Jesuit Missionary (1580-1654)
+ Peter was born in Verdu, Spain, and entered the Society of Jesus in 1602.
+ After being advised by Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez that he should become a missionary, Peter asked to be sent the Jesuit missions in the New World.
+ Assigned to Colombia, Peter was ordained in 1616. He dedicated his life to serving enslaved Africans, vowing to serve as “the slave of the blacks forever.”
+ Peter enlisted the help of catechists and translators to help in his work and it is said that he baptized as many 300,000 people during his years of ministry.
+ With his Jesuit confreres, Peter worked to defend the dignity of all peoples, despite the widespread acceptance of slavery. Not only did he meet each slave ship as it entered the port of Cartagena, he would also make every effort to visit the plantations and mines where the slaves were sent. He never ceased advocating for their rights and freedom.
+ Peter Claver died on September 8, 1654, and was canonized in 1888 in the same ceremony as his former confrere Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez. Pope Leo XIII named him patron saint of all those who serve black communities.
+ In 1891, Blessed Mary Theresa Ledóchowska and a group of women took religious vows, forming a new religious community: the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver. Dedicated to working among the poor and the proclamation of the Gospel, these Sisters are currently serving in several countries across the globe.
For prayer and reflection
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. The king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me… Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”—Matthew 25:31-36, 40
On this day we also remember the missionary priest Blessed Jacques Laval. After his ordination in France in 1838 he served as a parish priest before joining the Spiritans (Congregation of the Holy Spirit) who sent him as a missionary to the island of Mauritius. He served among the formerly enslaved peoples on the island for the rest of his life, learning the local language, reforming agriculture and sanitation practices, as well as serving as doctor and teacher. He is credited with nearly 70,000 conversions among those whom he served and at the time of his death on September 9, 1864, he was mourned by more than 40,000 (including local Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus) who attended his funeral. He was beatified in 1979.
O God, who made Saint Peter Claver a slave of slaves
and strengthened him with wonderful charity and patience
as he came to their help,
grant, through his intercession,
that, seeking the things of Jesus Christ,
we may love our neighbor in deeds and in truth.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.