The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century – Anthony Chevrier

Blessed Antoine ChevrierAnthony Chevrier gained the repute of sanctity as a true apostle of the poor. He was born at Lyons in 1826, the son of a financier, was ordained priest in 1850 and became vicar of Saint Andrew’s in his native city. Meditation on the mystery of Our Saviour’s birth filled him with a wonderful love of poverty and of the poor. He gave up his position as vicar with the view of consecrating himself entirely to the destitute. His compassion was first excited for poor abandoned children who, having no one to care for them, had not made their first communion. He acquired a half-ruined building, called the Prado, in the suburbs, and with the aid of charitable gifts he repaired it for his work of charity. The children remained in this house for six months, were solidly instructed in the truths of religion and then solemnly admitted to holy communion. Those admitted to the Prado were often degenerate. But the prayers, kindness, and charity of Chevrier won the confidence of these unfortunates. Asked the condition for admission to the Prado, the pious director replied: “Three – to have nothing, to know nothing, and to be good for nothing.” For the support of his house he depended mainly on alms. Every Friday morning he stood as a beggar for his children at the door of some church.

The work of Chevrier grew more and more extended. Both the civil and the ecclesiastical authorities protected him. Since 1864 he had been selecting good and talented boys and preparing them to enter his Institute for Priests.

The people had long perceived the holiness of Chevrier. He was continually engaged in the parlor, in the confessional, and in the sacristy. The chapel of the Prado was filled not only on Sundays, but every evening for catechism. His question-box was particularly attractive. Any one could hand in written questions to which an answer was desired. On the appointed day Chevrier satisfied as far as possible the wishes of his hearers. He used to say: “The priest is the glory and riches of God’s house; its finest ornament is the priest. A holy priest even in a poor frame church will attract and convert souls.” And in himself this saying was exemplified. This father of the poor was called to his reward on 2 October 1879. About ten thousand persons attended his funeral. Such a man will surely win the crown of the Blessed and by his example encourage many to imitate him.

– this text is taken from The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century: Saintly Men and Women of Our Own Times, by Father Constantine Kempf, SJ; translated from the German by Father Francis Breymann, SJ; Impimatur by + Cardinal John Farley, Archbishop of New York, 25 September 1916