Peter Lewis Allen, The Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease, Past and Present, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000.


            Louise Bienvenue, Quand la jeunesse entre en scène: l’Action catholique avant la Révolution tranquille, Montréal : Boréal, 2003.


Donald L. Boisvert, Sanctity and Male Desire: A Gay Reading of Saints, Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2004.


Martin Conway, “Building the Christian City: Catholics and Politics in Inter-war Belgium,” Past and Present, 1990 (128), 117-151.


Michel Despland, Le recul du sacrifice: quatre siècles de polémiques françaises, Québec : Presses de l’Université Laval, 2009.


Michael Gauvreau and Ollivier Hubert, eds., The Churches and Social Order in Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Canada, Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006.


Raymond Lemieux and Jean-Paul Montminy, Le catholicisme québécois, Québec: Presses de l’Université Laval, 1998. 


Raymond Lemieux, “Le sourire du martyr: Gérard Raymond (1912-1932)”, Gilles Routhier and Jean-Philippe Warren, eds., Les visages de la foi: figures marquantes du catholicisme québécois, Montréal: Éditions Fides, 2003.


E.-Martin Meunier and Jean-Philippe Warren, Sortir de la grande noirceur: l’horizon personnaliste de la Révolution tranquille, Sillery: Septentrion, 2002.


Jeffrey P. Moran, Teaching Sex: The Shaping of Adolescence in the 20th Century, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.


Robert A. Orsi, Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.


Clifford Putney, Muscular Christianity: Manhood and Sports in Protestant America, 1880-1920, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003.


            Gérard Raymond, Journal, Québec: Séminaire de Québec, 1937.


            Gilles Routhier and Jean-Philippe Warren, eds., Les visages de la foi : figures marquantes du catholicisme québécois, Montréal : Éditions Fides, 2003.


            Une âme d’élite: Gérard Raymond (1912-1932), Québec: Séminaire de Québec, 1932. 


[1] Versions of this paper were presented at a Concordia University Department of Religion colloquium and at the 2009 annual meeting of the Canadian Catholic Historical Association (CCHA).  I am grateful to colleagues and to the anonymous CCHA reviewers for their comments.  As well, I thank Ms. Anne Laplante, archivist at the Centre de référence de l’Amérique française in Québec City, for her valuable help in accessing the Gérard Raymond papers.

                  For ease of reading, I have translated the French passages in this paper.  The original French text will be given in the notes.  As for the specific letter to which I am referring here, I have kept it in the original French because of its unique character: “Cap Madelaine, 16 Octobre 1936.  Monsieur le Curé, je vous demande d’entercedé pour moi au pres de Gerard Remond pour que Dieu veille sur mon mari car depuis quelque temp il nest pas fran avec moi il boit et il arrive tres tard le matin il se cache de de largent et je ne sais ce quil en fait il me dit quil a $15 et $25 quil as la nuit je cherche et jai eus la preuve la semaine passe, moi je ne puis faire comme lui car il me donne jusque ce quil feau pour payé ce que lon doit il retire $35.00 a $40, par semaine mais il nous prive pas du nessecaire il mes serd [?] pas car il a une machine il va ou il veut et me dis des messonge je demande au petit gerard que Dieu lui montre que ce quil fait la nest pas bien car jai 6 anfant un grand de 15 ans il senapersoive car sa me fait bien de la paine, il va aller plus loin comme sont père a lui car moi je suis malade dune journe a leautre jen perd [?] cest la faiblesse car je sard pas beaucoup sa me jene les voisin sen apersoive et bien mon père quand vous mecrire parlé pas de rien sa sera pire il ne conprend rien jespere que vous maubliré pas dans vos priere que Dieu le consarve et lui fasse conprendre ce quil fait je demeure  Madame Rosaire Doyon   71 St Pierre  Cap Madelaine Ouest” (Québec: Séminaire de Québec, Fonds Gérard-Raymond, box 260). 


[2] In the Catholic Church, there are three stages to being declared a saint: Venerable, which attests to heroic virtues; Blessed, which requires one miracle and authorizes a local cult for the person; and Saint, which requires a further miracle and entitles the person to a cult at the level of the universal Church.

