We know that the Lord has called many to follow and serve Him, and some of those we know and venerate as saints. In reality, He has called everyone to serve Him in some way or other. The vast majority have not been canonized as saints in the Catholic Church, in fact many are not members of our faith tradition and many are not of any Christina denomination. For some of the remaining Sundays of this simmer I would like to share with you some reflections based on the lives of some of those called to serve the Lord. Remember, He calls us all to serve in one way or another. The big question is how do we answer that call.
Today I’d like to write a little bit about a man named Pierre Toussaint. Pierre was born in 1766, born into slavery in Haiti. Pierre Berard, the plantation owner, and master of the slaves on that plantation allowed Pierre’s grandmother to teach him to read and write. He also allowed for Pierre and his sister to be baptized and raised in the Catholic faith. There came a time when there was considerable unrest in Haiti and Pierre Berard moved to New York City and brought his slaves with him. Pierre spent the rest of his life in New York City.
Mr. Berard had Pierre apprenticed to a hairdresser there and Pierre learned the craft very quickly and rose to be well known and in considerable demand catering to many wealthy white women. Mr. Berard allowed Pierre to keep any money he earned as a hairdresser and Pierre soon became rather wealthy himself. After Mr. Berard died, Pierre helped support his widow until her death in 1807.
Pierre was a very good Catholic and attended Mass daily whenever possible. He worshiped at St. Peter’s Church for many years. He also helped to raise money for the building of the first St. Patrick’s Cathedral located on Mulberry St. For a time, Saint Elizabeth Ann seton worshiped at that same church.
Pierre married a woman twenty years his junior, named Juliette Noel, in 1811. The couple later adopted a niece of Toussaint named Euphemia. Pierre was noted for his great devotion to various charities serving the needs of the poor and the sick in New York City and surrounding areas.
Pierre died at the age of eighty-seven. A solemn requiem Mass was celebrated for him and Father William Quinn, who preached at the funeral Mass, spoke of him saying “many present would feel that they had lost one who always had wise counsel for the rich, words of encouragement for the poor, and all would be grateful for having known him.”
Toussaint’s cause for canonization was introduced in 1968. By popular acclaim and based on his universally acknowledged sanctity, his remains were moved at that time to the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. He is now called ‘Venerable Pierre Toussaint’ and perhaps one day it will be ‘Saint Pierre’.
You see, we are all of us called to serve the Lord and use the gifts he has given us. This is how we do our part in becoming saints…..canonized or otherwise.