Director of the Seminary of Saint Sulpice
There are certain striking portraits, such as Vasari's portrait of Lorenzo
the Magnificent, or Savonarola's in Saint Mark's museum in Florence, before
which we instinctively pause. It may be the intensity of expression or
something indefinably mysterious in the tormented lines of the face that
makes us stop.
In the gallery of French spiritual authors of the eighteenth century there
are men whose original character, powerful personality and uncommon
holiness attract our attention. But it takes time to become intimate with
men like these, to plumb the depths of their thoughts and of their
doctrines. Courage, too, is needed, perhaps because such men are so great
and so completely impregnated with divine secrets, they do not at once
yield themselves to those who wish, not only to understand but also to love
them. The contrasts of their nature are disconcerting. At the same time
speculative and practical like Berulle, contemplative and almost
virgorously active like Olier, or like Jean Eudes distinguished in speech
and writing, when they do not allow themselves to slip into a negligent
style, their very complexity makes them seem elusive. They move in a world
of light and shadow and it is hard for us to follow them. But brightness
prevails and once the darkness is scattered, it illumines all things,
especially their souls.
Berulle, Condren, Olier, Saint John Eudes, these four "great" founders of
the French school of spirituality were men of many contrasts. It takes time
to discover beyond their grand composure, their infinite tenderness of
heart. Their doctrine which is drawn from Sacred Scripture and Christian
dogmas is not easily understood. But to those who make it their own, it
becomes a source of light, strength and perfection. Those who embrace this
teaching, especially priests, are rapidly transformed. The faithful, too,
who have to struggle in the world derive real profit therefrom.
An attempt will be made to prove this in a simple and much too short study
of a deep and complex doctrine. Let us first meet the authors.
Pierre de Berulle, the founder of our school of spirituality was born in
the Chateau de Serilly, near Troyes, February 4, 1575. France was then
entering upon an era of grandeur. Soon Henry IV would come and put an end
to the devastating civil wars. Little by little society would be
transformed, manners would become more gentle and refined. A new age would
dawn in which the arts would lose some of their exuberance and letters
would be enriched by the heritage of the Renaissance.
This was a privileged epoch: its most grandiose monuments have been
preserved for us in the etchings of Israel Sylvestre whose magnificent
lords and tattered beggars have been engraved with so much verve by Callot.
This was a spiritual epoch, "alive and picturesque, enjoying a freedom of
advance destined too soon to slow down under the Sun King's gaze".
The young de Berulle manifested from his earliest years all that was
characteristic of his time: a lively exuberance united to a strength that
disciplined impetuous desires. While a student at the College of Boncourt,
he worked as hard as he could all day and then stole from his night's rest,
several hours of prayer. And how strange was the prayer of this adolescent
losing himself in the contemplation of the divine attributes at an age when
sensible pleasures usually have a much stronger appeal than the austere
joys of metaphysical pietyl Later this attraction for the most elevated
speculations was to distinguish de Berulle and g*e his life as well as his
doctrine a singular grandeur and perfect unity. But this gravity which
seems to us precocious was won only at the cost of struggle. The fruits of
this struggle were precious. Pierre, purified, was able to give peace to
others. At twelve, he brought consolation to one in great sorrow. A few
months later he quickly outlined a detailed plan of life for a fervent soul
who had been much afflicted
Everything helped to prepare him for God's service. He placed himself under
the direction of the Jesuits; he followed courses at the Sorbonne. Between
times he converted heretics, exposed alleged saints, went often to the
hotel Acarie where he met very famous mystics, and at the insistence of Dom
Beaucousin he prepared his "Bref Discours de l'abnegation interieure," a
kind of adaptation of the "Abrege' de la perfection" which had been written
in Italian about 1550 by Isabelle Bellinzaga. Finally, he was ordained on
June 5, 1599 in the chapel of the residence of the Archbishop of Paris.
That same year, on December 16, Henry IV conferred on him the title of
honorary chaplain. This obliged him to appear at the court but he went
there as little as possible, believing that he had better things to do
elsewhere because he was consumed with zeal. Like Saint Francis of Sales
(they were great friends), he was a renowned director of souls
Addressing himself to advanced souls, his direction was dogmatic in tone.
His great concern was to give souls living principles. The Bishop of
Geneva, on the contrary, wrote for all kinds of people, begirmers as well
as those who had made some progress and his direction was psychological and
moral, rather than dogmatic. He taught men right living rather than right
Berulle's direction was for the mind, Francis of Sales' was for the heart.
One brought light in order to kindle warmth, the other kindled souls in
order to enlighten them. The ISrst method is more profound and seldom
follows beaten tracks; the second is clearer, more attractive and less
didactic. In conclusion we might say that if de Berulles eems less austere
than Francis, both basically make the same demands: the Berullian
"disappropriation" matches the Salesian "holy abandonment".
To enlighten the souls of his penitents Berulle resolved to give precise
expression to his views in the various works which form a magnificent summa
of spiritual theology. Let us cite merely the "Elevations" which were
composed between 1611 and 1613; the "Traite' des Energumenes;" the
"Discours de L'Etat et des Grandeurs de Jesus," intended to be a complete
doctrinal study as an answer to attacks; the "Elevation sur sainte
Madeleine;" the "Narre des persecutions souleuees par les voeux;" the
"Memorial de direction pour les Superieurs;" the "Opuscules de piete" and
lastly a delightful "Vie de Jesus" which unfortunately was never finished.
To the publication of these many works he added much exterior activity. The
monarchy entrusted him with several important diplomatic missions. France
is also indebted to him for the arrival of the Carmelites. Above all she
owes to him the foundation of the Oratory, and as a resuk the major
seminaries which were to renew the spirit of the clergy.
So many good works united to great virtue deserved a reward. It took the
form, in 1627, of the cardinalate which he accepted only with humility. It
took the final form of a consoling and happy death. Berulle had asked that
he die at the altar. This is, in fact, what happened on October 2, 1629. He
left behind him his spirit, and disciples.
The first of his disciples, in point of time, was Condren. He, too, was a
precocious child. "He seemed to have had the spirit of the Oratory... from
his cradle". Destined for a military career, he neglected ballistics for
theology. He could be seen going off to the country a musket on his
shoulder and Saint Augustine under his arm. Out of his father's sight he
put down his weapon and opened his favorite author. But eventually he had
to go back to Monceaux, to his family. "On the way home", Amelote relates,
"he shot a full bag of game so that at his return his father smiled
comfortably at the thought of the military future of so expert a hunter".
This skillful hunter was soon to place himself under the peaceful staff of
M. de Berulle. He absorbed his master's teaching, making it his own in his
own way. His attraction led him to meditate, above all, on the priesthood
and sacrifice of our Savior. Quesnel has given us his views in the book
entitled: "L'Idee du Sacerdoce et du Sacrifice de Jesus-Christ." Here he
shows that the sacrifice of Jesus is to be found in every part of His life
and that the priest, "another Christ on earth" will be truly worthy of his
character and his function only if he makes his life a perpetual holocaust
to the glory of the Father.
Condren was to succeed Berulle as superior of the Oratory. His remarkable
spiritual conferences inspired the writings of his disciples: the "Tresor
spirituel" of P. Quarre, the "Nouvel Adam" of P. Saint Pe, the "Royaume de
Jesus" of Saint John Eudes. We are also indebted to him for needling M.
Olier for the foundation of the major seminaries. When he died in 1641 he
left behind him several ecclesiastics filled with his spirit. The most
celebrated was Jean-Jacques Olier.
It was in Paris, in a fine home on the rue du Roi de Sicile, that Jean-
Jacques Olier was born on September 20, 1608. His father, a great court
official of France, was one of those men wholly devoted to the monarchy, a
forthright and simple man with whom it is not wise to jest. The future
founder of Saint Sulpice inherited the paternal energy but not his crushing
Destined for the priesthood, he had acquired several benefices after
receiving the tonsure when he was eleven years old, but his lively
character made his parents uneasy.
They consulted Saint Francis of Sales who reassured them and even went so
far as to predict that this spontaneous and troublesome child would become
a great churchman. This prediction was to be realized but for some time the
young cleric continued to lead with several priests of his own rank a life
that was dissipated without being dissolute.
"Very soon grace pursued him. He surrendered, and placed himself under the
direction of Saint Vincent of Paul who prepared him for his ordination in
1633 and almost immediately wanted him to be made a bishop".
Desiring to flee from an honor of which he judged himself to be unworthy,
he consuked Father Condren, who agreed with him, told him to refuse and
then, after initiating him into the spirituality of Berulle, sent him to
the missions of Auvergne to exercise the zeal that devoured him. He
accomplished marvels. At the close of the second mission, a trial, at once
supernatural and neuropathological, almost destroyed his ministry. In this
crisis it is rather difficult to distinguish nature and grace, and to say
where one began and the other ended. The trial ended almost abruptly at
Chartres. Grace triumphed completely. Priests working with M. Olier then
noticed in him a truer humility, a more convincing manner of speaking and a
more ardent devotedness to the care of souls than in the past. The fire of
interior purihcations had consumed the last encumbering dross and his
generous soul was transformed and ready for his triple role of parish
priest, founder of a seminary, and spiritual author.
What the parish of Saint Sulpice became under his direction is well known.
At that time the parish covered a lot of territory. He divided it into
sections, for each he made two men responsible. He himself repeatedly
visited every home. He reorganized the catechism classes for children and
adults, public criers announcing each class. He gave new impetus to
workers' associations. He founded thirty-four parish schools and several
libraries for the circulation of spiritual books. He introduced preparatory
retreats for engaged couples and those about to be married. He enhanced the
splendor of church ceremonies, worked against the custom of dueling,
procured tools for poor workers, arranged for aid to be given discretely to
those who were ashamed of their poverty, restored several convents, erected
suitable buildings for communities of priests and clerics, began the
construction of a huge church, wrote rules of life for different social
classes and commentaries in French for the more fruitful reception of the
sacraments, made good use of the help of lay people. Our Catholic Action,
three centuries later, could not invent anything much better. Let us add
that M. Olier's zeal, together with that of the Franciscans and Jesuits,
extended as far as Canada which owes to him, even in our own times, the
vitality of its faith.
Nevertheless, Jean-Jacques Olier is above all known, with Saint Vincent of
Paul and Saint Jean Eudes, as one of the three principal founders of our
French seminaries. Inspired by the counsel of Father de Condren, he
succeeded there where so many powerful men had failed. But he was not
satisfied with giving his young clerics an intellectual formation, he
wished them to receive a spiritual and sacerdotal doctrine that we hnd
condensed in his various works: the "Traite' des Saints Ordres" published
in 1675 and which has contributed to the sanctification of so many priests,
the "Journee chretienne" (1665) was a collection of prayers and formulae of
adherence and adoration designed to help us to perform our daily actions in
union with Christ, the "Catechisme chretien pour la vie interieure" (1656)
gives, in the form of questions and answers, an analysis of the need of
dying to self in order to be reborn spiritually with Jesus; the
"Introduction a la vie et aux vertus chretiennes" contains further lessons
in the practice according to the spirit of Our Lord of virtues best
calculated to weaken the virulence of our evil passions. Let us recall some
other works written or inspired by him: "Lettres" richly doctrinal, the
"Pietas Seminarii, ('Esprit d'un Directeur des ames," the "Explication des
ceremonies de la Grand Messe," the "La vie interieure de la Tres Sainte
Vierge." These texts have been arranged and in many cases mutilated by M.
Exhausted by apostolic labors and probably by his austerities as well, M.
Olier did not resist the illness that carried him off on April 2, 1657 at
the age of 48. He had the consolation of being assisted on his death bed by
Saint Vincent of Paul.
