CLAVER AND PROPHECY
one day, St. Peter passed by a Negro. The saint said to his companion
in a low voice, "I am sorry for this poor fellow for they will cut his
body in pieces." Within a week, the sentence of death was
occasion, a man condemned to death was earnestly preparing for death.
And he really seemed prepared when, suddenly, a pardon arrived. When
the news was brought to Peter Claver, he said to those who had freed the
prisoner: "God pardon you for this, for you have taken this man's
salvation out of his hands and he is in danger of never recovering
* * *
CLAVER AND THE CONDEMNED MAN
St. Peter Claver worked tirelessly in the
prisons of Cartagena. He worked especially among those condemned to
death. Here is a short narration of how he helped a captain to be
hanged at Fort Santo Domingo, at four o'clock in the afternoon in the
presence of the whole Dominican community.
"The condemned man was seated on a
chair beside the gibbet from which he was to hang. Father Claver was
standing nearby; he was sprinkling holy water around the condemned
man. He also carried some wine and cakes to console the condemned; he
kept on reciting the Act of Contrition.
A Dominican, very much edified, said: 'That
is what being a religious means and showing what a religious should be,
caring nothing for the world, going the straight road of humility.'
The crowd also was greatly impressed.
At four in the afternoon, the hangman
twisted the garrote badly that the rope broke. The man fell to the
ground but Father Claver quickly picked him up and, putting his face close
to him, spoke to him in low loving tones. As Father Claver was holding
him this way and consoling the gasping man, the hangman replaced a new rope
around his neck; the hangman twisted the garrote and it broke a second
time. And again Father Claver rushed to embrace the poor culprit who
was horribly livid in the face and held him in his arms until he
* * *
ST. PETER CLAVER AND THE
St. Peter Claver preached so
simply to the prisoners. He told them to avoid bad language, quarrels
and hatred. And that was enough to convert them. He also
reminded those condemned to die that it is a grace to know when one is going
to die. "Happy are you who know your last day and happy I should
be if I knew mine."
"It is a piece of great
good fortune that death should come to us while we are in full possession of
our senses and our reason is free to rest on that point on which our eternal
happiness or misery depends. We must all come to it either by a
short-cut or by a long way round in time, but what does it matter if the
short-cut be the hard one of the gallows if it means that the way is the
* * *
CLAVER AND THE MUSLIM
Esteban Melon, a Neapolitan, was a criminal
condemned to die for murder and theft. The condemned man refused
absolutely to go to confession. They called in Claver who, as he
usually did, converted him and prepared him for death. But, during the
execution, no official hangman was available and so they imposed the hated
duty on a Moslem, Yolofo by name, a galley slave who had resided there for
thirty years. He did not like the job and ran away. He was
pursued and caught eventually.
On the day of the execution, Fr. Claver did
for Melon what he always did -- said Mass for him, accompanied him to the
place of execution and, in his last moments, made him various gifts such as
cake and wine. The hangman was a novice and trembled, not being
accustomed to the job; in fact, this was his first execution. And so
the rope broke three times. The Moslem hangman began to faint;
Fr. Claver had to comfort him with cakes and wine which he had brought for
the condemned man. Every time the rope broke, Melon fell into the arms
of Fr. Claver, who wiped the sweat from his livid face.
The Moslem was profoundly moved by this
extraordinary charity. Next day, he went to the college, entered
Father Claver's room, kissed him with great emotion and began his religious
instruction. He was later baptized and took the name of Pedro Zapata.