Saint Pierre Claver
Jésuite (✝ 1654)
Il naît près de Barcelone (*) dans une famille de paysans espagnols. Doué, il fait des études chez les jésuites avant d'entrer à 20 ans au noviciat de la Compagnie de Jésus à Tarragone. On l'envoie au couvent de Majorque où il se lie d'amitié avec le frère saint Alphonse Rodriguez, le frère portier qui lui parle des Amériques. Alors grandit en lui le désir de partir en mission dans le Nouveau Monde. Au terme de son voyage, il parvient en 1610 en Colombie, à Carthagène, où il devient prêtre. Dans ce port arrivent par centaines les esclaves noirs, entassés dans les cales des navires des négriers. Leur souffrance et leur déchéance sont indescriptibles. Ils sont traités comme des animaux. Il les nourrit, les soigne, les habille, les console, les évangélise. Il se consacre aussi aux condamnés à mort et à tous les plus misérables, quarante ans de dévouement marqués de nombreuses conversions; il est devenu par un vœu spécial 'esclave des Nègres pour toujours'. L'on estime à près de trois cent mille ceux qu'il régénéra de sa propre main, par le baptême du Christ. Il meurt, épuisé physiquement et moralement.
Il a été canonisé en 1888.
Il a été canonisé en 1888.
(*) Un internaute nous signale qu'il est né à Verdú (Comarca d'Urgell, Catalunya)
site des Jésuites - province de France
L'Association Pierre Claver regroupe des avocats et juristes bénévoles désireux d'aider les personnes déplacées par force de leur pays d'origine et trouvant refuge en France, et en particulier les demandeurs d'asile au sens du droit français et international.
Mémoire de saint Pierre Claver, prêtre de la Compagnie de Jésus. Pendant plus de quarante ans jusqu’à sa mort en 1654 à Carthagène en Colombie, il donna tous ses soins, avec une admirable abnégation et une rare charité, aux noirs réduits en esclavage et, de sa propre main, il régénéra par le baptême du Christ près de trois cent mille d’entre eux.
Dès que je ne fais pas ce que fait l’âne, cela ne me réussit pas. Qu’on dise du mal de lui, qu’on ne lui donne pas à manger, qu’on le charge au point de tomber à terre, quoiqu’on le maltraite, toujours il se tait. Il est endurant, étant âne. C’est ainsi que doit être le serviteur de Dieu: 'J’étais comme une bête devant toi' (Psaume 72).
Paroles de saint Pierre Claver
SOURCE : http://nominis.cef.fr/contenus/saint/8155/Saint-Pierre-Claver.html
Saint Pierre Claver
Apôtre des Noirs
Saint Pierre Claver était Espagnol; sa naissance fut le fruit des prières de ses parents. A vingt ans, il entra au noviciat des Jésuites. Il se lia avec le saint vieillard Alphonse Rodriguez, Jésuite comme lui, et qui fut canonisé le même jour que lui, le 8 janvier 1888. Alphonse avait compris, d'après une vision, que Pierre Claver devait être un apôtre de l'Amérique; il lui en souffla au coeur le désir, et le jeune religieux obtint, en effet, de ses supérieurs, de s'embarquer pour les missions du nouveau monde.
A son arrivée en Amérique, il baisa la terre qu'il allait arroser de ses sueurs. Il se dévoua corps et âme au salut des esclaves, pénétra dans les magasins où on les entassait, les accueillit avec tendresse, pansa leurs plaies, leur rendit les plus dégoûtants services et s'imposa tous les sacrifices pour alléger les chaînes de leur captivité. Il en convertit, par ces moyens héroïques, une multitude incalculable. Quand fut venu le moment de ses voeux, Pierre Claver obtint d'y ajouter celui de servir les esclaves jusqu'à sa mort; il signa ainsi sa formule de profession: Pierre, esclave des nègres pour toujours.
Les milliers d'esclaves de Carthagène étaient tous ses enfants; il passait ses jours à les édifier, à les confesser, à les soigner. Il ne vivait que pour eux. Aux hommes qui lui demandaient à se confesser, il disait: "Vous trouverez des confesseurs dans la ville; moi, je suis le confesseur des esclaves." Il disait aux dames: "Mon confessionnal est trop étroit pour vos grandes robes; c'est le confessionnal des pauvres négresses."
Le soir, épuisé de fatigues, asphyxié par les odeurs fétides, il ne pouvait plus se soutenir; cependant un morceau de pain et quelques pommes de terre grillées faisaient son souper; la visite au Saint-Sacrement, la prière, les disciplines sanglantes, occupaient une grande partie de ses nuits. Que de pécheurs il a convertis en leur disant, par exemple: "Dieu compte tes péchés; le premier que tu commettras sera peut-être le dernier!"
Pierre Claver multipliait les miracles avec ses actes sublimes de charité. En quarante-quatre ans d'apostolat, il avait baptisé plus de trois cent mille nègres. – Le Pape Léon XIII l'a déclaré Patron des missions, en 1896.
Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950
Reliques de Saint Pierre Claver, Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, Cartagena, Colombia
Saint Pierre Claver, jésuite catalan du XVIIème, envoyé en mission au Nouveau Monde, exerça son ministère auprès des esclaves noirs qui débarquaient par centaines au port de Carthagène (Colombie). C’est en ce lieu qu’il entendit l’appel du Christ pour se faire « l’esclave auprès des Nègres pour toujours ».
Dans une lettre du 31 mai 1627, adressée à son supérieur, transparaît en effet la flamme vivante de sa foi qui le pousse à se faire proche des esclaves de la même manière que le Christ s’est abaissé, ne retenant pas le rang qui l’égalait à Dieu, pour servir et sauver l’humanité.
« Hier, 30 mai 1627, jour de la Sainte Trinité , débarquèrent d’un énorme navire un très grand nombre de Noirs enlevés des bords de l’Afrique. Nous sommes accourus portant dans deux corbeilles des oranges, des citrons, des gâteaux et je ne sais quoi d’autre encore. Nous sommes entrés dans leurs cases. Nous avions l’impression de pénétrer dans une nouvelle Guinée ! Il nous fallut faire notre chemin à travers les groupes pour arriver jusqu’aux malades. Le nombre de ceux-ci était considérable ; ils étaient étendus sur un sol humide et boueux, bien qu’on eût pensé, pour limiter l’humidité, à dresser un remblai en y mêlant des morceaux de tuiles et de briques ; tel était le lit sur lequel ils gisaient, lit d’autant plus incommode qu’ils étaient nus, sans la protection d’aucun vêtement.
Aussi, après avoir enlevé notre manteau, avons-nous pris tout ce qu’il fallait pour assembler des planches ; nous en avons recouvert un endroit où nous avons ensuite transporté les malades en passant à travers la foule. Puis nous les avons répartis en deux groupes : mon compagnon s’occupa de l’un d’eux avec l’aide d’un interprète, et moi-même du second. Il y avait là deux Noirs, plus morts que vivants et déjà froids, dont il était difficile de trouver le pouls. Nous avons mis des braises sur des tuiles et avons placé celles-ci au centre, près des moribonds ; puis nous avons jeté sur ce feu des parfums contenus dans deux bourses que nous avons entièrement vidées. Après quoi, avec nos manteaux (ils n’avaient en effet rien de ce genre et c’est en vain que nous en avions demandé à leurs maîtres), nous leur avons donné la possibilité de se réchauffer : ils parurent, grâce à cela, retrouver chaleur et respiration ; il fallait voir avec quelle joie dans les yeux ils nous regardaient ! C’est ainsi que nous nous sommes adressés à eux, non par des paroles, mais avec nos mains et notre aide ; et comme ils étaient persuadés qu’on les avait amenés ici pour les manger, tout autre discours aurait été complètement inutile. Nous nous sommes assis ou mis à genoux auprès d’eux, nous avons lavé avec du vin leur figure et leur corps, faisant tout pour les égayer et leur montrant tout ce qui peut mettre en joie le coeur des malades »
A. Valtierra, s.j., San Pedro Claver , 1964, pp. 140-141
SOURCE : http://www.jesuites.com/2011/09/cergy-communaute-saint-pierre-claver/
Sant Pere Claver a la plaça Major, 25, de Verdú.
Casa que fa cantonada amb el carrer Arquebisbe Terés, 2. Març de 2016.
Saint Pierre Claver
Katholische Kirche St. Maria Magdalena und St. Andreas des ehemaligen Prämonstratenser-Klosters Knechtsteden in Dormagen im Rhein-Kreis Neuss (Nordrhein-Westfalen), Bleiglasfenster im Langhaus von 1913, Darstellung: Petrus Claver
Saint Pierre Claver, prêtre jésuite, Apôtre parmi les Noirs déportés
«Comment puis-je aimer vraiment le Seigneur? Que dois-je faire pour lui plaire? Enseigne-le moi. Il me donne de grands désirs d’être totalement sien, mais je ne sais comment le faire». C’était la demande que Pierre Claver, étudiant en philosophie à Palma de Majorque, dans les Iles Baléare, demandait au portier du couvent des Jésuites, Alfonso Rodriguez. Ce dernier, après avoir prié longuement, exhorta le jeune à partir pour évangéliser les possessions espagnoles en Amérique.
De la Catalogne en Colombie
Pierre, né à Verdù, en Catalogne, le 25 juin 1581, n’appartenait pas à une famille noble. Il fit son noviciat à Tarragone, les études philosophiques à Palma de Majorque et commença celles de théologie à Barcelone. Il ne les avait pas encore terminées, lorsqu’il fut destiné à la Mission de Nouvelle Grenade, l’actuelle Colombie. Le jeune débarqua à Carthagène en1610 et fut ordonné prêtre en 1616, dans la mission où pendant quarante-quatre ans il travailla parmi les esclaves africains, à une période où la traite négrière battait son plein.
