Daily Reflection
September 9th, 2006

Howie Kalb, S.J.

Jesuit Community
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Memorial of St. Peter Claver, S.J.
1 Corinthians 4:6b-15
Psalm 145
Luke 6:1-5

One of Paul’s remarks in today’s Scripture passage to the Corinthians will hold a person’s attention. “We are fools on Christ’s account.” Being fools for Christ not only applied to himself and the other Apostles, but also to many Saints in the Church.

There is the example of last month’s saint, Maximilian Kolbe. He freely faced a Nazi firing squad taking the place of a condemned criminal and was executed to save the prisoner who could eventually be released to enjoy life with his wife and family. Then there’s Thomas More, who would not recognize Henry VIII’s adulterous marriage and rejection of the Pope. Instead he professed his faith saying: “I am the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” He was beheaded for his loyalty. Some people would consider these two men to be “fools”.

Our Saint today is Peter Claver. Inspired by the Jesuit Brother who was the door keeper at the College in Majorca, he joined the Society of Jesus and spent 38 years in Cartagena, Columbia, ministering to the African slaves. This was how Peter Claver became a “fool for Christ”.

The slave traders’ ships arrived at their destination loaded with human cargo. These unfortunate natives had been hunted like animals, captured, chained together, thrown into the hold of ships and brought ashore in a foreign land. Claver and some companions would single out those barely alive, lying naked in the wet mud, being bargained for like cattle by the slave traders. Peter would provide them with nourishment and buy wood to make pallets for them to lie upon. He dressed their wounds, found clothes to cover them and lit fires close by so that the glowing embers could warm their emaciated bodies.

Some lived, some died. To the slave traders and the buyers, Claver was a “fool”. Thirty-eight years spent in preparing slaves to die or to be bought at auction to make landowners wealthy. In Claver’s eyes it was worth it. Especially for the ones, moved by his love and kindness, who asked to learn about his God. These he catechized, making them “fools for Christ” and members of the Lord’s Kingdom.

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