Tag Archives: France

St. Peter Mary Chanel, Priest and Martyr

April 24, 2020

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St. Peter Chanel was born into a peasant family in Cuet, France, in 1803. His faith and virtue were noticed by his pastor who recommended that he study for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1827 for the Diocese of Belley, and he spent the next four years in parish ministry, the first as an associate pastor, the next three as a pastor of the parish at Crozet near Geneva.

In 1831 St. Peter Chanel transferred to a recently founded French missionary order, the Society of Mary, also known as the Marists. He hoped to be sent as a missionary immediately, but his dream was delayed when he was assigned to teach in a seminary at Belley. He was named vice rector at the age of 30. In 1833 he accompanied Jean Colin, the founder of the new congregation, to Rome to obtain papal approval. It was granted by Pope Gregory XVI in 1836, and the Pope gave the new order the South Pacific as a mission territory.

St. Peter Mary ChanelLater in 1836 St. Peter Chanel’s request to be a missionary was granted, and he and several other Marists were sent to French Polynesia. They arrived on the tiny island of Futuna in November 1837. It is west of Tahiti and between Fiji and French Samoa. The conditions were primitive. Cannibalism had recently ended. The residents had never heard of Jesus or Christianity.

St. Peter Chanel was a kind, gentle man with a cheerful disposition. He lived simply in a hut. He learned the local language immediately and cared for the sick with great compassion. He gradually gained the trust and admiration of the islanders, but initially made almost no progress in the proclamation of the gospel or making converts. Exhausted from his labors in the sweltering heat and disappointed by their opposition to his spiritual message, he was incredibly resilient, remained positive and upbeat, and persevered with exceptional determination.

Gradually the young priest gained some followers, made a few converts, and was able to stop a local cult of evil spirits fostered by the local tribal leaders to keep the populace under their power. As his popularity and influence grew, Niuliki, the local ruler, came to regard the French missionary as a threat to his authority. Matters came to a head when the ruler’s son asked to be baptized. The chieftain went berserk with rage. Niuliki dispatched a band of warriors with spears and clubs. The torment began with a severe beating with clubs. Then he was murdered with an ax and his body chopped into pieces with hatchets. His martyrdom took place on April 28, 1841, on the Island of Futuna. He was only 37.

The islanders were amazed by his heroic faith and courageous witness, and large numbers converted. The sick and crippled began to visit his grave, and many cures and healings took place attributed to his intercession. Eventually the island became almost entirely Catholic.

St. Peter Chanel is the protomartyr of the Pacific and the first martyr of the Marists. He was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1954. His symbols include a palm branch, the symbol of the martyrs; a torch, which represents the truth which he spoke; an ax, the instrument of his martyrdom; a hut, where he lived in simplicity; and a black and white lily, the symbol of the Marists. He is the patron saint of Oceania, the islands of the South Pacific.

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St. John Eudes – Priest and Founder

August 16, 2019

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St. John Eudes

St. John Eudes is a great French saint of the Seventeenth Century. He was born in Ri, France, in the region of Normandy and the Diocese of Seez, in 1601. His family lived on a farm. He was the oldest of seven children.

He was educated by the Jesuits. At the age of 22 he became a member of the newly established French Congregation of the Oratory, the Oratorians, a religious order founded by Peter de Berulle in Paris, with a special charism for preaching. He was ordained a priest in 1625 and remained a member of the community for the next twenty years.

During the early years of his priesthood his special ministry was to preach parish missions throughout Normandy and Brittany. Some missions were a week, others several weeks, and a few were a month or more. He was a dynamic preacher and did much to revitalize and strengthen the faith of those who attended. He also gave retreats and conferences for priests.

It was also the time of the Counter Reformation, the time after the Council of Trent (1545-1563), and the Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation. Jansenism was a heretical movement that had many adherents in France. Jansen taught that the material world including the human body is evil, grace is given only to a few, and that people are such sinners that they are unworthy to receive the Eucharist. The common folk were easily misled and clergy with poor training were swayed. St. John Eudes boldly and courageously corrected the errors of Jansenism with his clear and persuasive proclamation of sound doctrine.

