dimanche 9 septembre 2012

Saint PIERRE CLAVER, prêtre missionnaire jésuite

Saint Pierre Claver

Apôtre des Noirs

(† 1654)

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


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


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.


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.

Sources

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>.

SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11763a.htm

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).
 

Voir aussi : http://www.jesuites.com/histoire/saints/pierreclaver.htm