Daily Email

Monday, March 29, 2010

Prayer: Peter Claver, S.J.

Excerpts from Peter Claver's Notes

On the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, a great number of black people who had been seized from along the African rivers were put ashore from one very large vessel. We hurried out with two baskets full of oranges, lemons, sweet biscuits and all sorts of things… We had to force our way through the crowds till we reached the sick. There was a great number of them, lying on damp earth, or rather in mud but someone had formed the idea of making a heap of tiles and broken bricks in case the damp should be too much for them. This was all they had for a bed, all the more uncomfortable because they were naked without any covering at all.

Two of the black slaves were more dead than alive; they were already cold, and we could hardly feel any pulse in their veins. We got together some glowing embers on a tile, placed the dying men near them, and then threw aromatic spices on the fire. We had two bags of these spices and used them all. Then with the help of our cloaks – for the slaves have none of their own, and it would have been a waste of time to ask their masters – we got them to inhale the vapors, which seemed to restore their warmth and vitality. You should have seen the expression of gratitude in their eyes!

In this way we spoke to them, not with word, but with deeds; and for people in their situation who were convinced that they had been brought here to be eaten, any other form of address would have been pointless. Then we sat or knelt beside them and washed their faces and bodies with wine; by such acts of kindness we tried to cheer them up, and performed for them all the natural services which are calculated to raise the spirits of the sick.

Then we began to instruct them for baptism. We first explained to them the wonderful effects of the sacrament on both body and soul… we began to teach them at greater length concerning the one God who rewards and punishes each according to his deserts, and so on. We showed them a representation of Christ crucified above a baptismal font, into which the blood flowed from his wounds. Then we taught them to repeat after us the act of contrition in their own language.

No comments:

Post a Comment