Le choix des derniers
Eduqué à l’école du missionnaire Alfonso de Sandoval, Pierre se rendit esclave des Noirs pour toujours, par un vœu «Aethiopum semper servus», déjà qu’à l’époque tous les Noirs étaient appelés Ethiopiens. Les côtes où, par milliers, étaient débarquées, des personnes, arrachées sans aucun égard ni à leur vie ni à leurs pays, devinrent pour le jeune jésuite un champ d’apostolat. Chaque mois, quand on signalait l’arrivée de nouveaux esclaves, entassés dans les cales des navires, Pierre Claver sortait en mer avec son embarcation pour les rencontrer, leur apporter de la nourriture, les secourir et leur donner du réconfort. Il réveillait ainsi en chacun d’eux le sens de sa propre dignité humaine; il portait à la foi les non baptisés, élevait tous à la connaissance et à la pratique des vertus évangéliques. Il soignait leurs blessures, les nourrissait, leur donnait des vêtements; il demandait de l’aide en frappant à toutes les portes; et pour les instruire, il avait appris la langue des Angolais, et pour les autres langues il s’était équipé d’un groupe de 18 interprètes . Pour son œuvre infatigable, il fut accusé de naïveté et d’avoir profané les sacrements, en les donnant à des créatures qui «avaient à peine une âme».
La mort dans l’abandon et la contemplation
En 1650 il tomba malade de la peste; mais il survécu à l’épidémie, cependant, pour le reste de sa vie il ne réussit plus à travailler. Les quatre dernières années de son existence terrestre, il les passa immobilisé à l’infirmerie du couvent. L’homme qui avait été l’âme de la ville, père des pauvres et consolateur dans tant de malheurs, fut complètement oublié de tous, passant son temps dans la prière. Pierre Claver s’éteignit le 8 septembre 1654. Il fut élevé aux honneurs des autels le 16 juillet 1850 par Pie IX et canonisé le 15 janvier 1888 par Léon XIII, ensemble avec Afonso Rodriguez. Et le 7 juillet 1896 il fut proclamé patron de toutes les missions catholiques auprès des Noirs.
SOURCE : https://www.vaticannews.va/fr/saint-du-jour/09/09/saint-pierre-claver--pretre-jesuite--apotre-parmi-les-noirs-depo.html
Saint Pierre Claver naît près de Barcelone en 1580, sous le règne de Philippe II d’Espagne. À vingt ans, il entre au noviciat des jésuites où il se lie avec Alphonse Rodriguez, jésuite comme lui, et qui sera canonisé le même jour que lui.
Alphonse avait compris, après une vision, que Pierre Claver serait un apôtre des Amériques. Il lui en souffla donc le désir, et le jeune religieux obtint de ses supérieurs de s’embarquer pour les missions du nouveau monde. Ordonné prêtre en 1616 dans la mission de Colombie, il quitte donc l’Espagne en 1610, et baise à l’arrivée cette terre qu’il ne va plus quitter. À la vue des malheureux Noirs vendus comme esclaves, traités comme des animaux et qui débarquent en grand nombre à Carthagène des Indes, il comprend que sa vocation est là : accueillir avec tendresse, panser les plaies, habiller, soigner, consoler, catéchiser. Dans un incroyable élan de charité, il s’impose tous les sacrifices pour soulager ces captifs dont la condition l’horrifie.
Sophie de Villeneuve
SOURCE : https://croire.la-croix.com/Definitions/Figures-spirituelles/Figures-de-misericorde/Pierre-Claver-l-esclave-des-esclaves
- Pedro Claver Corberó
- Slave of the Blacks
- Slave of the Slaves
Farmer‘s son. Studied at the University of Barcelona. Jesuit from age 20. Priest. Influenced by Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez to become a missionary in America. Ministered, physically and spiritually, to slaves when they arrived in Cartegena, converting a reported 300,000, and working for humane treatment on the plantations for 40 years. Organized charitable societies among the Spanish in America similar to those organized in Europe by Saint Vincent de Paul.
- African missions (proclaimed in 1896 by Pope Leo XIII)
- against slavery
- black missions
- black people
- foreign missions
- inter-racial justice
- race relations
- Missionary Sisters of Saint Peter Claver
- Accra, Ghana, archdiocese of
- Lake Charles, Louisiana, diocese of
- Shreveport, Louisiana, diocese of
- Witbank, South Africa, diocese of
St. Peter Claver
A native of Spain, young Jesuit Peter Claver left his homeland forever in 1610 to be a missionary in the colonies of the New World. He sailed into Cartagena (now in Colombia), a rich port city washed by the Caribbean. He was ordained there in 1615.
By this time the slave trade had been established in the Americas for nearly 100 years, and Cartagena was a chief center for it. Ten thousand slaves poured into the port each year after crossing the Atlantic from West Africa under conditions so foul and inhuman that an estimated one-third of the passengers died in transit. Although the practice of slave-trading was condemned by Pope Paul III and later labeled “supreme villainy” by Pius IX, it continued to flourish.
Peter Claver’s predecessor, Jesuit Father Alfonso de Sandoval, had devoted himself to the service of the slaves for 40 years before Claver arrived to continue his work, declaring himself “the slave of the Negroes forever.”
As soon as a slave ship entered the port, Peter Claver moved into its infested hold to minister to the ill-treated and exhausted passengers. After the slaves were herded out of the ship like chained animals and shut up in nearby yards to be gazed at by the crowds, Claver plunged in among them with medicines, food, bread, brandy, lemons and tobacco. With the help of interpreters he gave basic instructions and assured his brothers and sisters of their human dignity and God’s saving love. During the 40 years of his ministry, Claver instructed and baptized an estimated 300,000 slaves.
