Skip to main content

Full text of "The life of Jean-Jacques Olier, founder of the Seminary of St. Sulpice [microform]"

See other formats

W \T #. 






1.25 II 

^1^ 1^ 

■^ Ui 12.2 
^ US. 12.0 











<^, ^M, 







(716) 879^503 





Collection de 

Canadian lns*itute for Historical IVIinroraproductions / Institut Canadian de microreproductions ^istoriques 

Tfchnical and Bibliographic Notaa/Notaa tachniquaa at bibiiograpliiquaa 


Tha Inatituta has attvmptad to obtain tha baat 
original copy availabia for filming. Faaturaa of thia 
copy which may ba bibliographicaliy unlqua, 
wliich may altar any of tha imagaa in tha 
raproduction, or which may aignificantiy changa 
tha uaual mathod of filming, ara chaclcad balow. 


Colcurad covara/ 
Couvartura da coulaur 

Covara damagad/ 
Couvartura andommagte 

Covara raatorad and/or laminated/ 
Couvartura raataurAa at/ou pelliculAa 

Covar titia miaaing/ 

La titra da couvartura manqua 

Coloured mapa/ 

Cartaa gAographiquaa an coulaur 

CoSourad ink (i.a. other than blue or blacky 
Encra da coulaur (i.e. autre que bleue ou noire) 

Coloured piatea and/or iiiuatrationa/ 
Planchaa at/ou illustrations en couleur 

Bound with other material/ 
RaiiA avac d'autrea documents 

Tight binding nay cauae shadowa or distortion 
along interior margin/ 

Lareliure serrte peut cauaar da I'ombre ou de la 
diatortion la long de la marge IntArieure 

Blank leaves added during restoration may 
appear within the text. Whenever possible, these 
have been omitted from filming/ 
II se peut que certainaa pagea bianchea ajout^aa 
lore d'une reatauration apparaiaaant dana la taxte, 
mala, lorsqua cela Atait po8Sibi<a, caa pagee n'ont 
pea 4tA flim6es. 

L'Instltut a microfilm^ la maiiieur exempiaira 
qu'il lui a 4t4 poaaibia de se procurer. Les ditaila 
da cat exempiaira qui sont paut-Atre uniquaa du 
point de vue bibliographique, qui peuvent modifier 
une image reproduite, ou qui peuvent exiger une 
modification dana la mithoda normale de filmage 
acnt indiquto ci-daaaoua. 




Coloured pagea/ 
Pages de couleur 

Pages damaged/ 
Pages endommagtea 

Pages restored and/or laminated/ 
Pages restaurAes et/ou pelliculAes 

Pages discoloured, stained or foxed/ 
Pages dteolorAes, tachettea ou piqutes 

Pages detached/ 
Pagea dAtachAes 


Quality of print varies/ 
Quality in^gale da I'impi-easion 

Includes supplementary material/ 
Comprend du materiel suppKnr.entaire 

Only edition available/ 
Seuie Mition diaponible 

Pages wholly or partially obscured by errata 
slips, tissues, etc., have been refilmed to 
ensure the best possible image/ 
Lea pagea totalement ou partiallement 
obscurciea par un feuillet d'errata, une pelure, 
etc., ont <t4 fiimtoa A nouveau Q» fapon A 
obtenir la mellleure image poaaibia. 






m comments:/ 
Commentairea supplAmantaires: 

Various pagingi. 

This item is filmed at tha ivJuction ratio checked below/ 

Ce document eat filmA au taux de reduction indiquA ci-deaaoua. 














Th« copy film«<! h«r« has b««n r«produe«d thanks 
to tha ganarosity of: 

St Paul University 

L'axampiaira fiimi fut raproduit ^rica k la 
gAnArcait^ da: 

UnivanitA St-Paul 

Tha imagaa appaaring hara ara tha baat quality 
possibia conaidaring tha condition and lagibility 
of tha original copy and in Icaaping with tha 
lilming contract rpacifications. 

Original copiaa in printad papar covars ara fllmad 
baginning with ttw front eovar and ar^ding on 
tha laat paga with a printad or iliuatratad impraa- 
sion, or tha back covar wh«»n appropriata. All 
othar original copiaa ara filmad baginning on tha 
firat p«<ga with a printad or iliuatratad impraa- 
tion, and anding on tha laat paga with a printad 
or ii!iiatratad impraaaion. 

Tha laat racord*d frama <m aaeh mieroflcha 
shall contain tha symbol «^ (moaning "CON- 
TINUED"), or tha symbol "7 (maaning "END"), 
.vhichavar appiias. 

Las imagas auivantas ont Ati raproduitas avac la 
plus grand soin, compta tanu da la condition at 
da la nattat* da l'axampiaira film«, at an 
coiformitA avac lus conditions du contrat da 

Las axampiairaa uriginaux dont la couvartura an 
papiar cat imprimAa sont fiimis an commandant 
par la pramiar plat at an tarininant soit par ia 
darnlAra paga qui comporta una amprainta 
d'impraasion ou d'illustration. soit par la sacond 
plat, salon ia caa. Toua las autras axampiairaa 
originaux sont fiimte mn commandant par !a 
pramiAra paga qui comporta una amprainta 
d'impraasion ou d'illuatration at an tarminant par 
la darnlAra paga qui comporta una taila 

Un daa symboias suhranta apparattra sur la 
darniAra imaga da chaqua microf!cha, salon la 
caa: la symbols — »• signifia "A SUIVRE". la 
symbols V signifia "FIN". 

IMapa, piatas, charts, ate., may be filmad at 
diffarant raduction ratioa. Thoaa too larga ta ba 
ontiraly includad ir. ona axpoaura ara filmad 
baginning in tha uppar laft hand cornar, laft to 
right and top tc bottom, aa many framas aa 
raquirad. Tha following diagrama illuatrata tha 

Laa cartas, planchas. tablaaux, ate. pauvant Atra 
filmAa A das taux da reduction diffArants. 
Lorsqua la documant aat trop grand pour Atra 
raproduit an un saul clichA. il ast fiimA A partir 
da I'angia supAriaur gaucha. da gaucha A droita. 
at da iMut an baa, mn pranant la nombra 
d'imagaa nAcaeaaira. Laa diagrammas suivanta 
iliustrant la mAthoda. 

12 3 








* ■ 


O "D 



0) • 

■o — 

C 0) 


o -o 

•+- c 



J- 5 


(D Q) 


— z 


— > > 


o u^ 




(0 <1> CO 


0) U f- 


3 — 


cr Q- • 

o — (n 

(0 3 0) 


-3 in +■ * 


i .85 


o5 4- rok 


o (n T3 CM 


-3 C 

M- (0 


H- O • 


O CO Q. 


>. C 00 


(1) 1. L. OJ 


M- (0 D vO 


.- C QD 

_ •— t 


E • > 


0) <D C X 

x: CO o X 


H -ox 






t- M LTv 


CD O- O T- 


































• ^" 







'<t . 4' i'- 

■ f "A. 

A:, n 



^ii)il obBtat 


D/e SI'"" Mail, 1885. 

Eduardus S. Keogh, C^«^. Ora(. 
Censor Deputatus. 

Henricus Edqardus, 
Card. Archiei), Westmonast. 

*** Any profits that may be derived from the sale of 
this book will be applied in aid of ecclesiastical 








Tempui est ut incipiat judicium a domo Dei. 

1 Pet. iv. 17. 

ilitljj antj €nlars£ti ©tiition 





Granville Mansions, Orchard Street, Portman Square. 

















THIS Life of the holy Founder of the Community and Seminary 
of St. Sulpice is grounded ahiiost entirely on the great work 
of the Abbe Faillon, which may justly be styled one of the most 
complete and exhaustive biographies which were ever written. That 
work was first published in two volumes, but was subsequently 
extended by the author into three ; and it is on the lines of this 
enlarged edition that the present Life has been constructed. 

In utilising the materials so abundantly provided, the writer, while 
abridging or condensing some of the numerous extracts from M. 
Oiler's writings which admitted of compression, or incorporating 
the substance of them in the narrative, has proceeded uniformly on 
tlie plan of giving all interesting details, whether historical or per- 
sonal, and has not unfrequently introduced into the body of the 
work some of the striking traits contained in the copious notes with 
wliich M. Faillon's volumes are furnished. To represent the man 
and his mission in the world, — to bring out in full relief the idea 
with whifh he was possessed and the principles by which he was 
guided, — has been his main endeavour ; he has, moreover, made it 
a special object to preserve what constitutes an attractive feature in 
the original work, the notices of M. OUer's contemporaries, many of 
whom were persons not only distinguished for eminent spiritual 
attainments, but favoured with high supernatural gifts, and has been 
careful to retain all such incidental particulars as serve to illustrate 
the state of -eligion in France and what may be called the religious 
habits of society at the time. For this reason, among others, he has 
given in foot-notes a short account of some among the most famous 
shrines of our Lady and other places of pilgrimage which were the 
objects of popular devotion ; and it has been a matter of no slight 
interest to him to observe in how many instances that devotion has 



in the present day re-nssumecl its ancient forms in defiance of the 
prevailing impiety and unbelief. 

M. I'aillon enjoyed one inestimable advantage, as corr; pared with 
M. Olier's previous biographers, in having access to the Mhnoires 
wliich the servant of God composed in obedience to his director, the 
I'erc Hat.iille ; a task which he performed with all the simplicity and 
sincerity of a child. These Memoires were of two kinds : one 
recording the lights vouchsafed him on a variety of religious sub- 
jects ; the other containing, together with many notable passages of 
his liio, a particular account of the dealings of God with his soul, 
his interior trials and su[)ernatural favours, and the mysterious ways 
by which he was prepared and fashioned by Divine grace for his 
extraordinary mission. The first was composed with the persuasion 
that it would one day be jmblished, and serve to the edification of 
souls ; the second was Intended for the eyes of his director alone, a 
fact which it is necessary to note, as explaining why we find him 
entering into so many personal details, and employing terms which, 
but for the positive command of his spiritual guide, would have 
been repugnant to the humility of one who regarded himself with so 
little esteem. Each sheet, as it was written, was put into P. 
Bataille's hands, who, after the death of his saintly penitent, com- 
mitted the whole of the papers to the keeping of the Directors of 
the Seminary. 

In the latest edition of his wcrk M. Faillon was enabled to make 
use of some Important materials with which he was previously 
unacquainted, and which came into his possession in a remarkable 
manner. Frequent mention is made in this history of the holy 
widow, Marie Rousseau, to whose prayers and counsels M. Olier 
was so deeply indebted in the matter both of his conversion and of 
his vocation, and who took so prominent a part iri the establishment 
of the Seminary and the reformation of the parish of St. Sulplce. 
In his Memoires the servant of God had said that by order of her 
director, the P^re Bataille, who, as we have seen, was also his own, 
she had set down many things in writing ; but her papers were 
supposed to have perished, as none of M. Olier's biographers, not 
even M. de Bretonvllliers, had mentioned them, and no allusion 
had been made to them by other Sulpicians in later times. They 
were destined, however, in the good Providence of God, to be 
recovered by what seemed the merest accident. M. Faillon was 
meditating the preparation of a new edition of his vork when, in 



1867, an ecclesiastic who had been a student of the Seminary, dis- 
nppointcd at not finding a certain Director whom he wislicd to 
consult, enquired what other j)riests were in the house, as he was 
unwilling to leave without conferring with some one on the matter 
about which he had come. He was accordingly referred to the 
Abbd Faillon, wh )m lie had not seen for thirty years. In the 
course of a conversation which appeared to have nothing in it of 
interest to a man of studious habits like the Abbe, the ecclesiasiic in 
question happened to remark that the lUhliothlniue Nationale pos- 
sessed the manuscript Memoires of Marie Rousseau, an announce- 
ment which took M. Faillon by surprise, as ho had instituted a 
diligent search for any materials which might be available for his 
projected work. Even then he experienced considerable difliculty 
in finding the precious writings, as they were not entered in the 
catalogue of the Library under their proper heading. At length his 
efforts were crowned with success, and he had the satisfiction of 
seeing lying before him no less than thirteen manuscript volumes in 
quarto, each containing from a thousand to twelve hundred closely 
written pages. The handwriting, rot always Marie's own but that 
of her amanuensis, was hard to decipher, the style was rugged and 
confused, and no order was observed in the choice of subjects, 
which had been jotted down day by day just as they were suggested 
to her mind, without any regard either to method or to sequence. 
Nothing daunted, however, by the difficulty of the task, M. Faillon 
read the papers through and, pen in hand, made such extracts as ' 
deemed suitable for his purpose; and with them he enriched his 
last and greatly enlarged edition of M. Olier's Life.* 

Marie Rousseau had delivered her writings to P. Bataille, paper 
by paper, as each was finished, but, on his quitting the Abbey of St. 
Germain and, indeed, the Reform of St. Maur itself, he, by order 
of the Chancellor, Pierre S^'guier, who had himself often profited by 
the lights of the saintly widow, restored them to her. She subse- 
quently consigned them to the charge of the Chancellor, at whose 
death they passed into the possession of his grandson, Henri-Charles 
du Cambout-Coislin, Bishop of Metz. This prelate, who was the 
Abb^ commendataire of St. Germain - des - Pres, bequeathed the 
manuscripts to that wealthy abbey, wealthy no less in its literary 

The work vas completed by M. Faillon and got ready for press, but was not 
given to the world till after his death, which took place on October 25th, 1870. 
It was published in 1873. 




stores than its temporal possessions, from which at the Revolution 
they were transferred, with all the other contents of the abbatial 
library, to the Bibliothbque Nationale. 

The writings extended from the year 1640 to the year 1649, the 
very interval of time during which M, Olier composed his own 
Mtmoires ; and some things which he had not mentioned, o** had 
not explained, were related or were elucidated by this singularly 
gifted woman, Especially was this the case in respect to certain 
interesting details concerning the persona! history of the servant of 
God and, above all, to his extraordinary successes in reforming the 
vast suburb of Paris so notorious for its immorality and imniety. 

The present writei feels that he will have done good service if the 
account which he has here given of the life and labours of this great 
man — his eminent virtues and marvellous gifts — shall induce the 
reader to peruse or, lather he would say, to study M. Faillon's admi- 
rable work. It is no common biography. Replete as it is with a great 
variety of n. jving incidents, it is a verv mine of spiritual wealth. 
The notes which are affixed to every chapter would themselves 
form an interesting and instructive volume. " It is a book," wrote 
Cardinal Wiseman to the Abb^ Faillon, " which cannot be read too 
often, and which may always be read with renewed profit. Accept, 
then, the assurance of my lively gruMtude for the very great service 
you have rendered to the clergy and to the Church by your valuable 

That the spirit of M. Olier still lives a-id reigns in the Seminary 
which he founded, will be evident to any one who will make himself 
acquainted with the biographies of some among the many holy men 
who in recent times h.*ve illustrated the Community by their deep 
spirituality, fervenc piety, and sacerdotal zeal, as well as by their 
solid learning : e.g. M. Mollevaut, Superior of the Solitude ; M. 
Hamon, Cure of St. Sulpice; M. de Courson, 12th Superior General 
of the Seminary j M. Teysseyrre, Founder of the Petite Commutiauti 
des Clercs de Saint-Sulpice ; and M. Faillon himself, autlior of many 
biographical and histo-ical works ; to whom may be added the young 
martyr of the Commune, Paul Seigneret, tonsured clerk and semi- 
narist.* Men animated by such a spirit of devotion and self-sacrifice 
are well fitted to cope Virith and, as it may be hoped, to withstand 
and overcome the machinations and assaults of the atheistic crew 

* See the toucliinor memoir of his life and death, an abrid,£;ed translation of 
which was published by Washbourne in 1873. 

A dvertisenient. 


Olier sur les Vertus 
dont il fut favorise, 

which is permitted by God, whose ways are unsearchable, to sway 
the destinies of France in these deplorable times. 

M. Olier's "Complete Works" werp collected and published by 
the Abbd Migne in 1856. The list is as follows : — 

Introduction \ la Vie et aux Vertus Chrv-itiennes. 

La Journde Chrelienne. 

Explication des Ce'r^monies de la Grand' Messe. 

Cate'chisme Chretien pour la Vie Int^rieure. 

Traite des Saints Ordres. 

Lettres Spiritaelles. (260 in number.) 

Extraits des Memoires manuscripts de M, 

Chrdtiennes et les Graces Particulieres 

recueillis par I'Auteur de sa Vie. 
L'Ef'irit d'un Directeur des Ames. 
Regulae artis artium, quae est regimen animarum. 
Avis salutaires aux Ministres du Seigneur. 
Examen sur les Vertus Chr^tieiines et Eccl^siastiques. 
I-ietas Seminarii. 

Discours sur Saint Frangois de Sales. 
Sentiments sur les Grandeurs de Saint Joseph. 

An additional work entitled Vie Interieure de la TrhSainte 
Vierge, composed of various writings on the virtues, glories, and 
special prerogatives of the Immaculate Mother of God, which were 
found among M. Olier's papers, was published in 1875 with the 
approbation of the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, who declared it to 
be " greatly calculated to inspire souls with devotion to the Blessed 
Virgin and to lead them to the imitation of her virtues." An earlier 
edition, which contained passages of a dubious character, was with- 
drawn from circulation aanost immediately after it had been issued. 
Consisting of numerous detached fragments, which had never been 
subjected to the author's revision or prepared by him for publication, 
this collection of writings, loosely put together, attributed to him 
ideas and opinions which he had nevei deliberately adopted, and 
made him responsible for expressions the inaccuracy of which, on 
careful re-perusal, he would have detected and amended. The work, 
as now corrected and bearing the imprimatur of ecclesiastical autho- 
rity, is entirely free from all such blemishes, and is interesting as 
conveying M. Olier's personal views and reflections on the mysteries 
of which it treats. 

V ■ - IcvBHSfW'.IIMIMBI, ».^W!»?PJpWpi!l)(llUl.fHUI.(!«"lfl, (IFiimilM.l IP|IP»1 




The following remain still in manuscript: — i. Traitd des Attri- 
biits de Dieu ; 2. Des saints Anges ; 3, De la Creation dii Monde ; 
4. Le Maltre des Exercises ; 5. Sur I'Oraison Dominicale ; 6. De la 
Vie Divine; 7. Pandgyriques de plusieurs Saints; 8. M^moires, 
9 or 10 volumes. 

The first edition of this biography formed the 20th and concluding 
volume of the series published by Messrs. Burns and Lambert under 
the general title of the "Popular Library," of which the present 
writer was, after the issue of the fi/st four volumes, the sole remain- 
ing editor. 

The present revised and much extended edition was undertaken 
in responsvi to recommendations which had reached the writer from 
more than one influential quarter, together with the expression of an 
earnest desire that the work should not be allowed to fall into 
oblivion. He has therefore ventured to reproduce it in a form more 
worthy of its subject and better calculated, as he hopes, to engage 
the attention of the English-speaking public. 

He trusts he may be excused for citing here the gratifying testi- 
mony to the merits of the first edition, which he received from the 
late Very Reverend Paul Dubreul, D D. Superior of the Seminary 
of St. Sulpice at Baltimore, U.S., including as it does a spontaneous 
expression of approval on the part of the Abbd Faillon himself. 
The letter from which the following extract is made is dated May 
2ist, 1865. 

"Allow me to address to you the sincere thanks of the 
Community over which I preside for the real service you have 
rendered to the English-speaking clergy by the two very inte- 
resting Lives which you published some time ago : one of St. 
Charles Borromeo and the other of M. Olier. In reading the 
latter, we have felt the happiness of children at finding a per- 
fect likeness of a venerated and beloved father ; and, in listening 
to both your biographies, everyone in the Seminary has pro- 
nounced them to be, not only an excellent contribution to 
English Catholic literature, but a real good work accomplished 
towards the edification lind the sanctification of the clergy. 

" It is grateful to me to add, as it will be to you to know, 
that a few years ago, having among us, in Baltimore, the 




author of M. Oiler's large life, in French, 2 vols., from which 
you have so successfully drawn your own sketch, we read your 
production to him, but at the same time translating it rapidly, 
which, no doubt, detracted much from the eflTect it produces 
on all those who can understand it in English ; nevertheless, 
he expressed himself highly pleased with the work, and I 
remember having heard him say, ^ I like this Life at least 
as much as mv own abridgment.* It is really an excellent 

In conclusion, the writer desires to render his grateful acknowledg- 
ments to the Rev. Father Keogh, of the London Oratory, for his 
kindness in undertaking the office of censor and for the completeness 
with which he has executed his toilsome task ; for, not content with 
bestowing his careful attention on matters which lay within the 
limits of his official cognisance, he has been pleased to extend it to 
the minutest particulars; so that, if the work prove to be excep- 
tionally free even from typographical errors, the result is largely 
owing to his close and patient revision. For this liberal aid the 
writer feels that no ordinary thanks are due. 

Pery Lodge, Cheltenham. 
Feast of Corpus Christi, i2,Z$. 

* This abridgment of M. Faillon's work the present writer has never seen, and 
was not aware of its existence until he received Dr. Dubreul's letter. 

' -*"}<"]* '' H n uwMviwfmififfffmiirif^miimKfiF 




"Bishop's House, Salford, 
''June 1 8///, 1882. 

"My dear Mr. Healy Thompson, — I am very glad to 
hear that you are about to publish a larger and fuller Life of 
M. Olier. Raised up as he was by God to reform the secular 
clergy of France, M. Olier is a character that will always 
repay deep study. The education of the clergy is a work that 
must continue through all time, and those great men who 
have had a special and acknowledged vocation to undertake 
and carry it on in times of great difficulty must always stand 
out as landmarks in the ecclesiastical life of the Church and 
as models for imitation, or, at least, as examples for the en- 
couragement of those who live in another age and in other 

" M. Olier is the type upon which the highest kind of French 
ecclesiastical life has been formed. It has in it much that 
is characteristic of the nation and peculiar to it. There is a 
certain military raideur and precision which belongs to the 
French people, and which always enters into their system of 
training. But, having said this, I have taken the only excep- 
tion I could take against the Life of M. Olier, as a model in 
all respects for the English clergy. Exclude the elements 
which are peculiarly national and French, and all that remains 
is thoroughly appropriate to our present English needs. 

"M. Olier's Life is a perfect mine of ecclesiastical thought 
and suggestion. I wish all our Ecclesiastical Colleges pos- 
sessed many copies of it, so that it might form a kind of text- 
book both for superiors and for ecclesiastical students. 


Letter of the Bishop of Salford. 


" I like treatises on perfection and upon the various virtues, 
and I have read a good many of them ; but I must confess 
that I find nothing so useful, so helpful, and so interesting as 
the study of virtue in the concrete. To read the precepts and 
rules of the ecclesiastical life is, no doubt, profitable, but 
nothing is so apt to influence a person as to see them observed 
and practised in daily life. M. Olier's Life is a treatise on the 
perfection of the sacerdotal life reduced to practice. He was 
go bound by his position to make the ecclesiastical spirit his 
special study, that his Life abounds in the most apposite re- 
marks, in profound reflections, and in most happy suggestions. 
It is the portraiture of the intellectual and spiritual life of a 
saintly man whose distinctive and exclusive vocation was the 
education and elevation of the secular clergy. 

" I consider that your determination to give a lengthened 
and detailed Life of this great servant of God is a very wise 
one. A short Life may suffice for a brilliant historical sketch ; 
it may be all that the multitude will have the time or the 
inclination to read. But the Life which is to work itself 
into the lives of other men, the Life which is to form their 
character and to become the subject of their constant admira- 
tion and imitation, must be detailed, and, so to speak, personal 
to the last degree. I remember, a few years ago, asking Lady 
Herbert to undertake the translation of the Life of the Vene- 
rable Bartholomew de Martyribus by four authors. It was pro- 
posed to cut it down to the dimensions of your first Life of M. 
Olier. I resisted, and urged that it should be given in all its 
fulness of detail, and the consequence has been that Lady 
Herbert's large Life of this wonderful servant of God has 
become a standard work on the ecclesiastical spirit and a perfect 
treasury for Priests and Bishops. 

" Your large Life of M. Olier will become a companion 
Life to that of the holy Archbishop of Braga, and will form 
one of that series of profound works which is much needed in 
England for the formation and perfection of the ecclesiastical 

I feel sure that the English clergy, indeed the clergy of all 




English-speaking countries, will be extremely grateful to you 
for giving them such a work as the one you have now finished. 
"Wishing you every blessing, and with many thanks, believe 
me to be, my dear Mr. Healy Thompson, your faithful and 
devoted servant, 



In obedience to the decrees of Urban VIII. and other Sovereign 
Pontiffs, we declare that all the graces, revelations, and supernatural 
facts related in this work have only a human authoiity, and that, 
in all we have herein written of the holy life and exalted virtues of 
Jean-Jacques Olier, we submit ourselves without reserve to the 
infallible judgment of the Apostolic See, which alone has power and 
authority to pronounce as to whom rightly belong the character and 
title of Saint. 

i i; 



Dedication .... 


Letter of the Bishop of Salford 





Conversion anti Uocatton, 

Early years of M. Olier. His Conversion. 


His parentage ; birth and baptism at Paris. Indications in childhood of his 
future vocation. His singular devotion to the Blessed Virgin. His great 
natural vivacity. Removal of his family to Lyons. He attends the 
classes of the Jesuit Fathers. A perilous feat. He is tonsured and put 
in possession of a benefice when eight years old. Presented to St. 
Francis de Sales, who foretells his future services to the Church. 
Receives the blessing of the dying Saint. Effects of sin on his intel- 
lectual faculties. A narrow escape from drowning. He desires to 
embrace the religious life. Returns with his family to Paris, and enters 
the University. His success at the College d'Harcourt. Attends the 
schools of the Sorbonne. Is made Abbe of Pebrac at eighteen years of 
age ; becomes a fashionable preacher. His worldliness and ambition ; 
distress of his parents. Marie Rousseau : her history and aspirations. 
Her first acquaintance with M. Olier ; his conversion made the subject 
of her prayers. M. Olier goes to Rome to study Hebrew ; his sight 
becomes affected. Makes a pilgrimage to Loreto ; is instantaneously 
cured, and receives the grace of a comulete conversion 






n ii 




Death of his father ; he is summoned home. His mother's treatment of him. 
His heroic charity in instructing the outcasts of Paris and poor scholars. 
Consequent anger and scorn of his relatives and acquaintances. Influ- 
ence of his example. Supports his cousin, Mile, de Bussy, in her deter- 
mination to become a Carmelite nun. His liberality to the church of 
Notre Dame. He kisses the feet and the sores of the poor ; a touching 
instance of this. Avoids all public display. Pilgrimage to Notre Dame 
de Chartres. His secret austerities. Finds a counsellor in the Mere 
Desgranges ; his letter to her. The Mere Agnfes de J^sus is bidden by 
our Lord and His Virgin Mother to intercede for his sanctification. He 
makes several pilgrimages to ascertain his vocation. Sermon at St. 
Paul's, Paris. His vocation ^hown him in a dream. Takes St. Vincent 
de Paul as his director. Is employed by him in giving country missions. 
Prepares for the reception of holy orders ; is ordained priest ; his first 
Mass. Profession of Mile, de Bussy. He vows a perpetual servitude to 
the Blessed Virgin ; his pious veneration of her images. The Conferences 
of St. Lazare ...... . . i8 


Supernatural visit of the M^re AgnI;s de J^sus. Mission in 
AuvERGNE. Attempted Reform of the Abbey of P^brac. 
Death of the M^re Agn^s. 


M. Olier's preparation for evangelizing the parishes dependent on his abbey 
of F^brac ; his associates. Retreat at St. Lazare ; apparition of a 
Dominican nun. Commencement of the mission ; M. Olier's charity 
and zeal ; his great humility. Visit to the convent at Langeac ; recogni- 
tion of the M^re Agn^s ; she announces to him his vocation. Her 
counsels and admonitions. Deplorable state of the Abbey of Pebrac ; 
M. Olier's efforts at reform. Arranges a plan with M. Alain Solminihac. 
Interference of the steward ; the monks appeal to the Cardinal de la 
Rochefoucauld ; the plan for the present defeated. M. Olier opposed 
to the mitigated reform of Ste. Genevieve. Success of the mission in 
Auvergne. The M^re Agnfes takes him for her spiritual guide ; effects 
of their holy intercourse. He is summoned to Paris by the P^re de 
Condren ; takes a last farewell of the M^re Agnis. Her death super- 
naturally revealed to him. Her angel-guardian bequeathed to him as the 
angel of his office. A voice from the Tabernacle consoles him. His 
letter to her bereaved religious. He sells his carriage and horses. Is 
offered a bishopric. Note on the apparition of the M^re Agn^s and on 
her relics ......... 






Extraordinary gifts of this holy man. Testimonies rendered thereto. His gift 
of personal influence ; he is withheld from writing. His disciples. His 
prescriptions respecting the study of Holy Scripture. His advice to 
the Bishop of Comminges. St. Vincent de Paul urges M. Oiier to 
accept the offered bishopric ; P. de Condren has other designs regarding 
him. He is moved to take the Father as his director. His special 
devotion to the Blessed Sa^ iment. His practices of piety to the 
Blessed Virgin ; keeps Saturday as her festival. Declines proceeding to 
the doctorate. Desires to go on the Canadian mission ; is enjoined by 
his director to engage in country missions. Makes a preparatory re- 
treat ; the lights he receives as to Jesus being really present in souls. 
P. de Condren's maxims and form of prayer, subsequently adopted in the 
Seminary of St. Sulpice. Dangerous passage of the Seine . . 


Second Mission in Auvergne. 

M. Olier takes part in a retreat given to the inmates of the Hopital de la Piti^. 
Marriage of his eldest brother. Reproaches of his family. Commence- 
ment of the second Auvergne mission. Fervour of the people. Effects 
of M. Oiler's preaching. His humility, love of poverty, and charity to 
the poor. His way of teaching children. Assiduity in prayer, pen- 
ances, and transports of divine love. His letter imploring an additional 
supply of priests. M. Meyster : particulars of his conversion ; P. de 
Condren's estimation of him. Missions conducted by M. Amelote and 
others. Success of the Auvergne mission ; its permanent elects. Violent 
opposition at P^brac ; M. Olier's life threatened ; subsequent conversion 
of his chief enemy. Co-operation of the country clergy. Conference 
established at Le Puy. M. Olier's self-reproaches and scruples of con- 
science. Instances of his disinterestedness and poverty of spirit. Marie 
de Valence : her devotion to the Adorable Trinity ; constant prayers for 
the secular clergy. M. Olier's alarming illness and remarkable recovery. 
He is visited by his mother and youngest brother. Affection shown 
him by the poor. Death of his sister Marie. Retreat at Tournon ; he 
receives the gift of a higher order of prayer and of a more perfect depen- 
dence on the Spirit of Jesus. Carriage upset in returning to Paris. His 
reception there. M, du Ferrier's account of his mode of life in the 
world, and of the effects produced in him by associating with M. Amelote 
and others. Various missions in and about Paris. A triumph over 
human respect ........ 







