Louisiana Peter Claver
SAINT PETER CLAVER
PATRON SAINT OF THE KNIGHTS OF PETER CLAVER AND LADIES AUXILIARY
Spain of the 17th century proceeded with an unscrupulous imperialism, taking to the treacherous seas to pursue conquest in land, gold, silver, jewels, spices, sugar and tobacco.
New lands to the west crossing the Atlantic Ocean had been discovered two hundred years previous. England, Spain, Portugal, Holland and France fought over what they found here while they each set up shop here in hostile territory, in instances, owned and operated by the original peoples they found here. The fever of discovery proved, unfortunately, the beginning of the extermination of the native peoples. It was an era of expansion. History has since criticized that era for its lack of certain principles of human rights and human dignity.
Our patron, Peter Claver was a Spaniard, from Spain. Like all young men of his stripe he looked for adventure and new opportunities. In Claver’s time wars between and among European monarchs raged, one bloody feud after another, they seemed endless. The Catholic Church enjoyed an uneasy peace throughout Europe in the 1600s. The Protestant Reformation fomented division, polemics and outright murder. The Thirty Years War and the wars of religion was the backdrop for this chapter of history within which Claver lived. Conflict sapped the strength of the European landscape and gave rise to a spirit hungering for new things, particularly, in the minds of the young.
To counter the Protestant revolt, the Jesuits, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, had emerged from among the most talented of religious leaders for their time sworn to allegiance to their superior general and to the pope in Rome. A sign of new things over the horizon was registered in the coined term The New World. Everything to that time was old. Daring explorers had sailed west and conquered new territories for the crown. Things would never be the same. Geography would be forever altered.
Settling the New World and stealing from that New World brought with it the necessity of cheap labor, human labor . . . black labor. Hence, the nefarious exploitation and commerce of slavery, for there was no industry to speak of, only raw human labor for which the royals and their cohorts deemed themselves unworthy. They turned their eyes to Africa to find that labor force. to peoples judged, by the impoverished social consciousness of that time, substandard in their origin, purpose and development.
Aiding and abetting slavery was the inability of the European mind-set to process and receive and deem worthy the dignity of black skin. Blacks were forced here, captured, bartered, and purchased from territories of the west coast of Africa – what is today the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, Benin and other places deeper in the continent stretching as far as the Congo. Facilitating this trafficking in human cargo was the reasoning that blacks were in most if not all instances culturally and essentially inferior.
Christians were ambivalent about these sentiments. So ugly was the business that eventually England’s conscience was so bothered by it that Great Britain abolished the slave trade in 1815 while America continued it for another fifty years, till Emancipation of the slaves by its 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. But then, America did not give up on the idea. Slavery evolved into legalized discrimination and segregation in the so-called democratic experiment. Spain brought a cease to trafficking in slaves in 1850.
Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644), while Claver was a young man, had issued a papal decree prohibiting slavery, nevertheless, slavery continued in the business of the New World. The Church has always had a difficult time influencing the worlds of business and commerce. There are ideologic forces there seemingly unredeemable by the Gospel.
So, from Jesuit priestly ranks arose this dreamer, the young man Peter Claver, of upper middle class bearing, born in the city of Verdu in Catalonia about the year 1581. The young Claver exhibited fine qualities of mind and spirit and was destined for the Church. He was sent to study at the University of Barcelona. There he graduated with distinction and after receiving the minor orders of the Church, determined to offer himself to the Society of Jesus (SJ) – or popularly known as, the Jesuit Order. He was received into the novitiate of Tarragona at the age of 20 and was sent to the college of Montesione at Palma in Majorca, Spain.
In college, Claver met Alphonsus Rodriguez who was a porter at the college and that meeting was to set the direction of Peter Claver’s life thereafter. He studied the science of the saints at the feet of this lay brother. Alphonsus intuited the capabilities of the young scholastic and saw in him a man fit for new, arduous and neglected work up to now unattended to, namely working among blacks in bondage. Alphonsus is accused of firing-up in Claver the idea of going to the help of unfortunates who were without spiritual ministrations in the colonies of the New World.
Moved by the spirit of these encouragements and a missionary fervor, Peter Claver approached his provincial superior, offering himself for the West Indies and was told that his vocation would be decided in due course --by his superiors. They then sent him to Barcelona for his theology studies and after two years were, at his further request, chosen to represent the province of Aragon at the mission of Spanish Jesuits being sent to New Granada.
