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image: St Peter Claver on stained glass, St Aloysius church in Glasgow / Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By Kristen Van Uden, Catholic Exchange, Sept. 9, 2022

Kristen Van Uden serves as an author spokesperson at Sophia Institute Press. She received her MA in History from the College of William & Mary and her BA in History & Russian from Saint Anselm College. She studies the persecution of Catholics under communist regimes. She has been featured on a wide range of media platforms including Coast to Coast AMThe Federalist, and the Catholic Faith Network.

“Slave of the slaves, forever.” This is how St. Peter Claver, apostle to the slaves of Cartagena, signed his name upon his ordination. His life was an embodiment of Matthew 25:30, in which he proved that ministering to “the least of these” is not only a moral imperative, but a hidden treasure of graces for those with eyes to see.

Paradoxical Freedom

Peter Claver was born in Spain in 1581 to a pious family. He joined the Jesuit order and was sent as a missionary to Cartagena, now present day Colombia, but then, hub of the equatorial slave trade.

As Arnold Lunn writes in his incisive biography of Claver, “This simpleminded saint held with passionate conviction the belief that it was better to die a Christian slave at Cartagena than a native chieftain in the Congo. The slave trade was full of perils for the slave trader, but on the balance, a boon for the slave. Grotesque as though this conclusion must seem, the intelligent humanist must concede that it is a logical conclusion from the Catholic premise.” …

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