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Giving Honour Where Honour Is Due

Black & white photograph of a man in his late fifties. He is standing and wears a cassock with a sash, symbolizing his status as Monseigneur. Two books and a felt hat rest on a low, carved table next to him. He rests his fist on the books.

Monseigneur Antoine Labelle, apostolic prothonotary, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Curé of Saint-Jérôme

An engraving depicting the coat of arms chosen by Curé Labelle. It features an escutcheon (shield) with a pointed base, with a cross on one side and a sheaf of wheat on the other. Above is a hat, with a braided cord descending on either side of the shield. The curé’s motto is inscribed in a banderole beneath the escutcheon.

Curé Labelle’s ecclesiastical coat of arms

Although Curé Labelle was not keen on honours and titles, a man of his stature could not escape being singled out. In 1889, at the instigation of Quebec Premier Honoré Mercier, he was elevated to the rank of prelate by Pope Leo XIII; he was appointed apostolic prothonotary and given the title of Monsignor. On that occasion, he chose a motto to go with his coat of arms: Pater Meus Agricola (My Father, the Farmer)—a phrase that reflected his love for the land and those who had settled it. Labelle said: “I don’t like any of that. I feel that the title of Curé Labelle or Le gros Labelle or Father Labelle, as the English say, suits me just fine. The purple of Rome hampers my freedom of movement and I work better behind the curtain than in the light.

The title of which he was the fondest was that of man of the people. The son of a shoemaker, he was proud of his humble origins.

Colour photograph of a tomb in the basement of a chapel. Three white marble plaques with gold inscriptions are affixed to the wall. Beneath the central plaque, a bouquet of flowers and a glass urn site on the floor, which is carpeted in artificial grass.

The tomb of Antoine Labelle beneath the chapel at the cemetery in Saint-Jérôme

His rustic way of speaking and his manners, sometimes described as “common,” became his hallmarks. The greatest honour for Labelle was to be buried alongside his parishioners, in the crypt of the small chapel of “his cemetery,” for which he himself had drawn up the plans.

Antoine Labelle still lies in the crypt of his pretty little chapel in the cemetery of Saint-Jérôme.


“This cemetery is a wonderful poem. It’s a sublime work, as might be expected from a mind that always thought big and that was driven by the inspirations of a heart that knew no bounds. […] Death there is beautiful, gentle, serene, and merciful.”(Arthur Buies, 1891)

Black & white photograph depicting a cemetery in summertime. In the foreground is a sandy path, and behind it, a plant bed topped by a tall sculpted cross. Farther back, a small wooden chapel with a steeple is visible, surrounded by a few gravestones. In the background is a woodland.

The cemetery, chapel and original cross at Saint-Jérôme