His apostolate extended beyond his care for slaves. He became a moral force, indeed, the apostle of Cartagena. He preached in the city square, gave missions to sailors and traders as well as country missions, during which he avoided, when possible, the hospitality of the planters and owners and lodged in the slave quarters instead.
After four years of sickness which forced the saint to remain inactive and largely neglected, he died on September 8, 1654. The city magistrates, who had previously frowned at his solicitude for the black outcasts, ordered that he should be buried at public expense and with great pomp.
He was canonized in 1888, and Pope Leo XIII declared him the worldwide patron of missionary work among black slaves.
SOURCE : http://www.ucatholic.com/saints/st-peter-claver/
Brother Joseph Carignano. Saint Peter Claver,1890.
St. Peter Claver
The son of a Catalonian farmer, was born at Verdu, in 1581; he died 8 September, 1654. He obtained his first degrees at the University of Barcelona. At the age of twenty he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Tarragona. While he was studying philosophy at Majorca in 1605, Alphonsus Rodriguez, the saintly door-keeper of the college, learned from God the future mission of his young associate, and thenceforth never ceased exhorting him to set out to evangelize the Spanish possessions in America. Peter obeyed, and in 1610 landed at Cartagena, where for forty-four years he was the Apostle of the negro slaves. Early in the seventeenth century the masters of Central and South America afforded the spectacle of one of those social crimes which are entered upon so lightly. They needed labourers to cultivate the soil which they had conquered and to exploit the gold mines. The natives being physically incapable of enduring the labours of the mines, it was determined to replace them with negroesbrought from Africa. The coasts of Guinea, the Congo, and Angola became the market for slave dealers, to whom native petty kings sold their subjects and their prisoners. By its position in the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena became the chief slave-mart of the New World. A thousand slaves landed there each month. They were bought for two, and sold for 200 écus. Though half the cargo might die, the trade remained profitable. Neither the repeatedcensures of the pope, nor those of Catholic moralists could prevail against this cupidity. The missionaries could not suppress slavery, but only alleviate it, and no one worked more heroically than Peter Claver.
Trained in the school of Père Alfonso de Sandoval, a wonderful missionary, Peter declared himself "the slave of the negroes forever", and thenceforth his life was one that confounds egotism by its superhuman charity. Although timid and lacking in self-confidence, he became a daring and ingenious organizer. Every month when the arrival of the negroes was signalled, Claver went out to meet them on the pilot's boat, carrying food and delicacies. The negroes, cooped up in the hold, arrived crazed and brutalized by suffering and fear. Claver went to each, cared for him, and showed him kindness, and made him understand that henceforth he was his defender and father. He thus won their good will. To instruct so many speaking different dialects, Claver assembled atCartagena a group of interpreters of various nationalities, of whom he made catechists. While the slaves were penned up at Cartagena waiting to be purchased and dispersed, Claver instructed and baptized them in the Faith. On Sundays during Lent he assembled them, inquired concerning their needs, and defended them against their oppressors. This work caused Claver severe trials, and the slave merchants were not his only enemies. TheApostle was accused of indiscreet zeal, and of having profaned the Sacraments by giving them to creatures who scarcely possessed a soul. Fashionable women of Cartagena refused to enter the churches where Father Claver assembled his negroes. The saint's superiors were often influenced by the many criticisms which reached them. Nevertheless, Claver continued his heroic career, accepting all humiliations and adding rigorous penances to hisworks of charity. Lacking the support of men, the strength of God was given him. He became the prophet andmiracle worker of New Granada, the oracle of Cartagena, and all were convinced that often God would not have spared the city save for him. During his life he baptized and instructed in the Faith more than 300,000 negroes. He was beatified 16 July, 1850, by Pius IX, and canonized 15 January, 1888, by Leo XIII. His feast is celebrated on the ninth of September. On 7 July, 1896, he was proclaimed the special patron of all the Catholic missions among the negroes. Alphonsus Rodriguez was canonized on the same day as Peter Claver.
Lives of the saints by DE ANDRADA (Madrid, 1657), DOMINGUES, DE LARA, SUAREZ, FERNANDEZ, FLUERIAN; SOMMERVOGEL, Bibl. de la Comp. de Jesus (Brussels, 1890---); WASER (Paderborn, 1852); SOLA (Barcelona, 1888); HOVER (Dulmen, 1888); an excellent article by LEHMKUHL in Stimmen aus Maria-Laach, XXIV, 380 sqq.
Suau, Pierre. "St. Peter Claver." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 9 Sept. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11763a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Thomas M. Barrett. Dedicated to St. Peter Claver.
