Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Blessed Peter Fourrier

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detail of a stained glass window of Saint Pierre Fourier, by Ott Frères, 1900; nave of the church of Saint-Pierre of Bourg-Bruche, Alsace, Bas-Rhin, France; photographed on 28 September 2015 by Ralph Hammann; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsIn the year 1730, Pope Benedict XIII beatified with the usual solemnities, Peter Fourrier, an eminent servant of our Lord, and the glorious founder of the Congregation or society of our dear Lady. He was born in 1565 at Mireccur, a small village in France. His parents were indigent but very pious people, and Peter’s heart seemed from childhood to be filled with love for the Almighty. At Pont-a-Mousson he devoted himself to study, and progressed equally in virtue and knowledge. The name of a learned man, and what is still more, of a Saint, was already then given him. When twenty years old, he went into the Abbey of the regular canons of Saint Augustine, desiring to serve God more perfectly. At the end of his probation, he continued his studies at the above mentioned place and was ordained priest at his return.

The unusual zeal which this servant of God manifested in all exercises of virtue caused the less fervent priests to become tired of him, and endeavor to remove him. Hence three parishes were found, of which Peter was to select one where he might expend all his fervor in laboring for the salvation of souls. Not knowing which one to choose, he asked the advice of a Jesuit, John Fourrier, one of his relatives, who replied: “The first two arc profitable and quiet: the third yields very little, but needs a great deal of labor.” Peter reflected no longer, but seeking only the honor of God and the welfare of men, he chose, without hesitation, the poor and toilsome parish of Mataincour. The morals of the inhabitants were so depraved, that is was called “little Geneva”; but the zealous priest commenced his work of conversion so bravely, that after three years, by his kind words and constant exhortation, but still more by his bright example of virtue, Mataincour might serve as a model to all the other parishes. Not content with the good he did in his own parish, the unwearied servant of the Lord went to other places, fought against vices, refuted heresies, destroyed errors and planted the seed of the Christian virtues. In the County of Salm, where heresy had a free field, he not only converted all the heretics to the truth of the Catholic religion in six months, but led them also upon the path of virtue. It cost him, however, far greater labor to reform the abuses which had crept into several houses of his order: but in this he also succeeded, with the divine assistance. That which, however, confers the most lasting honor upon him is the founding of the Society of our Dear Lady. By his advice, dictated by the zeal he had for the salvation of souls, several pious ladies consecrated their virginity to God, and obliged themselves at the same time to instruct children in reading, writing, sewing and other useful knowledge. The association of these virgins which Peter founded under the protection of the Blessed Virgin, was sanctioned by the Pope, and rapidly increased, to the great benefit of youth. After the holy founder had given regulations to this society, he became Superior of the Canons he had reformed and directed them wisely by precept and example. At length, during the war in the year 1636, he, with several of the Canons, was driven away from Lorraine, and coming into Burgundy, he remained for some time, in a small village named Gray, where he instructed the young.

