Jacques Desiré Laval

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Jacques Desiré Laval

Jacques Desiré Laval (born September 18, 1803 in Croth , Normandy , † September 9, 1864 in Port Louis ) was a French missionary and member of the Order of Spiritans (CSSp.). He was beatified on Sunday April 29, 1979 , the first to be performed by the newly elected Pope John Paul II .


Jacques Laval graduated from the old Sorbonne in Paris with a degree in medicine with an excellent doctorate . At the age of 28, he took over the practice of a country doctor in Saint-André-de-l'Eure near Évreux in Normandy. In the long run, however, his work as a doctor no longer satisfied him . In a certain way, in addition to his existence as a country doctor, he was a young bon vivant, a sporty rider, but was looking for a meaning for his life. So he finally met Father Libermann, son of an Alsatian rabbi , and his recently founded “Community of the Heart of Mary”, which was later united with the “Missionary Society of the Holy Spirit” (Spiritans) in Paris .

As the first missionary of this society, the young priest went to Mauritius, the sugar cane island in the Indian Ocean, in 1841 after studying theology and attending a novitiate in Paris. In 1839, 70,000 slaves had become free on Mauritius . Among them Laval won his co-workers, whom he then trained to be catechists in order to have them hold word services and pastoral care all over the island . He set up himself in a shack made of rubbish boards next to Port Louis Cathedral .

When he was led to the grave after his death, around 40,000 people of all religions accompanied him as a token of their appreciation.


With the death of Pope Paul VI. (August 6, 1978) and soon afterwards by Pope John Paul I (September 29, 1978), the beatification had to be postponed to 1979. With his beatification in 1979, Father Laval became the first blessed of the Spiritan Order, even before its founder, Franz Maria Paul Libermann .


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