The Nuns of La R^:GRn'PikRE. PfcRE Bernard. Pierre de 
Qu^RioLET. Adrien Bourdoise. MISSIONS IN Brittany, 



M. Olier visits his priory of Clisson ; makes frequent pilgrimages to Notre 
Dame de Toute Joie. Tiie convent of La R^grippiire ; irregular lives 
of its inmates. M. Olier takes up his lodging in their hen-house ; agita- 
lion among the nuns. He is invited to preach ; conversion of the Soeur 
de Vauldray and others. Repairs to Nantes ; is detained by illness. 
His spiritual relations witbthe M^re de Bressand and the Soeur Boufard. 
Birth of Louis XIV. ; incident connected therewith. The Soeur Fran« 
9oise-Madeleine de la Roussi^re : miraculous favour vouchsafed to 
her. M. Olier prosecutes the reform of La R^grippiire ; visits the 
Abbey of Fontevrault. Rer.umes his theological studies. Claude Ber- 
nard " the Poor Priest : " his singular character. Pierre de Qu^riolet : 
his evil life and conversion ; his meeting with P. Bernard. Adrien 
Bourdoise : his zeal for the restoration of ecclesiastical discipline. In* 
stance of his pleasantry. His reception of M. Olier and companions. 
Mission at Marchefroy ; a practical sermon. Mission at Illiers; conver- 
sion of the Bellier family. Fran9oise Fouquet : her purity of conscience 
and patience under suffering. M. Olier is nominated Coadjutor to the 
Bishop of Chalons ; declines the offered dignity ; appointment of M. 
Vialar. The associates choose M. Amelote for their superior. Mission 
at Amiens ; conversion of a Swedish colonel and his men ; his death ; 
fervour of the soldiers. The Corporation of the city offer the missioners 
an extraordinary mark of honour. Strange accusation against M. 
Meyster. Mission at Montdidier ; the Illumhihs of Picardy ; their con- 
version. Mission at Mantes ; its results. M. Bourdoise instructs M. 
Olier and his associates in the ceremonies of the Church. The Abb6 
Saint-Cyran tries his arts on them and on M. Bourdoise. Encounter 
between the latter and the Cardinal de Richelieu ; admirable behaviour 
of the Ducbesse d'Aiguillon ...... 




Trials of M. Olier, Interior and Exterior. Death 
of p. de condren. 

M. Olier's aspirations after spiritual perfection. His two petitions to God. 
His extraordinary trials ; withdrawal of spiritual gifts ; suspension of 
bodily and mental powers ; interior darkness and distress ; fears and 
scruples of conscience ; temptations to vainglory. He is contemned 
and derided ; interdicted from preaching and hearing confessions. 
Apparent estrangement of P. de Condren. Marie Rousseau called to 





co-operate in the erection of tlic Seminary and the reformation of the 
p,.ri.-h of St. Sulpice. Takes P. Hataillc as licr director. Ilcr interview 
with r. de Condren ; frfquent communications with him. His long 
conversation with M. du Ferrier ; he discloses to him his designs respect- 
ing hims' If and his associates. His last hours and death ; public recog- 
nitions ot his sanctity. He appears in glory to M. Olier and to M. 
Meyster ...... i . . 


Attf.mpted seminary at Chaktres. Reform of La R^oRiPPikRK 


Failure of the French Oratory in providing ecclesiastical semin.iries ; a matter 
of congratulation. M. Olier and his associates retire to Fpernon. His 
visit to the cathedral at Chartres ; he is partially relieved from his trials. 
Takes as his director M. Picote!;, the first of the associates to be brought 
into close relations with Marie Rousseau. His adventure with highway- 
men. M. Oiler's letter to the Socur de Vauldray on adoring the Will of 
God. Mission at Chartres. The associates fail in founding a seminary 
in that city. M. Meyster retires from the society. M. de Foix and M. 
du Ferrier make a pilgrimage to Notre Dame des Ardilliers. Accompany 
M. Olier to I^ Rdgrippiire. The Soeur de la Troche : her obstinate 
resistance and conversion. Enclosure of the convent grounds. Comple- 
tion of the reform. Return to Chartres. Dissolution of the establish- 
ment there . . . . . . . .115 

Seminary of Vaugirard. M. Olier's State of Union with God. 

Mme. de Villeneuve : she advises the associates to establish themselves at 
Vaugirard. Opposition on the part of M. Olier and others. He receives 
a divine illumination on the subject. Withdrawal of all his associates 
except M, de Foix and M. du Ferrier. They engage a house at Vaugirard. 
M. de Foix chosen superior. They place themselves under the guidance 
of P. Tarrisse ; his character and virtues. M. Olier takes P. Bataille as 
his personal director ; grief of the latter at the state of the parish of St. 
Suipice. Marvellous change in M. Olier : his state of union with God ; 
his interior light and joy ; his supernatural gifts. He makes a vow of 
servitude to Jesus. The Three Solitaries solemnly consecrate themselves 
to the Blessed Trinity at Montmartre. Letter of M Bourdoise, and the 
reply. He visits Vaugirard. Extraordinary influence exercised by Marie 
Rousseau. M. Olier's gift of science and eloquence. Providential suc- 
cours. M. de Bassancourt visits Vaugirard, and remains. M. Amelote 
applies, and is refused ; his true vocation. M. de Sainte-Marie joins the 
community ........ 124 




Spirit of the Sf.minary of Vaugirard. M. Olier's Instruc- 
tions AND Personal Influence. 


Cardinal de Kichelieu offers the associates his ch&teau or Rucl. M, Olier 
elected superior. MM. de Gondrin, de Queylus, de la Chassnigne, de 
I'ouss^, d'llurtevcnt, dc Cambrac, and others join the community at 
Vaugirard. M. Copin requests tlie associates to take cliargc of ihe 
parish ''iring his absence. M. de Rochefort's donation of his house. 
M. Olier's grace of .Scriptural exegesis. His deep sense of his own 
nothingness. Opposition to his undertaking on the part of good men. 
Failure of all past attempts to establish ecclesi.nstical seminaries in France. 
M. Olier the first to succeed. Begins to write his Mi'moiies, His instruc- 
tions to hii ecclesiastics. Reniuval of their doubts and perplexities. 
Killing the old man. Union with Jesus Christ in His acts and intentions. 
Spiritual state of the community. Brother Claude : his exalted sanctity 
and extraordinary gifts. His first meeting with M. Olier. Insight of 
the latter into the secrets of hearts. Lights vouchsafed to him in preach- 
ing. Application of his words to individual souls. Request of his cousin, 
Mme Dolu de Dampierre ; how received by him. Instructions to school- 
mistresses and scholars . . . . . . .141 

I !l 


M. Olier accepts the pastoral charge of the parish of St. 
SuLPicE. Removal of the Seminary from Vaugirard to 

The parish of St. Sulpice. M. de Fiesque offers to resign it to the associates. 
They refuse to entertain the proposal. M. du Ferrier consults Marie 
Rousseau ; her preternatural knowledge. She disposes M. Olier in favour 
of the project. He discusses the subject with M. de Foix and M. du 
Ferrier. Decisive approval of P. Tarrisse. Opposition of friends; espe- 
cially of M. Renar. M. Olier and his two colleagues alone in favour of 
the undertaking. Interposition of three religious ; all objections removed. 
M. Olier enjoined by his directors to accept the office of Cure ; his motives 
in consenting. The three special objects of his vocation. Approval of 
the Abb^ de St. Germain. M. Olier makes a solemn vow of devotion to 
the service of the parish. Remonstrances of his family ; his charitable 
judgment of their conduct. His sentiments on the pastoral office. Makes 
a retreat under P. Bataille. M. de Fiesque resolves to quit the parish. 
Hurried removal from Vaugirard. M. Olier provisionally inducted. 
His first official act. Establishment of the Seminary ; the respect and 
confidence with which he is regarded. He is seized with an alarming 
illness ; its effects on his soul. His sudden and complete recovery. He 
is installed Cur^ of St. Sulpice. His twofold vocation. Summary of 
his Meditations during Retreat . . . . .158 





IXcform of t!jf ©aris!) of St. Sulpicc. 


Frightful State of the Parish. M. Omer establishes a Com- 
munity OF Parochial Clergy. Resto.<ation of Ecclesias- 
tical Discipline. 


Decay of faitli in Europe. The F.tubourp; St. Germain ; prevalent impiety and 
liatred of religion. The practice of magic. General lawlessness. Evil 
effects of the annual fair. State of the church and its ministers. Im- 
moral and irreligious lives of the chief inhabitants. M. Olier's address 
to his parochial cle''gy. Its partial effect. M. du Ferrier made superior 
of the community. M. Olier's kindness and liberality to the old clergy. 
The spirit of poverty and self-sacrifice in the community. M. Olier's 
personal example. Exclusion of females from Presbytery and Seminary. 
Equality observed among the clergy. Obedience to superiors, and con- 
formity to rules. M. Olier's instructions. Division of the parish into 
districts. M. Olier's maxims for confessors. Selection of patron saints. 
He invites the religious Orders to assist him at Easter. His vow of per- 
fection. Emulation inspired among the members of the community. His 
one dominant desire, the sanctification of the sacerdotal Order. Re- 
quested by the Cur^s of Paris to provide them with priests and rules of 
conduct. Consulted by Bishops on establishing seminaries in their 
dioceses. Resolution of the Queen Regent respecting nominations to the 
episcopate ........ 


M. Olier's Reforms at St. Sulpice. 

His expoEition of Christian doctrine. Unceasing prayer for his flock. Cate- 
chetical teaching. His manner with children. Careful training of 
acolyths. Associations of young girls. Instructions to servants, street- 
beggars, and the aged poor. The General Catechism. Short discourses 
for workmen. Examination of school-teachers and midwives. Sacri- 
-v^ious practice of the Lutherans. Public and private conferences for 
Protestants. P. V^ron : his character and style of controversy. Violent 
conduct of tha Calvinists. M. Olier visits the Protestant minister, 

> rt|. j-'-'*'J3s::r:mr*'_VTr.* • 




I / 







Aubertin, op his deathbed ; false charge founded thereon. Instance of 
fanatical cruelty. Erection of a bookstall. Imjiortance attaclied by M. 
Oiler to the sacrament of Confirmation. His zeal for souls. Fervour in 
preaching ; effects thereof. Conversion of a merry-andrew. Reform of 
guilds. Revival of piety among the people. The church crowded , 20O 

M. Olier's Reforms continued. 

Revival of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, Renovation of the church, 
and regulation of the Divine Olfices, Public observance of the Canonical 
Hours. Early Masses. Visits to the Tabernacle. Institution of the 
Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament. Rebuke to the Princesse de 
Cond^. Exposition and solemn Benediction, The Forty Hours' Adora- 
tion. Infrequent communion and indevotion to Mary among the effects 
of Jansenistic teaching ; M. Olier's counter-teaching and practice. Pre- 
paration for first coinmunion ; sample of his addresses to the young. 
Anne-Auger Graury : his holy death. M. Olier's love of the poor and 
indulgent charity. Brother John of the Cross : how he obt^iined the ti'le. 
Alms-bags refilled. Reorganization of the Confraternity of Charity, 
Mme. Leschassier and her daughter. Introduction of the Sisters of 
Charity, Confessors forbidden to give alms to their penitents. Suppres- 
sion of infamous houses; asylum provided for the penitent. M, Olier's 
grief for the loss of souls. Efficacy of his prayers and penances. Awful 
death of an abandoned woman, M, Oliti's courage in protecting and 
rescuing innocent girls, Kis zeal for the sanctity of marriage ; prepara- 
tory instructions. He is offered the parish of St. Jacques du Haut Pas 
by the Queen Regent ; dissuaded from accepting by Marie Rousseau. 
M, Cretinet, P, Yvan: his character and virtues. Retreats for clergy ; 
rules strictly enforced ; case of the Abb^ Vallavoire, Conversion of a 
Canon. Outrage on a country Cure ; M, Olier's energetic action in his 
behalf. His Considerations on the Canonical Hours . . .213 

Attempt to expel M. Olier from St, Sulpice. 

Opposition to the Seminary on the part of the Abbe de St. Germain and 
others, M, Olier's tranquillity under expectation of persecution. His 
plans thwarted by the church- wardens. He purchases a site. Renews his 
engagement at Montmartre. Encouraged by an interior voice. The 
monks of CHsson claim possession of the Priory : judgment given in their 
favour. M. de Fiesque formulates a charge against him. Vexatious pro. 
ceedings of the church-wardens. M, Olier insulted in presence of the 
Blessed Sacrament. Prince Henri de Bourbon sides with his adversaries. 
M. Olier's reliance on Providence. Despondency of his colleagues. 
Treachery of servants. Conspiracy of libertines and profligates. Attack 

V r,^-*l^-*^ --Mliy 

. wf *"*■•** *•*•** 




on the Presbytery. M. Olisr seized and dragged out. Has a vision of 
St. Sulpice consoling him. St. Vincent de Paul menaced and struck. 
Courage of M. Pons de Lagrange. M. Olier is conveyed to tlie Luxem- 
bourg. His humility and charity. Closing of the church . . 237 

M. Olier re-instated in his Pkesbytery. The Seminary 


Petition to the Council of State referred to the Parliament of Paris. M. 
Oiler's cause advocated l)y high and influential personages. His simple 
piety and trust in God. The Parliament orders his re-instatement. 
Kenewal of the tumult ; attempt to burn the Presbytery ; arrival of the 
royal guards and flight o*" the rioters. The Pailiament takes active 
measures. M. Olier resumes his preaching ; a strange interruption. 
Restoration of a dying woman. An audacious demonstration ; decree 
of the Parliament against its authors. M. Olier's continual supplication 
for his flock. Return of the dispersed clergy. M. de Queylus joins the 
con;munity. M. Olier publicly insulted by Prince Henri de Bourbon ; 
his generosity and charity to his enemies. He is urged to quit the parish 
and accept the bishopric of kodez ; his admirable replies. He submits 
the matter to the Abb^ de St. Germain ; M. de Ficsque raises his 
demands ; the aflair definitively conclud?d. Liberality of M. Olier and 
his friends. Generous conduct of M. de Barrault. M. Corbel sent as a 
novice to Pebr?c ; his simplicity and spirit of obedience, Perverseness 
of the Prior. M. Olier exchanges the abbey for that of Cercanceau ; his 
motives for so doing. His filial piety. Formal act of association. 
Cordial co-operation of the Abbe de St. Germain. Erection of the 
Seminary into a Community. M. Olier's reliance on God alone . 247 

Revival of Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament 

M. Olier's resumption of pastoral labours. The Community recruited by 
men of good birth. Devotion to the Blessed Eucharist the sure and 
abiding source of reformation. Its transforming power. God sends 
men endowed with a special grace for the ntcds of the Church. M. 
Olier raised up to revive devotion to the Blessed Eucharist in France. 
Favoured with divine lights and graces. Suppression of disorders. 
Increase of communicants. Seven lamps kept burning before the 
Tabernacle. Sacrilegious robbery at St. Sulpice. Public act of repara- 
tion. Discovery of one of the culprits. Memorials of the crime. 
Association of Perpetual Adoration. Beauty of the offices in the church. 
Marvellous influence exerted by M. Olier through the indwslling 
presence ot Christ. Examples of this. He repudiates all personal 




merit. His life conformed to that of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. 
Priests living Tabernacles. Their vocation and office a ground of self- 
abasement. The parish of St. Sulpice a pattern to all France . . 264 

M. OLIER'S influence with the GENTLEMEN OF HIS PARISH. 

The Company of the Passion. The Baron de Renty. The Marquis de 
F^nelon. M. du Four. A penitent malgri lui. M. Olier's influence 
with military men. Effects of their example. M. Olier's treatises on the 
interior and Christian life. The mania for duelling ; deathbed of M. 
La Roque-Saint-Chamarant. M. Olier's severe measures against the 
practice. Public protestation of the Company of the Passion. Adopted 
nnd enforced by high authorities. Edict of Louis XIV. Obloquy 
incurred by the Marquis de Fenelon ; his heroic virtue ; deathbed of his 
son. Results of M. Olier's exertions for ihe sanctification of the gentry ; 
formation of lay communities. Effects produced on French society ; 
testimony of M. de Saint-Evremond ..... 281 



His discourse on the vanity of all earthly things. Denunciation of self-dis- 
play and immodesty in dress. Devotion to angel-guardians. Rebukes 
to fine ladies. Restoration to life of a girl apparently dead. Mme. 
Rantzau : her gift for converting Protestants. Instance of the piety of 
the Duchesse d'Aiguillon. Mile, de Portes : story of her vow ; she is 
confirmed in her vocation by M. Olier. Respect shown by him to the 
Due d 'Orleans. Conversion of Prince Henri de Cond6 ; his death. 
M. Olier's letter to the Princess on the spirit in which she should spend 
\ r days of mourning. His instructions on the right use of worldly 
grandeur. Addresses to the rich and great. Admonitions to seigneurs, 
Leiter of the Baron de Renty respecting a mission in his domain. The 
Marquis de Fenelon establishes a community of missionaries at Magnac. 
M. Olier's letter to M. Couderc, their superior 


M. Olier's relations with Charles II. 

His intercessions for England. He desires to join ihe English 
mission. The Abbd d'Aubigny : his early life. How he was brought 
into relations with St Sulpice. Marriage of the Princesse Anne de 
Gonzague ; her penitence, subsequent relapse, and final conversion. 
The Abbe takes M. du Ferrier as his director ; the happy effects 
thei'eof. Introduces M. Olier to the King. His influence with Charles. 




Receives a Cardinal's hat on his deathbed. M. Olier has conferences 
wUh the King ; begs liis community to help him with their prayers. 
The King's expressions of confidence in his teaching ; his secret abjura- 
tion of Protestantism. M. Olier promises to supply him with soldiers 
to regain his kingdom. Charles's relapse ; his expressions of remorse. 
His sorrow on hearing of M. Olier's death. Relics and papers found 
after the King's decease. His obligations to M. Olier. The Marquis 
of Worcester and the Earl of Bristol : their prevarication. M. Olier's 
vocation a hidden one ; hence the slight recognition of his works and 
merits ......... 


Further Examples of M. Olier's Pastoral Zeal. 

Crowded state of the church. M. Olier's desire to erect a new one. Pro- 
posal adopted by the parishioners. Design approved by the wardens. 
A narrow escape. Commencement of the building. The work inter- 
rupted by the troubles of the Pronde. Conversion of a house into a 
chapel of ease, and its dedication to St. Anne. A specimen of P. Veron's 
method of controversy ; unfruitful of results. Clement the cutler and 
Beaumais the draper : their powers of disputation and extraordinary 
success. M. Bourdoise's protest against the inertness and laxity of the 
clergy. M. Olier's efforts to abate the disorders of the Fair of St. 
Germain. Conversions of comedians. Moliere's troop obliged to leave 
Paris. M. Olier's influence with people of the world. Instructions 
to fathers of families, shopkeepers, and artisans. He publishes his 
Christian Day. Retreats to women. Employment of ladies and others 
in various works of charity. Mme. Le Bret and Mme. Tronson. The 
Maison d'Instruction. Mile. Leschassier : her remarkable talents and 
charitable labours. Orphanage for girls. Periodical meetings in con- 
nection with the several institutions. Zeal of the parishioners. M. 
Olier's devotion to the Holy See ; his happiness at being under its 
immediate jurisdiction. He instructs his people in the ceremonies of 
the Church. Revival of pilgrimages. Increased respect for the clergy. 
Instances recorded by M. du Ferrier. Testimony to the reformation 
efft ted by M. Olier and his colleagues . . . • 3'7 

M. Olier and Jansenism. 

■Zeal for reform taken as a sign of sympathy with the Jansenistic party. M. 
Olier accused of favouring it ; his public protestation. Insincerity of 
the innovators. M. Olier's letter to the Marquise de Portes, warning 
her against them. Brother John of the Cross in danger of being 
insnared. Timidity and disaffection of clergy and others. Hostility of 
M. Copin to M. Olier and the Sulpicians. Disgraceful tactics of the 






;t « 




Jansenistic faction. M. Olier accused of false doctrine ; his defence. 
Attempt of the Oratoriaiis to establish a house in hia parish. P. 
S^guenot and P. Desmares inhibited from preaching. The Abb^ de 
Bourzeis : his duplicity. Perversion of influential laity. The Due and 
Duchesse de Liancourt sign a formal protestation of obedience to the 
Holy See ; fraudulently accepted by the Jansenistic leaders. Discus- 
sion on gra-je at the Presbytery of St. Sulpice. M. du Hamel : his 
system of public penance. The solitaries of Port Royal de& Champs. 
M. Oiler's discourse against Jansenistic doctrines and practices. Fury 
of the party. Desmares publishes a formal charge against him. Jan- 
senistic teaching dis'aonouring to God. The Fire Propositions. Appeal 
to Rome. The Bull Cum occasione. Dishonesty of the innovators. 
They attempt to use the Parisian Congregation of the Propagation of 
the Faith for their own purposes. The manceuvre defeated. The Abbd 
d'Aubigny refuses to be a party to it. Weakness of the Archbishop 
of Paris. Cardinal Mazarin dissolves the Congregation. The Due de 
Liancourt refused absolution. M. Arnauld publishes his Utter to a 
Person of Condition ; its misrepresentations. His second Letter con- 
demned by the Sorbonne. Death of the Duke and Duchess. Recanta- 
tion of the Abb^ de Bourzeis. M. Olier's vigilance and zeal. His 
precautions to guard the Seminary against the introduction of false 
doctrine. Testimony of Fenelon to its loyally to the Holy See . 




■ \i ■ 


M. Oi.iER's Conduct during the Troubles of the Fronde. 

Causes jf the rebellion. Favoured by the Jansenists. The Cardinal de 
Retz. Day of the Barricades. Peace temporarily restored. Recom- 
mencement of hostilities \ the Court leaves Paris. Parliament denounces 
Mazarin. The Jansenists take part with the insurgents. M. Olier's 
penances, and exhortations to his people. His measures for the relief 
of the destitute poor. His exhaustless charity. Perilous visit to St. 
Germain-en-Laye. Distribution of alms. Lenten dispensations. End 
of the First War of Paris ; return of the Court. M. Olier resigns his 
benefices. Relaxation of morals ; remedies adopted by M. Olier ; 
mission given by P. Eudes. Dearth of provisions ; sufferings of the 
people. M. Olier organizes a system of relief. The Company of 
Charity ; its operations. Establishment of orphanages. The Council of 
Charity. Arrest of the Princes de Cond^ and de Conti ; conduct of 
the Princess, their mother ; her death. Louis XIV. at St. Sulpice. 
War in the provinces ; the young Princesse de Conde. Flight of 
Mazarin ; liberation of the Princes ; their reconciliation with the Court. 
The Queen Mother asks counsel of M. Olier. His letter of advice to 
her. Rupture between the Prince de Conde and the Court. Renewal 
of the war. Mazarin resumes the conduct of affairs. The Due 
d'Orleans joina the Prince de Conde ; the Jansenists offer him aid. Paris 
again threatened ; encounter between Conde and Turenne ; disorders 




within the city ; attack on tlie magistracy. General reaction ; uncondi- 
tional surrender of the capital. M. Olier opens asylums for homeless 
girls and destitute nuns. His prayers and austerities to appease the 
wrath of God. Reproved by the Blessed Virgin for intermitting his 
acts of intercession. The people moved to contrition ; restoration of The Queen Mother's vow. Establishment of the Filles du 
Saint-Sacrement. The Mere Madeleine de la Trinite : her supernatural 
cliarity ; the Nuns of Notre Dame de Mis^rico'de. Banishment of the 
Due d'Orleans. Mme. de *^aujeon. Repentance of the Duke. Piety 
of his daughter, the Duchesse d2 Guise. Conversion of the Prince de 
Conti ; his close relations with St. Sulpice ; abjuration of Jansenism. 
Last days of the Prince de Cond^ . . . • . 


Pilgrimages and Jouknkvs. M. Olier resigns his Cure. 

M. Olier's failing health ; his reluctance to take repose. lie visits Chatillon- 
sur-Seine, Clairvaux, Dijon, and Citeaux. At Beaune makes acquaint- 
ance with the Venerable Marguerite du Saint-Sacrement ; their spiritual 
relations ; devotion to the Sacred Infancy at St. Sulpice. Journey to 
Saint-Claude ; perils and discomforts on the way ; he venerates the body 
of the Saint. Visits the tomb of St. Francis de Sales at Annecy ; receives 
a divine intimation. Anne-Marie Rossat : her spirit of obedience. M. 
Olier passes by Geneva ; at Grenoble sees again the Mere de Bressand, 
and mikes acquaintance with Mme. d'Herculais ; her life a miracle of 
prayer. Sojourns at the Grande Chartreuse. Visits Saint-Antoine de 
Vienne ; at Valence confers with Marie Tessonniere ; M. de Breton- 
villiers's account of the interview. Passes on to Avignon, visiting on his 
way the Mire Fran5oise de Mazelli. The Holy Places of Provence. 
At Aix the Mfere Madeleine de la Trinite by his direction resigns 
her office of superioress. Returns to Avignon ; visits the Mire de St. 
Michel ; their mutual veneration. Proceeds to Nimes and Montpeliier. 
Letter to M. de Parlages. Passes on to Clermont-Lodive and Rodez. 
Visits the tomb of St. Martial at Limoges. M. Olier's recollection and 
detachment. Constancy in prayer. Tender charity to the poor, 
Instance of its abuse. His humility and simplicity. He destroys an 
immodest picture. Makes a retreat at Meulan. Visits Chartres and 
Notre Dame des Ardilliers. Grooms a traveller's horse. Completes the 
reform of his priory of Clisson. Visits the tomb of St. Vincent Ferrer 
and the shrine of Ste. Anne d'Auray. Farewell to the nuns of La 
Rigrippiere. Visits Marmoutier, Candes, and Tours ; his devotion to 
St. Martin. Irregularities of his parochial clergy corrected by M. du 
Ferrier. M. Olier takes up his abode in the Community house. His 
habitual recollection in God during his journeys. Tlieir effect on tlie 
provincial clergy. He is seized with a violent fever. Resigns his 
parish. Makes his will. Improvement of health. M. de Bretonvilliers 
appointed Cur^. M. Olier's self-accusations .... 389 





W^i Communitg anti tfje Seminars. 

God's Design in the Establishment of the Seminary. 


M. Olier's vocation ; its importance. He is called to fulfil the object which 
the Oratory had failed to effect. The active concurrence of PP. Tarrisse 
and Bataille. M. Olier and his colleagues destined to accomplish in 
part the special work of St. Benedict. The Seminary designed to form 
clergy for the whole of France. God's promise to Marie Rousseau ; its 
rapid and permanent fulfilment. Marvellous survival of the Seminary 
to the present day. Its dependence on the Blessed Virgin. Commis- 
sioned to rekindle the fervour of piety among the doctors of the Church, 
ntended to be the model to other seminaries. Difference of its plan 
from that of St. Charles Borromeo. Instituted to revive loyalty and 
devotion to the Holy See ; and obedience to the Prelates of the Church. 
M Olier's teaching on this subject. The prerogatives of St. Peter per- 
petuated in the Popes. The dignity and power of the Episcopate ; the 
channel of graces to the Priesthood and people. Poverty of the Semi- 
nary ; its strict enforcement. M. Olier and his colleagues reduced to 
great straits. They refuse the direction of religious houses and other 
extraneous works. The et'or'-s of the Jansenists to introduce their errors 
into the Seminary defeated. Case of M. de Gondrin . . .413 

Establishment of the Seminary. Its Interior Spirit. 

La Belle Image. The Seminary of Vaugirard re-established; fervour of 
the clerics. Provisional buildings at Paris. M. Olier is favoured with 
divine illuminations respecting the future Seminary. The Blessed 
Virgin shows him in an ecstasy a model of the building. His perfect 
reliance on the Providence of God. Offer made to M. du Ferrier ; its 
collapse. Munificence of the brothers Souart and of M. de Breton* 
villiers. The work commenced ; description of the building, and of the 
chapel. Devotion to the Interior Life of Jesus the first spiritual founda- 
tion of the Seminary. Devotion to the interior life of Mary, the second. 
Mary the channel of all graces. St. John the Evangelist a special 



patron of the Seminary. Masses for the intentions of the Blessed 
Virgin. Other patrons : St. Joseph, the Apostles, St. Dominic, St. 
Francis of Assisi, St. Francis of Paula, St. Mar n of Tours, St. Denis, 
St. Ambrose, and St. Gregory. The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin 
the principal feast of the Seminary. Her answer' to M. Olier in prayer. 
The royal letters-patent registered by the Parliament. The President 
Mol^ chosen civil patron of the Seminary. Retirement of P. Bataille ; 
death of P. Tarrisse, and of Marie Rousseau ; M. du Ferrier's testimony 
to her virtues ........ 





ih in 

; its 

r and 





M. Olier's Method of Spiritual Training. 

M. Godeau's commendation of the Seminary. M. Olier's exalted idea of 
the ecclesiastical state. M. de Lantages. The virtues proper to clerics : 
simplicity and modesty ; humility ; mortification of the senses. Perfec- 
tion of M. Olier's own practice. Condemnation of indiscreet austeri- 
ties. Virtues continued : interior mortification ; obedience and fidelity 
to rule. M. Olier's spirit of self-abasement. His dislike of self-dis- 
paragement. The Blessed Sacrament the source of divine life and virtue. 
M. Olier's teaching on prayer. Meditation on the Gospels. Reverence 
for the Scriptures. Observance of the ceremonial of the Church ; study 
of its hidden meanings. Training of the clerics in parochial functions. 
M. Olier's letter to M. de Sive on deferring his ordination ; the spirit in 
which it was received. His reprimand j M. de M^liand. The Prince 
de Conti rebuked by a seminarist. Frequent catechisings. Educational 
communities. Fervour and regularity of the seminarists. Formation of 
pious and instructed priests. True motives and dispositions for study. 
Three kinds of knowledge. Rules for conducting public disputations. 
The perfect Christian student represented in M. Blanlo and M. de 
Pouss^. M. Olier's treatises ; their nature and style. His Spiritual 
Letters. His writings published anonymously. The method of prayer 
approved by him ....... 444 



jr of 

The Community of St. Sulpice : its Constitution and 
Interior Spirit. 