The Almighty, desiring to bestow upon his servant the recompense he had so well merited, sent him a violent attack of fever. Receiving it as a fore-runner of death, the Saint prepared himself for his last hour by devoutly receiving the holy Sacraments. The time still left to him upon earth, he employed in fervent prayers, sometimes kissing the Crucifix amid pious ejaculations; at others, casting his eyes upon an image of the Blessed Virgin, and saying: “Mary, prove thyself a mother, and because I have always regarded thee as such, recognize thou me also for thy unworthy son.” He desired that they should frequently say to him aloud: “We have a gracious Lord: we have a gracious Lady.” At other times, he had pious books read to him, because he would not pass a moment without deriving some benefit. His joy upon earth was that he was still able to celebrate devoutly the Festival of the Immaculate Conception. The following day, December the ninth, he signed himself three times with the holy Cross, and gave his soul, so richly adorned with virtues, into the charge of the Blessed Virgin, in whom he had so perfectly confided from his most tender years. Many gave a sworn testimony, that at the moment of his death, they saw a bright light rising from his dwelling towards heaven. His whole life, so to say, had been a flame of devotion fervently rising to the throne of God. His love of God and of his neighbors, was among his most remarkable virtues. The former was so great, that at the time of prayer he was seen surrounded by a heavenly light, his face beaming and his whole being as if raised in ecstasy above the earth. He spoke of nothing but God and things conducive to His honor. Frequently he was heard saying with solemn pathos: “My God! I am thine and thou art mine; thou art God, and my God!” He gave to prayer all the time which was left him after the discharge of his functions, and was in communion with his Saviour during the greater part of the night. He undertook nothing, without having first, by prayer, asked the advice and assistance of the Almighty. All his actions had but one aim, to further the honor of God. The principal rule by which he was guided, and which he also recommended to others, was, to consider in all affairs whether they were pleasing to God. Nothing saddened him more deeply than when he heard that God had been offended, and he tried to prevent sin, whenever it was in his power. He himself detest- ed every shadow of what might displease God: a true sign of his love for Him. Of his love for his neighbor a great number of examples are related in his life. His parishioners and others in his charge, he loved as if they had been his own children, and evinced a constant solicitude for their temporal and spiritual welfare. On account of the apostolic zeal which he displayed in abolishing abuses, and uprooting vice which had become habits, he was slandered and persecuted by many, but he was to all of them as kind and obliging as he was to his best friends. One ruffian, whom Peter endeavored to turn from the evil path he was pursuing, attacked him one day, and beat him until some persons hastened to save the servant of God from his hands. They wished to give the man over to the authorities and have him punished, but Peter concealed him in his house until peace was restored, and the wicked man, at his intercession was pardoned. The poor and needy he assisted as much as his means permitted, carrying the alms into their dwelling himself, and endeavoring to incite his parishioners to equal works of Christian charity. The sick he waited on with the most tender care; and when he was chosen Superior, he reserved to himself the office of nursing them, passing whole nights in serving them with untiring love. Once, when he was travelling accompanied by a servant, .the latter became dangerously sick. Peter acted as nurse, laid him in the bed which had been prepared for himself, fed him, lifted him in and out of bed, in fact, did everything for him that circumstances required, until the man was restored. In such a manner he manifested his love for his neighbors in corporal necessities and afflictions. Still deeper was his solicitude for their spiritual welfare: his only desire was to lead all those in his charge to heaven. All his admonitions had this one great end: to cause them to avoid sin and practise virtue. Many prayers, many penances and masses he offered to God, for the conversion of heretics and hardened sinners. He endeavored to move them to repentance by gentleness and kindness. It is known that with tears in his eyes and on bended knees, he begged some to repent and do penance. When he perceived that any one was tempted to turn away again from the narrow path of repentance and piety, he used most ingenious means to prevent it and to strengthen him in his good resolution. A nun desired to leave the convent and return to the world. Peter did all in his power to deter her; and when all his exhortations proved vain, he said: Wander then away; but before leaving, bid farewell to the Blessed Virgin in the words of a prayer, which I have written for you upon this paper. The prayer was as follows: I have come to thank thee, O Lady, that thou didst deign to receive me among thy daughters. This grace, however, I will no longer enjoy, as the world is dearer to me than thou and thy Son. Taking farewell of you both, I return into the world, leaving it to others to serve you, as I no longer desire thus to fulfill this sacred office. The nun, not knowing what was written upon the paper, took it joyfully. But when, before an image of the Blessed Virgin, she read what it contained, she was moved to tears, and repenting of her fault, resolved to remain in the convent until her death; a promise which she faithfully kept. In this manner did Peter prove his love towards his neighbor in spiritual affliction. He often made use of the words of Saint Ambrose: “To be useful to all and hurtful to none.” His whole conduct was regulated in accordance with this principle; as he endeavored to further the spiritual and temporal welfare of all, and not to do the least harm to any one.

