Fourier, Peter, St.
FOURIER, PETER, ST.
Cofounder of a religious order, pioneer in the establishment of elementary schools; b. Mirecourt, Lorraine, Nov. 30, 1565; d. Gray, Franche-Comté, Dec. 9, 1640.
Peter Fourier was educated at the Jesuit University at Pont-à-Mousson, entered the Order of Canons Regular of St. Augustine in 1585 at the Abbey of Chamounsey, was ordained in 1589, and received his doctorate in patristic theology in 1595, graduating with highest honors. When offered a choice of three parishes, he selected Mattaincourt, a morally lax parish and known as "Little Geneva" because of Calvinistic influences.
By personal mortification, austerity, and a deep prayer life, Fourier restored religious fervor to his parishioners, to many lax clergy, and to many Protestants who were converted to the Catholic faith. As pastor he organized the Guild of St. Sebastian for men, the Rosary Society for women, and the Immaculate Conception Society (now the Sodality of Mary) for young girls. He established a charitable fund to assist destitute parishioners, and inaugurated a court of justice to help unfortunate victims of malice.
Fourier was aware that the success of Calvinism and the lack of religious zeal among the uneducated villagers stemmed from ignorance of the truths of faith. His original intention of establishing a religious community of schoolmasters for the education of village boys met with disapproval from Rome. However, with the cooperation of Alix le clerc, a young girl of solid religious principles, he began in 1597 the foundation of a religious community of women who were to devote themselves to the teaching of religious and secular subjects to poor girls in free elementary schools. It was his belief that the uneducated girl was even more dangerous to society than the uneducated boy because of the important role of women in the upbringing of children. The new community received papal approval in 1616 under the title Canonesses Regular of St. Augustine of the Congregation of Our Lady, and enjoyed rapid growth in France.
Many educators have been inspired by Fourier's insight and his understanding of the educational and psychological needs of children. The use of the group method of instruction as opposed to the tutorial system, of visual instruction, and division of students according to abilities in reading rather than in age groups were ideas he utilized far in advance of his time.
In 1621, by order of the bishop of Toul, Fourier undertook the reform of the houses of the Canons Regular in Lorraine. His mission was not enthusiastically received, but by 1629 the original observance was reestablished and the Canons Regular of Lorraine had formed the Congregation of Our Savior. Fourier was elected their superior general in 1632.
Peter Fourier was beatified in 1730 and canonized in 1897 by leo xiii.
Feast: Dec. 9.
Bibliography: p. fourier, Pierre Fourier: a correspondance, 1598–1640, ed. h. derrÉal and m. cord'homme, 5 v. (Nancy 1986–1991). Saint Pierre Fourier en son temps, proceedings of a 1991 colloquy by the Diocese of Saint-Dié and University of Nancy, ed. r. tavenaux (Nancy 1992). b. bontoux, Saint Pierre Fourier (Paris 1949). l. pingaud, Saint Peter Fourier, tr. c. w. w. (New York 1905). m. cord'homme, Un Éducateur du XVI e siècle: Saint P. Fourier (Moulins 1932). r. bazin, Take This Child, tr. m.a. gelson (Boston 1948); Blessed Alix Le Clerc, tr. m. st. l. west (London 1947). h. derreal, Un missionnaire de la Contre'Réforme (Paris 1965), extensive bibliography. d. mast, Man of Lorraine (Baltimore 1966). w. lawson, Pierre Fourier: Canon Regular, Parish Priest, Founder of the Congregation of Our Lady (London 1969). m. c. tihon, Saint Pierre Fourier (Paris 1997).
[m. v. geiger]