Claver left Spain in April 1610 and never returned. After a wearisome voyage he landed with his companions at Cartagena –what is today the coast of modern day Colombia, South America. Once arrived he went to the Jesuit house of Santa Fe to complete his theology studies and was employed as well at the Jesuit residence as sacristan, porter, infirmarian and cook and was dispatched for his tertianship to the new house of the Jesuits at Tunja.
1615, he was ordained a priest of God at Cartagena’s Cathedral, at the side altar at the right side of the sanctuary that remains to this day.
By this time the slave trade had been established in the Americas for nearly a hundred years and the port of Cartagena was one of its principal centers, being conveniently situated as a clearing house for auctions and sales. The trade had recently been given a considerable impetus, for the local Indians –the natives- were deemed not physically fitted to work in the gold and silver mines and so there was this big demand for blacks from Angola and Congo. These were bought in West Africa for four crowns a head, or bartered for goods and sold in America for an average two hundred crowns-a-piece. In addition, African chiefs easily bartered away to the white traders their criminals, those captured in war, the mentally unstable, and the sick and other social misfits. Others were captured at random especially able bodied males and females deemed suitable for labor and breeding.
Nothing in Claver’s scholastic training, outside of a sincere heart, prepared him for what he would meet on the docks, in the holes of ships and in the slave markets.
You know the story the conditions under which they were conveyed across the Atlantic were as foul and inhuman as to be beyond belief. It was reckoned that there would be a loss in each cargo by death during the six or seven weeks’ voyage of a least a third. They were packed together like sardines in a can, left to wallow in their own sweat, vomit, urine and human waste. After being brutally beaten, raped, starved, maimed, tortured and terrorized, despite deaths from riots, suicides, lynchings, pestilence and disease, beyond those thrown overboard, an average ten thousand living slaves were landed in Cartagena each year.
In spite of the condemnation of this great crime by Pope Paul III and by other lesser authorities, this supreme villainy, as slave trading was designated by later Pope Pius IX, continued to flourish, all that some of the owners did in response to the voice of the Church was to have their slaves baptized. They provided no religious instruction or ministration for their slaves, no alleviation of their physical condition, so that the sacrament of baptism became to the slaves, unfortunately, a sign and symbol of their oppression and wretchedness instead of their salvation.
The clergy were practically powerless before the powers-that-be as well as by their timidity and inaction. All they could muster was to protest and devote themselves to individual ministrations, physical, spiritual and material, to the tens of thousands of suffering human beings brought to these shores. They had no charitable funds at their disposal, no plaudits from well-disposed audiences; they were hampered and discouraged by the owners and often rebuffed by the slaves themselves. That era of conquest was bereft of strands of a moral conscience, indeed a social ethic that would have troubled to its foundations the insidious business of the slave trade.
In Claver, however, was found a representation of the other side of the Spanish conscience, namely, an abiding affection for humanity especially God’s dark children whom he heard early on were ill-treated with this despicable trade. He did not know the full story of the treatment meted out to the slaves till his own arrival here.
African Americans have always been intrigued by individuals of white skin, missionaries, clergyman and religious who appeared to rise above the routine racial biases of men and served us unabashedly, unashamedly and with sacrificial charity in the name of Christ, some of whom died martyrs’ death while moving among us. We have always wondered about these individuals precisely because race prejudice and discrimination have appeared so endemic to the white race. These kinds of individuals stood out from among the rest.
Claver came from an ethic of religious consecration where missionaries dared death, hardship, sickness and every conceivable challenge to bring the gospel to foreign lands. Jesuits were already ministering in North America among the Great Lakes’ native peoples on up through Canada.
Europeans and their ways, even their religion, met with suspicion and, in instances, outright hostility among some of the natives of the New World. Colonization and exploration was, in all parts, viewed an evil specter descended on pristine lands. The faith was often perceived as a conduit of this evil. Many of the missionaries were tortured and flayed alive especially among the Iroquois nation. The Jesuits -Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, Noel Chabanel and their companions have their blood soaked indelibly in American soil around the same time Claver was in Cartagena.
A Filthy Voyage
Your captains and mates
must neither have dainty fingers nor dainty noses,
few men are fit for these voyages but them that are bred up to it. It’s a filthy voyage
as well as a laborious [one].
