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Today [Monday] is the feast of Saint Martin de Porres, a saint who suffered his share of rejection due to the color of his skin. Born in 1579, of an ex-slave, Panamanian mother, St. Martin was rejected by his own Spanish father because of the darkness of his skin. He turned his life over to Jesus and embraced the Dominican Order as a lay brother where he tirelessly served the poor and slaves, binding their wounds using his medical skills to heal them. He prayed ceaselessly before the Eucharist, which motivated him to seek out those in need. His color didn’t stop him from reaching out to others, nor did it prevent him from being a leading witness of the love of Jesus. St. Martin achieved what every Christian seeks and that is the crown of sainthood. He discovered the pearl of great price and cherished its possession.
Fr. Augustine Tolton
This is Black Catholic History month. It offers us an opportunity to appreciate our brothers and sisters in the Black Catholic Community, to celebrate the long history and the proud heritage of Black Catholics. Many of us are so tied to our European roots that we forget that the African Catholic Church existed hundreds of years before our pagan ancestry received the faith around 800 to 900 AD.
Modern Black Catholic figures present inspiring stories overcoming tremendous social obstacles in order to serve Christ and His Church. Saint Josephine Bakhita was introduced to much of the Catholic Church in Pope Benedict’s encyclical, Spe Salvi. St. Josephine was kidnapped and sold into slavery, abused and beaten, her body scarred. She came to know Jesus, who she accepted as her master, and then freely followed Him into religious life.
As Pope Benedict stated: “Now she had ‘hope’ – no longer simply the modest hope of finding masters who would be less cruel, but the great hope: ‘I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me – I am awaited by this love. And so my life is good.’ Through the knowledge of this hope she was redeemed, no longer a slave but a free child of God.” (#3)
By the way, I highly recommend From Slave To Priest by Sr. Caroline Hemesath
Fr. Augustine Tolton (1854-1897) was the first black priest in the United States. Born into a black Catholic slave family, Father Tolton conquered almost insurmountable odds to become a Catholic priest, and at his early death at 43, this pioneer black American priest left behind a shining legacy of holy service to God, the Church and his people.April 17, 2015
The Congregation for Causes of Saints at the Vatican declared in the affirmative the juridical validity of the Archdiocesan Inquiry into the life and virtues of Father Augustus Tolton.There's something to be said by the fact it wasn't until 1988 that the US got its first African American archbishop. Pope Francis has had the opportunity to appoint African American leaders in the church but has opted not to (it could just be he feels there are better non-black candidates out there, or his American adviser Cardinal Wuerl did not consider him). Chicago being one example where Bp. Joseph Perry was either not considered or was considered unqualified to become archbishop and perhaps the first African American cardinal.