Wednesday, September 9, 1998
First Reading: 1 Corinthians 7: 25-31
Psalms: Psalm 45: 11-12, 14-17
Gospel Reading: Luke 6: 20-26
Feast of Saint Peter Claver, Priest, Religious and Missionary
Known as the patron of the missionary work done among African-Americans, Saint Peter Claver, a Jesuit, was born in Catalonia, Spain in 1580. After receiving a degree from the University of Barcelona, Peter was assigned to Palma in Mallorca where he met Saint Alfonso Rodriguez, a Jesuit Lay Brother who convinced him to go to South America. Thus in April 1610, Peter arrived in Cartagena, Columbia and five years later was ordained a priest of the Society of Jesus with throngs of natives he had converted in attendance. Peter knew the greatest problem facing him was the increasing African slave trade and that Cartagena was a major clearing house slave market. Though Pope Paul III and Pope Pius IV had condemned this inhuman practice, it continued unabated. Working under fellow Jesuit Father Alfonso de Sandoval, Peter devoted his life of 40 more years ministering to these chained children of God who had been shipped against their will to a foreign country. Calling himself the "slave of the slaves", Peter would meet each slave ship as it arrived in port and comfort them, feeding, clothing them and caring for their health; many had scurvy and other terrible diseases. He became their apostle, father, physician and friend. He also realized one man could not do it all and thus enlisted the help of numerous catechists and interpreters. In addition he formed several charitable societies among the Spanish people in Cartagena and elsewhere to assist in the ministry and care of the blacks. Throughout his lifetime he baptized an estimated 300,000 slaves. In 1650 Peter caught the plague that was ravaging the city and never fully recovered, being forced to give up the ministry and contact with the people he so dearly loved. The deadly plague took him as a victim on September 8, 1654 and only a few were with him when he died, but the angels were abundant as they whisked him to his Heavenly home. On earth he was honored with a massive state funeral as thousands paid their respects to this selfless saint who clearly exemplified his Savior Jesus Christ. In 1888 Pope Leo XIII canonized Peter along with his earlier companion Alfonso Rodriguez who had guided Peter to the ministry he performed for 40 years in the new world.