A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Celebrating Fourvière Day – 23 July

Early in the morning on 23 July 1816, twelve men crossed the Saône River in the city of Lyons, France. They were making their way from St Irenaeus diocesan seminary to the top of the hill of Fourvière. On the previous day, some of them had been ordained to the priesthood. The rest of them were to be ordained within the next year.

They gathered in the small chapel at Fourvière, overlooking the city. The leader of the group, Fr Jean-Claude Courveille, celebrated his first Mass. They placed the document they had signed under the corporal on the altar during the Mass. The document was a pledge to work for the foundation of a new religious congregation, the Society of Mary, whose members would call themselves Marists.

They promised to dedicate “themselves and everything they possessed” to begin a religious congregation “as soon as possible.” They did this “seriously and after weighing everything before God,” and “not childishly or lightly.” They promised “to endure all sufferings, labours, inconveniences and, if needs be, torture…”

Steps and path to the shrine at Fourvière

In fact, suffering for the faith was the common experience for these men and their families, as they had lived through the French Revolution. They were utterly intent on “the greater glory of God and the honour of Mary,” a phrase which occurs in the document three times.

The commitment they made came to life in the birth of the Marist family -- lay men and women, and congregations of religious: Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary, the Marist Brothers of the Schools, the Marist Sisters and the brothers and priests of the Society of Mary.

In the years following 1816 many Marists visited the shrine at Fourvière, as they still do today.

On 29 August 1833, Mass was offered at the shrine before Fr Jean-Claude Colin left for his first visit to Rome with Frs Peter Chanel and Antoine Bourdin, to seek approval for the Marist project.

In October 1836, on the first day of a novena of Masses offered there before the first Marist missionaries left for the Pacific, Fr Peter Chanel hung a heart around the neck of the infant Jesus. The heart contained the names of the first missionaries, and as more and more set out for Oceania, their names were added to the list.

The heart, and Fourvière itself, were important for these pioneer Marists who were often homesick, hungry and lonely.

‘The heart of Our Lady”

From New Zealand, Fr Catherin Servant wrote to his parents, When you go to Fourvière you will see the image of the heart of Our Lady which contains a list in which the name of your son is written. This will surely bring you pleasure.

Among the twelve who signed the pledge were the Founder of the Marist Brothers, St Marcellin Champagnat; the Founder of the Society of Mary, Venerable Jean-Claude Colin; and St Peter Chanel, the first martyr of Oceania.  

The Fourvière Pledge

All for the greater glory of God and the greater honour of Mary, Mother of the Lord Jesus.

We the undersigned, striving to work together for the greater glory of
God and the honour of Mary, Mother of the Lord Jesus, assert and declare our sincere intention and firm will of consecrating ourselves at the first opportunity to founding the pious congregation of Mary-ists. That is why by the present act and our signatures, in so far as we can, we irrevocably dedicate ourselves and all our goods to the Society of the blessed Virgin.

We do this not childishly or lightly or for some human motive or the hope of material benefit, but seriously, maturely, having taken advice, having weighed everything before God, solely for the greater Glory of God and the honour of Mary, Mother of the Lord Jesus.

We pledge ourselves to accept all sufferings, trials, inconveniences, and
if needs be, torture, because we can do all things in Christ Jesus who strengthens us and to whom we hereby promise fidelity in the bosom of our holy mother the Roman Catholic Church, cleaving with all our strength to its supreme head the Roman Pontiff and to our most
reverend bishop, the ordinary, that we may be good ministers of Jesus Christ, nourished by the words of faith and by the wholesome teaching which by his grace we have received.

We trust that under the reign of our most Christian king, the friend of peace and religion, this institute will shortly come to light and we solemnly promise that we shall spend ourselves and all we have in saving souls in every way under the very august name of the Virgin Mary
and with her help.
And may the holy and immaculate conception
of the Blessed Virgin Mary be praised. Amen.

Marie Françoise Perroton, ‘who gave the initial impulse’ for the Missionary Sisters
of the Society of Mary

St Marcellin Champagnat, Founder of the Marist Brothers of the Schools

Jeanne-Marie Chavoin, Foundress of the Marist Sisters

Venerable Jean-Claude Colin, Founder of the Society of Mary


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