Thursday, September 9, 2010

St. Peter Claver - Pastoral Year Theme: Called to Holiness, Celebrating the Saints among Us

Today the liturgy permits the Optional Memorial of St. Peter Claver, the apostle to the slaves arriving in South America: Peter Claver (1580-1654) devoted great care to slaves just arriving in South America despite the social convention that did not consider them human.

For 35 years the Jesuit showed boundless compassion for abandoned people, living out the dictum of the St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, "Look for God in all men and serve them as images of him."

Claver first encountered Jesuits in Barcelona during his university studies. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1602 and studied philosophy on the island of Majorca at the college of Montesión whose doorkeeper, Brother Alphonsus Rodríguez, was already known for the holiness that would later be recognized by the Church when it canonized him.

The saintly brother encouraged the young Jesuit's desire to do something great for God and suggested he consider being a missionary in the New World.

Claver offered himself for the missions, and the provincial sent him to Colombia in 1610. After he finished his study of theology in Bogotá, Claver went to Cartagena on the Caribbean coast where he was ordained a priest in 1616 and where he would spend the rest of his life ministering to slaves who arrived in that port from Africa.

Cartagena was one of two Spanish ports designated to receive slaves; an estimated 10,000 of whom passed through the port each year during Claver's time. They were usually in horrible condition after the long voyage. Claver waited on the dock with food he had begged.

Accompanied by former slaves who served as interpreters, the Spanish Jesuit then boarded the ships and greeted those on deck before descending into the ship's hold to care for the sick. He cleansed wounds, applied ointment and bandages and spoke about God.

Slaves only remained in Cartegena for a few days, so Claver worked very quickly to prepare people for baptism. Instruction was necessarily limited, and Claver baptized a great number of slaves. He also visited hospitals, one of which cared for lepers, and saw Dutch and English prisoners of war.

A plague struck Cartagena in 1650, and eventually took Claver as a victim after he had cared for others afflicted by the disease.

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O God, who made Saint Peter Claver a slave of slaves and strengthened him with wonderful charity and patience as he came to their help, grant, through his intercession, that, seeking the things of Jesus Christ, we may love our neighbour in deeds and in truth. Through our Lord.

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The Second Vatican Council in its dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, expressed the call that each person--no matter their state in life--has received from God: to be holy (and, therefore, like God).

This is the theme of the Pastoral Year 2010-2011 that we are beginning with the resumption of full parish activities after a summer pause.

This theme will allow us to reflect on how some among us in Canada, many in Ontario and Quebec, fulfilled this divine vocation.

This is brought to mind by the upcoming Canonization of Brother Andre (Alfred Bessette) in Rome on October 17.

There will be additional celebrations: a Mass of Thanksgiving with many of the bishops of Canada in Montreal's Olympic Stadium on Saturday, October 30 at 2PM.

Finally, our own Ottawa Archdiocese will hold a special celebration on his feast day, January 6, 2011 at 7:30PM in Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Church, whose mystery is being set forth by this Sacred Synod, is believed to be indefectibly holy. Indeed Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is praised as "uniquely holy," loved the Church as His bride, delivering Himself up for her. He did this that He might sanctify her. He united her to Himself as His own body and brought it to perfection by the gift of the Holy Spirit for God's glory.

Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification".

However, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others; in a very special way this (holiness) appears in the practice of the counsels, customarily called "evangelical."

This practice of the counsels, under the impulsion of the Holy Spirit, undertaken by many Christians, either privately or in a Church-approved condition or state of life, gives and must give in the world an outstanding witness and example of this same holiness. (Lumen Gentium, #39)

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After a year and a half, the "look" of this blog has been refreshed. I hope regular and new visitors like it.

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