Esclavo de los esclavos - The Slave of the Slaves
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."
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.
"...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."
"...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."
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