(02/07) Feast/Memorial/Season of:
Blessed Julien Maunoir
Julien Maunoir (1606-1683) entered the Jesuits wanting to be a missionary in Canada, but he found his mission in his native Brittany ministering to the forgotten people of northern France. Maunoir was born in the tiny hamlet of Saint-George-de-Reintembault in 1606 and then studied at the Jesuit college in Rennes where his teachers spoke often about the Jesuit missionaries in China, Japan and Canada. After he entered the Jesuits in 1625, he had several classmates who did become missionaries—including Saints Isaac Jogues and Gabriel Lalemant. But Maunoir's path veered toward the people of Brittany after he learned to preach in the difficult Breton language during his period of formation. The decision not to go to the foreign missions became clear after he almost died when an infection in his arm became gangrenous; Maunoir was at the point of death when he made a vow to devote his life to preaching to the Bretons if his health was restored. His rapid recovery showed God's will, and he was ordained in 1637.
After finishing his studies he returned to Quimper where he met Fr. Michael Le Nobletz, an itinerant missionary of Lower Brittany who had retired because of ill health. The young Jesuit decided to follow the methods that Le Nobletz had used among the poor hardworking peasants and fisherman of the peninsula. Accompanied by Father Pierre Bernard, Maunoir visited cities and towns of the mainland as well as many offshore islands, some of which had not been visited by a priest in many years. The two men gave missions that usually lasted four to five weeks and attempted to establish a good foundation in Christian doctrine. They used charts as visual aids showing the life of Christ, the seven deadly sins and key points of theology. They also used hymns that they had learned from Fr. Nobletz, but Maunoir also composed many new ones which the people learned during the missions.
These missions were very successful. During the 43 years that Fr. Maunoir travelled around Brittany, he gave approximately 400 missions. Often several parishes came together for one mission, with up to 10,000 to 30,000 people taking part. The parish priests helped hear confessions and teach catechism, and some of them asked permission of their bishops to continue in the work with their Jesuit mentor. By 1683 there were almost 1,000 "Breton Missionaries" who carried on the work.
As he got older Father Maunoir had to reduce the number of missions he gave. He was on his way to start a mission when he sensed that death was near. His Jesuit companions helped him to Plévin where he took to bed and contracted pneumonia. When he died several weeks later, the people demanded that he be buried in the parish church there despite the bishop's desire that he buried in the cathedral.
Originally Collected and edited by: Tom Rochford, SJ