St. Peter Claver (d. 1654), today’s saint, was a Spanish missionary priest who, after his ordination in 1616, dedicated himself by special vow to the service of the African slaves in modern day Columbia (and did so for thirty-three years). He declared himself to be “the slave of the Negroes forever,” as the opening Collect prayer of the Mass so powerfully affirms:
O God, who made Saint Peter Claver a slave of slaves [servorum servum]
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 neighbor in deeds and in truth.
May this canonized Slave of slaves intercede for all those who still live under the weight of oppression and injustice in our world.
Makes me think of a quote from Pope Benedict:
If we apply [the story] to the dimensions of globalized society we see how the peoples of Africa, who have been plundered and sacked, see us from close-up…Our style of life and the history in which we are involved has stripped them and continues to strip them….Instead of giving them God — and thereby welcoming in from their traditions all that is precious and great — we have brought them the cynicism of a world without God in which only power and profit count.