St. Peter Claver
Peter Claver was a Spanish Jesuit priest who was born in the 26th ofJune 1580 in Verdu Spain and he died on the 8th of September 1654. Hewas born into a very devout Catholic family. His family was alsoprosperous in the field of farming.
St Peter Claver was a student at the University of Barcelona and he wasnoted for his piety and being intelligent. He had a notebook that hekept throughout his life and after a few years of studying at theUniversity, he wrote that he must dedicate his life to the service ofGod until his death based on the understanding that he is like a slave.
When he had completed his studies at the University, he was 20 years oldand he joined the Society of Jesus and after completing his novitiate hewas sent to study philosophy at Palma, Mallorca. When he was there, hemet the porter named Rodriguez who felt that he had been told by God theClaver was to spend his life in service in the colonies of the new Spainand he frequently urged St Peter Claver to accept the calling.
St Peter Claver then volunteered in the Spanish colonies and he was sentto the new kingdom of Granada. In Granada he was required to spend sixyears studying theology before he could be ordained as a priest.
During his preparatory years he was living in the Jesuit houses. He wasalso deeply disturbed by the harsh treatment and living conditions ofthe black slaves who were being brought from Africa. During this time,slave trade in the Americas had been happening for about a century.
He served as a missionary for forty years in the Republic of Colombiaand to African Americans. Each year he baptized and heard confessions alot of people. He also set an example of the Christian way of loving andthe exercise of human right.
Service to the Enslaved
The slaves were brought in by the mine owners from Angola and Congo.Slavery was also a profitable business then and a lot of them were beingbrought in. Claver’s predecessor Alonso de Sandoval inspired andmentored Claver and he had also devoted himself to serving slaves forthe forty years that he worked before the arrival of Claver to continuehis work. Sandoval deemed St Peter Claver an apt pupil.
St Peter Claver would board onto the ships that brought in the slaves assoon as they docked and he would treat and minister to the slaves. Eventhough the conditions in the ships were undesirable, he would get inthere and attend to the badly treated. Because the ships were oftenfilled to capacity, it was often difficult to move around but he did notgive up.
Even after the slaves left the ships, he would join them to providemedicine and food. He used interpreters and pictures to give basicinstructions. St Peter Claver considered the slaves as fellow Christiansand he encouraged others to do the same.
When he was not with the slaves, St Peter Claver would travel toplantations to give spiritual consolation to slaves. He would baptizethem as well as make follow ups to ensure that as Christians theyreceive their Christian and civil rights. He avoided the hospitality ofplanters and overseers and preferred to lodge in the slave quarters.
St Peter Claver’s efforts were not in vain as the slaves’ situationslowly improved. He became a moral force, the Apostle of Cartagena.
Other Acts of Service
St Peter Claver did not only preach to the slaves but he also preachedin the city square to sailors and traders as well as baptizing them. Hewould also return to follow up on those he would have baptized.
Even though he preached to the slaves, he also ministered to the soulsof the well to do members of the society, traders as well as visitors toCartagena even if they were Muslims . he condemned criminals and hespiritually prepared them for death. He also frequented the cityhospitals.
St Peter Claver wore a cloak and he would lend it to anyone who neededit.
Illness and Death
In his last years he was very ill and could not even leave his room. Hewas not well for four years and he was neglected and forgotten,physically abused and starved by an ex-slave who had been hired to takecare of him. He however never complained about his treatment. He died onthe 8th of September 1654.
Even though some city magistrates considered him a nuisance when he wasalive, when he died the ordered a public funeral at the persistentadvocacy of the slaves and he was buried with the pomp and ceremony.
His body is preserved and venerated in the church of the Jesuitresidence now renamed in his honor.
He is the patron saint of slaves and also for seafarers as well as theRepublic of Columbia..
He was canonized in 1888 and his feast day is on the 9th of September.
The congress of the Republic of Colombia declared September 9 as theHuman Rights national Day in his honor.
Many organizations, missions, parishes, religious congregations, schoolsand hospitals bear the name of St. Peter Claver.
5 Interesting Facts About St. Peter Claver
- It is estimated that he baptized around 300 000 and heard
confessions of over 5 000 slaves per year.
- St Peter Claver signed his final profession document in Latin
as Peter Claver, servant of the Ethiopians forever.
- It was believed that whoever wore St Peter Claver’s cloak
earned a lifetime of health and was cured of all diseases.
- In his final years when he was being ill-treated, he accepted
it as a just punishment for his sins.
- When he died, many people forced themselves into his room
stripping away anything that serves as a relic.
Prayer to St. Peter Claver
O God, who made Saint Peter Claver a slave of slavesand strengthened him with wonderful charity and patienceas he came to their help,grant, through his intercession,that, seeking the things of Jesus Christ,we may love our neighbour in deeds and in truth.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, forever and ever. Amen.