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François de Laval

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François de Laval
Francois de Laval.jpg
Born April 30, 1623(1623-04-30)
Died May 6, 1708 (aged 85)
Occupation Bishop of New France
François de Laval Signature.svg
François de Laval - Project Gutenberg eText 17174

François de Laval

Blason Guy XII de Laval-Châteaubriant

Coat of arms of the Maison Montmorency-Laval et Candié-Châteaubriant

François-Xavier de Montmorency-Laval (30 April 1623 – 6 May 1708) was the first Roman Catholic bishop of New France and was one of the most influential men of his day. He was appointed when he was 36 years old by Pope Alexander VII. He was a member of the Montmorency family.

Early life and vocation

He was born at Montigny-sur-Avre. His father was a member of the distinguished Montmorency family and his mother was a descendant of Rouen legal nobility.[1] As early as age 8 it was decided that he would have a career in the Church. He studied at the Jesuit college at La Flèche, and then at Paris. He briefly interrupted his studies because of a family crisis but he was very soon ordained subdeacon in 1646 and a priest in 1647. While he was archdeacon of Évreux in 1648, he showed much passion for his work which made it clear that he would be a perfect fit for missionary work in Indochina.[2] was the result of a quarrel between the Sulpicians, who actively aided the French government and its special interest groups in all its endeavours, and the Jesuits, who sought a more neutral ground. The Jesuits, who were very active in New France, did not want to work under a bishop who would have been a tool of Paris and the Sulpicians. They obtained a Papal Bull naming Laval in partibus bishop of Petra, a diocese at the time in Muslim lands, since the population of New France was too small to justify a diocese. He sailed from La Rochelle for New France on 13 April 1659.[1][3] His first mission was to get his authority recognized. He didn't have to fight for that right, however, because Louis XIV wrote a letter to the governor ordering that Laval's authority be recognized everywhere.[1] His next mission was to organize the church. He returned to France in 1662 to consult with Louis XIV and returned to New France with increased powers.

The founder

This gave him the right to create the Seminary of Quebec and a Sovereign Council.[1] In 1663 Laval founded the Séminaire de Québec, a society of diocesan priests called "Séminaire des Missions-Étrangères de Québec" that he united to the one in Paris of which he had been one of the founders. His seminary was destined to be at the heart of the life and organization of the Church of Canada: training ground for future priests, future diocesan chapter, organizational center of the parishes whose pastors are appointed by the bishop and the directors of the Seminary. He also founded the Confraternity of the Holy Family, erected on March 14, 1665, a Minor Seminary in 1668, followed by a school of arts and trades in St. Joachim and numerous parishes, but without a doubt his pastoral visitations will be at the heart of his pastoral action. He visited parishes for confirmations, even where there are only three of four families.

The Séminaire de Québec after the British conquest, accepted, in 1765, lay students in his school for young people and founded the Université Laval, in 1852, which was named in honour of Laval. In 1674, Laval was named the first bishop of Quebec.[1] By educating priests locally, keeping their parish appointments at pleasure instead of by permanent appointment, and by undertaking the construction of schools and churches, Laval created a strong local infrastructure independent of Paris. He organized a parochial system which increased the number of parishes from five in 1659 to 35 in 1688, which would include 102 clergymen. He encouraged missionary activity, especially if it was to be conducted by the Jesuits.[1]

Laval was inflexible and zealous but knew when to compromise, in exceptional circumstances. He waged continuous warfare against the liquor trade with aboriginal peoples and interfered constantly in other matters whenever he saw questions of morality and religion being trampled. He eventually would be unsuccessful in ending the liquor trade with aboriginals.[1] He was known to have had repeated disagreements with the governors of the colony that were of moral and political matters.[1]

In 1684, he went to France to resign his bishopric.[1]
François de Laval tomb

François de Laval's tomb, within Notre-Dame de Québec Cathedral

He returned to New France with the permission of his successor, Bishop Saint-Vallier. The new bishop reform the Seminary. Bishop de Laval often still performed episcopal functions when Saint-Vallier was not in New France.[1] Laval died in 1708 from a chilblain infection on his heel.[1]


The spirituality of Laval is marked by a detachment which was a feature of his temperament. He had acquired this from Monsieur de Bernières during his years spent in Caen. This detachment is "a great system of disappropriation" which can be summed up in the following maxim: "We have no better friend than Jesus-Christ. Let us follow all his recommendations, especially those on humiliation and disappropriation of the heart" as writes his first biographer, Bertrand de la Tour.

Disappropriation is nothing else but the Gospel lived in a radical fashion. Laval gives this disappropriation a moral sense of self-denial, of course. Thus, disappropriation includes the values of self-denial, poverty, humility since it remains always a certain form of deprivation, but the essence of disappropriation for Laval resided first in sharing and common disposal of goods. He wanted, writes Bertrand de la Tour, "the whole clergy to form but a large family" and it is for that reason that he asked that one should never abandon the "disappropriation which leaves everything in common in the hands of the superior".

The outcome of disappropriation produces an increasing freedom and openness to God's action. As Laval advances in age, the fruits of a loving openness to God's will through daily events are manifested in a growing constancy, patience and abandon. It is this "confident faith experience" that Laval lived throughout his life. It is at the heart of his spiritual experience. "For a long time, God has given me the grace to look at everything that happens to me in this life as an effect of his Providence", he writes in 1687. In the main events of his life, François de Laval quickly looks for their spiritual meaning, either for his pastoral work, or in his personal spiritual itinerary. This "experience of Providence", so to speak, would not be complete unless it stirred up a response. This response is abandon: "It is only right… that we should live only a life of pure abandon in all that concerns us inside as well as outside", he will say after the king's refusal to let him leave for Canada in 1687.

Laval gives the example of a shepherd who was totally dedicated to his task in a daily and durable fidelity. Upon his death in 1708, he was leaving a reputation of "a shepherd filled with the spirit of the apostles" (Monsieur Glandelet).


On June 22, 1980,HI Bishop Laval was beatified by Pope John Paul II.[4]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Bumsted, JM (2007). A History of the Canadian Peoples (3rd edition ed.). Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195423495. OCLC 191694867. 
  2. The encyclopedia Americana - Page 66 by Grolier Incorporated: "Laval was appointed vicar apostolic of New France and titular bishop of Petra in 1658."
  3. Saints of North America By Vincent J. O'Malley
  4. cheney, David M (2008-01-17). "Bishop Bl. François de Laval de Montmorency". Catholic-Hierarchy. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 

See also

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Diocese of Québec
elevated 1 October 1674
Bishop of Quebec
Succeeded by
Jean-Baptiste de la Croix de Chevrières de Saint-Vallier
Stages of Canonization in the Roman Catholic Church
  Servant of God   →   Venerable   →   Blessed   →   Saint  
uk:Франсуа де Монморансі-Лаваль

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