Saint Peter-Louis Marie Chanel (+1841) was born in France in the aftermath of the destructive French Revolution of 1789. He joined the Society of Mary (the Marists) and taught at the seminary for five years, before going as a missionary to the South Pacific where he was clubbed to death by the island king’s son-in-law. His life was taken because the king believed Christianity would undermine his authority as high priest of the pagan religion. Within a year of the saint’s death, all were converted to the Catholic faith, including his murderer.
Peter Chanel lived the motto of the Marist Fathers: “To think of Mary, judge as Mary, feel and act as Mary in all things.” They engage in “the work of Mary”, and aspire to “reflect the face of Mary,” which Peter succeeded in doing.
For Peter, the way to finding Jesus was through His Mother, so he formulated his own motto: “To love Mary and to make her loved.”
After a year as assistant in a large parish, he was placed in charge of a small country parish that had been sadly neglected since the Revolution. In just three years, he transformed it with his characteristic low-key approach, plus tact, compassion, and prayer.
In September of 1836, he was among the first of the Marists to depart for the Pacific Ocean. The voyage was treacherous, having many violent storms; however, the crew and passengers were saved miraculously by prayer to Mary, invoked by her ancient title of “Star of the Sea.”
Interestingly, two men were inspired by Mary to start a “Society of Mary,” in France, at the same time, unbeknownst to the other. One be-came, for short, the Marists; the other, the Marianists.
His Feast Day is April 28.