Ministers of Mercy and Compassion

The Healing Hands of St. Martin DePorres, OP (Robert F. McGovern)

Brothers of the Order bringing Hope and Healing to the Church

Traditionally, the ministries of Brothers of the Order were largely those of providing services for the community. Rarely did they engage in ministries beyond the confines of their communities. Often times these ministries were hidden and unnoticed.

All Friars of the Order assume responsibility for preaching and the salvation of souls.

Dominican Brothers exercise the privilege, right and responsibility to do the Holy Preaching but from wide varieties of pulpits; to travel to places wherever evangelization is desperately needed among the poor, the destitute, the abandoned and the unwanted. Preaching from many pulpits,

Dominican Brothers respond – not merely with words – but with the Word of God that lives in their hearts. It is indeed the privilege of the Dominican Brother to announce the Kingdom of God to all those yearning for the message of salvation especially among people in circumstances where their priest brothers have not yet been present.

St. Martin De Porres’ ministry, however, was expressed through a different door of evangelization, that of caring for the sick and the dying of his Dominican community, of those among the despised of the streets of Lima, and of those who had no hope and were unloved.

Assigned as the infirmarian of his Dominican Community, which at the time numbered nearly three hundred friars, Martin applied his skills acquired as a barber-surgeon to the brothers of the community. Caring for his brothers in his community was his first preaching. Martin also cared for those who also came to the door of the Priory seeking help. So concerned, however, was he with how he might find the abandoned who needed help, Martin would travel the streets of Lima and bring the sick and the homeless home and into his cell to feed them and nurse their wounds.

Martin’s compassion and charity for the sick and the aged, bringing the Gospel of hope and healing to those who were unloved, orphaned and homeless in the slums and barrios of Lima, to those suffering from stigmatized illnesses or lifestyles, was his lived expression of the life of St. Dominic as a minister of mercy and compassion to all those in distress. His influence in caring for the poor and the sick of Lima resulted in the establishment of an orphanage and a children’s hospital.

Bringing Hope and Healing to Our Church

What does the life and ministry of St. Martin de Porres mean for us today? What themes evident in his life of contemplative prayer, preaching, and evangelization have relevance for our global world and for our own response as ministers of the Gospel?

Our Church has been seriously wounded by the pathology of sexual abuse of children and vulnerable persons. In the healing profession, wound healing occurs only after all dead tissue has been removed and the virus or bacteria responsible for the infection has been eliminated through the use of disease-specific antibiotics and careful wound management. With excellent care, under the careful supervision of competent clinicians, new cells are free to grow, multiply and mature into vibrant and healthy tissues and immune systems that promote and support sustained strength to the whole body that is the Church.

To accomplish this wound healing in the Church, new ministries of women and men religious, qualified counselors, and clinicians experienced in health care and trauma, are urgently needed to respond to the moral catastrophe that is in the Church and in our culture in new and different ways. Given the current issues, a new ministry of healing through education, collaborative initiatives and direct encounters with individuals and groups is urgently needed. It will require multiple initiatives with other established ministries and congregations. It will require the ministries of the universal Church to accomplish this challenge and to bring an enduring healing and hope to our suffering sisters and brothers and to wounded communities of the Church and of our global world.

Modeling the ministries of St. Martin De Porres, O.P and responding to the call of Pope Francis1 and the Master of our Order2, as Preachers of Grace and as missionaries and disciples of hope and healing, we must open our hearts and welcome those living on the outmost fringes of society; fringes which society has itself created; to welcome those into the human family whose voices have been drowned out by the humiliating indifference of others; and to heal these wounds through reaffirming their human dignity, freedom and promoting human flourishing3. This is a unique call for a prophetic mission where Dominican Brothers, consecrated to the Word, can proclaim the charism of our Order to bring healing and hope to a wounded Church.

In His love for the Church, in every age, Christ calls persons to take care of His people. Before time began, Dominican Brothers are called to participate in the New Evangelization for this time, for this age, and for the world. Dominican Brothers respond to the radical call that evangelization evokes: to believe and then to proclaim that every person born into the world is worthy of respect and of unlimited love regardless of the reasons for their circumstances or their station in life. Dominican Brothers accept the radical call to open their hearts to those who seek healing and hope, to accompany all those affected by the circumstances of the cultures of abuse, incivility, human trafficking and discrimination due to age, color, culture, and life-style, the broken, the abandoned, the unwanted, and the unloved in their darkest hour wherever they may be and wherever they call home.

As ministers of mercy and compassion, Dominican Brothers are called:

  1. to bring healing and hope to one another in community;
  2. to move with courage and daring ingenuity in bringing the Face of Jesus, the face of mercy and compassion, to all those affected by this morale catastrophe who are far from the faith, and those who have lost hope and trust in the Church;
  3. to create caring pathways and new bridges for those brothers and sisters who have been abandoned to be welcomed back to the faith community of the Church where their dignity, freedom and human flourishing can be affirmed and protected;
  4. to collaborate with others to change systems of oppression that violate human dignity and crucify humanity;4
  5. to design programs of formation, education and ministry that will focus on the development of ministers of mercy and compassion; and
  6. to have the courage and authentic commitment to journey with the least, the last and the lost, to listen to them, and accompany them as pilgrims of Calvary in search of healing, hope, and the Resurrection.

Our lived response to fulfilling this mission will not be any easier today than it was in the times of St. Martin De Porres. If we are to live out our call to be ministers of mercy and compassion, we must remain spiritually grounded in prayer and be relentless in our devotion to the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of Charity. Through various encounters with Jesus, we will have the courage and commitment, as he did, to engage in preaching and evangelization in radical ways – to open new and unknown doors and pathways and be unafraid to walk through them. Like St. Martin De Porres, we too will discover that we are called to live and minister along the lines of human brokenness, to respond to all persons especially those who have been abused, to protect and rescue our brothers and sisters who live in families, in communities, and in nations, particularly those who live under oppressive conditions that crucify humanity in its flesh and in its unity. In this encounter, we will experience the privilege and the grace to see, to touch, to nourish, and to care for our brothers and sisters, all of whom reveal the very face of Christ in distressing disguise.

0 Mary, Protector of our Order, and St. Martin De Porres, minister of mercy and compassion, accompany us through this darkness into the newness of life. Infuse the wounds of the Church with the antibiotics of grace. Nurture the development of healthy ministers of mercy and compassion to bring healing and hope to the People of God. Be vigilant in watching over us like you did for your own Son on his journey to Calvary and to the Resurrection, so that we too can approach the light of faith that is Jesus, Himself. Amen.

Bro. Ignatius Perkins, OP,
President of the Permanent Commission for the Vocation of the Dominican Cooperator Brother

Feast of St. Martin de Porres, OP
3 November 2023

  1. Pope Francis (2021). “Praedicator Gratiae: A Letter of the Holy Father to the Master of the Order of Preachers for the 8th Centenary of the Death of St. Dominic of Caleruega,” Rome: The Holy See Press Office. ↩︎
  2. Gerard Francisco Timoner III,OP (2021). “Praedicator Gratiae and the Grace of Preaching in
    the Church,” Rome: Convento Santa Sabina, Curia Generalitizia. ↩︎
  3. Pope Francis (2015). “Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis”, Madison Square Garden: Apostolic Journey of His Holiness Pope Francis to Cuba, to the United States of America and Visit to the United Nations Headquarters, September 25, 2015. Washington: United States Catholic Conference. ↩︎
  4. Timothy Radcliffe, (1992). “Sing a New Song: The Christian Vocation,” (Springfield, II):
    Templegate Publishers, 1992): 242. ↩︎
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