I M, Olier's reliance on Divine Providence for supplying subjects. Vocation 
of M. Souart. The tragical end of M. Meyster. M. de Bretonvilliers : 
M. Olier's eulogy of him. M. Tronson : his wonderful gifts. The 
Interior Seminary. Protestation to be made by every member of the 
Community. The spirit of servitude. Practical rules ; schedule of self- 
examination. Pietas Seminarii; illustrative of the spirit of the Seminary. 
M. Baudrand's summary of M. Olier's teaching. Instructions on the use 





of worldly goods. The spirit of obedience exemplified in M, d'Hurte- 
vent and M. de Lantages. M. Oiler's care for the health of his subjects. 
Est ' lishment of the noviciate at Avron. Transferred to Issy. Chajiel 
of Our Lady of Loreto. Its destruction by the Communists ; its 
Jansenism unable to gain a footing in St. Sulpice. M. de Foix made Bishop 
of Pamiers ; becomes a supporter of the Janscnistic party ; as do three 
other prelates. Their dissimulation. M. du Ferrier quits the Seminary ; 
his subsequent fortunes. Retirement of his brother, M. de Cambiac. 
EfTorts of the Jansenists to subvert M. Oiler's authority in the Seminary. 
Their attempt to bring the Oratorians into the Faubourg. The Blessed 
Virgin assures M. Olier of her protection ; he institutes a practice of 
devotion in perpetual memory thereof. Other favours conferred upon 
him. Interview with the Due d'Orleans ; the Orttorians interdicted 
from establishing themselves in the parish of St. Sulpice . 




Papal Approbation. 

Episcopal and 

The Community not a Congregation ; created solely for the clergy. Divine 
intimations thereanent ; in accordance witii P. de Condren's instructions. 
M. Olicr submits the rules and general plan of the Seminary to the 
collective Episcopate. Summary of his Memorial: the clerical order 
necessary to the existence of the Church ; the Bishop the true Superior 
of the Seminary ; the directors their delegates ; auxiliary priests ; the 
seminarists; the necessity of mortification and of the interior life. Resolu- 
tions of the Bishops. Directors of seminaries dismissible by them. Other 
seminaries modelled after that of St. Sulpice. M. de Chansiergues, 
founder of the Seminary of St. Louis ; his austere and laborious life. 
M. Ignace de la Dauversi^re establishes a community of priests. M. 
d'Entrechaux, a model of perfection. Direction of a Seminary a special 
vocation. The Priests of St. Lazare and of other Communities employed 
by the Bishops. The seminaries founded by Sulpicians comparatively 
few. This in accordance with M. Olier's counsels. M. Tronson's 
declarations on the subject. M. Olier unable to comply with applica- 
tions from Bishops of other countries. The Seminary approved by the 
Holy See. Testimony of the French Episcopate to the services rendered 
by it to the Church . . ..... 


Establishment of Provincial Seminaries. 

Erection of seminaries at Villefranche-en-Rouergue and Rodez ; great and 
permanent results. Liberality of M. de Queylus. Lamentable condition 










ry ; 




e of 








to the 


fs ; the 

jus life. 

Is. M. 
by the 


Jeat and 

of the diocese of Limoges; erection of seminary. M. Lascaris d'Urf^, 
the Bishop ; his humility, charity, and reverence for the priesthood. St. 
Vincent Ferrer bids M. Olier found a seminary at Nantes. Regulations 
respecting candidates for orders. The course of instruction. Tiie Sul- 
picians obliged to quit Nantes. M. Ren^ L<5veque ; the Seminary of 
Nantes incorporated with his community of St. Clement ; his life of 
mortification and penance. Contentions caused by the Jansenists ; the 
.'^ulpicians resume the conduct of the seminary. M. Olier's labours for 
the country clergy. Erection of a semin.iry at Aix ; marvellous cure of 
M. Philippe. Tiie Archbishop's appeals to M. Olicr for assistance ; causes 
of their failure. The Seminary of Avignon ; M. Olier's deference to 
episcopal authority. Difficulties attending the foundation of a seminary 
at Viviers ; the Sulpicinns undertake its direction. The beneficial results 
to both clergy and people. M. OHer visits Our Lady's shrine at Saint- 
Agrive. Effect of his address to the clergy ani laity of Le Puy. Erec- 
tion of seminary under M. de Lantages ; abundant results. Seminary of 
Clermont ; preparation of candidates for orders. Seminary of St. 
Flour ; deplorable state of the diocese. Results of M. Eymire's govern- 
ment. Seminary of Notre Dame de I'llermitage under M. Planat. 
OfBesan9on; its superiors. Of St. Ir^nee de Lyon; M. d'Hurtevent 
its first superior. Of Amiens ; of Clermont-Lodive ; M. Olier with- 
draws his priests ; his letter to the Bishop. The Due d'Orleans desires 
to found a community of priests at Biois ; M. Olier's letter to him ; the 
design frustrated by the Jansenists. Instances of M. Olier's self-abase- 
ment. St. Vincent de Paul's eulogy on the Sulpicians . . 511 


Various Missionary Enterprises, Foundation of the 
Colony and Seminary of Montreal. 

[M. Olier is urged to accept the bishopric of Babylon. Desires to go as Vicar- 
Apostolic into China, His prevision of the Seminary of Foreign Mis- 
sions. He organises a mission to the Protestants of the Vivarais and the 
Cevennes. Is urged by the Bishop of Le Puy to accept his see ; fervour 
of the canons and other clergy ; generosity of M. de Bretonvilliers. M. 
de Queylus made Cur^ of Privas. Extraordinary results of the mission 
in that town. M. Jean-Pierre Couderc : his controversial powers. 
Missions at Jaujac, Viviers, and Thueyts ; their signal success. Associa- 
tion of the Blessed Sacrament established at Le Puy. Mission at Alais. 
M. Olier contributes to the restoration of ruined churches. 

His design of founding a settlement on the Island of Montreal. Meet- 
ing with M. de la Dauversi^re. Society of Our Lady of Montreal ; its 
nature and objects. M. Paul de Chaumedy-Maisonneuve and Mile. 
Manse. Departure of the colonists. The Island consecrated to the 
Holy Family. The first Mass. Perils and hardships. Marguerite 
Bourgeois : her heroic charity. Endeavours to erect an episcopal see 
temporarily defeated. Foundation of a Community ; M. de Queylus 







mode superior. Martyrdoms of M. Le Maistre and M. Vignol. The 
Iiland made over to the Sulpicians ; burdensome conditions. Disin- 
terested conduct of the Community ; testimonies to the results of their 
teachings and labours. Montreal erected into a bishopric. Arrange* 
ments with the British Government. Foundation of the Grand 
S^minaire • . . . i • > . 



M. Olier's Last Illness and Death. 

II > 

His tranquillity under painful disorders. He is summoned to Blois ; obliged 
to retire to P^ray. His anxiety respecting Charles H. of England. 
Devotion to the Holy Cross. He is struck with paralysis and conveyed 
to Paris. His unalterable patience and desire of suffering. He is 
afflicted with interior darkness and desolation. Visited by the Queen 
Mother. His rapid progress in sanctity. Vision of Jesus bearing His 
Cross. His perfect conformity to the will of God. His malady 
alleviated by the Blessed Virgin. He visits the church of Notre Dame ; 
resigns his various offices ; the Bishop of Grenoble desires to have him 
as his coadjutor. He tries the waters of Bourbon ; visits the Duchesse 
de Montmorency at Moulins. Is favoured with a vision of the Blessed 
Virgin. Enabled to say Mass. His last public appearance in the 
church of St. Sulpice. His absorption in God. Active interest in 
religious matters. Pilgrimage to Notre Dame du Pu '. Unites the 
church of St. George with the seminary in that city, ana takes the 
title of its Cur^. Authenticates the Saint's relics. The Nuns of the 
Visitation : M. Olier refuses to allow his priests to hear their confess 
sions or publicly preach to them. Instances of his humility and 
meekness. Last visit to the tomb of the M6re Agn^s ; translation of 
her remains. Pilgrimages to Notre Dame des Anges and Ste. Fare. 
Instance of his considerate kindness. His devotion to the Resurrec- 
tion of our Lord. Aspirations of divine love. He designates M. de 
Bretonvilliers as his successor. His last instructions and admonitions. 
His deathbed. St. Vincent de Paul present at his departure. The 
Saint's address to the priests of St. Sulpice. He presides at the election 
of M. V 'Uer's successor. 

Exposition of his body ; he is beheld in a dream ; popular testimonies 
to his sanctity ; print of a cross on his forehead. His obsequies ; 
funeral sermon of M. Maupas. Eulogium passed on him at tlie Con- 
ference of St. Lazare. Inscription on his tomb. Desecration of his 
remains at the Revolution ... ... 







M. Olier's personal appearance and intellectual powem. His gift of reading 
men's hearts. Several examples. Instance of his marvellous discern- 
ment in the case of a young lady of rank. Extraordinary influences 
exercised by him ; case of the Mire de St. Gabriel. His power of reliev- 
ing mental suffering ; ctse of Mile, de Rogu^e. Gift of healing diseases ; 
cases of the M^re de St. Gabriel ; M. de Villars ; and Mile. Manse. 
Appearance of M. Oiler after death to the Soeur Maillet ; his predictions 
fulfilled. Miraculous cures of a deaf priest ; the marine, Pierre Tres- 
cartes ; the Sceur Marguerite Vieillard ; the Canons Boucaut, Colomb, 
and De B^get ; the Sceur Anne Feuiha ; M. N^ron ; Mme. Rousset ; 
nnd Mme. de I'Espinasse du Passage. Recent miraculous cure of the 
Sceur Dufresne ; affidavits of medical men. Protestation of .he writer 



Additional Notes 












of p 


on tl 

he a 



was J 





to pn 


their t 


' third s 

I Saturd 

I baptisr 

I family. 

being t 

[Would 1 

|as also ir 
VetOHii SOI 




IT would be little in accordance with the spirit or the mission of 
one who from early manhood was conspicuous for his love 
of poverty and his contempt of the world and its belongings, if his 
biographer were to commence the history of his life by descanting 
on the splendours of his ancestry. Suffice it, therefore, to say that 
he came of a distinguished family, which had borne many of the 
highest offices in the State and had gained itself an honourable 
name in various departments of the public service. His father 
was Jacques Olier de Verneuil, Secretary and Maitre des Requites 
to Henri IV., who, in the year 1599, espoused Marie Dolu, Dame 
d'lvoy, in Berrj', As is often observable in the case of those whom 
God has chosen to accomplish any great work for His glory, both 
parents, although (as we shall see) they showed a culpable eagerness 
to promote their son's worldly advancement, were diligen*^ in tho 
performance of their religious duties, and edified their household by 
their truly Christian virtues. 

They had eight children, four sons and four daughters. The 
third son, who is the subject of this biography, was born at Paris, on 
[Saturday, September 20th, 1608, and on the same day received in 
baptism the name of Jean, by which he was always called in his own 
family. But in the world he was known as Jean- Jacques, the latter 
being the name of his patron, St. James the Less, which he took, as it 
[would appear, at his confirmation.* In his Memoires M. Olier says, 

* In the Dictionnaire de Biographie Chritiennt published by the Abbe Migne, 
las also in the short Life prefixed to M. Olier's collected works, he is called the 
|j£<w»i(' son ; but in neilher of these publications is allusion made to another son, 



I A ""r 



4 Life of M. Olier. 

borrowing the language of St. Paul,* " I renounce every relationship 
according to the flesh. Thanks to the mercy of God, \ am dead to 
the generation of Adam. By baptism I made profession of death to 
my first birth, and I no longer live but for the second, which is truly 
glorious, seeing that by this generation I have God for my father, 
the Church and the Blessed Virgin for my mother, our Lord for my 
elder brother, all the Saints for my brethren, and the angels for my 
servants. O my God and my Father, grant me the grace never to 
esteem this world or its grandeur, which I am convinced is only 
vanity and folly." 

Almost immediately after his baptism he was put out to nurse in 
the Faubourg St. Germain, and, what is worthy of remark, in the 
very parish with which his fame is for ever associated, that of St. 
Sulpice ; as though (to adopt his own words) God was pleased that 
he should breathe in his earliest infancy the air of the place in which 
it was His will that he should serve Him in his maturer years. The 
street to which he was taken was called the Rut Sulpice,t and 
pious affection did not fail to note that as, wlien that prodigy of 
theological science, the great St. Thomas Aquinas, was a child, the 
surest way of quieting him was to put a book into his hands, so the 
infant who was destined in after life to shed such lustre on the priest- 
hood was never better pleased than when he was carried by his 
nurse to the neighbouring church. The sight of its interior was sure 
to stop in an instant all cries and tears, when caresses and other 
attempts at diversion had failed of effect This result, indeed, may 
be attributed to the natural force of novelty and change of scene on 
the mind of a little child, and not to any immediate influence of 
divine grace ; but not so a circumstance which M. Olier has himself 
recorded. He was in his seventh year when, being in a -- '. .rch for 

Rene, of whom we find incidental mention on more thai; one occa^^i ; "e was 
evidently older than Jean-Jacques, as, not only is he always named Ls,!' 'o ..m, 
but when Mme. Olier presented her three sons, including Rene, to St. Fiar.^i- de 
Sales, she expressly calls Jean-Jacques the youngest. Ren^ died while M. Olier 
was preaching his first mission in Auvergne, and this may be the reason why the 
writers in question make no allusion to him, and designate Jean-Jacques as the 
second son. M. Faillon makes no explicit statement on the subject. 

The eldest son was Fran5ois, called de Verneuil, and ihe youngest Nicolas- 
Edouard, called de Fontenelle, whom M. Olier himself speaks of as his second 
brother, because, as already intimated, his elder brother Rene was dead. 

* 2 Cor. V. 16. 

t Known also as the Rue des Canettes from a sign on one cf the houses, 
probably a tavern. 

His Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. 5 

the purpose of hearing Mass, at the moment the priest passed on his 
way to the altar, the thought suddenly flashed upon him, how pure 
and holy must they be who are set apart to offer the Adorable 
Sacrifice. So deep was the impression made on his soul that it was 
never afterwards effaced. It seemed, he says, to his childish mind 
as thougli priests must live a life wholly hid in God ; so that it was 
with wonder he saw them act like ordinary men while performing 
their awful function. Anything, even though it were but a move- 
ment of the head, which indicated that they were conscious of 
visible things around them was a surprise and a shock to him ; he 
thought they Wv e angelic beings the moment Lh';y had vested, 
or, at least, as soon as they had ascended the steps of the altar. 
It was, indeed, a childish ignorance, but it was no less an earnest 
of his own future vocation, and of the mission which, ^n the provi- 
dence of God, he was designed to fulfil in sanctifying the clergy of 

The devotion which his parents, and especially his father, enter- 
tained towards the Blessed Virgin was shared and, indeed, surpassed 
by this pious child. It was a pleasure to him to reflect that his 
mother's name was Marie, and thp.t he was born in a street called 
Notre Dame d'Argent* He never began his lessons without invok- 
ing the aid ot his august Patroness, and it seemed to him as though 
he were unable to learn anything by heart unless he first repeated a 
Hail Mary. He would go and tell her in his childish way every- 
thing he was about to do, and ask her consent, preferring to act 
always, not as from any motive of his own, but simply at her bidding. 
When he had new clothes, thovigh it were but a single article of dress, 
he would present himself humbly before her image in the Cathedral 
of Notre Dame, and beg her never to let him offend her Divine Son 
as long as he should wear them. As he grew older he was tempted 
to omit this ceremony, as something irksome and absurd, which 
nobody thought of performing except himself; but he declares that 
he was very soon punished for his negligence, for scarcely a day was 
allowed to pass before his new clothes were lost, or torn, or visited 

* So called from the silver image which was placed in a niche at the corner of 
the street by Francis I., in reparation for a sacrilegious outrage committed by the 
heretics. This image, however, having been stolen and replaced by another of 
less costly material, the street gradually resumed its old name of Roi de Sicile, 
vhich it took from Charles of Anjou, Count of Provence and King of Naples and 
Sicily, who had a mansion in it. 



mi»m i¥ > 



6 Life of M. Olier, 

with some disaster, which he took as a warning not to refuse this 
act of homage to his heavenly Benefactress. 

When he was eight years old he was put to school, where he 
displayed a quickness and a power of comprehension very remark- 
able in so young a boy. At the same time his natural liveliness 
of disposition began to develop itself in ways which gained for 
him among his elders a character for unruliness and insubordina- 
tion which he scarcely deserved. He seems to have been one of 
those children whose faults are attributable rather to an exuberance 
of animal spirits, and an inability to control their physical energies, 
than to any spirit of disobedience or habitual self-will. The result, 
however, was, that he was always running risks and getting into 
trouble. His own account of himself is, that his recklessness and 
want of thought were so great that, but for the special interposition 
of Providence, he must frequently have been killed or crippled for 
life. "I never looked where I was treading, or whither I was 
going; T was for ever falling down, or running against something, 
and hurting myself. Once, I remember, I tumbled into a well, 
and had a most narrow escape of my life ; at another time I fell 
with my head under a cart-wheel, which would have crushed it to 
pieces, but that for some unexplained cause the horse suddenly 
stopped. I was the source of continual anxiety to everybody in 
the house." With his mother he seems not to have b^en a par- 
ticular favourite, and she thought to bring him into subjection 
by constantly chiding and chastising him ; a method of proceeding 
which was calculated to have anything but a salutary effect on a 
high-spirited boy. " My mother," he says, " never gave me a 
moment's peace. No doubt I deserved such treatment, and I 
most humbly beg God's forgiveness, and her's too. I pray our 
Lord that I may contrib'ite as much to the spiritual relief of my 
parents as I gave them trouble." 

In the year 1617, his father being raised by Louis XHL to the 
honourable post of Intendant of Lyons, the family quitted Paris 
and took up its residence in that city, where Jean-Jacques, with 
his brothers Frangois and Rend, attended the classes of the Jesuit 
Fathers.* There his fearless and adventurous spirit soon found 
an occasion of indulging itself. One day, when playing with a 

* In the August of 1621, M. Olier's father was sent to Aix in Provence to 
procure a subsidy from the States General of 100,000 crowns, wherewith to carry 
on the war against the Huguenots, who were endeavouring to set cp a Republic 


He is presented to St. Francis de Sales. f 

bird, it escaped from his hands and flew on the roof of the house 
In an instant he had made the sign of the cross and, invoking his 
angel-guardian, had sprung f-:;.. a window upon the roof and 
secured the truant ; not, however, without raising a cry of alarm 
from those who had witnessed the hazardous feat, for the window 
from which he had leapt, and which was on the third storey, was 
below the level of the adjoining roof on which he had succeeded 
in alighting, and, had he missed his footing, he would have been 
dashed to pieces on the pavement below. ''My master," he writes, 
" whom the noise had summoned to the spot, and who was seized 
with terror when he beheld my perilous position, punished me as 
I deserved; nor to this day can I think of the danger I so 
recklessly incurred without a shudder, and a fervent thanksgiving 
to God, who bestowed such fatherly care upon me at a time when 
I was quite unconscious of His mercies. May He grant me grace 
to expose my life as freely in His service as I then did for my 
own pleasure." 

Being destined by his family to the ecclesiastical state, he had 
received the tonsure when he was eight years old, and, through 
an abuse which prevailed in France in those days, he had at the 
same time been put in possession of a benefice. But his restless 
activity and the heedlessness and almost violence of his disposition, 
which, instead of diminishing, increased as he grew older, appeared 
to his parents so incompatible with the moderation, gravity, and 
recollection which befit a priest, that they began to have serious 
misgivings on the subject of their son's vocation, and were pre- 
paring to turn their thoughts to some other profession, when their 
doubts were set at rest and their minds reassured by the authorita- 
tive voice of the great Bishop of Geneva, St. Francis de Sales. 
This holy prelate, on his occasional visits to Lyons, had been 
struck with the piety and rectitude of the Intendant, and had 
admitted him to his intimate friendship. The mother of our youth, 
fearful of offending God by thrusting into the sacred ministry one 
who was destitute of a true vocation, opened her heart to the 
Saint, and besought him to make the matter a subject of special 

in France ; and M. Faillon is of opinion that it was then that M. Olier, who 
accompanied his father, paid the visit to the tomb of St. Mary Magdalen of 
wiiich he makes mention in his Mimoires, and was shown the head of the saint, 
liaving that portion of the flesh still uncorrupted on which our Risen Lord had 
laid His hand when He said to her, "Touch Me not." 




Lt/e of M. Oher. 

prayer, in order to ascertain the Divine will. Francis acceded to 
her request, and the result we learn from M. Chaillard,* one of 
M. Olier's personal friends, who was present on the occasion. He 
had gone to assist at the Saint's mass in the chapel of the Visitation 
Convent at Lyons, when, on Francis leaving the altar, Mme. 
Olier presented her children to him for his blessing. The Saint 
embraced them one after another, and began speaking with affec- 
tionate interest about them all, when their mother interposed with 
renewed expressions of uneasiness respecting the youngest, Jean- 
Jacques, who, slie said, was an unruly, headstrong boy, on whom 
correction was thrown away. "Well, well," said Francis mildly, 
" we must not be hard upon young people ; high spirits are not 
a sin ; and now take comfort from what I say, for I tell you that 
God has chosen this good child to promote His glory and to do 
great service in His Church." He then laid his hands on the 
boy's head, embraced him tenderly, and gave him his benediction. 

Nor did the holy prelate's solicitude for the child end thus ; he 
wished at once to aid in bringing about the accomplishment of 
his own predictiotL He had long entertained a design of resign- 
ing his bishopric to his coadjutor, and retiring to a hermitage, 
beautifully situated on the borders of the Lake of Annecy, which 
he had caused to be restored. Here he intended devoting the 
remainder of his days to the training of young ecclesiastics; five 
or six cells were already constructed, and of one of these it was his 
wish that Jean-Jacques should be the occupant. He desired to 
have the boy always with him, and this desire was fully reciprocated 
by young Olier himself, who, from the day that St Francis adopted 
him, in a manner, as his child, never called him by any other 
name than the endearing one of lather. But this design, which 
was so full of promise both for the Church of France and for our 
pious youth, was not destined to be realized : a few days after, 
the labours of the Saint had ceased on earth, and he was gone 
to his glorious rest in Heaven. Francis was at this time in the 
train of the Duke of Savoy, whom he had accompanied to Avignon 
on his way to meet Louis XHL at Lyons. M. Olier would fain 

* M. Chaillard was subsequently doctor in theology, Protonotary of the Holy 
See, and Cure of Villefranche in Beaujolais. The P^re de Nolay renders similar 
testimony, and reports the Saint's words, as given above. The incident was 
represented in a painting which, M. Faillon avers, may still be seen in the church 
of Ste. Madeleine at Besan9on. 

■ »iiiWw»lij'^. (•'•'i- .WA»3t._>»-.*n-.. 

. , r- .., 

w^'S^'^'^iy^ni'^ ^f '.■'r" 

Divine Favours and Mercies. g 

have had the Saint occupy a portion of his house, which was 
very spacious and close to the Convent of the Visitation, but 
Francis declined this and other similar ofTers of hospitality, by 
saying that, having foreseen the difficulty there might be of pro- 
curing suitable quarters, he had already engaged a lodging; and 
it was then discovered that he had fixed upon a little room 
belonging to the gardener of the convent, which was a very temple 
of the winds, and, moreover, was troubled with a smoking chimney. 
To all renewed offers of better accommodation the Saint did but 
pleasantly reply that he was never better than when he fared 
badly. In this comfortless apartment Francis de Sales was seized 
with his last illness, and hither thronged all the friends of the 
great Bishop, to beg his prayers and receive his enediction. In 
the crowd came Mme. Olier, with her children ; it was the feast of 
St. John the Evangelist, Jean-Jacques's patron, and when Francis 
heheld the child of his election kneeling with tearful, earnest 
countenance at his bedside, can we doubt that the dying Saint, as 
he gently raised his hand and blessed him, poured out upon him 
all the tenderest feelings of a father's heart, and consecrated him, 
as it were, for ihe accomplishment of a work which himself had 
not had time even to commence :* M. Olier, as may be supposed, 
ever throughout his life had recourse to the Saint's intercession 
with the most assured confidence; and, as we shall see in the 
course of this history, he believed that to him he was indebted 
for numerous and extraordinary graces. 

Our youth had now reached his fourteenth year, a critical age for 
one of his impetuous nature and ardent temperament ; but we have 
his own testimony to the fact that he was withheld by a peculiar 
operation of Divine grace from falling into irregular courses. If he 
were unhappily guilty of any infidelity, a cloud seemed to settle on 
his mind, otherwise so lively and active, and he was unable to apply 
himself to his studies. " I observed," he says, " that I lost all 
capacity of learning when I was out of the state of grace. No sooner 
did I commit any sin than my unders<:anding seemed to become 
blocked and offuscated ; and I could neither apprehend nor retain 
anything until I had been to confession. I remember well that, 
when I had to pass a public examination, I was obliged for a con- 
siderable time before to be careful to keep myself in the state of 
grace ; and nothing at this time surprised me more than to see 
persons living in sin who nevertheless were good scholars and able 


■'».. »,. ►■ 



Life of M. Olier. 

I ' 

■ 1 

to learn with facility, I wondered how this could be, imagining that 
everybody was affected like myself." So marvellously • as God 
pleased to guard this chosen soul from contracting early habits of 
sin ; nor were these the only signs of the special protection with 
which he was favoured. One day, in his sixteenth year, he had 
swum across a wide river, intending to rest himself on the other 
side ; but, finding strangers unexpectedly on the opposite bank, he 
attempted, from a motive of modesty, to return without recovering 
breath. Scarcely, however, had he reached the middle of the stream 
when he felt himself completely exhausted and unable to proceed. 
He was in the very act of sinking, when his foot caught the top of a 
stake which was fixed in the bed of the river, and on this he suc- 
ceeded in steadying himself until assistance was rendered him. A 
deliverance from death, which depended apparently on so slight an 
accident, made a deep impression on his mind. 

About this time he felt a strong desire to embrace the religious 
life, and his first attraction was towards the Carthusians, many of 
whose houses he visited as opportunity served ; he next turned his 
attention to the Franciscans, and even went so far as to beg them 
to receive him ; but it was the will of God that he should sanctify 
himself, and be instrumental in sanctifying others, in the secular life. 
At Lyons he finished the course of studies included in the humani- 
ties ; and, in 1625, his father being promoted to the high office of a 
Conseiller d'etat, our youth returned with his family to Paris, where 
he was jptered at the far-famed University in that city. He had for 
his professor of philosophy one of the ablest men of the day, Pierre 
Padet, of the College d'Harcourt ; and of the manner in which he 
acquitted himself in his new studies it is sufficient to say that it fully 
corresponded with the expectations which his friends had formed of 
him. A public act, which he kept in L,atin and Greek, extending 
over the whole course of philosophy, was crowned with universal 
applause ; and his professor paid him the compliment of declaring 
that in maintaining his thesis, as well as in his replies, he had 
achieved the highest success. 

On leaving the College d'Harcourt he attended the schools of 
the Sorbonne, where he equally distinguished himself. His father 
spared no expense to obtain him the advantage of the best instructors, 
and gave him as his master in theology one of the most celebrated 
doctors of the time, Nicholas Le Maistre, who in the subsequent 
reign became Bishop of Lombez. Under the direction of this 

He Becomes a Fashionable Preacher. 


learned and pious divine the young Olier made himself profoundly 
acquainted with the scholastic writers, and at the same time acquired 
a sound knowledge of Greek, which was of no little service to him 
in the study of the Holy Scriptures as well as of the Greek Fathers 
of the Church. 

The honours he reaped at this time were so much the more 
flattering to his parents as they were due entirely to his own talents 
and exertions, and they began to indulge the most sanguine hopes 
of the distinguished part he was to play in the world. With his 
birth, connections, and personal advantages, it seemed to them that 
their son might attain to the highest dignities in Church and State. 
A miserable spirit of worldliness took possession of them, the more 
miserable and odious as exhibited in persons who made profession 
of piety, and who, indeed, under ordinary circumstances were accus- 
tomed to act from high religious motives. Not only did they cast 
about how best to secure the favour and influence of those who 
might further their child's advancement, but they even endeavoured 
to excite ambitious views in the youth himself, suggesting to him 
many little ways by which he could recommend himself to notice 
and promote his worldly prospects. Even while at Lyons, his father 
had procured him a second benefice, that of the Benedictine Priory 
of La Trinity at Clisson in the diocese of Nantes ; he now obtained 
for him the richer preferment of the Abbey of Pdbrac, belonging to 
the Canons Regular of St. Augustine, in the diocese of St. Flour (of 
which we shall hear more in the sequel), and to this was soon added 
a second priory, that of Bazainville, in the diocese of Chartres. 
Besides these substantial dignities, he was at the same time elected 
Honorary Canon of the Chapter of St. Julien de Brioude, a distinc- 
tion which he shared with two bishops and a brother abbot. This 
was in 1626, when he had attained his eighteeuth year; and now, in 
his quality of Abbd, although he had not yet received holy orders, 
he was entitled to preach ; and, as preaching would be a means of 
exhibiting his talents before the world, he ascended the pulpit, and 
delivered himself of brilliant orations which gained him an extensive 
popularity, and were the especial delight of his infatuated mother, 
who, although, as it has been intimated, she had hitherto shown him 
no particular affection, could not resist the charms of an eloquence 
which tickled the ears and won the applause of th? intellectual 
crowd. Now, at length, she seemed to have become sensible of 
her son's good qualities, when, as he says, " I had a throng of fine 

• ''j ^ '*' > i i,('j^jjw;' ' ^ '-■■^■y 





Lt/e of M. Olier. 

:■ I 


• IM 


people about me, and was all the fashion, preaching beautiful 
sermons, abounding in rhetorical tropes and vain conceits, but in 
which not a word was uttered against the manners of the world, its 
pride and its covetousness." 

