Pere Laval Day, An Important Festival in Mauritius

Africa - Editor - 16 April 2007

Pere Laval Day, An Important Festival in Mauritius

Mauritius is a place where many national groups and religions come together which means that there are very few festivals on this beautiful island which are unique to Mauritius. However, Pere Laval Day is one day that holds special value in Mauritius and nowhere else.

Though he was born over 200 years ago, Pere Laval is considered by most Mauritians to be a saint. For this reason thousands flock to the shrine of Father Laval every September in order to honor his memory. Father Pere Laval was a French missionary who arrived in Mauritius in 1841 with the honorable goal of furthering Christianity in this island kingdom. However, his legacy extended far beyond that and today Pere Laval is seen as the man who ended slavery, bringing about the racial harmony and integration that can be seen in much of the island today. Laval’s primary goal was that of preaching the gospel and during his time spent on the island he converted more than 65 000 of the locals to Catholicism. However, unlike many other religious personages he truly lived the gospel that he preached. His life was devoted to caring for those in need such as the sick, the poor and the downtrodden. This charitable patron saint even came to be known as the ‘apostle of the blacks’ because he chose not to differentiate between skin color but rather to see all people as equals which was something that was simply not done in Mauritius at the time. He truly hated slavery and completely abolishing the slave trade in Mauritius was something he was particularly devoted to.

Today the remains of Father Pere Laval lie at the church in Sainte Croix which is situated north-east of Port Louis. This church has become the focus of an annual pilgrimage in which thousands of islanders journey to visit the Laval shrine in order to honor the man that worked so selflessly for the interests of others. The shrine contains a picture of father Laval and it is usually adorned with garlands of flowers. While you may feel hesitant to join in on the proceedings that take place here every 9th of September, you should certainly not hesitate to visit the small museum dedicated to Laval which is situated at the back of the church. This hard-working individual is certainly one of the few in history that are truly deserving of praise.


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