toribio de Mogrovejo was born in Spain in 1538 and became a brilliant student of law and theology. In 1580, the Archdiocese of Lima, Peru, needed a new leader and Toribio was chosen. He objected because he was a layman, but was overruled, ordained priest and bishop, and arrived in Peru in 1581 as archbishop.

Confronted with the worst of colonialism, Toribio fought injustice in both the church and the civil order. He baptized and confirmed nearly a million souls. Among his flock were Rosa de Lima and Martin de Porres. He founded many churches, religious houses, and hospitals, and, in 1591, founded the seminary at Lima.

Collect of the Day

Merciful God, you sent your Gospel to the people of Peru through Martin de Porres, who brought its comfort even to slaves; through Rosa de Lima, who worked among the poorest of the poor; and through Toribio de Mogrovejo, who founded the first seminary in the Americas and baptized many: Help us to follow their example in bringing fearlessly the comfort of your grace to all downtrodden and outcast people, that your Church may be renewed with songs of salvation and praise; through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 7:32–36

James 2:1–8,14–17

Mark 10:23–30

Psalm 9:9–14

Preface of Baptism

We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

27 thoughts on “August 23: Martin de Porres, 1639, Rosa de Lima, 1617, and Toribio de Mogrovejo, 1606, Witnesses to the Faith in South America

  1. I think the description of de Porres should utilize different working than calling him an “illegitimiate” son. This is somewhat regressive terminiology and I was honestly surprised to see it still in use.

  2. Collect: It seems a trifle long, don’t you think? I guess that is what happens when you group persons together.

    Readings: This group seems strong and good.

    Bio: Each of these persons need a ‘who they are’ and ‘why they are important’ statement. And each would benefit from a “S/He died in ….” sentence.

    5th paragraph: ‘particularly for Indians’? This refers to Native people of South America? There has to be a better term. Indigenous people of South America?

  3. “Illegitimate” is not regressive terminology; it is accurate description and often bears on the fortunes of the child. It means he was born out of the legal succession for inheritance and, as such, could well have had a bearing on his spiritual and vocational development. As the biography indicates, his skin color set in motion a chain of events that conspired to relegate him to poverty: his father abandoned the family and that, in turn, removed any hope that Martin might even be adopted into a secure future. That he found a life of fulfillment and meaning with the Dominicans is as much tribute to the order’s compassionate ministry and remarkable repudiation of its own racism as the subsequent grace Martin’s saintly life reflected back on the order.

  4. I do not want to be a nay-sayer but I want to express some deep reservations about these commemorations. These three seem as though they are very worthy persons who are venerated by many in Roman Catholic South America and Meso-America.

    Until I read the biography of Martin de Porres, I did not realize that there was racial discrimination against persons wishing to join holy orders. I was under the mistaken impression that the main bias was against the poor joining order, especially poor women, since the families were required to pay a dowry to the organization, though there were exceptions.

    I am especially concerned about Rosa of Lima. I am not use why the self-disfigurement of her face is brought up as though it is something to be thought of as saintly. According to Catholic sources Rose disfigured her face with lye (sodium hydroxide) and pepper and she engaged in excessive fasting and frequent penance. [Descriptions are available at the Catholic Encyclopedia, and are just short of horrifying.]

    Unfortunately, many, usually teenage, women engage in cutting and other forms of self-mutilation and self-harm. It is assumed to be a coping mechanism for severe emotional pain when the girl or women is in an abusive or stressful or helpless position. Even by today’s standards, Rose of Lima’s conduct was self-destructive to the point of being suicidal.

    And if issues of self harm were not enough, attacks upon women are all too common. Cutting off noses, ears and other body parts have been inflicted for centuries. Attacks on women in the form of acid disfigurement of the face of women is making current headlines. Yet disfigurement with acid or lye has been around for centuries as well. In fact, the World Health Organization has defined violence against women as “a major public health problem and violation of human right.” The scope of the problem is almost beyond comprehension.

    Rose of Lima was only 31 years old when she died. Why is that a reason to celebrate?

    Toribio de Mogrovejo seems like a worthy man who tried to accomplish much good work in extremely difficult circumstances. But why is he being honored in the Episcopal liturigcal calendar?

