December 30th : S.G. John Peter Medaille, SJ

Servant of God John Peter Medaille, SJ

Born: October 6, 1616
Died: December 30, 1669

Canonized : May 21, 19 25

John Peter Medaille was born in Carcassone, in southern France of a well-to-do and noble family. His father was the king’s attorney in the Carcassone courts. Nothing is known of John’s early education, but because of his family’s position he was likely to have had private tutors. When the Society opened its school in Carcassone in October 1623, John, then thirteen years old, enrolled and studied with the Jesuits for three years. Three years later on Sep 15, 1626, he entered the novitiate in Toulouse and pronounced his first vows two years later. He passed the juniorate to study rhetoric in Sep 1628 but because Toulouse was then hit by a raging plague, the city’s health officials had to advise all to leave. While the Jesuit priests helped to take care of the afflicted, the students moved in early October to a farm in Lardenne, three miles away. Among the theological students with John at Lardenne was John Francis Regis who was canonized on June 16, 1737. When the plague was under control in August 1629, the community returned to Toulouse and John began his philosophy.

John taught grammar for a few years at his alma mater, Carcassone before returning to Toulouse for his theology and was ordained in 1637. He was assigned to the school in Aurillac for the next five years where he directed the sodality and was minister of the Jesuit community, in charge of temporal affairs. In 1642, he assisted Fr Jerome Sauret in giving parish missions throughout the Saint-Flour diocese. After spending one year on the road as an itinerant home missioner, Fr went back to Toulouse for his tertianship.

When the Society opened its school in Saint-Flour in 1643, Fr Medaille was among the group of Jesuits who inaugurated it. He was minister of the community, students’ confessor and also preached and heard confessions in various churches in nearby towns and villages. He was known as a compelling preacher and discerning director of souls. Fr Medaille was singularly successful in the direction of souls and in this Christlike work he had found a number of young women and widows generous, holy and intelligent enough to bring to fruition his cherished scheme or “little design” as he loved to call it. With the blessing of the Bishop of Le Puy, Fr Henry de Maupas, this group of women was offered an old hospice for use as a residence for homeless children and thus was born the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph. Fr Medaille wrote the congregation’s constitutions which was was a blend of Ignatian and Salesian spirituality.

After being involved in travelling and giving missions in many of France’s southern dioceses, Fr Medaille’s health from 1650 onwards gradually began to decline. In 1669 at the age of fifty-nine his superior assigned him to the Jesuit college at Billom as students’ confessor in order to give him a much-needed rest. Fr Medaille was there for only three months when he died on December 3, 1669. His obituary read:“ He spent a good part of his life giving missions in the province, and gained such reputation for zeal and holiness, that people referred to him as ‘the saint’ and‘the apostle.’ His apostolic labours bore much fruit, so much so that he was beloved not only by the poor, but also by the wealthy, and was especially beloved by the bishops in whose dioceses he worked.”