Skip to content

Benjamin Petit 1811-1839

Today is the anniversary of the death of Fr. Benjamin Marie Petit, a priest of the Diocese of Vincennes. The Church has many “Saints“. The definition of Saint is:

Abbr. St. or S. Christianity A person officially recognized, especially by canonization, as being entitled to public veneration and capable of interceding for people on earth.
A person who has died and gone to heaven.

Although Fr. Petit does not meet the criteria that says “Officially recognized, especially by canonization” I believe he meets all the other criteria. And so, today we remember that 173 years ago, Father Benjamin Marie Petit died in Saint Louis. The cause of his death was typhoid fever which he contracted along with many, many Pottawatomi Indians who had been forced from their lands in Indiana and forced to march across the middle west to Kansas. But that is the end of the story of a holy and heroic life, albeit a short one!

Benjamin Marie Petit, was born in the city of Rennes, France in 1811. He attended university and law school and after three years as a lawyer, he entered the Seminary of St. Sulpice in 1835. In June of 1836 the young Breton came to the United States with Bishop Brute to serve the Church in the missionary territory of Indiana. He wrote to his mother in April of 1836 and told her that he was going to join Bishop Brute in Indiana. His family protested, apparently because of his fragile health. However, Petit insisted, and he left France in June aboard the “Francis Depau”, sailing from LeHavre. [Note: click on the image to see the entire list of those who accompanied Brute to Indiana] They arrived in New York on July 21, 1836. He was then sent on to Vincennes.

By the end of the year he had received Minor Orders and then in September of 1837 he was ordained a Deacon and on October 14, 1837 he was ordained a priest at Vincennes by Bishop Brute.

His wish had always been to serve the Indians and with the death of Father Louis DeSeille, his wish had been granted.

You can read more on Fr. Petit as well as other”Indiana Saints” by going to Indiana Saints located on this site.

Finally, here is a touching excerpt from a letter that Petit wrote to his mother, dated October 15, 1837, just one day after his ordination:

“I am now a priest, and the hand that is writing to you bore Jesus Christ this morning! How can I express to you all that I should like to say, and yet, how can I not wish to say something of what no tongue can express? “¦When I think that in two days I shall start from here all alone, going nearly three hundred miles to bestow sacraments “” graces ratified in heaven “” among people whom I do not know at all, but to whom God sends me”“I tremble at the though of my nothingness. “¦How deeply to I feel myself penetrated by St. Paul’s thought, that God loves to accomplish great things by using that which is nothing”¦”

Read more about Petit and the Pottawatomi tragedy by visiting:

Certainly, this man is a Saint”¦


Categories: Postings.

Comment Feed

No Responses (yet)

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.