By Francesca Merlo
Fr Jacques-Désiré Laval continues to perform miracles across Mauritius, says Spiritan Father Grégoire. “He brings together people from different societies, cultures, races and religions”, says Fr Grégoire, making Mauritius a “rainbow” country and making Fr Laval the “Apostle of unity in Mauritius”.
Born in France in 1803, is it believed that Jacques Laval gained his spirituality from his mother, who died when he was 7. He was ordained priest in 1938 and sent as a missionary to Mauritius in 1841, where he died 23 years later.
Pope St John Paul II, who visited Laval’s tomb in October 1989, approved a miracle attributed to his intercession, leading to his beatification in 1979.
Bringing all these different people together, in different parts of the country, he says, “Fr Laval did that”.
This, says Fr Grégoire, is not only to be seen in the context of religion, “but in the context of spirituality”.
He explains that “humanly speaking”, people can’t do much about their problems”. So people visit the shrine of Blessed Fr Laval, because they “need to refer to a higher power”. As one of the most venerated people in Mauritius, people go to visit his shrine “not because they are looking for magic” but because they seek “some kind of miracle”, for their personal lives, “for their healing”, he says.
When Fr Laval arrived in Mauritius, “he crossed borders and went to encounter the poor”. Fr Laval encountered those who were marginalised during his times: the newly liberated slaves. “He saw in them potential evangelisers” says Fr Grégoire, “and so he trained them to be catechists.”
Today, we need to be inspired by Fr Laval’s “process of empowerment” says Fr Grégoire.
“I think what Laval did,” says Fr Grégoire “is that, as soon as he came, he valued people for who they are.”
Reach out to them
We must remember that “today, we are also kind of enslaved by many things”, says Fr Grégoire, and just as Fr Laval encountered those who were marginalised then, we must reach out to those who are enslaved in today’s social problems. The “poor, the sick, the prisoners, the prostitutes, the drug addicts…those facing injustices: poor living, poor housing...Go and reach out to them”. That, says Fr Grégoire, “is the vocation that Fr Laval is instilling in every one of us in Mauritius.”
A message of mercy
According to Fr Grégoire, much of what Fr Laval does is reflected in Pope Francis.
“Fr Laval left his country”, he says. Pope Francis is leaving Rome to come to us. “And” he concludes, “ he did so, to bring a message of love, a message of peace and a message of mercy – just as Fr Laval did in the past.”