We do not possess any portrait of Father Adrien Vatel. He retired to Saint-Pompain with Father Mulot after the death of St Louis Marie

Father Adrien Vatel (1680-1748)

First priest to join the Comapny of Mary definitively

In 1713, perhaps sensing that his death was approaching, St Louis Marie de Montfort went to Paris to visit the Seminary of the Holy Spirit, which had been founded by his old school friend Claude Poullart des Places. Des Places had died by this time, but in about 1703, he had promised that his Seminary of the Holy Spirit would be ready to direct some of its students towards the "small and poor band of good priests" that Montfort had been dreaming of gathering around him for his mission work since at least 1701. The successors of Des Places were ready to honour their founder's promise to Montfort, so on this occasion St Louis Marie spoke to the students of the Seminary about the work he was doing, and his hopes for the future. Among those listening to him was Adrien Vatel.

Adrien Vatel was born in 1680 in Soulles in the diocese of Coutances in Normandy. After beginning his priestly studies in the Major Seminary of Coutances, he entered the Seminary of the Holy Spirit in Paris shortly after the death of Claude Poullart des Places, and was still there at the time of St Louis Marie's visit in 1713, when he seems to have entertained some idea of joining Montfort. Towards the end of 1713, or the beginning of 1714, he was ordained priest, and after some useful pastoral appointments - among which that of confessor at the Parisian shrine of Mont-Valérien - he decided in 1715 to go to the foreign missions in the Antilles (West Indies).

He succeeded in gaining permission from the archbishop of Rouen and the archbishop of Paris, and with hardly a penny to his name, he embarked on a frigate whose captain gave him 100 écus as an advance payment for his services as a chaplain and to enable him to buy the necessary liturgical books and vestments. The frigate had to make a call at La Rochelle. Vatel took advantage of this fact to seek out the bishop of this place, Mgr Stephen de Champflour, known as one of the most competent jurists and moralists of his day. He wanted to resolve some doubts he had become obsessed with, which had arisen from observations made by certain colleagues, namely: would the faculties granted by the two French cardinals have any juridical value in the Antilles? It seemed they would not. In fact, certain canon lawyers at that time claimed that only the Pope could give faculties for what were then called "the islands", that is, the West Indies.

Hearing that Fr. de Montfort was in town, he wanted to see him, to ask him for some hymns which would be useful during the crossing and in his missionary apostolate. Montfort was preaching in the chapel of the Sisters of Providence. M. Vatel went in there, and, while listening to the sermon, he came to the conclusion that the reputation of the preacher was over-done. Suddenly, Fr. de Montfort called out: "Someone here is resisting me; I can feel the Word of God coming back to me; but he won't escape me!" M. Vatel felt that he was the target of this reproach and, after the sermon, he went into the sacristy. The missionary was just then reading a letter from a priest who was withdrawing from his collaboration with Fr. de Montfort, and without any introduction he declared to his visitor: "There is one priest whose word has failed me, but God has sent me another. You, Monsieur, must come with me, and we will work together."

M. Vatel responded: "But that's impossible!", and brought up the question of the commitment he had made to the captain of the boat, who had lent him 100 écus to buy liturgical vestments. Montfort took him along to see the bishop, and on the way showed him that his faculties were invalid. Mgr. de Champflour confirmed this view and offered 100 écus to recompense the captain. The captain, however, was furious, and was quite ready to do away with the missionary if he could find him. But he didn't need to look far, for Montfort came himself to find him and succeeded in calming him down.

Starting that day, Adrien Vatel, leaving aside all his ideas of the foreign missions, placed himself immediately at the service of Fr. de Montfort's project. He was the first priest to join the Company of Mary in a definitive way.

He began work immediately, accompanying St Louis Marie in a mission in Taugon-la-Ronde, then another in Saint-Amand-sur-Sèvre. Later he was present for the mission in Mervent, and, shortly before the saint's death in 1716, with Father Mulot, he led the pilgrimage of the Thirty-Three White Penitents from Saint-Pompain to the shrine of Notre Dame des Ardilliers in Saumur, to ask for good missionaries for the Company of Mary. He was not present, however, during St Louis Marie's last mission in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, having returned to Saint-Pompain to take care of the parish, since the parish-priest, Abbé Jean Mulot, the brother of René Mulot, was among the mission team in Saint-Laurent. With Father Mulot and Brother Mathurin, Father Vatel retired to Saint-Pompain after the saint's death, and (like Father Mulot) he had to be almost duped into taking up again the work of the missions (see the account of Father Mulot's life).

According to Father Besnard (in the biography of St Louis Marie that he wrote towards 1770), Father Vatel, from the moment he joined Montfort, experienced "a great peace and tranquillity in mind and heart, such as he had never experienced before. Having become a missionary, the first to join Montfort in this capacity, he provided the beginning of that Company of which the holy man had been dreaming for so long, and in which, as the first and faithful disciple, he was to continue for more than thirty years to carry out his apostolic labours in the spirit and according to the method of his excellent master."

For the rest of his life, Father Vatel, sought after as a spiritual director, confessor and missionary, was to do great work in the Church of God. Feeling that he was near the end of his race, in April 1748, taking advantage of a visit to his family in Soulles, he organised a parish mission there with the help of the local clergy; then, when the work was over, he tried to get back to Saint-Laurent, but, on 19 April, he was forced to make his way to Rennes, to the hospital run by the Daughters of Wisdom. There, one morning, he went down into the garden to take a breath of fresh air, when he was struck down by illness, and died in the afternoon. It was 22 April 1748. When the lay-brother arrived with a horse to take him back to the mother-house, they were just about to bury him.