— Sir Dalby Thomas commander of the Royal Africa Company at Cape Coast, the Gold Coast, c. 1700
Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440-1870,
Touchstone Books, 1997
- The Ministry of Peter Claver –
Peter Claver reached stature as a saint of God having watched closely a leader in this work, Father Alfonso de Sandoval, a great Jesuit missionary who spent forty years in the service of the slaves, and after working under him, Peter Claver, having reached a spiritual pinnacle in his own self-understanding, declared himself the slave of the Negroes forever. Although, by nature shy and lacking to degree self confidence, Claver threw himself into the work and pursued it with enthusiasm, method and organization. Claver enlisted bands of assistants, cajoling these people whether by money, goods or services, and as soon as a slave ship entered the port Claver dropped everything and went to wait on its living freight.
According to the research of Hugh Thomas, an estimated eleven million blacks were brought to the Americas for uncompensated labor in the course of the period, 1440-1870. There were government officials, businessmen, merchants, seamen, miners, plantation owners, engineers and middlemen whose lives profited from this nefarious trade; among them Jews and Christians of various denominational traditions who rationalized this sordid enterprise. The kindly works of Father Claver section just short of forty years of this period.
Robert J. Miller in his 2007 Book, Both Prayed to the Same God, researched that: The Africans came from a vast region of Western Africa stretching inland for two to three hundred miles. They came from villages where agriculture, farming and nature were at the center of life, where spirits dwelt in each thing around them, and where isolation was unthinkable since the self was always in relationship to others. Thus the ordeal of being captured by another tribe, sold to European merchants, transported through a horrendous middle passage and ultimately enslaved as a marketable object in the New World -- these were events that were a radical rupture of one’s entire spirit, soul and universe. As the transplanted Africans struggled to comprehend the evil that had befallen them, their intrinsic spiritual natures discovered something unique in America they had not seen before – a fully articulated ritual relationship with the Supreme Being, who was pictured in the book Christians called the Bible not just as Creator and Ruler, but also as the God of History, a God who lifted up and cast down nations and peoples. They discovered a God, a gentle Savior, and a theology of history, that could help make sense of their enslavement.
The slaves were disembarked, and found to be routinely chained and roped together and shut up in the yards where crowds came to watch them, idle gazers wrote Father de Sandoval, drawn by curiosity and careful not to come too close. Hundreds of men, women and children who had been for several weeks shut up without even the care given to cattle in the ship’s hold, were now fatigued, ill or dying, herded together in a confined space in a climate that was unwholesome from dampness and heat. So horrible was the scene and revolting the conditions that a friend who came with Father Claver once could never face it again, and of Father de Sandoval himself it was written in one of the diary entries of his Jesuit province that, when he (Claver’s friend) heard a vessel of Negroes was come into port he was at once covered with a cold sweat and death-like pallor at the recollection of the indescribable fatigue and unspeakable work on the previous like occasions. The experience and practice of years never accustomed him to it.
Into these yards Peter Claver plunged with medicines and food, bread, brandy, lemons, tobacco to distribute among them, some of whom were too frightened, others too ill to accept them. Claver would say frequently: We must speak to them with our hands before we try to speak to them with our lips. When he came upon any who were dying he baptized them and then sought out all babies born on the voyage that he might baptize them. During the time that the blacks spent in the sheds, they were penned so closely that they had to sleep almost upon one another and, thereby, freely handed on their diseases nonetheless, Claver was seen caring for the bodies of the sick and the souls of all.
Unlike many, even among some of the clergy, Claver did not consider that ignorance of their African languages absolved him from the obligation of instructing them in the truths of religion and morals and bringing to their degraded spirits the consolation of the words of Jesus. Claver had a team of seven interpreters, one of whom spoke four African dialects, and with their help he taught the slaves and prepared them for baptism, not only in groups but individually; for the language difficulty was too great for him to make himself understood otherwise. Claver made use of pictures, in accordance with standard catechetical pedagogy of the time, showing our Lord suffering on the cross for them; above all did he try to instill in them some degree of self respect, to give them at least some idea that as redeemed human beings they had dignity and worth, even if as slaves they were outcast and despised. Not otherwise could he ever hope to arouse in them shame and contrition for their sins more perfect than that evoked by the picture of hell which he held up as a warning.
