Saint John Gabriel Perboyre

“Ask God for my conversion and my sanctification,… so that I may accomplish at least a part of his designs for me and grant me His mercy for the rest.” Excerpt from a letter of John Gabriel Perboyre to his brother, in charge of the Sacristy at St. Lazare, Motherhouse of the Congregation of the Mission.  These are the words of a man called “a living saint.”  (P. Songe).

1802, 6 January Birth near Montgesty, diocese of Cahors
1818, 15 December Entrance in the Congregation de la Mission
1925, 23 September Ordained a priest, Chapel of the Daughters of Charity, rue du Bac
1832 Director of the Internal Seminary (novitiate) in Paris
1835, 21 March Departure for China
1839, September Imprisoned
1840, 11 September Martyred
1889, 10 November Beatified by Pope Leo XIII
1996, 2 June Canonized by Pope John Paul II
11 September Feast day

John Gabriel was born in Puech, a hamlet in the parish of Montgesty.  He was the first of eight children of Pierre and Marie Perboyre. He was raised in a very Catholic family who lived on their farm.  The priest of the parish loved to question John Gabriel on the points of the catechism saying, “Let’s go, my little doctor!”  In the family Jean Gabriel took as an example his uncle, James, a priest of the Mission, courageous at the time of the Revolution. From him John Gabriel learned how to live for Jesus Christ and serve him unto death.

In 1816 John Gabriel accompanied his younger brother to the Seminary in Motauban where he also stayed to continue his studies.

In December of 1818 John Gabriel entered the Congregation of the Missionand was ordained a priest in September 1824 in the Chapel of the Motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity in Paris.  After his work as a theology professor at the Seminary in Saint Flour, he was called to the Motherhouse of the Congregation of the Missionin Parisas Director of the Internal Seminary.

The Epiphany, the star at the moment of his birth, continued to show him very far off horizons.  In March 1835 he set out under God’s protection and arrived on 29 August in Macao, port of access for the missions in China.  Many were his apostolic activities in Ho-Nan, despite dangers and persecutions, until the moment of his betrayal and imprisonment in September 1839.

After months of moral and physical suffering and long and terrible torture, John Gabriel gave his last witness on 11 September 1840.  He was hung from a cross and strangled by a rope.

Many witnesses say that a luminous cross appeared in the sky at the moment of the death of John Gabriel.  The Epiphany had arrived at its summit, making present the words of the prophet Daniel (12:3): those with insight shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.

His body was brought to Saint Lazare (Motherhouse,Paris) 20 years after his death.