By Clare McCormick
As children we shared our bedroom with Grandmother who, with her beliefs and rituals, was a great influence in our lives. I remember every evening she would disappear upstairs to the bedroom to say her prayers. And we would find her lying on her bed with her rosary and a well worn prayer book.
Up until I was about eight years old, the rosary was always said during Lent. The family would gather in our bedroom, and Father would give out the rosary. My memory of that time is mainly about my little brother climbing over our heels and looking into our faces, as we tried with great difficulty to hold in a giggle.
Blessed Martin, as he was then, was Grandmother’s most loved saint.,..and from an early age I was familiar with his nine day novena. His statue stood – along with a two foot high statue of the Virgin – on the top of a press in the alcove of our bedroom.
This altar was there before I was born and after I left twenty one years later. It never moved or was never changed all the years I lived there. A small paraffin lamp was usually lighting on it.
The story I want to relate is about the Mite box that was always kept on the altar. It was a plain wooden box. I believe it was sent to Grandmother by the Blessed Martin magazine.
Every month Grandmother put an offering in this box from her pension and sometimes we also put the odd penny in.
I remember one time when the parents were away for the day and it was a scorching hot day. We were being particularly good; helping Grandmother doing little jobs, hanging out washing, etc.
I was sent to Mrs Farrell who owned the petrol pump in the village for half a dozen eggs. On the way home, walking along the edge of the kerb, I lost my balance, fell and broke the eggs.
I arrived home with a bloody knee, without the eggs. On the second trip I was much more careful and returned with eggs intact. It was decided then we all needed some sort of a treat. So we all searched around in cupboard drawers for stray pennies to buy ice-pops.
At that time we had a passion for pineapple splits, but we came up short. It was then Grandmother suggested she would go to Blessed Martin, who never let her down.
And that is what she did. We brought down the mite box and one of us was dispatched to Robinson’s shop for ice-pops.
I have to say Grandmother always paid Blessed Martin back with interest!
From May onwards every year the altar was never without flowers. We filled jam jars with red and white phlox, rockets, Golden Rod, roses and everlasting sweet pea from the garden. Sometimes it was just lilac.
I remember May blossom was not allowed inside the door. On Summer Sundays walking home from Mass along the Mass path near the river Greise we loved to find yellow flag irises and Lady’s mantle that grew among the rushes.
I will always remember Grandmother ticking us off as we got older for neglecting our prayers. She would say, “Even the animals in the field bend their knee when lying down to sleep.”
Saint Martin de Porres was canonised in 1962 by Pope John XXlll.He is the patron saint of mixed race.