SAINT JOHN EUDES
With Saint John Eudes we come to the last of the founders of the French
school. This saint--the Church canonized him in 1925--was born in the
diocese of Seez in 1601. After studying with the Jesuits at Caen, he
entered the Oratory in 1623. For reasons which we need not go into here, he
left the Oratory twenty years later and founded the Congregation of Jesus
and Mary. He shares with Saint Vincent of Paul and M. Olier the title of
Founder of French seminaries.
This title, noble though it be, might not have sufficed for his glory had
this Norman saint by word and pen not spent himself without counting the
cost for the service of souls. He preached many missions, converted his
province, took charge of repentant young girls for whom he founded the
Congregation de Notre Dame de Charite, which was later to lead to the
establishment of the Good Shepherd at Angers, and at the same time he
introduced the faithful to devotion to the Sacred Heart.
In 1611 he conceived the idea of paying public honor to the Heart of Our
Lady. In 1648, he published at Autun the first edition of his Office of the
Heart of Mary. In 1670 after various changes, the Saint who had united the
Heart of Jesus and the Heart of His Mother in the same veneration,
definitely separated these two cults, leaving February 8, the feast with an
octave of the Most Pure Heart of Mary and he prepared a proper Office and a
Mass for the solemnity and octave of the divine Heart of Jesus. In 1672
this feast was celebrated in several dioceses of France.
In this way Father Eudes, even before the first revelations had been made
at Paray-le-Monial in 1673, had instituted the liturgical cult of the
Sacred Heart and deserved to be proclaimed by Pius X as the Father, the
Apostle and the Doctor of this devotion whose whole theology he had
developed in the Office and in his many books. Among these writings let us
cite "La Vie et le Royaume de Jesus" which is the most carefully composed
of his works; two treatises on "L'Enfance" and the "Coeur admirable, Le Bon
Confesseur et le Predicateur apostolique," the "Memorial" and the
Saint Eudes died in 1680. Pius XI in canonizing him paid homage not only to
the saint himself but also to the School of Spirituality to which he
belonged and many of whose great intellects he influenced such as Bossuet,
Bourgoing, Thomassin, or apostles like Saint Vincent of Paul, Saint Grignon
of Montfort, Saint John Baptist of la Salle, Father Libermann, Fathers
Guillore, Faber, Giraud, Lhoumeau, and Mgr. Gay.
The French School is based on the principle that we are created by God and
made in His image so to Him must we return (this is Augustinian
Exemplarism); that, here below, we ought to begin to be what we will be
eternally in heaven: a host in adoration of the three divine Persons, and
that there is no better way of fulfilling this spiritual program than by
"adhering to Jesus, the Father's perfect adorer and religious" whose
thoughts, wills and virtues we must reproduce, "Vivere summe Deo in Christo
Jesu" "To live entirely for God in Christ Jesus." In the Incarnation the
holy humanity of Jesus is without any human personality of its own. It has
"no self-interest. It does not act for its own sake but for the heavenly
Father whom it considers in all things". So we must become "annihilated in
regard to our own plans and have only those of Jesus Christ who is in us in
order to live for His Father".
To adore the Trinity and with Christ to pay Him all we owe Him ought then
to be the Christian's preoccupation. Although the fundamental thesis of the
French School is to place the mystery of the Incarnation "at the center of
history as well as at the center of every Christian life", as Louis Cognet
rightly observes, the scope of his thought can only be truly understood by
considering the basis of his ideas about the Trinity. The importance of
these ideas has not always been clearly understood, yet they are the
keystone and, as it were, the ontological substructure of his ideas.
The Trinity considered in itself.
Berulle and his disciples turn to theologians when they wish to receive
some lights on this divine mystery. But they take the abstract ideas they
find in treatises and in their heart they transmute these lights into heat.
God the Father, they say, pronounces a word similar and equal to His own
being, this living and essential word is the Logos. Seeing this Logos, this
word which is His image, His thought, His glory, a splendor equivalent to
all His perfections, the Father loves Him with a love without limits; and
the Son returns a similar love, equally infinite and eternal, a love that
is unique though mutual, living and subsistent, the embrace, the ineffable
kiss which consummated them in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
With this unity of nature in a trinity of Persons, God possesses all the
perfections that constitute His attributes: aseity, wisdom, beauty,
immortality, justice, power... It is clear that He suffices for Himself and
that if He communicates Himself "ad extra," it is only through pure
goodness and without any necessity.
He may well remain within Himself for all eternity. To be happy He has
merely to contemplate Himself. He sees His word, His portrait, His image;
He sees His Son, God like Himself... He is happy, eternally happy.
But the enthusiasm of the poet of the French School, Jean-Jacques Olier
grows still greater because God, possessing so intimate a happiness wishes
to share with us this happiness, to manifest to us in some way His
perfections and to ransom us by giving us His Word. Far better, "although
the initiative of the Incarnation comes from the Father, the Son
spontaneously concurs ", not through necessity but by a kind of attraction
(propension) which is His own and which Berulle stresses in his "Opuscules
de piete". Be this as it may Olier sings joyfully at the thought of the
Word who did not disdain to clothe Himself in human nature and who
"recapitulated" in His Person all mankind and carried it back to its source
after restoring in man the image of God lost by sin.
The founder of Saint Sulpice had good reason to marvel when he considered
the designs of Providence and his admiration and wonder matched that of
Saint Augustine, Saint Ambrose, Saint Bernard, of all the doctors and
mystics who have magnified throughout the centuries the good and the power
of the Father's decree of the Incarnation. Through this mystery the three
Persons have made themselves nearer, more adorable, more accessible. Before
the Incarnation God was above all to be feared and admired. Now He is to be
Trinity, creation and grace.
If the Incarnation which was decreed within the Trinity, is to use
Berulle's phrase, "God's great work", then the creation of the world with
all the consequences that this entails also reveals, to anyone who knows
how to decipher the book of nature, infinite power and the divine
attributes. The higher we rise in the ladder of creatures, the more
brilliant these appear. With the Bishop of Hippo, the French School sings
the canticle of the steps:
We ought to be like those men who looking at the ocean, see the sun and the
stars reflected in this polished crystal as in a fair mirror on which these
luminous astral bodies impress their beauty, their motion, their light. So
on earth we ought to see the heavens and the Creator in the creature.
We will see this Creator, first, "within inferior nature", in mountains, in
the noise of the torrents--these show His power and invisible strength.
Then we will see Him "within living nature", in birds with all their
brilliant plumage, in their songs which "reveal His beauty". Thus speaks M.
Olier, a Virgil made wise by the "Confessions" and the metaphysics of M. de
Berulle. In some of his words, for example in "La Journee Chretienne" and
in certain pages of his "Memoires" he gives the impression that these birds
magnify their Author and that the flowers whisper in prayer. Has it not
been said that a poet ought to be hidden in every Sulpician soul? Whatever
may be the value of this statement, we ought to see the Creator "in man in
whom God has placed His mark and His image".
It goes without saying that our resemblance with the Trinity, already
indicated in the order of nature, for we are endowed with memory,
intelligence and will, becomes more perfect in the order of grace. This is
a manner of being, a quality inherent in the substance of the soul which
makes us, according to the energetic expression of Saint Peter,
"participants of the divine nature". Saint John adds that it enables us to
enter into communication with the Holy Spirit, in "society with the Father
and the Son".
It does not make us equal to God, it does make us deiform. It does not give
God's life, which is essentially incommunicable, but it does give us a life
like His. In this way our soul, little bylittle,becomes a living image of
the Trinity, a kind of miniature portrait engraved by the Holy Spirit
through the merits of the Word Incarnate who died out of love for man. The
higher the grace, the more exact the resemblance. Now this grace is at its
highest point in the Savior's humanity, it is diffused, according to each
individual measure, in the soul of Our Lady, of the saints and of the
But, if this means that we hnd the Trinity and His action in every level of
the natural and supernatural world--let us notice in passing that the
trinitarian concept of spiritual men of the French School is derived most
of all from the Greek Fathers-- it follows that we must adore and pay honor
to the Trinity everywhere. What are we to understand by this often repeated
term: adore, adoration?
Cardinal de Berulle's first disciples always glorified their master, not
without a filial exaggeration for which we must forgive them, because he
restored a virtue often ignored, the virtue of religion.
"Our very revered Father renewed in the Church, as far as he was able, the
spirit of religion, the supreme cult of adoration and reverence. .. It is
this spirit that he resolved to establish amongst us, this spirit that
possessed and transported him, this spirit that appears in all his prayers,
in all his writings, in all his devotions."
This same spirit of adoration manifested itself among all Berullians. It
must be seen as an habitual state of soul, a tendency that gives to the
spiritual life its formal aspect and distinctive characteristic.
In this act of adoration our two major faculties share: intelligence and
will. Every act of religion, in fact, supposes an act of knowledge. That is
why inanimate nature does not adore God in the proper sense of the word.
Nature cannot see, she shows herself; she cannot adore, she leads us to do
so; and this God whom she cannot know, she will not allow us to ignore...
But man, a divine animal, full of reason and intelligence, capable of
knowing God through himself and all creatures is also pressed by himself
and by all creatures to pay Him adoration... This he does by acknowledging
that God is a perfect nature, that God is a sovereign nature, that God is a
beneficent nature... and we are naturally drawn to revere what is
perfect... to unite ourselves to what is beneficent, to adhere to what is
Adoration consists, therefore, first in acknowledging the greatness and the
divine goodness. An intellectual sight that in turn draws the will that
abases itself before the supreme majesty. It humbles itself as a creature
before the Creator. This is elementary justice that existed in the
hypothetical state of pure nature as it exists in our world of grace.
"To adore is to think lofty thoughts of the object of our adoration and to
subject our wills made submissive and supple to the excellence and dignity
But the French School does not stop at the order of nature. The God whom it
adores is the same God who bestows grace and who looks on creatures with a
father's tenderness. All the infused supernatural virtues enter into an act
of adoration, and the most important of these is love. The act becomes
love's first expression and gains in complexity and sweetness. It adores
God more deeply, both in His somewhat forbidding magnificence and in His
infinite mercy, because "if He is remote in His grandeur, His charity
brings Him very near " He is "infinitely elevated and infinitely concerned
with created being, infinitely exacting and infinitely delighfful".
It is in this light that love's role is considered in the spirituality of
the French School. Let us look at it in God, or in the creation He unifies,
rules and transforms. In God love unites the august Persons and leads them
to stoop over us.
God is love, infinite love. He is the love of complacency and benevolence.
He finds infinite complacency in Himself... But this adorable complacency
of God does not stop in Himself, it extends to the creature who becomes a
subject of delight and eternal beatitude.
And Berulle makes clear that it is this same love that leads souls to
contemplation and enables them to give God "interior and perfect
Love it is that effects the junction of God and man. A junction all the
easier because man already possesses in the natural order, in this
Berulle's disciples follow Saint Francis of Sales, a touch stone, a kind of
instinct that orients man toward the supreme good whose precise term he
cannot conceive. This movement f nature finds in grace gratuitously offered
a beginning of adaptation. By grace God takes possession of a heart already
unconsciously orientated toward infinite love. Then it is that the
supernatural takes possession of nature, perfects it by elevating it, and
the Creator acts in certain souls:
"With such efficacy and power that they (i. e. the creatures) are not able
to endure the operations of His love... He takes His delight in these
hearts and at times during this operation they seem strong enough to
destroy a thousand worlds."
If no obstacle is voluntarily opposed to this love it becomes transforming.
It fashions true adorers, places on their lips perfect praise, prostrates
them before the divine perfections which they do not tire of magnifying in
prayer, praise, deed. It is truly, as has been said elsewhere, "an adoring
love" or "an adoration of love" but to express it one probably would not
borrow the passionate effusions of medieval mystics. Adoration, even at its
summit will be restrained by the thought of the presence of God, but this
will make it only deeper and will support it without ever coming to an end.
