DEVOTIONS TO ST MARTIN DE PORRES IN VIETNAM

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The Beginning
At St Albert the Great Priory, HCM City
It could be said that the devotion to St. Martin de Porres started in the hearts of Vietnamese Catholics as early as his canonization in 1962. At that time, the Vietnamese Dominican Vicariate, then a part of the Province of the Philippines, had its curia at St Albert the Great Priory. The same priory hosted the first shrine ever in honour of St Martin which introduced his devotion to the Vietnamese Catholics. According to the testimony of our elder brothers, on the occasion of his canonization, the first image of St Martin was sent from the Philippines, and that was how the devotion to the saint began. The co-operator brother, Joseph NGUYEN HUU HOA saw to the propagation of this devotion.

From the very first day, fr Hoa committed himself wholeheartedly to praying at the altar of St Martin. People came with their problems and he listened, sympathized and prayed with them before the image of St Martin. He also printed the images and the litany of the saint and distributed them free to the people. fr Joseph DO VAN LOI continued in this tradition. St Martin was referred to as the “Black Saint” by non-Christians who came to the shrine. Many of them were converted after their prayers were answered through the intercession of St Martin. In gratitude some of them brought tablets to the shrine with inscriptions like; “MY FAMILY THANKS SAINT MARTIN”.

At St Martin de Porres Priory, Honai
In 1972 the Holy Rosary House (now St Martin de Porres Priory) built a monument of about 4 meters high with a life statue of St Martin. Again, fr Joseph HOA took charge of promoting and spreading the devotion to St Martin in this region. With more pilgrims from all over Vietnam, a bigger monument was built in 1987. Just as he did at HCM City, fr Joseph HOA listened with great devotion to the people and then prayed with them before the statue of St Martin. Many got their prayers heard and they would often leave with different images of St Martin for his continuous intercession and to propagate his devotion in their families.

The Present
The title “The Saint of Charity” has become so popular all over the country such that many, Catholics and pagans alike, have heard about it and have personally visited one of the two national shrines at least once. Some come on a regular basis while others come only when they are in need. However, most will never miss his feast day on the 3rd of November every year. Many parishes have made St Martin their patron, and many of them have his statue enthroned. Among Vietnamese, ‘Martin’ is now a common name at baptisms. The Dominican brothers are also beneficiaries of his powerful intercession especially during their most difficult times after 1975.

The number of pilgrims at the Shrines of St Martin is on the increase due to the increase in political, social and economic problems in the country. St Albert the Great Priory has set aside every Thursday to foster the devotion to St Martin. Before Mass, a devotional service is held before the image of St Martin with songs and general intercessions. After Mass, the celebrant together with the faithful gather at the statue of St Martin outside the church to pray and present their petitions.

Meanwhile, at St Martin de Porres Priory, Honai, the brothers continue to welcome hundreds of people every day. They come to seek for his intercession or simply to thank him for prayers answered. There are several brothers who take turns to be by the altar of St Martin to receive guests and their petitions, and to give them whatever information they may want.

November 3 each year is really a big day for St Martin’s devotees everywhere. People come from all over the country. They arrive by all means of transportation. Along with the thousands of pilgrims are bands of  hundreds of beggars who come to the feast hoping to receive more generous alms on this special day of “The Saint of Charity”. Prior to the feast day, retreat are given to different interested groups such as the youth, the Dominican Laity and the faithful in general. At Honai, however, there is always a solemn Mass celebrated by the Bishop of Xuan Luân Diocese and concelebrated by hundreds of priests, Dominican and diocesans alike. Due to the huge number of people, the Mass is celebrated outdoors. After the Mass the people line up for hours to venerate the saint’s relics.
 
The Jubilee Year of St Martin
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of St Martin’s canonization, the Holy Father has given his  papal blessing and allowed St Martin de Porres Priory, Honai to host the Jubilee Year from May 5th, 2012 to May 6th, 2013. Pilgrims attending Mass at the Priory will receive a Plenary Indulgence on the following occasions :

- The Opening Day of the Jubilee : Saturday May 5th, 2012.
- The feast day of St Martin : Saturday November 3rd, 2012
- The Closing Day of the Jubilee : Monday, May 6th, 2013.

During this Jubilee Year, the Priory will hold various activities and events to introduce the life and example of St Martin. On the feast day of St Martin, November 3rd, 2012 there were 6 Masses. The first Mass was celebrated by the Provincial, fr. Joseph NGO SY DINH, OP, while the remaining Masses were officiated by bishops of different dioceses. The faithful were as many as 50,000. St Albert the Great Priory, HCM City also had one solemn Mass on November 3rd, 2012 and seven Masses to honor the saint on the following Sunday, November 4th, 2012. The 7pm Mass was celebrated by the former Bishop of Phu Cuong Diocese.

In conclusion, we could say that the devotion to St Martin in Vietnam has become very popular, not only among the Vietnamese Catholics but also among non-believers. Indeed, it has become an unprecedented phenomenon in a country whose great majority are Buddhists with only 7% Catholics. St Martin de Porres is indeed our pride and a model for all Dominicans, particularly for all Cooperator Brothers. This Jubilee Year should be an encouragement to all Cooperator Brothers everywhere.


May God bless us all through the intercession of St Martin de Porres.

Joseph Mai Van Tuyen, OP