Suau, Pierre. "St. Peter Claver." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 9 Sept. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11763a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Thomas M. Barrett. Dedicated to St. Peter Claver.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
Copyright © 2020 by Kevin Knight. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11763a.htm
On the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, 1888, the year of the Sacerdotal Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII, that Pontiff canonized the three Jesuit saints, John Berchmans, Alphonsus Rodriguez, and Peter Claver. A great lesson is taught our generation in the canonization of each of these servants of God. Saint John Berchmans teaches that we need not go back to the ways of the middle ages to serve God; that His perfect service consists in the faithful accomplishment of the duties of our state of life with loving hearts, that by doing this we may become real saints. Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez teaches the same lesson in another form. He teaches that a man may belong to the people, that he may have engaged in business, that he may begin late in life, and that he too, with the help of that God Who is no respecter of persons, before Whom high and low are equally little, and Who wills to be served as well in this age of democracy and trade as in the days of absolute or feudal power, that he too may carry off a prize in the glorious rivalry of Christian heroism. Saint Peter Claver preaches his lesson also to this age which professes so great a love for all humanity and a desire to level up all classes to as much equality as the social condition of mankind in this life will permit. These aspirations are good. Only Our Lord taught them two millenniums ago. They were planted in us by nature’s God; they are inculcated more explicitly by the law of charity, a much better word than altruism.
“The slave of the slaves” – that was what Saint Peter Claver signed himself. What Las Casas was to the Indian, that, and more, was Claver to the negro. Was there ever greater brotherly love than his?
Saint Peter was born in Catalonia, in Spain. While still a young religious he was sent to the college where Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez was porter. Their hearts were drawn together immediately. God revealed the future sanctity of this young professor to the venerable Brother, who encouraged him in every way to cooperate with the extraordinary graces he received. In 1620 Claver was sent to Carthagena, in what are now the States of Colombia. This was a great port for the reception of slaves. To these, the most miserable of the miserable, he devoted the rest of his lifetime. He lived only for them; in the holds of the ships, on the plantations, he hunted them up, the physician of both their bodies and their souls. Once a ship came which, in addition to all the usual horrors, was infected with smallpox. Claver plunged into it and remained there for hours. A favorite resort of his was the hospital for lepers, a race of outcasts that has always had a great attraction for Catholic charity. We are not surprised to know that this man, who made himself love all that is most offensive to the fastidiousness of our cultivated nature, was in every other respect a man of great mortification also. For let us not be mistaken: the saints were not saints by nature; they became saints by mortifying themselves, their flesh, and their spirit. So it was that they grew to love their neighbor as themselves, indeed their neighbor’s soul more than their own flesh.
Worn out by his labors and austerities, Saint Peter Claver died in the year 1654, the blacks vyeing with the whites, at his obsequies, which should show the most veneration for his memory. He was beatified by Pius IX and canonized by Leo XIII, the necessary two additional miracles, which were approved by the Sacred Congregation, having been wrought through his intercession in the United States of America.
- Father D A Merrick, SJ. “Saint Peter Claver”. , 1891. CatholicSaints.Info. 29 December 2018. Web. 8 September 2020. <https://catholicsaints.info/saints-of-the-society-of-jesus-saint-peter-claver/>
Peter Claver was a Spanish Jesuit. He was sent to Cartagena in South America where he spent forty years in this great slave market of the West Indies, laboring for the salvation of African Black peoples. He called himself “the slave of the slaves.” He was their apostle, father, physician, and friend.
Peter would say: “We must speak to the Blacks with our hands by giving, before we try to speak to them with our lips.” He started charitable societies among the Spanish people to help the slaves.
- Father Lawrence George Lovasik, S.V.D.. “Saint Peter Claver”. . CatholicSaints.Info. 4 January 2019. Web. 8 September 2020. <https://catholicsaints.info/book-of-saints-saint-peter-claver/>
Peter Claver, SJ Priest (RM)
This entry is taken nearly verbatim from Lunn. Born 1581; died 1654.
"Jesus Christ, Son of God, you will be my father and my mother and all my good. I love you much. I am sorry for having sinned against you. Lord, I love you much, much, much."
--Saint Peter Claver.
Saint Peter Claver was unable to abolish the slave trade, but he did what he could to mitigate its horrors by bringing them the consolations of religion and ministering to their bodily wants. He landed in Cartagena (Colombia) in 1610 and for forty years strove to alleviate their lot, with true apostolic fervor, declaring himself "the slave of the Negroes forever."
Cartagena, which was founded by Pedro de Heredia in 1533, owed its great commercial importance to its superb harbor. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea near the most northerly point of South America, to the east of the Isthmus of Panama. It is in the tropics, about 700 miles north of the Equator.
When Peter Claver first set foot in Cartagena, he kissed the ground which was to be the scene of his future labors. He had every reason to rejoice, for the climate of Cartagena was disagreeably hot and moist, the country around was flat and marshy, the soil was barren, the necessities of life had to be imported, and in the time of Peter Claver fresh vegetables were almost unknown. In the seventeenth century Cartagena was the happy hunting ground of fever-bearing insects from tropical swamps. These, the natural disadvantages of Cartagena, might have been wasted on a robust saint, but Claver must have been consoled to feel that the fine edge of these discomforts would not be blunted by a naturally healthy constitution. He had, indeed, been warned that his delicate health might easily succumb to excessive heat.
