Today, September 9, is the feast of Jesuit St. Peter Claver, a missionary who ministered to slaves in South America during the 17th century.
St. Peter was born in Spain on June 26, 1581 into a farming family. He would eventually study at the Jesuit college of Barcelona and was noted for his intelligence and piety. He entered the Jesuit novitiate at Tarragona in 1602 and took First Vows in 1604. He would go on to study philosophy at Majorca.
While studying philosophy, he would come in contact with another Jesuit destined for sainthood, Alphonsus Rodriguez. St. Alphonsus was responsible for encouraging the younger Jesuit to go to the Indies and save “millions of perishing souls.” He would spend the rest of his life doing just that.
In 1610, he landed at Cartagena, the primary market of slave trade of the New World. It was here where thousands of sick and dying slaves arrived every month. After he was ordained in 1616 he dedicated himself to the service of the slaves with a special vow that would last 33 years. St. Peter would enter the boats carrying the slaves and care for the physical and spiritual means of those men, women and children. As a result of his efforts, 300,000 souls entered the Church.
St. Peter Claver’s work continued until his died in 1654
Click the video below to learn more about his life.