Jean-Jacques had now entered on h-s career of ambition, and, it 
must be added, of dissipation, with all the habitual ardour of his 
character. He was determined to become a great man, and to 
become a great man he must pay court to the great ; and this could 
only be effectually accomplished by frequenting their assemblies and 
mixing in the high society of the capital. Behold, then, our future 
reformer as the gay young Abb^, the graceful courtier, the brilliant 
wit, the writer of epigrams, the utterer of smart sayings and pretty 
compliments in salon and in boudoir, with his retinue of servants, 
his couple of carriages, and his well-appointed household ; for his 
parents grudged no expenditure which could help to give him con- 
sequence and conduce to his advancement. And well did the 
young man respond to their liberality : his address and good looks, 
the ease and frankness of his manners, the charm of his conversa- 
tion, his incontestable abilities, joined to the consideration in which 
his family were held, obtained him a ready admittance into the 
highest circles; and so he enjoyed life, and made full use of his 
liberty, and was fast becoming an accomplished man of the world 
and a lover of its pleasures, if not a sharer in its vices ; till at last 
his parents were filled with dismay at his dissipated habits, and 
av/oke, as from an evil dream, to behold their child about to plunge 
into a vortex of sin, to the very edge of which they had themselves 
beguiled him by their criminal vanity and folly. 

His mother; who, though not insensible to the world's attractions, 
had a great horror of sin, was deeply distressed, and never ceased 
to pray with tears to God for the conversion of her son ; many holy 
souls also, who mourned in secret over the miseries of the time, 
made the young Abbd the subject of their intercessions ; but there 
was one pre-eminently to whose prayers M. Olier always attributed 
th .Tiercy he obtained, and who is so remarkable a person in herself, 
and plays so important a part in this history, as to call for more 
particular notice. This was Marie de Gournay, widow of David 
Rousseau, one of the twenty-five licensed victuallers of Paris. A 
country-girl of mean parentage, she retained in her married state, 
when she might have lived in ease and comfort, her predilections for 
a hard and simple life ; and her humility was equal to her love of 

Marie Rousseau. 


poverty. So vile and little was she in her own eyes that she couUl 
not endure to spend upon herself; her clothes were never of the 
newest, and her food consisted for the most part of scraps which 
others had left. Her one sole study was to imitate the Blessed 
Mother of God, and in all things to conform her interior dispositior.s 
to those with which that incomparable Virgin performed her ordinary 
actions. 1' earful of attracting the esteem of others, she avoided 
everything which might obtain her the character of being a person 
of piety, and during the twenty years she pursued her avocation, 
engaged continually in waiting on her guests, she never testified by 
.speech or manner the intimate union she enjoyed with God. Not 
but that numbers who frequented the house were indebted to her 
for many spiritual blessings ; and by some timely word, apparently 
of the simplest and most ordinary kind, she led many a hardened 
sinner to repentance on whom reproof and admonition had been 
expended in vain ; still no one would have susoected the extra- 
ordinary sanctity that lay hid beneath an exterior in nowise distin- 
guishable from that of a thousand other women of her class. At 
her husband's death she chose for herself one of the most uncom- 
fortable rooms in the house, for it was so situated as never to be 
free from noise and bustle, from which she suffered much ; but there 
she made a solitude for herself in which to commune alone with 
Him who was the one object of all her thoughts and affections. 
Her constant prayer was that God would take her to Himself; and 
so great were the satisfactions she derived from the reception of the 
Holy Eucharist, that It seemed to serve her for meat and drink, and 
she sometimes passed whole days without any other nourishment. 

This poor woman, so humble in her origin, leading so obscure a 
life, and engaged in a calling which might have seemed singularly 
unfavourable to the attainment of spiritual perfection, had been pos- 
sessed from her childhood with one longing desire, — that she might 
be instrumental m training and forming holy pastors, devoted to the 
cause of God, and in such ways as He in His sovereign wisdom 
should be pleased to ordain. For the fulfilment of this desire she 
offered up her prayers, her fastings, and her continual mortifications. 
One object of her devout aspirations she had already seen happily 
accomplished. The Benedictine, Abbey of St. Germain-des-Prds 
had long stood a dreary monument of departed glories, and its 
church had become well-nigh deserted. Thither she frequently 
went to pour out her heart to God in fervent supplications that he 

iii-'.fit3aAi.'^_ .^v-ju' >i «Jt%i*tt 




Life of M. Olier. 

t M 

» M 


would revivify this once famous monastery by restoring holy dis- 
cipline and renewing the ancient spirit of the Order ; and at length 
she had the consolation of witnessing the great reform of St. Maur 
established within its walls. This was cfTectcd in the year 1631, by 
the venerable Dom G.dgoire Tarrisse, the first Supeiior-General.* 
But this reform was to her but an earnest of the great renovation 
which her soul desired, 1 for which she was ever praying, — the 
sanctification of the whole clerical body, and, in particular, the conver- 
sion of the vast parish in which she lived, so notorious for its impiety 
and wickedness. Now, she was constantly meeting in the streets 
a number of young clerics whose manners were a scandal to their 
profession. While leading a wholly secular life and squandering the 
revenues of their benefices in worldly pleasure and amusements, 
they were not ashamed to appear in clerical garb, and, simply from 
a motive of vanity and ostentation, to display themselves in habits 
of violet satin which their ecclesiastical position did not entitle them 
to assume, t Conspicuous among was Jean-Jacques Olier, 
He was then in his twenty-first year, and one day when he was 
returning with a party of friends from the fair of St. Germain, a 
woman apparently of the lowest order, in a v e expressive of deep 
emotion, said to them, as they were standin tavern door, "Ah, 

Sirs, I have long prayed for your conversion, and I hope God will 
even yet hear my prayer." It was Marie Rousseau, whose per- 
severance and confidence in God were at length to have a most- 
complete reward ; for we learn from M. Olier himself that of five 
or six young Abbds, all of good family, who frequented a house by 
the side of St. Sulpice's church, separated from her own only by a 
wall, there was not one who ultimately did not yield to grace and 
quit the world to follow Christ. It was the first time that her atten- 
tion had been drawn to the man who was destined by God to fulfil 
the object of her life, and she knew not why, but henceforth she 
made him the constant subject of her prayers. For himself, it 
would seem as if from that moment he felt moved to abandon the 
gay life he was leading j he was no longer at his ease, and would say 

* The Reform of St. Maur was commenced in the Abbey of St. Augustine at 
Limoges in the year 1613, and was confirmed by Gregory XV. in 1627. The 
Congregation thus named comprised more than 180 abbeys and priories, and was 
governed by a Superior-General, who resided at the Abbey of St. Germain-des> 
Pr^s. The reform had the powerful support of Cardinal de Richelieu. 

+ Violet being the colour proper to bishops and prelates. 


His Pilgrimage to Lorcto. 


to his companions, " Somebody, I am sure, is pleading for me." The 
heavenly Mother for whom, amidst all his frivolity and sin, he had 
retained a tender devotion, had on her part not forsaken him ; many 
of her holiest servants joined their prayers to hers j and now grace 
after grace was knocking at his heart, and, though eighteen months 
elapsed before his conversion was completed, the struggle with him- 
self had alrer.dy begun. " I did not love the world," he says ; " I 
could not find any satisfaction in it, yet I was for ever falling, despite 
tlie sweet attractions of God's love. His unceasing solicitations, and 
the poignant remorse I was sure to suffer after sinning, nay, not- 
withstanding I sought the powerful aid of the sacraments of the 

Such was his state of mind when he determined on going into 
Italy, not for any object connected with his spiritual interests, but 
from a motive in which a desire of worldly distinction had a con- 
siderable share. Having lost the grace of God, he had acquitted 
himself only with ordinary success on the occasion of taking his 
degree of bachelor of arts, and he was resolved to recover his supe- 
riority. It was his ambiti i to excel, and to do something which 
should exalt him above tic common herd of scholars and learned 
men ; he therefore conceived tbe design of making himself master of 
Hebrew, with the view of maintaining some of his theses in that 
language at the Sorbonne. Only at Rome could he obtain the 
instruction he needed, and to Rome accordingly he repaired. But 
God had other designs respecting him. Scarcely had he arrived in 
the Eternal City when he was troubled with an inflammation of the 
eyes, which effectually prevented all application to study, excluded 
him from general society, and induced an apprehension that he 
might altogether lose his sight. The most skilful physicians failed 
to arrest the progress of the malady, and at length, all human means 
proving without avail, the sufferer bethought him of having recourse 
to supernatural aid, and he resolved to make a pilgrimage to the 
Holy House of Loreto, so famous throughout Christendom for the 
innumerable miracles of which it was the scene.* 

He left Rome towards the end of May 1630, and notwithstanding 

* For a detailed account of the Santa Casa, or Holy House, of Loreto, as well 
as of the evidences on which the tradition rests, the reader is referred to Provost 
Norlhcote's Celebrated Sanctuaries of the Madonna and to two valuable Lectures 
tnWi\tA Loreto and Nazartth by the late Father Hutchison of the London Oratory. 

The distance of Loreto from Rome is about a hundred miles. 

•i^'^iJi ' -.^■^i-^'t'. . i ^ 




f 'i 


Life of M. Olier. 

the increasing heats, he, in a spirit of penance, retained his winter 
dress and commenced his joiirney on foot Unaccustomed to 
laborious exercise, and enfeebled by the remedies which had been 
employed to mitigate his disorder, the fatigue, especially for the few 
first days, seemed too much for his strength ; but he refreshed and 
encouraged himself with continual communings with God and His 
blessed Mother, sometimes reciting the rosary, at others composing 
pious canticles in honour of the Queen of Heaven. There re- 
mained but one day more of his arduous journey when he was 
attacked by a fever which compelled him to stop upon the road j 
and when at length it abated, and he again resumed his way, his 
bodily powers but ill corresponded with his ardent desire to reach his 
destination, and it was with the utmost difficulty he could drag him- 
self along. The nearer, however, he drew to the holy place the 
more his soul was filled with interior consolations, and when at 
last he beheld froir, a distance the great church of Loreto he experi- 
enced the liveliest emotions of tenderness and joy. " My heart," he 
says, " was wounded iis it were with an arrow, and all inflanied with 
a holy love of Mary.' 

On entering the town, his companions would have sent immedi- 
ately for a physician, but such was his impatience to throw himself 
at the feet of the miraculous image that they did not venture to 
oppo:;e his wishes. On his way he was accosted by a woman 
possessed by an evil spirit, who, though he wore no cassock nor had 
any other distinguishing mark about him, cried to him in Italian, 
** French abb^, be converted, and live as a man of God, or it will 
go ill with you." On entering the church, he threw himself on his 
knees, and, with his countenance bathed in tears, implored the 
Immaculate Virgin that, should he ever be in danger of falling again 
into sin, she would obtain for him the boon of death. At that 
instant he was completely cured; the fever left him, so that the 
physician whom his friends had summoned found his pulse so 
moderate and regular that he supposed he had finished his journey 
in a carriage ; and, as the eyes of his mind were divinely enlightened, 
so those of his body were miraculously healed : the disorder had 
ceased, and never troubled him more. At the same time he re- 
ceived an extraordinary gift of prayer, and passed the whole night 
within the church in fervent supplications, with abundance of tears, 
Into the Holy House itself he did not dare to enter until he had 
c.eansed his soul by a humble confession of his sins. 


His Conversion. 


The supernatural graces with which he had been favoured at this 
holiest of shrines, wrought so complete a transformation in him that 
he could scarcely recognise himself as the same person. " It was in 
this sacred spot," he writes, " that I was born again to grace through 
the prayers of the most holy Virgin ; that Mother of Mercy brought 
me forth to God in the very place wherein she had conceived Christ 
Jesus in her chaste wo nb." He returned to Rome as he had come, 
on foot, occupying himself by the way in adoring God for his great 
mercies and extolling the glories of his august Patroness. 

■/.■i>;?^' ii"s-3^i" j'j-,Sui/S?i '.i^/':A\^:!j^ 

i il 

( i8 ) 



I : I 't 

' Ai 





LONGING to give himself entirely io God, and fearing to lose his 
^ soul should he return to the world, the Ahh6 Olier had 
thoughts of entering the monastic state in some convent of Italy. 
To this end he visited several Carthusian houses, and especially that 
in the Isle of Capri ; and all he there witnessed of the angelic lives 
of the inmates only inflamed his heart with a more ardent desire of 
giving himself up to divine contemplation. Strong, however, as was 
his attraction to the solitary life, he was still in doubt as to what was 
the will of God respecting him, when an event happened which 
summoned him back to France. This was the death of his father, 
after a long and painful illness, which he had borne with the most 
exemplary patience, exhibiting throughout the same tender devotion 
to the most holy Virgin for which he had been remarkable all his 
life. The loss of one he so dearly loved deeply wounded the young 
man's sensitive and affectionate heart, and for a day and a night he 
never ceased giving passionate vent to his sorrow. 

His mother was most urgent for him to return, and, with that 
mixture of piety and worldliness which is frequently to be found in 
imperfect souls, she was equally anxious that he should be a model 
of ecclesiastical virtue and at the same time aspire to the highest 
ofifices in the Church. For two of her sons she had already provided 
to her perfect satisfaction. The eldest, Fran(^ois Olier de Verneuil, 
had been made Maitre des Requetes, while her youngest son, 
Nicolas-Edouard Olier de Fontenelle, had succeeded his father as 
Grand Audiencier of France ; and it was now the desire of her heart 
to see Jean- Jacques occupying the honourable position of Almoner 
to the King, which she had been for some time soliciting for him. 
That there was a large fund of worldliness in his mother's character 

His devotion to the Poor. 


lose his 
ier had 
)f Italy, 
illy that 
;lic lives 
desire of 
r, as was 
jvhat was 
|d which 
lis father, 
■he most 
|k all his 
.e young 
night he 

there, unhappily, cannot be a doubt ; even her affection for her child 
and the estimation in which she held him seemed to vary with the 
hopes she entertained of his success in the world. Thus she 
received him on his return with the most lively demonstrations of 
regard, protesting that he was now her only consolation and support, 
and lavishing every manner of endearment upon him, so long as she 
thought he might second her ambitious views ; but no sooner did she 
perceive that honours and distinctions had no longer any attraction 
for him than her behaviour altogether changed ; for he never for an 
instant wavered in his resolution to withdraw entirely from the world. 
"Although," he says, "I made no outward demonstration, yet from 
the moment that God called ne at Loreto my only pleasure was in 
communing with Him ; all else was a burden and a torment to me. 
My longing desire and the very end of my being was to speak of God." 
Still he kept silence, and for nine months led a hidden life, revealing 
his intentions to no one except his confessor ; until on Christmas 
Day, after making a general confession of his past life, he openly 
avowed his determination to belong henceforth entirely to God and 
to devote himself unreservedly to His service. 

As though to make his rupture with the world as irrevocable 
as possible, he proceeded to commit an outrage on conventional 
proprieties such as it never overlooks or pardons. He, a young, 
high-bred, refined, accomplished gentleman, but lately one of its 
most favoured votaries, began to make himself the friend and 
associate of the vulgar rabble, and that openly and even, in appear- 
ance, ostentatiously, as though to defy public opinion, and set it 
utterly at nought. And, in truth, he seemed to be beside himself, 
like the great Patriarch St. Francis, when, in obedience to the divine 
call, he stripped himself of his clothes before his fathc ' face, and 
went forth into the world an outcast and a beggar, having left all for 
Christ; he felt (he says) impelled by a movement of zeal which he 
could not have resisted without a consciousness that he was opposing 
the grace of God and neglecting that on which his perseverance in 
his vocation depended. He entered, then, on the practice of an 
apostleship the like of which the gay world of Paris had never 
witnessed. Day after day he went into its crowded streets, and, 
selecting the most miserable objects he could find — the more ragged 
and squalid the better to his taste — with a sweetness and a tender- 
ness which nothing but divine charity could have taught him, led 
them in a troop to his mother's house, where he instructed them in 

ViH-=;i£L.'iW. X^\ 


Life of M, Olier. 

•■ n 

I ); 

■ ii 


the truths of salvation, and distributed alms among them according 
to their needs. Not being a priest, nor, indeed, even in holy orders, 
he could but prepare them for confession, and then send them, under 
the charge of a trusty servant, to a young and devoted priest with 
whom he was united in the closest ties of friendship. This was 
FranQois Renar, son of a Maitre des Requetes, who, despite a 
natural repugnance for hearing confessions, discharged this charitable 
office at the church of the Capucins du Marais, where he remained 
daily in his confessional from six o'clock until noon. The sck, 
M. Olier caused to be conveyed to the hospital, himself accompany- 
ing them. At the same time he devoted himself to the instruction 
of young scholars, and especially such as aspired to the ecclesiastical 
state, assembling them together for this purpose in his own apart- 
ments. This act of charity was even more obnoxious to his friends 
than the care he expended on the poor, as to their mind there was 
something especially derogatory in performing the part of a school- 
master, and that towards persons who were every way his inferiors. 
They could no longer keep any measures with him, but gave full 
vent to their indignation and contempt, and at length proceeded so 
far as to drive his beggars and his scholars out of the house, and 
compel him to transfer his reception-room to a part of the premises 
which, as he says, reminded him of the stable of Bethlehem. 

Had this, however, been all, the world at large might have ignored 
his eccentricities, and even have regarded them with a patronizing 
pity ; so far, it might appear, he had had the decency to withdraw 
himself and the objects of his folly from the public eye, and retreat 
with them into the privacy of his maternal dwelling. But as yet it 
had formed no adequate conception of the audacity with which he 
was prepared to brave its wrath and set it at defiance. Soon this 
madcap of an Abb^, as he came to be regarded, might be seen, in 
open day and in the most frequented places, surrounded by a crowd 
of wretched people, whom he was instructing, or with whom he was 
conversing, or to whose tale of sorrow he was listening, with the 
same animated air, the same unconscious grace, the same interested 
attention, for which he was distinguished when, but a few short 
months ago, he paid his nightly devoirs at the court of fashion, wit, 
and beauty. It may readily be conceived what rage and scorn such 
conduct would provoke in his old acquaintances, the more as he was 
plainly invulnerable to all the shafts of ridicule that were launched 
against him. One day he was catechising a poor man at the door of 

Anger of his Family. 


pite a 
e sJck, 
n apart- 
1 friends 
lere was 
I school- 
^ave full 
eeded so 
luse, and 

Notre Dame, when a cavalier, richly dressed, approaching the 
servant who accompanied M. Oiler, said to him, in a voice loud 
enough to be heard by all around, "Tell your master he is mad 1" 
The young Abbd heard the woras, but continued his instructions 
with an expression on his countenance of such sweetness and 
humility as would have covered any generous-hearted person with 
confusion. Faithful to the light within him, he minded neither 
taunt, nor sneer, nor affronts that were still more hard to bear ; his 
courage never quailed, his ardour never cooled, and, if ever he offered 
apology for his singularity, it was in some such simple words as 
these : " The rich and the great never want for instruction, there are 
plenty who are ready enough to act as their teachers j but the poor, 
who for the most part are far better disposed, are overlooked and 
abandoned, because in them vanity finds nothing on which to feed." 

Scoffers, of course, there were, numerous enough ; nor were there 
wanting those good worthy men, after their fashion, who shook their 
heads or smiled significantly when the young Abba's name was 
mentioned, and gravely lamented, or loudly condemned, his strange 
misguided zeal, the mere vagary, as they esteemed it, of an ill- 
balanced, enthusiastic mind. But a few generous souls there were 
whom the example of such heroic charity roused to emulation; so 
that not many years elapsed before the sight of young men, well and 
even nobly born, teaching beggars and outcasts was no longer a 
novelty in the streets of Paris. Among the first was M. Renar, the 
young priest already mentioned ; but all were not endowed, especially 
at the outset of their labours, with the holy shamelessness of our 
Abbe. One, in particular, there was who would move to a distance, 
or escape into a house, if he saw any of his old acquaintances 
approaching ; but M. Olier gently reproached him for his cowardice, 
showing him the folly of being ashamed of caring for th.i poor, if we 
would not have the Son of God ashamed of us before His Father and 
the holy angels. 

Mme. Olier, and his relatives generally, as we have seen, regarded 
the occupations in which he was engaged as a dishonour to the 
family, and their dislike of his proceedings was not a little aggra- 
vated by an event which now happened. His cousin, Mile, de 
Bussy, a young lady on whose wealth and beauty they had reckoned 
for obtaining the honours and advantages of a great alliance, 
announced her intention of entering the convent of the Reformed 
Carmelite nuns ; and in this intention she had the encouragement 



Life of M. Glier. 

I if 

1 1, 


and support of M. Olier. The opposition she encountered on 
the part of her friends was violent and prolonged, but it was met 
by a resistance no less determined, and in the end triumphant, 
on the part of the young Abbd This was a crime not soon to 
be forgiven by his family, and their resentment showed itself in 
renewed insults and reproaches. M. Olier bore all with the utmost 
patience, believing, in his humility, that his friends were animated 
by a purer intention in opposing, than he himself was in pursuing, 
his charitable labours. When his mother treated him with more 
unkindness than usual, he would go to the church of Notre Dame 
and, throwing himself on his knees before our Lady's image, 
would say, in the anguish of his heart, "I take thee for my 
mother, most holy Virgin, for my own rejects me ; O Mary, deign 
to be a mother to me." His devotion to the Queen of Heaven 
had never ceased to express itself in modes very similar to those 
which he had adopted when a child. If he happened to have 
anything that could be called beautiful or costly, it was sure to 
find its way to the church of Notre Dame. His cousin, on leaving 
the world (he says) must needs stuff his wardrobe with her diamonds 
and jewellery, and other cast-off vanities, but they were soon dis- 
tributed among the different churches of the capital, and a large 
proportion was expended in the decoration of the cathedral of 
Notre Dame. 

Desirous, and even careful, as he was to avoid annoying his 
relatives needlessly, M. Olier set no bounds to his fervour so far 
as the mortification of his own natural inclinations was concerned ; 
and the same charity which impelled him to brave the scorn of 
the world for the sake of the poor and miserable, led him to the 
performance of acts still more extraordinary and heroic. After 
teaching some ragged begg?r his catechism he would kneel and 
kiss his feet; and, were the object of his love and compassion 
afilicted with any noisome sore, he would beg to be allowed to 
kiss it also j nay, he would apply his lips to loathsome ulcers the 
very sight of which filled the passers-by with horror. One of his 
biographers, M. de Bretonvilliers, relates that on sixteen different 
occasions he was himself an eye-witness of this marvellous act of 
charity. After a visit to his favourite church of Notre Dame it 
was not unfrequently his custom, on going out, to kiss the feet of 
all the poor he found at the door or within the enclosure, as well 
as of all whom he met on the bridges and in the streets ; for he 

His heroic charity. 


beheld Jesus Christ in His suffering poor, and by an impulse 
which he seemed unable to resist he did Him homage in their 
persons. "How sweet it is," he wrote, "to obey Thee, O my 
God, and how fully dost Thou render a hundredfold to those who 
profess to be Thy faithful servants ! For I cannot say I am wholly 
Thine save that I have always striven to obey Thee from the 
moment of my conversion. Never could I endure to deny Thee 
anything when 1 had the means and the power, and my mind 
and heart have ever cleaved to Thee, young as 1 was in Thy 
divine service. St. Paul said that from the time of his vocation 
he condescended not to his own will, his own judgment, the 
inclinations of flesh and blood : * ah ! would to God that this might 
be my case also, who am wholly proud, nay, wholly made up of 
pride ! My sweet Jesus, such as I am it is in Thee I receive all 
these graces, and it is for Thee, my All, that I desire to do all, 
say all, and write all ; Thee only I love, who referrest everything 
to Thy Father, for whom I'hou Uvest." 

This true servant of the Lord, however, was as humble and 
obedient as he was ardent and courageous, and at a word from 
his confessor, who suggested to him that such extraordinary acts 
of charity, performed so publicly, might have the effect of exciting 
notice, and drawing attention to himself, he instantly abandoned 
the practices of which we have spoken. He no longer kissed the 
sores of the poor with his bodily lips, but he kissed them still, 
he says, in spirit. "For," he adds, "our interior ought to be 
greater than our exterior; and what we do exteriorly ought to 
appear to us so little, in comparison with what we desire to do 
in our interior for God's great majesty, as to make us blush for 
shame. Thus what we do will be full of humility and charity, 
the two conditions which ought to accompany all our actions, and 
which constituted the spirit in which our Lord performed every- 
thing He did." But though he was careful to avoid any public 
display, yet when he was walking in the country, in places where 
there was no danger of incurring notoriety, he would kiss both the 
feet and the sores of the poor he met, never omitting to bestow 
an alms upon them; and he believed that these meetings were 
ordered by a special providence, so as to afford consolation to 
the sufferers as well as edification to himself. One day he met 
three poor persons one after another, in whom his piety recognized 

• Gal. i. IS, 16. 

r ' 

»:-iLJiLT?» t^r^^^T. 


Life of M. Olier. 






\ 4 


a likeness to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. "The first," he says, 
" who passed was an old man, the next was a good woman, the 
third a young man. I questioned them as to their faith, and 
received satisfactory replies. The last of them, who represented 
to me Jesus Christ, affected me much ; his body was frightfully 
burned, one arm shrunk and withered, and even bared to the 
bone. I asked him, among other things, how he met with such 
an accident ; he told me it was through endeavouring to save his 
children from the flames. Nothing could have corresponded more 
perfectly with my imagination ; the hkeness between this poor man 
and my Saviour covered with wounds in endeavouring to save His 
children, moved me deeply. ' Ah ! God bless you,' I answered 
to every word he spoke. After I had consoled him and invoked 
God's blessing on him, he went away much comforted, nor was 
I less so, for he had let me kiss his sores." 

Another feature in the circumstance which pleased M. Olier was 
that this poor man told him he came from Notre Dame de Chartres, 
as he felt he had thus an opportunity of thanking our blessed Lady, 
in the person of this poor sufferer, for the mercies she had lately 
shown him at that celebrated shrine. Not long after his return from 
Rome God was pleased, for his greater purification, to visit him 
with a most grievous trial. It was his habit to confess and receive 
communion every day, but so sensitive was he to every little imper- 
fection, and so scrupulous did his conscience become, that at last 
he confessed as many as three times in a morning, and would even 
summon the priest from the altar, when he was preparing to aay 
Mass, that he might give him absolution. This was the Pbre Dufour, 
Chaplain of St. Paul's, who had been almoner to St. Francis de Sales. 
In vain did the good priest endeavour to remove his scruples by the 
suggestion of all the motives applicable to such a case ; although he 
implicitly obeyed every direction given him by his confessor his fears 
remained, and only the Hand that had smitten him could give the 
relief he needed. He resolved once more to have recourse to the 
Mother of Mercy, and to seek her aid at the shrine of Notre Dame 
de Chartres,* which had been the resort of pious pilgrims from time 

* The history of this celebrated shrine dates (strange to say) from pagan times, 
l)efore the birth of Christ. Tradition says that on the height where now stands 
the cathedral church of Chartres, there was, in time anterior to Christianity, an 
altar dedicated to "the Virgin who should bear a son — Virgini pariturce." This 
expectation of a Deliverer, the son of a virgin, is proved by incontestable monu- 

His secret austerities. 

immemorial. It was the middle of winter when he left Paris, in 
true pilgrim guise, on foot ; but such was the ardour of his devotion, 
and so pleasing to his heavenly Patroness was the simplicity of his 
faith, that from the moment he entered the cathedral church, even 
before he had visited the subterranean chapel in which her image 
stood, he found himself deHvered from all his scruples. 

The reader will not need to be told that proportioned to his 
tenderness towards others was his severity towards himself. Very 
high sanctity is usually accompanied with extraordinary mortifica- 
tions, and the subject of this biography was no exception to the 
rule. The gay younj, Abb^, whose life had been all softness and 
delicacy, who affected magnificence, not from a vulgar love of dis- 
play, but because it gratified a refined and elegant taste, now dealt 
hardly with himself, content with the bare necessaries of life that 
he might have the more to bestow in alms upon the poor, and kept 
aloof from society that he might have more time for prayer. His 
austerities were practised with all the secrecy possible, but his ser- 
vant discovered that he was in tlie habit of removing the mattress 
from his bed and lying on the palliasse, restoring everything to 
its place in the morning, in order to escape observation ; and so 
effectually were his precautions taken, that it was some years before 
this practice became known to any but the confidential servant in 
question. In short, he was as ingenious in contriving mortifications 
and as indefatigable in denying himself as men of tae world are 
studious of their ease and unwearied in the pursuit of pleasure. Nor 
was this love of solitude and mortification the effect of an over- 
wrought imagination or an indiscreet zeal ; he was but following 
the leadings of divine grace and preparing himself for the work to 
which God was calling him. He had a mission to perform in the 
order of Providence — a mission no less than that of reforming and 
elevating the clergy of France — and he was now being tried and 
fitted for the office. A vocation so extraordinary demanded extra- 
ordinary graces and a perfection of holiness corresponding thereto. 
This Is the clue to his conduct during the interval we are now con- 

ments to have 'videly prevailed among the nations, whether as a remnant of the 
primitive patriarchal faith, or by reason of a special revelation, or that it was 
derived from »he Jews who, subsequently to Alexander's conquests, were dispersed 
about the world, carrying with them their Sacred Books translated into Greek. 
Altars with a similar import are also said to have existed in several other places ; 
as, for example, at Nogent, Autun, Dijon, &c. In Christian times the shrine 
of Notre Dame de Chartres became a most frequented place of pilgrimage. 


Life of M. Olier. 

1 1 


i if 

i f II' 
■ it 1 1 

sidering, and may prepare us for all that is supernatural in the 
accounts that follow. 

Ever since the change that had passed upon him at Loreto, M. 
Olier had been travailing, as it were, in the throes of a second con- 
version, and a few holy souls were specially called to assist at the 
birth. Of Marie Rousseau we have already spoken ; of another M. 
Olier made the acquaintance when visiting his abbey of P^'brac in 
the year 1631. In the M^re Desgranges, Superioress of the nuns 
of Notre Dame de Brioudc, whose venerable age and exalted virtues 
inspired him with a filial reverence and affection, he seemed to 
behold a representative of that heavenly Mother to whose love and 
service he was so eminently devoted ; and the admonitions siie gave 
him were received with as much docility r.i though tliey had come 
from the lips of the Blessed Virgin herseif. In a letter he addressed 
to her, and which has been preserved, he begs her, in the most 
earnest terms, to continue still to nourish his soul with her salutary 
counsels, and to obtain for him a more perfect love and devotion to 
Jesus and Mary. ''Teach me," he writes, "to love thy All, thy 
great God, whom I do not dare to approach, being in myself so 
unworthy. Speak to Him for your child, and, if you would have 
him follow you, teach him the way in which he ought to speak. 
My very dear mother, I am without voice, without speech, because 
I am without love. * T/ie Spirit of the Lord,' who is in you, ' /lath 
knowledge of the voice? * When you have obtained me His presence 
and His holy union, I shall not ask you how I must speak. O Jesus, 
Father of Love, and thou, Mary, mother of fair love, together with 
thy spouse, St. Joseph, obtain me this holy love. O love, which 
residest so fully and supremely in these three persons, give thyself 
to thy poor little, but alas ! unfaithful and ungrateful slave. O love, 
shut thine eyes, O mercy, open thy bosom, look not on my crimes. 
Remember what you are and not what I am. Take me, guard me, 
consume, devour me in yourselves, and then I am content. O fire 
of Heaven, I cannot live if thou dost not animate me ; my life is 
death without thee." 

