GOYER, OLIVIER, priest, Recollet, provincial commissioner of the Recollets of Canada; b. 1663 in France; d. 8 Oct. 1721 in Paris.
Olivier Goyer made his profession in 1680 with the Recollets of Paris. Six years later he became a lecturer in theology. Between 1695 and 1698 he preached Lenten sermons to the Recollets, while continuing his teachings.
In 1698 Goyer went to Canada as provincial commissioner and lived in Quebec. He was Governor Buade* de Frontenac’s confessor and was at his bedside until he breathed his last on 28 Nov. 1698. The funeral took place on 1 December, but the official service, presided over by Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix], was not held until 19 December, at the Recollet convent. Father Goyer pronounced the funeral oration for the illustrious deceased before the highest ecclesiastical and civil dignitaries in Canada. On 13 Jan. 1699 Goyer signed an act accepting a legacy of 1,500 livres which Frontenac had left to the Recollets for celebrating masses for the peace of his soul.
On 26 Oct. 1699 he certified the accuracy of a copy of the first written report of the holy acts of the late Recollet brother Didace Pelletier*. On 8 Sept. 1700 he arrived at Placentia (Plaisance), whence he withdrew two of the three Recollets who had been there, since the mission had been handed over to the Recollets of Brittany. Then he went to France, arriving at La Rochelle on 29 Nov. 1700. In France he continued to teach theology and preach Advent and Lenten sermons in various convents of his order. He died at the convent of Saint-Denis in Paris on 8 Oct. 1721, after 41 years in holy orders.
Father Goyer seems to have been an impressive preacher. His funeral oration for Frontenac was much admired by his contemporaries but has been much criticized by the historians. That is easily explained. At 35 years of age he had just arrived in the country as superior of the Recollets of Canada, and had to compose hastily, in a few days, a portrait of the famous governor of New France. The funeral oration, an oratorical genre which had been rendered famous by Bossuet, was in great favour in the 17th century. The preachers in the colony used it and sometimes abused it. What did Father Goyer do? He followed the fashion of the period, in keeping with which long speeches furnished above all the pretext for a glorious panegyric of the deceased. Rochemonteix said that Father Goyer’s oration was “from beginning to end the panegyric of M. de Frontenac, who possesses only virtues and qualities, and the finest at that. . . .” This Jesuit, however, also exaggerates, for in his oration Goyer criticized Frontenac’s conduct on the matter of liquor; he did it in terms that were adroitly chosen but nonetheless disapproving. In short, while praising the noble aspects of the governor’s life, Father Goyer did not sacrifice the truth in any way. Moreover, the Recollet was well informed, as all the details of his biography of the deceased show. Among other facts he pointed out the death of Frontenac’s son, François-Louis, killed, according to him, at the head of a regiment which he commanded in the service of the bishop of Münster, an ally of France. Most authors have accepted Goyer’s version of this incident.
Pierre-Georges Roy, who was the first person to publish this funeral oration in French, inserted after the text the “Remarques” which appear to be by Abbé Glandelet and not, as Jacques Viger* maintained, by Abbé Bertrand de Latour*. The commentary provides the opposite view to certain of Father Goyer’s assertions. From this standpoint they are interesting, but they would require being verified in their turn. Wherever the truth lies, it must be admitted that Father Goyer’s funeral oration is well constructed and betokens a sense of classical style in the author as well as indisputable gifts as an orator.
The text of the funeral oration is found in BN, MS, Fr. 13516, ff.163–95; P.-G. Roy published it in BRH, I (1895), 66–76, 82–89, followed by “Remarques sur l’oraison funèbre de feu M. de Frontenac prononcée en l’église des Récollets de Québec, le 19 décembre 1698, par le P. Olivier Goyer, commissaire des Recollets,” in BRH, I (1895), 95–108. Archives des Franciscains de Québec, Dossier Olivier Goyer. AN, L, 941. Gosselin, L’Église du Canada, I, 30ff. Rochemonteix, Les Jésuites et la N.-F. au XVIIe siècle, III, 96. P.-G. Roy, La ville de Québec, II, 428, 544; “Le fils de Frontenac,” BRH, III (1897), 140.