During this same period he served as the superior of the Oratorian monastery at Caen, France. There were several outbreaks of the plague, and he spent much time and energy in the spiritual and physical care of the victims. He also pondered the depths of the spiritual life, and he gathered his reflections in a book, The Life and Kingdom of Jesus in Christian Souls, which was published in 1637. It was so popular that it went through sixteen editions during his lifetime.

In 1641 he founded the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, today known as the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. Their mission was the care of morally endangered women, particularly those trapped in prostitution, and to help them to live virtuous Christian lives.

In 1643 he wished to open a seminary in Caen, a plan that was supported by the local bishop but opposed by the new superior of the Oratorians. As a result he decided to leave the community to found the Society of Jesus and Mary (C.I.M.), a society of diocesan priests commonly known as the Eudists. His goal was to reform the clergy, and six seminaries were established, one in Caen, and five in other French cities, to strengthen the education and training of future diocesan priests. Today the worldwide membership is about 450.

He also had a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He believed that Jesus, whose heart was pierced by a lance, is the source of all holiness, and that Mary, whose heart was pierced by a sword, is the greatest model of how to live the Christian life. He explained this devotion in two books, The Devotion to the Adorable Heart of Jesus, published in 1671, and The Admirable Heart of the Most Holy Mother of God, completed one month before his death.

St. John Eudes died in Caen in Normandy, France, on August 19, 1680 at the age of 79. He was beatified in 1909 and canonized a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1925.

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St. Theresa of the Child Jesus

September 30, 2016

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sttheresaofthechildjesus

October 1 is the memorial of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus.  She is also known as “St. Theresa of Lisieux” and the “Little Flower.”  Her life story is also the subject of the feature film “Therese” released by Xenon Pictures in 2006.

St. Theresa was born on January 2, 1873 at Alencon in Normandy, France.  She was the youngest of nine children.  Five siblings died during infancy, and only Theresa and three older sisters survived.

After Theresa’s mother died when she was four, her older sister Pauline helped to raise her and taught her about Jesus and the gospel.  Pauline entered the convent when Theresa was nine, and at that point Theresa decided that she wanted to be like her older sister.  Theresa suffered a life-threatening illness when she was ten but she miraculously recovered, a cure attributed through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Two years later another sister, Mary, also joined the convent.  Then on Christmas Eve, 1886, when Theresa was thirteen, she had a profound mystical experience in which the child Jesus brought light to the darkness of her soul.

The following year Theresa announced her intention to join her sisters Pauline and Mary in the convent.  Her father approved but the mother superior and the bishop refused, citing her age.  Subsequently, she accompanied her father on a pilgrimage to Rome and attended a papal audience.  While kneeling before Pope Leo XIII she asked for his permission to enter the convent, but the delay continued only a short while longer.

The local bishop relented and gave Theresa permission to enter the Carmel at Lisieux in 1888 when she was fifteen.  She was guided by Jesus’ words, “Unless you change your lives and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Mt 18:2).

At first Sister Theresa wanted to be a martyr, but she discovered “a still more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31), love.  Her plan was to perform ordinary kindnesses throughout the day, small good deeds done frequently, humbly, generously, quietly, and without fanfare, a spirituality that she called the “Little Way.”  She practiced this herself, and her example served as an inspiration for others to do likewise.

She was appointed director of novices when she was twenty, but three years later contracted tuberculosis.  During her final 18 months she wrote her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, in which she explained the way of doing little things with great love.  She died on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24, and was canonized by Pope Pius XI twenty-eight years later in 1925.

St. Theresa is the patron saint of florists, airline pilots, Vietnam, and religious freedom for Russia; as well as the co-patron saint of missionaries with St. Francis Xavier and the co-patron saint of France with St. Joan of Arc.  She was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II on October 19, 1997.

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