Stage 22: Castellnou de Seana – Verdú (18 km)



The bus took us back to Castellnou de Seanu. Today was a light day — only 18 km. But it was hot. We started with the “Pilgrim Song”:

Then we commenced a short day of walking, along farm roads.

Apple pickers who gave us the most delicious apples

Apple pickers who gave us the most delicious apples

In the morning we walked beside a canal

In the morning we walked for a while beside a canal

Walking beside the canal

Walking beside the canal

Our destination was Verdú, a small village with great significance for the Society of Jesus in Cataluña, as it is here that the Jesuit Saint Pierre (Peter) Claver was born and raised.

St Peter Claver's family home in Verdu

St Peter Claver’s family home in Verdu

Sign on St Peter Claver's house

Sign on St Peter Claver’s house

Statue of St Peter Claver in the Church

Statue of St Peter Claver in the Church

He would later become known as the “holy defender of the black slaves” in the port of Cartagena de Indias (Colombia).

St Peter Claver

St Peter Claver

This was a dark time in history, stained by the injustice and cruelty of slavery. According to Glen David Short:

Between the 16th and the 19th centuries more than 14,000,000 Africans were forcibly brought to the Americas. Hunted down like animals, they were chained together and loaded aboard the dark, damp, stinking hold of ships bound for the New World. Shipboard conditions were sickening, and beyond human description. One third of the “cargo” was spared, for they died en route. In Cartagena they were sold in markets.

For more see: http://www.cartagenainfo.net/glenndavid/sanpedroclaver.html

Peter Claver was a witness to the arrival of slave ships, and saw how the slaves were treated. He began to go to the port when a ship arrived, welcoming them with an open heart and a smile on his lips, at the same time distributing clothing, food, drink and sweets. He wrote that he spoke to them not with words but with his hands and work. It was useless to speak to them any other way.  He would kneel beside the sick, wash them, tend to them, and try to make them happy with as many demonstrations of care that human nature can show to help lighten the burden of a sick person. His life was a beautiful example of human and evangelical love for his dear slaves. He cared for them materially, instructed them in the faith, and baptized them, always considering himself their servant. On April 3, 1622, he made a solemn commitment which he expressed with the following words: “Slave of the Black Slaves forever.” He signed it, and fulfilled it with his life.

Here is some additional information about this Jesuit saint:

St Peter Claver was a Spanish Jesuit who gave his life in service to slaves in Columbia in Latin America. He was born in 1580 into a noble but not well-off family in Verdu in Spain and studied in Barcelona. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1601. When he studying philosophy in the Jesuit college in Majorca, Claver was encouraged by the saintly Brother Alphonsus Rodriguez to go to the new missions in America and save “millions of perishing souls.” In 1610 he landed in Cartagena, Columbia and, after completing his studies in Bogotá, he was ordained in 1616.

Map of Cartagena

Map of Cartagena

Cartagena was one of two ports where slaves from Africa arrived to be sold in South America. For 33 years, from 1616 to 1650, Peter Claver worked daily to minister to the needs of the 10,000 slaves who arrived each year.

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When a ship arrived, Peter first begged for fruits, biscuits, or sweets to bring to the slaves. He then went on board with translators to bring his gifts as well as his skills as a doctor and teacher. Claver entered the holds of the ships and would not leave until every person received a measure of care. Peter gave short instruction in the Catholic faith and baptized as many as he could. In this way he could prevail on the slave owners to give humane treatment to fellow Christians.

The treatment of slaves

The treatment of slaves

He was accused of being overzealous, and of having profaned the Sacraments by giving them to creatures who scarcely possessed a soul.   The fashionable women of Cartagena refused to enter the churches where Father Claver assembled the slaves. His superiors were often influenced by his critics and some tried to curtail his activities. By 1651 he had baptized more than 300,000, when he at last became weakened by the plague.

In the last years of his life Peter was too ill to leave his room and he was poorly cared for.  Claver never complained. He was convinced that he deserved this treatment.

When Cartagenians heard that Peter Claver was dying, they crowded into his room to see him for the last time. They treated Peter Claver’s room as a shrine, and stripped it of everything but his bedclothes for mementos. He died on 8 September 1654.

See: http://spirituality.ucanews.com/2013/09/09/st-peter-claver

The town of Verdú.  The most important religious monument in Verdú is the 13th century parish church of Santa Maria, with its Romanesque portal. Inside are the 15th century Gothic sculptures of the Virgin, in polychrome stone, and that of Saint Flavia, patron saint of the town. Beside the church stands the 12th century castle, around which the community developed. The castle is currently being restored.

The Castle in Verdu

The Castle in Verdu

Workmen restoring the interior of the castle

Workmen restoring the interior of the castle

Prayer: Today we focused our contemplation on the experience of Mary Magdalene as she goes to the tomb in the early morning (John 20:11-18).   I invited the pilgrims to hear, as Mary Magdalene did, the Risen Jesus speak their names with love:

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic,“Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

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