|Apostle of Mauritius|
18 September 1803|
Croth, Eure, France
|Died||9 September 1864
Port Louis, Mauritius
|Roman Catholic Church|
|Beatified||29 April 1979 by Pope John Paul II|
|Major shrine||Sainte-Croix, Mauritius|
Jacques-Désiré Laval (also Jacob Desiré Laval; 18 September 1803 – 9 September 1864) was a French Roman Catholic priest and missionary to Mauritius. He is known honorifically as the "Apostle of Mauritius", and was the first blessed of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit.
He was born this day on 18 September 1803 in Croth, Eure, a department of the Normandy region of France. He was the child of a successful farmer. His uncle was a priest, and he grew up in a devoutly Catholic household. His mother died when he was seven years old.
Laval was educated at Évreux, and the Collège Stanislas de Paris. Though initially uncertain whether to pursue the priesthood or the practice of medicine, he received his medical degree in 1830 and set up a practice in Saint-André and Ivry-la-Bataille in his native Normandy.
He reexamined his choice after a near-fatal riding accident. Feeling he was called to the priesthood, he closed his practice and entered the seminary of Saint-Sulpice; he was ordained in 1838, and worked as a parish priest for two years. He desired a more active ministry, however, and entered the Society of the Holy Heart of Mary (later renamed as the Congregation of the Holy Spirit). He was sent as a missionary to the island of Mauritius on 14 September 1841. He spent the next twenty-three years in service to the people of that island nation.
Many of Père Laval's parishioners were poor and uneducated former slaves. He lived with them, learned their language, fasted when supplies were short, and slept in a packing crate. His medical training was useful to his ministry, as he worked to improve conditions in agriculture, sanitation, medicine, and science. Laval was tremendously successful—he is believed to have made 67,000 converts in his parish.
The date of Père Laval's death has become a holiday of sorts in Mauritius, marked by a festival and procession to the site of his tomb.
The annual pilgrimage to the parish church of Sainte-Croix originated on the day of his funeral procession in 1864. The funeral oration commented on the words of Isaiah: Evangelizare pauperibus misit me — "He sent me to announce the Gospel to the poor". The casket was followed by more than thirty thousand weeping people and buried opposite the church in Sainte Croix. Every year, offerings and ex votos are placed at the site of his tomb from the night of 8 September until the end of the feast of the blessed.
A picture of Pere Laval is found at Notre Dame de France (Leicester Square,London)
- Jones, Terry. "Blessed Jacques Laval". Patron Saints Index. Retrieved 2008-11-25.
- "Mauritius Culture Festivals". Travel Mauritius. 2006. Retrieved 2008-11-25.
- Ramdharysing, Vimal; Nawsadally Jeetun and Usha Hazareesing (2001). "Pere Laval". A Trip to Paradise Island. Thinkquest 2001 Internet Challenge Competition. Retrieved 2008-11-25.
- Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1
- Cowper, Eileen (1984). Blessed Jacques Laval: Apostle of Mauritius. Catholic Truth Society. ISBN 0-85183-597-X.
- Fitzimmons, Joseph (1973). Father Laval. Tenbury Wells: Fowler Wright. ISBN 0-903348-01-2.
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