Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 30, 2006
Devout Dominican cared for the poor
San Antonio church honours popular Spanish speaking Catholics' intercessor
St. Martin De Porres – November 3
- WCR photo by Ted Fitzgerald
Local San Antonio artist Jesse Treviño painted this portrayal of San Martin de Porres.
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
San Antonio, Texas
Visitors to tourist and convention-centred downtown San Antonio can easily find the church dedicated to San Martin de Porres, attracted there partly to admire a painting of the saint by famed hometown artist Jesse Trevi¤o.
One of the unique near-city centre westside sanctuaries, it's on Dahlgren Street just a 20-minute ride on city bus 68, Guadeloupe Frequent. There, strangers will be greeted and shown around by pleasant office staff enamoured of their church and patron saint.
Patron of social justice
Martin, patron of social justice, the poor, working people, hairdressers and Peru, was born in Lima in 1579, son of a Spanish knight and a freed woman of African descent.
Following an apprenticeship with a barber, at 15 he became a Dominican lay brother responsible for most of the gardening and caretaking duties at the monastery.
People soon remarked on his overwhelming concern for all people and their problems, assisting slaves from Africa, seeking alms for the poor, accommodating and feeding beggars and founding an unofficial orphanage and hospital. When not involved in these activities, he spent his nights in prayer and penance.
Pope John XXIII
At his death at age 60, he was immediately acclaimed as a saint by the people of Lima, but the Church was slow in recognizing his holiness and it was not until 1962 that Pope John XXIII canonized him.
He has long been a popular intercessor in Spanish-speaking areas.
His compact San Antonio church was founded in 1964 and today counts some 850 families in its parish community. The bright, natural wood interior is illuminated by a dozen modern stained glass windows.
To the left of the entrance, a life-size painting of a middle-aged Martin, hands clasped in prayer around a large rosary, faces the main altar.
He and newly canonized Juan Diego are also honoured with large statues in the adjoining parish office. Martin's statue is surrounded by flowers and milagros, little petitions for his intervention with personal problems.
In connection with recent renovations, a small sanctuary was added at the east end of the church and the parishioners were thrilled to find that this was to become the repository for a new oil on canvas work by artist Jesse Trevi¤o.
It forms a backdrop for the altar and is flanked by a large wooden crucifix. Portrayed is a youthful life-size San Martin in his black and white Dominican habit and large rosary, head bowed, kneeling with his hands joined in prayer.
Holy Spirit dove
The dove of the Holy Spirit hovers above and he is accompanied by two angels.
The artist is noted for both secular and sacred works, some on a huge scale. Interrupted while studying art in New York, Jesse suffered the potentially career-ending loss of his right hand while a draftee in Vietnam.
Determination, his faith and a close-knit circle of relatives and friends enabled him to overcome this life-altering handicap.
He now holds degrees from Our Lady of the Lake and Texas universities. Many visitors to his South Texas city will be familiar with his work - the colossal, eight-storey high mosaic Spirit of Healing on CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children's Hospital or his huge candle in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that dominates the street near the Virgin's shrine.
Perhaps the father of three is best known for his whimsical Lions at the east end of the city's Old Market.
San Martin Parish is a busy one, with Mass celebrated on alternate weekdays and four times on weekends in both Spanish and English.
A full schedule of memorials, debuts and, at Christmas time, Posadas make for an active parish community.