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Sanctus Martinus de Porres

St Martin de Porres
Fr Thomas McGlynn, OP, 1958, bronze
(Photo: Smithsonian Art Inventories Catalog)

Today is the feast of St Martin de Porres — a lay brother of the Order of Preachers whom we remember for his ardent piety, charity, and humility (an exemplar of the Little Way before-the-letter), for miraculous prodigies and healings, for the austerity of his life. Martin’s job in the Dominican community, as I understand it, was to attend to practical tasks like housekeeping, or caring for the sick, so that the friars could focus on preaching, with all the preparatory study and reflection — the impractical, Pieperish tasks — that entailed. So, we remember this Dominican for just about everything that makes for saintliness, short of martyrdom and other than… preaching.

‘Always distinguish’, say the philosophers, rightly. Preaching, in the most distinct sense of the word, itself requires the use of words — the combination and proclamation of words to evangelize. But in a second, less-distinct sense (itself distinct nevertheless from the first!), preaching is a catchall synonym for evangelization — and under that broad definition, the edifying acts and facts of St Martin’s life do indeed preach.

The visual arts, too, may, in the broad sense, preach. It is fitting that a painter, like Fra Angelico, should be a member of the Order of Preachers. It is likewise fitting that St Martin should have been sculpted by his much-younger brother in the Order, Thomas McGlynn, a twentieth-century friar.

I know nothing of Fr Thomas McGlynn, OP, beyond what art historian Fr Ambrose McAllister, OP, preached in a homily that Fr Pius Pietrzyk, Esq.[!], OP has posted at the website of the Dominican Eastern Province. Dealing as it does with art and evangelization, Fr McAllister’s homily on the saint and the sculptor may be of interest to the readership.

But even the best preaching is not, qua preaching, its own end. St Martin’s much-elder brother in the Order, St Thomas Aquinas, famously declared after a late-in-life mystical experience that all his own writings — all those monumental volumes upon volumes in service of the Gospel — were as ‘straw’.

St Martin de Porres, detail
(Photo: Smithsonian Art Inventories Catalog)

Comments

  1. Awesome sculpture. Thanks.

  2. Now there was a guy who didn’t think he was so great.

  3. Already the Dominican creep begins here at the traditionally Benedictine Korrektiv. (Really, things started to go downhill when they let a guy in who wore the mark of a Carmelite.) I say this not because of the most wonderful saint mentioned herein, but because this is, as far as I know, the first use of “qua” in Korrektiv history.

    Great post, though.

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