Born in Spain, the son of a farmer, Peter Claver entered the Society of Jesus and was ordained in 1615 in Cartagena, South America, where he had made his higher studies. Cartagena was the center of the infamous slave trade, where many thousands of African slaves were landed after crossing the ocean amid inhuman conditions, and then penned like animals in yards. Their terrible plight, corporal and spiritual, tore at the heart of the young Jesuit and he determined to devote himself to the alleviation of their misery. At his profession he had vowed "to be a slave of the slaves forever," and he now began to carry out this vow. Though his main concern was the salvation of the slaves, he realized that their bodily misery needed attention first. "We must speak to them with our hands," he said, "before we can speak to them with our lips." His love and his endurance seemed boundless. Taking only a minimum of sleep, he ministered tirelessly to the slaves, washing and tending their wounds, feeding them with food begged in the city, burying their dead, comforting them so lovingly that he appeared like an angel from heaven. He saw in them not only Christ's brothers and sisters, but souls for whom He had bled and died. He instructed the adults by means of interpreters and pictures, and during the forty years of his heroic apostolic labors he is said to have baptized over 300,000, including infants. He fought courageously for enforcement of the law providing for the Christian marriage of the slaves and forbidding the separation of families. Every spring he conducted missions for the slaves in the country, and in fall for the sailors and traders in the city, preaching in the streets' hearing confessions for hours on end, so that he also became the apostle of Cartagena itself. The plague struck the city in 1650, and Peter was one of its first victims. For four years he was bedridden in his cell, unable to work, and almost forgotten. However, when he announced his approaching end, crowds came to kiss his hands and feet and to take away from his cell whatever they could as relics. He was given a public burial, and the fame of his heroism, his holiness, and his miracles soon spread throughout the world. Pope Leo XIII declared him the patron of all missionary work among the Negroes.
We can measure the immense finesse of the Church in dealing with everything when we consider that the only saint with a special feast for her birthday is Our Lady. We are not considering Christmas, of course. This corresponds to the worship of hyperdulia that the Church reserves for her.
The Church reserves the worship of latria, or adoration, only for God - for Our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, Who is the Word Incarnate. The worship of dulia, or veneration, the Church assigns to the saints. But to Our Lady she has a worship that is neither the simple worship of dulia nor the supreme worship of latria, but rather the worship of hyperdulia, which is a higher veneration unparallel to any other.
So, we have a feast celebrating the birthday of the Holy Virgin, one of the many feasts the Church reserves for her.
Analogously, because of her singular virtue, the Church permits that a church can have more than one statue of Our Lady at the same altar, a rule that does not apply to any other saint. In this way she makes it understood that Our Lady is beyond comparison with any other creature. It is a liturgical way to teach the theological truth that she is the Mother of God.
The feast day of the nativity of Our Lady induces us to ask: What advantage did her birth bring for mankind? And why should mankind celebrate her nativity in a special way?
In the order of nature, Our Lady was conceived without original sin, giving her a singular and peerless value. She was a lily of an incomparable purity and beauty that appeared in the night of this land of exile. She also had all the natural psychological gifts that a woman can have. God gave her the richest personality imaginable. To this, He added gifts of the supernatural order, the treasures of graces that were hers. She received the most precious graces God ever gave to any human creature.
Given that she was without original sin, she had the entire use of reason from the moment she was conceived. Therefore, already in the maternal womb, Our Lady had very elevated thoughts. The womb of St. Anne was for her a kind of temple. There she was already interceding for the human race and had begun to pray – with the highest wisdom that was a gift from God – for the coming of the Messiah. In reality she was influencing the destiny of mankind as a source of graces. Scripture tells us that the tunic that Our Lord wore was a source of grace that cured those who touched it; this being the case, you can imagine how Our Lady, the Mother of the Savior, was a source of graces for whosoever would approach her, even before she was born. For this reason we can say that at her nativity, immense graces began to shine for mankind and the Devil started to be smashed. He perceived that his scepter had been cracked and would never be the same again.
At the time of her birth, the world was laid groveling in the most radical Paganism. Vices prevailed, idolatry dominated everything, abomination had penetrated the Jewish religion itself, which was a presage of the Catholic Religion. The victory of evil and the Devil seemed almost complete. But at a certain moment God in His mercy decreed that Our Lady should be born. This was the equivalent of the beginning of the destruction of the reign of the Devil.
Our Lady was so important that her birthday marks a new era in the Old Covenant. The History of the Old Covenant was a long wait for the coming of the Messiah. After the original sin of our first parents, mankind had to wait 3,000 years, perhaps more, for the Messiah. But at a certain blessed moment, Divine Providence decreed that a woman should be born who would deserve the coming of the Messiah. Her nativity represents the entrance into the world of the perfect creature who found grace before God and had merit sufficient to end that extensive wait.
All the prayers, sufferings, and faithfulness of the just men living and dead reached their apex with her arrival. There had been Patriarchs, Prophets, just men among the Chosen People and certainly some just men among the Gentiles who had prayed, suffered, and waited; none of this was sufficient to attract the coming of the Redemption. But when God so willed it, He made the perfect creature be born to be the Mother of the Savior. Therefore, the entrance of this exquisite creature into the world marks the presage of the Redemption. The relationship between God and man began to change, and the gates of Heaven that had been tightly locked were semi-opened, permitting the light and breeze of hope to pass through.
Her birth represents the entrance into the world of a new grace, a new blessing, a new presence that was an incomparable presage of the presence, blessing and grace that would come with the Savior.
For all these reasons the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady should be most dear to us. It is the event that announces the fall of Paganism.