Now, perhaps, will be understood what our Masters mean when they use the
word: to adore. Adoration is a spirit that permeates Christian life to its
depths, a state which is expressed in acts at times only interior, at times
ritual, an unending oblation, a surrender expressing the love and praise of
the whole being before the Creator.
The virtue of religion thus understood acquires great value in the realm of
spirituality because it becomes as it were a synthesis of all the virtues
which in it play their conjoint roles. Far from weighing us down, and
"crushing us under the weight of its formal solemnity" as has sometimes
thoughtlessly been written, it becomes for the Christian a fruitful source
of unspeakable joy which from the earth overflows, growing ever greater,
into the heart of God.
But let us not forget, our means are limited, and our adoration however
fervent it rnay be, however lyrical it may appear, will always remain
inadequate. Our knowledge of God is incomplete, His intimate life escapes
us, His mysteries bring with them darkness, His transcendence is far beyond
us and we stammer when we try to express His greatness. And what impurities
in our soull If love has checked our selfishness it has not been able to
complete the work of destruction. Our passions take on new life, they burn
and overflow like a river of fire. Mystical life itself, fairly frequent in
its beginnings, so rare in its highest forms, supposing that we enjoy it in
some form, has not transformed all... Must we resign ourselves to offer God
only love that is a jest, and praise that falls short of true praise?
Berulle gives us the answer. We have in Jesus Christ, he says, "the
supplement of our adoration", the "perfect Adorer", the "true religious by
state". It is up to us to join ourselves to Him and offer Him to the
JESUS CHRIST THE PEREECT A DORER
From all eternity there had indeed been a God who is inhnitely adorable but
there had never been an inhnite adorer... Now, O Jesus You are this adorer,
this servant inhnite in power, in quality, in dignity. You can fully
satisfy this obligation. You can render this divine homage.
It is, in fact, easy to understand how the adoration of the Word Incarnate
leaves nothing to be desired because it embraces "all possible
obligations". It pays such honor to "all God's various qualities and His
greatness that not a single attribute is left without the honor which is
its due.". Adoration, total, adequate, transcending the capacity of
angels and the limited natures that are ours, "adoration by state" because
by His mere mode of being, by His constitutive being of Man-God, the
Incarnate Word, masterpiece of the Father, totally "referred" to His
Father, who finds in Him His delights, is able to render infinite praise.
Adorer "by state", Jesus is also the term and means of adoration.
Term of adoration
On this point the views of the French School are in no way very original.
They have value only because of the richness of their expression. What
Berulle's disciple contemplates in Jesus, is, above all and this is part of
the logic of his system: "the divinely human and the humanly divine life"
of the Son of God, the union of the two natures united by "a bond so dear,
so close, so intimate as the unity of the same person". He never tires
adoring as he singles out the divine perfections which he perceives beneath
the veil of the Savior's humanity. He praises this humanity because the
"invisible God is made manifest in the flesh that He has united with an
eternal nature. O marvel! O greatness."!
Means or Mediator of adoration
Jesus is a means of adoration, a mediator of religion, as He is already its
principle and term. So it is through Him that our praise ought to pass the
more effectively to reach the Father. He is the "way, truth and life", the
center to which all things converge. And this role of mediator, the Word
who, according to every hypothesis, would have become incarnate so as to be
"the supplement" of our praise, and the crown of creation, even if man had
never sinned. But man did in fact sin and this involves reparation.
Mediation of reparation will therefore precede the mediation of praise,
although they are one in practice.
Jesus is mediator of reparation by His priesthood and His sacrifice. Priest
and victim dedicated to the Father's glory, He has been since His birth
when He reunited, in His Person, the power that makes it possible for Him
to sacrifice and the dependence that makes Him a victim. He draws the power
from His divine nature, the dependence from His human nature. Condren has
richly orchestrated this theme.
Jesus is a mediator of praise, in all things, always and everywhere. This
He is by "state". All that He says as doctor, all that He does as wonder-
worker, as legislator, as savior, as pontiff or according to whatever be
the title, He does for the glory and love of the Father. He does it without
altemative, without return, without the possibility of repentance. Not only
what He does one day, He does always, but committed as He is, He cannot
even not do it. He is bound by His state, and this bond is His state
itself. He belongs to His hypostatic union as the stem is bound to the
So it is through Jesus that we must pass. So it is to His praise that we
must unite our own, or better, it is His praise that we must make ours so
that it will be pleasing to the Father.
Jesus is also and finally the means of adoration because He is the head of
mankind, the head of the mystical body of which we are the members.
Christ's life alone introduces us into the life of the Trinity. His praise
alone deserves to be received in its fulness and infinite resonances. To
it, therefore, it is imperative that we adhere.
ADHERENCE TO THE INCARNATE WORD
We best adhere to the Word Incarnate by sharing in His Mysteries.
"To be a perfect Christian it is necessary to share in all the mysteries of
Jesus Christ, this lovable Redeemer purposely experienced them in His
Person so that they might be most abundant sources of grace."
These mysteries are the incidents of our Savior's life. Through them the
Church received "sanctifying grace and various states and special graces
that each mystery pours into our souls."
What are we to understand by the word "state" that is traced so often by
our masters' pen? We are told "to communicate in the states of Jesus", "to
bind" ourselves to His states, to adore them and to adhere to them.
For a real understanding of this term we must distinguish between the
exterior and the interior of Christ's mysteries. The exterior is transitory
and consists "of the actions that Christ performed during His mortal life";
it follows that they belong to the past and cannot be repeated. The
interior, on the contrary, is permanent. These are "our Lord's dispositions
and sentiments in each of these mysteries". These dispositions remain in
Jesus because they are inherent to the Incarnation. There is something
stable about them, they produce graces throughout the centuries and are in
this way made eternal; they are a "state" by way of contrast with "the act"
that passes and vanishes the moment it is performed:
"The mysteries of Jesus Christ are in a sense over, and in another sense
they continue and are present and perpetual. As far as execution is
concerned they are over, but in their power they are present and their
power never passes, nor does the love pass with which they were performed.
The spirit of God through which this mystery was elected, the interior
state of the exterior act, the efficacy and the virtue that makes this
mystery living and operative in us, this state and virtuous disposition,
the merit through which He won us to His Father and merited heaven... even
the actual pleasure, the living disposition in which Jesus performed this
mystery is still living, actual and present to Jesus."
May I be forgiven for this long quotation that explains so well that it is
one and the same spirit that inspired the Word Incarnate and the members of
His Mystical Body. The divine Spirit produced these permanent dispositions
in Christ's soul and these dispositions are present in "Christian souls so
all are made to share in the same sentiments as long as they are in
sanctifying grace, and they open themselves to, apply themselves to,
communicate with", and "adhere" to the virtue of the mystery and to Him who
lived this mystery: our Savior Jesus Christ."
Therefore we ought
"to treat the things and the mysteries of Jesus not like things over and
done, but like things living and present, even eternal, from which we also
are to draw fruits that are present and eternal."
In this way, by adhering to the Word Incarnate, by communicating with His
intimate dispositions, we can make His spirit our own, according to our
providential attraits. This spirit is the spirit of childhood drawn from
the mystery of the crib; the spirit of religion drawn from the whole course
of His life, particularly from His life of prayer and from His eucharistic
life; the spirit of sacrifice and expiation flowing from the mystery of the
Redemption. Surely Jesus is no longer a child and He can no longer suffer,
but Berulle insists that there is something divine in these mysteries which
continues to exist in heaven and which produces a kind of similar grace.
"in souls on earth... We even see that Jesus has found a way of
establishing part of His Passion in His glorified state for in it He keeps
His wounds... but what He keeps of His Passion, in body and soul, is life
and glory... and this is what remains in Him of His mysteries and forms on
earth, a form of grace to which souls are united in order to be able to
Now we see how it is that if historically Christmas is forever past, if the
Passion is a far off event, nevertheless for the Christian, Christmas and
the Passion continue to exist because they do not cease to be efficacious.
In their relations with our Lord, Christians are not only destined to be
His members and to share in His life, they are also called to reproduce in
themselves His different mysteries, to clothe themselves with their graces
and to manifest the incomprehensible perfections hidden in each one."
If we ought to adhere in this way to all Christ's mysteries, there are two
which are stressed by the French School (this teaching follows closely that
of Saint Paul), to these mysteries we ought specially to bind ourselves and
we ought to reproduce them in our persons. These are the mysteries of death
and resurrection. "To rise with Christ", we must "die with Him".
This necessity cannot be avoided if we would ensure not only our salvation,
but also the perfection of our praise and the efficacy of our religion,
because it is to the extent that we are dead to ourselves and living in and
through Christ that we attain the end for which we were created: to give
God as much glory as possible.
This is indeed the transformation of the Christian that concerns us here.
It begins with baptism which incorporates us in Jesus, cleanses us of the
original stain, gives us sanctifying grace with its cortege of virtues and
gifts. These truths become clearer if we recall the symbolism of baptism by
immersion as it was conferred in the primitive Church. The neophyte
immersed himself completely in the water, the better to signify his death
to sin. He emerged with but one desire: to live a risen life with Jesus, a
life purified and truly Christian.
The transformation we experienced in baptism is then very real, but it is
not definitive and it is not without the possibility of any return.
Christ's life must be lived. It may be lived more or less. We have clothed
ourselves with Christ but to this act there are many degrees, we must
clothe ourselves with Him still more. The "old man" made up of all the
inclinations released by original sin and uncontrolled by intellect and
will, must die again and again so that "the new man" may again and again
rise and grow.
The life of the newly baptized is a drama in two acts. Death prepares life
and life must vanquish death. The flesh must struggle against the spirit
and seek to crush it, grace fights against rebel nature and wants to
triurnph over it. But let us not separate the two phases of the drama
because, although the Christian must until his last breath "strip" himself
of the old man, this stripping must develop in him, by correlation, the
life of the new man. Each renunciation produces an increase of grace, each
effort of the faithful soul is matched by an advance of Christ, just as
each increase of grace leads to a new renunciation.
So there is not first and necessarily abnegation, then adherence to Jesus,
but these two acts complement one another and are intimately united. In
practice, they must necessarily be distinguished. Soon Jesus grows in the
soul, His personality becomes dominant, overflowing and radiating. And this
progressive domination made Saint Paul say these astonishing words, so
often repeated by the Spirituals of the French School: "It is no longer I
that live, but Christ that lives in me".
ABNEGATION OR DISAPPROPRIATION
WAYS OF ADHERENCE
Abnegation or disappropriation
We have just seen that abnegation and adherence are two concomitant acts
which logic obliges us to distinguish. Let us first speak of abnegation.
Jesus will live in us only in the measure in which, corresponding to grace,
we shall have known how to renounce ourselves, "disappropriate" ourselves.
Room must be made in our faculties for Jesus. By adhering to His mysteries
and to His virtues, especially to His virtues of penance and obedience to
the will of the Father, Christ Himself will help us to prepare this
We must hold nothing in as much horror as the proprietorship which deprives
us of the plenitude of the Word of His life and His operation... That is
why Jesus in His Gospel laid down abnegation as the first step to be taken
in Christian life: 'If anyone wants to come after Me let him renounce
himself', because this proprietorship and fullness of self hinders Jesus
Christ's entrance into us and... it is an unending source of all evils."
This is true because our nature, without being vitiated in its essence was
wounded by original sin. According to the French School, original sin not
only deprived us of preternatural gifts but produced in us a state of
weakness, of lust, that Saint Paul designates under the name of sin or of
Flesh is all that is contrary to the spirit of man regenerated by grace, or
to the Spirit of God. "Caro concupiscit adversus spiritum." We can never
completely destroy the flesh but we must try to weaken it and subject it to
Jesus Christ. Grace aiding, we must plunge the red-hot iron into the.
wounds of our pride, and of our desires for riches and pleasure. In short,
we must "disappropriate" ourselves of all we hold most dear, of the "me"
that blocks my way to God.
