Saint Brigid Religious Education
100 Mayflower Street
West Hartford, CT 06110
St. Peter Chanel
Feast day: April 28
Born in 1803 in the diocese of Belley in France, Peter was the fifth
child of his parents. With his older brothers and sisters he was
consecrated to the Blessed Virgin at his birth. They were all pious
children who prayed and tried to help one another to serve God ever more
faithfully. In 1814 the parish priest, seeing Peterís good dispositions,
arranged for him to study in the town of Cras, and to reside there with
During the summer the young Christian returned to watch the
sheep and continue reading his cherished books in the fields. He began
to serve Mass and learned the elements of Latin, and accompanied the
priest when he went to take the Blessed Sacrament to the sick and dying.
At the age of fifteen Peter passed through a temptation to abandon his
studies and return home. A prayer to the Blessed Virgin saved his future
vocation. The following year he was sent to the diocesan seminary; three
years there left with his fellow candidates unforgettable memories of
the pious seminarian.
He was ordained in 1827 and named assistant in the parish of Amberieu.
At the end of a year there his delicate health caused the bishop to send
him as parish priest to a more favorable climate in the mountains of
Switzerland, where he hoped the young priest would also reform the
parish. Saint Peter manifested great solicitude for the poor and the
small children, for their instruction making an appeal to his younger
sister Mary Frances, then twenty years old.
While at Crozet he heard of
the newly founded missionary Society of Mary at Lyons. He had always
wanted to be a missionary, and believed the call he felt to join this
Society was from God. He left his parish, keeping his parishioners in
his heart forever, as he said, and at 28 years of age went to Father
Colin, Founder of the Marists, and asked permission to enter the
September of that year he was among the first twenty Marists to depart
for the Pacific Ocean by way of the Cape of South America (the Panama Canal did not yet exist). The ship and passengers were
severely tried by more than one violent storm and were saved
only by prayer to the Star of the Sea, Mary, who is refuge of sailors. Damage
to their ship caused occasional long delays.
When they reached the Wallis Islands several missionaries were received
kindly at the first debarkation. Others, among them Peter Chanel,
continued on to Futuna, a volcanic island. There Father Chanel and
Brother Marie-Nizier remained, welcomed by the local king of the
The natives already believed in a future immortal life,
and the king Niouliki had forbidden cannibalism, but many superstitions
still reigned. The two missionaries soon gained the confidence of the
natives, learned the language and undertook serious labors to catechize
them. The king came to Mass one day, and others followed.
One day the king allowed his idols to be thrown into the fire,
and the entire population seemed about to become Christian. However, an undercover persecution
was brewing for the missionaries. It was not long before they had slain the Saint with rude
instruments. Brother Marie-Nizier escaped the fate of his superior,
having been absent that day. Later it was said that the sky immediately
grew dark and a luminous cross was seen amid the thunderclaps that
followed. Saint Peterís frightened enemies buried his body in haste.
The sacred remains of the martyr were later exhumed and taken to New
Zealand, and from there sent in 1851 to Lyons, to the Marist mother
house. The entire island of Futuna converted to the faith. Saint Peter
Chanel was canonized in 1954 by Pope Pius XII.