Christianity is followed by quite a significant portion of Mauritius’ population, and it’s a widely celebrated religion in the island. The number of quaint churches scattered across the mainland is evidence of their devotion towards to the Holy Spirit. The history of the emergence of Christianity in Mauritius goes back to the 18th century, and it was brought to the island by the French. A law was passed which made it compulsory for the slaves to be baptised when brought to the island.
About Father Laval
Christianity in Mauritius would be incomplete without Jacques-Desire Laval, popularly known as Father Laval. He was a French Roman Catholic priest who served all his life in various religious missions in Mauritius. After his arrival in Mauritius in 1841, he fought very hard for a long time to help the sick and the poor people, especially the slaves of the island. His knowledge about medicines proved to be very fruitful in treating the ill people and helping them to lead a better life. It is believed that he has saved close to 67000 souls during his stay in Mauritius through the power of his devotion and his dedication to helping the poor and needy. Within his short stay in Port Louis, he became quite renowned among the people. The death of Father Laval in 1864 was a tragic blow to the entire Mauritian community. He was buried in the graveyard of Sainte Croix, an old church in Port Louis and more than 30000 people joined the funeral procession who mourned the loss of this holy man.
About the Shrine
It was in the year 1968 when the church was beautifully consecrated with tainted windows and scenes from the Bible. In the present day, the remains of Father Laval lie underneath a massive stone vault and is of great importance Mauritians irrespective of their religious background.
Later in 1979, when Pope John Paul visited the island, he beatified Pere Laval; literally meaning converted him into a saint. The church also houses a small museum which displays all the relics related to Father Laval’s past life, belongings like books, robes, etc. the shrine has a coloured plaster figure of the priest on top of it. Over the years, the tombstone has been rubbed smoothed as many pilgrims sway their hand across it.
Every year, on 9th of September, people from all parts of the country and even pilgrims from Britain, South Africa and France walk to the shrine and pay homage to this blessed man and commemorate his death anniversary. At other times of the year, the shrine remains relatively quiet. Services are held every Friday from 1 PM to 5 PM which is regularly visited by a decent number of people.
Pere Laval’s Shrine is a significant part of the list of places to be visited in Mauritius. The religious ambience, the peaceful environment of the church and stories about the French Priest all constitute towards a rejuvenating experience from the monotonous activities of life. So if you happen to visit Mauritius in September, do attend the Father Laval’s day or if not so, pay a visit to the Pere Laval’s shrine.