Cartagena was the chief center for the slave trade. Slave-traders picked up slaves at four crowns a head on the coast of Guinea or Congo, and sold them for 200 crowns or more at Cartagena. The voyage lasted two months, slaves cannot live on air, even foul air, and the overheads may fairly be credited with 33 per cent or so of slaves who died en route.
Father Claver, whose life's work was to be the instruction, the conversion and the care of the Negroes who landed in Cartagena, began his ministry under the guidance of Father Alfonso de Sandoval.
Father Claver never experienced that momentary weakness which always overcame the heroic Sandoval when a slave ship was announced. The horror with which Sandoval contemplated a return to these scenes of squalid misery only serves to increase our admiration of the courage with which he conquered these very natural shrinking of the flesh.
Father Claver, on the other hand, was transported with joy when messengers announced the arrival of a fresh cargo of Africans. Indeed, he bribed the officials of Cartagena with the promise to say Mass for the intentions of whoever was first to bring him this joyful news. But there was no need for such bribes, for among the simple pleasures of life must be counted the happiness of bringing good news to a grateful recipient. The Governor himself coveted this mission, for the happiness of watching the radiant dawn of joy on the saint's face. At the words "Another slave ship" his eyes brightened, and color flooded back into his pale, emaciated cheeks.
In the intervals between the arrival of slave ships, Father Claver wandered round the town with a sack. He went from house to house, begging for little comforts for the incoming cargo. Claver enjoyed the respect of the responsible officials of the Crown in Cartagena, devout Catholics who approved warmly the work of instruction which the good Father carried on amongst the Negroes. They felt responsible for the welfare of these exiles. Such opposition as Claver encountered amongst the Spaniards came from the traders and planters, who were often inconvenienced by Claver's zeal on behalf of his black children.
The black cargo arrived in a condition of piteous terror. They were convinced that they were to be bought by merchants who needed their fat to grease the keels of ships, and their blood to dye the sails, for this was one of the favorite bedtime stories with which they had been regaled by friendly mariners during the two months' passage.
The first appearance of Father Claver was often greeted with screams of terror, but it was only a matter of moments to convince these frantic creatures that Claver was no purchaser of slave fat and slave blood. He scarcely needed the interpreters who accompanied him for this purpose for the language of love survived in the confusion of Babel, and readily translated itself into gesture. Cor ad cor loquitur ("heart speaks to heart"). Long before the interpreters had finished explaining that the story that had so terrified them was the invention of the devil, Father Claver had already soothed and comforted them by his very presence. And not only by his presence, for Claver was a practical evangelist. The biscuits, brandy, tobacco and lemons which he distributed were practical tokens of friendship. "We must," he said, "speak to them with our hands, before we try to speak to them with our lips."
After a brief talk to the Negroes on deck, Claver descended to the sick between decks. In this work he was often alone. Many of his African interpreters were unable to endure the stench and fainted at the first contact with that appalling atmosphere. Claver, however, did not recoil. Indeed, he regarded this part of his work as of special importance. Again and again he was able to impart to some poor dying wretch those elements of Christian truth which justified him in administering baptism.
It is recorded that the person of Father Claver was sometimes illumined with rays of glory as he passed through the hospital wards of Cartagena. It may well be that a radiance no less illuminating lit the dark bowels of the slave ship as Father Claver moved among the dying. There they lay in the slime, the stench and the gloom, their bodies still bleeding from the lash, their souls still suffering from insults and contempt. There they lay, and out of the depths called upon the tribal gods who had deserted them, and called in vain. Then suddenly things changed. The dying Africans saw a face bending over them, a face illumined with love, and a voice infinitely tender, and the deft movement of kind hands easing their tortured bodies, and supreme miracle his lips meeting their filthy sores in a kiss. . . . A love so divine was an unconquerable argument for the God in whom Father Claver believed.
When Father Claver returned next day he was welcomed with ecstatic cries of child-like affection.
Two or three days usually passed before arrangements at the port could be completed to allow the disembarkation of a fresh cargo of slaves. When the day of disembarkation arrived, Father Claver was always present, waiting on shore with another stock of provisions and delicacies. Sometimes he would carry the sick ashore in his own arms. Again and again in the records of his mission, we find evidences of his strength, which seemed almost supernatural. His diet would have been ridiculously inadequate for a normal man living a sedentary life. His neglect of sleep would have killed a normal man within a few years, but in spite of his contempt for all ordinary rules of health, in spite of a constitution which was none too strong at the outset of his career, he proved himself capable of outworking and out-walking and out-nursing all his colleagues. He made every effort to secure for the sick special carts, as otherwise they ran the risk of being driven forward under the lash. He did not leave them until he had seen them to their lodgings, and men said that Father Claver escorting slaves back to Cartagena reminded them of a conqueror entering Rome in triumph.
It was after the Negroes had been lodged in the magazines where they awaited their sale and ultimate disposal that Claver's real work began. In the case of the dying, Claver was satisfied if he could awaken some dim sense of contrition of sin, and some faint glimmering of understanding of the fundamental Christian belief. The healthy slaves, however, had to qualify by a course of rigid instruction for the privilege of baptism.
