Summary of Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert (Gary D. Schmidt):
Martin de Porres was born with seemingly everything to his disadvantage. He was the son of an African slave mother and a Spanish noble father, making Martin a mixed race child. His early years were spent in extreme poverty. Despite these economic and cultural obstacles, his mother called him “The Rose in the Desert.” When he was eight years old, his father took him from the stink, cold, and hunger of the barrios. He gave Martin and his sister his name—which was frowned upon by both the royals and the clergy. Later, Martin was apprenticed out to become a healer and later came to live with the Dominican priests. He overcame great racial and economic prejudice to become highly respected and sought after for his ability to heal and to show compassion to both people and animals, yet he always lived humbly among those he served until his death.
Like most people, I love success stories. Martin de Porres’ story is definitely such a story—but not at all in the typical sense. He is not a man who overcomes to be rich and famous, but rather to remain poor and humble. Through his work, he ministers to many and alleviates great suffering. There are many recorded miracles attributed to him which led the church to eventually canonize him into the sainthood. Whether you believe in miracles or not, Martin’s service and compassion for others stands as a testament to the greatest that humanity can achieve despite immense odds.
Author Gary D. Schmidt records this story in beautiful poetic language. For instance, I love the lines, “Hunger lived in their home. Illness was their companion.” This description aptly captures the oppressive nature of his early surroundings. Another favorite section is: “After thirteen years, every soul in Lima knew who Martin was: Not a mongrel. Not the son of a slave. ‘He is a rose in the desert,’ they said.” In addition, artist David Diaz expertly illustrates the text. I love the muted tones with splashes of color that captures the life and the culture of this beloved saint.
While Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert is a story worthy of sharing for any occasion, it is noteworthy to include in a study of the Renaissance, South American/Spanish culture, and saints/religious figures. Of course, it is a study of positive character qualities, such as perseverance, humbleness, and compassion. I recommend this book for ages 7 and up.
For other outstanding non-fiction selections, check out the Non-Fiction Monday round up at Wendie's Wanderings.