But the person who was directly commissioned by Heaven to 
intercede for the future founder of St. Sulpice, was the Mere Agnes 
de Jdsus, Prioress of the Dominican Convent of St. Catherine at 
Langeac, who was, and is still to this day, held in the highest 

* Wisdom, L 7. 

His sermon at St. Paul's. 


veneration throughout Auvergne, Velay, and the neighbouring pro- 
vinces, and whom the Holy See has colemnly declared to have 
practised all Christian virtues in an heroic degree. This holy nun 
never ceased her prayers for the sanctification of the clergy and the 
conversion of the poor country-people, who, for want of zealous 
pastors, were plunged in ignorance and vice ; and one day, when 
she was beseeching her Divine Spouse, with many tears, to close her 
earthly exile and admit her to His presence, our Lord said to her, 
" I have still need of thee for the sanctification of a soul who shall 
promote My glory." * Shortly afterwards, the Blessed Virgin, 
towards whom the ML'rc Agnes entertained a devotion remarkable 
even among saints, appeared to her, clothed with light, and 
said, "Tray to my Son for the Abbe of P^brac." Pdbrac was only 
four or five miles distant from Langeac,t but the Mfere Agnes had 
never seen M. Olier nor even heard his name ; and it was not until 
three years afterwards that they beheld each other, and that in the 
manner and under the circumstances which will be related in the 
next chai)ter. Meanwhile she offered, not only her most fervent 
prayers, bet her extraordinary austerities, for the sanctification of 
the soul which had been thus commended to her charity ; and such 
was the ardour with which she sought to satisfy the Divine justice 
by her sufferings for the sins of which that soul was guilty, that (as 
we learn from M. Olier himself) she scourged herself so cruelly that 
the walls of her cell were sprinkled with her blood. 

At this time M. Olier had no director,J nor was he aware of the 
necessity of such a guide, in order to determine his vocation and 

* Vie de la VMrable Mire Agnis de Jt'siis, par M. de I.antages, Pictre de St. 
Sulpice et Premier Sup^rieur de Notre Dame du Puy. P. iii, C. xii. 2. A new 
edition of this marvellous Life, revised and enlarged by the Abbe Lucot, was 
published in 1863. 

t M. Faillon says two leagues, but in the letter cited by him (P. i, L. v. 15) 
M. Olier says one league. The distance was probably about a league and a half; 
as, indeed, may be gathered from a passage in he Life of the Mere Agnfes, to 
which reference will be made in chapter iii. 

t It is hardly necessary to state that the office of a confessor is simply to 
administer the sacrament of penance ; that of a director, to guide the soul in the 
ways of the spiritual life. Of course, the two may be combined in the same person ; 
and when the ordinary confessor happens to possess the qualifications necessary 
for the difficult office of direction, such combination is deemed highly desirable ; 
but in themselves they are essentially distinct. Every pious Catholic, in a matter 
of difficulty which concerns conscience, would consult his confessor, or any other 
good priest, but (whatever expressions may be used in common parlance) this does 
not constitute him a director. See F. Baker's Sancta Sophia, T. i. S. ii. C. ii. 3. 




Life of M. Olier, 

1 \\ 

make progress in spiritual perfection. He was still doubtful whether 
it might not be God's will that he should enter some reformed 
religious Order, and to obtain the light he needed he ceased not to 
implore the aid of his heavenly Patroness. To this end he made 
several pilgrimages in her honour ; besides repairing to Notre Dame 
des Vertus, Notre Dame des Anges, and other noted shrines in the 
neighbourhood of Paris, his devotion led him to go twice, on foot, 
to the famous sanctuary of Notre Dame de Liesse in the diocese of 
Soissons.* It was his habit thus to prepare himself for the more 
worthy celebration of her feasts, and one of these occasions was in 
the month of August, 1632 — during, therefore, the exhausting heats 
of summer — in preparation for the festival of the Assumption. He 
went, accompanied by his servants, chanting litanies on the way, or 
composing, as was his wont, simple canticles in her praise. He 
wished, moreover, to recommend to her the success of a sermon he 
was to deliver on that day in the church of St. Paul at Paris. He 
was subject at this period to a feeling of nervous trepidation when- 
ever he had to preach in public, which distressed him the more that 
he feared it was occasioned by a secret desire of human esteem. 
Many times he made an offering of himself to God that, if such 
were His will, he might suffer the confusion of beinc; unable to pro- 
ceed; but no such result ever followed, although the agitation 
remained. On the day in question, while mounting the pulpit, he 
was more than usually disturbed ; nevertheless he began his sermon, 
and continued it for some time without the slightest hesitation, when 
he suddenly ] i; all presence of mind; but, confident in the assist- 
ence of his powerful Patroness, he went on giving utterance to what- 
ever came to his lips, although he knew not what he was saying, 
and so it was that, without any sensible effort of memory or thought, 
he delivered himself of all he had prepared, and that so fluently 
and so powerfully, that no one but himself was aware of his em- 
barrassment. Of this the parish register bore witness, for there it 

* The origin of this sanctuary of Our Lady of Liesse, or Gladness, is attributeil 
by tradition to three crusader knights of Laon, who, after boldly confessing the 
faith before their Saracen captors, were released from prison liy the Sultan's 
daughter and miraculously transported to their own country. On the spot where 
they found themselves they built a church in thanksgiving for their deliverance 
and placed within it the image of the Blessed Virgin, which, after being roughly 
fashioned by their own hands, had been finished by heavenly aid. 'J'he whole 
story, which dates from the middle of the twelfth century, forms No. 13 of 
Catholic Legends, published among the volumes of the " Popular Library." 

His Vocation shown him in a Dream. 


stood recorded that on Sunday, Auj^ust 15th, 1632, being the feast 
of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, M. Jean-Jacques 
Olier preached in the afternoon before a full audience, and acquitted 
hiimelf excelUntly well and learnedly.* 

It was the will of God that the reform of the secular clergy of 
France should proceed, not from any religious Order nor directly 
from the Kpiscopate, but from 1 member of their own body. All 
the founders of seminaries and all whose special vocation it was to 
labour for the sanctification of the ecclesiastical state were secular 
priests ; as, for instance, St. Vincent de Paul, Ptjre dc Condren, and 
Pl're Eudes. 'I'o a participation in this great design M. Olier was 
now to be called. It was in the November of 1632 that he received 
his first intimation of the Divine will, and that by means of a dream, 
although, as he says, he did not understand its full significance till 
six years after »vards. Tliere was a good and holy priest who had 
shown much solicitude for his spiritual interests, and, when he was 
on his deathbed, M. Olier begged his friend to remember him when 
he came before God, and obtP'n grace for him to know his vocation. 
Two or three nights afterwards he saw, in a vision, Heaven opened, 
and beheld Pope St. Gregory the Great seated on a lofty throne and 
below him, on another throne, St. Ambrose; below these, again, 
were the seats of the priests, one of which, under the latter saint, 
was vacant ; and still lower, and even far lower, he beheld a number 
of Carthusian monks, as though to complete the hierarchy. From 
his fifteenth year (as has been related) M. Olier had been attracted 
towards the Carthusian Order, but this vision seemed to tell him 
that it was the will of God that he should serve him in the ranks of 
the clergy, whom those great saints had illustrated by their virtues 
and elevated by their labours. The seat left vacant below St. 
Ambrose seemed to be reserved for one who, with a zeal akin to 
that of the holy prelate, should devote himself to the exaltation of 
the sacerdotal order and at the same time remain as much separated 
from the world as though he were a spiritual child of St. Bruno. 
This vision, which occurred on two successive nights, left a deep 
and lasting impression on his mind and was not without an imme- 
diate effect of a decisive character. He had no longer any desire 
of the monastic life, and, going the next day, as was his custom, to 
vespers at the house of the Carthusians, he felt within himself such 

• K 

II eut un bel auditoire, tXfU tres-bien et Ires-doctemeut.^ 


Life of M, Olier. 

a repugnance to their particular vocation, that he never entertained 
the thought again, although he preserved the utmost respect for the 
monks themselves, and took great pleasure in visiting them and 
assisting at their offices, -n order to unite himself to their prayers 
and endeavour to participate in their spirit. 

The question of his vocation thus finally settled, M. Olier placed 
himself under the immediate direction of St. Vincent de I'aul, whom 
he henceforth took as his confessor and spiritual guide. Near con- 
tact with such a spirit could not fail to kindle fresh ardour in our 
Abbd's breast. Instead of resuming his theological studies, his 
desire now was to labour for the salvation of the poor country- 
l)eople, and this desire the Saint enabled him to fulfil by associating 
him with his Priests of the Mission,'*' although he was not affiliated 
to the Congregation. Acting under the direction of these Apostolic 
men, he catechised and preached with a zeal that never tired ; how- 
ever exhausted he might be after the arduous duties of the day, if 
he met a poor man on the way he would stop and speak to him of 
(}od ; and this practice, it may be observed, he continued through- 
out his life until his paralysed condition obliged him to desist. 
When journeying from place to place he would turn aside from the 
road to converse with the peasants in the fields, regardless of the 
fatigue, and even privations, to which he thus exposed himself, for 
not unfrequently night overtook him while engaged in these labours 
of love, and he would be compelled to find shelter in a hovel. He 
had not lost his affection for beggars ; for if he met with any in 
the streets he would take them with him to his lodging and, after 
ministering to their temporal wants, apply himself to the relief of 
their spiritual necessities, preparing them to make a general confes- 
sion with a sweetness and a patience that nothing could disturb. 
He also provided missions and retreats out of his own private means, 
not only for the places from which he derived any emoluments, as 
Bazainville, Clisson, and Verneuil, but for several parishes in the 
neighbourhood of Paris. 

Some months having been devoted to these missionary labours, 
M. Olier, in obedience to the counsels of St. Vincent de Paul, retired 
to the house of the Priests of the Mission in order to prepare for 
the reception of holy orders. To these truly spiritual men he would 

* The Priests of the Mission or, as they were indifierently called, the Priests 
of St. Lazare, instituted by St. Vincent de Paul, were erected into a Congregation 
by Urban VIII. on the I2th of January, 1632. 

His Reception of Holy Orders. 


naturally have had recourse for the purpose, but, in fact, he had no 
choice in the matter; for on February 21st, 1631, a mandate had 
Dcen issued by the Archbishop of Paris,* at the instance of M. 
Augustin Potier, the zealous IJishop of Peauvais — to whom the 
matter had been earnestly recommended by one of the most remark- 
able men of the day, M. Adrien Bourdoise, of whom we shall hear 
more in this history — ordering every candidate to enter into a retreat 
of fifteen days preparatory to receiving ordination ; and on the 8th 
of January in the following year it was further prescribed that the 
exercises should be provided by the Priests of the Mission. The 
Priory of St. Lazare had just been ceded to them by the Canons 
Regular of St. Victor, with permission of the Archbishop, on the 
express condition of their rendering this service to his diocese; a 
condition which was subsequently confirmed by the Sovereign 

On the 1 2th of March, 1633, M. Olier received the sub-diaconate, 
and on the 26th of the same month the diaconatc ; and, finally, on 
the 2ist of May, being the Saturday before Trinity Sunday, he was 
ordained priest by M. Etienne Puget, Bishop of Dardania, who was 
also at the time Bishop Auxiliary of Metz and subsequently became 
Bishop of Marseilles. But, not content with making the ordinary 
retreat, he desired, like other good and pious priests, to employ some 
considerable time in "adorning" (to adopt M. Faillon's words) "the 
interior sanctuary of his heart before offering for the first time the 
Lamb without spot." Accordingly, he spent an entire month in 
a course of spiritual exercises, intermitting all other occupations. 
On the feast of St. John the Baptist, whom he always regarded as 
his patron no less than St. John the Evangelist, he said his first Mass 
in the church of the Carmelite nuns of Notre Dame des Champs ; 
and on the same day and in the same place Mile, de Bussy made 
her religious profession, M. Olier himself preaching the sennon. 
Sister Magdalen of St. John Baptist — such was the name she took 
in rehgion — during the forty years she passed, first in Paris and after- 
wards at Limoges, was a model of sanctity to all around her, and it 

* Jean-Fran9ois de Gondy (uncle of the notorious Cartlinal de Retz) first Arch- 
bishop of Paris, that see having been erected into an archbishopric by Gregory 
XV. in 1622. The suffragan sees were those of Cliartres, Meaux, and Orleans; 
to which was subsequently added that of Biois. The cliaracter of tliis prelate, 
with its inconsistencies and weaknesses, is well and fairly described by M. 
Chantelauze in his interesting work entitled St. Vincent de Paid et les Gondi, 
chap. iii. 



Life of M. Olier. 

was observed that she seemed to share in an eminent degree her 
cousin's profound devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and his tender 
love of Mary. 

This love and confidence in the holy Mother of God seemed to 
increase and intensify in his heart from the day he approached the 
altar. Persuaded that to her, after God, he owed everything in the 
order of grace, he vowed to her a perpetual servitude, desiring that 
all he possessed should be at her disposal. He could refuse nothing 
to those who pleaded in her name. If he had no money about him 
he would give away his handkerchief, or a book, or a medal. " They 
are the servants of the great Queen," he would say, " I cannot resist 
them." It was his delight to have some representation of her before 
him, whatever he was engaged in j and he never omitted to salute 
her image wherever he met with it ; a practice which he continued 
as long as he lived. He always passed in preference through the 
streets in which such images most abounded; they were, in fact, 
very numerous in Paris, as the citizens, by way of a protest against 
Calvinistic impiety, had placed them at many of the corners, and 
also on the fronts of their houses. He seemed to know instinctively 
where they were, without being at the trouble of looking for them, 
and would point them out to his friends in hidden nooks and niches, 
in order to excite their devotion. Indeed, one of them used to call 
a street which led to Notre Dame the Rue de I'Abb^ Olier because 
he loved to pass that way on account of the numerous images of our 
Lady which adorned it. 

These friends were, for the most part, young ecclesiastics of good 
family, who were also under the direction of St. Vincent de Paul ; 
and it was for their benefii. and at their desire that the famous Con- 
ferences of St. Lazare were instituted, which became the source of 
80 many blessings to France. The object was mutual edification and 
sanctification in the priestly life ; and among the first promoters (as 
we learn from the Life of the Saint) * was the Abbd Olier. The 
inaugural meeting took place on June 25th, 1633, and the second on 
July 9th, when it was resolved that the Conferences should continue 
to be held on every Tuesday throughout the year; a resolution 
which received the approbation of the Archbishop. Numbering at 
first only a few young and zealous priests, most of whom became 
celebrated in after life, these weekly assemblies were ultimately 

* Saint Vincent de Paul: sa Vie, son Temps, ses CEuvres, son Influence. Par 
M. I'Abbe Maynard, Chanoine Honoraire de Poitiers. Vol. ii. chap. iil.. 


Con/eretices of Si. Lazare. 


ned to 
,ecl the 

in the 
ng that 
)Ut him 
» They 
ot resist 
r before 
;o salute 
fugh the 

in fact, 
,t against 
lers, and 
for them, 
id niches, 
ed to call 
r because 
res of our 

5 of good 
de Paul ; 
lous Con- 
source of 
ation and 
noters (as 
ler. The 
lecond on 
ibering at 

frequented by the ablest and most devoted of the younger clergy of 
Paris. To the success of these reunions, as well as to the further- 
ance of the objects for which they were begun, M. Olier contri- 
buted not a little, both by introducing numbers of young men 
to the Conferences and by himself instituting (as will hereafter 
appear) similar assemblies in other localities. They were confined 
to the secular clergy, n member of a religious Order being 

( 34 ) 



EVER since his elevation to the priesthood M. Olier had 
desired to evangelize the parishes which were dependent 
on the Abbey of Pdbrac ; but, before entering on his labours, he 
sought to imbue himself thoroughly with the truths which he was 
about to announce to others. For some time he had been unable 
to apply his mind to study, and he now resolved not to have 
recourse to books, but to occupy himself entirely with prayer. 
" Prayer," he writes, " is my great book ; and a passage I once 
met with in St. Gregory Nazianzen has confirmed me in this 
conviction. Preachers, he says, ought not to venture to mount the 
pulpit until they have ascended the steps of contemplation ; they 
ought to behold in God, and to derive from Him, the truths which 
they preach." The more he read in this divine book the more 
intense became his thirst for the salvation of souls ; and he suc- 
ceeded in getting together a band of missionaries such as has been 
rarely witnessed. They were all young men of good family, and 
among them were his cousin, M. de Perrochel, afterwards Bishop 
of Boulogne, and an ardent lover of poverty and of the poor ; M. 
de Barrault, nephew of the Archbishop of Aries ; and M. Renar, 
of whom mention was before made. The whole band was, by M. 
Olier's desire, placed under the direction of an experienced Priest 
of the Mission 

All being now arranged, he retired to St. Lazare for a ten days' 
preparatory retreat ; during which, by the advice of St. Vincent, 
he preserved complete seclusion and perpetual silence, keeping 
apart from the rest and not even availing himself of the usual 
liberty of speaking in the hours of recreation. It is at such seasons 

Visit to the Convent at Langeac. 



■)F THE 

Uer had 
bours, he 
h he was 
;n unable 
to have 
h prayer. 
[e I once 
in this 
lount the 
on; they 
[ths which 
ithe more 
he suc- 
has been 
[inily, and 
is Bishop 
poor; M. 
;. Renar, 
as, by M. 
;ed Priest 

ten days' 



Ithe usual 

Lh seasons 

that God has been pleased to favour the souls of His election with 
signal supernatural graces, and it was now that there happened to 
M. Olier the most extraordinary event of his life. He was alone 
in his chamber, engaged in prayer, when he saw before him a 
female figure in the garb of a nun. Her countenance wore an 
expression of exceeding gravity and sadness. Her hands were 
crossed upon her breast, and in one she held a crucifix, in the 
other a rosary. By her side, but somewhat behind her, kneeling 
on one knee, appeared an angel of surpassing beauty, who with 
one hand bore up the folds of her mantle and in the other held 
a handkerchief, as though to catch the tears she shed. " I weep 
for thee," she said, in a tone of deep afflict'on, which went to Pt. 
Olier's heart and filled it with a sweet emotion. These were the 
only words she uttered. So majestic was her bearing, and such 
reverence did the angel pay her, that he believed it was the Virgin 
Mother who stood before him, and, though he remained seated, 
he cast himself in spirit at her feet. He thought that in showing 
him the crucifix and the rosary she meant to teach him that the 
cross of Christ and devotion to His holy Mother must be the 
means of his salvation and the rule of his life. The apparition 
was repeated shortly after, and it was on this second occasion 
that M. Olier became convinced that the figure was that of a 
person then actually alive, and also, from her habit, that she was 
a religious of the Order of St. Dominic. 

His desire to go at once in search of his mysterious visitor was 
very strong; but, as all the preparations for the mission were 
finished, he was unable and, indeed, unwilling to interpose any 
delay. On his way, however, with his companions to the scene 
of their labours, his mind was on the alert to receive any intimations 
that might serve as a clue to further inquiry, for he was persuaded 
that sooner or later Providence would bring him into personal 
relations with the object of his search; and when, on reaching 
Riom, a town of Auvergne, some fifty miles from Langeac, he 
heard people speak of the Mere Agnbs as a marvel of sanctity, 
and found that she was the Prioress of a Dominican house, he 
began to think that, perhaps, it was this holy nun who had 
appeared to him at St. Lazare. This conjecture took more definite 
shape in his mind the nearer he approached the neighbourhood of the 
convent and the more he learned of her sanctity ; and he resolved 
to go and see her as soon as he could obtain the necessary leisure. 




Life of M. Olier. 

The Abbey of Pdbrac was situated in the depths of a mountain 
gorge, near the bed of a torrent which falls into the AUier, and 
there, in the heart of those savage wilds, the missionaries com- 
menced their labours, passing from village to village and from 
hamlet to hamlet, proclaiming the kingdom of God and calling on 
all wanderers to return. M. Olier preached every day, and only 
left the pulpit to finish in the confessional the conversions he had 
begun by the force and unction with which he spoke. Then would 
he assemble the poor people together with all the affection of a 
father, wait upon them himself with head uncovered, and, when 
their wants were satisfied, make his own meal of the scraps that 
remained. Those who were unable to attend the church, or had 
wilfully absented themselves, or had not yielded to his persuasive 
exhortations, he would seek out in their own homes, or wherever 
they were to be found, consoling, admonishing, and conquering, 
by sheer gentleness and sweetness, souls whom rebuke or menace 
would have confirmed in their impenitence. In fine, not content 
with having devoted his days to toil, he would often spend a 
considerable portion of the night in prayer. One thing this lowly 
priest had asked of God with earnest supplication, and God had 
granted his request : it was that in all his charitable labours he 
might pass for a person of no account, and that the credit ot 
what he did might be given to another. It was, therefore, with 
a joyful satisfaction he observed that, both on the journey and at 
the scene of his ministrations, no one regarded him as the leader 
and promoter of the expedition ; particularly as his whole manner 
and bearing were so simple and retiring, and he was continually 
employed in attendance on the poor and in other humble avoca- 
tions. M. de Perrochel was the one to whom all looked as the 
principal conductor of the mission; to him, as to the chief, all 
deference was paid, and to him was the merit of the work referred. 
*' He passed," says M. Olier, " for what he was and since has 
proved himself to be, a messenger sent from God, a veritable 
Apostle, yea, a living image of our Saviour Jesus Christ." If 
these words were applicable, as doubtless they were, to the future 
Bishop of Boulogne, the eulogium they convey was at least as 
justly due to his saintly friend. 

All this time M. Olier had not forgotten his visitor at St. Lazare, 
and at length he took advantage of a favourable opportunity to repair 
to the village of Lanjjeac, which, as has been said, was between four 

Interview with the Mere Agnh, 






ig on 

le had 
1 of a 
, when 
)s that 
or had 
spend a 
lis lowly 
3od had 
lOurs he 

;redit ot 

ire, with 
ly and at 

le leader 


ie avoca- 
as the 
:hief, all 

|ince has 

Irlst." H 

.e future 

least as 

, Lazare, 

to repair 

Iveen four 

and five miles distant from the Abbey of Pdbrac. Meanwhile it was 
observed with surprise by the nuns tliat the Mbre Agnes seemed to 
have a supernatural knowledge of the movements of a body of priests 
who were on their way to give a mission in Auvergne, and she spoke 
in particular of M. Olier, and of his coming to the convent, with a 
pleasure which was the more unaccountable as they knew she had 
never seen him in her life nor had the slightest personal acquaintance 
with him. It was with scarcely less surprise that M. Olier, on 
arriving at the village inn, received a visit from a lay-sister of the 
convent, who came to salute him in the name of the Mother Prioress. 
This act of courtesy naturally led to his paying a visit in return to 
the Priory, but, to his disappointment, the Mfere Agnfes did not make 
her appearance in the parlour. She had commissioned the Sisters, 
however, to present him with her rosary, as a mark of her esteem, a 
circumstance which they did not fail to notice and remark upon ; 
while to M. Olier himself this gift of a rosary came as a strong 
presumptive proof that the donor was one and the same person with 
his mysterious visitor. He repaired to the convent several times, 
and still no Mere Agnes was visible. At last she came into the 
guest-room accompanied by one of the Sisters; but her veil was 
down, as is the custom of the Order, and she began to converse with 
M. Olier as with an ecclesiastic whom she knew only through the 
report that had reached her of his zealous labours in those parts. 
Desirous, however, of satisfying himself as to whether she was the 
actual person who had appeared to him, he begged her to lift her 
veil. She did so at his request, and he beheld once more before 
him the countenance of her who had visited him in his lonely 
chamber at Sl Lazare. " My mother," he said, *' I have seen you 
elsewhere." "True," she replied; "you saw me twice at Paris, 
where I appeared to you during your retreat at St. Lazare. I was 
directed by the holy Virgin to pray for your conversion, God having 
destined you to lay the first foundations of ecclesiastical seminaries 
in France." 

At these words, and at the thought of the solemn mission to which 
he was called by God, M. Olier, in his humility, remained like one 
astounded ; but when the Mbre Agn^s went on to relate how, in 
obedience to the Divine command, she had for three years offered 
up her prayers and penances in his behalf, he gave full expression to 
the feelings of gratitude which filled his heart, and earnestly implored 
her to continue by her counsels the work of sanctification she had 







Life of M. Olier. 

already begun in him. She, on her part, was equally affected ; and 
from this moment was established that confidential intercourse 
between these two holy souls which conduced most powerfully to the 
spiritual perfection of both. Agnes availed herself of every oppor- 
tunity to draw his attention to any imperfection she observed in his 
conduct, exhorting him particularly to the practice of humility and 
self-renunciation, and, above all things, of interior mortification, as 
being the very basis and support of the spiritual iiie. Her constant 
wish and prayer for him, as she again and again assured him, was 
that he might be favoured with an abundance of sufferings and 
crosses, and she never ceased imploring the blessing of Heaven as 
well on his present labours as on his future vocation. While M. 
Olier preached and ministered to the country people, the M^re 
Agnbs, in the solitude of her cell, offered herself as a victim to God 
in his and their behalf, and for the whole people and clergy of 

One subject there was which, even at their first interview, Agnes 
did not neglect to press upon him, the reform of his Abbey of Pdbrac, 
promising that while he worked she would pray. This religious 
house had long presented a deplorable spectacle ; all remnant of 
ancient discipline had disappeared, and the utter contempt of 
monastic rules had been attended with the introduction of every 
manner of disorder. M. Olier had already directed his attention to 
the matter, and had even put St. Vincent de Paul in communication 
with M. Alain de Solminihac, in the hopes that he who had begun 
so successfully the reform of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine in 
his own abb 3) of Chancellade, in Guyenne, would undertake a 
similar work at Pebrac* But, as the Abbe was unable at that time 
to supply the required number of religious to fill the places of the 
ejected monks, the contemplated arrangement had never been con- 
cluded. During his present visit, however, M. Olier had witnessed 
with his own eyes such irregularities on the part of the inmates of 
the monastery as caused him the deepest affliction. That the evil 
was great he had been well aware, but the scandalous reality far 
exceeded anything he had previously conceived, and he did not 
hesitate to declare that not even the poor neglected peasantry had 
more need of reformation than these unworthy professors of the 

*The Abbe de Chancellade commenced his reforms in the year 1622. He was 
nominated to the bishopric of Cahors by Louis XIII. in 1637, and died December 
31st, 1659. He was a man of most austere and saintly life. 

The Abbey of Pi^brac. 


religious life. By the most touching appeals and, failing these, by 
the most alarming representations of their guilt in the sighc of an 
offended God, he endeavoured to recall them to a sense of their 
responsibilities ; but in vain. The defence they set up for themselves, 
and on which they rehed for their justification, was that they were 
bound, not by the positive rules of their Order, but simply by the 
measure in which those rules were observed by those who received 
their vows ; declaring that at their profession they liad formally 
protested that they understood them and took them, not according to 
their literal import, but in the sense in which they were actually 
fulfilled by the Community at the time. To this, however, it was 
replied that an individual has no power to frame a rule for himself, 
nor a superior of an Order to dispense with its essential vows; 
neither has a bishop any such power. These representations, coupled 
with the earnest entreaties and remonstrances of M. Olier, at length 
so wrought upon them that two-thirds of their number — twelve out of 
eighteen — had begun to show a disposition to accept a reform when 
the Mere Agnes laid strict injunction on him to accomplish the work 
on which he had entered. 

Accordingly, on June ist, 1634, he wrote to the Abbe de Chan- 
cellade, beseeching him, with a sort of passionate earnestness, to 
undertake the reform of his monastery, and promising on his part 
to consent to any sacrifices which the Abb^ might require. Such 
an appeal, couched in terms of the deepest humility, produced so 
powerful an effect on the mind of Alain de Solminihac that, instead 
of communicating with M. Olier through one of his religious, as had 
been suggested in the letter, he set out immediately for the Abbey 
of P^brac, in order to confer with the writer in person. An arrange- 
ment was speedily effected between two men whose object was 
simply to promote the glory of God at the price of any labour or 
loss to themselves. M. Olier offered to surrender the whole revenue 
of the abbey, together with the abbatial residence and all the bene- 
fices attached, which were capable of supporting as many as fifty 
monks ; at the same time he resigned his priory of Vieille-Brioude, 
in order to its being henceforth incorporated wirh the Abbey of 
Pebrac. Alain, on his own part, undertook to provide such of the 
present inmates as were unwilling to embrace the intended reform 
with adequate pensions for their lives ; and, the monks agreeing to 
this, M. Olier proceeded without delay to put the buildings in 
plete repair, preparatory to delivering them up to the new occupants. 