M. Olier is so firmly persuaded of the necessity of all this that he
prepared for the use of his disciples some thirty aphorisms more or less
based on Saint John of the Cross, giving a picture of the wicked results of
proprietorship and the corresponding advantages of interior dispoiling:
1. The owner stays within 1. The Christian goes out of
2. The owner is full of 2. The Christian is empty of
5. The owner thinks well 5. The Christian despises
of self. self.
6. The owner wishes to 6. The Christian withdraws
appear and to show and hides himself.
The stripping away of all personal good seems painfill to nature and ought
to crush it under the weight of perpetual constraint. The truth is not at
all like this. The "disappropriation" restores the creature, subjecting it
to grace, freeing it from its miseries, and bringing it joy and peace.
28. The owner is always 28. The Christian is always
agitated and restless. equable, tranquil and at
29. The owner is usually sad, 29. The Christian is joyful,
cast-down, abstracted. open, and his mind is
Social relations become easier. Having nothing to lose because he has given
everything away and separated himself from himself, the Christian has no
30. The owner becomes ill 30. The Christian is never
tempered at the slightest disturbed, he endures all
word, he takes all amiss things with patience it
he is suspicious and never occurs to him that
thinks every word and anyone intends to hurt
act is aimed at him. him.
To complete this disappropriation and to help to drive out "the old man",
four crucifying virtues must be practiced: at Saint Sulpice these virtues
are called "the arms of the Cross".
Pride will be combatted by obedience and humility, the desire for riches by
poverty, sensible pleasures by chastity. Olier, in his "Introduction a la
vie et aux vertus chretiennes" gives us a concrete and practical code of
these fundamental virtues.
Perhaps one might be tempted to say that this idea of dispossession is a
little too austere, or that our spiritual writers hold somewhat pessimistic
views about human nature. But we must remind ourselves of the teaching of
theologians that the humanity of Christ could not have been united
hypostatically to the Word had it not been deprived of any personality of
its own. It follows, Berulle says, that if the Christian must reproduce
Jesus, our nature "should have no other subsistence than in the Incarnate
Word--here we must understand the word subsistence in the broad sense of
the word. This state, considered in all its parts, obliges us strictly and
very constantly to die to self". Olier will add that we ought to
annihilate ourselves somewhat in the same way that the substance of the
bread disappears in the eucharistic consecration.
The French School theologians tended to exaggerate the evil consequences of
original sin. In this there were disciples of Saint Augustine who
emphasized, if not the decadence of nature, at least the power of grace by
way of reaction against the voluntarist theses of Pelagius, and desired in
addition to combat the obvious excesses of the many humanists of their
times who gave free rein to their instincts. Yet we must note that when
they discoursed, in rather hard terms, about the disturbances caused in
human nature by this sin, they always did so in opposition to the concrete
state of primitive justice. They never made any comparison with a
hypothetical state of pure nature. Consequently their ascesis is based,
perhaps, more on the notion of creation than on the notion of original sin.
This sin deprived us of grace, our own faults increase our weakness and
depravity but despite this fall we are still "capacities for God". Nothing
is lost definitively. Our misery may help to reestablish us and to make us
great. So true is this that what might, at times, be called the pessimism
of the French School can be transformed into magnificent optimism.
Sin has darkened our intellect and lessened the strength of our will, yet
it has not destroyed our ruling faculties. Aided by grace, they can
recognize, be reunited with, and possess their Creator. This was Berulle's
thought and he expressed it in this magnificent definition of man which, it
is claimed, inspired Pascal himself. Man's misery without God. Man's
greatness with God. What, then, is man?
"Man is made up of entirely different parts. Part miracle and part
nothingness. He is in part heavenly and in part earthly. He is an angel, he
is an animal, he is a nothingness, he is a miracle, he is a center, he is a
world, he is a god, he is a nothingness surrounded by God, he is God's
pauper, he can receive God, he can be filled with God--if he so wishes."
Let us pay special attention to the last six words: "filled with God if he
wishes". Means of adherence, uniting us closely to Jesus, make it possible
for us to realize this wish.
MEANS OF ADHERENCE
These means are many. To name the principal ones: Prayer, Mass, Communion,
Particular Examen, Visits to the Blessed Sacrament, Spiritual Communion and
the performance of the duties of one's state in a spirit of religion and in
union with Jesus.
This is an important exercise because it makes easy our adherence by
evoking and recalling to mind different mysteries of the Savior's life. It
enables us to share in the grace attached to each mystery and to recreate
in us the sentiments, motives and dispositions of the Incarnate Word.
M. Olier, following Berulle, distinguishes three parts of prayer:
adoration of God or of Jesus in each mystery or in one or other of His
splendors or of His virtues; communion or participation in the mystery or
in the virtue; cooperation which is nothing else than effective
correspondence with the graces received during the exercise. These three
parts may be summed up in these words: to keep Jesus before our eyes, in
our hearts, in our hands.
The first part (Jesus before our eyes) consists in watching Jesus just as
the gospel, tradition or theology present Him to us. We contemplate Him as
our divine model and we pay Him our homage of adoration. The second part
(Jesus in our hearts) consists in drawing into our soul, by the realization
of our powerlessness and by the repeated calls of grace, the virtue
contemplated in Jesus and which we lack. The third part (Jesus in our
hands) becomes the object of a resolution, because every consideration
ought to be transformed into adoration and effective action. The hands are
the symbols of activity. We must look at Christ, and live in Him, but we
must also imitate Him.
The method, so lacking in complexity, supposes, as we have already
indicated that we take for the subject of our meditation a divine
perfection, a mystery of virtue, a word of the Word Incarnate. M. Olier,
while he does not exclude all moral themes, does not recommend them. Such
themes, instead of carrying the soul directly to God and leading it to
adoration and love, throw it back upon itself and keep it predominantly
occupied with itself and its own interests. He does not want our prayer to
be limited to the consideration of the Christian virtues in themselves;
this he finds too abstract. He wishes us to consider them always in their
relation to the Word Incarnate.
He understands the practice of Christian virtues to be theclosest possible
participation in the virtues of Christ, or the Gospel teachings which are
lessons from His own lips, or the examples of the saints for these examples
are the fruit of His sanctifying action in each one. The disciple of the
French School will not consider humility, to take only one example,
speculatively and coldly; he will not try to convince himself with all
kinds of philosophical considerations of the necessity of being humble--of
this he could not be unawarebut he will recall the humility practiced and
lived concretely by Jesus in His Incarnation, agony and death on the cross.
He will look for Jesus annihilated even in the chaste womb of Mary or in
the praetorium of Pilate. He will stand on the doorstep of the workshop in
Nazareth, watching Jesus perform His humble tasks, or he will see Him,
during His active ministry, complying with the demands of those about Him.
To these transitory states of Christ, eternalized by the grace they have
merited, he will unite himself in mind and heart, he will adore their
manifestations and will ask, insistently, to share in them in a manner
mysterious but real.
This supposes that we already possess a certain knowledge of the Gospel
story, whence comes the necessity of the assiduous reading of Sacred
Scripture, so recommended by M. Olier. This also supposes that in the
course of the meditation, we do not attribute to Jesus ideas that are our
own. Let us make an effort at the beginning to give up our own ideas so as
to rediscover Christ's simple thought just as He knew it and understood it.
This requires of us a kind of "sympathy". We must surrender our heart and
soul to the dispositions of the heart and soul of Jesus. It does not
suffice to "know" the emotion experienced by Jesus when he pronounced a
certain word or performed a certain act. We must be moved by the same
emotions. For example when in prayer we say: "Jesus loves", our spiritual
experience ought to enable us to seize, better than any word, the
sentiments of Christ in which we ought to communicate, so as to make them
Another characteristic, too little noticed, of this prayer is that it
corresponds to the petitions of the "Pater," the prayer "par excellence."
By adoration we praise our Father who is in heaven and we ask that His name
be blessed; communion makes us ask that His kingdom come in us and in
others; by cooperation we take tbe resolution of assuring in our souls the
triumph of His will.
Finally the method of prayer, as M. Olier develops it, gives an important
place to the affections. The initial adoration (Jesus before our eyes) and
communion, which is in reality only the repeated call for grace, leave
little room for detailed consideration. No doubt the will is a blind
faculty which requires the light of the intellect before it can choose the
good. But after having performed their preparatory role, these inte]lectual
views ought to give place to the movements of the heart. Meditation does
not consist as much in knowing as in loving and we know that in the realm
of grace, love can transcend the intellect in extent and intensity 31
Meditation is not study but prayer. We must "seek light (about God) through
reverence and love rather than through light about His love."
Meditation made in this way can, by its very simplicity, disturb souls
accustomed to long discursive reasonings and numerous considerations on the
beauty of virtues, the necessity of their acquisition, the horror of vice.
Souls accustomed to elaborate compositions of place and the use of the
imagination in the reconstruction of Gospel incidents with all their
details, will also be somewhat disconcerted by Olier's method.
To remedy this uneasiness and, let us also add, to conform with the
antimystic trend of his day, M. Tronson, then fulfilling the charge of
third superior general of the Company, completed M. Olier's method by
adding a preparation (this was taken in part from the Ignatian form of
meditation) and a body of prayer (inspired by Berulle, including a great
number of acts) and a conclusion borrowed from Saint Francis of Sales).
It would take too long to explain the method, known as the "Sulpician
Method of Meditation." Instead we will give a synoptic table, omitting all
reference to remote, proximate or immediate preparation because the meaning
of these terms is familiar to all.
BODY OF THE MEDITATION
1st point: 1) To consider the subject of our
Adoration: meditation in God,in our Lord, in one of
Jesus before our eyes the saints: the sentiments of His
heart,His words, His actions.
2) To offer our homage: adoration or
veneration, admiration, praise,
thanksgiving, love, joy or compassion.
2nd point: 1) To convince ourselves of the necessity
Communion: or the importance of the virtue
Jesus in our heart. through motives of faith, through
reasoning or through a detailed
2) To reflect on our conduct with
sorrow for the past, confusion for
the present, desire for the future.
3) To beseech God to grant us the virtue
on which we are meditating. (It is
chiefly through this prayer that
we participate in the virtues of our
Lord). To pray also for our other
needs, for those of the Church and of
those for whom we ought to pray.
3rd point: 1) To form a resolution: particular,
Cooperation: present, eflicacious, humble.
Jesus in our hands.
2) To renew the resolution of our
1) To thank God for the many graces he has given us during the meditation.
2) To beg His pardon for our faults and negligence during the meditation.
3) To beg Him to bless our resolutions, the coming day, our life, our
4) To select some striking thoughts that impressed us in order to remember
it during the day and thus recall our resolutions.
5) To confide ourselves and the fruit of our meditation to the Blessed
Virgin by reciting the "Sub tuum praesidium."
Highly intuitive and affective souls, and those who are more advanced will
probably prefer the simple method first formulated by M. Olier. Beginners
can make good use, especially during the first months of their spiritual
life, of the method perfected and made more precise by M. Tronson, without
feeling obliged to perform all the acts. Each one will be guided by the
needs of his soul, his attractions and the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.
MASS AND COMMUNION
Mass. Berulle, Condren, Olier did not want to discuss "ex professo" the
essence itself of the sacrifice. However, we know from an examination of
Condren's teaching, at least those laid down in "L'Idee du sacerdoce et du
sacrifice de Jesus Christ" that our Masters of the French School never
separated the oblation of Jesus on the altar from the permanent oblation
begun at the Incarnation and destined to be completed in the oblation of
heaven, passing through the principal mysteries of our Savior's life: the
crucifixion or immolation of the victim, and ascension and resurrection
which mark His entrance into divine glory.
