Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Play nice with mice

I am a little short on time today, so no long recipes or experiments in the kitchen. Is it me, or have there been a wealth of feasts and festivals of late? Anyhow, today is the Patronal feast of Martin de Porres. He makes into into my good books with just one act of kindness, although the effect of his simple life on world history is truly amazing. Martin de Porres was nice to mice.

He was born in 1579 in Lima, Peru. He was the son of a lady named Anna, and a Spanish merchant called John de Porres. Because he was born out of wedlock, and because he was mixed race his father did not stay around too long. He was brought up in poverty. When he was a young man he worked with the Dominicans, and later became a Professed Lay Brother. His job was to tend the sick in the monastery infirmary, and to distribute food to the poor and needy of the district.

Martin is known for being very holy indeed. But, what I really like about him is that he is often pictured holding a broom, with a dog and a mouse
at his feet. And in the image here, he has a cat and a dove aswell. That makes me happy. He was a practical chap, but very friendly and kind. In the monastery there was a little problem with mice in the wardrobe of the hospital. They feasted on the finest linen garments and sheets, leaving the old ones untouched. Some of the monks wanted to poison the rodents, but Martin would not hear of it. One day he caught a little mouse and held him gently, and said, "Little brother, why are you and your companions doing so much harm to the things belonging to the sick? Look; I shall not kill you, but you are to assemble all your friends and lead them to the far end of the garden. Everyday I will bring you food if you leave the wardrobe alone," After Martin let go of the mouse, there was scurrying from every nook and cranny and the procession started towards the monastery garden. Martin, tall and slender, with long strides, led the mice to their new home. Everyday he brought them a meal and no mouse ever set claw or tooth in the monastery wardrobe again. Thats the way to deal with a rodent infestation, I say.

In memory of Martin de Porres, I think today is a day to go easy on the stock cupboard, use what you save to help some poor soul in need, and then make yourself a decent snack of mousey cheese on toast. Go all out, splash on the Lea and Perrins. Do it with a smile.

St. Martin died on 3rd November 1639. He was canonized by John XXIII on 6th May 1962. Look at those dates again. And now look at the image of Martin de Porres. I guess the good example he set, whilst it took a while to catch on, had a lasting effect on human society as well as the Peruvian mouse population. St. Martin suffered racial abuse all his life. It was not until generations later that his light helped others to recognize prejudice and fight against discrimination. And, he did it by living simply and in faith. Look after the little things....

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