Spiritual Bouquet: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me. St. John 14:6
BLESSED FRANÇOIS de MONTMORENCY-LAVAL
First Bishop of Quebec and of Canada
Blessed François de Laval was born at St. Martin de Montigny-sur-Avre, Normandy, France. He wanted to become a priest from his earliest childhood. When he was eight years old, his father placed him with the Jesuits, where he lived for fourteen years far from his family.
François lost his father in 1636. His uncle, a bishop, appointed him a canon of Evreux to assist his family. He was ordained a priest on May 1, 1647. King Louis XIV chose him as the first Bishop of New France. On December 8, 1658, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the thirty-eight year old prelate was consecrated a bishop. He left for Quebec on June 16, 1659, and immediately began making pastoral visits throughout his immense diocese.
Upon his arrival, he won everyone’s confidence with his charity, piety, discernment and impartiality. His first concern consisted in advancing the organization of the Church in Canada. He contributed greatly towards both the civil and religious formation of the country. Even though he had to face many difficulties, with his wise, firm action, he succeeded in implanting the Faith all over North America.
Bishop de Laval first founded the Seminary of Quebec which gathered together a community of priests; in 1663 he entrusted the formation of his clergy to this seminary. Five years later, a Minor Seminary was opened for the recruitment of his clergy. In conformity with holy practice in the early centuries of the Church, all the clerics and churchmen lived out of a common fund.
Blessed François de Laval had to fight with all his might against disorders that had been introduced into the country at the beginning of its colonization, chiefly the traffic of intoxicating liquor. Saint Mary of the Incarnation wrote, “The bishop has had many conflicts in New France concerning liquor given to the natives which almost led to the total ruin of this new Church.” Thanks to his apostolic zeal, this shameful commerce was absolutely forbidden.
The secular powers raised serious opposition to his evangelizing activities, but Bishop de Laval never capitulated in the face of his adversaries’ odious proceedings. With firmness and perseverance, the holy bishop resisted all encroachments of civil authorities in Church government. He rose up with authority against anyone who wanted to hinder the implantation of Christianity in the blessed land of New France. With supreme patience, he endured all the wicked actions that earthly magnates wrought against him, as well as two major fires that demolished his seminary, for which he had labored so hard.
This holy bishop, a pioneer of the Church in New France, lived in constant, heroic renouncement. He wore a hair shirt and slept very little, so as to be able to pray all his offices and rosaries. As for the brief rest he granted himself, he took it on a wretched mat laid on a bed of boards, without even a sheet to cover himself. His great evangelical simplicity was also very praiseworthy, for never did any man have a greater horror of showmanship and vanity, especially when it presented itself under a cover of religion.
This worthy, virtuous prelate wore old, patched garments. For twenty years he owned only two winter cassocks. At his death one of them was still good; the other, threadbare and patched, attested to his wonderful spirit of poverty. Hard on himself, this admirable man of God was prodigal to excess towards Christ’s poor. Every year he never failed to give the needy 1,500 to 2,000 pounds.
Blessed François de Laval endured the sufferings of his last years with great serenity and resignation to God’s will. During Holy Week in 1708 he contracted the illness that was to take him to the grave. On May 6, 1708, he died in the company of his priests, reciting the Rosary and the Litany of the Holy Family, which devotion he had propagated throughout Canada.
Taken from a picture printed in 1951 — and from an O.D.M. summary.
SAINT VICTOR of MARSEILLE
Soldier and Martyr
The Emperor Maximian, reeking with the blood of the Theban legion and that of many other martyrs, arrived in person in the year 290 at Marseilles, where the Church flourished. The tyrant was breathing nothing but slaughter and fury, and his coming filled the Christians with fear and alarm. In the general consternation, Victor, a Christian officer in the emperor’s troops, went about in the nighttime from house to house, visiting the faithful and inspiring them with contempt for temporal death and love of eternal life.
He was arrested during these charitable offices and brought before the tribunal of the prefects Asterius and Eutychius, who exhorted him not to lose the fruit of his imperial service and the favor of his prince for the worship of a dead man. He answered that he renounced temporal rewards, if he could not enjoy them without being unfaithful to Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, who had vouchsafed to become man for our salvation, and who after dying raised Himself from the dead, to reign perpetually with the Father, being God equally with Him. The entire court received this witness with shouts of rage; and Victor was bound hand and foot and dragged through the streets of the city, exposed to the blows and insults of the populace.
He was brought back bruised and bloody to the tribunal of the prefects, who, thinking his resolution must have been weakened by his sufferings, pressed him again to adore their gods. However, the martyr, filled with the Holy Spirit, expressed his respect for the emperor but his contempt for the debauched gods. Saint Victor was hoisted on the rack and tortured a long time, until the tormentors grew weary and the prefect ordered him to be taken down and thrown into a dark dungeon. At midnight God visited him by His Angels. The prison was filled with a light brighter than that of the sun, and the martyr sang with Angels the praises of God. Three soldiers who guarded the prison, seeing this light, cast themselves at the martyr’s feet, asked his pardon, and expressed their desire for baptism. Victor instructed them as well as time would permit, and sent for a priest the same night. The five of them went to the seashore, and the three converts were baptized, then all returned to the prison.
The next morning, when Maximian was informed of the conversion of the guards, in a transport of rage he sent officers to bring all four confessors before him. The three soldiers persevered in the confession of Jesus Christ, and by the emperor’s orders were beheaded. Victor, set before almost the entire city for a final questioning, after having been exposed to its insults, was again placed on the rack, scourged, and carried back to prison, where he remained for three more days, recommending to God his martyrdom with many tears. After that term the emperor called him before his tribunal, and commanded the martyr to offer incense to a statue of Jupiter. Victor went up to the profane altar, and with a kick of his foot overthrew it. The emperor ordered his foot to be chopped off. The Saint suffered this mutilation with great joy, offering to God these first-fruits of his body. His barbaric tormentor condemned him to be put under the grindstone of a hand-mill and crushed to death. The executioners turned the wheel, and when part of his body was bruised and crushed, the mill broke down. The Saint still breathed a little; an order was given to behead him at once. His body with those of the other three heroes of Christ, Alexander, Felician and Longinus, were thrown into the sea, but cast ashore on the opposite bank by a current. They were buried by the Christians in a grotto hewn out of the rock. Very great miracles were wrought at Saint Victor’s tomb or by his intercession, including the resurrection of a girl in her coffin, which occurred beside her open grave.
Sources: Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 8; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints, and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).