St. Peter Claver

Friends in the Lord, today is the Feast of St. Peter Claver. Peter was born in Spain in 1581. He had a hard time making commitments. He went to a Jesuit school, but vacillated for years about whether he should join the Order. Finally he did, but he immediately had second thoughts. He was a person, not unlike many today, who had difficulty making commitments.
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Now along the way, he came to know a humble, elderly porter named Brother Alphonso. He confided his doubts to him. Brother Alphonso told him: you need to take a bold step: you should go to the Americas as a missionary. He felt great fear at this shocking idea. But summoning up all the courage he had, he asked to be sent.
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He was sent to Cartagena, Columbia. Now this port was a principle port for the slave trade, and there Peter saw the plight of these Africans – crammed into dark holds of slave ships, arriving dehydrated and hungry and mad with fear. Their treatment was so inhumane, that 1/3 of them died in the sea journey. They were herded into slave-pens and auctioned to the highest bidder.
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It was to these people that Peter would minister. Regularly he would row out to the crowded, disease-laden ships to bring food, medicine & clothing, but most of all, he brought them God. He had found something finally, that would compel him to throw his whole heart into it.
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While nursing them back to health, he taught about Christ and told them that they were loved by God. What he offered, was their consolation: hope in the promises of Eternal Life. He baptized nearly 300,000 slaves. and after 27 years of devout service, he lay dying in the Jesuit residence.
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Abandoned by the whites of Cartagena, it was an African who cared and nursed Peter Claver until he died. Canonized a saint, he was proclaimed patron of Catholic missions among the Blacks.
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And that humble porter, Brother Alphonso? He was canonized at the same time.
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We don’t have slavery in our country today, but prejudice in many forms is still present. We are not ‘on’ for changing all the problems of our society. But what we are ‘on’ for, is treating others with Christian charity, no matter their race or ethnicity or how they talk; no matter whether they are fat or thin, attractive or unattractive; like us or not like us.
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Since the time of St. Paul, this is how Christians have tried to be leaven in the darkness of the world; like St. Peter Claver, doing the best we can to treat others as Jesus would want it, one person at a time.

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