September 9, 2019
by Jeanne Schuler
Creighton University's Philosophy Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Peter Claver, Priest
Lectionary: 439

Isaiah 58:6-11
Psalm 1:1-4, 6
Matthew 25:31-40

Praying Ordinary Time

About St. Peter Claver, S.J.

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The Cry of the Poor

“For the world in its present form is passing away.”  (1 Corinthians 7: 31)

Paul admonishes the community: “Stay watchful.  Our life and hope is coming.  Let not ordinary matters absorb us.  Hold together in prayer, wonder, and expectation.”  On most days, our default is distraction and worry.  Our attention rivets on what’s next.  The daily hum of busyness conceals the point of it all.  Awake, we grow more present to our lives.  Untethered from tasks, our senses reveal the world in its fleeting beauty.  Sitting in the yard, we admire an old shrub not noticed in years. A peaceful expectation not driven by adrenaline opens us to gratitude.  We are cherished as the mortals we are.  Here we are on God’s good earth trying to keep things together.

Luke admonishes us: “Go to the margins.  In the company of the hungry and sorrowful, those reviled and abandoned, there you find our God.”  Swaddled in comfort and well-insulated from weary faces, my vision is impaired.  I am in trouble.  To be freed from emptiness, we follow Jesus into the world to relieve suffering and challenge injustice.  Here is our home.  Walls built to hide from the poor cannot contain us. 

Today we celebrate the life of St. Peter Claver, S. J.  In the seminary on Mallorca, the porter—St. Alphonsus Rodriguez—urged Peter to serve God in the missions.  Peter resolved to minister to the African people before he first descended into the cargo hold of the slave ships docked in Cartagena in 1610.  Peter Claver would baptize thousands of traumatized survivors of the middle passage before their labor on plantations and in silver mines began.  He pressed the Christians of Spain to treat their baptized kin with greater kindness.

We tell ourselves that slavery was part of the world.  Good Christians did not know better.  That story forgets about those like Claver who were pierced by the horror of treating persons, made in God’s image, as objects to kidnap and sell. 

“Blessed are you who are poor; for the Kingdom of God is yours.”  Let us follow the Beatitudes home.

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