    • Our parish midweek Eucharist celebrated Rosa a couple of years ago and found this a particularly eye-opening experience to the plight of uniquely gifted beautiful young people who want to be about something other than what the rest of the world prizes in them. Rosa felt an urgent call to prayer and service to the poor –but her family and everyone who saw her could value only her physical beauty and consider how that might be used or “leveraged” to get something for her or for themselves. In desperation she was driven to disfigure herself as the only way in which she could fulfill her true calling.
      We took her presence among the saints as an advocacy on behalf of young people, that we listen to their hearts’ stirrings and what the Spirit is saying to them, that we accompany them in their journey with Jesus rather than push them down a road we think is best for them or for us.
      I doubt that the institution has made use of Rosa’s image in quite this way, but this is how she spoke to us.

  5. At the 2006 General Convention, the SCLM came to the Convention, asking GC to approve “Principles of Revision,” with a revision in mind of Lesser Feasts and Fasts.

    The SCLM’s 6th criteria was: Local Observance: Similarly, it should normatively be the case that significant commemoration of a particular person already exists at the local and regional levels before that person is included in the Calendar of the Episcopal Church as a whole.

    These criteria, again, were proposed BY SCLM for their work. The criteria were not imposed on SCLM from the outside.

    Today we have three persons proposed in the new Holy Women, Holy Men. They are Martin de Porrse, Rosa de Lima, and Toribio de Mogrovejo. Can anyone tell me where in the Episcopal Church any of these three have been commemorated locally and regionally? Or, if not, then why was the normatively part of the guidelines being waived?

    • Earle King wrote “Can anyone tell me where in the Episcopal Church any of these three have been commemorated locally and regionally?” That is a very legitimate question that can be asked about many if not most of the persons who are proposed additions to the liturgical calendar. No where in the material presented here is there information about local or regional observance. I must assume that that information was available to those who voted for the persons to be included in Holy Men, Holy Women.

      • Hi Suzanne. I think I have the answer to your question. If you have the book version of HWHM, on page 742, a section begins with the BF caption, “Principles of Revision.” On page 743, serial number 6 in italics is “Local Observance.” In case you don’t have the book version handy, what it says is what Earle quoted, “Similarly, it should normatively be the case that significant commemoration of a paricular person already exists at the local and regional levels before that person is included in the Calendar of the Episcopal Church as a whole.” I think what Earle is asking is, do we know (or how do we know) if the new names put forward for inclusion are, in fact, observed locally somewhere. And if so, where? In Episcopal/Anglican churches? In other traditions? In North America? In other locations but perhaps not NA? etc. Rose of Lima and Martin de Porres are common enough as parish names for Roman Catholic parishes. Some of the others are new to me and, I expect, to others. I don’t know the answer to his question, but it’s not an impossible question, in theory, to answer.

        The “Introduction” to the Principles of Revision (p. 742) is two paragraphs long, the second one (I would think) gives the “ecumenical” leverage for including non-Anglican post-Reformation people. That paragraph says (in full), “The pilgrim Church rejoices to recognize and commemorate those faithful departed who were extraordinary or even heroic servants of God and of God’s people for the sake, and after the example, of their Savior Jesus Christ. By this recognition and commemoration, their service endures in the Spirit, as their examples and fellowship continue to nurture the pilgrim Church on its way to God.”

        Without quoting the various “Principles of Revision” I can at least list them by title for you. There are 9 of them. 1. Historicity. 2. Christian Discipleship. 3. Significance. 4. Memorability. 5. Range of Inclusion. 6. Local Observance. 7. Perspective. 8. Levels of Commemoration. 9. Combined Commemorations.

      • Thank you, John LaVoe. Actually I am still waiting on my copy of Holy Men, Holy Women (It should be here in the next day or two.) The criteria which you quoted seem to be the same as the “principles of revision” in the Report to the 76th Convention. I am sorry but my comment was misunderstood. Information about local or regional observance is not posted here. I assumed that that information was available to those who voted at General Convention for the inclusion of the new names. The Diocese of Alabama celebration for Jonathan Myrick Daniels was mentioned by Michael Hartney. For the most part, we are left to assume that there is some local support and/or observance for each of these names, otherwise they would not have been put forward for remembrance.

