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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My Patron Saint, Saint Peter Claver, SJ--- A Prayerful Reflection

On September 9, 1961, my twenty-first birth, I, who had just entered the Society a few days before, found out that Saint Peter Claver's feast day was my birthday. Since then I have spent some time in prayer and reflection on who he was and what I could learn from considering various writings about his life that I might become an honest and sincere servant of God and humankind.
Let me offer a brief introduction to his life for your consideration. After that I shall share a prayer that I meditated on this morning, and five questions that came to me during that time of meditation. I shall end this post with the song that came from somewhere deep inside of me and I sang at the end of my meditation.
The beautiful icon included here can be found at

The reflection and the pictures here appear on the website created in Colombia where the museum honoring Saint Peter Claver is located. ( His remains are buried there.
The one here is judged by many to be an accurate represenation of how Saint Peter Claver, SJ looked.
"The Slave Market
Between the 16th and 19th centuries more than 14,000,000 black people were forcefully brought to the Americas. Hunted down like animals, they were chained together and loaded aboard the dark, damp, stinking holds of ships bound for the New World.
Shipboard conditions were sickening, and beyond human description. One third of the "cargo" was "spared", for they died en route. Most thought they would be killed when they reached land, and their blood used to paint ship bottoms. In port cities in both North and South America they would be sold in the "ebony market". A market of human flesh.
In many of these "markets" were people who would try to lighten the burden of the slaves, offering some spark of hope that someday they would gain a small portion of human dignity. Peter Claver was one of these people-"a slave to the slaves".

Pope Leo XIII wrote, "No life, except the life of Christ,
has moved me so deeply as that of Peter Claver"

Another picture of Claver that appears on the Colombia website
Opening Prayer for the Catholic Eucharistic Celebration for September 9
God of mercy and love, you offer all peoples the dignity of sharing in your life. By the example and prayers of St. Peter Claver, strengthen us to overcome all racial hatreds and to love each other as broths and sisters. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

My five questions:
1. What shall I do today to understand more clearly the strengths and weaknesses my primary racial/ethnic group brought in the past and are bringing at this moment to building a nation and a world where every human being has access to the food, shelter, clean water, and medical resources needed for them to lead healthy and happy lives?

2. What steps do I need to take so that I can understand the ignorance, fears, and past hurts within me that keep me from listening to, understanding, accepting, and supporting other human beings?

3. What closed-minded, self aggrandizing individuals and groups do I need to point out and challenge in word and deed today?

4. What person or group whom I know or think or feel have hurt or threaten me or those I care about do I need to forgive (for my own inner well being and peace of mind)today?

5. To whom shall I turn today to help me understand, accept, and forgive those whom I think or feel have hurt or threatened me or those I care about today?

Any other questions, suggestions, or reflections dear readers, you would like to add to this post?

Here is the song that came to me during my prayer this morning. May this day and every day be filled with peace and joy for you.


Kim Thompson said...


I'd pose these questions:

Who can I reach out to today to make their life a little better? Who can I remember today, who is gone from this earth, that made an impact on me? Who can I help who is on a journey--what can I do to support this journey and make it safe and prosperous?

JosephMcG said...

Great questions: they are oriented to the moment and focus on helping others or growing intellectually/emotionally/spiritually oneself...

Thank you, Kim...
How would you put in words ways to respond to what one should reflect on when one's support is ignored, rejected, or abused...

Thanks, Kim


Stephanie Frieze said...

Thank you, Joseph, for sharing your birthday meditation and sharing something of St. Peter Claver, someone I knew nothing about.

I believe that the quiet good we do, that receives no fanfare, brings the brightest blessings ultimately and try to remember that when I am feeling unappreciated. I ask myself if I would take back the help or support if I could and let my answer influence my decision to help again in the future. The ego likes to shout louder than the heart and it's often hard to tell it to be quiet.

And there is nothing wrong with saying no, when it means taking care of yourself.

Lorraine Hart said...

We have no control over how others see our support. It comes down to not having control over anyone but ourselves in this lifetime.

Your patron saint simply, and profoundly, walked his beliefs and gave his support where it was most needed, in the most basic, life-honouring way. He had a dignity to his humility...and such power did this

JosephMcG said...

Thank you, Stephanie and Kim... I am hoping to have the chance to visit his grave in Colombia before the next twelve months are over..
I would like to be a person who can give quietly and not take rejection with a great deal of grumbling and resentment...
At least I can see how physically and emotionally acting in that way would be for me...
We shall see what we shall see...
Thanks for your thoughtful reflections

Lorraine Hart said...

Hmmmm...seems the trolls cut off my comment up there!

To continue...

...and such power did this have that his efforts could not be stopped by those that believed otherwise.