back to contents
If you don’t know much about Peter, he’s nothing less than a hero; with the courage to rise up against an unspeakable evil of his day, the widespread and cruel use of African slaves in the New World, even when it meant ridicule, hardship, and little hope for total success.
The situation was hideously bleak: businessmen were getting rich off the injustice, the government protected it, even some of his fellow Jesuits accepted it. But Peter took them all on.
“Servant of the Africans Forever”
Peter was born in Spain in 1581, just 70 years after African slaves had been introduced to the New World. After finishing his university studies, he joined the relatively new Society of Jesus (Jesuits). During his formation to become a priest, he met the porter and future saint Alphonsus Rodriguez. Known for his gift of prophesy, he urged Peter to serve God in Spain’s new colonies in the Americas.
Peter took Rodriguez’ advice to heart and in 1610 arrived in Cartagena, a slave trading hub for the New World. A thousand slaves landed there each month before being sold off and moved throughout the territory. They were bought for two, and sold for 200 écus. Though half the cargo might die, the trade remained profitable. Neither the repeated censures of the pope, nor those of Catholic moralists could prevail against this greed.
For his first six years there, Peter was required to live in a Jesuit house for theological studies in preparation for being ordained a priest. But he was deeply disturbed by how brutally the African slaves were treated.
Who would speak for them? Who would stand up to the systematic cruelty and dehumanization throughout the colonies? Though some of his fellow Jesuits simply accepted the plight of the slaves, there was at least one priest with a heart like Peter’s: Fr. Alonso de Sandoval.
Fr. Sandoval had served the slave population for 40 years before Peter arrived, learning their languages and customs, and Peter became an apprentice to his work. When the time came at last for Peter to sign his papers for final vows to the Jesuits, he knew exactly who he wanted to dedicate his life to: he signed his name as “servant of the Africans forever.” thenceforth his life contradicted egotism by its superhuman charity. Although timid and lacking in self-confidence, he became a daring and ingenious organizer.
Solidarity with the Least of These
Peter started his ministry on the wharf: he would wait for slave ships to arrive, immediately hop on board, and rush to where the slaves were kept. He offered compassion, whatever refreshments he could offer, and his cloak to whoever need it most. (A legend arose that whoever received the future saint’s cloak would be healed of any illness and have good health the rest of his life.)
After the slaves were herded off the ship, he offered them medicine, food, and tobacco, and would try communicate with them through interpreters or signs. His ministry to the slaves and others in the town was so effective, it’s estimated that over the course of his lifetime he personally baptized 300,000 people.
But his ministry didn’t stop with baptism. He kept tabs on where his new converts were sent as best he could, traveling around the country to plantations. He forcefully advocated that the slaves be treated as humanely as possible. As a show of solidarity, he refused to stay in the homes of plantations owners, preferring instead to stay in the slaves’ quarters.
A thorn in the side of anyone who mistreated the slaves, wielding a moral force built up through years of holy living, the treatment of the slaves in his area slowly improved.
He was also a frequent visitor of hospitals and prisons, often preparing condemned criminals for death.
Upon his death aged 73 in 1654, there was such a large public outpouring that the city’s governing officials, who had considered Peter a terrible nuisance, were forced to hold a public funeral. Only after his death was the incredible breadth of his ministry fully understood and appreciated.
Slavery in the New World continued for centuries after his death. So wasn’t he a failure?
Peter wasn’t able to single-handedly end the terrible evils of his day, but he helped countless people nonetheless. Every act of compassion, every refreshment he could offer to the slaves, every time he stood up against the cruelty being practiced around him – it all still mattered for those people and their souls, slave and slave-owner alike.
There are terrible evils in our own day, and it’s unlikely that any one of us will be able to stamp them out completely in the near future. So should we just stop trying?
No, we should follow in the example of St. Peter Claver, remaining faithful to God, doing whatever good we can, and saving as many souls as possible. St. Peter Claver, pray for us!
