St Peter Claver (1581 – 1654) was born into a devout Catholic farming family at Verdu, Spain. He received a good education and excelled in his studies, obtaining a degree from the University of Barcelona. At 20, St Peter joined the Jesuits where he met St Alphonsus Rodriguez who encouraged him to join the missions.
In 1610, the Spanish slave trade was thriving when St Peter arrived at Cartagena for a six-year missionary training period. Seeing the suffering of the slaves, he was deeply disturbed by their harsh treatment. When the slaves became his personal ministerial responsibility, he met the slave boats as they arrived in port, boarded the filthy and packed vessels and offered his limited help, including medicine, food and human contact. His work didn’t end there. He also maintained links with the slaves as they were sold and then helped them when they were sent to the many diverse places of labour.
It is estimated that St Peter personally baptised around 300,000 people and administered to countless others. He became known as the Apostle of Cartagena.
Ironically, St Peter suffered and died often forgotten and neglected himself, through illness and abuse by a slave who was hired by his Superior to care for him. He accepted his treatment as punishment for his own sins.
St Peter’s Feast Day is the 9th September. He is the Patron Saint of slaves and race relations.
St Peter Claver:
Pray for us that we will open our eyes to the many slaves in our midst today and offer them a helping hand.
Glory be to the…