Lives to Inspire: Peter Claver

Peter Claver, a Catalan, entered the Jesuits at the age of 22 in Tarragona after first having studied at Barcelona University. He was sent to study philosophy in Palma de Mallorca where he met and was influenced by the doorman, St. Alphonsus Rodriguez. Rodriguez who encouraged Peter to volunteer as a missionary in South America.
He was sent to the New Kingdom of Granada, now Colombia, where he studied theology in Bogotá.

Peter was ordained a priest in 1616, and missioned to the city of Cartagena, on the coast, where up to 10,000 slaves a year were shipped from Africa. Peter considered himself “the slave of the Africans forever.”

When a slave ship arrived, Peter would go on board to minister to the miserable passengers. Later, he distributed food, medicine, and other necessities as the slaves were being auctioned. He often visited the slaves on the plantations, staying with the slaves themselves rather than accepting the hospitality of the plantation owners. Peter was a moral force in Cartagena and was often found preaching in the main square. Though his efforts were opposed by some of the landowners and religious superiors, he never wavered in his commitment to the slaves, working with them for 40 years.

It is estimated that he personally baptised about 300,000 people. Peter had two reasons for placing a lot of stress on catechising and baptising the slaves: firstly, the belief of opening up heaven to them, secondly because according to the ethics of the day, Christian slaves should not be treated as badly as ‘heathen’ ones.

Peter also cared for other foreigners who were captured off marauding ships. He ministered to the sick in hospitals, and established charitable societies similar to those of St. Vincent de Paul. He died September 8, 1654. During his last four years of life Peter, half-paralyzed and in constant pain, was confined to one room, and though virtually ignored and neglected, did not complain, saying, “My sins deserve more punishment than this.”

Books on Saint Peter Claver

Saint Peter Claver

Name: Pere Claver Corberó

1580: Born in Verdú, Catalunia

1616: Began work in Cartagena.

1654: Died in Cartagena, Colombia

1888: Canonised.

Quote from Saint

Petrus Claver, Æthiopum semper servu – Translated as “Peter Claver, forever a servant of the Africans” – or “slave of the slaves”.

Peter Claver SJ on his Final Vows

Today’s Scripture

Philemon: New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised

To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in your house:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
 When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith towards the Lord Jesus. I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.

For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. 10 I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. 13 I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. 15 Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back for ever, 16 no longer as a slave but as more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Thought for the Day

Freedom is never total. Some are enslaved by others, some are enslaved by sickness, addictions, negative thoughts, bad habits. Do you need to pray for greater freedom in any aspect of your life?