Above: St. Peter Fourier
Image in the Public Domain
SAINT PETER FOURIER (NOVEMBER 30, 1565-DECEMBER 9, 1640)
“The Good Priest of Mattaincourt”
BLESSED ALIX LE CLERC (DECEMBER 2, 1596-JANUARY 9, 1622)
Foundress of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Canonesses Regular of Saint Augustine
Her feast transferred from January 9
These two saints contributed much to education, especially that of impoverished girls.
St. Peter Fourier entered the world at Mirecourt, Lorraine, on November 30, 1565. He joined the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine in 1585. As a young man Fourier tutored the sons of wealthy families. Our saint, ordained a priest in 1689, had studied at the University of Pont-a-Mousson, starting at the age of 15 years. He returned to that university years later and studied theology. Fourier, an excellent student, committed the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas to heart.
In 1597, at the age of 32 years, our saint became the priest at Mattaincourt, Vosges. He remained there for nearly 30 years. During that time Fourier did much to improve his community and earned his label, the “good priest of Mattaincourt.” He proclaimed Roman Catholic theology plainly, lived ascetically, nursed sick people in the community, and established a bank that issued zero-interest loans.
Above: Blessed Alix Le Clerc
Image in the Public Domain
Fourier’s influence extended well beyond Mattaincourt. In 1597, for example, he supported Blessed Alix Le Clerc in founding the Congregation of Notre Dame of Canonesses Regular of Saint Augustine, an order devoted to the education of impoverished girls. Le Clerc, born into a wealthy family at Remirement, Lorraine, on December 2, 1576, spent many of her early years in frivolous living. The family moved to Mattaincourt when he was 18 years old. When she was 21 years old an illness confined her to bed for a time. She read a devotional book and devoted her life to the service of God and the poor. Le Clerc also reported seeing visions (including one of St. Mary of Nazareth) and hearing voices that told her to help poor children. Fourier encouraged her when many others heaped scorn upon her.
The new order started on December 24, 1597, when Le Clerc and three other young women publicly dedicated themselves to Our Lady. Le Clerc’s father, who opposed the new order, ordered his daughter to enter the convent at Ormes instead. She obeyed her father initially and found the milieu of the convent unsatisfactory. Fortunately, a wealthy person donated much money to the new order, so Le Clerc had the opportunity to follow her vocation. The sisters did their work well. They even pioneered the use of blackboards in classrooms and the practice of nuns teaching. The nuns overcame much opposition from relatives and ecclesiastical authorities. Their motto was, “Let God be your love around.” The order received papal approval in 1616.
The new order’s difficulties were not over. Ecclesiastical politics led to Fourier replacing Le Clerc as the leader of the order. She handled these problems gracefully, however. Le Clerc died at Nancy, Lorraine, on January 9, 1622. She was 45 years old.
Pope Pius XI declared Le Clerc venerable in 1932. Fifteen years later Pope Pius XII beatified her.
1625 was an eventful year for Fourier. For three years he had been the instructor of the canonical communities of his order in the Diocese of Toul; he continued in that position until 1629. In 1625 those communities formed one congregation, named the Congregation of Our Savior three years later. He became the Abbot-General of the congregation in 1632. Also in 1625 our saint spent six months in the region of Salm-Salm, gently reclaiming it for Holy Mother Church from Calvinism.
In 1636 Fourier and some like-minded canons regular had to go into exile because they refused to swear loyalty to King Louis XIII. They relocated to Gray, Franche-Comte. There they ministered to victims of plague. Fourier died at Gray on December 9, 1640. He was 75 years old.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
OCTOBER 24, 2016 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF HENRY CLAY SHUTTLEWORTH, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER
THE FEAST OF DANIEL C. ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER
O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,
and to give his life for the life of the world.
Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.
Through us give hope to the hopeless,
love to the unloved,
peace to the troubled,
and rest to the weary,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
—Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60