I have already referred to the crowded conditions of the compound in which the Negroes were stocked on disembarkation, and on the squalor and misery which was the result of the infectious diseases from which many of them were suffering. The stink of sick Negroes, confined in a limited space, often proved insupportable to Father Claver's Negro interpreters. It was in this noxious and empoisoned air that Peter Claver's greatest work was achieved.
Before the day's work began, Father Claver prepared himself by special prayers before the Blessed Sacrament and by self-inflicted austerities. He then passed through the streets of Cartagena, accompanied by his African interpreters, and bearing a staff crowned by a cross. On his shoulder he carried a bag which contained his stole and surplice, the necessities for the arrangement of an altar, and his little store of comforts and delicacies. Heavily loaded though he was, his companions found it difficult to keep up with this eager little man who dived through the crowded streets with an enthusiasm which suggested a lover hurrying to a trysting place.
On arrival, his first care was for the sick. He had a delicacy of touch in the cleansing and dressing of sores which was a true expression of his personality. After he had made the sick comfortable on their couches and given them a little wine and brandy and refreshed them with scented water, he then proceeded to collect the healthier Negroes into an open space.
In his work of instruction Claver relied freely on pictures. This method appealed effectively to the uneducated mind, and was, moreover, in accordance with the teachings of his Order, for, as we have seen, Saint Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises was constant in urging the exercitant to picture to himself sensibly the subject-matter of his meditations. His favorite picture was in the form of a triptych, in the center Christ on the Cross, his precious blood flowing from each wound into a vase, below the Cross a priest collecting this blood to baptize a faithful Negro. On the right side of the triptych a naively dramatic group of Negroes, glorious and splendidly arrayed; on the left side the wicked Negroes, hideous and deformed, surrounded by unlovely monsters.
Claver was particularly careful to make every possible arrangement for the comfort of his catechumens. He himself remained standing, even in the heat of the day, and the slave-masters, who sometimes attended these edifying ceremonies, often remonstrated with the slaves for remaining seated while their instructor stood. But Father Claver always intervened, and explained with great earnestness to the slave-masters that the slaves were the really important people at this particular performance, and that he himself was a mere cipher who was there for their convenience. Sometimes, if a Negro was so putrescent with sores as to be revolting to his neighbors, and worse still, to prevent them from concentrating their thoughts on Father Claver's instruction, he would throw his cloak over him as a screen. Again, he would often use his cloak as a cushion for the infirm. On such occasions the cloak was often withdrawn so infected and filthy as to require most drastic cleansing. Father Claver, however, was so engrossed in his work, that he would have resumed his cloak immediately had not his interpreters forcibly prevented him.
This cloak was to serve many purposes during his ministry: as a veil to disguise repulsive wounds, as a shield for leprous Negroes, as a pall for those who had died, as a pillow for the sick. The cloak was soon to acquire a legendary fame. Its very touch cured the sick and revived the dying. Men fought to come into contact with it, to tear fragments from it as relics. Indeed, before long its edge was ragged with torn shreds.
Claver's work was not confined to Cartagena. Cartagena was a slave mart, and very few slaves whom Father Claver baptized in Cartagena remained there. Now, Father Claver was determined not to lose his converts, and it was therefore his practice to conduct a series of country missions after Easter. He went from village to village, crossing mountain ranges, traversing swamps and bogs, making his way through forests. On arriving in a village he would plant a cross in the market place, and there he would await the sunset and the return from the fields of the slaves whom he had first met it might be some weeks, it might be some years before in Cartagena. The ecstatic welcome which marked these scenes of reunion were a royal recompense for the hardships of the missionary journey.
Father Claver never lost his ascendancy over the men whom he had baptized. On one occasion a mere message from him was sufficient to arrest the flight of a panic-stricken Negro population retreating in disorder from a volcano in eruption. Father Claver's messenger stopped the rout, and Father Claver's bodily presence next day transformed a terror-infected mob into a calm and orderly procession which followed him without fear round the very edge of the still active crater, on the crest of which Father Claver planted a triumphant cross.
Though Father Claver's activities were not confined to the Negroes, the "slave of the slaves" regarded himself as, above all, consecrated to their service. Proud Spaniards who sought him out had to be content with such time as he could spare from the ministrations of the Negroes. This attitude did not meet with universal approval. Spanish ladies complained that the smell of the Negroes who had attended Father Claver's daybreak Mass clung tenaciously to the church, and rendered its interior insupportable to sensitive nostrils for the remainder of the day. How could they possibly be expected to confess to Father Claver in a confessional used by Negroes and impregnated with their presence? "I quite agree," replied Father Claver, with the disarming simplicity of the saint. "I am not the proper confessor for fine ladies. You should go to some other confessor. My confessional was never meant for ladies of quality. It is too narrow for their gowns. It is only suited to poor Negresses."
But were his Spanish ladies satisfied with this reply? Not a bit. It was Father Claver to whom they wished to confess, and if the worst had come to the worst, they were prepared to use the same confessional as the Negresses. "Very well, then," replied Father Claver, meekly, "but I am afraid you must wait until all my Negresses have been absolved."
