Eucharistic Crusade
The Canadian Saints


Bishop de LavalAfter Bishop de Laval arrived in New France he was given more than just the area of Quebec to look after. He was also given all the other areas owned by France and these areas extended into what is now the United States. It was a huge job for one Bishop, but he put his whole heart into this work and depended on God to help him manage.

François de Laval was born in Montigny-sur-Avre, France on April 30th, 1623. When he was only eight years old he received the tonsure and later entered the Jesuit College at La Flèche. He studied there for eight years, doing well in his studies, and growing in virtue and holiness. In 1639, at the age of sixteen, he was appointed Canon of the Cathedral in his hometown. He entered the Congregation of the Holy Virgin and there his desire to become a priest became greater.

In 1641, François left for Paris to study Theology. During this time, God sent him a few crosses; his younger brother died in 1642 and his two older brothers were killed in combat in 1644 and 1645. François was ordained a priest in 1647 and was appointed archdeacon at Evreux.

François’ greatest desire was to become a missionary. He had hoped to go to Tonkin, now Vietnam, but he was never able to go. He joined a community of priests and laymen in Caen, and while there he reformed a monastery and became the head of two communities of nuns. François was widely becoming known as a man of great virtue, piety and devotion. In addition to this he was a good administrator.

Meanwhile, New France was having some troubles with church leadership. There were two Grand Vicars but neither Vicar had power over the other. To do away with this problem, New France needed a Bishop. So on December 8, 1658, François de Laval was consecrated a Bishop.

Bishop de Laval landed in Quebec in June 1659, but at the same time he was very poor. He had a big task ahead of him; there were 500 people in Quebec City and about 1700 other people were settled in other areas. Bishops de Laval’s power extended over all the area owned by France. With less than thirty priests to minister to such a huge area, Bishop de Laval humbly set about his work.

In good weather and in bad weather the good Bishop travelled by foot, snowshoes and canoe the 450 miles from Gaspé to Montreal in order to meet and serve his parishioners. It was only in 1660 that Bishop de Laval completed his first pastoral visit, attending to the sacramental needs of both the French and the Indians. One of the greatest problems with the Indians was that they drank too much alcohol and got quite out of hand when they were drunk. The good Bishop did all he could to stop alcohol from being sold or given to the Indians. He forbade under pain of excommunication the supply of alcohol to the Indians.

  He did not want them to commit a mortal sin by getting drunk and wanted them to live as good Catholics.

Laval gave most of his money to the poor and lived very simply and in holy poverty and humility. Once a great illness broke out in Quebec City and Laval put his own health in danger by helping the sick and tending to their needs. 

Desiring to have seminarians and clergy from New France, Bishop de Laval built the major seminary of Quebec in 1663 and five years later he built a minor seminary. Many primary schools and the Vocational School of Arts and Sciences were also opened.

Bishop de Laval promoted devotion to the Virgin Mary as the Immaculate Conception 300 years before Blessed Pope Pius IX declared it a dogma. He also promoted devotion to St. Anne, at Beaupré, about thirty miles from Quebec City. In 1673 he rebuilt the Shrine of St. Anne, which had burned down in 1661. And he started devotions to the Holy Angels and the Holy Family.

When colonists treated the Indians unfairly, Laval bravely defended the Indians. He sailed to France four times to protest directly to the king of France that the Indians in New France were being treated badly by the king’s governor and councillors, and French traders.

The Bishop asked the Jesuits to continue their missionary work among the Indians and to teach in the seminaries. He encouraged the Sulpicians, Recollects, Ursuline Sisters and Notre Dame Sisters to continue their missionary work of teaching. And he asked the Augustinian Sisters to continue their hospital work at Hôtel-Dieu.

 Bishop de Laval received many priests from the Paris Foreign Mission Society. He set up parishes and community living for his diocesan priests. And since no parish could provide the necessities of life for even one priest, the Bishop arranged that all the priests would live at the major seminary. The Seminary would serve as a home for these priests during their ministry, in sickness, and in old age. The faithful paid one tenth of their income to the seminary and with this money Laval paid his priests and looked after their needs.

By the spring of 1681, the good bishop was ill and tired out. During the next few years he established a Chapter of Canons for his Cathedral and saw to the future care of his seminary and schools. Then in the fall of 1684 he sailed back to France and gave his resignation to the king. He was asked to choose his new successor so he chose Father de Saint-Vallier, a pious, zealous and knowledgeable priest, who was the chaplain of the king. In 1685, Fr. de St.Vallier sailed to New France to look things over and then returned to France. He was not consecrated Bishop until January 1688.

Bishop de Laval could now retire and he was happy to see that there were now twenty-four parishes, 102 priests and ninety-seven sisters. Thirteen of the priests were born in New France. Retiring at the seminary he lived a life of mortification and prayer. Even during the bitter winter weather, with his ever failing health, he was always the first one in the chapel for daily Mass and other services. He still continued to provide as much help to the seminary and its staff; speaking to them and giving them saintly advice.

1692 was a year of disappointment for Laval as Bishop de St. Vallier downgraded the seminary from the community that Laval had built up, into a simple training centre for future priests. And in time Bishop de Laval received more crosses. Bishop de St. Vallier returned to Europe in 1700 to settle church affairs in Rome and Paris. Bishop de Laval replaced him and in 1701 he saw his beloved seminary burn to the ground. After helping to rebuild it, fire destroyed it again in 1705. But despite all these tragedies, Laval remained humble, joyful and resigned to God’s will.

Bishop de St. Vallier was absent from New France for thirteen years, because he had to stay in Paris for a total of nine years and because he was captured by the English who put him in prison for four years. During this time Bishop de Laval did all he could for the political and economic development of the colony. He made policies to aid the moral life of the colonists and Indians of New France. And again he promoted justice for the Indians by trying to protect them from unjust fur traders and sellers of alcohol.

Laval carried out his duties as best as his poor health would allow while Bishop St. de Vallier was away. During Holy Week of 1708 he became seriously ill from frostbite on his foot. There was no medicine to help him and his condition became worse. He died on May 6th, 1708. He was made blessed by Pope John Paul II in 1980.

                Blessed Bishop Laval Pray for Us!


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