From the reality of Christ's oblation on the altar, Condren concludes to
the reality of the Eucharistic sacrifice. The constitutional oblation of
the sacrifice of the Mass would be the prolongation of the Savior's
oblation but, as M. Lepin says: "hidden under figures", clothed with
"signs", therefore a sensible and ritual oblation that consists precisely
in the double consecration in which the body appears "given to God" and the
blood actually "poured out for the apostles". The offering of an
immolated victim obviously derives its value from the sacrifice of the
cross and Christ's oblation throughout the whole Passion gives the
sacrifice its formal value.
Saint Eudes, Bourgoing, Bossuet, Thomassin accept, in varying degrees, this
theory of sacrifice and each stresses certain aspects. For example Saint
John Eudes and Bossuet insist on the share we must take in Christ's
oblation in His Eucharistic sacrihce. Jesus, they say, does not offer
Himself alone to the Father, He offers Himself with all His members. So,
all the members, in their turn, ought to "adhere" to the sacrifice of their
head in order to glorify God, to thank Him for His benefits, to ask His
grace, to appease His justice. In this broad sense, all share in the
Savior's priesthood. Let them, therefore, offer the sacrifice of the altar
"with the same dispositions as those of Jesus Christ and victim."
With this opinion Olier agrees. He takes delight in speaking of the
Eucharistic Sacrifice. But he becomes eloquent when he reaches his
favorite subject: Holy Communion. This he explains is the most perfect
means of adherence.
Holy Communion. If, as has been said, Berulle magnified the glories and
abasements of the Word Incarnate; if Condren has devoted himself to His
Holy Sacrifice; Olier, above all others, has praised His Eucharistic
presence. It is the reception of the Sacred Host that enables us to share
closely in the religion of Jesus for His Father. Jesus has, he tells us
"an inconceivable longing to spread everywhere the knowledgc of, and
respect for His Father. He would like to sacrifice Himself in every heart
to honor His dominion. It is with these sentiments that He presents Himself
in the admirable Sacrament on our altars... His desires will never be
satisfied until He has enkindled in every creature the fire of His charity
and transformed each one into a burning furnace of love and praise. What
happiness that Jesus, the divine host, deigns to come to us so that we can
share His religionl How admirable a paradise is the Christian's heart!"
Communion, understood in this way, can transform a soul because Jesus,
living in the host, has the sentiments that were His on the evening of the
Last Supper, the sentiments of a victim who was to die on the Cross the
next day. Eucharistic Communion gives us this two-fold spirit. A spirit of
life, because the Incarnate Word is present in the host with all the
perfections of His humanity, the infinite graces of His divinity and His
multiple virtues. A spirit of death and of "annihilation", writes Condren,
because the host is, so to speak, the fruit of the Mass which is in itself
the mystical reproduction of Calvary's bloody sacrifice. Let us unite
ourselves to this double spirit, let us try to make this spirit our own
since it is through death that we attain to life and since this life
produces, in its turn, detaching graces in our soul.
Let us not stop to examine M. Olier's ideas on the advantages of Holy
Communion considered as a means of tightening the fraternal bonds binding
Christians, the members of the Mystical Body. Such teachings are
traditional in the Church since the days of the Fathers. Jean Jacques Olier
is perhaps less classic--and without any doubt less happy--when he wishes
to show us (Thomassin is to follow him along this path) that all the
mysteries of Jesus are in the same manner recalled and represented in the
Eucharist. Was this "statio fixa" of all the mysteries really and equally
in our Lord's direct intention when He instituted His Sacrament of Love?
No, Grimal answers (we think correctly), because "tradition according to
Saint Paul acknowledges only a memorial of the Passion in the first and
direct intention of Eucharist" (1 Cor. 1 1: 26). In fact sacramental
symbolism and the words of consecration speak only of the death of the
Savior. Therefore when I relive the Passion of Jesus under the Eucharistic
species I unite myself to an objective memorial, that is one that is
entirely independent of any personal suppositions.
On the contrary, it is only a supposition as far as all the other mysteries
are concerned. It is not Jesus who has in fact showed them to us, it is we
who have conjured them up by a pious effort of the imagination. If we place
the Incarnation, the Nativity and the Passion on the same level in
meditating on the meaning of the Eucharist, and if we see in exactly the
same way on our altars, Jesus Infant and Youth, Jesus poor, humble and
humbled, and Jesus sacrified on the cross--do we not run the risk of
veiling the memorial of His death which the Savior Himself instituted at
the last hour, the night He was betrayed in order to incorporate us in the
Sacrifice of salvation?
This reserve must be made because it answers an objection often raised. Out
of love for the Blessed Sacrament, M. Olier has, on this point, sinned by
excess. This ardor should not be held against an apostle and a spiritual
writer whose works contain so many remarkable pages consecrated to the
praises, the splendors and the delights of the Sacrament of love and union.
THE FULFILLMENT OF THE DUTIES OF ONE'S STATE IN UNION WITH JESUS
The Masters of the French School recommended that their disciples perform
their professional obligations in a spirit of adoration and union with the
Incarnate Word. In our acts, it is the charity informing them and the
intention directing them that has value, and not exterior appearances, be
these more or less drab or brilliant.
Jesus Himself did not perform only deeds capable of arousing the crowd's
enthusiasm. He did not only calm storms and walk on water. He did not
deliver a daily sermon on the mountain nor fulminate anathemas on all
occasions, but at Nazareth for a number of years he led a workman's humble
life, in which everything happened, at least in appearance, with the
monotony of colorless water flowing under the old bridges of a dead city.
It was His lived union with the Father in the Holy Spirit and the intention
that was the soul of these actions which gave them their incomparable
We shall be judged on the duties of our state. To perform them with Jesus
in a union of adoration and love will be all the more easy because our
life, like His, unfolds in mysteries, that is to say in incidents and acts
in which we express our thoughts, our will, sometimes our whole selves.
Besides these mysteries of our life resemble those of Jesus: we work and we
rest just as He did. Like Him we suffer and we are glad.
There is a close resemblance between the life led by a layman and by
Christ. But what shall we say of the resemblance with that of an apostolic
man or a priest! Their acts have exactly the same purpose as Christ's acts:
God's glory and the world's salvation. The inspiration of their thoughts
and the direction of their wills are identical. It follows that their
anxieties and their sufferings, their hopes and their joys all have the
same causes. Their work makes the same demands; it requires their holiness
and the gift and sacrifice of self.
Their occupations are specihcally the same. They must pray, teach adults
and children, visit the afflicted. Finally our gestures and words, if we
are priests, are often the gestures and the very words of Our Lord. How
often with the sentiments of Jesus we have to speak the words of Jesus to
souls who are exactly like those with whom Jesus spoke, who have absolutely
the same needs. It is with the grace of Jesus that we continue the work of
Jesus. .. because although the landscape may be different, the anguish of
mothers, the grief of sinners, the remorse of prodigal children, the fever
of the sick--all these never change.
It is to help us to perform the duties of our state in union with the Word
Incarnate in a spirit of adoration, sacrifice and the apostolate that Saint
John Eudes in his "Kingdom of Jesus" and M. Olier in his "Journee
Chretienne," well aware that only the intensity of the life of Jesus in us
assures the efficacy of our action, composed a series of elevations and
formulae of adherence for every possible situation. They are for our use
when we rise, eat, go out, work or "sit in the corner near the fire". They
are well worth examination. They lack neither beauty, nor piquancy. Each
one is free to modify, simplify and adapt these formulae according to his
attractions, needs or whims.
From these considerations it is obvious that our adherence to the Incarnate
Word might definitely be expressed exteriorly in acts. Does this mean that
in a given "Gospel situation" the spiritual conduct of a disciple of
Berulle will in every way resemble, for example, the conduct of a
Franciscan or Jesuit? No, as a rule, probably not. In traditional
spirituality there are several different ways of expressing this work of
union with and assimilation to Christ. This book is the proof of this
At first sight two ways seem to oppose one another. Saint Francis of Assisi
asks that the unglossed Gospel be followed literally. Saint Ignatius agrees
and adds some exceptions in the practical order. Berulle on the contrary,
and his school invite us to adhere to the states of the Incarnate Word. In
this, is there radical opposition?
True opposition does not exist, quite correctly writes Pere de Guibert,
since all teach, each after his own fashion,
"that man must be conformed to Christ, the Exemplar, Mediator and Head;
they all teach that conformity consists essentially in thc internal
dispositions of the soul, with the Savior's soul, just as they all also
teach that this conformity cannot be realized without the help of grace and
our own cooperation, and that it will not be true unless this conformity
pass in some way from our interior to our exterior conduct.
Therefore, it would be to deceive ourselves seriously, were we to represent
Franciscan or Ignatian imitation as a purely exterior imitation of Christ's
deeds or to represent the adherence recommended by Berulle as pure
This is an acknowledgment that a difference exists that is not merely
verbal. The French School is concerned less with Christ's actions as they
were once performed than with the interior dispositions of which they are
The members of that School contemplate the states of the Incarnate Word not
as much by the minutious analysis of the Gospel accounts as by the
teachings and deductions of the speculative theology of the treatise on the
On the other hand the disciples of Saint Francis and Saint Ignatius insist
more on mental prayer made on a Gospel text, whose meaning has been plumbed
by affective considerations, so that they may imitate more closely (in this
they have been accused of being excessively literal) the examples left by
the Lord during His earthly sojourn.
These two tendencies, P. de Guibert concludes (I quote from memory) are
good and fruitful. Both have advantages, provided that they do not become
exclusive and that no false claims are made that the Berulle tendency is a
form of lazy idleness or that it is purely speculative and without any
influence on life, provided that the Franciscan or Ignatian method is not
presented as a way more accessible to the majority but which lacks
greatness and cannot lead souls to the summits of interior life.
Further, let us add, neither Berulle, nor Ignatius were themselves
exclusive. Berulle often pauses to contemplate and comment about the most
touching and tiniest details of the Gospel text. Examples of this abound in
his writings. Ignatius was not always satisfied with merely watching what
Jesus did in order to imitate His actions more closely. So let us not be
more exclusive than these men were themselves, yet let us reserve for
ourselves the right of preferring one or other of these methods of
spirituality according to our intellectual inclinations or the needs of our
The Particular Examen.
Souls familiar with the particular examen of Saint Ignatius will be
surprised, if not disconcerted, when they learn the form that M. Olier, and
following his example, M. Tronosn, gave to this exercise which becomes,
according to their spirit, a means of adherence and adoration rather than a
method of introspection.
We know that the examen devised by the founder of the Society of Jesus has
for its object the correction of a selected fault. To this end several
rules are given regarding the choice of the subject and the way the
exercise should be performed. The sin is first attacked, in its exterior
manifestations, then its interior cause. Not to stop with this somewhat
negative aspect, care must be taken at the same time to cultivate the
virtue opposed to the fault that is being eradicated.
The examen is made at three different times: the first is a very brief
examen of prevision, as it were, made at the moment of rising; the second
is made after dinner; the third after supper. God's grace is then asked so
as to be able "to recall how many times we fell into such or such a sin,"
then we ought to run through "each of the hours of the day which can be
divided into several periods of time according to the order of our
actions". Finally, failures are recorded in a special little book so that
from day to day, from week to week, from month to month, progress or
regress may be observed in our advance towards God.
This unrelenting pursuit of the least weakness on a determined point is a
means of incomparable growth. But the Masters of the French School have an
entirely different idea of the particular examen. The Ignatian method has
no place in their doctrinal pattern. They count on securing their personal
sanctification by offering themselves by repeated acts to Christ's grace
and the powerful virtues it brings, rather than by coming to grips with
such and such a vice, or by making a frontal attack against a determined
Olier, too, realizes that every Christian anxious to advance in perfection
must make an examen each day. But this will consist first in the
consideration of some virtue (preferably one which we lack) as it is
realized in a concrete way in our Lord. It will consist in seeing "how we
have made use of Jesus Christ", how we have imitated Him, and in asking the
grace of a more profound adherence and a more perfect imitation.