[3] I attended the celebrations of 5 July 2009.  There was an anniversary mass said in Gérard Raymond’s home parish.  Copies of holy cards and a bound collection of his “sayings” were on sale at the entrance to the church.  In the sanctuary, a painting of him was on display.  In his sermon, the priest, who was visiting, only made passing reference to him, though he was praised as an example of humility and a “manifestation of God’s strength in weakness,” and as a model for youth.  At the end of the service, a prayer was said for Gérard’s beatification.  Outside, a rented bus awaited those who wanted to visit the Raymond family plot in the local cemetery.  About fifty people went.  Flowers were placed on his tombstone, and further prayers were said.  Several persons touched the tombstone, including a blind woman who traced his carved name with her fingers.

[4] See Une âme d’élite: Gérard Raymond (1912-1932), Québec: Séminaire de Québec, 1932; and Journal de Gérard Raymond, Québec: Séminaire de Québec, 1937.  This process is similar to that of St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians, who wrote a life of Dominic Savio, one of his early students.  The popularity of this text eventually led to Savio’s canonization, and to his being declared patron saint of students.  


[5] All the letters from which I will quote in this article are found in box 259 of the Fonds Gérard-Raymond.  My focus, in this paper, is specifically on clerical “constructions” of Gérard Raymond’s saintly persona, which means that there may well be a disjuncture between Gérard Raymon’s “real” life insofar as we can know it, and the ideal put forward and modelled by his clerical guardians.  The archives do contain letters from classmates, but these were most often written after his death, and attested to his virtuous qualities.  They would have been used in building the diocesan case for canonization.  Obviously, future generations of youngsters would have responded to Gérard Raymond’s sanctity, since he was held up as a proper Catholic model for youth, at least until the early 1960s.  Though Catholic adults, specifically priests and nuns, I would argue, were instrumental in “constructing” his saintly reputation and the modest cult surrounding it, young people played a significant role in its maintenance and propagation.  A methodological point about the letters I am using should be emphasized.  I selected the passages I quote precisely because they are plausible and significant in terms of my argument.  Obviously, they are not meant to provide an unassailable basis for an overall theoretical framework or model.                 

[6] Prior to the 1960 Quiet Revolution and the reform of education in Québec, the collège classique was a type of private high school run by members of Catholic religious orders, mostly male, which provided a “classical” education geared to future professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, notaries and, of course, priests.

[7] This raises the intriguing question of what the seminary priests may have chosen to leave out of the published journal.  The text is remarkably free of ordinary, non-religious comments on Gérard Raymond’s everyday life.  Presumably, the journal contained some of these, but they may have been excluded because they were not considered spiritually “edifying” enough.  I do not present an extensive exegesis of Gérard Raymond’s Journal, but rather cull some of its more salient aspects as a way of drawing a summary portrait of the young man.  In fact, the Journal makes for rather tedious reading; it is repetitious and overly didactic in many parts.  I would argue this says much more about the worldviews of its clerical editors than about the spiritual or literary zeal of the young Gérard.    


[8] Such a process is certainly not unusual for religious orders which are intent on having one of their members canonized, thereby benefiting in a variety of ways, directly and indirectly, from the cult which will develop around the new saint.

[9] Original French as follows : “…une conscience aiguë – et aiguisée par l’institution à laquelle il se soumet – de la distance entre le quotidien et l’idéal, la conscience d’un travail sans cesse à recommencer pour en combler le fossé, le défi et la nécessité de la persévérance.” Raymond Lemieux, “Le sourire du martyr: Gérard Raymond (1912-1932),” Gilles Routhier and Jean-Philippe Warren, eds., Les visages de la foi : figures marquantes du catholicisme québécois. Montréal: Éditions Fides, 2003, 51.  Some details of the life of Gérard Raymond are also drawn from this source, 49-66.

[10] Ibid., 53-54.                            


[11] Original French as follows: “…dès aujourd’hui, je me livre à vous, faites de moi ce qu’il vous plaira, je sais que ce sera bien.  Faites de moi un saint, et si possible un martyr.”  Journal, 165.

[12] Original French as follows: “À notre chère jeunesse canadienne, surtout à celle qui se groupe dans les mouvements spécialisés(,) nous dédions ces pages d’action catholique du journal de Gérard Raymond, adolescent fier, pur, joyeux, conquérant.”  Journal, dedication page.


[13] Taking their cue from Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum, there was a proliferation of Catholic social action organizations in the first half of the twentieth century in Québec.  They covered a wide gamut of groups and interests: students, workers, farmers, and so forth.  It can be said that these were another way for the Church to extend and consolidate its influence.  In the 1950s, in Vie étudiante, the magazine of the Jeunesse étudiante catholique (JEC), Gérard Raymond is mentioned three times (15 November 1956, 15 February 1957 and 15 November 1959), but only very briefly and always in connection with the slow progress of his cause for canonization.  I am grateful to Professor Indre Cuplinskas for these references.   

[14] Clifford Putney, Muscular Christianity: Manhood and Sports in Protestant America, 1880-1920, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003.


[15] I am particularly grateful to Professor Michel Despland for pointing this out.  There always was a sense, in the Pax Britannica, of the need to turn English boys into proper Christian men for the purpose of helping to administer and govern the Empire.  The rhetoric employed in French-speaking countries, however, was slightly different, and the example of francophone Belgium is a case in point.  See, in this context, Martin Conway, “Building the Christian City: Catholics and Politics in Inter-war Francophone Belgium,” Past and Present, 1990 (128), 117-151.  In this article, the author discusses Catholic discourses of youthful “perfection” as being essentially anti-modern in tone, an attempt to reassert Catholic political and cultural hegemony in what was seen as a fundamentally secular and materialist society.  The following quote from a publication of the Rexist movement, a 1930s ultra conservative movement for youth (which later supported the Nazi occupation of Belgium), is telling in this regard.  No doubt Gérard Raymond would have felt perfectly comfortable applying these words to himself: “Ah, beautiful youth!  Formed in devotion and self-denial, admirably prepared for the work of men by Catholic action [sic], it constitutes the most fervent, the most generous and the most united army imaginable…A youth that is pure, a youth that is optimistic, a youth that is family oriented, a youth that is patriotic, ready to sacrifice itself for everything that is noble and beautiful.”, 141.         

[16] Original French as follows: “Jeunes gens, ayez donc la force de le suivre.  Vous le devez à Dieu, vous le devez à l’Eglise, vous le devez à votre pays.”  Une âme d’élite, 81.

[17] A common motif of the clerically supported French Canadian nationalism of this period is the symbiosis of land, language and religion.  Historically, the Catholic Church was always seen as the institution best able to defend the interests of French Canadians, and the French language and the Catholic faith were understood as essential markers of their collective identity.  Though French Canadian ultramontanism may have looked more to Vatican City than to Québec City as its ultimate source of allegiance, there can be little doubt that French Canadian Catholic ideals of manhood were very much conditioned by a sense of national and religious purpose, for the two were seen to be in a symbiotic relationship.

[18] Original French as follows: “Notre jeunesse travaillée par tant d’influences diverses a de plus en plus besoin de contempler et d’imiter les modèles qui lui enseigneront comment résister au courant des passions mauvaises, comment se fixer à jamais dans la [sic] vrai et le bien.”  Une âme d’élite, 112-113.

[19] Clearly, the massive distribution of such material to religious congregations across North America points to a conscious and deliberate strategy on the part of the priests of the seminary to construct and propose their pious student as a model for other Catholic youth.  At this time, the American Catholic Church, particularly in the Eastern United States, contained large communities of French Canadians who had emigrated there in search of employment.

[20] Original French as follows: “…mon coeur a une prédilection spéciale pour ce jeune homme épris de l’idéal qui fait les saints.  En ces temps de paganisme révoltant et de matérialisation à outrance, il fait bon d’entrer en contact avec des âmes qui comprennent les sublimes réalités de l’au-delà et qui vivent en conformité avec leurs croyances.”  Emphases in this and the following quotes are mine.                           

[21] Original French as follows: “C’est, en effet, une bonne action que d’apprendre aux jeunes à s’élever vers les hauteurs du sacrifice et de la mortification chrétienne alors que tout les sollicite à demeurer dans les régions plus commodes des plaisirs égoistes [sic] et faciles – quand ce n’est pas à descendre plus bas.”

[22] Jeffrey P. Moran, Teaching Sex: The Shaping of Adolescence in the 20th Century, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000. 

[23] Donald L. Boisvert, Sanctity and Male Desire: A Gay Reading of Saints, Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2004, 124-138.

[24] Peter Lewis Allen, The Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease, Past and Present, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000, 79-118.


[25] As was stated in note 7, there are few comments or observations of a non-religious nature in Gérard Raymond’s journal.  If this was, in fact, an intimate diary, one can assume that there might have been occasional references to his struggles with temptation, particularly of a sexual nature.  Such things would have loomed large in a young boy’s mind.  But nothing is highlighted, except for those oblique references mentioned in this article.  If there were such references, then the seminary priests certainly did a thorough editing job of removing them.  Once again, the silence or absence of such incidents speaks rather loudly and eloquently to the control of clerical authorities over the bodies of young Catholic devotees.  Sexual references would probably have been seen as occasions of temptation in themselves, or certainly as inappropriate to a pious text such as the journal.  Gérard Raymond’s striving for perfection is therefore not framed in explicitly sexual terms.  Such concerns, however, would have loomed large in the minds of his clerical handlers and those who were “recipients” of his story—other clergy and other youth—just as they still do today in certain ecclesiastical circles.  

                  The ensuing discussion in this paper raises the interesting question of how purity, a typically feminine construct in Catholic hagiography, can be used to “bolster” masculinity.  First, it should be mentioned that the lily does not exclusively denote female virginity.  Rather, it is the attribute of many male saints known to have maintained their bodily integrity.  St. Joseph is a good case in point, as he is traditionally portrayed holding a lily in one arm and the Christ Child in the other.  Second, the Catholic view of purity is, in a paradoxical sense, “genderless.”  By that I mean that it is expected of both females and males, especially consecrated ones, or at least those who aspire to sanctity.  Though the overarching symbol of purity, Mary, may be female, holy Catholic males should also strive to imitate her virtuousness.  In a way, therefore, chaste Catholic males are made feminine through the denial of their natural sexual urges.  But, most importantly, they also become more like Jesus, the perfect male, and therefore more truly Christian or Christ-like males.  The tradition, of course, understands Jesus to have been asexual.  All this raises even more interesting questions about the “sexual identity” of a church dominated by celibate men, and the homosocial or even homoerotic nature of its institutional culture.               


[26] Original French as follows: “Pur, d’une pureté angélique, et confiant la pureté de son Cœur (sic) à la puissance de l’Hostie, à la protection maternelle de Marie, Reine des apôtres, et à la sollicitude d’un directeur de conscience; (…).”  Journal, 6.


[27] Original French as follows: “Et même ses journées de vacances étaient soumises à une discipline sévère.  Chez lui, la piété ne vaquait pas, loin de là, pendant ce temps si dangereux.”  Une âme d’élite, 66.

[28] Original French texts for the first three quotes as follows: “J’ai lu ces pages si vivantes où se révèle l’une des plus belles âmes de notre siècle.  Une fleur de « chez nous, » un lis de vos riches parterres, un lis en feu;” “Beau lis dont la blanche corolle renfermait la vertu des anges, son parfum a plu au divin Jardinier et bien vite Il l’a transporté au parterre des cieux;” “La vertu et la jeunesse, a-t-on dit, sont les deux plus belles fleurs de l’humanité.  Quand la vertu brille au front d’un jeune homme, c’est le plus ravissant spectacle que nous offre la terre (…) [il a] assez de pureté pour garder chaste les âmes innocentes et faire refleurir les lys flétris.”

[29] Robert A. Orsi, Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005, 73-109.


[30] Ibid., 77.


[31] Original French as follows: “Faites de moi, bon Jésus, tout ce que vous voudrez.  Faites-moi souffrir, si cela vous plaît, je suis si lâche pour acquérir des mérites autrement.  D’avance, Jésus, j’accepte tout, tout…et j’unis tout avec vos souffrances.”  Journal, 168.

[32] Original French as follows: “Sa tête blanche renversée sur l’oreiller, du sang aux lèvres, il donna l’impression d’un jeune martyr des premiers siècles de l’Eglise, comme le disait un témoin oculaire.  Sa mort calme et tranquille fut l’écho de sa vie.”  Une âme d’élite, 106.  In the first half of the twentieth century, many youth died from contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, which was seen as a particularly romantic and therefore ennobling or spiritualizing disease (since it was associated with breath or air).  Some of these Catholic youth had a reputation for holiness.  In that sense, Gérard Raymond does not stand out as a unique example, though he was certainly one of the better known, at least in French Canada.




 8,790 total views,  1 views today

1 Commentaire

  1. Waoh! quelle vie!
    que le seigneur soit béni pour cet amour
    et qu’Il nous accorde la grâce de l’aimer à notre tour coe
    ce grand homme Gérard Raymond

Laisser un commentaire