In the sight of God the white man and the Negro may be equal, but in the sight of Father Claver the Negro had precedence every time (Lunn)
In art, Saint Peter Claver is a Jesuit with a Negro (Roeder). He is the apostle of Cartagena and patron of missions to non-European nations (Roeder).
San Pietro Claver Sacerdote
- Memoria Facoltativa
Verdu (Spagna), 25 giugno 1580 - Cartagena (Colombia), 8 settembre 1654
Nato a Verdù, a pochi chilometri da Barcellona, il 25 giugno 1580, Pietro Claver entra nella Compagnia di Gesù dopo aver pronunciato i primi voti nel 1604. Tra il 1605 e il 1608 studia filosofia a Palma di Maiorca e viene ordinato sacerdote a Cartagena nel 1616 e, diventato missionario, presta le sue cure pastorali agli schiavi neri, deportati dall'Africa. Qui, infatti, sbarcano migliaia di schiavi, quasi tutti giovani: ma invecchiano e muoiono presto per la fatica e i maltrattamenti; e per l'abbandono quando sono invalidi. In particolare, pronuncia il voto di essere «sempre schiavo degli Etiopi» (all'epoca si chiamavano «etiopi» tutti i neri) e per comprendere i loro problemi impara anche la lingua dell'Angola. Ammalatosi di peste, sopporta perfino i maltrattamenti del suo infermiere, che è un nero. Morto a 74 anni e canonizzato nel 1888 insieme con Alfonso Rodriguez, suo fratello gesuita e amico, è stato proclamato patrono delle missioni per i neri da Papa Leone XIII. (Avvenire)
Etimologia: Pietro = pietra, sasso squadrato, dal latino
Martirologio Romano: San Pietro Claver, sacerdote della Compagnia di Gesù, che, a Cartagena in Colombia si adoperò per oltre quarant’anni con mirabile abnegazione e insigne carità per i neri ridotti in schiavitù, rigenerando di sua mano nel battesimo di Cristo circa trecentomila di loro.
(8 settembre: A Cartagena in Colombia, anniversario della morte di san Pietro Claver, sacerdote, la cui memoria si celebra domani).
Aethiopum semper servus: all’epoca sua si chiamavano “etiopi” tutti i neri. E lui, dicendosi “semper servus”, si impegna a vivere solo per loro. Cioè per i neri d’Africa, portati schiavi nell’America meridionale. Questo è il programma che s’impone Pietro Claver nell’aprile 1622 a Cartagena (Nueva Granada, detta poi Colombia) nel compiere la “professione definitiva”, l’atto che segna per sempre la sua piena appartenenza alla Compagnia di Gesù. Nato presso Barcellona, è entrato da ragazzo nel collegio dei gesuiti. All’università diretta da loro, nella capitale catalana, ha poi fatto gli studi umanistici, pronunciando i primi voti nel 1604.
Nel 1605-1608 ha studiato filosofia a Palma di Maiorca. E qui lo hanno aiutato le “lezioni” del portinaio Alfonso Rodriguez: è un mercante di Segovia che, perduta la famiglia, presta lietamente l’umile servizio al collegio dei gesuiti. Ma col tempo il suo stanzino diventa un’altra aula, e lui un maestro di spiritualità, consultato da sapienti e potenti e soprattutto dai giovani allievi come Pietro Claver. Che esce da quella portineria orientato.
Inizia gli studi di teologia a Barcellona e li completa a Cartagena di Colombia (dove diventa sacerdote nel 1616). Qui sbarcano migliaia di schiavi neri, quasi tutti giovani: ma invecchiano e muoiono presto per la fatica e i maltrattamenti; e per l’abbandono quando sono invalidi. Tra questa umanità la Compagnia di Gesù ha mandato i suoi missionari. Unitosi a loro, Pietro Claver conosce il mondo della sofferenza e della disperazione; discerne la volontà di Dio, che il portinaio di Maiorca gli insegnava a cercare: Dio vuole che egli serva gli schiavi con tutte le sue forze, ogni giorno della sua vita.
Così si ritrova a vivere la loro sofferenza, e a combatterla. Sta con loro per nutrire e per curare, imperturbabile ed efficiente anche nelle situazioni più disgustose. A questa gente che non ha nulla, che non è nulla, insieme al soccorso offre il rispetto. Si sforza di risvegliare in ognuno il senso della sua dignità, senza il quale non potrebbe parlare di Dio e del suo amore. Impara la lingua dell’Angola, parlata da molti di loro, e crea un’équipe di interpreti per le altre lingue. Ma si fa capire anche col suo modo di vivere, che è quello degli schiavi più sfortunati: basta guardarlo per dargli fiducia, credere in lui, confidarsi (e per questo gli si attribuisce il dono della “lettura delle anime”). Basta guardarlo per capire e condividere la devozione che egli predica per Cristo sofferente.
Poi si ammala, forse di peste. Sopravvive, ma senza più forze, trascinandosi allo stesso modo dei vecchi schiavi. Deve sopportare i maltrattamenti del suo infermiere: un nero. Anche in queste cose bisogna scorgere la volontà di Dio. Muore a 74 anni e verrà canonizzato nel 1888, con Alfonso Rodriguez, il fratello portinaio di Maiorca.
Autore: Domenico Agasso