Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Saint Peter Claver

Peter Claver was born at Verdu, Catalonia in Spain and was the son of a farmer. At a very young age he decided he wanted to join the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, and be a priest.

At the age of 20, while he was still studying at the University of Barcelona to become a Jesuit, he felt a great desire to go to South America as a missionary. He was sent to the seaport of Cartagena where great shiploads of African slaves were brought to be sold.

At the sight of those poor people all crowded together, sick and suffering, Peter felt great pity. He made up his mind to help them and bring them to Jesus.

As soon as a shipload arrived, he would go among the hundreds of sick slaves and gave them food and medicine. He baptized the dying and the little babies. He nursed the ill. It was hard work in terrible heat.

One man who went once with St. Peter to help these people found he could not face the heart-breaking sight again. Yet Peter did it for forty years. He baptized about three hundred thousand people. He was there when the ships came in to care for and love those who were treated so cruelly.

Although the slave owners tried to stop Father Claver, he taught the faith to the slaves anyway. It was slow work that could often be disappointing. Many people found fault with him, saying it was all a waste of time.

They thought the slaves would never keep the faith. But he was patient and he trusted that God would bless his people. The priest never stopped asking the slave owners to take care of the souls of their slaves and to be better Christians themselves.

During the last four years of his life, Father Claver was so sick that he had to stay in his room, he could not even celebrate Mass. Most people forgot about him, but he never complained.

When he died on September 8, 1654, it was like the whole city woke up. They realized that they had lost a saint. From then on he was never forgotten again and was called the Slave of Slaves.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

Saint Aloysius, the patron of Catholic youth, was born in a castle in Italy. He was so full of life that his father who was a big gambler decided to make a great soldier out of him. When Aloysius was just five, his father took him to the army camp.

Little Aloysius marched in parades and even managed to load and fire a gun one day while the army was at rest. He learned rough language from the soldiers. When he found out what the words meant, he felt very bad that he used them.

As he grew up, Aloysius was sent to the courts of dukes and princes. Telling lies, fighting and living a bad life of sin were common in the court. But all this only made Aloysius more careful to live his life as a good Christian. He became sick with a kidney disease. He felt this was a blessing from God as it gave him an excuse to spend time praying and reading good books.

When Aloysius was sixteen, he decided to become a Jesuit priest. At first, his father refused to give him permission but after three years when he found he could not change his son’s mind, he finally agreed. He taught catechism to poor street boys and signed all his wealth over to his brother.

Once Aloysius joined the order, he asked to do hard and humble tasks. He served in the kitchen and washed the dishes. He wanted to make his life pure by doing penance. When the plague broke out in Rome, Aloysius asked if he could care for the sick. He was used to his servants doing everything for him but he gladly washed the sick and made their beds.

He served them until he caught the sickness. Before he died, he said simply, "I am going to heaven." St. Aloysius was only twenty-three when he died on the night of June 20, 1591. The body of St. Aloysius Gonzaga is buried in the Church of St. Ignatius in Rome.