Since we are sons of Our Lady not by our own merit but by her choice, on this day we can ask of her a special grace. Many mystics who had visions of Our Lady said that on her feast days she visits Purgatory to release a great number of souls whom she takes back with her to Heaven. What happens with the Church Suffering gives us an idea of what takes place with the Church Militant. On these feast days her grace envelops us and gains innumerable favors for us.
I suggest that on her nativity each one of us ask her the graces that we need. But I also suggest that as counter-revolutionaries, we ask her to give us a love and ardent desire for the Reign of Mary similar to the desire she had for the Messiah. A wise and reflective desire that cleanses our souls of any attachment to this revolutionary world and allows us to be her tools for the destruction of the Revolution and implantation of her Reign.
A FRIEND of mine of German extraction, who is just becoming initiated into the savory and succulent delicacies of Portuguese literature, recently told me about the passage I have transcribed below. Let us savor it together, word by word, or better, drop by drop. At times we will delight in the lush foliage of precise expression, at others with the charm of the old Portuguese ambience that took shape before his eyes, and that has returned to mine which contemplated it long ago.
Is there anyone of my generation who didn't read The Fidalgos of the Moorish House, by Julio Diniz? I suppose that in succeeding generations there are also numerous readers of the celebrated romance.
However, let it be said in passing that this work has an egalitarian side little to my liking. But, at the moment, this is not in question.
"Rich father, noble son, poor grandson": the well known adage contains an important truth. But, according to the way it is understood, it also contains a grave error, for it is in the nature of things that a wealthy family attempt to better the formation of its children in every possible way. It is equally in the nature of things that this formation, becoming solidified and perfected down through the generations, constitute a body of family traditions that inspire devotion and respectability and exert influence. Whatever form of government may exist — therefore, with or without titles of nobility — an aristocracy is thus formed. This new situation can be seen by the family in either a superficial or a profound way. In the former case, necessities, hardships, and struggles seem to become things of the past. Just enjoy. Once this point of view is accepted, the family begins to fall into decadence. Orgies, the foolishness of incompetent managers, thefts by dishonest suppliers, not to mention the disastrous collapses resulting from unviable, fantastic ventures — all this tarnishes the family name. The era of the "poor grandson" begins.
But if the family ennobled by labor understands that its difficulties, hardships and struggles will not cease to exist, but only change their forms, the "rich father" will not be succeeded by the "poor grandson." If the "rich father" knew how to teach his "noble son" that his situation is as precarious as his grandfather's; and that he has even more at stake ("the greater the height, the greater the fall"); that the danger facing the noble is that of becoming soft, diluted and rotten; that the state of being noble — with or without the title, I repeat — imposes on him much more onerous duties than on ordinary men; then the family can become firmly established and grow even more robust by giving each new generation new wealth of soul and tradition. Traditional family elites from top to bottom in the social scale, behold what you should desire!
But in his romance, Julio Diniz makes the opposite more or less understood. The elites inevitably decay, and the upward march of the bourgeoisie of his time was to replace the old aristocracy with a more egalitarian world. The nobles who wanted to live on must adopt the methods and styles of the nouveau riche, and not the other way around.
This is the context of the meeting of George, one of the young nobles of the Moorish House, and Tomé da Povoa, a local laborer enriched as a result of his incessant efforts.
George listened attentively to Tomé da Povoa, who was telling him how he had made it: "What a day that was, George! I can't tell you how I felt! Heavens! I came back from the master's office with the deed in my pocket, trembling, my heart leaping within me like a child; I furtively opened the gate of the farm, and alone, like a thief, with no one to see me, I went in. I tell you, I was almost mad! I even spoke out loud. I even remember what I said at finding myself there inside: This is mine! And after I knew it was mine, it all seemed different to me. Mine! I never tired of repeating that word! Mine! These trees were mine, these fountains were mine, even the birds up there singing were mine because they came to make their nests in what belonged to me. You'll surely laugh if I tell what I did. I embraced those trees, I patted those walls with my hands, I splashed in those basins, I drank from those fountains, I laid down in the shade of those trees, I sang, I leaped, I wept... This came to me for being honest and true to my word... From that moment on I knew what it was to love the earth. From the sowing to the harvest it meant ceaselessly tending the fields. I took as much pleasure in seeing my crops grow as I did in seeing my children grow; each new sprout was like a new birth in the house. I measured the growth of the trees I had planted, and counted each fruit I brought in from the orchards. In the beginning it was almost madness. This is my life. God helped me, and from then on all went well" (Julio Diniz, The Fidalgos of the Moorish House, Livraria Lelo e Irmão, Lisbon, pp. 43-44).
What is the purpose of all this, my reader? Now, at the end of the XX century, hasn't the past pushed aside the noble-plebian issue? Upon considering the immediate reality, almost everything would say so. But what about the problem equality-inequality, which is more alive than ever in the false antithesis property-labor. And in this passage, Julio Diniz gives us the feeling that, given human nature as it is, property is born from labor as a flower blossoms from the stem. The hope of becoming an owner leads labor to the fullness of its impetus, to its total fertility, and to its heroic continuity.
With this hope, labor is like the waters of a river that flow happily and swiftly, rushes over rocks singing sweetly, swirls into foam, and finally reaches the sea. Without it, labor is like a river of heavy waters, flowing slowly and lazily, resigned to zigzagging caprices in order to avoid obstacles instead of overcoming them, overflowing here and there and flooding adjoining tracts, with waters that become stagnant and whose surface is covered by dead leaves and the endless, futile dancing of insects.
Legislation on labour is indispensable; it can be just, it can even be excellent. But if workers are given every possible right while social security and other taxes, levied in the name of social welfare, take away all possibility of savings, a brutal blow will have been dealt against the world of labor.