It is taken for granted that the examen understood in this way will embrace
three principal points which correspond to the three points of Sulpician
prayer: adoration (or, Jesus before our eyes), communion (or, Jesus and His
virtues drawn into the heart and animating us with His life), cooperation
followed by resolution (or, Jesus in our hands).
By way of documentation let us give several extracts from a particular
examen prepared by M. Olier for his disciples. Its subject is Christian and
Having read "on one's knees with uncovered head" a passage from the Gospel
and having adored Jesus and invoked the help of the Holy Spirit, the
following questions are to be answered:
1. Have I walked all day in the presence of Jesus Christ "keeping always
before my eyes His interior, so as to adore it and form it within me?"
2. Was I faithful in recollecting myself at the beginning of every act?
3. Did I live according to faith holding all things with the sentiments and
the esteem which Jesus Christ has for them?
4. Did I make Jesus Christ appear in my conduct? Did I show His gentleness,
His humility, His patience, His charity, His obedience, His attitude toward
others? Have I, among other virtues, practiced the special virtue of
clerics, that is modesty?
5. Did I live in the spirit of the host?
6. Have I failed against love of the cross?
Then we must take suitable resolutions that will help to reform our life
the better to conform it to the life of our Lord with which we must
constantly make a comparison.
Many of these examens are to be found in the collection made by M. Tronson.
Several are devoted to a general subject such as the manner of exercising
apostolic zeal in imitation of our Savior. Others deal with the perfecting
of the theological or moral virtues, such as charity, humility, patience.
Still others treat the acquisition of natural virtues or such matters as
communication with our neighbor, walking in public, correct deportment at
table... after the example of our Lord and the saints.
In addition to their practical content these examens also possess, thanks
to the concision and purity of their style, a literary interest to which
illustrious writers like Bourget and Bazin were not insensible.
Here we shall not speak of "Confession" or "Spiritual Reading" so
recommended by Saint John Eudes under a form of meditated reading capable,
in certain instances, of replacing meditation, nor shall we discuss the
"Visit to the Blessed Sacrament." All these exercises are considered by the
French School as means of "dilating" in us the Spirit of Jesus and of
glorifying God more perfectly. We do not want to be repetitious.
Let us say a few words about the sentiments we ought to have when God calls
us to perform, whether we wish to do so or not, the Ihnal act that will
bring our life to a close and mark the final degree of our detachment and
adherence. The ideas of the French School about death are both original and
splendid. Let us follow Bossuet who was profoundly inspired by them and who
has written magnificently about them in "Reflexions sur l'Agonie de Notre
The Christian who has lived his whole life "in Christ" must die in Christ.
Like Jesus, he will make his death fruitful. He will unite his death to the
death of his Savior. He will make his own the sentiments that were His
divine Master's when He was nailed to the cross. These were the sentiments
of a victim, of a priest accomplishing His sacrifice. Death, understood in
this way, gives salvific and meritorious power to a sacerdotal act.
It is hard to find so lofty, so serene, so satisfying a manner of
envisaging death among spiritual writers who preceded Berulle. Read, for
example, what Saint Francis of Sales has written on this subject. He makes
excellent observations about the uncertainty of our last day, about the
farewells that must then be made to kinsfolk and friends, about the
destruction of the body and the necessity of abandoning one's self to God.
All this is wise, sensible, practical but, in the last analysis, rather
Bossuet, the kindly disciple of the French School soars on eagle's wings
above such considerations.
"We must", he tells us, "imitate Jesus in His death, who at that moment
took upon Himself not only the sins but also all the interests, obligations
and duties of His true mystical members. He distinctly saw their agony with
the eyes of His heart, as He hung on the cross.... Who could comprehend the
extent and strength of the charity with which He regarded their agony as
inseparable from His own? All that He did at that time, He did on behalf of
what they would owe and as a supplement for what they would be unable to do
at that time.... He offered His children's agony and all its consequences
in an act of love that He at that moment communicated to them.... All this
He transferred to them in the presence and in the bosom of His Father to
make up for their powerlessness, if their darkened minds prevented them
from actually entering into these dispositions."
Bossuet has just shown how, even in His death, Christ remains the
"supplement" of our religion. He goes on to show how through our adherence
to Jesus in His agony, we become one with Him as priest and victim.
Until the end of time, one of the great uses for the sacrifice of Jesus
Christ will be to renew and perpetuate His sacrifice, not only in the
mystery of the Eucharist but also at the death of all truly faithful souls.
It is in this spirit that we ought to receive viaticum. At that moment the
Christian by uniting himself not only with the adorable Body of Jesus
Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, but also with His Spirit and with His
Heart, accepts through submission and adherence all the divine designs and
wills to dispose of his being and his life as Jesus did when He made His
great sacrihce. In this way the Christian at death bceomes a priest with
Christ and completes during this final moment the sacrifice for which he
was consecrated at baptism and which he continued throughout his life.
We have just described the death of a disciple of the French School. Let us
now make a rapid review of what would have been during the course of his
life the principal devotions which we would consider to be means of
What we have already said about the Blessed Sacrament makes it unnecessary
to consider this devotion here. We will limit ourselves to devotion to the
Christian childhood, to the Interior of Jesus, to the Sacred Heart, to our
Lady, to the angels and to the saints.
We are tempted to smile or "groan" when we examine the voluminous
contemporary literature that describes the way of childhood as a discovery
of our century. There is nothing new under the sun, or rather there is
nothing new since the Gospel which is a sun to minds and hearts. Throughout
the ages we could cite a vast concourse of souls devoted to Christian
Their devotion varies with different temperaments and it has taken many
forms. There is the simple and at times somewhat detached consideration of
the abasements of the Child Jesus. There is the most passionate tenderness
for the charms and ingenuousness of the Babe in the Crib or of the Youth of
Nazareth. Devotions like these are a source of austerity for some, of
interior joy for others, of confidence and holy abandonment for all.
The French School holds an important position in the history of devotion to
Christian Childhood, but in this Childhood it stresses the austere side
which it integrates with its idea of abnegation and to which it adds a note
of gladness. Is not the state of childhood " the lowest and most abject
state, next to death? "It was for this reason that Jesus chose it, finding
no other state more fitted, by reason of the law of contrasts, to give
"glory to the splendor of the Eternal Father;" no other state containing as
many examples to help us "to overcome our pride" or "to show us the way of
indifference and abandonment into God's hands."
M. Olier made himself the fervent apostle of Christian Childhood. This
attraction led him gradually to a great detachment:
"I feel", he wrote, "that the Child Jesus has given me the grace to be like
a small child, without any will of my own. He has also given me the grace
of joyful abandonment and so abandoning myself to God, I place all my trust
in Him. To put it all in a single sentence: I am as carefree as a child.
Finally He has given me the grace of a confident obedience to a director
who guides my steps along spiritual paths."
In the state of childhood M. Olier can discern a path of ligbt.
"Because Our Lord in His childhood made profession of His weakness, God, to
reward Him gave Him the grace to enlighten... those who had recourse to Him
in this state. This disposition of Providence appeared in the mystery of
the Visitation when Saint John the Baptist was sanctified by the Child
Jesus and received all at once the fullness of the Spirit."
Childlikeness and childishness are not to be confused. So we find that
great saints "like Stephen, John the Evangelist, Thomas of Canterbury, and
Sylvester possessed this virtue."
M. Branlo, in his solid little book, "Enfance Chretienne," synthesized his
master's doctrine. Just like M. Olier, he sees in every child
"littleness of body and dependence on others", without, however ignoring
"the grace and simplicity" which are the charms of this age. He applies
Berulle's principles to this state of childhood and he teaches that "it
honors God by the humility it supposes; its subjection glorifies the divine
liberty; its temporal silence, eternal silence; its abandonment, the
Creator's paternal providence."
Then Branlo lists the virtues of childhood: purity, sweetness,
This is the way of childhood as taught by the French School and which was
so popular in the seventeenth century. Basically it is the same as the way
lived by Saint Therese of Lisieux but it is presented by a theologian in a
more direct fashion and as part of a whole doctrinal synthesis. It cannot
be denied that it has the same rich fruitfulness, although "the flowers"
Devotion to Jesus and to the Interior of Jesus.
Everything in Jesus is adorable because all His acts are the acts of a God.
Their power and their perfections are infinite. Within every word and deed
are to be found an emotion and a thought which rise from a profound source.
This deep inner source is the soul of the Incarnate Word. From the e%erior
we ought to penetrate to the center, from effect to cause, from the
transitory to the etemal, from the mysteries of Jesus to thc mystery of
Jesus. It was to honor this Savior and to make Him known in all His
greatness that Berulle wanted to establish in his congregation
"a feast of Jesus Christ that would be general and universal and which was
focussed on the beloved Lord and not on any special mystery of His life but
on everything in His divine Person and in His two natures that are
inseparably united by the Incarnation."
"O God, who willed Your only Son to espouse human nature for our sakes,
grant that we may celebrate becomingly the ineffable life of the Word in
mankind and mankind in the Word, so that we may be animated by His Spirit
on earth while awaiting to rejoice in His possession in heaven."
The need of unifying our devotion accounts for the introduction of the
feast of Jesus. In 1668 Cardinal de Vendome, legate "a latere" approved the
feast of the Interior Life of our Lord. This feast used to be celebrated in
all Sulpician houses. It, too, owed its introduction to the desire of
honoring the Incarnate Word in the perfection of His humanity and divinity.
It was an attempt to seize the motives behind the mysteries and to
understand the sentiments that filled the Savior's soul. Let us make these
sentiments our own. "I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me."
The Sacred Heart.
The one mystery of the Incarnate Word that can explain all the other
mysteries and give their railon d'eAtre is the mystery of love. That is why
the French School quite normally arrived at devotion to the Sacred Heart.
We use the word "normally" and not "necessarily", believing that Bremond
errs when he chooses the latter word because there are several intermediate
stages between devotion to "the Interior of Jesus" and devotion to the
Sacred Heart. First, it was needful to subsume the whole interior of Jesus
in terms of love; then, "love had to be considered as it is in itself,
prescinding from any special mystery; lastly, love had to be considered in
relation to the heart of flesh".
To Saint John Eudes belongs the honor of taking these steps and as we have
already said, three years before the hrst revelation of Paray-le-Monial,
the Norman apostle had instituted a special feast, richly theological, in
honor of the Heart of Jesus. The proper of the Mass and the Office were
celebrated by his two congregations and he tried to extend their use far
Let us not stop to prove that the cult paid by Saint John Eudes to the
Savior's Heart of flesh is closely related to the devotion that was later
to enjoy so spectacular an ascent at Paray-le-Monial. This we have already
done elsewhere. since then others have done the same thing better and at
greater length. All this shows that this cult is in harmony with the
teaching of tradition and with the mind of the Church. Nevertheless John
Eudes could never forget the Berullian formation that he had received
during his twenty years at the Oratory and this probably explains why the
place given in his devotion to the "Spiritual Heart" seems to impinge on
that accorded to the Heart of flesh. We do not say this by way of
complaint, because devotion to the Sacred Heart, thus understood, is all
the more eminent. Thus the Heart becomes a symbol representing the very
Person of Christ, with His "interior" and the "higher part of His soul",
with all the plenitude of His natural and supernatural perfections: His
memory, intelligence, will and fulness of grace and virtue; and with His
admirable life of which His Person is the principle.
