September Feast Days– Catholic Saints to Celebrate with Children
Peter Claver journeyed to the New Kingdom of Granada as a missionary in the year 1610. There, in the port city of Cartagena, 1,000 African slaves landed each month. Peter Claver was deeply troubled by the conditions endured by the slaves. Following in the footsteps of his mentor, the Jesuit priest Alonso de Sandoval, Claver ministered to the slaves arriving and living in Cartagena.
When the ships would arrive in the port city, Saint Peter Claver would bring the slaves food and water. He would enter the holds of the ship, which were filled to capacity, and minister to the needs of the slaves with the help of an interpreter.
For forty years, Peter Claver dedicated his life to helping the slaves arriving in Cartagena, both physically and spiritually. He taught the slaves about Christ and gave them the sacraments. He traveled to various plantations to urge the owners to be kind to these slaves and to treat them with dignity and respect. He stayed in the slave quarter during these visits instead of in the plantation homes.
It is estimated that Peter Claver baptized 300,000 slaves during his work in Colombia. He continued to follow up with those that he baptized to ensure that they were being treated with respect and dignity.
He treated each of these slaves from Africa as his brother in Christ and he insisted that others treat them the same way. When speaking about slaves, Peter Claver said, “We must speak to them with our hands by giving, before we try to speak to them with our lips.” He has been called “the Apostle of Cartagena.”
Peter Claver is a great example of mercy. In addition to his ministry with the slaves of Cartagena, he cared for the sick and dying. He ministered to prisoners, traders, sailors, and city residents.
Saint Peter Claver died in the year 1654 after a long illness. The extent of Claver’s ministry was realized after his death and he was canonized in 1888 by Pope Leo XII along with the Jesuit Alphonsus Rodriguez.
During his Apostolic Trip in Colombia, Pope Francis visited the Shrine of Saint Peter Claver and prayed the Angelus prayer at the Church of Saint Peter Claver in Cartagena. Pope Francis said of Saint Peter Claver, “Saint Peter Claver was austere and charitable to the point of heroism. After consoling hundreds of thousands of people in their loneliness, he died without honours and was not remembered, having spent the last four years of his life in sickness and confined to his cell which was in a terrible state of neglect. This how the world paid him, yet God paid him in another way.” (Angelus prayer at the Church of Saint Peter Claver, October 9, 2017)
Like Peter Claver, we are called to act with mercy and treat each other as our brother or sister in Christ. We are also called to work for the rights of all people.