I ;l 


- 1\ «.«».« .J 


'y*>*,>v^^*.«f ' 



Lz/e of M. Olier. 



i* ' 

But the spirit of evil, seeing his domains invaded and his power 
about to be restrained, instigated one of the principal farmers of the 
abbey lands to oppose, and for a time to defeat, the contemplated 
reform. This man, who was virtually the steward of the monastery 
and supplied the house with provisions, fearing that his profits would 
be diminished by the intended changes, insisted so strongly on what 
he was pleased to call the injustice of the whole proceeding and the 
injury that would accrue to the abbey, that the monks, one and all, 
resolved to withdraw their consent, and neither to accept the pro- 
posed reform nor to quit a monastery where they had hitherto lived 
at their ease, free from control or interference of any kind. Their 
measures were taken with an astuteness and a dissimulation which 
for the time were successful. It so happened that a Work having a 
similar object, but of a less severe character, was being urged for- 
ward at Paris by the P^re Faure, Superior of the Congregation in 
that city, with the powerful sanction of the Cardinal de la Roche- 
foucauld, Abbe de Ste. Genevibve, who had been commissioned by 
the Holy See to reform the Canons Regular of St. Augustine in 
France. To th^ good and zealous men the monks of P^brac now 
made a vehement appeal, and on the 1st of August presented to the 
Cardinal a formal protest against the act of M. Olier ; declaring it 
to be destructive of the true interests of the abbey, and begging 
that it might be reformed on the model which was advocated by P. 
Faure and sanctioned by himself. Unhappily, they found a ready 
supporter in one whose constant endeavour it seems to have been 
to thwart the servant of God in his highest aspirations and noblest 
works. The representations of the refractory monks were seconded 
by no less a personage than Mme. Olier, who was unwilling that so 
valuable a piece of preferment should be lost to the family, and 
dreaded, moreover, lest, to induce his religious subjects to acquiesce 
in his projected reforms, her son should himself take the habit, as 
indeed he had actually proposed to do. In consequence of this 
determined opposition the Cardinal summoned M. Olier to Paris, 
for the purpose of conferring with him on the proposed changes in 
the abbey, and forbade him meanwhile to proceed any further in 
the business against the expressed wishes of the monks, or to admit 
any persons to profession, under pain of their vows being declared 
null and void. But whether P. Faure was unable to send the 
necessary number of religious, or that M. Olier refused his consent 
to what he deemed a partial, and therefore an imperfect, correction 


His Relations with the M^re Agnh, 


of a scandalous abuse, so it was that the hopes he had cherished 
were for the present entirely frustrated, and the monks of his abbey 
were emboldened to persist in their irregular conduct. Without 
doubt, he was opposed at this time to the mitigated reform of Ste. 
Genevieve,* but this difference of opinion did not prevent P. Faure 
and his religious from entertaining the deepest respect for M. Olier, 
as is plain from the terms employed in the annals of the Congrega- 
tion, where he is characterized as " a holy priest, whose memory is 
in benediction among all good men; a pastor who wns animated 
with a zeal equal to his virtue, to maintain the honour and worship 
of God in all the churches which Providence had placed under his 

Meanwhile, during all these anxious negotiations, the work of the 
mission had been proceeding with astonishing success. In the 
dioceses of Saint-Flour ai d Le Puy the people received the word 
of God with an avidity which seemed rather to increase than to 
diminish with time, and conversions were everywhere both numerous 
and striking. These spiritual conquests filled the soul of the Mbre 
Agn^s with joy and exultation ; nor was she less consoled by the 
fidelity with which M. Olier responded to the graces which she had 
obtained for him by her prayers. With such courage and ardour, 
indeed, did he follow along the way of perfection that, at the end 
of the six months during which the mission lasted, he appeared to 
her quite another person to what he had been at the beginning, and 
she returned most fervent thanks to Mary, to whom, after God, she 
attributed the marvellous change. All the characteristic faults of a 
hasty and impetuous nature seemed to have been subdued and 

* When the reform of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine was first contem- 
plated, the Cardinal de la Rochefoucauld had designed to separate them into 
several independent houses, and in the year 1630 had commissioned the Abbe 
de Chancellade to reform all the monasteries in the more distant provinces. But 
P. Faure, Superior of the Paris Congregation, judged that it would be better to 
have but one corporation, and succeeded in drawing over the Cardinal to his 
opinion ; and the arrangement between M. Olier and the Abb^ de Chancellade 
was made the occasion of obtaining his authoritative interference. Accordingly, 
on March 1st, 1635, the Cardinal ruled that all the monasteries of Canons Regular 
in France should be incorporated with that of Ste. Genevieve, and forbade other 
houses to receive any religious but such as were sent by the Paris Congregation ; 
and two years afterwards he expressly ordered the houses tha'. had accepted the 
stricter reform of the Abb^ de Chancellade to unite with that Congregation. This 
led to much division and confusion, but the four monasteries reformed by the 
Abbe continued nevertheless to observe the rule which he bad introduced. 


t 1 

».»»\»„»4j»> \,ip\%r*'t..f 





Life of M. Olier. 

eradicated, and he had become altogether an interior man. Per- 
ceiving this, and that he was dce[)ly conversant with all the more 
intricate ways of the spiritual life, she took him henceforth for her 
director, and confided to him the secret trials of her soul. " Here- 
tofore," she said, " I have regarded you as the child of my prayers 
and my tears ; but now I look u{)on you as my father and my guide." 
He was the master-workman destined in the providence of God to 
put the crowning stone to the spiritual edifice : under his direction 
the Mere Agnl's entered on higher and hitherto untrodden patlis of 
perfection, and enjoyed a light, a peace, and a satisfaction such as 
she had never experienced since her entrance into religion. Thus 
was M. Olier enabled to render back in kind the benefits he had 
received through the i)rayers and mortifications of this holy nun, and 
the union which henceforth subsisted between them, and the know- 
ledge they mutually obtained of each other, became, in the order of 
Providence, the means by which the sanctity of these two chosen 
souls waa made known to the world. For it was M. Olier who, 
more than any other person, contributed to inspire the faithful, and 
especially the clergy, of France with an exalted idea of the heroic 
virtues and supernatural gifts of the Venerable M^re Agn^s ; while, 
on the other hand, it was the Ml're Agnbs who, divinely enlightened 
to discern the high qualities and great spiritual endowments of this 
young priest, foresaw and foretold the nature of the mission he was 
destined to fulfil and the extraordinary and complete success with 
which it should be accomplished. 

The time, however, was near at hand when the friends who had 
been brought together in so wonderful a manner were to be separated, 
never to meet again in this life. M. Olier (as already stated) was 
summoned to Paris by the Cardinal de la Rochefoucauld, and about 
the same time he received a communication from P^re de Condren, 
Superior of the Oratory, urging his immediate return, on account of 
an affair which very nearly concerned the glory of God. It was with 
a most lively feeling of grief that the Mbre Agnbs heard of her 
director's intended departure, but anything which involved the 
sacrifice of herself was by this true daughter of St. Dominic readily 
welcomed as an occasion of conforming herself more entirely to the 
Divine will, and she bade him go at once without delay. On taking 
leave of him she presented him with her crucifix, saying, •• All the 
time you have been here I have ceased to beg of God that He would 
take me to Himself, but now I bid adieu both to the parlour and to 

,»»—«H*K"«'-'^. *-?»•■% ^•"■•"•■^ 

The Angel- (guardian of the Mire Agnh. 43 

the world ;" and, quitting the apartment, she went and threw herself 
on her knees before the IJlcssed Sacrament. There, in the hearing 
of her nuns, she thanked God and His Virgin Mother for having 
been permitted to accomplish the work she had been set to do, and 
for which her life had been prolonged on earth ; then, praying with 
great earnestness for him who had been so long the subject of her 
special intercessions, she besought her Heavenly Spouse no longer to 
delay her departure to Him, but to admit her into the number of 
those who bless and adore Him for ever. 

A few days after this final farewell, namely on October 12th, 1634, 
the Mbre Agnes fell sick, and, availing herself of the short time that 
still remained to her, she wrote to P. de Condren, begging him to 
undertake the spiritual direction of M. Olicr. She wrote also to 
M. Olier himself, announcing to him that her life was drawing to its 
close. 'I'lie prediction was speedily verified, for on the 191I1 of the 
same month this saintly woman expired in the thirty-second year of 
her age. The event was revealed to M. Olier in the extraordinary 
manner which he has recorded in his Memoires. On several occasions 
the Mfere Agnbs had commissioned her angel-guardian to conduct 
him along the perilous paths which he often had to traverse in the 
dusk of evening on his return to his lodging at Pcbrac, which was 
distant more than four miles from the convent at Langeac, and he 
had been permitted to behold the tall majestic form of this heavenly 
guide preceding him on his way, and protecting him from the violent 
storms which were raging close around, so that not even a drop of 
rain fell upon him. At the very hour when the venerable mother 
expired, M. Olier was returning to Paris from his Priory at Pazain- 
ville, when he was suddenly thrown from his horse and found himself 
unable to rise. Believing it to be a punishment for not having 
addressed any words of exhortation to a poor peasant he had just 
passed — which, he says, he never neglected doing without a feeling 
of compunction — he placed himself by an effort on his knees and, 
with tears of anguish, besought God to pardon his infidelity. What 
next occurred shall be related in his own words : — 

" I had remounted my horse, when lo ! an angel lighted upon me 
from the height of heaven, with the swiftness and force of an eagle 
pouncing down upon its prey ; his wings, which encompassed me, 
extending very far beyond what was needed for my protection. At 
the same moment I heard these words uttered by my angel-guardian, 
the one who had been with me ever since my baptism : ' Show due 


Life of M. Olier. 

honour to the angel who has come to thee, and who is now bestowed 
upon thee. He is one of the highest ever given to a creature upon 
earth, and I am myself filled with veneration for him.' Once before, 
on approaching this same spot, when I was on the mission, I had 
experienced certain caresses and sweet impressions of joy from the 
good angel of the parish, but he had not inspired me with the respect 
and sense of his greatness which this one did. . . . This angel who 
has been gi ; en me as a very special boon, for which I can never return 
sufficient thanks to God, is a seraph ; as, indeed, appears from what 
the Soeur Agn^s said before her death. I remember that, on passing 
along the streets of Paris a little while after, when they were full of 
people, I seemed to see the other angels pay him great reverence and 
homage." And again, writing in 1647, ^^ says, "This angel is not 
my angel-guardian ; he is the angel of my office, not of my person ; 
his wide-spreading wings were designed to show me that he was to be 
the protector of many others who should be associated with me ; and, 
in fact, the company of holy ecclesiastics whom God has given me 
has experienced his assistance and protecting guardianship from the 

Such was the legacy which, God permitting, this holy nun 
bequeathed to him who had been to her, in the spiritual order, 
both a son and a father ; but it was not till some days after that 
he learned the real significance of the vision he had beheld. He 
was in the confessional at the church of St. Paul on the morning 
of All Saints, 1634, when the tidings of her departure reached him. 
Deeply affected, he went on the instant to pour out his soul's 
complaint to Jesus in the Tabernacle ; and, believing that where 
Jesus is there also are His saints, he addressed himself to the 
venerable mother, begging her who during life had shown such 
sympathy for his sorrows to obtain him consolation in his affliction. 

* The above extracts from M. Olier's manuscript Memoires will be found in the 
latest edition of tlie Life of the Mere Agnes (P. iii. C. xii. 11,12), having been 
furnished by M. Faillon, who had not embodiiid them in his work. The reader 
who is acquainted with Boudon's Divotion aiix Neuf Chxiirs des Saints Anges will 
not fail to be reminded of that charming little book in the circumstance here 
related ; which, indeed, is but an exemplification in actual fact of the doctrine of 
his pious treatise. 

It is hardly necessary to observe that, in any visions of angels with which holy 
persons have been favoured, the bodies in which these blessed spirits appeared, 
albeit in some sort composed of matter, were no integral portion of their nature, 
as in the case of the human body, which is a constituent portion of the perfect man 
but were simply assumed for a time and for a purpose. 



nd in the 
ing been 
^es will 
nee here 
ictrine of 

lich holy 



feet man 

He sells his carnage and horses. 


Then he heard in his heart, as it were, these words proceed from 
out the Tabernacle: "Grieve not; I have left you my angel." 
"Immediately," he says, "my tears were dried, and I felt no 
longer capable of grieving, for in my ignorance I had believed that 
we ought to weep and lament, were it or' / as a sign of the affection 
we bore the dead ; but this is but a vain custom of the world, as 
if the saints were not infinitely the gainers by quitting this mortal 
life." Having thus consoled himself, he sought to console in his 
turn the bereaved religious of Langeac. " My reverend mothers," 
he wrote, "Jesus Christ abandoned by His Father, the Mother 
bereft of her Son, be your consolation and support. Yours is no 
common sorrow, and you may well be allowed to mourn awhile 
for the loss you have sustained ; and yet in one thought we may 
aU find comfort, that ^ i jd Himself is the gainer by our loss. He 
now possesses fully and entirely a soul of which, so long as she 
was unconfirmed in grace, He may be said to have had but a 
sort of precarious tenure. O my mothers, how can we be losers 
in that which enriches the very majesty of God? You have lost 
a sister and you have gained a saint. Besides, ought you not to 
rejoice in the happiness of your mother? It were vain to mourn 
over her body, for it awaits the glory of Heaven ; and vainer still 
to mourn over her soul, for she possesses it for evermore. To 
weep and lament, when the first gush of natural sorrow has had 
its vent, is like regretting and deploring the bliss she now enjoys ; 
it is as if you grudged your mother her eternal repose, and would 
disturb even Paradise itself with your lamentations." He then 
bids them take heed that no relaxation of discipline creep into 
the convent, now that their holy superior has left thpm, enjoins 
them to wean their hearts from creatures, however holy they may 
be, and concludes by taking his lesson to himself in terms of the 
lowliest self-abjection,* 

As though the more effectually to guard against the consequences 
he dreaded, from the death of his saintly adviser he set himself 
to practise with increased devotion the counsels of perfection, and 
especially that of holy poverty, which she had so constantly and 
so strongly inculcated Hitherto, by the advice of St. Vincent 
de Paul, he had retained his carriage and horses, although in 

* An old copy of this letter is religiously preserved by the Dominicanesses of 
Langeac, together with a china bowl and saucer which M. Oner used when 
visiting the Mere Agnfes, and a silver chalice which he gave to the cunvent. 



Life of M. Olier. 


to use them he diil violence to his own feelings. 
" From the moment I gave myself entirely to God," he wrote, " it 
has been a misery and torment to me every time I got into my 
carriage. I cannot wear the world's livery or follow its fashions ; 
its retinues, its lacqueys, its equipages, — everything of which it 
makes most account is repugnant to me, and I suffer a sort of 
purgatory every time I think of a troop of attendants and a servant 
to walk behind me." But now, by permission of his director, he 
sold both cariiage and horses, and expended the proceeds on the 
poor or in supplying fresh missions for country places. He 
retained only one domestic, and even with that one he would 
have dispensed but for the express injunction of St Vincent. 
This was towards the close of the year 1634. 

The reader will not have forgotten the dream M. Olic- had, 
in whirh he saw St. Ambrose sitting on a throne, with a place for 
a priest vacant below him. He had ever since felt a particular 
devotion for thi" great prelate, and had made a practice of medi- 
tating on his virtues and actions as the -nodel he wished to have 
ever before his eyes in the event of his being raised to the 
episcopate. Now, there was a holy bishop* who had conceived 
bO high an opinion of IvI Olier's piety and 7c;al, that he was 
intending to beg the King to nominate him as his coadjutor and 
successor. The mniier had been made the subject of prayer for 
many years, and at length his choice had fallen on this young 
ecclesiastic This was the business on which (as already men- 
tioned) P. f'a Condren had urged his immediate return to Paris; 
and how and why it terminated in a refusal on M. Olier's part 
will be seen in the next chapter. 


The Mfsre Agnes appeared ♦" M. Olier, not in a vision, whether of a sensible 
or an imaginary kind, hut in actual bodily form. It was, in fact, one of those 
marvels of bilocation which are sometimes to be met with in the lives of saints. 
While the inteiview lasted, and tor some hours longer, she lay in her cell motion- 
less and, to all appearance, lifeless, so that M. Komeuf, the physician of the 
convent, believed that her spirit had fled. Vie de la Ven. Mhre Agnls, P. iii. 
C. xii. 4. n. 

* Probably, as after-events show, M. Bernardin de Corneillan, Bishop of 

Relics of the Mere Agnh. 


Besides the testimony of M. Olier liimself, whose veracity is unimpeachable, 
there are still extant the depositions of twenty-four persons of the highest 
character, who declared their full and entire belief in the apparition, the par- 
ticulars of which they had heard from his own lips, and who vouched for the 
general notoriety of the occurrence at the time. But that which invests it with 
authority in the minds of Catholics is that in the course of the proceedings at 
Rome, preparatory to the canonization of the Mere Agnes de Jesus, the appari- 
tion formed the subject of a long and searching enquiry on the part of the Sacred 
Congrefjalion of Rites, at the end of which the Sub-promoter of the Faith 
summed up by saying that its truth was beyond dispute : Dubitari nequaquam 
potest qitin vera Jncrit appmitio. 

The rosaiy which the Mire Agnts gave to M. Olier was much prized by 
him, and he mentions it n>ore than once in his MSmoires, lie gave it eventu- 
ally to his penitent, Alnie. de Saujeon, who bequeathed it to the Seminary of 
St. Sulpice. But, as she died greatly in debt, it would appear that it passed, 
with the rest of her effects, into the hands of her creditors ; for when the noted 
theologian, V. Miissoulie, cnquivcd about it in 1704, ten yenis after Mme. de 
Saujeon's death, M. Leschassler, who was fourth Superior of St. Sulpice and 
wrote the Life of M. Olier, published by P. Giry, replied, " We have it not." 

P. Massoulie himself possessed another rosary which had belonged to the Mere 
Agnfes, and which, he says, he kept as a sacred treasure. 

From the Processes in the cause of the Venerable Mere Agnes (1722) it appears 
that, when she visited M. Olier ^t St. Lazare (probably ^|^e second time), slie 
left her crucifix on the table at which he was sitting, as d pioof that he was not 
the victim of an illusion. M. Palade, nephew of \\. Terrisse, w|io was Cure of 
Langeac and confessor to the Mere Agnfes, adds, in nis aeposition, that M. Olier 
missed the crucifix before setting out on the Auvergne mission, and that it was 
restored to him by Agues when he saw her in her convent. Vie de la Ven. 
Mire Agnh, P. iii. C. xii. 5. n. Tnis was the case, no doubt, with the rosary 

The crucifix is still in the possession of the Setiiinary of St. Sulpice, as we 
learn tiom a note appendeil l)y the editots to the tiist volume of the latest edition 
of M. Faillon's work. That generally accurate writer had been led by M. 
("lainier, author of a short biography of M. E.nery, to suppose that the crucifix 
had been lost beyond recovery iu the Great Revolution ; but this was not the 

Another crucifix which had also belonged to the Mtre Agnes and which, in 
1670, was given by the nuns of I-Hllgcac to M. de Bretonvilliers, M. Oiler's 
immediate successor .at St. Sulpice, is still preserved at the Seminary. It had 
been seen to shed blood, and, like the former, was instrumental iu obtaining 
many miraculous favours. 

In May, 1 871, when the Seminary at Issy was pillaged by the Communists, 
these venerable relics were secretly conveyed by a faithful domestic to the 
Solitude, or House of Retreat, where, however, they were exposed to a second 
peril, for the room in which they were deposited was struck and reduced to 
ruins by the bomb-shells which for several days fell upon the building. Strange 
to say, both were afterwards found intact. 

The Mfere Agnis also presented M. Olier wlili Die handkerchief which he had 
seen iu the hand of the angel, at the time of her Hiiraculous visit to him at Si. 
Lazare. In the year 1718 it was still preserved JM lIltH I'liMry- 


( 48 ) 




THE Pbre Charles de Condren, who succeeded Cardinal de 
BdruUe, its founder, as Superior, or General, of the French 
Oratory, was a man of rare sanctity and an eminent master of the 
spiritual life. His genius lay in forming young ecclesiastics for the 
duties of their sacred ministry, and no one exercised so powerful an 
influence in preparing the way for the reformation of the clergy of 
France. The veneration in which he was held by many of the 
greatest and holiest persons of his day was unbounded. Bossuet 
called him that '* illustrious Father, whose very name is redolent of 
piety, whose memory, ever fresh and ever new, is sweet to the whole 
Church, like a compound of many perfumes." Cardinal de BeruUe, 
himself remarkable for his Apostolical virtues, and to whom numbers 
of zealous and saintly men — inclv ling St. Vincent de Paul, Pbre 
Eudes, and M. Bourdoise— resorted for instruction and direction, 
entertained so high a reverence for P. de Condren that, as he passed 
his room-door, he would stoop and kiss the stones on which he had 
trod, and was in the habit of writing down, on his knees and with 
head uncovered, anything he had heard from his lips. St. Vincent 
de Paul (as M. Olier relates) was used to speak of him in terms of 
admiration which almost seemed exaggerated, and, when he heard of 
ris death, cast himself on the ground and, striking his breast, accused 
himself, with tears, of not having honoured so holy a man as he had 
deserved. St. Jane Frances de Chantal, after a few interviews &l.e 
had with him, pronounced upon him an eulogium such as it would 
: difiicult in words to surpass. " If God," she said, " gave to the 
Church our blessed founder (St. Francis de Sales) for the instruction 
of men, it seems to me that He has made Pere de Condren capable 
of instructing angels ; '" and, indeed, one of his biographers, whose 

Pere de Condren, 


work is still in manuscript, thus speaks of him: "God made him 
(||fjt he might form saints, and gave him the power of conducting 
lliem to the most sublime perfection. There was no way of sancti- 
jjiflllon, however extraordinary, which he did not comprehend at 
f/(|pe, and he was acquainted with so many kinds that he believed the 
\\\\\\\\W^ of saints in our days, although more hidden, to be equal to 
thdt 6/ the first ages of the Church." Lastly, M. Olier himself 
speaks thus of him : " His exterior was but the appearance, the mere 
husk and shell, of what he really was, being inwardly altogether 
another self, the very interior of Jesus Christ and His hidden life ; 
so that it was rather Jesus Christ living in P. de Condren than P. de 
Condren living in himself. He was like the Host upon our altars ; 
externally we see only the accidents or appearances of bread, but 
interiorly it is Jesus Christ. Thus it was with this great servant of 
our Lord, so singularly beloved of God. Our Lord, who dwelt within 
him, prepared him to preach the Gospel, to renew the primitive purity 
and piety of the Church ; and this it is which this great man desired 
to do in the hearts of his disciples during his sojourn in the world, 
which was hidden and unknown, like the sojourn of our Lord 
Himself among men. . . . The sublimity of his lights was something 
marvellous ; they weni so far beyond the reach of ordinary intelli- 
gences that it was not possible to commit to writing all the truths he 
uttered, so holy were they, and so removed from the gross and 
common way of conceiving and apprehending things, for he had 
received them by infusion.* And, as it is laid down in theology 
that the light of angels is of such a nature that the lower angels 
cannot compass without miracle the extent of the light of the higher 
angels, so was it with his light in respect to ocher intelligences. On 
quitting this great man, one could only say, ' Oh, how wonderful 
this is ; blessed are they who gather up the crumbs that fall from 
this heavenly table ! ' " 

His conversational powers were of the highest order, but God 
seems to have withheld from him the faculty of expressing his 
thoughts on paper; or, if he possessed it, he was unwilling to 
exercise it from motives of humility and in obedience to thi; iMvine 
will. When pressed by M. Olier on the subject, he replied that God 

* Doctrines are said to be infused v/hen they are imparted to the intelligence by 
the Spirit of God without the aid of study, oral instruction, or any other of the 
ordinary means by which a knowledge of divine truth is commonly acquired, 




1 j ' 

! . H ' 


Life of M, Olier. 

would recompense a hundredfold tl se who mortified themselves in 
something for his sake, and that con lonly they who refrained from 
writing, out of love for Him, received as their reward the gift of 
enlightening souls, a gift far more advantageous to the Church than 
that of writing. Yielding, however, to the solicitations of his friends, 
for whose profit he was always ready to sacrifice his own inclinations, 
he at last consented to gratify them, and for this purpose retired with 
a lay-brother, who was to act as his amanuensis. Every morning for 
fifteen days he composed himself to dictate, having first begged light 
from Heaven ; the brother held his pen in hand ready to commence, 
but, after a moment's silence, he only said, " Let us wait till to- 
morrow," for God seemed to close his mouth, and he could find no 
ability to express himself. Sometimes he would say laughingly to 
those who urged him to write, *' Look now, the Apostles wrote a very 
few epistles in their lifetime, and I must have written more than a 
hundred."* Conversing, oral teaching, direct personal influence, 
this was the gift of which he was possessed in an extraordinary 
degree. He was known sometimes to converse with different persons 
for as many as fourteen hours together, and such grace accompanied 
his words that few left him as they had come. It was not the 
brilliancy, or the eloquence, or the originality of what h'' said wfeich 
wrought such marvellous effects; the secret lay in this-— that h« 
spoke as ono who lived in God and (I'/d in him; he h*d the 
tinction of the Spirit. Sinners wer^* converted, heretics were 
reclaimed, the tepid felt their hearts wi/j/lie with divine lo^e, \jj^ 
good and the zealous were enlightened and directed in the ways of 

Such was the man who now summoned our Abb^ back to Paris. 
It was P. de Condrcn's vocation (as we have said) to form you'r 
ecclesiastics for their holy state, and before M. Olier *t"nt or the 
mission to Auvergne he and five others had regular-y attet*ded hi* 
prvate cotuerecces. As most of them subsequently \.<y/\. an active 
]->art in the estaoiishment of the Senainary of St. Sulpice in conjunc- 
laoa with M. Otier, it will be weil to say a few words respecting them 

* A wsimbc^^ of his letters was collected and published after his death, to whicli 
a few additions were sabsequently made. Tlie two volumes, edited by his 
bifigrapher, the Abbe I*in, and entitled CEtivres Completes du F. Charles de 
Comdrvn (Par's: Guyotet Roidot, 1S57-8), comprise, together with some Discours 
and <Khei- writiags, a treatttse on V Idee du Sacerdoce ct du Sacr'fu,: de Jesus-Christ, 
which, thougn ncc actually composed by the servant of God, contains the suuslance 
of his teaching and is pervaded by his spirit. 

Pere de Condrens Disciples. 


here. M. de Caulet, Abb^ of St. Volusien de Foix,* and son of a 
President of the Parliament of Toulouse, was a man of a singularly 
detached and mortified life ; he was one of P. de Condren's first 
disciples. M. du Ferrier, who had come to Paris solely with the 
hope of c jcaining preferment by means of his high connections, was 
so deeply impressed with the piety of M. de Foix that he also was 
led to put himself under P. de Condren's direction. Associated with 
these were two brothers, named Brandon. The elder, who was a 
widower,! had relinquished his post of councillor of state to dedicate 
himself to the service of the Church ; he was afterwards Bishop of 
Pdrigueux. The younger, who was called M. de Bassancourt, had 
also given up a high civil appointment with the intention of entering 
religion ; though possessed of considerable property, he was remark- 
able for his humility and simplicity, and his manners and conversation 
were so engaging that he was the delight and ornament of the little 
society. PerhajJS the ablest man of the five was M. Anelote, whom 
P. de Condren had chosen to instruct MM. Brandon and Dc Bassan- 
court in theology. As though he had been made acquainted with 
the designs of God regarding him. P. de Condren had sought him out 
on his arrival in Paris and paid him repeated visits, with the view of 
inducing the yociing man to coxt^ and see him in return, but for 
some time M. Arrj^ote withstood all the father's attempts to gain 
his confidence. So far from being drawn towards him, he felt a 
particular repugnance both to his person and to his counsels, and 
t«pt alotif from him as much as possibk. At Icaigth, vanquished by 
■w*t; charm of an address which few who came within the sphere of 
•: ictr2«ctif>ns could resist, he inquii^ed ■of the holy man what he 
w ' ' ' e nim to Co, P. de Condrcai replierl oy prescribing him 
a . - , ,: -iC ,he direct oppK)site of tl^tat wh.«ch i<e had laid down for 
ruiimaelf. Hitherto he iiad spent his whole time ini study ; he was 
now forbi<iai<n, for the space of a year, to cio mor^ tnan read two 
chaf>ters of Koly Scriptirf>i every day, ^me from the fJftd Te .cament, 
the «her from -.he New. He was to read tbcae on feis knees, with- 
out anw conriMictary ; \r the one, adorin;j G>>d the father preparing 
tlie worid for #»« coming of His Son, anr: - *^'- -.-^ listening to 
Jesus Christ, v«^ desires Hinaself to be our ... -. ;_uj. This rule, 
however, i»as n«r confined to M. Anaelote, the other d»ciples of P. 
de Condrest foliuwed it equaiay. 

Hence called M. de Foix, front lie riame o'' his aubey. He i^ecsune Bi^uop 
of T'amiers in 161^. 
t He had marrj«d a niece of the Clianc lor Seguier. 


' I 


Life of M. Olier. 

Enlightened by the Spirit of God, P. de Condren knew that these 
were the men whom He had chosen for supplying the great need of 
the Church. He knew that the work was to be accompHshed by 
simple priests, if only to offer to their subjects an example of that 
abnegation which it would be their endeavour to inculcate; and, 
although he rigorously abstained from even hinting at the motive by 
which he was actuated, he spoke repeatedly to his disciples of an 
important office in the Church to which God had destined them, 
and for the fulfilment of which it was His will that they should not 
aspire to the episcopate. Accordingly, when he was requested by 
Cardinal de Richelieu to recommend persons whom he deemed 
most worthy of that dignity, he mentioned some by name but added 
that there were others, not less competent, whom our Lord designed 
for a work of great moment, and about whom therefore he must be 
silent ; and on that Minister promising the Grand Master of Malta a 
bishopric for his nephew, the Abb^ du Ferrler, P. du Condren said to 
that young ecclesiastic, " You must not think of a bishopric ; it is the 
will of God to give you something to do which will not be less advan- 
tageous to the Church." The veneration with which he inspired his 
disciples forbade their asking any questions, and, in fact, it was not 
until eight days before he died that he began to speak openly on the 
subject. The reason for this reserve he himself intimated when, in 
a letter to M. Barth^lemi de Donnadieu, the Bishop of Comminges, 
who wished to establish a seminary in his diocese, he said, "You 
will not forget that this is not a matter to be talked about. The 
things of God are kept in the secrecy of His Spirit ; to publish them 
to the world is to reveal them to the devil, who is able to frustrate 
them by means of those who lend themselves to his malice."* No 
sooner, therefore, had he learned that there was a design to raise M. 
Olier to the episcopate than, fearing lest he should be lured away 
from the path which Providence had marked out for him, he wrote 
to him, as we have seen, to come at once to Paris. 

M. Olier, although he had become one of P. de Condren's dis- 
ciples, was still under St. Vincent de Paul's direction ; and, whether 
he was ignorant of the purport of the letter which the Mere Agnes 
had written to P. de Condren, or that he waited for some clearer 
intimation of God's will before withdrawing from so revered a guide, 
and one to whom he owed so much, he continued to have recourse 

* So also St. Vincent de Paul used frequently to say that a good work divulged 
before the time was half ruined. 

