St. Peter Claver
Feast Day: September 9th
The horror of human cargo being unpacked from the suffocating hell of slave ships was a frequent event in the New World’s Caribbean cities of Cartagena and Vera Cruz. Sick with disease and afflicted by fear, the slaves that had survived the nightmarish journey were dumped into the foreign ports as goods to be sold. However, in that unsettling sea of gawking faces that surrounded the new arrivals, there was one man whose eyes shone with compassion. He gently approached, arms filled with food, medicine, brandy, citrus fruits, and tobacco, just for them. He was a Jesuit named Peter Claver, and he passionately answered God’s call to aid these abused and unspeakably neglected human beings. Originally born into a Christian working-class family in Spain, Peter excelled at his academic and spiritual studies, and soon set out for the New World. There he encountered the monstrosity of the slave trade, loudly condemned as criminal by Pope Paul III, and made it his life mission to help these greatly abused souls. Peter spoke out against slavery, urging the slaver traders to embrace kindness and justice instead. He cared for the sick and abandoned, ministered in prisons, and baptized and converted many, including slaves. Before he passed away on September 8, 1654, the people of the city suddenly flocked to touch his hand and take small relics from his room, already knowing that he would become a saint for his efforts.