Archbishop Montmorency-Laval, Father of the Canadian Church

May 19, 2016

St. François de Montmorency LavalWell did Laval deserve that his name should live in that of the university which a century and a half after his death owed its existence to his bounty. This father of the Canadian Church, who has left so deep an impress on one of the communities which form the vast population of North America, belonged to a type of character to which an even justice is rarely done…. Tried by the Romanist standard, his merits were great, though the extraordinary influence which he exercised in the affairs of the colony were, as already observed, by no means due to his spiritual graces alone. To a saint sprung from the haute noblesse, Earth and Heaven were alike propitious. When the vicar-general Colombière pronounced his funeral eulogy in the sounding periods of Bossuet, he did not fail to exhibit him on the ancestral pedestal where his virtues would shine with redoubled luster. “The exploits of the heroes of the House of Montmorency,” exclaims the reverend orator, “form one of the fairest chapters in the annals of Old France; the heroic acts of charity, humility, and faith achieved by a Montmorency form one of the fairest in the annals of New France. The combats, victories, and conquests of the Montmorency in Europe would fill whole volumes; and so, too, would the triumphs won by a Montmorency in America over sin, passion, and the Devil.” Then he crowns the high-born prelate with a halo of fourfold saintship: “It was with good reason that Providence permitted him to be called Francis, for the virtues of all the saints of that name were combined in him,—the zeal of Saint Francis Xavier, the charity of Saint Francis of Sales, the poverty of Saint Francis of Assisi, the self-mortification of Saint Francis Borgia; but poverty was the mistress of his heart, and he loved her with incontrollable transports.”

The Seminary of Quebec in Quebec City founded by Bishop François de Laval, the first bishop of New France in 1663.

The Seminary of Quebec in Quebec City founded by Bishop François de Laval, the first bishop of New France in 1663.

The stories which Colombière proceeds to tell of Laval’s asceticism are confirmed by other evidence, and are, no doubt, true. Nor is there any reasonable doubt that, had the bishop stood in the place of Brébeuf or Charles Lalemant, he would have suffered torture and death like them.

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Francis Parkman, The Old Régime in Canada: France and England in North America, vol. I (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1897), 224-6.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 525

 

 

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