Servant of God Victor Lelièvre
“A man in tune with God’s love”
Born in Brittany on 4th March 1876, he died in Quebec on 29 November 1956.
He was an imposing, strong man; broad shouldered and well built, his gait was somewhat heavy but firm. His head was round and seemed to rest directly on his shoulders. His small eyes were attentive and very lively. His voice was rather high-pitched but it exuded will-power and also gentleness and kindness. As with St John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, Victor was neither scholarly nor well-read, but it was evident that he was a man of God.
Victim of the religious persecution in France during the beginning of the century, this Breton, cast in a simple mould, left for Quebec in 1903. Immediately on his arrival he began preaching the Gospel - doing so aptly and sometimes inappropriately. A powerful orator, he knew how to bring to the fore the Oblate motto: “He sent me to evangelize the poor”. His profound faith enabled him to draw enormous crowds yearly and to have the whole of the city of Quebec “on the move” for procession on the feast of the Sacred Heart. Drawing inspiration from the Gospel that he knew in depth, he could hold the attention for hours of workers, youths, priests, cloistered nuns and others.
For twenty-five years every first Friday of the month, this apostle of the Sacred Heart succeeded in assembling for one hour of adoration nearly two thousand workers in dungarees or blue overalls - a remarkable achievement. In 1923 he founded the retreat house 'Jesus-the-Worker' where, until his death, he would meet thousands of men and youths. He had the talent to captivate them and to win them over to Jesus Christ - very often he would turn them into veritable apostles. An incomplete list reveals the names of 80 priests in whom he awakened the awareness of a vocation, about 30 men religious and more than 100 women religious. This was Victor Lelièvre: the man, the priest, the extraordinary Oblate.
FISHER OF MEN IN A LOCOMOTIVE
A man of his mettle was not easily deterred by any obstacle when it came to winning someone for God. One day he met a good woman in the street whose husband was a locomotive driver. She said, “If ever you meet my husband, try to convince him to fulfil his Easter duties; he always claims that he does not have the time”. A few days later, this Oblate awaited the arrival of the train on the platform at La Parade station and he recognized his man astride the steel horse: “Arthur, come down for a little while, I would like to speak to you.” - “Impossible, Father, I have no time, we depart in two minutes.” - “Well then, I shall climb up to you”. With that the priest hopped in next to the man. Arthur fired the boiler and between shovelling coal, the Oblate heated up Arthur's conscience and entrusted it to the merciful Sacred Heart of Jesus. Two days later this same locomotive accidentally toppled over a roadstead at the harbour of Quebec dragging to death the penitent of two days.
THE STATUE OF A PRIEST
Another interesting adventure happened while Father Victor was visiting France. He was invited to address a group of some one hundred Communists in an ordinary warehouse in the outskirts of Paris. As a platform he was given a petrol drum. He succeeded in coaxing them for more than one hour. By turns he made them roll with laughter, cry, ponder and reflect on their inner selves. After that the this over-excited group shouted, “Enough, enough”… The Oblate thought he had missed his target but not at all, they simply wanted him to rest and drink some wine… and then to get him underway anew. Finally, they started passing the hat around and his protests were to no avail. He had to accept 210 Francs from the enthusiastic workers. “Keep that for yourself,” they told him, “and let us build a statue of a priest like you”.
André Dorval OMI
“Look at Christ hanging there. They accused him
of repeating himself throughout his life.
And what did he say? I love you; I love you.
Love one another as I love my Father and as He loves me.”