Phre de Condrcn becomes his Director, 


ecd of 
ed by 

)f that 
; and, 
tive by 
I of an 

, them, 

aid not 

5ted by 


t added 


must be 

Malta a 

1 said to 
it is the 

s advan- 

jired his 
was not 

y on the 

when, in 
;, "You 
It. The 
jsh them 
"* No 
aise M. 
:d away 
le wrote 

jn's dis- 







to him during the remainder of 1634, and for a portion of the follow- 
ing year. And here we cannot but admire in what special and 
unexpected ways God deals with those whose desire is simply to do 
His will ; great saint as he was, and most experienced and enlightened 
in the conduct of souls, Vincent de Paul was suffered to remain in 
ignorance of the designs of Providence in regard to M. Olier, so that 
he urged him very strongly to accept the bishopric which was offered 
him, and laboured assiduously to overcome his scruples. He was 
the more moved to adopt this course because, from t'le knowledge 
he had of the secrets of his soul, he was aware that he was in a state 
of extreme spiritual distress and despondency, with no heart to 
renew his missionary labours. This interior desolation was, indeed, 
of a kind which he had never before experienced, and, as he found 
no relief in any of the remedies prescribe 1 by his director, he 
resolved to go into retreat for the purpose of imploring the Divine 
assistance. His fidelity had its reward ; for when his abandonment 
seemed most complete he heard an interior voice saying to him, 
" P. de Condren will give thee peace," and at the same instant 
an indescribable calm pervaded his soul, and all its agitations 

To P. de Condren, accordingly, he now betook himself, for to him, 
and not to St. Vincent de Paul, God had entrusted the task of 
perfecting the future founder of St. Sulpice for his important mission. 
St. Vincent resigned the charge of him, not only willingly but joy- 
fully, into the hands of the superior of an institute to which in times 
past he had himself resorted for instruction and guidance ; and 
as our Abb^ ever retained the same deep veneration for his old 
director, so did the saint's affection and regard for the young priest 
remain undiminished. He still continued to press upon him the 
acceptance of the bishopric, made it the constant subject of his 
prayers, and even went on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Chartres in 
order to ascertain the Divine will. But M. Olier was now under 
obedience to P. de Condren, and the reply of that holy man was 
ever the same, — that he should make the matter a subject of frequent 
prayer, for that he saw in him great obstacles to his becoming '^. 
bishop, which our Abbe, in his humility, understood to mean that 
his faults and deficiencies were such as disqualified him for so 
weighty an office. "The Pere de Condren," he said, "made me 
pay frequent visits to Notre Dame, in order to enable me to know 
the will of God, which it was necessary should be expressed with a 




' J^ - ■ -yif* -j».r.Ji»tf«<«^»v- -l^ j>**> '-^* * 

.-•I .. -..* 


Life of M. Olier. 

clearer light than is usually required, on account, as T believe, of the 
great faults which he observed in me. He was as enli^litened as an 
angel, and he judged that my vocation was not sufficiently pro- 
nounced for him to disregard the impediments which he perceived 
in me ; such as defect of judgment, of discretion in conduct, of piety, 
genuine zeal, science, experience, — in fine, of all those qualities 
which are essential to that position ; as also because our I.ord had 
blessed my labours in the missions witli which He had charged me 
up to the present time. What leads me to think that he looked for 
some particular signs, either interior or exterior, for which he made 
me pray so much, was the great maxim by which he guided himself: 
to wit, that in ordinary vocations, if there were notable impediments, 
much heed must be paid to them — such, for example, as mine, in 
respect to the ordinary vocation which this prelate was setting before 
me by himself asking to have me for his successor — but that, on the 
contrary, such impediments were not to be regarded when the voca- 
tion was manifest and extraordinary, such as he would have wished 
to consider mine on this occasion, in order to be able to close his 
eyes to my faults and imperfections." 

And yet there were times at which his director let fall expressions 
which might have shown him that he was actuated by another and a 
secret motive ; for he would say to him, " God has other designs 
respecting you ; they are neither so brilliant nor so honourable as 
the episcopate, but they are fraught with greater advantages to the 
Church." The more also he consulted God in prayer, the more 
profoundly convinced he became of his own unfitness for the 
episcopal office. Once, in particular, after making his morning's 
meditation with much aridity and a distressing inability to occupy 
himself with the mystery of the day, which was the feast of the 
Purification, it seemed to him that he ought not so much as to enter- 
tain the thought until he had arrived at a state of pure and perfect 
union with God, so far removed (he says) from his present "gross, 
unspiritual condition." A similar impression was made on his 
mind on another occasion, when he had retired for prayer to the 
church of St. Germain-des-Prds ; and the same day, though he does 
not relate how it came about, the intention of raising him to the 
episcopate was for the time abandoned, and he was relieved of a 
business by which his mind had been greatly harassed and 

The two devotions which especially characterized the French 

His devotional Practices. 


Oratory were the Adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacr.iment * 
and a singular love and veneration for His Vir>;in Mother ; and 
these also, is we have seen, were remarkably developed in M. Olier 
even from a child. P. de Condron never ceased inculcating on 
his disciples this admirable truth— that to be a priest was to be an 
unceasing adorer of the Blessed Sacrament ; and such was the 
fervour uliich his xhortations enkindled in the hearts of his 
disciples that henceforward the one desire and object of th ii lives 
was, both by their own example and by direct precept and instruc- 
tion, to spread abroad in all places a particular devotion to the 
August Victim who dwells continually on the altar. " I longed 
to be bread," writes M. Olier, "that I mignt be changed into 
Jesus Christ ; I wished I were of the nature of oil that I mi^ht 
be always consuming before the Most Holy Sacrament ; and I 
remember that, whenever I returned late from the country and 
went, as was my custom, to salute our Lord at Notre Dame, on 
finding the church closed, I used to cor ^le myself by lookin'^ into 
the interior through the chinks of the doors ; and, seeing the lamps 
burning, I would say, 'Ah, how happy are you to be Uil consuming 
to the glory of God, and burning perpetually to serve Him as 
a light ! ' " 

P. de Condren also encouraged him to continue all the little 
pious practices by which it had been his wont to testify his love 
and devotion to Mary, and thus many things which he had been 
in the habit of doing only as occasion served or inclination 
prompted now took the form of regular observances. Every 
Saturdav he went to say Mass at Notre Dame, and he never 
quitted Paris, or returned to the city, without paying a visit to 
the same church. He made a practice also of begging the blessing 

* P. de Condren instituted a society called the "Company of the Holy 
Sacrament," which numbered among its members ecclesiastics and laymen of 
evecy rank, from prelates and princes to merchants and shopkeepers. Its object, 
besides promoting increased devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, was to relieve 
the poor and afflicted and to aid in every charitable work. It met every 
Thursday, in the afternoon, when some ecclesiastic addressed to the assembled 
brethren a few words of exhortation, reports were made, and alms were collected, 
often to a very considerable amount. It contributed funds also towards founding 
three bishoprics in the East and furnishing the prelates with all that was neces- 
sary for their arduous mission. "These meetings," says M. du Ferrier, "pre- 
sented a picture of the humility and charity of the primitive Christians." The 
Company, which had affiliated associations in all the great towns, was suppressed 
— for what reason does not appear — by Cardinal Mazarin shortly before his death. 

-^r w- ^ 





U&IM |25 





IL25 i 1.4 

■ 2.0 









j^ n 




WEBSTER, N.Y. 14580 

(716) tri tS03 



■iiy: . 




Life of M. Olier. 

\\ i 

cf his august. Benefactress every time he went out of his room or 
re-entered it, lay down on his bed or rose from it, and (as was 
noticed in his childhood) he always made her an offermg of every- 
thing he had about him that was new. Before putting himself 
under the direction of P. de Condren, he had been accustomed 
to keep the Saturday in every week as a festival m her honour, 
and to abstain from doing anything he would not have done on 
a day of obligation; but, fearful of carrying the matter to an 
excess, he had not prevented those about him from pursuing their 
usual occupations. Now, however^ with the approbation of P. de 
Condren, he never wished any who were in his employment to do 
servile work on Saturdays, and that at whatever inconvenience to 
himself, though, indeed, he remarks in the simplicity of his faith, 
"I observed that when I let them work they were sure to do 
some damage.'' 

While detained at Paris, he began to resume his studies with 
the view of taking his doctor's degree, but, finding that his various 
practices of piety interfered with his reading, and having some 
scruples on the subject, he sought the jOint advice of P. de 
Condren and St. Vincent, for he still regarded the latter as in 
some sort his director. They bade him follow the attractions of 
grace, and accordingly he retired from the theological course — of 
which, in fact, he had no need — and abandoned all idea of pro- 
ceeding to the doctorate. This determination, which was also 
approved by M. Nicolas Le Maistre, his former master in theology, 
M. Olier applauded all through his life. "I escaped," he says, 
"what might have been an occasion of pride, and at the same 
time I did honour to the Cross ; for when it is seen that the 
people profit by the discourses of an unlearned person like me, 
any ray of light I may have will be attributed, not to the science 
of the schools, but to the mercy of God." 

Being now free to give full scope to the evangelical zeal with 
which he was devoured, he experienced an ardent desire to go as 
a missionary to Canada, and it needed all his personal reverence 
for P. de Condren and the sense he entertained of the obedience 
which was due to such a director, to prevent him from putting his 
design into execution. That holy man had other views for him 
and his companions. He wished them to behold with their own 
eyes the spiritual destitution of the people, and the urgent need 
there was of good and faithful pastors ; and to this end his purpose 

• I 

Retreat under Pere de Condren» 


was to send them into ijuch place;; as were worst provided in this 
■/espect, and especially into parishes in which some great scandal 
had occurred. It was his object also that they should become 
thoroughly versed in the duties of the ministry before proceeding 
to instruct others therein, and by their successful labours should 
have gained the general confidence of both clergy and people 
before laying the loundations of the seminaries which he foresaw 
they were to establish; and, in fact, the provinces in which M. 
Olier was first invited to erect his houses were those in which the 
missions he had conducted had made him best known : namely, Le 
Vivarais, Le Velay, Auvergne, Bretagne, and Picardie. Country 
missions, therefore, were what P. de Condren now enjoined, and, 
though he still maintained a strict reserve as to his ulterior designs, 
he would say to them from time to time, as they made report of 
their progress and sought his advice or correction, " We must go 
on with these for the present, and afterwards we shall accomplish 
something better." He made the s?me remark to each of them, 
but "no one," says M. du Ferrier, "ventured to ask him any 

During the first months of 1635 M. Olier had taken part in 
several missions, including that of Cr^cy, but Auvergne, the scene of 
his former success, was the quarter to which his desires were all 
directed. He would already have resumed his labours in that pro- 
vince, but had been deterred by a scruple of conscience ; deeming 
himself to have been guilty 0/ an infidelity to grace because he had 
not joined the Vincentian Fathers when they went to preach in the 
C^vennes. However, towards the end of March, 1636, he resolved 
on making a preparatory reire^t, under the direction of P. de Condren, 
in a country-house near Paris. This retreat was the occasion of his 
receiving interior favours such as he had never yet experienced ; 
certain spiritual maxims were impressed upon his soul with so much 
force and vividness that throughout all his after-life they seemed to 
act like a spur to urge him on to unceasing progress in the way of 
perfection. He performed the exercises quite alone ; his director 
did not give him any subjects for the four m.editations he was to 
make every day, for an hour each, but left him entirely to the 
suggestions of the Holy Spirit ; neither did he pay him more than a 
single visit during the v/hole time, being unable to quit his duties in 
the city. *' This retreat," he says, " was the commencement and, as 
it were, the foreshadowing of all that has since befallen me. It was 



n J 


Life of M. Olier. 

now that I began to have manifest experience of the guidance of 
that Divine Spirit, and of the care He has taken of me ever since. I 
remember that I then learned, for the first time, and to my great 
astonishment, that Jesus Christ is really present in souls. I was glad 
to be enlightened on the subject of this great truth by my director. 
* Yes,' he said, ' our Lord is really present in our souls : Chrisfum 
habitare per fidem in cordibus vestris.* Per fidem, hy faith: that is, 
faith is the principle of His indwelling, and His Divine Spirit forms 
Him in us together with His virtues : donee formetur Christus in vobis.'f 
He then said, ' Since this is so, henceforth you must unite all your 
a :tions to the Son of God in one of three ways : either by affection, 
or by disposition, or simply by faith. If you have a sens' ble experi- 
ence of Christ's presence, unite yourself to Him by af.ection. If you 
have no sensible experience, unite yourself to Him by disposition ; 
that is to say, endeavour to have m you the same thoughts and 
dispositions as those with which He performed the same actions ; 
and when you are ignorant of His dis^. ositions, or are unable to form 
them in your soul, unite yourself to Him simply by faith ; that is to 
say, join in spirit your actions to those of the Son of God, which you 
will thus offer with your own.'" 

These maxims fcrmed the ba.'is of the perfection which M. Olier 
subsequently inculcated in the Seminary of St. Sulpice. P, de 
Condren also gave him a form of prayer which embodied the great 
truth he had taught him, and which M. Olier left at his dea^h for the 
use of the Community. It ran thus : " Veni, Domine Jesu [t'ivens in 
Maria], et vive in hoc sen'o iuo, in plenitudine virtutis tuce, in perfec- 
iione viartwi tiiarum, in sanditate Spiritus iui \in veritate virtutum 
tuarum, in comniunione mysteriorum tuoruni], et dominare omni adversce 
potesiati, in Spiritu tuo, ad gioriam Patris. Amen — Come, Lord 
Jesus [who livest in Mary], and live in this Thy servant, in the 
plenitude of Thy power, in the perfection of Thy ways, in the sanctity 
of Thy Spirit [in the truth of Thy virtues, in the communication of 
Thy mysteries], and by Thy Spirit overcome all hostile power, to the 
glory of the Father. Amen." J "This prayer," wrote M. 01ier» 
"contains all the requests that can be offered to our Lord for the 
perfection of the soul. First, we beg Him to live in us, not only 

* "That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts." Eph. iii. 17. 
+ "Until Christ be formed in you." Gal. iv. 19. 

X M. Olier added the words between brackets for the use of the Seminary, 
where it is still recited every morning and evening in almost the same words 


Dangerous passage of the Set fie. 


according to His ordinary power, as He does in Christians generally, 
but in the plenitude of His might by the entire destruction of the 
old man in us and the establishment of His empire in our hearts, 
inculcating and maintaining His verities with force. We beg Him 
also to live in us in the perfection of His ways, that is to say, that 
He would inspire us with the most perfect sentiments of His love 
and fill us with the purest dispositions of His Spirit, as victims to the 
glory of God. This is the chief work and perfection of religion, and 
this was the profession which our Lord made .vhen He came into 
the world, as St. Paul declares.* We add, ' Live in us in the sanctity 
o\ Tliy Spirit, by which is meant that the Holy Spirit separates us 
from creatures and unites us to God alone: this, indeed, is the 
signification of the word sariciiiy. In fine, we beg Him to live in us, 
to rule and reign in us, by the power of His Spirit, over all hostile 
powers, as the flesh, the world, and the evil one.' " 

At the close of his retreat he took as the subject of his meditation 
devotion to ♦he Blessed Virgin, which he made in a chapel dedicated 
to her. His august Patroness favoured him with many consolations 
and, as he believed, gave evidence of her motherly protection by 
delivering him from imminent danger when crossing the Seine on his 
return to Paris. The boat was overloaded with both men and horses, 
and, as the wind was boisterous, M. Olier became alarmed; but, 
perceiving an image of our Lady attached to a house on the bank 
for which they were making, he said to M. de Foix, who was with 
him, " There is nothing to fear ; the Blessed Virgin sees us ; " and 
his alarm at once subsided. On beholding once more the towers of 
Notre Dame his soul was inundated with joy, and he felt again all 
those tender emotions of \ove and confidence in Mary which he had 
experienced when he first came within sight of the holy shrine at 

* rieb. X. 4-7. 

■ I * 

1: ' ; 



( 6o ) 



PREPARATIONS were now made for a second mission in 
Auvergne, but meanwhile M. Oiler gratified his zeal for souls by 
assisting at a retreat given by certain of the ecclesiastics who attended 
the Conferences of St. Lazare to the inmates of the female peniten- 
tiary, called the H6pital de la Piti^. It was to the members of the 
Conferences that he also looked to supply his little band of mission- 
aries, and to these St. Vincent de Paul added a few of his own 
experienced priests. The family of M. Olier v.ere occupied at the 
time with the preliminaries of a marriage between his eldest brother 
and Marie Roger, daughter of Nicolas Roger, Chamberlain to 
Queen Marie de M^dicis. The affair was regarded as one of great 
importance, and but for our Abbd it would probably never have been 
successfully accomplished ; for, unknown to his mother and brother, 
he had made it a special subject of his prayers, and of those penances 
which they abhorred. He was pressed to stay for the nuptials, 
which were fixed for an early day, but the mission was now fully 
organised, and nothing would induce him to delay his departure even 
for an hour. He was present at the signing of the marriage 
contract, but on the very eve of its solemnisation he left Paris. His 
relatives, and especially his mother, who had never beco-ne reconciled 
to the kind of life her son had adopted, so different from that which 
she had contemplated for him, were supremely indignant at what 
their pride took as an affront, and reproached him bitterly with the 
degradation of going to preach to wretched country-people when he 
might have been a bishop. His mother's unkindness wounded him 
deeply ; but, repairing to Notre Dame, as usual, to take leave of his 
heavenly Patroness, he felt himself amply consoled for the loss of 
earthly affection by the evidences which that tenderest of mothers 
was pleased to give him of her approval and love. 

M. Oliers fervour in preaching. 


It was after Lent, in the montli of April, 1636, that the missionary 
expedition sec out from Paris. M. Olier performed the whole journey 
on horseback, a mode of travelling to which he was not accustomed; 
the rest were in a coach ; and for the whole ten or eleven days of 
their journey (he says) they had neither sun nor rain, the sky remain- 
ing obscured with clouds. Their labours commenced on the Sunday 
within the octave of the Ascension, in the church of a priory de- 
pendent on the Abbey of Pt'brac, called St. II pise. The peasants 
assembled in crowds from twenty miles round, and so great was their 
fervour that many did not care to take any food all through the day, 
and numbers passed whole nights in the church or lay down in the 
jjorch, waiting three or four days together before they were able to 
make their confession. It was now the month of May, and the heat 
was intense ; net only the building itself but the churchyard also 
being filled with people, who blocked up the doors and clung to the 
windows in their eagerness to catch the words of the preacher.* 

The mission was conducted by the Vincentian Father, M. Portail, 
who in age and experience ranked in the Community next to the 
Saint himself, but it was by M. Olier that the principal sermons 
were preached. 'J'he effects produced were truly astonishing, and to 
no one more than to the preacher himself. Before every sermon he 
knelt in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, then, rising with his 
soul filled, as it were, with light and all on fire with divine love, he 
gave vent to the flames that devoured him in burning words which 
kindled a corresponding fervour in the breasts of those who heard 

* Such instances of fervour are by no means rare in tlie history of Home 
Missions ; indeed, they are rather the rule than the exception in a Catholic popu- 
lation. The remarkable feature was that a devotion so extraordinary should have 
been manifested in districts destitute of pastors, or provided only with such as 
were a scandal to their flocks. The Tablet newspaper, of August 14th, 1858, 
contained an account of precisely similar scenes in the parish of Headfort, in ihe 
Archdiocese of Tuam, during the three days of Jubilee. No less than 4,100 
persons received Communion, many of whom had waited patiently for the entire 
three days and nights. The parish being unprovided with a Catholic chapel, Mass 
was said in a thatched barn or shed. The Archbishop sat for two days hearing 
confessions, in the open air, ensconced in a corner and surrounded l)y a crowd of 
fervent penitents ; while on seats, in and about the shed, twenty-five priests 
attended on the faithful, who knelt in humble groups, on the stones and gravel, 
quietly expecting their turn. On the last day of the Jubilee, the Archbishop, after 
administering Confirmation to about 900 persons, mounted on a table and 
addressed the assembled multitudes ; the yard, the walls, the roofs of the houses, 
and every conceivable place from which there was even a chance of catching the 
voice of the preacher, being covered with human beings. 





Life of M. Olier. 

him. Before he went into retreat he had laboured under an appre- 
hension that his health was unequal to missionary work, and his 
physicians had assured him that the weakness of his chest would 
always prevent his being able to do more than give a short exhorta- 
tion to religious at the grate. But now he describes himself as 
feeling stronger after preaching than he was before, and in after-life 
he was able to speak of himself as one of the most robust in the 
whole Community. From M. Bdget, one of his fellow-labourers, after- 
wards Dean of the cathedral church of Le Puy — we learn both the 
almost incredible amount of work which he was able to perform and 
also the great personal humility which appeared in all his actions. 
'• In this mission of St. Ilpise," he writes, " M. Olier chose the least 
commodious room in the house in which we lodged ; it was situated 
immediately under the roof and very meanly furnished. During our 
repasts, which we always took in common, he stcod and read a 
chapter of the New Testament, with his head uncovered, eating 
nothing until we had all finished. While the rest took their 
recreation he would employ himself in distributing alms to the poor 
of the place ; this was his uniform practice after dinner, his object 
being to dispose them favourably for the catechism, which generally 
followed. After reciting Vespers he went Into the confessional ; and 
it was always the poorest and most wretched who came to cast them- 
selves into his arms, as into a secure harbour of charity." 

Not content, however, with receiving all who came to him with a 
father's tend'.rness, he would go forth to seek such as were unwilling 
or unable to attend. He might be seen climbing the steepest hills, 
under a burning sun, in search of wanderers from the fold ; and, 
had they who watched him from below followed on his footsteps, 
they would have found him in one of those dismal abodes, half dens, 
half hovels, which the peasants of those parts inhabited, and where 
lay some sick and destitute creature in a state of abject poverty, filth, 
and misery, such as it would be difficult to imagine. But nothing 
daunted or repelled his ardent charity. The necessities of these 
unhappy beings evoked his warmest sympathies, ^nd he lavished on 
them all the care of a mother or a nurse ; feeding them with his own 
hands, content himself with such scraps as they left, dressing their 
sores, washing their linen, in short, performing for them any office 
however menial and revolting, even (as it is expressly stated) to the 
combing of their heads. Then, having thus prepared the way to 
their hearts, he would return another day and instruct them in the 

His assiduity in prayer. 


doctrines of salvation, of which for the most part they were ignorant. 
Neither did he fail to provide for their future needs, for, after the 
example of St Vincent de Paul, he established at Pdbrac a con- 
fraternity of charity for the relief of the sick and poor. His love of 
poverty, indeed, >\hich he regarded as the livery of Jesus Christ, was 
visible in his own person and attire. The materials of his dress were 
of the simplest kind, and under his cassock he was not ashamed of 
wearing clothing so old and threadbare that the poorest country- 
people would not have cared to have it as a gift 

One office, however, there was in which he took singular delight, 
and Tor which he seemed to have a special gift ; it was that of teaching 
little children. So far from its being to him a wearisome task, or 
a duty which charity alone might have led him to discharge, he 
appeared to enjoy it as a sort of mental recreation after the more 
laborious exertion of preaching and hearing confessions ; while the 
ease and simplicity of his words and manner, the afTectionateness, 
the gentle condescension, almost humility, with which he addressed 
the very youngest of his audience or drew from them responses to his 
questions, and the ingenuity with which he contrived to blend 
amusement with instruction, won the admiration of all who heard 
him. By daily catechisings and devotions suited to their age he 
prepared them for a general communion, which they made with a 
fervour and a recollection which drew tears from the beholders. 
This great act was preceded by a solemn renewal of their baptismal 
vows, in which he made them repeat several times, and in a louder 
tone, the promise to honour their father and mother in the words of 
the fourth commandment ; after which they went through the parish 
in procession, with a modesty and a piety which showed how deep 
was. the impression which his teaching had made upon them. 

Nor all this time did he neglect his own sanctification ; all the 
moments he had at his command were given to prayer. M. 
Valentin, a priest of Le Puy, who accompanied him throughout 
the mission, relates how he never failed to say his office on his 
knees before the Tabernacle, wherever there was a church in which 
the Blessed Sacrament was reserved, and on one occasion walked 
twelve miles under a burning sun in order to enjoy the privilege 
of offering the Holy Sacrifice. In the evening, after saying matins 
of the following day, he continued at prayer until he was summoned 
to supper, and he went (says the writer) as though he were walking 
to execution, being often heard to murmur with an emotion which 


* i 


Life of M. Olier. 

excited like feelings of love and compunction in the hearts of his 
colleagues, ^^ Amor mens crucifixiis est — (My Love was crucified)." 
Deeply convinced, moreover, that to impetrate the grace of con- 
version for others it was necessary to deal hardly with himself, 
he joined penance to prayer, and chastised his flesh by frequent 
disciplines and the use of a hair-shirt and a pointed girdle which 
he carried secretly with him. A zeal so devoted could not fail to 
draw down blessings on himself as well as on the objects of his 
charity, and it was during this mission that he began to experience 
those extraordinary movements of grace with which he was after- 
wards so habitually visited. At St. Ilpise, on Whit-Sunday, being 
about to retire to rest after the fatigues of the day, he felt himself 
moved to pray, and at the same instant he was seized with so 
violent a transport of divine love that, completely overpowered, he 
was fain to throw himself on the ground, unable to do more than 
utter these words : " Love, love, love, I die, I cannot bear this 
flame." Instead, however, of taking complacency ir these heavenly 
favours he made them an occasion of self-humiliation, accounting 
them only as proofs of his own weakness and imperfection. " I was 
too greedy of such caresses," he says, "and God was pleased, in 
condescension to my infirmity, to bestow these little sweetnesses 
upon me, which, in truth, were not suited to me, as a mother humours 
a sickly child by giving it sugar because it cries for it, though in itself 

But while he thus reproached himself with weakness, his instruc- 
tions and example, and, doubtless more than all, his prayers and 
mortifications, were fraught- with the most powerful effects ; and the 
labours of the missionaries became in consequence so onerous that 
he wrote with the greatest urgency to Vincent de Paul and the 
clergy of the Conference for a fresh supply of priests. The actual 
number of missionaries who had accompanied him from Paris was 
not more than five or six, but, under the influence of his example, 
several priests of the neighbourhood had come to his assistance. 
There was immediate need, however, as he represented, of twice 
as many. He concluded his letter which is dated June 24th, 1636, 
with these soul-stirring words : " Blessed be God, who commu- 
nicates Himself so bountifully to His creatures, and particularly to 
the poor I For we have remarked that it is in them that He 
especially dwells, and for them that He requires the aid of His 
servants, in order to accomplish by their ministry what He is not 

f ■''?r 

M. Meyster. 


wont to do alone, I mean the instruction and complete conversion 
of His people. O Messieurs, refuse not Jesus this aid ; it is only 
too great an honour to labour under Him, and contribute to the 
salvation of souls and to the glory which will accrue to Him thereby 
for all eternity. You have made a happy beginning, and it was your 
example which first led me to quit Paris : persevere, then, in this 
divine work, for truly there is nothing like it on earth. O Paris, 
Paris, thou beguilcst men who might convert whole worlds. Alas, in 
that great city, how many good works are rendered fruitless, how 
many conversions frustrated, how many holy discourses wasted, for 
lack of those dispositions which God gives to the simple ! Here a 
single word is a sermon ; the poor country-people of these parts 
have not despised the word of the prophets, as is done in cities ; 
whence, with very little instruction, they become filled with benedic- 
tions and graces. And this is what I may be permitted to wish you 
in the Lord, seeing that in His love I am, Messieurs, your most 
humble, most obedient, and most grateful brother." 

St Vincent was about to respond to this appeal when Louis XHL 
applied to him for an additional number of chaplains for the troops 
required for active service in Picardy, and he was therefore unable 
to spare any members of his Community. Under these circum- 
stances, several of M. Olier's personal friends hastened to share his 
toils; among whom were M. de Perrochel, M. de Foix, and M. 
Meyster, the last of whom subsequently became one of the most 
celebrated missionaries of the time. He was a native of Ath, in the 
diocese of Cambrai, and had been tutor in a family of distinction, 
where he led a life of worldly dissipation and occupied himself 
solely with unprofitable studies and pursuits. One day, while 
endeavouring to recover a bird he had shot and which had fallen on 
a frozen piece of water, the ice suddenly broke under his feet, and in 
spite of all his struggles he was unable to extricate himself. He was 
in the greatest peril, when he heard a voice, as in the air, say 
distinctly, " You would not do as much for Me." Struck with com- 
punction, like another Paul, he cried aloud, " Lord, I will do much 
more ; " and, redoubling his efforts, he succeeded as by miracle in 
escaping a watery grave. From this moment he broke with the 
world, led a life of poverty and mortification, and applied himself 
solely to the study of the Sacrtd Scriptures and of the Fathers. 
The zeal with which he was inspired for the conversion of sinners 
led him, in the first instance, to attach himself to St Vincent de 




Life of M. Olicr, 

Paul, who, in the year 1634, admitted him into his Congregation ; 
but, the Priests of the Mission not being at that time bound by any 
vow, two years later he withdrew from the Community and placed 
himself undei the direction of P. de Condren. That saintly man, in 
wiiting to M. Olier at this time, expressed himself thus re^'pecting 
him : " M. Meyster seems to me to be one of those men who ought 
to be left to the Divine guidance ; the Spirit of our Lord must not 
be bound in him, neither must he be made to conform to the rules of 
othevs. Our part is to treat him with reverence, and to humble our- 
selves in the consideration that we are not worthy of the grace which 
God has bestowed upon him. Nevertheless, we ought to furnish 
him with matter for the exercise of his zeal by affording him oppor- 
tunities of wo 'king." Other friends and colleagues of M. Olier, who 
were not directly associated with him, undertook similar labours in 
other parts of the country. 

Writing to M. Barth^lemi de Donnadieu, Bishop of Comminges, 
who was an intimate friend of M. Olier, P. de Condren, after speak- 
ing of the wonderful fruits which the missions were producing and 
were destined thereafter to produce, among both priests and people 
— conducted as they were in a spirit of such genuine humility and 
self-sacrifice— mentions that M. Araelote and M. de Bassancourt 
were setting out on a mission to Saintonge on foot and unattended, 
with staff in hand, like true Apostles of Jesus Christ, and would pro- 
ceed at first on a pilgrimage to Notre Dame des Ardilliers. In fact, 
they laboured, as we learn, with great success at Champ-Dolent, of 
which M. Amelote had been for some time Prior, but had never 
as yet visited his benefice. Such was the school in which, as P. de 
Condren had designed, the men who were chosen to awaken the 
dormant zeal of their brethren in the ministry were disciplined and 
trained for the sublime mission which God intended them to fulfil in 
the Church of France. 