The "spiritual Heart" leads us to the "divine Heart", one of the elements
of the Eudist cult that is most neglected, at least under this form. The
"divine Heart" and the Holy Spirit are identical. It is in fact the divine
Spirit who places in Christ's soul the perfect dispositions which we so
much admire: love for men, love above all for His Father. Because the
charity of the Incarnate Word does not only come down to us: "Behold this
Heart that has so loved men", it also rises to the Blessed Trinity with its
tribute of love.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart, understood in this way, makes possible a rich
synthesis in which are harmonized the glory due the Creator and the
interests of the creature. In the Eudist cult, theocentrism and
anthropocentrism, to use terms now in vogue, have embraced each other in a
kiss of peace. From the Heart of Christ, the love and praise of humanity
rise purihed and sanctihed to the Father; from the Father, in their turn,
descend grace and charity for men, through the Sacred Heart of His Son.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart as proposed by John Eudes is more complicated
than that of Margaret Mary and it could not win, in a few years, the world
wide popularity enjoyed by the cult of Paray. The masses, it has been said,
are instinctively attracted to the most simple devotions and, as at Paray
"preference in the devotion to the Heart of the Man-God is given to what is
human", so it is not surprising that the faithful as a whole are drawn by
the Paray form of the devotion. Here, again, let us seek to unite rather
than to divide.
Devotion to Mary
It is claimed that devotion to Mary leads to the cult of Jesus. The
opposite is equally true. The French School, so devoted to the Word
Incarnate, could not be unmindful of His Mother. It sees Mary in Jesus and
goes to find Jesus in Mary. In this way Berulle's principles are given a
new practical application.
Jesus, M. Olier has said in substance, following M. Condren, lived in His
Mother in three different ways: physicaly during the nine months within her
virginal womb; sacramentally, by the Eucharist, and this presence ceased
with Mary's last communion on earth; finally, He continues to live in her
mystically, by grace, in a higher degree because our Lady holds a
privileged place in the Mystical Body of which her Son is the head. The
Holy Spirit is constantly at work in Mary in order to communicate to her
dispositions similar to those which He effected in the soul of the Savior.
Nevertheless Jesus dwelt in Mary not only to sanctify her, but also to
sanctify, through her, His Mystical Body. And M. Olier, developing Saint
Bernard's thought, claims that our Lady is indeed the aqueduct through
which we receive graces merited for us by Christ. What sweeter and more
pleasing offering, "can we then make to Jesus than to seek Him in the place
of His delights, in the midst of this furnace of burning love for the good
of all men?" These few lines are an early indication of the future cult of
It will also be remembered that M. Olier composed the well known prayer, "O
Jesus, living in Mary", to help us to find Jesus in Mary. It was Pere de
Condren who supplied the basic elements of this prayer:
"O Jesus living in Mary,
come and live in Your servants,
in the spirit of Your holiness,
in the fullness of Your power,
in the perfection of Your ways,
in the truth of Your virtues,
in the fellowship of Your mysteries;
rule over every adverse power
in Your Spirit for the gfory of the Father."
Let us add that it always pleased the founder of Saint Sulpice to consider
the Virgin-Mother as a pre-figuration of the holy Church whose role it also
is to give Jesus to the world. It was only one step more to reach the
conclusion of the priesthood of Mary but Olier did not take this step. He
said that our Lady was "filled with the plenitude of the spirit of the
priesthood, but did not herself possess the character and consequently
could not herself exercise the functions".
Therefore, there was nothing of the priesthood about her, in the
sacramental sense of the word. Yet if Mary "never exercised these functions
in a visible and sensible manner... yet she did so in a manner befitting
her state, her sex, her quality and her condition as mother".
Thus she shares with God the Father and the Holy Spirit in the temporal
birth of Him who was to be both priest and host, and whom she was to offer
at the Presentation and on Calvary. What the priest does exteriorly and
sensibly, Mary does interiorly. Only in this sense can we speak of a
priesthood of our Lady flowing from her maternity and mediatorial activity.
In this sense Mary also becomes the model of priests and the protector of
the Catholic hierarchy. The French School does not seem to know "the
complementary priesthood", that some claim to discover in the "Catechism of
the Council of Trent."
Devotion to Angels and Saints.
The principle that shapes the French School's devotion to Mary is likewise
evident in its devotion to the angels and saints. Their value, of course,
is measured by God's life in them.
"God, inaccessible in His light, impenetrable in His splendor, reveals
Himself and rejoices in His angels and allows Himself to be adored and
admired in them. He is like a king who opens his robe or his cloak so that
all may see and marvel. The angels may be compared to many organs, each one
according to its state and magnificence yielding God's holy music, some
more, some less. Each one honors Him in its own degeee and in all the
fullness of its bdng, so that its whole being seems to find expression in
This text from the pen of M. Olier with all its charming poetry may be
felicitously applied to devotion to the saints, as he does. Jesus' life in
their souls was intense. In them He left the imprint of one of His virtues.
The saints are therefore mirrors of the Word Incarnate. Let us follow their
example and correspond, as they did, to grace.
Among the favorite saints of the French School must be cited those who came
very close to the Incarnate Word and became His intimates: Saint Joseph
holds an eminent place; Saint Mary Magdalene and the Apostles.
DIFFERENT STATES OF LIFE
The French School speaks of three states of life: the priesthood, the
religious state, the marriage state.
The masters of the French School intended not merely to found seminaries,
they also wished their disciples to receive a sacerdotal spirituality. Here
we can give only the essentials of their teaching.
It was the hypostatic union that made Jesus the priest par excellence. In
becoming man, the Word gave human nature an unction that consecrated Christ
priest forever. From this ineffable unction flows the priestly character
that the priests of the New Law receive at the moment of their ordination,
with this difference: our title of priest is adventitious, that of Jesus is
not. Jesus is priest by essence; the priest of this world acquires this
quality, keeping, at the same time, his first personality. Christ did not
become a priest. He always was one. Yet, despite this difference which we
must always keep in mind, our sacerdotal character confers upon us with its
special graces, all Christ's sanctifying powers. So true is this that it
can be said: "The priest is another Christ". "Sacerdos alter Christus."
Now, Jesus in virtue of His priesthood, writes Bourgoing, has three
principal intentions which he calls His three-fold regard. He looks "to God
the Father to glorify Him; to self for sacrifice; to souls for their
To glorify God was the constant preoccupation of Jesus the priest. The
glory of the Father and the desire for our redemption moved Him to come on
earth to endure the loneliness of the hidden life, the fatigues of the
public ministry, the sufferings of the cross. In giving us His body in the
Eucharist, He wishes to transform us, after His example, into a host of
praise for time and eternity. The priest must make his own this death and
this praise, in his fervent celebration of holy Mass, in the attentive
recitation of divine office offered in the name of the Mystical Body, in
the punctual performance of liturgical functions.
If Jesus the High Priest turns first to the Father to glorify Him, He turns
next to Himself "to sacrifice Himself". This is the celebrated theory of P.
de Condren that Christ's whole life was a sacrifice comprising the five
phases he deemed necessary.
This sacrifice continues even in heaven where Jesus, interceding for us,
offers His Father the marks of His wounds. It continues in a mysterious
manner each day on our altars. So the priest, continuing Christ's work,
must make his life a perpetual holocaust. He carries out this suffering
program by accepting solitude and chastity, by mortifying himself for the
sake of those who give themselves without restraint to the pleasures of
this life, by sacrificing himself for the souls entrusted to him.
Finally, like Christ, the priest must turn "to souls in order to santify
them." Love of God begets love of souls. A man is not a priest for
himself, but for others. Therefore the priest must be expendable, that is
to say, free from all attachments and disposed to fulfill without a murmur
all the ministries ecclesiastical authority may confide to him. He ought to
go to all souls, without making any distinction, place himself at their
disposition, spend himself without reserve, adapt himself to every
situation, accept all restrictions and never forget that his apostolate
will be truly fruitful inasmuch as it is a true expression of his interior
Such is the sacerdotal spirituality of the French School-- a summary far
too brief because of limitations of time and space.
Although religious life is on a plane lower than that of the priesthood,
because it does not enjoy a sacramental character and the powers of Christ
himself, Berulle writes that it is one of "the most delightful parts of the
Church". He is so convinced of the truth of this statement that he spent
much time and overcame many difficulties to bring about the establishment
of the Carmelites in France and the reformation of many convents. Later he
devoted many leisure hours to the daughters of Saint Teresa whom he brought
from Spain. He guided them personally; and in letters he explained his
ideas about religious life.
This life has two aspects, depending on whether it is predominantly active
or contemplative. If contemplative life is superior to active life, the
latter is not to be despised, as is sometimes the case.
"They deceive themselves who hold too lowly an opinion of active life and
of the work of Martha. God is great... and what He looks at becomes
Furthermore, it must be remembered that for many years the active life was
the life of our Lady herself. Yet contemplative life ranks higher because
in it the soul is concerned with Jesus directly and not merely with ways of
serving Him. If exterior work helps to increase our accidental reward, as
far as the essential reward is concerned, merit grows with charity. It is
also a sign, and one of greater significance than to be comp]acent because
one has renounced everything that concerns this present life for divine
contemplation, the total gift of self. That is why Berulle, then confined
in a holy retreat, writing to Pere Coton said: "I take upon myself, as I
must, the occupations of Martha, but I honor the more Magdalene alone and
one with Jesus, as He is in heaven".
In fact Berulle is convinced that the ideal is to unite active and
contemplative life, one helping and strengthening the other. We act in
order to love better. We love in order to act better. He agrees with Saint
Thomas that to give light to others is more perfect than to keep it for
one's self. For this reason he wishes those contemplatives, who can give no
exterior form to the exercise of their zeal, at least shall have an active
prayer embracing all the universal Church's great interests. He would
banish self-occupation and a feverish desire for perfection in which
refined egoism so often hides.
Religious should unite mortification and prayer because the cross must be
well known by those who serve and daily adore a crucified God." Without
the cross it would be impossible to divest one's self of self in order to
put on Christ. Yet this is the ideal to which the consecrated soul must
tend. Her consecration orients her to Jesus and to the Father. Her vows cut
her off from the world and from herself; mind, will, heart, life, strength,
time--she has given them all. Her role, as her name indicates, is to link
earth with heaven. To contemplative souls, Berulle gives for a model Jesus
in the Eucharist.
He writes: "Jesus is more cloistered there than are many religious". His
obedience is manifested when He goes
"to a definite spot, at the word of a priest, contenting Himself with the
place He is given, never making any change of His own accord... He makes
profession of poverty in many places where He is treated in so lowly a
fashion that it is evident that He is the same God who was born at
Bethlehem in a stable... As far as purity is concerned, of this He makes
special profession, keeping perfectly free from all things of sense... In
regard to his interior occupation it is ceaselessly turned to God."
Strengthened by the Eucharist, formed by Jesus along these lines, occupied
in His praises, the consecrated soul attains its goal. It ceases to be,
according to the fine words of a disciple of the French School, anything
but a heart to love God, an intelligence to understand Him, a will to serve
Him, an eye to look at Him, a hand to grasp Him, a tongue to sing in
adoration of all His splendor and mercy.
The Marriage State
This state is often ridiculed yet it is holy for it represents the union of
Christ with His Church. For this reason it should not be lightly embraced
and Saint John Eudes lists fifteen causes of unhappy marriages. Here, as
elsewhere, he claims that he has limited himself only to the most
important. In addition to the bad points, he makes a list of the good.
These number twelve. Let us recall what are, or seem to us to be, the most
Before marriage, time must be given to "prayer, spiritual reading,
almsgiving... invocations to our Lady, consultations with prudent advisors
and with one's own heart". Contrary to the custom of his day he disapproved
of marriages for money, position or those in which there was too great a
difference in age between the two parties. Finally, he declared that one
must make haste slowly and get off to a good start if one wishes to come to
the end of a married life with hands filled with happiness and the soul
filled with merit.
A chaste courtship, neither too long, nor too short, should precede a
marriage whose "ceremony should be very simple" "without a magnificent
bridal party (whose only purpose is vain display) and a wedding banquet
excessive in quantity and duration."
