St. Peter Claver’s (1581-1654) style of sanctity furnishes something of a counterpoint to that of St. Alberto Hurtado, about whom I rhapsodized previously. Whereas St. Alberto happily demonstrates the compatibility of great sanctity with the pursuit of structural reform, St. Peter highlights the possibility of great sanctity without the same. In this sense, St. Peter is about as kindred a spirit to a Bl. Teresa of Calcutta or a St. Damian of Molokai as the Jesuits have ever known.
It was in fact this very quality that in 1947 prompted Sir Arnold Lunn, a British literary figure and convert to Catholicism, to publish a biography of St. Peter, Saint of the Slave Trade. The book succeeds admirably as straightforward hagiography, but also manages to transcend its genre by presenting Peter as a case study of Catholic sanctity. Lunn meditates on the “slave of the slaves,” not merely because his life inspires, but because St. Peter casts the essence of Christian holiness into deeper relief. Read the rest of this entry »