Friday, September 09, 2011

Saint Peter Claver

Esclavo de los esclavos - The Slave of the Slaves

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The following is from an inscription on a mausoleum of the American Saints at St. Joseph Cemetery south of Columbus, Ohio. 
"Braving the horrible odors, the sickly atmosphere, and overwhelming anxiety within the slave ships of South America, Claver not only gave the slaves spiritual comfort and guidance but cured their sores, bandaged their wounds, and cared for the sick."


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Peter Claver was born in 1580 in Verdu, Catalonia Spain.  St. Alphonsus Rodriguez was instrumental in his decision to travel to Cartagena as a missionary.  Cartagena, Colombia was "the most fearsome slave market in South America.  There he met Father Alonso de Sandoval, a Jesuit priest who had devoted his life to the salves.  Peter was ordained a priest in 1616."  Thus began his thirty-three heroic career.


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"...the slave ships... packed with men and women wrenched from their homes in Africa, chained together in bundles of six, wedged under decks where neither sun nor moon could penetrate, in a stench into which no white officer could put his head for fear of fainting.  The description comes from Father Sandoval, who had already spent forty years caring for the slaves.  It is estimated that ten thousand slaves were shipped from Africa to the seaport town of Cartagena.  Many of the slaves died during the long voyage; those who survived were starving, stinking, covered with sores, and more than half crazed with fear."


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"...Peter's face would beam as he moved gently among them--and they never knew how sick he became at the task, how he almost fainted daily at the horrors of his ministry.  But he did it for thirty-three years.  To conceal his physical disgust, he would kiss the running sores.  Peter Claver baptized the dying, then washed and fed the sick.  As he took them to the yards where they were penned like cattle, the slaves crowded around him with pathetic demonstrations of affection for the one white man in  Cartagena who was kind to them."

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One biographer commented:
"The poor outcasts feel on their knees and through a mist of tears worshiped the God who made the slave-trader in his image, the God of the white men who had torn them from their homes; the God of the brutes who had treated them as brutes. God was all this, but he was also the God of Father Claver."

On September 8, 1654, our Lady's birthday, Peter Claver died in Cartagena. In 1888 he was canonized and named the official patron of those who bring the Gospel to their back brothers and sisters.

Source: The Who's Who of Heaven: Saints for all Seasons by Msgr. John P. Kleinz

7 comments:

noreen said...

Hi Esther, I am not familiar with this saint so thank you for introducing me to him. What a blessing that he ministered to the slaves of his time. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering they experienced.

Esther G. said...

Aloha Noreen. You are very welcome. At least the poor slaves had him to love them.

noreen said...

Amen to that! On another note, are you aware of the America Needs Fatima Rosary Campaign set for Sat. Oct 15th? They have a listing of rally captains in each state or they're looking for people to step up and be a rally captain in their area. I've felt called to do so... which is way out of my comfort zone... but I'm doing it. I don't think it'll be too hard. It's to gather a few to many people together to pray the rosary in a public setting for the reparation of sinners. Are you interested?

Esther G. said...

Noreen, ANF has a few captains who will be holding public rosary rallies here in Hawaii. Our group though will hold it on October 13th...World Apostolate of Fatima - Honolulu Division. Mahalo for mentioning that!

noreen said...

That's wonderful Esther! I will try and remember to pray my rosary on the 13th for your intentions!

Mimi said...

It's interesting to read this hagiography as I am reading "Roots" by Alex Haley and have just completed reading about the trip from Africa to the US.
Lord have Mercy, it is horrific what people will do to each other, and I am thankful that there were saints who offered succor to those poor souls.

Esther G. said...

Mimi, I could never bring myself to read or watch Roots...or Amistad. It would be too heartbreaking.