Lima, Peru, City of Saints

There are five saints who graced the city of Lima, Peru, in the first half of the seventeenth century: two were born and died there, three died there who came from Spain to be missionaries. They are Saints Rose (1617, whose feast day is today, August 30. She was the first person canonized who was born in the New World), Martin de Porres (1639), Turibius (1606), Francis Solano (1610), and John Massias (1645).

Saint Rose of Lima

Saint Rose is the patroness of South American and the Philippines. She was born in 1586 and baptized Isabel. However, because of a miraculous rose seen over her head and the beautiful and flower-like charm of her face, she was called Rose. At her confirmation, the bishop, Saint Turibius, gave her the name she was affectionately called. Rose was a Third Order Dominican and her full religious name, given to her by Our Lady in a vision, was Rose of Saint Mary. Saint Rose had the privilege of seeing and conversing with her guardian angel regularly. She also had heavenly visitations from another Third Order Dominican, the great Saint Catherine of Siena, who died in 1380. Our Lord and Our Lady also appeared at times and conversed with holy Rose. One time, through her prayers, a dead person was raised to life. She was thirty-one years-old when she died.

Saint Martin de Porres

Saint Martin de Porres was born in 1579 in Lima, the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman; his mother, of Negro and Indian blood, was a freed slave. He became a lay brother in the Dominican Order and was assigned as infirmarian. Fray Martin was raised to a very high state of union with God. He was often seen levitating, had frequent visions, raised a dead man to life, cured the sick, bi-located, and conversed with animals. He put charity above every discipline, including obedience, sometimes giving his bed to those who were ill or wounded. He and his sister founded a hospice for the sick/poor. It is also related that a light constantly shone round about him. He died in 1639 at the age of seventy.

Saint Turibius

Saint Turibius was born in 1538 and earned himself an illustrious career as a law professor in Spain at the University of Salamanca. He was noted for his piety and was appointed Grand Inquisitor by King Philip II at the Court of the Inquisition in Granada. On account of his wisdom he was asked to enter the clerical state and assume the episcopal See of Lima in Peru. Objecting that he was not a priest, he was persuaded to accept the assignment and was duly ordained in 1578 and consecrated in 1579. He arrived in Lima after traveling 600 miles from the port of Paita on foot teaching, baptizing, and instructing the natives on his way. In his twenty-six years as Archbishop of Lima, he traveled 50,000 miles across that diocese’s vast and mountainous terrain. He confirmed both Saint Rose of Lima and Saint Martin de Porres. In 1591, he built the first American seminary at Lima. He came to Lima at a time of major corruption both among the civil magistrates and the clergy. Archbishop Turibius was a great defender of the rights of the Indians, learning several dialects in order to better protect them. He prophesied the day and the hour of his death, March 23, 1606, which was brought on by a fever. Saint Turibius is the patron saint of Peru.

Saint Francis Solano

Saint Francis Solano was born in 1549 in Spain. Although educated by the Jesuits, he joined the Franciscans of the Reformed Observance at age twenty. He was a very bright student and received ordination in  1576. A man accustomed to poverty, he built himself a clay hut, where he practiced exceptional mortifications. He served the Order as an itinerant preacher and confessor and cured many of the sick and infirm miraculously. When he was denied permission to go to North Africa, where he hoped to be martyred, he set his eyes on the New World after hearing of King Philip’s request for missionaries. Permission granted, he arrived in Colombia in 1589, preaching and baptizing there and, later, in Paraguay and Argentina. He was quick to learn many native languages and at least on one occasion was given the gift of tongues, just as the Apostles were at Pentecost. He also raised a man from the dead. Padre Francisco had excelled in music in school and would often win the Indians hospitality and hearts by playing the fiddle for them. After these missions, Francis was appointed guardian of the Franciscan monastery in Lima. Just as Saint Turibius (whom he must have known), Saint Francis Solano foretold the day of his death, which was after twenty years as a missioner on July 24, 1610. He is the patron saint of Argentina and Paraguay.

Saint John Massias

Saint John Massias, dear friend of Saint Martin de Porres, was also a Dominican lay brother, although he lived in a different monastery than de Porres but in the same city of saints. John Massias was born in Spain, in 1585, to parents who were poor farmers. They both died when he was young. He and his younger sister were raised by their uncle, whose last name was Massias. The uncle trained the four year-old John to be a shepherd. His piety grew with his age and he was blessed with visitations from Our Lady and his patron, Saint John the Evangelist. Young John was particularly influenced by a Dominican friar he had met one day at Church. John did not enter religious life during these years, and, at age twenty-five, he accepted the invitation of a businessman, for whom he worked, to go to America. He arrived at the port of Cartagena in Colombia, traveled to Quito, Ecuador, and finally came to Lima, where he would spend the rest of his life. Here, he entered the Dominican monastery in 1623 and was assigned as a doorkeeper. (Many other saints were doorkeepers; I should make a list sometime.) Brother John longed to live a solitary life of prayer, but he valued obedience higher than his own will. He literally stayed at his post for twenty years, greeting guests, giving farewells, spiritual advice, and alms to the poor, until the day he died in 1645. Saint John Massias was very devoted to the holy Rosary and the poor souls in purgatory. He was beatified together with Martin de Porres in 1837 and canonized in 1975.