Tue 1 Tuesday of week 22 in Ordinary Time
Wed 2 Wednesday of week 22 in Ordinary Time
Thu 3 Saint Gregory the Great, Pope, Doctor
Fri 4 Friday of week 22 in Ordinary Time
Sat 5 Saturday of week 22 in Ordinary Time
or Saturday memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Sun 6 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mon 7 Monday of week 23 in Ordinary Time
Tue 8 The Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary Feast
Wed 9 Wednesday of week 23 in Ordinary Time or Saint Peter Claver
Thu 10 Thursday of week 23 in Ordinary Time
Fri 11 Friday of week 23 in Ordinary Time
Sat 12 Saturday of week 23 in Ordinary Time or The Most Holy Name of Mary or Saturday memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Sun 13 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mon 14 The Exaltation of the Holy Cross Feast
Tue 15 Our Lady of Sorrows
Wed 16 Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs
Thu 17 Thursday of week 24 in Ordinary Time or Saint Robert Bellarmine, Bishop, Doctor
Fri 18 Friday of week 24 in Ordinary Time
Sat 19 Saturday of week 24 in Ordinary Time or Saint Januarius, Bishop, Martyr or Saturday memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Sun 20 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mon 21 Saint Matthew, Apostle, Evangelist Feast
Tue 22 Tuesday of week 25 in Ordinary Time
Wed 23 Saint Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)
Thu 24 Thursday of week 25 in Ordinary Time
Fri 25 Friday of week 25 in Ordinary Time
Sat 26 Saturday of week 25 in Ordinary Time or Saints Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs
or Saturday memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Sun 27 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mon 28 Monday of week 26 in Ordinary Time or Saint Wenceslaus, Martyr or Saints Laurence Ruiz and his Companions, Martyrs
Tue 29 Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels Feast
Wed 30 Saint Jerome, Priest, Doctor
back to contents
The root of every spiritual error is believing ourselves to be righteous. To consider ourselves righteous is to leave God, the only righteous one, out in the cold. Aug 25, 2020
Today is the tenth anniversary of the massacre of 72 migrants in Mexico. I express my solidarity with the families of the victims who today are still asking for truth and justice. The Lord will hold us to account for all of the migrants who have fallen on their journey of Hope. Aug 24, 2020
To pray is to allow yourself to be looked at by God without illusions, excuses, or justifications. Because from the devil come darkness and lies, from God come light and truth. Aug 24, 2020
Let’s not forget the victims of the coronavirus. So much suffering, so many people who lost their lives; and so many volunteers, doctors, nurses, sisters, priests, who also lost their lives. Let us remember the families who have suffered because of this. Aug 23, 2020
In the #GospelOfTheDay, we hear Jesus’s question directed to each one of us: “And you, who do you say I am?”. It is a question of giving not a theoretical answer, but one that involves faith, that is, life, because faith is life! Aug 23, 2020
God does not love you because you behave well. He loves you, plain and simple. His love is unconditional; it does not depend on you. Aug 22, 2020
God has no need to be defended by anyone and does not want His name to be used to terrorize people. We call upon everyone to stop using religions to incite hatred, violence, extremism and blind fanaticism. #HumanFraternity. Aug 22, 2020
Amid so many passing things, the Lord wants to remind us of what will remain forever: love, because “God is love”. Aug 21, 2020
May the Holy Spirit make us grow constantly in knowledge of God so that we might spread His love and His truth in the world. Aug 20, 2020
The response to the pandemic is dual: we need to find a cure for this small which has brought the whole world to its knees and we must cure a larger virus, that of social injustice. #GeneralAudience Aug 19, 2020
Wealth can force us to build walls. Jesus, instead, invites His disciples to transform goods and riches into relationships, because people are worth more than things, they are more valuable than any riches we possess. Aug 18, 2020
It is not the wealthy who bear fruit in life, but those who build and maintain many friendships through various "riches", namely, through the various gifts God has given them. Aug 17, 2020
If we present our poverty to the Lord, with an existence marked by tears and suffering, but with the tenacious faith of the Canaanite woman (see Mt 15:21-28) then the Lord cannot but welcome our prayer with His paternal eyes and heart. #GospelOfTheDay. Aug 16, 2020