Claver showed them that they were loved even more than they were abused, and that divine love must not be outraged by evil ways, by cruelty and lust. Each one had to be taken apart and drilled, time and again, even in so simple a matter as making the sign of the cross or in learning the prayer of love and repentance that each had to know: Claver taught them to pray these words: Jesus Christ, Son of God, thou shalt be my Father and my Mother and all my good. I love thee much. I am sorry for having sinned against thee. Lord, I love thee much, much, much.
How difficult was his task in teaching is shown by the fact that at baptism each batch of ten catechumens was given the same name – to help them to remember it. It is estimated that in forty years Peter Claver instructed and baptized over 300,000 slaves. When there was time and opportunity he took the same trouble to teach them how properly to use the sacrament of penance and in one year is said to have heard the confessions of more than five thousand.
Father Claver never tired of persuading the slaves from the occasions of sin or of urging the owners to care for the souls of the slaves; he became so great a moral force in Cartagena that a story is told of a slave frightening off a prostitute who was pestering him in the street saying, Look, here comes Father Claver. And the woman ran away.
As the slaves were at length allotted and sent off to the mines and plantations, Claver could only appear to them for the last time with renewed earnestness, for he would be able to keep in touch with only very few of them. He had a steady confidence that God would care for them and, not his least worry were the slave owners whom he did not deem beyond the mercy of God. They also had souls to be saved, no less than the slaves. To the masters and slave owners Claver appealed for physical and spiritual justice, for their own sakes no less than for that of their slaves.
To the cynical mind the trust of this extraordinary priest in the goodness of human nature must have seem naïve and no doubt could he have known he would have been far more often disappointed than not. But the conclusion cannot be avoided that only the worst of the Spanish masters can be compared with, say, the English slave-owners of Jamaica in the 17th to 18th centuries, whose physical cruelty was no less than fiendish and diabolical by report. The laws of Spain at least provided for the marriages of slaves, forbade their separation from their families and defended them from unjust seizure after winning their freedom. Claver did all he could to provide for the observance of these laws, and every spring after Easter he would make a tour of those plantations nearer Cartagena in order to see how his Africans were fairing under their masters. Claver was not always well received. The masters complained that he wasted the slaves’ time with his preaching, praying and hymn-singing. Seddity women complained that after the Africans had been to Mass it was impossible to enter the church for their bodily odor left behind the slaves, understandably, did not have exactly perfumed waters to bathe in daily. And when the slaves misbehaved Father Claver was always blamed. What sort of a man must I be, that I cannot do a little good without causing so much confusion? Claver would ask. But Claver was not deterred, not even when the ecclesiastical authorities lent too willing an ear to the complaints of his critics.
Many of the narratives both of the heroism and extraordinary wonders worked by Peter Claver concern his nursing of sick and diseased slaves, in circumstances often no one else, black or white, could face. But he found time to care for other sufferers besides slaves.
There were two hospitals in Cartagena, one for general cases, served by the Brothers of St. John of God; this was St. Sebastian’s hospital; and another, of St. Lazarus, for lepers and those suffering from sexually transmitted disease. Both these hospitals Claver visited each week, waiting on the patients in their material needs and bringing hardened sinners to penitence. He also exercised an apostolate among the traders, the sailors and others whom he found in this hospital, Claver also brought about the conversion of an Anglican dignitary, represented to be an archdeacon of London, whom he met when visiting prisoners-of-war on a ship in the harbor. Personal and occupational duties stood in the way of the man being then reconciled but he took ill and was removed to St. Sebastian’s hospital where before he died he was received into the Church by Father Claver.
A number of other Englishmen followed his example. Claver was less successful in his efforts to make converts among the Muslims who came to Cartagena to do business, but he managed to bring a number of Moors and Turks to the faith, though one held out for thirty years before succumbing, and even then a vision of our Lady was required to convince him. Father Claver was also in particular demand to minister to condemned criminals, and it is said that no one was executed at Cartagena during Claver’s lifetime without Claver being present to console the man; under Claver’s influence the most hardened and defiant would spend their last hours in prayer and sorrow for their sins. But many more, rank-and-file citizens would seek Father Claver out in the confessional where he had sometimes to spend fifteen hours at a stretch, reproving, advising, encouraging, and absolving.
