On Saturday, November 4, 2023, Rev. Dr. Maurice Nutt, C.Ss.R. preached at Mariandale’s annual Saint Martin de Porres celebration. Father Nutt’s talk, titled Martin de Porres: Model of Racial Healing and Reconciliation, touched on his own experience of racism as a Black Catholic and made the connection to Saint Martin de Porres’ life as a Black man in Peru.
Father Nutt’s presentation was in honor of both Black Catholic History Month and Saint Martin de Porres feast day. As Father Nutt pointed out, Saint Martin de Porres was not canonized until 323 years after his death: some have speculated that “unaddressed” racism within the church was the cause of the long delay.
Yet, Father Nutt said that Saint Martin was canonized “right on time.”
“Pope John XXIII had the prophetic courage to declare Martin a saint right in the middle of both the Second Vatican Council and the Civil Rights Movement here in the United States,” he said. “I believe that John XXIII, in canonizing Martin de Porres and naming him as a patron of social justice at that certain time, was to hold him as a model of healing and racial reconciliation but to also signal a profound change in the ecclesiology of the universal Catholic Church…that the church indeed is the people of God, meaning all the people of God and not just the privileged few.”
Father Nutt was joined by the Voices of Victory Gospel Choir from Saint John’s University. Dana Livingston, the director for Vincentian service and social justice at Saint John’s University, introduced him and facilitated a group discussion after his talk. For Livingston, the enthusiasm and reflections of the participants were a highlight of the day.
“I was really struck by the outpouring of people who wanted to give their witness of how the color of their skin, their culture, where they’re from, influences how they see God.” Livingston said. “I think the call to see God in different ways, to meet Him where you are was really prevalent throughout the day. I also think with Voices of Victory adding that Gospel element to the day, it gave people a more contemplative space to be in to really assess God in different ways; it wasn’t prayer or lecture or preaching but through sound and music.”
The Voices of Victory choir performs at Mariandale
Orbis Books was also at the event, selling Father Nutt’s biography of his mentor, Thea Bowman: Faith and Free; as well as Down Deep in My Soul: An African American Catholic Theology of Preaching; and Preaching Racial Justice, among other titles.
Throughout his writing, preaching, and ministries, Father Nutt has emphasized the urgency of Christian antiracism. At Mariandale, his message resounded clearly and beautifully:
“Justice, like breath,” he said, “is a human right.”