Saint of the Day for 09 September: St Peter Claver
St Peter Claver: an example of charity and compassion
25 July 1580, Verdú, Spain
8 September 1654, Cartagena, Colombia
16 June 1850, Rome, Pope Pius IX
15 January 1888, Rome, Pope Leo XIII
O God, Father of all peoples, who instilled in the priest St Peter Claver, slave of slaves, a great love and admirable patience in the service of his brothers, men, without distinction of race or social category; through his intercession and his merits grant us to overcome all social discrimination to love all with a generous heart and to be a principle of unity among your children. Amen.
St Peter Claver, a priest of the Society of Jesus, who, in Cartagena, Colombia, worked for over forty years with admirable self-sacrifice and distinguished charity for the enslaved blacks, regenerating by his own hand in the baptism of Christ about three hundred thousand of them.
The Saint and Mission
St Peter Claver, known as the Apostle to the Slaves, dedicated much of his life to the mission of serving and assisting the African slaves brought to the New World during the brutal period of the transatlantic slave trade.
His commitment and dedication to this mission was driven by a deep understanding of the Gospel, which sees in every human being a living image of God, regardless of race or social status. Peter Claver understood that true Christian mission went beyond verbal preaching; it was intrinsically linked to action and witness of love and concrete solidarity with the most marginalised and suffering.
By putting into practice the Gospel teaching of love of neighbour, Peter Claver brought physical and spiritual comfort to thousands of men and women subjected to inhuman conditions. His ministry was not just an act of charity, but a true evangelical mission, a crystal-clear witness to the Gospel in action.
Peter Claver’s missionary action also speaks to us of the need to incarnate the Gospel message in specific historical contexts, responding to the urgencies and sufferings of his time with a radical commitment to justice and human dignity. His mission was a constant challenge to the structures of sin that sustained slavery and the exploitation of entire populations.
Peter Claver’s work, therefore, not only provided an eloquent witness to the Christian message, but also laid the groundwork for a broader understanding of the Church’s missionary focus on the promotion of human dignity and fundamental human rights.
Today, in a world still marked by severe forms of injustice and discrimination, the figure of St Peter Claver emerges as a strong and urgent call to a mission rooted in concrete love for one’s neighbour, especially the most marginalised and oppressed. He invites us to a deeply incarnated mission that goes to the heart of human suffering to bring not only words of hope, but actions of justice, reconciliation and healing.
In the mission of Peter Claver we find an exhortation to overcome all forms of indifference and to recognise Christ in the face of the least, the weakest and the marginalised, embracing a mission of universal justice and fraternity, deeply rooted in mercy and love.
The Saint and Mercy
St Peter Claver, a 17th century Jesuit, embodied the deepest sense of Christian mercy in his tireless service and dedication to the African slaves brought to the Americas. His life was a constant act of mercy, a concrete emanation of God’s love for humanity.
Mercy, as a virtue that leads one to approach the suffering of others with empathy and compassion, was the driving force behind Peter Claver’s actions. He did not limit himself to providing spiritual assistance, but went further, seeking to alleviate the physical suffering of the people he met, providing food, medicine and other forms of material assistance.
His work was an extension of God’s mercy, manifested through his loving and compassionate actions. In a time and place where slaves were considered less than human beings, Claver saw them through the eyes of mercy, recognising their inherent dignity and worth as children of God.
St Peter Claver was not just a missionary in the traditional sense; he was a true agent of mercy, someone who put aside his own needs and desires to serve others. With his hands, he washed the wounds of slaves, with his words, he gave comfort, and with his actions, he showed that mercy knows no racial, social or cultural barriers.
His mercy went beyond mere pity; it was radical, requiring total commitment and unreserved dedication to the cause of service to others. Mercy, for Claver, was not an option, but an imperative, a necessary response to the human suffering he saw around him.
In a world where violence and indifference often seem to prevail, Peter Claver’s testimony reminds us that mercy is a powerful force, capable of transforming human relationships and building a more just and compassionate society. His life is a living lesson in the redemptive power of mercy, showing us that through concrete acts of love and service, we can reflect God’s love for all his children.
Turning our gaze to St Peter Claver, we are called to reflect on how we can embody mercy in our time, finding ways to serve others with a love that goes beyond words, reaching into the depths of human pain with a touch of hope, healing and rebirth. An invitation to see in the face of the other not a stranger, but a brother, a sister, a living image of God to be welcomed with open arms of mercy.
Nato da Pietro ed Anna Claver l’anno 1585 a Verdù in Spagna, il nostro Santo fin dai primi anni fu educato cristianamente. Inviato a Barcellona per gli studi fu ammesso dal Vescovo fra i suoi chierici. Ma un più vivo desiderio nutriva Pietro: essere sacerdote religioso della Compagnia di Gesù. I suoi genitori non sapevano come staccarsi da un sì caro figliuolo, perciò gli negarono il consenso. Pietro, non potendo convincere i genitori con le parole, si rivolse con tutto l’animo alla SS. Vergine. Ottenuta la sospirata grazia, entrò in religione. A Maiorca conobbe il B. Alfonso Rodriguez che lo incitò ad andare in America. Approdato a Cartagena si recò a Santa Fè per compiervi la sua formazione, e…