      • General Convention 2009 was not presented with information regarding local or regional observance of all of the proposed additions to the calendar.

        The appropriate committee heard supporting testimony regarding some of them – but not all of them. That would have taken days.

        General Convention voted to approve the additions to HWHM for Trial Use on the recommendation of the cognate Committee.

        This period of Trial Use allows the Church, us, to comment during the Triennium on the appropriateness of the proposed additions. And, the SCLM generously has welcomed our comments regarding commemorations already approved by General Convention.

  6. In line 3 of the 3rd paragraph, substitute “in which” for “where”. (The Third Order is a group of people, not a place.)

    Regarding Toribio de Mogrovejo: The claim that “he baptized and confirmed nearly a million souls” is surely exaggerated. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia (not necessarily a reliable source) only claims less than half a million. I recommend simply “many thousands of souls”.

    He is believed to be the first South American saint, and that might well be mentioned.

  7. As this is written it makes no sense. “Rosa was exceedingly beautiful and, because of her family’s fading fortunes, she feared being married off to a wealthy man in exchange for her dowry.” Her lack of dowery would make her less attractive to a man of wealth. In fact, her lack of dowery would mean that she would be married to someone well below her social station. Was tje family worries about her marrying someone below her social station? What the writer of the biography may mean: Rose feared that because of her beauty, her family might seek to marry her to wealthy man in spite of her lack of dowery, and so hopefully preserve the social status of the family, even with their lack of money.

  8. de Porres, de Lima, de Mogrovejo
    These comments apply to today’s Collect, but go beyond today’s towards the end.

    The Collect strikes me as a tad long and a smidgeon disjointed (11 lines of complex sentence in the book). Anything that long needs a period and a breath somewhere in its long career, even if normal length collects are traditionally single complex sentences.
    At the very least, change the colon to a period after “many.” Eliminate the “who” clauses after each of the three names – in most cases people will have just heard the bio read, and if it’s there for God’s sake chances are good that God already knows the information. Then, banish “fearlessly” from between “bringing” and “the comfort.” I suspect I’ve missed something that would explain the phrase, “with songs of salvation and praise” but, in the absence of such knowledge, the phrase seems unnecessary and cumbersome, so I’d excise it, too. I don’t know why the infinitive “help us to follow” should be preferred to a simpler “help us follow” in the resulting second sentence: cut “to,” with the result,…
    “Merciful God, you sent your Gospel to the people of Peru through Martin de Porres, Rosa de Lima, and Toribio de Mogrovejo. Help us follow their example in bringing the comfort of your grace to all downtrodden and outcast people, that your Church may be renewed through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen”
    That would shorten it, but would still leave me wondering how we do that, even if God in fact grants the petition. It seems as if the pattern “A did x, so help us do the same” in these petitions leaves me less than clear about “my” doing x, the whole Church’s doing x, and how ANY implementation of what is prayed for can happen. Asking for something that seems unlikely is asking meaninglessly.
    Connecting the petition to something in the Baptismal Covenant, with an eye towards the KINDS of things done by those commemorated, rather than simply echoing the specific things done, makes more sense. Here, for example, it could relate to “persevering in resisting evil,“ “proclaiming by word and example the Good News of God in Christ,” “seeking and serving Christ in all persons,” “loving one’s neighbor as oneself,” “striving for justice and peace among all people,” “respecting the dignity of every human being,” etc. This way the petition could potentially address every baptized person’s calling (because the Baptismal Covenant applies to all) including those commemorated, but allows for differences in circumstance from person to person. That may seem too narrow a range within which to restrict the petitions, but it might prove more adequate than expected, if attempted.