Claver took to the country missions in the spring. Traveling in these areas Father Claver habitually refused as much as possible the hospitality of the planters and owners and instead lodged in the quarters of the slaves checking on conditions and speaking to their owners and masters, advocating for the slaves. In the autumn Claver would go among the traders and seamen, who landed at Cartagena in great numbers off supply ships and well as slave ships. When sailors sailed into town the vices and disorder of the port and other disturbances increased. Sometimes, Claver would spend almost the entire day in the great square of the city, where the four principal streets met, preaching to all who would stop to listen. He became the apostle of Cartagena as well as of the Africans and in so huge a work was aided by God with those gifts that particularly pertain to apostles, of miracles, of prophecy and of reading hearts.
Few saints carried out their active work in more repulsive conditions than did Claver, but these privations were not enough; in accordance with the popular pious practices of Catholics of that time Claver was known to continuously use penitential instruments of a severe description and would pray alone in his room with a crown of thorns pressed to his head and a heavy cross weighing down his shoulders. He avoided food, rest and recreation and other pleasures popularly considered, lest such should divert him from his spiritual path.
Once, when commended for his apostolic zeal, he replied, It ought to be so but there is nothing but self indulgence in it; it is the result of my enthusiastic and impetuous temperament. If it were not for this work I should be a nuisance to myself and to everybody else. Answering his critics why he did not take certain precautions moving among sick people, Claver remarked: If being a saint consists in having no taste and having a strong stomach, I admit that I may be one.
-The Death of Father Peter Claver-
In the year 1650, Father Claver went to preach the Church’s jubilee year among the Africans working in the mines and plantations along the coast, but sickness attacked his weakened body, and he was recalled to the residence at Cartagena. Father Claver was already known for strong discipline of his body. Matters for him were complicated by an outbreak of an epidemic in the area which claimed as one of its first victims, Father Claver himself. Claver would never recover from this illness. After receiving the last sacraments he recovered slightly but he was never the same. For the rest of his life pain hardly left him and a trembling in his limbs – what’s medically titled today, a Parkinson’s disease - made it impossible for him to celebrate Mass. He became almost entirely inactive, but would sometimes hear confessions, especially of his dear friend Doña Isabella de Urbina who had always generously supported his work with her money.
Occasionally Father Claver would be carried to a hospital, to minister to a dying prisoner, or other sick person, and once when a cargo ship arrived of slaves from a tribe which had not been seen in Cartagena for thirty years his old strength suddenly returned; he was taken around till he found an interpreter who spoke their tongue, then baptized all the children, and gave brief instructions to the adults.
Otherwise, Claver remained in his room in his last several years, to be not only inactive but even forgotten and somewhat neglected; the numbers of fellow Jesuits in the house were much reduced and those who remained were fully occupied in coping with the confusion and duties imposed by the spreading epidemic, but even so their indifference to the saintly priest was surprising. Doña Isabella and her sister remained faithful to him, and his old helper, Brother Nicholas Gonzalez, visited him when he could.
For a while, Father Claver was left in the hands of a young black man who was noticed to be impatient and rough with Claver and sometimes left him nearly helpless for days on end without attention whatever. Once the authorities woke up to this situation when a complaint was brought forward that Father Claver was in the habit of re-baptizing Negroes! This, of course, he had never done, except conditionally in cases of doubt, but he was nevertheless forbidden to baptize in the future.
It behooves me, Claver once wrote, always to imitate the example of the ass. When he is evilly spoken of, he is dumb. When he is starved, he is dumb. When he is overloaded, he is dumb. When he is despised and neglected, he is still dumb. He never complains in any circumstances, for he is only an ass. So also, must God’s servant be ut iumentum factus sum apud te.
In the summer of 1654, Father Diego Ramirez-Farina arrived in Cartagena from Spain with a commission from the king to work among the Negroes. Father Peter Claver was overjoyed and dragged himself from his bed to greet his successor. He shortly afterwards heard the confession of Doña Isabella, and told her it was for the last time, and on September 6, after assisting at Mass and receiving holy communion, Claver said to his dear friend, Brother Nicholas Gonzalez, I am going to die. That same evening he was taken very ill and became comatose.
The rumor of his approaching death spread around the city like wildfire, everyone suddenly remembered the saintly priest again, and numbers came to kiss his hands before it was too late; his room was stripped of everything that could be carried off as relics. Father Peter Claver never fully recovered consciousness and died two days later on the birthday of Mary, the Mother of God, September 8, about two o’clock in the morning, in the year of our Lord 1654. Brother Nicolas was downstairs and heard a noise from the upstairs room where Claver was bedded. Coming quickly upstairs, Brother Nicolas found Claver on the floor, having passed from this life to the next. Claver was 73 years old.
