05/05/1994 11:38

SAINT PETER CHANEL Priest & Martyr - AD 1841 (April 28)

Proto-martyr of Oceania, born at Cuet, dep. of Ain, France, 1803, died at
Futuna, Friendly Islands, Oceania, 28 April, 1841. Being of humble parentage, a
zealous priest, M. Trompier, assisted his education. Ordained priest in 1827, he
went as curate to Ambérieux and later as pastor to Crozet. His desire to serve in
the foreign missions drew him, in 1831, into the newly-founded Society of Mary
which, having been formally approved, 29 April, 1836, was entrusted with the
evangelization of Occidental Oceania. Chanel, after taking the three religious
vows at the hands of Father Colin, founder and first superior of the Marists,
embarked that same year for his distant mission under the leadership of Bishop
Bataillon, and was sent to the island called Horn, or Allofatu, by geographers,
and Futuna by the natives. War between rival tribes and the practice of
cannibalism had reduced its population to a few thousands when Chanel landed
on its shores. The religion he found there was a worship of terror offered to evil
deities. Chanel laboured faithfully amid the greatest hardships, learning the native
language, attending the sick, baptizing the dying, and winning from all the name
of "the man with the kind heart". Niuliki, the then ruler, showed first an amicable
disposition towards the missionary and even declared him "taboo", or sacred and
inviolable; but when he saw that his subjects were being drawn away from the
idols into the white man's religion, he issued an edict against him to avert the
movement towards Christianity. At that very time his son Meitala joined the

Musumusu, Niuliki's prime minister and an implacable enemy of Christianity,
then concocted a plot with the petty chiefs against the Christians, which was
carried out with great cruelty. At day-break, on 28 April, 1841, the conspirators
assembled together and, after wounding many neophytes whom they had
surprised sleeping, proceeded to Chanel's hut. One shattered his arm and
wounded his left temple with a war-club. Another struck him to the ground with a
bayonet. A third beat him severely with a club. The missionary was uttering the
while words of gentle resignation: "Malie fuai" (it is: well for me). Musumusu
himself, enraged at the tardiness of death, split open the martyr's skull with an
adze. The remains of the martyred missionary, hurriedly buried, were later
claimed by M. Lavaux, commander of the French naval station of Tahiti, and
taken to France on a government transport, 1842. The cause of the beatification
of Father Chanel, introduced 1857, terminated by the Brief "Quemadmodum" of
16 Nov., 1889. The solemnities took place the following day in the basilica of St.
Peter, Rome. "Oceanicæ protomartyr" is the official title given Blessed Chanel by
the Congregation of Rites in the decree declaring: "tuto procedi posse ad
solemnem Ven. servi Dei P. M. Chanel beatificationem".

[Note: Peter Chanel, the proto-martyr of the Society of Mary, and of Oceania,
was canonized in 1954 by Pope Pius XII.]

The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)