  9. August 23: Martin de Porres, 1639, Rosa de Lima, 1617, and Toribio de Mogrovejo, 1606, Witnesses to the Faith in South America
    1) I find both the commemoration and the blog submissions gratifying, stimulating and edifying.
    2) Moving the years of their deaths from being a single group, all together (as in the book) to the places they have here (on the blog) is an improvement. I hope this will be a consistent style feature. (Lists of consecutive numbers always tempt me to respond, “BINGO.”)
    3) Suzanne Sauter’s comments about forms of self abuse are extremely important. I hope her point will be taken to heart. As a novice in a Roman Catholic order (once upon a time) the Martyrology was read to us daily, so it is obvious to me that abuses were not only inflicted by others, but undertaken and idealized as forms of “self discipline” (e.g., as mortification, taming the passions, penance, sacrificial offerings for the deceased or intercession for the living, ways of accumulating grace, etc.). Careful critical discernment about this is needed in our devotional literature, for reasons theological, ascetical, and psychological. In no way should we be naïve about taking self-destructive practices for granted – much less holding them up for emulation – when we know there are people who kill or do violence to themselves or others with certain related but extreme practices.
    4) The dialogue about “illegitimate” is worth careful consideration. The prevalence of single parent families carries implications about how we want people to feel about themselves (and their children) in the eyes of the church, as they hear about our chosen “heroes.” True, there is a worse word for “illegitimate” with which we are all familiar, but what would be the harm in using a better term, such as “outside of marriage”? It strikes me as factual without carrying connotations of judgment. I think Thom Simmons’ point is worth careful consideration even though Sam Portraro makes excellent observations about how it played a role in de Porres’ vocational development. Still, that development can be expressed in several different wordings.
    5) I envy Nigel Renton’s gift for spotting important and often subtle things, then succinctly offering the needed improvements (such as today’s “in which” for “where,” and the good advice about “a million” versus “many thousands”). So it’s only with trepidation that I dare venture an objection to naming anyone as being South America’s “first saint.” WE don’t decide who is a saint; that’s Rome’s job. (Actually, it’s God’s job, but that too is still in committee.) Who was the first person baptized in South America who lived her or his baptismal covenant? That person would be first, regardless of canonization status.
    6) It seemed to me that Rosa received short shrift in the bio for today. First, she was introduced as someone else’s “good friend” instead of standing in her own spotlight from the start. (Granted her friendship could be important if it made a difference in how she lived her Christian Life or in the course of her ministry, but that wasn’t developed.) Secondly, I don’t see how the early life details all shed light on the central story here. Is it unusual for a good looking person to be a Christian or a Third Order Dominican? I’m horrified she disfigured herself. I’m glad she could do sewing and gardening. I just don’t see the “Gestalt” in the various details. There’s no mention at all of when she was born, there’s nothing about her younger years, no “story” about the family’s financial situation or its outcome other than diminishment, and the year listed in the title is the only reference to her death. She just doesn’t seem to get a “full portion” of the usual write-up. Beyond that, there’s no explanation of what being a “recluse” meant in that time and place. And, while the bio explains her prayers generated “a strong desire to do works of mercy for the poorest…” it doesn’t say she actually DID those works. (Does being a “recluse” mean she led a life of prayer, excluding contact with the outside world?) It just doesn’t say.
    7) Facts are important and have a necessary place, but at the end of a bio – especially a triptych such as this – I look for a “pulling together” of the overall rationale for the commemoration, as such. Ending with yet another simple fact (“in 1591 [he] founded the seminary at Lima”) leaves me hanging, as a person listening from the heart. It might as well end with, “…when he died he was wearing blue socks.” No connection is made between the facts and their meaningfulness.

  10. I take John’s point part way, but not when he writes:

    WE don’t decide who is a saint;

    After all, “deciding who is a saint” is what submission to General Convention of HWHM is all about.

    We are long past listing only pre-reformation Christian saints and post-reformation Anglican saints.

    I stand by my suggestion that we mention St. Toribio’s distinction.

  11. The Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador, Cincinnati,
    has celebrated San Martin de Porres in November as our unofficial
    patron saint since he was introduced to the congregation in the 1970’s
    by the Rev. Wayland Melton. He represents lay ministry, racial
    reconciliation, the ministry of healing, and welcome to marginalized
    people, among other important gifts, to our community. I would prefer
    to keep his original feast date, but am sure in his humility he would
    welcome a shared commemoration. –Although he would likely consider
    himself unworthy of the company of Toribio and his fellow Peruana

  12. Our ingnorance of the vital life of the church in Latin America datinmg bak into he 16th century is almost total. There is much to learn from it, both good and bad. All tthree are impostant heros of Latin American Christianity.
    There is something to be said for keeping thiem on thair traditional feast days, but I think it is better to keep them all together. This is a traditional way other Anglican calendars have treated saint of other traditions.

