Loading
ST. PETER CLAVER
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 09, 2014

On Sept. 9, the Catholic Church celebrates St. Peter Claver, a Jesuit missionary who spent his life in the service of African slaves brought against their will to South America during the 17th century.

Peter Claver was born into a farming family in the Spanish region of Catalonia during 1581. He studied at the University of Barcelona as a young man, and joined the Jesuits as a novice at the age of 20.

While studying philosophy in Tarragona, Peter developed a friendship with an older Jesuit lay brother, Alphonsus Rodriguez. Although Alphonsus spent his days doing menial work as a door-keeper, he had immense insight into spiritual matters and encouraged Peter to become a missionary in the Spanish colonies. Pope Leo XIII would later canonize both men on the same day, almost two centuries later.

In 1610, Peter Claver – now a priest – arrived in Cartagena, a port city in present-day Colombia. Despite Pope Paul III's repeated condemnations of slavery during the previous century, European colonists continued importing African slaves, often sold by their own rulers, to work on plantations and in mines. Those who survived the ship journey could expect to be worked to death by their masters.

Peter was determined to sacrifice his own freedom to bring material aid and eternal salvation to the African slaves, in keeping with his vow to become “the slave of the blacks forever.” The young priest made and kept this resolution despite his own health problems (aggravated by Cartagena's tropical climate) and the language barrier between himself and the population he served.

Many Spanish Royal officials in Cartagena appreciated Claver's work, and made contributions toward the slaves' relief and religious education. The slave traders, on the other hand, found the priest and his interpreters to be a nuisance. Meanwhile, some Spanish expatriates who sought out the priest because of his holy reputation, refused to enter the same church or confessional as the black slaves.

In order to minister to speakers of a foreign language, Claver often employed pictorial representations of Catholic truths. He also communicated by means of generosity and expressions of love, giving food and drink to the ailing workers and visiting them during bouts of sickness that often proved fatal.

“We must speak to them with our hands,” he reasoned, “before we try to speak to them with our lips.”

In keeping with his vow of “slavery,” Peter survived on minimal amounts of food and sleep. His life of humility and penance led to miraculous occurrences – as when he healed the sick with the touch of his cloak, or appeared surrounded by a supernatural light during his hospital visits.

St. Peter Claver's work came to an end with his death on September 8, 1654. He had baptized and taught the faith to more than 300,000 slaves during his four decades in Cartagena.

During the Vatican's Synod for Africa in 2009, Cartagena's Archbishop Jorge Enrique Jiménez Carvajal lamented the fact that his city had been the center of an “awful commerce.”

But he spoke with gratitude for the fact that the same city had become the home of such a “great witness to sanctity,” the “apostle of the slaves, whose body rests in our cathedral, who lived to protect them and lead them towards the faith” in which they could experience God's love.

Ads by Google
(What's this?)

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis visits poor neighborhood and meets with young people from Argentina
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom
Pope Francis prays over a sick man in St Peter's Square
Denver women's clinic will offer natural, Catholic care
Interview Clips: Barbara Nicolosi speaks to CNA
US Cardinals press conference at North American College
Pope Benedict to retire to monastery inside Vatican City
Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Hundreds convene in Denver to urge respect for life
New Orange bishop encourages Catholic unity in diversity
Chinese pro-life activist calls for reform, international attention
At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success
Mother Cabrini shrine reopens in Chicago after a decade
Ordination of 33 deacons fills St. Peter's with joy
Cardinal says "Charity is the mother of all the virtues"
Augustine Institute expands evangelization effort with new campus
Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God
Los Angeles cathedral's newest chapel houses Guadalupe relic
Apr
24

Liturgical Calendar

April 24, 2014

Thursday within the Octave of Easter

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Lk 24:35-48

Gospel
Date
04/24/14
04/23/14
04/22/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Acts 3:11-26
Gospel:: Lk 24:35-48

Saint of the Day

Easter Sunday »

Saint
Date
04/24/14
04/22/14

Homily of the Day

Lk 24:35-48

Homily
Date
04/24/14
04/23/14
04/22/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: