CHABANEL, NOËL, priest, Jesuit, missionary to the Hurons; canonized by Pope Pius XI on 29 June 1930; b. 2 Feb. 1613 at Saugues (Haute-Loire); killed out of hatred for the faith by a Huron apostate on 8 Dec. 1649.
Noël Chabanel entered the noviciate at Toulouse on 9 Feb. 1630. He taught in the college of that city (1632–39), studied theology there (1639–41), and did his third probationary year there (1641–42). After teaching rhetoric at the college of Rodez, he arrived at Quebec on 15 Aug. 1643, spent one year there, and then went on to the Huron country.
Of the eight Canadian martyrs, he is the only one who had no flair for the study of languages. A brilliant teacher of rhetoric in France, he felt an inexpressible loathing for the ways and customs of the Indians. “Never, for all that,” writes Father Paul Ragueneau, “would he break away from the Cross on which God had placed him; never did he ask that he might come down from it. On the contrary, in order to bind himself to it more inviolably, he obliged himself, by a vow, to remain there till death, so that he might die upon the Cross.” The Relation for 1650 has preserved for us the wording of this heroic vow.
At the beginning of December 1649, he was at the Saint-Jean mission among the Tobacco Indians, when he received orders to go to the main residence, Sainte-Marie II, on the Île Saint-Joseph. Having set out on 7 December, he was the next day treacherously slain by a Huron apostate. The Relation for 1650 recounts Chabanel’s death, but reveals no knowledge of the motives for the slaying. In the “Manuscrit de 1652,” Father Ragueneau is better informed. He takes cognizance of the confession of the murderer, Louis Honarreennha, who stated that he had killed Chabanel because of his hatred for the faith.
ACSM, Notice manuscrite du P. Chabanel, rédigée par le père Félix Martin; “Mémoires touchant la mort et les vertus des pères Isaac Jogues . . .” (Ragueneau), repr. APQ Rapport, 1924–25, 3, 85–89. Jésuites de la N.-F. (Roustang), 315–22. JR (Thwaites). Positio causae. Rochemonteix, Les Jésuites et la Nouvelle France au XVIIe siècle, II.
Father Chabanel, who aspired to be a martyr in obscurity and without bloodshed, has had two biographers in our own day: Alfred Raymond, Saint Noël Chabanel, martyr du Canada (1613–1649) (Montréal, 1946); Frédéric Saintonge, Martyr dans l’ombre: Saint Noël Chabanel (Montréal, 1958).