  13. Reading the blogs, it seems that in reference to “Guidelines & Procedures” there is some confusion about past work of the SCLM Calendar Comm. and future requirements for inclusion in the Calendar.
    #5 ‘Range of inclusion'[p.743]provides a brief summary of the charge given to the SCLM in 2000 by our former Presiding Bishop. That is the basis on which the Calendar Comm. offered possible new commemorations to the SCLM and through that body to the General Convention of 2009.
    #6 ‘Local Observance'[p.743]was/is intended as a priority measure for future proposals – although it has been informative to see evidence of local observance that has surfaced in blogs in the face of skepticism. Greg Howe

  14. You may want to consider highlighting Rosa de Lima (Isabel Flores de Olivia), and secondarily include the other two gentlemen. Here is my reasoning: her day in my civic dates and national holidays calendar of Peru is August 30 (Día de Santa Rosa de Lima, one of the few red letter days); it has been moved to August 23 in many countries, such as in Spain in the wake of Vatican II calendar revisions. The other two do not have such prominence, though they are important.

    Her commemoration day is one of the major holidays in Peru, on a level with New Years, All Saints Day, Christmas, Labor Day, etc. Her visage is on the currency. I also did some prowling around Spanish sites on the Internet: She is the first Roman Catholic saint in the America, 1671.

    She is a national symbol in Peru in part because when a Dutch fleet was going to attack the Lima area in 1615 (at the time, the capital of the Spanish Empire in South America); she gathered other women and they prayed, and the captain of the Dutch fleet mysteriously died, and so there was not an attack. This was considered a miracle.

    Apparently, she has been considered a symbol of intergration of all levels of society (a big statement, considering the levels of society before the Republic in the 19th c.): which includes many groups, including the following two: a) Instead of the word “indian”, you might consider the words “indigenous peoples,” and b) people in the lineage of Africa slaves in Peru (these folks were not indigenous peoples).

    She is patron saint of the city of Lima and of Peru (since 1669) and of the New World and the Philippines (since 1670).

    I hope this is helpful. I am currently in Lima.

    • As a side note– here is another example of TEC/the Standing Committee needing to decide on nomenclature for those whose names are not originally in English. I think Santa Rosa de Lima’s name should be commemorated as Rosa, not Rose; I don’t know the Spanish for Martin but as I recall it’s the same name but with an accent mark over the I. Toribio is presumably his original name.

  15. As a Hispanic I become concerned when some seem very willing to easily accept English Catholic (Anglican progenitors) and yet then want to put significant Hispanic Catholic (Anglican progenitors) to a higher standard. All should be put to the same standard.
    Hispanic culture in Latin America and even in the U.S. today continues to struggle with castes defined by skin color, the valuing of women by their “beauty”, and the lack of status of those born out of wedlock.
    The actions of Rosa de Lima should be understood in the light of the culture in which she existed. She sacrificed her most valuable asset and the certainty of a comfortable life in an irreversible way to facilitate her devotion to Christ. The commemoration for Rosa de Lima needs to be rewritten to clearly explain her actions and more extensively cover her life and contributions.

  16. These folks walked the walk. Would that my life example should be this effective. They all made a difference wirh humble minds and kind hearts.

  17. I suppose this is a side issue, but I was startled when opening this blog today to find an Applebee’s ad. It seems rather jarring, though I suppose after a while I’ll learn not to see it. Still, I find this a disconcerting trend. Should our parish in Dayton, Ohio be looking for bulletin sponsors? (This is not at all unusual in the RC tradition I grew up in, by the way.)

  18. I have some doubt about Rosa de Lima due to the issue of self disfigurement. The others are fine additional. I am especially impression with the life and work of St. Martin de Porres. Care for the poor and the sick are central to the ratih and should be honored in accord with the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 25, Like 16 and may other hostel and old testament passages.

    Paul, Thank you for your comment. Next time please give us your last name as well as your first name. — Ed.

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