Friday, July 1, 2022

Saint Peter Claver – Feast Day – September 9

Saint Peter Claver was born on June 26 1580 in Verdú, Urgell, Lleida, Catalonia, Spain and died on September 8 1654 at the age of 74 in Cartagena, Colombia. He was a Jesuit priest who is the patron saint of slaves. We celebrate his feast day on September 9 every year in the Catholic Church.

Saint Peter Claver, Priest Biography

Saint Peter Claver - Feast Day - September 9

Date of Birth June 26 1580
Place of Birth Verdú, Urgell, Lleida, Catalonia, Spain
Profession Spanish Jesuit Priest
Place of Work Colombia
Date of Death September 8 1654
Place of Death Cartagena, Colombia
Feast Day September 9
Beatification By Pope Blessed Pius IX on July 20 1850 in Rome, Papal States
Canonization By Pope Leo XIII on January 15 1888 in Rome, Italy
Patron Saint of
  • Colombia
  • Ministry to African-Americans
  • Missionary work among all African peoples
  • Race relations
  • Seafarers
  • Slaves

Saint Peter Claver Life History

Peter Claver hailed from a rich but devout Catholic family. This was the time when the slave trade thrived all over the world.

He studied at the University of Barcelona where he vowed to dedicate himself to serve God until death, on the understanding that he was like a slave.

He joined the Jesuits in 1602, at the age of 20. Thereafter, he joined a college at Palma, Mallorca where he studied philosophy. While here, he met Jesuit Brother Alphonsus Rodriguez who encouraged him to become a missionary in the Spanish colonies in America.

Peter Claver took up the advice and volunteered. He was sent to the New Kingdom of Granada and in 1610 he arrived at the port city of Cartagena. He lived with the Jesuits there as he studied theology and after five years of study, he was ordained a priest. He was always saddened by how inhumanely the black slaves were being handled and treated right from Africa to the Americas.

It is estimated that nearly a third of the slaves died in the high seas due to diseases from the foul and poor conditions they were kept in the ships.

The black slave trade had been going on for close to a century in the Americas. Much labour force, especially strong men and women, was still needed in the mining fields and plantations therefore, there was no end in sight for the slave trade.

Before Peter Claver arrived, the Jesuit priest Fr. Alonso de Sandoval had started the service to the slaves. When Peter Claver arrived, he mentored and inspired him to continue with the service.

As opposed to visiting the slaves at the mines and plantations where they toiled, Peter Claver preferred to go straight to the docking ships at the port. He would enter the ship to treat and minister to those slaves who were in dire need of a merciful heart and a helping hand.

Inside the ships and still outside in the yards where onlookers and buyers scrutinized them, Claver would give them medicines, biscuits, brandy, tobacco and lemons. He was assisted by interpreters to speak to the slaves because he didn’t understand the African languages. But he would often say, “We must speak to them with our hands before we try to speak to them with our lips.”

When Claver saw a newborn baby or a dying slave, he would baptize them immediately. Throughout his forty years of service in Colombia, he was able to baptize approximately 300,000 slaves and instruct them to the faith.

When he was not at the port, Claver would visit the slaves in the mines and plantations and console them spiritually. He would beg with their Lords and the authorities to accord the slaves their civil rights. While visiting the slaves in the plantations and mines, he would decline the elegant and posh hospitality of the owners and opt to lodge with the slaves in their quarters.

Peter Claver did not only administer spiritually to the slaves but also to the other affluent members of the society. But largely he dedicated himself to the slaves.

Saint Peter Claver’s Death

Claver became sick with the plague and stayed in his room for four years. He was ill-treated and neglected by the caregiver who was assigned to him. Claver never complained about it for he said it was a chance to atone for his sins.

He died on September 8 1654 at the age of 74 years. People milled around his room to pay their last respect for this kind servant of God.

He was accorded a public funeral and the extent of the impact of his work came to be known to the world after his death.

Relics

St Peter Claver’s remains are preserved under the altar at the Church of St. Peter Claver in Cartagena, Colombia.

Beatification

St Peter Claver was beatified by Blessed Pius IX, Pope on July 16 1850 in Rome, Papal States.

Canonization

Saint Peter Claver was canonized together with St. Alphonsus Rodriguez on January 15 1888, by Pope Leo XIII in Rome.

St Peter Claver is the Patron Saint of

  • Colombia
  • Ministry to African-Americans
  • Missionary work among all African peoples
  • Race relations
  • Seafarers
  • Slaves

St Peter Claver Feast Day

We celebrate his feast day on September 9 every year in the Catholic Church.

Places, Churches and Institutions Named after Saint Peter Claver

  • St Peter Claver Catholic Church, West Hartford, Connecticut, United States
  • St Peter Claver Catholic Church, St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
  • St Peter Claver Catholic Church, Simi Valley, California, United States
  • St Peter Claver Catholic Church, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, United States
  • St Peter Claver Catholic Church, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
  • St Peter Claver Catholic Church, Nairobi, Kenya
  • St Peter Claver Catholic Church, Montclair, New Jersey, United States
  • St Peter Claver Catholic Church, Macon, Georgia, United States
  • St Peter Claver Catholic Church, Lexington, Kentucky, United States
  • St Peter Claver Catholic Church, Huntington, West Virginia, United States
  • St Peter Claver Catholic Church, Baltimore, Maryland, United States
  • St Peter Claver Catholic School, Decatur, Georgia, United States
  • The Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, Cartagena, Colombia
  • St Peter Claver Catholic School, Pimville, South Africa
  • St Peter Claver Catholic School, St. Petersburg, Florida, United States
  • Human Rights national Day in the Republic of Colombia on September 9 every year in honour of St Peter Claver.
  • The Knights of Peter Claver, Inc. an African-American Catholic fraternal organization in the United States
  • The Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver

Today’s Catholic Quote:

“To do the will of God, man must despise his own: the more he dies to himself, the more he will live to God.”

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