September 5 – Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
This week on Thursday, September 9th we celebrate the memorial of St. Peter Claver. A native of Spain, young Jesuit Peter Claver left his homeland in 1610 to be a missionary in the colonies of the New World. He sailed into Cartagena (now in Columbia), 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. As soon as a slave ship entered the port, Peter Claver moved into its infested hold to minister to the ill-treated and miserable 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 and food. 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. The Holy Spirit’s might and power is manifested in the striking decisions and bold actions of Peter Claver. A decision to leave one’s homeland never to return reveals a gigantic act of will difficult for our minds to imagine. Peter’s determination to serve forever the most abused, rejected and lowly of all people is stunningly heroic. When we measure our lives against such a man’s, we become aware of our own barely used potential and of our need to open ourselves more to the jolting power of Jesus’ Spirit. Peter Claver died on September 8, 1654. He was canonized in 1888, and Pope Leo XIII declared him the worldwide patron of missionary work among black slaves.
To continue his work of addressing the sin of racism, I encourage you to participate in a bi-lingual prayer service “Stations of the Cross: Overcoming Racism” which will be held on the memorial of St. Peter Claver, Thursday, September 9 at 6:30PM. The service will be held at our outdoor Stations of the Cross on the west side of church. In the event of rain it will be indoors.
People in our day suffer unjustly simply because of the color of their skin or their national origin. Let us acknowledge the sin of racism and work to combat it in our social structures, our institutions, and our hearts!
Have a blessed week!