Civil authorities, among his harshest critics, who had looked askance at his solicitude for mere slaves and the clergy who had called his zeal indiscrete now vied with one another to honor his memory. City magistrates ordered that he should be buried at public expense and with great pomp. The vicar general of the diocese officiated at the funeral. The Africans and Indians arranged for a Mass of their own to which the Spanish authorities were invited; the church was ablaze with lights, a special choir sang and an oration was delivered by the treasurer of the church of Popayan, where the diaries say of the speaker no other preacher was more diffuse on the virtues, holiness, heroism and stupendous miracles of Father Claver.
Claver was buried in the floor off the sacristy of the chapel of the Jesuit residence. He was later exhumed for purposes of the canonical examination and was placed in a cedar coffin and re-interred in the great upper church built to honor his remains. Pope Leo XIII sent a golden coffin for his remains along with a pipe organ which sits in the choir loft of the Church to this day. A third interment sees Claver today buried under the high altar dressed in priestly vestments while enclosed in glass for the veneration of the faithful. The two earlier coffins are preserved as relics in the Jesuit residence at Cartagena.
Today one can visit the room and window from which Father Claver peered out to be ready once ships arrived with captured and bartered blacks. His bedroom and the room where he died are also preserved to this day in the same place.
Claver’s fame spread throughout the world. He was a shining light in a dark time. All he did for the ancestors aligned him with the God of love. He was canonized at the same time as his friend St. Alphonsus Rodriguez in 1888 and he was declared by Pope Leo XIII patron of all missionary enterprises among blacks in whatever part of the world. His feast is observed throughout the Americas and other places around the world on the 9th of September.
From a letter written by Peter Claver, priest, to his superiors, written in the Spanish language, 31 May, 1627.
epist. Diei 31 maii 1627 ad Superiorem suum data: edit. [in lingua hispanica] A. Valtierra, S.J., San Pedro Claver, Cartagena, 1964, pp. 14-141)
Yesterday, May 30, 1627, on the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, numerous blacks, brought from the rivers of Africa, disembarked from a large ship. Carrying two baskets of oranges, lemons, sweet biscuits, and I know not what else, we hurried toward them. When we approached their quarters, we thought we were entering another Guinea. We had to force our way through the crowd until we reached the sick. Large numbers of the sick were lying on the wet ground or rather in puddles of mud. To prevent excessive dampness, someone had thought of building up a mound with a mixture of tiles and broken pieces of brick. This, then was their couch, a very uncomfortable one not only for that reason, but especially because they were naked, without any clothing to protect them.
We laid aside our cloaks, therefore, and brought from a warehouse whatever was handy to build a platform. In that way we covered a space to which we at last transferred the sick, by forcing a passage through bands of slaves. Then we divided the sick into two groups: one group my companion approached with an interpreter, while I addressed the other group. There were two blacks, nearer death than life, already cold, whose pulse could scarcely be detected. With the help of a tile we pulled some live coals together and placed them in the middle near the dying men. Into this fire we tossed aromatics. Of these we had two wallets full, and we used them all up on this occasion. Then, using our own cloaks, for they had nothing of this sort, and to ask the owners for others would have been a waste of words, we provided for them a smoke treatment, by which they seemed to recover their warmth and the breath of life. The joy in their eyes as they looked at us was something to see.
This was how we spoke to them, not with words but with our hands and our actions. And in fact, convinced as they were that they had been brought here to be eaten, any other language would have proved utterly useless. Then we sat, or rather knelt beside them and bathed their faces and bodies with wine. We made every effort to encourage them with friendly gestures and displayed in their presence the emotions which somehow naturally tend to hearten the sick.
After this we began an elementary instruction about baptism, that is, the wonderful effects of the sacrament on body and soul. When by their answers to our questions they showed they had sufficiently understood this, we went on to a more extensive instruction, namely, about the one God, who rewards and punishes each one according to his merit, and the rest. We asked them to make an act of contrition and to manifest their detestation of their sins. Finally, when they appeared sufficiently prepared, we declared to them the mysteries of the Trinity, the Incarnation and the Passion. Showing them Christ fastened to the cross, as he is depicted on the baptismal font on which streams of blood flow down from his wounds, we led them in reciting an act of contrition in their own language.