This glorious servant of the Most High is represented, bearing in his hand a lily and a Cross, as emblems of his two most eminent virtues. The lily indicates his unspotted innocence and purity; the cross, his unceasing mortification and penance. His life was truly distinguished by purity and self-immolation. The innocence which he received in holy baptism, he never lost through a mortal sin. In avoiding those sins which we call venial he manifested more anxiety than many do to avoid those that are mortal. Because he loved the Lord, he detested and shunned the least thing that could displease Him. Angelical purity he preserved during his whole life, although often in great danger of losing it. As founder and director of a Congregation of religious virgins, he came constantly in contact with them but used great precaution. His face bore always an earnest, dignified expression and he so well controlled his eyes, that they never wandered in curiosity upon those with whom he conversed. He was never seen laughing or jesting with any one, and his conversations were never, longer than was absolutely necessary. He was a bitter enemy of all speeches or songs that were in the least obscene, and used all his influence to destroy all inclination to them in his parishioners. From his early youth, he was devout to the Virgin Mother, in order that by her intercession, he might preserve his purity intact. For this purpose he constantly macerated his body and used the utmost rigor with regard to it. His sustenance was roots and vegetables, and he partook of only one meal during the day. Sometimes, however, no food passed his lips during three days. He never took wine, until, when advanced in years, it was prescribed for him. Water was his usual drink, which he did not take to refresh himself, but only as it was absolutely needed. When, during a sultry summer-day, he was preaching to the nuns, one of them, remarking that his lips were so parched that he could hardly speak, brought him some fresh water. Taking the cup in his hand, he said: “Truly this drink would be refreshing to me, but it is better that, following the example of King David, I abstain from it out of love to God.” Thereupon, he poured the water out, consecrating it to the Almighty as David had done. He wore no linen, but instead of it, a rough hair-shirt, of which he never divested himself except when it was torn, or when, during sickness, he was obliged to lay it aside. He scourged himself so mercilessly, that his back became one deep wound. On one of his feet he had a sore which he had concealed until he could no longer walk. It took the surgeon five hours to cut the mortified flesh out of it, and during all this time, not one word of complaint passed the lips of the Saint. For forty years his bed was a board, his pillow some books, and his only covering a cloak. In the coldest days of the winter, his room was heated only when some one came to visit him, or when he was ill. Thus did this servant of God endeavor to mortify his body in every possible manner, and to lead a penitential life. And yet it seemed to him that all this was not sufficient to gain life everlasting. One day when a certain nobleman said that he would willingly be a poor beggar to be as sure of salvation as Peter, the latter was horrified, and said: “Oh! Sir, God judges differently from men. If Saint Paul feared to be cast away by God, how then should I not fear!” and weeping bitterly after these words, he went away. God himself proved, to the whole Christian world, the holiness of his servant, by many miracles.

Practical Considerations

1. You see in the hands of blessed Peter Founder, a snow-white lily and a cross. You have heard the reason why he is thus represented. Happy those who are one day able to appear before God with such emblems of their innocence and penance. One of these two must a man be in possession of, if he desires to enter heaven; for, these two roads are the only ones leading to it, namely, that of innocence and that of penance. Do you hope to walk on both of these, or at least upon one of them? Will you bear the lily? Ah! it docs not belong to you, if you have lost your innocence. Or will you bear the Cross? But in what consists your penance? You seldom repent of your sins; you do not even think of them at all. You will hear nothing of self-abnegation. You refuse not to your body anything it desires. You only study how you can give it all that is agreeable. How dare you, therefore, on account of your penance, hope to gain heaven? How can you show a cross to the Almighty as an emblem of your penance? Commence from today to strive for the true spirit of penance, if you earnestly desire to save your soul.

2. The blessed Peter endeavored to follow the example of Saint Ambrose, and be useful to all men and hurtful to none, as well temporally as spiritually. Happy are those who imitate this example. You can be useful to man, as far as the body is concerned, by different works of charity. You can be useful to him, concerning his soul, by exhorting him to do good, by restraining him from evil, by good example, prayer, and works of spiritual charity. On the contrary, you can harm your neighbor, as far as temporal or bodily welfare is concerned, by deceit, falsehood, injustice, false witness, theft, strife, contention, etc. Concerning his soul, you wrong him, by inciting him to sin, or by advising or assisting him to do evil; by giving scandal, either in word or deed, by preventing him from doing good, etc. If you desire to work out your salvation, make use of every opportunity to benefit your neighbor, and take heed that you never in the least harm him. The love which you owe to your neighbor requires this; Christ commands you to love him as you love yourself. Would you like any one to wrong you? Most certainly not, but quite the contrary. Just so, Christ commands that we shall love our neighbors as He has loved us. Has Christ loved any one in soul or body? Most assuredly; He sought to be useful to all in soul and body. Look on this example and follow it: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15)

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Blessed Peter Fourrier”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 14 March 2018. Web. 14 August 2018. <>