April 28: ST. PETER CHANEL, Priest and Martyr. Short bio and reading.
St. Peter Chanel (1803-1841) was born in France and died a martyr’s death in the island of Futuna, Melanesia. He is called the apostle of Oceania where he spread the Gospel. He was a religious of the Society of Mary (Marists).
From a eulogy of St Peter Chanel
The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church
As soon as Peter embraced religious life in the Society of Mary, he was sent at his own request to the missions of Oceania, and landed on the island of Futuna in the Pacific Ocean, where the name of Christ had never before been preached. A lay-brother who was constantly at his side gave the following account of his life in the missions.
“Because of his labours he was often burned by the heat of the sun, and famished with hunger, and he would return home wet with perspiration and completely exhausted. Yet he always remained in good spirits, courageous and energetic, as if he were returning from a pleasure jaunt, and this would happen almost every day.
“He could never refuse anything to the Futunians, even to those who persecuted him; he always made excuses for them and never rejected them, even though they were often rude and troublesome. He displayed an unparalleled mildness towards everyone on all occasions without exception.”
It is no wonder then that the natives used to call him the “good-hearted man.” He once told a fellow religious: “In such a difficult mission one has to be holy.” Quietly he preached Christ and the Gospel, but there was little response. Still with invincible perseverance he pursued his missionary task on both the human and religious level, relying on the example and words of Christ: There is one who sows and another who reaps. And he constantly prayed for help from the Mother of God, to whom he was especially devoted.
By his preaching of Christianity he destroyed the cult of the evil spirits, which the chieftains of the Futunians encouraged in order to keep the tribe under their rule. This was the reason they subjected Peter to a most cruel death, hoping that by killing him the seeds of the Christian religion which he had sown would be annihilated.
On the day before his martyrdom he had said: “It does not matter if I die. Christ’s religion is so deeply rooted on this island that it cannot be destroyed by my death.”
The blood of this martyr benefited, in the first place, the natives of Futuna, for a few years later they were all converted to the faith of Christ. But it benefited as well the other islands of Oceania, where Christian churches, which claim Peter as their first martyr, are now flourishing.
O God, who for the spreading of your Church crowned Saint Peter Chanel with martyrdom, grant that, in these days of paschal joy, we may so celebrate the mysteries of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, as to bear worthy witness to newness of life. Through our Lord.
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