Husbands and wives must observe decorum in their relations with one
another, free from false shame and immodesty. They must substitute no
shameful purpose for the primary end of marriage: the procreation of
The baptism of these little ones should not be delayed; their education
should be careful, neither severe nor indulgent; their instruction in the
Christian faith should be thorough. Later, they must be advised about a
career or a vocation, but this must be done "prudently, lest they be
constrained against their will". In this matter parents "ought not claim an
authority that belongs to God alone, neither should they dissuade those who
have received this vocation."
Saint Jean Eudes also counsels young married couples as to the best means
of guarding and increasing their happiness: being attentive to each other,
ignoring or gently correcting each other's faults, never giving rude orders
to one another, obeying with alacrity but without servility. He wishes
women to avoid anything that might seem exaggerated or negligent in their
Knowing the emptiness of a childless home, he urges young couples without
children to treat the poor with tenderness. Lastly, and on this point modem
medical experience would be in agreement, he discouraged the hasty
consummation of a marriage contracted after excessive emotion or
All this bears the mark of wisdom. Yet the writings of the French School do
not contain the wealth of material on this subject that is found in the
various works of Saint Francis of Sales. M. Olier and even the serious-
minded Tronson allude in their letters to happy and unhappy marriages and
to the duties of husband and wife. But these men merely give some
principles and do not always make applications. They agree, however, with
the Bishop of Geneva on many points and they do not fail to disapprove of
those who "live in the world more severely than they would in a cloister
and who multiply spiritual exercises incompatible with their position."
With Moliere, too, they agree that even in the state of marriage, and above
all in this state, devotion should be "humane and agreeable."
The French School of Spirituality is basically scriptural and dogmatic, of
this the preceding pages are proof. It is the application of the inspired
teaching of Saint John and Saint Paul. It exploits, as they did, with the
additional light of great theologians, the doctrine of the Mystical Body
which is, with good reason, so dear to our contemporaries. This explains,
what we may call, the School's moderation, vigor, security and the
elevation--a little aristocratic, we must admit--of its views.
The preceding pages will also have shown that Bremond is correct when he
claims that this spirituality is not only "theocentric", because this is
true, is it not, of all forms of Catholic spirituality? It is also
"Christocentric", or if the term be preferred, Christological. Everything
depends on Christ who is the foundation, the cornerstone and the pinnacle.
Were we to suppose, by way of hypothesis that the Incarnation had never
taken place, the spiritual doctrine of our masters would lose its meaning
and would become unthinkable. To them, Christianity is not so much a
system, nor a deduction of philosophical principles, nor is it in origin
deistic and more or less profane, but it is a Person: Jesus Christ.
For this to be true Christ's Spirit must prevail. We have seen that all the
exercises of piety have this as their goal. It is this that gives singular
unity to spiritual life. No fragmentation, no small or strange devotions,
nothing that does not flow directly from Scripture or dogma. It is just
what Thomas Aquinas wished: a great current, carrying everything wholly to
Why the daily practice of prayer? To watch Jesus live and to make His
virtues our own. Why Mass and Communion? To realize the antithesis of life
and death, as Saint Paul points out, which leads to the conquest of the
"new man", that is to say the gradual establishment in our soul of the
spirit and sentiments of the Incarnate Word who dies and is risen. Why
union with Christ in thc duties of our state? To perform them perfectly for
God's glory, as Jesus would, were He in our place and still living on
earth. Why mortification? To "divest" ourselves, to prepare an inner
emptiness and make room for Jesus. Why the particular examan? To regulate
our adherence, the "use" we have made of Jesus, the way we imitated Him and
modeled our exterior conduct on His. Why confession? To restore in us the
image of Jesus, if it has been effaced by sin and to make it shine with
greater brilliance if we have not lost grace.
Why this love for our neighbor and for the apostolate? Because Christ
dwells in every man, or at least every man is potentially "a capacity of
God". If Jesus lives in my brother by grace, I ought to honor Him; if His
life there is growing weak, I ought to try to arouse my brother from his
tepidity; if mortal sin has driven Him away, I must try to bring Him back
by word, example, prayer and sacrifice. Why finally suffering and death? To
enable us, as Bossuet explains, to renew for ourselves the drama of
Through suffering and death Jesus had to pass to perform His priestly act
and return to His Father. Through suffering and death, the Christian
reproduces and prolongs Christ's life on earth, following in His footsteps
so as to continue amid the delights of heaven, His adoration and praise of
Everything, in fact, must lead to the Father, everything must be done "by
Jesus, in Him, and with Him" in endless adoration. Coming from the Father,
it is to the Father that mankind must return. The world of souls is on the
march and no one should ever forget that men, all men, guided by their
pastors, having eaten Christ's body, having drunk His blood, animated by
His Holy Spirit, in all their divine glorv must form an immense host that
will at last be offered to the glory of the adorable Trinity.
Nothing then is impossible to the man who gives Himself without reserve to
What, then is man? Let us recall the definition given by Berulle.
"Man is an angel. He is an animal. He is a miracle. He is a center. He is a
world. He is a god. He is nothing surrounded by God. He is in need of God.
He is capable of God and filled with God, if he wishes.
If he wishes! It is up to us to wish this."
In the school of our spiritual leaders of the seventeenth century, is this
really so difficult?
1. Condren's "neantisme" is sometimes exaggerated. However, it must be
admitted, as Louis COGNET points out (La Spiritalite franfaise au XVIIe
siecle) that Condren pays much less attention than does Berulle to the
vestiges remaining in man of his lost greatness and he often speaks of
sacrifice where Berulle speaks of adoration. Because the creature, "a
nothingness" of nature and grace, according to Condren, he can give glory
to God only in annihilating himself. "Annihilation is meant in the real and
strict sense in regard to the 'old Adam' but this can be no true
annihilation in regard to nature taken in itself, for this would be
suicide... In fact it is a question of a metaphor which leads to the idea
of depersonalization: we must cease to be ourselves so that the spirit of
Jesus may live and act in us."
We also believe, with M. Cognet, that in minimizing the idea of
"exemplarism", an idea dear to the founder of the Oratory, and in so
stressing the idea of annihilation that he makes it the pivot of his
system, Condren has, to a certain extent, shifted the axis of Berulle's
2. The extracts of Berulle are taken from the Migne edition, corrected when
necessary by the edition made by Bourgoing. Olier is cited according to
Migne and the chapters of his works are given; Saint Jean Eudes is usually
cited according to the edition prefaced by P. Lebrun.
3. OLIER, "Pietas Seminarii," chapter 1.
4. OLIER, "Catechisme chretien," Part I, lesson 20.
5. COGNET, "La Spiritualite francaise au XVIIe siecle," p. 57.
6. OLIER, "Memoires," 85.
7. BERULLE, "Opuscules de piete," 37 and 38.
8. BERULLE, "Oeuvres," 926.
9. BOURGOING, "Preface aux oeuvres de Berulle," Migne, 102-103.
10. BOSSUET, "Sermon sur le culte de Dieu," Ed. Lebarq, 5: 105-108.
11. BERULLE, "Oeuvres," 1418.
12. "Oeuvres," 1210.
13. "Esprit de M. Olier," 110.
14. BERULLE, "Oeuvres," 183.
15. OLIER, "Traite des Saints Ordres," III Part, chapter 6.
16. On the motive of the Incarnation, Berulle holds the Thomist position,
while most of his disciples are, at least implicitly, Scotists.
17. OLIER, "Catechisme chretien," Part I, lesson 20.
18. OLIER, "Introduction a la vie chretienne," chapter 3.
19. BERULLE, "Oeuvres," 921.
20. OLIER, "Introduction a la via chretienne," chapter 3.
21. BERULLE, "Oeuvres," 1653.
22. BERULLE, "Oeuvres," 1053.
23. "Penses choisies," M. OLIER, p. 37.
24. Epistle to Romans, 5, 3-4.
25. OLIER, ""Introduction a la vie chretienne," chapter 11.
26. The complete text is given in chapter II, section 9, ibid.
27. "Introduction," chapters 5, 6, 11 and 13.
28. BERULLE, ""Oeuvres," 1164.
29. BERULLE, ""Oeuvres," 1137. Berulle here agrees with the humanist point
of view. "It has been given to man to have what he wants and to be what he
wished." (Picolo de la Mirandola, "Oratio de dignitate hominis," p. 116).
The only divergence concerns the act of the will.
30. OLIER, "Introduction a la via chretienne," chapter 4. "Catechisme
chretien," part 2, lesson 6-8.
31. "Summa Theologica" I; qu. 16, art I. BERULLE, "Disc. Grand" 2,1, p.
32. BERULLE "Disc. Grand" 2,1, p. 170.
33. We do not believe that it is possible to draw from the "Epistle to the
Hebrews, the idea of "a true sacrifice in heaven", without doing violence
to the test. The author of this epistle who so insisted on the unique
character of the sacrifice of Calvary could not dream of a heavenly
sacrifice truly distinct from the Cross. He believes simply that Jesus
offered Himself "in an eternal spirit" (9: 14) and that His will to
oblation remains forever. (cf.SPICQ O.P. "L'Epitre aux Hebreux," Collection
Etudes Bibliques, Paris, 1952).
34. LEPIN, "Idee du sacrifice de la Messe," P. 462. On this complex
question P. DE LA TAILLE, "Mysterium Fidei;" then examine the solid and
provocative suggestions of J. GALY, "Le Sacrifice d'apres l'Ecole
francaise" of which a summary is given in "Revue d'ascetique et de
mystique" (October 1950.) (Tr. See also, E Walsh, "The Priesthood in the
writing of the French School, pp. 107-112.
35. Saint JEAN EUDES, "Royaume de Jesus," p. 466.
36. Explication des "Ceremonies de la Grand-Messe de paroisse," Book 6,
chapter 2; "Catichisme chretien," and part lesson 3, "Journee chretienne."
"Occupations interieures pendant le Saint Sacrifice."
37. "Esprit de M. Olier," I pp. 183-285.
38. OLIER, "Pietas Seminarii," chapter 9.
39. "Le Sacerdoce et le Sacrifice "p. 335.
40. BRILLET, "Commentaire inedit de la priere: O Jesu vivens in Maria."
41. JOSEPH DE GUIBERT, S. J. "Theologia spiritualis ascetica et mystica,"
Gregorian University Press, Rome, p. 93. Cf. "The Theology of the Spiritual
Life," translated by Paul Barrett, O.F.M. Cap., Sheed and Ward 1953.
42. OLIER, "Oeuvres" 1245.
43. "Esprit De M. Olier," 1, Chapter 2, article 2.
44. J. GAUTTIER, "L'Esprit de l'Ecole francaise de spiritualite" (Lib.
Bloud et Gay.)
45. J. DECREAU, "L'Ami du Clerge," June 9, 1946.
46. M. OLIER, "Pensees choises," p. 166; "Oeuvres," Migne 1106; "Recueil
Manuscript, p. 64; "Traite des Saints Ordersn PP. 664-666.
47. OLIER, "Sentiments sur les grandeurs au Saint Joseph," Migne, 1286 ff.
48. A far more complete explanation of the French School's sacerdotal
spirituality may be found in M. POURRAT'S "Le Sacerdoce" and in our
introduction to the new edition of "Traite des Saints Ordres" (La Colombe).
49. BOURGOING, "Preface des Oeuvres de Berulle," p. 103.
50. BERULLE, "Oeuvres," 1308.
51. BERULLE, "Oeuvres," p. 1114.
52. "Lettres," 1334.
53. "Lettres," 1345.
54. BERULLE, "Rapport de J. C. au Saint-Sacrement avec les principaux
points de l'etat religieux," "Oeuvres," 1060.
55. JEAN EUDES. These wise recommendations are far in advance of their
time. They appear in "La Vie du Chretien." Consult chapters 21 and 22.
56. "Tartuffe," act 1, scene 5.