St. Martin de Porres Sparked Healing for Fr. Thomas McGlynn, OP, 1906-1977

For Fr. Thomas McGlynn, OP, (1906 – 1977) the story of St. Martin’s life sparked a healing at the level of the soul, which then bore fruit in creativity.

St. Martin de Porres was a revered healer in 17th-century Peru. The sanador of Lima’s El Rosaria priory, he treated the wounds and ills of his fellow Dominicans before leaving the grounds of his religious community to visit those among the poor who were unable to come to him. 

By his own account, Tom McGlynn was raised in an era of racial insensitivity. “I grew up with the general white prejudice against blacks that was common at that period when I was a child sixty years ago,” the priest-sculptor said later in life. He explained further that his “meeting with Martin de Porres changed all that.” It was perhaps providential that the first sculpture McGlynn produced as a Dominican would be of this friar of African lineage. 

Familiarity with St. Martin’s life had lasting effects on McGlynn’s sensitivity toward race. As a priest, McGlynn was instrumental in helping to form the Blessed Martin Interracial Center in Chicago. During his time in the Midwest, McGlynn advocated for laws to abolish real estate covenants designed to prohibit the sale of property to racial minorities. His concern for race relations also lead to other creative projects: McGlynn began working in 1940 on the script to Caukey, a play that envisions an American society where Black Americans are in the majority and Whites make up an oppressed minority. Caukey was performed off-Broadway in 1944. 

(This excerpt from an article originally published by Providence College, RI.) 

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