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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC
"Life in all its fullness“(John. 10,10)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month


Saint Peter Claver
Feast Day - September 9

The Holy Spirit's might and power are manifested in the striking decisions and bold actions of St. Peter Claver.

He was a Spanish Jesuit priest, who for 33 years ministered to African slaves in the New World, and tried to stop the slave trade. A decision to leave one's homeland never to return reveals a gigantic act of will difficult for us to imagine. Peter's determination to serve forever the most abused, rejected and lowly of all people is stunningly heroic.

Peter Claver understood that concrete service like the distributing of medicine, food or brandy to his black brothers and sisters could be as effective a communication of the word of God as mere verbal preaching. As Peter Claver often said, "We must speak to them with our hands before we try to speak to them with our lips."

Claver was born in 1581 into a prosperous farming family in the Catalan village of Verdu, Urgell, located in the Province of Lleida, about 54 miles (87 km) from Barcelona. He was born 70 years after King Ferdinand of Spain set colonial slavery culture into motion by authorizing the purchase of 250 African slaves in Lisbon for his territories in New Spain, an event which was to shape Claver's life. His parents were devout Catholics.

Claver was noted for his intelligence and piety. After he had completed his studies, Claver volunteered for the Spanish colonies and was sent to the New Kingdom of Granada. Required to wait six years to be ordained as a priest while he did his theological studies, he was deeply disturbed by the harsh treatment and living conditions of the black slaves who were brought from Africa. Cartagena was a slave-trading hub. Claver's predecessor in his eventual lifelong mission, Father Alonso de Sandoval, S.J., was his mentor and inspiration. Sandoval devoted himself to serving the slaves for 40 years before Claver arrived to continue his work. Sandoval found Claver an apt pupil. When he was solemnly professed in 1622, Claver signed his final profession document in Latin as: Petrus Claver, aethiopum semper servus (Peter Claver, servant of the Ethiopians [i.e. Africans] forever).

Whereas Sandoval had visited the slaves where they worked, Claver preferred to head for the wharf as soon as a slave ship entered the port. Boarding the ship, he entered the filthy and diseased holds to treat and minister to their badly treated, terrified human cargo, who had survived a voyage of several months under horrible conditions. It was difficult to move around on the ships, because the slave traffickers filled them to capacity. The slaves were often told they were being taken to a land where they would be eaten.

Claver wore a cloak, which he would lend to anyone in need. A legend arose that whoever wore the cloak received lifetime health and was cured of all disease. After the slaves were herded from the ship and penned in nearby yards to be scrutinised by crowds of buyers, Claver joined them with medicine, food, bread, brandy, lemons and tobacco. With the help of interpreters and pictures which he carried with him, he gave basic instructions.

Claver had conflicts with some of his Jesuit brothers, who accepted slavery. Claver saw the slaves as fellow Christians, encouraging others to do so as well. During his 40 years of ministry he personally catechised and baptised an estimated 300,000 slaves. He would then follow up on them to ensure that as Christians they received their Christian and civil rights. His mission extended beyond caring for slaves, however. He preached in the city square, to sailors and traders and conducted country missions, returning every spring to visit those he had baptised, ensuring that they were treated humanely.

During these missions, whenever possible he avoided the hospitality of planters and overseers; instead, he would lodge in the slave quarters. Claver's work on behalf of slaves did not prevent him from ministering to the souls of well-to-do members of society, traders and visitors to Cartagena (including Muslims and English Protestants) and condemned criminals, many of whom he prepared for death; he was also a frequent visitor at the city's hospitals. Through years of unremitting toil and the force of his own unique personality, the slaves' situation slowly improved. In time he became a moral force, the Apostle of Cartagena.

In the last years of his life Peter was too ill to leave his room. He lingered for four years, largely forgotten and neglected, physically abused and starved by an ex-slave who had been hired by the Superior of the house to care for him. He never complained about his treatment, accepting it as a just punishment for his sins.

He died on 8 September 1654. When the people of the city heard of his death, they forced their way into his room, to see and pay their last respects. Such was the reputation of his holiness among the populace that they stripped away everything there to serve as a relic of a saint. The city magistrates, who had previously considered him a nuisance for his persistent advocacy on behalf of the slaves, ordered a public funeral and he was buried with pomp and ceremony. The vast scope of Claver's ministry, which was prodigious even before considering the astronomical number of people he baptised, came to be realised only after his death.

He was canonised in 1888 by Pope Leo XIII, along with the holy Jesuit porter, Alphonsus Rodriguez. In 1896 Pope Leo also declared Claver the patron of missionary work among all African peoples. His body is preserved and venerated in the church of the former Jesuit residence, now renamed in his honour.

He is the patron of missionary work among black slaves, Africans.
 
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Retreats and Healing Masses in Sydney

Divine Australia invites you to healing Masses and retreats to be held across various venues in New South Wales, Sydney. To be led by Fr Augustine Vallooran VC. For details, email Fr Roni George, Director, Divine Australia - drcsydney@gmail.com.

Date: 2 - 7 October, 2018

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Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby to hold retreats throughout 2017. For bookings, email Fr Roni George, Director - drcsydney@gmail.com. Hurry, as admission is limited.

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Divine healing Masses and retreats to be held across various venues in Australia. Masses to be offered by Fr Augustine Vallooran VC. Praise and worship by Glen and Teresa La'Rive.

Date: 22 September - October 1, 2018

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