But to proceed. Everywhere, as at St. Ilpise, the success of the 
missions surpassed all expectation. No sooner had the little band 
of apostles entered a district than the people flocked from all parts 
to hear them, regardless of heat and cold, and of the privations and 
even hardships which they had to undergo. Many brought provisions 
with them for three or four days, lodging the while in barns and out- 
houses, where they might be heard conversing together in the evening 
on what they had learned during the day. Nor was this a merely 
passing interest; for long after, the peasants would act the part of 

Violent opposilion at Pdbrac. 


missionaries in their own families ; farmers and labourers woiild sin^ 
the mission hymns while working in the fields, and question each 
other on the several points of doctrine and duty in which they had 
been instructed ; in particular, it was observed that devotion to the 
Blessed Virgin increased among the people, and they might be seen, 
with their beaas in their hands, saymg the rosary as they went to 
their daily labours or returned. Thousands who had neglected the 
requirements of religion and morality for years now .nnde their peace 
with God ; heretics were reconciled to the Church, and sacrileges of 
long standing repaired by a good and general confession ; ill-gotten 
goods were restored, enemies reconciled, lawsuits amicably terminated 
— with which work of charity one of the missioners well fitted for 
the task was particularly charged — while whole families, heretofore 
divided by hatred and strife, were reunited in the bonds of love ard 
amity. Such were the ordinary results of a mission, sc that those 
pastors who cared for their flocks rivalled each other in their anxiety 
to obtain for their own people an advantage the value of which was 
manifested in the effects that were everywhere produced. 

Nor was it the peasantry only who profited by the labours of these 
zealous men, the higher classes also responded to the call ; and, 
though the instructions were of the simplest kind and conveyed in 
homely language, the grace of God so touched their hearts that none 
evinced a greater fervour of devotion or a deeper thankfulness for 
the mercies they had received; many (as we learn from M. C .r) 
shedding tears at the departure of the missionaries and being hardly 
willing to let them go. There seems to have been only one quarter in 
which a different spirit prevailed, namely, at Pdbrac. Certain of the 
richer inhabitants who farmed the abbey lands at a rent considerably 
below their value, and were therefore as little favourable to a change 
in the administration of the funds of the monastery as to a reforma- 
tion in their own irreligious lives, commenced a course of systematic 
opposition to M. Olier of a very vexatious character. They got 
together a rabble composed of the most lawless persons in the 
neighbourhood, and endeavoured by menaces and violence to prevent 
the lands being taken at a higher price. The better disposed were 
withheld from interfering by a dread of the numbers and influence of 
those who were opposed to them ; the more so as the leader of the 
malcontents was a man who had rendered himself the terror of the 
country round by his crimes, particularly by an attempt he had made 
to assassinate one of his adversaries, M. de Montmorency, in his bed. 


Life of M. Olier. 

A similar fate was prepared for M. Olier, but was providentially 
averted. He was returning one evening, alone and badly mounted, 
from one of his visits of charity amoog the poor country-people, when 
he found himself suddenly confronted by two men on horseback, 
accompanied by another on foot, who seemed to be acting in concert 
with them. They were about twenty paces in advance, and as soon 
as they saw him they drew each a pistol from his holster and prepared 
to dispute his passage. It so happened, however, that at this point 
in the road there was a bridle-path which led to a little chapel, in 
front of which M. Olier had catechised a group of peasants three 
days before ; into this he now turned, and had not proceeded far 
when he was joined by another priest, who, while riding in the 
valley below, had mistaken the glare of the pistols for the flashl;ig of 
a sv/ord and had hastened at full gallop to the spot. With a courage 
which seemed like an inspiration he cried to M. Olier to go boldly 
forward,, and, \ utting spuis to their horses, the two rode straight up 
to the men, who thrust back their pistols into the holsters as they 
approached and allowed them to pass unmolested. To all this 
violence and harassing persecution M. Olier opposed only prayer and 
penance, a most courageous patience, and an entire submission to the 
Divine will ; and God, who never fails those who put their trust in 
Him, was pleased to manifest His approval by an extiaordinary 
grace. At the end of an alarming illness with which (as we are 
about to see) he was attacked after the termination of ihe missions, 
the very man of whom mention has been made as being the chief 
instigator of the persecution came, accompanied by his wife and 
daughters, to visit him a^ he lay on his sick-bed and to implore his 
forgiveness for all the sufferings he had caused him. This circum- 
stance, which, as may be supposed, wrs the source of peculiar 
consolation to M. Olier, he interpreted as a special call to resign 
himself with renewed confidence into the hands of God. 

But that which caused the grei^test joy to a heart burning with the 
love of souls was the 'cal with which the country-clergy, not only 
co-operated in the immediate work of the mission, but laboured to 
carry out its objects amongst their flocks and to render permanent 
the effects which had already been produced. It v/as thus that M. 
Olier entered en his destined office of an ecclesiastical reformer. 
The parish priests began to preach and to catechise with an earnest- 
ness and an assiduity which may be said to have been unprecedented 
in those parts ; while a considerable number of cathedral canons and 

Self-reproaches and scruples of conscience. 69 

priors of convents who hitherto had regarded their obligations as 
fulfilled in a discharge of the routine duties of their office, now 
deemed themselves responsible for the spiritual condition of the 
people among whom they lived, and especially of the inhabitants of 
those places which were dependencies of their church or monastery. 
The canons of the cathedral church of Le Puy were eminently 
distinguished for the activity they displayd, and at the suggestion of 
M. Olier weekly conferences were established, after the model of 
those of St. La.'^iire, with which the local clergy also became associated. 
Other chapters soon followed their example ; so that in three or four 
neighbouring dioceses there was always a large body of ecclesiastics 
engaged in instructing the people, hearing confessions, visiting the 
prisons and the hospitals, conducting missions, preparing candidates 
for orders, and acting as the pioneers of the bishop in his visitations. 
But, so far from taking to himself the credit or the merit of these 
successes, the servant of God would not even rega'-d them as the 
results of his preachings and exhortations. " I cannot help thinking," 
he said, " that this marvellous change is due to the prayers of the 
Sceur Agnfes, that holy soul, who prayed so much to God to appease 
His wrath and convert the people of these parts. The P^re de Con- 
dren was wont to say that very often all the fruit produced by a sermon 
is attribuiable to some poor lowly woman in the church, and that all 
which the preacher, who is but the channel of God's grace, has for 
his share is mere vanity. May God," he added, " preserve me ever 
from this vanity, and forgive me all I have had of it in the past ! " 

All the time the servant of God was labouring so zealously in these 
missions he was tormented with remorseful scruples of conscience, 
fearing that he was unfaithful to grace. Often during the day he 
would throw himself on his knees and, with sighc and tears, would 
say to God, "O my God, whose power is infinite, repair by the 
inexhaustible resources of Thy wisdom the loss which Thou sustainest 
by my infidelities ; send into these regions men who will serve Thee 
better than I ; to them I yield all the glory which Thou didst offer 
me, so only that Thou dost not suffer." It was during the course of 
these same missions and while he was undergoing these interior irials 
that, while saying Mass one day at Clermont, he felt moved to offer 
to our Lord the people of Le Velay, Le Vivarais, and Auvergne, and 
at the same moment it seemed to him that God charged him with 
the care of these provinces; and, in fact, he afterwards had the 
consolation of labourmg there for the re /ival of religion and piety. 


Life of M, Olier. 

not only by the missions which he set on foot on their behalf, but 
also by the seminaries which he established at Viviers, Le Puy; and 
Clermont, and which, by giving to these heretofore forsaken provinces 
an uninterrupted succession of zealous pastors, perpetuated the good 
which he had himself in person endeavoured to accomplish. 

In the autumn of 1636 M. Olier gave a letreat to the clergy of the 
diocese of St. Flour, as well as to the candidates for ordination, at 
his own Abbey of P^brac, assisted by members of the Conferences of 
St. Lazare. He himself bore all the expenses of their maintenance 
daring the time, and also supplied out of his liberality considerable 
sums in aid of such parishes as from their poverty Siood in greatest 
need of assistance. The influence he exercised and the confidence 
he inspired may be taken as the measure of the estimation in 
which he was held for his sanctity, ard especially for his humility 
and disinterestedness, of which we find the following instances 
recorded. While at St. Ilpise he requested his grand-vicar, a 
religious of his own abbey, to fetch some papers from P^brac for 
which he had occasion, and, on his objecting, M. Olier rebuked him 
somewhat sharply; but a few hours afterwards, thinking he had 
spoken with needless severity, he sought out the ecclesiastic and, 
throwing himself at his feet, begged his forgiveness. The Bishop of 
St. Flour having convened an assembly to iCgulate the proportion of 
tithes to be paid by the several benefices of the diocese to the 
mother church, the prelate himself, as well as the assessors generally, 
proposed to exempt the Abbey of P^brac, in consideration of the 
mode in which the Abbot expended its revenues. But M. Olier, 
who was present, gave expression to his disapproval of the measure 
in terms which inspired all who heard him with a still higher opinion 
of his virtues. "It is not right," he said, "to exempt abbots, who 
generally enjoy large revenues and do nothing, at the expense of poor 
curds, who work hard and have a very small income." An ecclesi- 
astic who was charged with overlooking the accounts of the farmer- 
general of his abbey brought him the schedule for his inspection, 
together with a sum of 5,000 livres which was due to him. M. Olier 
put his signature to the account, without examining it, in spite of the 
ecclesiastic's remonstrances, and devoted the whole of the money to 
supplying fresh missions ; and such was his liberality that during the 
eighteen months they lasted he expended more than 16,000 livres in 
the support of the missionaries and the relief of the poor. He was 
as forgetful of himself as he was careful for others. When he went 


His alarming illness. 


to Vieille-Brioude, in the neighbourhood of which were several 
dependencies of his abbey, it was observed that of the two beds 
which were in his apartment he chose the smallest and worse 
furnished, leaving the other to the priest who accompanied him. 
His only complaint was of being treated with too much condescen- 
sion, and not being allowed to practise evangelical poverty ; and M. 
Rebou', Archpriest of St. Flour, relates that in the several journeys 
he took with him M. Olier w:is so occupied with God that it was 
necessary to remind him of the hours for meals. 

It was about this time that he made the acquaintance of Marie 
Tessonnifere, commonly called Marie de Valence, from the town in 
which she lived. This poor widow, who was more than sixty years 
of age when M. Olier first saw her, was held in the highest esteem by 
the Cardinal de B^ruUe, St. Vincent de Paul, and other distinguished 
personages of the day ; and St. Francis de Sales, by a bold figure of 
speech, declared her to be a living relic. Her veneration for the 
servant of God and the confidence with which he inspired her were 
such that she laid open to him all the secrets of her soul as she had 
done to no one since the death of her saintly director, the Pfere 
Colon; while M. Olier, in his turn, derived great spiritual profit 
from his converse with her. She had a particular devotion to the 
adorable mystery of the Ever- Blessed Trinity, and M. Olier believed 
that to her he was indebted for a share in the same dominant attrac- 
tion and peculiar grace. Like so many other pious persons at this 
time, she had felt herself especially moved to pray for the secular 
clergy, begging our Lord to endue them with piety, science, purity of 
intention, ardent zeal, and detachment — in a word, with all the Apos- 
tolical virtues — and, as though she possessed a supernatural insight 
into M. Olier's future vocation, she assured him that he was destined 
by God to do a great work for His glory. He, on his part, seemed 
to see in her angelicd life an impge of that of the Immaculate Mother 
of God ; and, moved to compassion for her great poverty, he, with 
the approbation of P. de Condi on, bestowed on this holy widow a 
pension of a hundred livres a year. 

The missions were on the point of closing when M. G'ier observed 
to one of his friends that he only needed a fortnight's illness to be 
assured that God had accepted their labours. The token was not 
long wanting. On the evening of the last day of the mission which 
had been given at La Motte-Canillac, a little torn in Auvergne, when 
he was on his way back to Langeac after preaching the final sermon. 


Life of M. Olier. 

he experienced a sudden calm in his soul, together with an entire 
cessation from all pain, a circumstance so unusual with him that it 
filled him with alarm ; for crosses (he says) had become his strength 
and support, and he felt as if God were forsaking him. But he was 
speedily reassured ; for on entering the convent chapel he was seized 
with what to his friends and the physicians seemed like a mortal 
illness. For himself, however, he was persuaded of the contrary, 
for, on the instant that he felt the first stroke of the malady, he com- 
mended himself to the holy Bishop of Geneva, and, although he was 
fast sinking into a state of somnolency, he seemed to hear a voice 
within him which blessed him and assured him that his sickness was 
not unto death. " I shall not die," he feebly uttered, at the same 
time begging M. de Foix, who was with him, to fetch the Blessed 
Sacrament. This he was able to do, even at that early hour (for it 
was two o'clock in the morning), because the chaplain's room, in 
which M. Olier was lying, opened into the chapel, and thus he had 
the consolation of receiving Communion. But it was found impos- 
sible to receive his confession, as he could only make inarticulate 
sounds and soon lost the power both of speech and of hearing ; so 
that all which could be done was to anoint him with the holy oils. 
For days he lay in a state of complete stupor, unconscious of every- 
thing that was passing around him and perfectly insensible to pain, 
even vhen the doctors bled him, or, rather, according to the bar- 
barous method of those times, stabbed him with their lancets. While 
in this condition it occurred to M. de Foix to try whether the holy 
and beloved Names of Jesus and Mary would have any effect in 
rousing him from his lethargy ; when no sooner had he pronounced 
the sacred syllables than the apparently dying man responded to the . 
sound, though still like one who was wandering in his sleep. To aught 
else he was insensible, but these blessed Names (he says) could do 
'vhat a thousand knives and lancets could not do ; they penetrated 
to an interior region of the soul which the stupor of the mind and 
numbness of the body had left unaffected. 

His mother, on hearing of his danger, hastened with her youngest 
son to his assistance, but did not arrive until he was convalescent ; 
his health, however, was far from being re-established when he was 
afflicted with a complaint in the knee, brought on, it was supposed, 
by his long-continued prayers. The doctors were ready again with 
their lancets, but apprehensive, as he well might be, of being crippled 
for life, if he trusted himself in their hands, he betook him to Her 

Retreat at Tournon. 


wiio was his constant refuge in all trials, and made a vow to Notre 
Dame de Bon-Secours at Tournon,* whither he had himself conveyed, 
all lame as he was. And now his mother beheld what must have 
been a new and striking spectacle to the haughty town-bred lady. 
On the day of M. Olier's departure from Langeac, the poor of the 
neighbourhood collected to the number of three or four hundred and 
accompanied him some distance on his way. *' He has been to 
Paradise," they cried, '• and has come back again." He was glad, he 
says, that she should witness this demonstration of affection, if only 
to put her out of conceit with a heartless world. His sister, who was 
greatly averse to the life he had chosen, had died at Paris during his 
illness, and he could not but contrast her condition with his own. 
In the heart of a great metropolis, and in the midst of a large circle 
of acquaintance, she had been suffered to expire without a friend to 
assist or console her, while he, who had forsaken the world and broken 
all the ties of family, found friends and brethren without number — 
clergy, religious, and the poor of Christ — as in a very desert ; thus 
verifying that word of the Lord, that he that hath left house, or 
brethren, or sisters, or mother, for His Name's sake, shall be 
recompensed a hundred-fold.f 

In a *ew days his knee was perfectly cured, without the aid of any 
other remedy but that of invoking the Blessed Mother of God. and 
he was able to undertake a retreat of fifteen days with the Jesuit 
Fathers at Tournon, which he passed in complete solitude. It was 
then that he received the gift of a higher order of prayer than he 
had hitherto practised, that of interior recollection in God without 
exercise of the discursive faculty. He also learned a more perfect 
and complete dependence on the Spirit of our Lord in the direction 

* Within one of the old Gothic gates of Tournon was a vault, open towards the 
town, in which was a painting of the Blessed Virgin, honoured under the title of 
Notre Dame de Bon-Secours. It was frequented as a sort of oratory by the 
people round, novenas were performed in it, and many cures were wrought. On 
the feasts of our Blessed Lady it was always gaily adorned, and from time 
immemorial had formed one of the stations of the procession on the Rogation 
Days. The ancient gate and the oratory have disappeared together, but the 
painting has been preserved in an adjacent house, and is every year exposed to 
the piety of the faithful on occasion of the RogaMon procession, which still makes 
its halt at the accustomed spot. The Virgin Mother is represented as seated on 
clouds and holding the Infant Jesus on her lap. M. Faillon remarks that the 
people much regret the destruction of this old oratory, and that there is good 
reason to hope that it will be replaced by another of modern construction. 

t St. Matthew xix. 29. 



Lt/e of M. Olier. 

of his every word and act. Hitherto he had endeavoured in all 
simplicity to follow the movements of grace, but he had not as yet 
so perfectly conceived how absolutely the Spirit of Jesus ought to 
be the animating principle of all our words. It was at the same 
time shown him, as in a figure, what his vocation was to be. While 
making his prayer on the subject of the Holy Eucharist, he seemed to 
behold a man continually on his knees before the Tabernacle, while 
troops of priests, fully equipped for work and burning with zeal, were 
climbing mountains like lions and spreading devotion to the Blessed 
Sacrament in the wildest and most desolate regions. 

After his retreat, his health being sufficiently restored, he set out, 
accompanied by his mother, on his return journey to Paris. On the 
way the carriage was upset into a deep hollow, where, but for the 
special interposition of Divine Providence, both coachman and 
horses, he says, must have been either killed or maimed. Instinc- 
tively, he exclaimed, " O Jesus, my Love ! O Jesus, my Love ! " and 
neither coachman nor horses received the slightest injury. The 
fame of his Apostolical labours had preceded him, and on reaching 
Paris his humility was shocked by the respect and consideration 
with which he found himself everywhere received. St. Vincent 
de Paul said to him, as he clasped him in his arms, "I know 
not how it is, but the blessing of God accompanies you wherever 
you go." It was now the spring of 1638, and, had he followed 
the promptings of his own zeal, he would have returned without 
delay to his beloved missions; but P. de Condren, who never 
lost sight of the great object he had in view, kept him at Paris 
with other members of the little community, giving him from time 
to time occupation of the kind he most desired in or near the 

Others, his former colleagues, he sent into the country, away 
from the distractions of Paris, that they might be more perfectly 
trained, under the direction of M. Meyster, for the work to which 
they were designed. Among these was M. du Ferrier, who, in his 
Mkmoires (still in manuscript), describes his state of mind at the time 
and the beneficial effects that were produced upon him by the good 
example of his companions. "I was then," he writes, "to use St. 
James's expression *« double-minded man^* or, as the Prophet says, 
' a speckled bird^ + a bird of two colours, wishing to serve God with- 

St. James i. 8. 

t Jeremias xii. 9. 

^^^■Vi »i^I*.«. tf fid -1 

, ''i.:-.",i™.aa i-vJiAL' 

A triumph over human respect. 


out renouncing the world. After spending the morning in study and 
a few short prayers, I went to dine, by the order oi my uncle, who 
was Grand Master of Malta, with the Abbd de St. Vincent, agent of 
the clergy. He kept open house, and, as he was a fine gentleman, 
all the great world, courtiers and prelates, were his constant guests. 
After dinner they amused themselves with chess, backgammon, and 
ninepins, all which were considered as permissible for ecclesiastics, 
so that they did not play at cards. Some went for a stroll, or to 
hear the news of the day. God put it into the heart of P. de 
Condre o withdraw me from Paris, away from all this frivolity, and 
to send me, with M. de Bassincourt and M. Amelote, to Champ- 
Dolent, in Saintonge, there to pass the summer and prepare for sciying 
my first Mass. The Abb6 de Se'ry came with us. M. Amelote, a 
pious and learned man, was my director, and he set me to read and 
meditate on the 21st chapter of Leviticus and the Epistle to the 
Hebrews ; we lived in great quiet, dividing our time between prayer, 
saying office, study, and recreation. This retreat waj very useful to 
me, and made me lament the loss of so many days vvhich I had ill 
employed ; it served also to make me sensible of the many miserable 
attachments of my heart. It was St. Mark's day when we reached 
Saintonge, and we spent the night at St. Jean d'Ang^ly. They gave 
us for dessert some cheese and several plates of sweetmeats, there 
being no fruit then in season. My three friends, mortified and 
abstemious, contented themselves with a little cheese, while I, on the 
contrary, who was accustomed to gratify all my tastes, ate nothing 
but sweetmeats, urging them to do the same, but they touched none 
of them. That night, when we had lain down, through the mercy of 
God — obtained, doubtless, by the prayers of His three servants whom 
I had scandalised — my eyes were opened, and, sensible of my past 
gluttony, I began to have a detestation for it, and made a resolution 
to despise for the future whatever gratified my senses. I mention 
this to show the good which persons of a mortified life effect by their 

In a mission which M. Olier and his friends undertook at this time 
in the environs of Paris, they had to pass through St. Germain's, 
where the King and his court were then staying, and M. Olier, whom 
all the world regarded as on the way to a bishopric, proposed 
that, to put in practice that love of evangelical poverty which they 
possessed, they should go in one of the common cars of the country, 
instead of in a coach, as they had hitherto done. It was represented 



Life of M. Olier. 

to him that, as some of the ecclesiastics had acquaintances among the 
courtiers, such a style of equipage would only excite ridicule and 
draw down contempt both on themselves and on the object in which 
they weie engaged. But the servant of God replied, "Our Lord, 
when He rode into Jerusalem on an ass, showed us what account we 
ought to make of the world's opinion ; nay, was not He who is 
Wisdom and Sanctity Itself mocked and derided ? Were not the 
Apostles laughed to scorn when they announced the Gospel? No, 
no \ let us not stand haggling, but go forward." So they went, as 
he wished, in an open car, and God accepted the humiliation and 
blessed their labours with extraordinary success. 

( n ) 



ON his return to Paris M. Olier prepared himself for a 
fresh campaign by a spiritual retreat. Two missions were 
proposed to him, and, his director being away, he resolved, after 
consulting God in prayer, to go into Brittany. He repaired accord- 
ingly to his priory of Clisson, intending to join M. Meyster in 
Saintonge, where the latter was engaged in giving missions, but a 
severe cold obliged him to defer the journey. To spend the time 
with greater profit to his soul, he went through all the exercises of a 
retreat, visiting frequently the chapel of Notre Dame de Toute- 
Joie,* a place of pilgrimage in the close vicinity of the monastery, 
where he did not fail to receive many consolations at the hands of 
his heavenly Patroness. He took occasion, also, to hold frequent 
conferences with the clergy of those parts. 

While thus recruiting himself, he learned that at the village of La 

* This chapel was originally erected by Oliver de Clisson, father of the Con- 
stable, in thanksgiving for some happy news he had received on the spot. It 
became a frequented place of pilgrimage ; thirteen or fourteen parishes going to it 
in procession at different times of the year. During the war in La Vendee it 
was delivered to the flames, hut, though only the walls remained standing, it was 
not altogether disused as a place of prayer, and a young girl of the neighbourhood 
undertook to collect alms for its reconstruction. For several years she might be 
seen sitting among the ruins and holding out her hand to the passers-by, especially 
on fair and market days ; she employed herself meanwhile in spinning, giving 
utterance to her complaints in a mournful song. Many laughed at her, some 
insulted her, few gave her anything, but she continued spinning and singing, 
neither abashed nor disheartened. At length, when peace was restored, she took 
a little image of the Blessed Virgin in her hand, and went about the country 
begging for the chapel. Some gave her money, others promised timber for the 
building ; after a while, some of the better sort contributed more largely, and the 
chapel was restored. At the present day it is still a place of much resort to the 





Life of M. Olicr. 

R^grippilre, distant six miles from Clisson, there was a priory of 
nuns of the Order of Fontevraiilt,* who, through their worldliness, 
frivolity, and contentiousness, had become the scandal of the neigh- 
bourhood. The relaxation of all the bonds of discipline, entailing, 
as it did, the total loss of the interior spirit of religion, had brought 
a host of all the usual abuses in its train. Yielding to an impulse of 
zeal, M. Olier, now sufficiently recovered, repaired to the convent 
and, without disclosing his name, begged the hospitality of the house 
for himself and an ecclesiastic who accompanied him. It was the 
20th of July, 1638. An intermittent fever, which had assumed the 
character of an epidemic, prevailed at that time in the district, and 
the nuns, supposing them to be persons who were seeking a refuge 
from its attacks, and apprehensive themselves of taking the disorder, 
refused them admission. The man of God made no complaint but, 
retiring quietly from the gate, went and took up his quarters in a 
dilapidated hen-house which he had observed on his approach to the 
convent. The servants, out of respect for the habit he wore, did not 
venture to disturb him, and there accordingly he remained, abiding 
God's time. The humility which he had shown under the rebuff he 
had received, the modesty and charity which appeared in all his 
words and demeanour, and his continual application to prayer, were 
not lost upon those who were without the walls, and the favourable 

* The order of Fontevrault was instituted by B. Robert d'Arbrisselles. Besides 
the Abbey of De la Roe, or De Rota, for Canons Regular of St. Augustine, he 
founded for women, in 1099, the great monastery of Fontevrault {Fons Ebraldi) in 
Poitou, under the rule of St. Benedict. The number of religious increased so 
rapidly that he soon had to erect other houses. Among them was one for young 
women and widows, another for the leprous and diseased, and a third for fallen 
women who, on their conversion, desired to consecrate themselves to God. The 
chief peculiarity of the institute was that, in honour of the Blessed Virgin, to 
whom on the Cross her Divine Son had given authority over St. John, the monks 
were, equally with the nuns, put under obedience to the mother abbess, who was 
also the general of the Order, a regulation approved by the Pope. The houses 
for women were at a distance from those of the men. The rule of St. Benedict 
was observed in all its strictness ; the law of enclosure being so rigorously 
enforced that no priest was permitted even to enter the infirmary in order to visit 
the sick, who, in their very agony, were carried into the church, there to receive 
the last sacraments. Before the Revolution there were some sixty houses, or 
priories, in France, divided into four provinces, and there were two in England 
previously to the schism. 

Dr. Lingard shows that it was not uncommon among the northern nations to 
have both monks and nuns governed by one and the same superior, either abbot 
or abbess. History and Antiquities of the Anglo-Saxon Church. Vol. I. 
pp. 193-198. 


The Nuns of La R^grippi^re. 


opinion they entertained of the priestly stranger was speedily com- 
municated to the inmates of the house. It was not long, therefore, 
before a message arrived from the nuns, inviting him to take up his 
abode in the rooms allotted to guests. But M. Oiler simply and 
mod< stly replied that he begged the ladies would not trouble them- 
selves further about his accommodation, for that his little lodging 
was everything he could wish. 

The report of the unknown priest who had established himself 
in the nuns' hen-house, and would not move out, was soon noised 
abroad, and one of the magistrates of a neighbouring town was 
curious to see the intruder. Now, it so happened that the magistrate 
in question was an intimate friend of the Olier family, and he no 
sooner beheld our Abbd in his strange retreat than he hastened to 
inform the nuns who and what manner of man it was they had shut 
their doors upon. If before they had been anxious to retrieve their 
error, it now appeared as if they could not reproach themselves 
sufficiently for their want of respect to so great a personage, and they 
entreated him to do their house the honour of occupying the most 
commodious apartment it afforded. But this priest of the Most 
High knew well on what errand he had come ; he had come to do a 
work for God, and he would do it in the way God willed. Thanking, 
therefore, with all courtesy those who had conveyed to him the 
flattering message, he answered, in language to which their ears were 
but little accustomed, "Jesus, my Master, was pleased to be born in 
a stable, and to lie long time in a manger; it would not be fitting, 
therefore, that I should be in a hurry to quit a place in which I fare 
so well." Disconcerted, as well as surprised, at a refusal so 
unexpected, the nuns desired at least that the fowls should be 
removed from the miserable lodging he had chosen. " No," replied 
he, with a pleasant smile, " these poor birds have done nothing for 
which they should be driven out ; and, if the crowing of a cock could 
convert the Prince of the Apostles, I do not despair but that God 
may make use of the same means to bring rbout at last my own 

And now a strange feeling began to steal over the inmates of this 
unhappy house, a mixture of curiosity and fear, with a slight addition 
of compunction. What was this man come for ? Why had he set 
himself down as if to watch and wait for something that was going to 
happen to them ? What had he to say to them ? Had he come to 
convert them ? But they would not be converted— at least not yet. 


Life of M, Olier. 

The vainest nun in the house, the gayest, proudest bird among them 
all (as M. Olicr describes her), young, handsome, and clever, who was 
for ever receiving visits from her acquaintances among the admiring 
noblesse^ was seized with a desire to go and talk with him ; but, 
unwilling lo forsake her pleasures, she thought to arm herself before- 
hand by making a bargain with Ciod that she should have three years' 
reprieve before she was converted. To reach M. Olier she had to go 
by the convent chapel, and, as she passed, a voice seemed to speak 
to her heart, and to say to her that her hour was come. When she 
saw the \ \y man, she thought she beheld the saintly Bishop of 
(Jeneva, and, dee[)ly moved, resolved at once to change her life. 
Hastening to the Superioress, she said, " Mother, my apostle is come ; 
I must surrender ; I can delay no longer." A conversion so un- 
looked-for and surprismg caused a general sensation, and M. Olier 
was asked to preach on the following day. He consented ; and such 
grace accompanied his words that, not only the Soeur de Vauldray, 
the religious in question, but several others determined to make a 
retreat of ten days, accompanied with a general confession, a pro- 
ceeding of which they had previously had not the slightest intention. 
The lesson he had learned in his recent retreat was still uppermost 
in M. Olier's thoughts, and several times daring his discourse he 
repeated the expression, '■^ Plaire d. Dieu — to please God." The 
words made a strange impression on his hearers, haunting their 
memory like some sweet and solemn tune, so that, instead of the 
snatches of songs and scraps of worldly gossip which it was usual to 
hear the nuns repeating up and down the house, they went about 
saying, " Plaire d Dt'ei/, Plaire h Dieu." Of forty nuns, fourteen 
were united in a firm determination to live henceforth as true religious. 
It was St. Mary Magdalen's day, and on the morrow they commenced 
their retreat, which terminated accordingly on the ist of August, 
dedicated to St. Peter advincula ; a coincidence from which M. Olier, 
who had a particular devotion to those two great patrons and models 
of penitent souls, did not fail to draw the happiest auguries. He 
had no difficulty in bringing back these fourteen religious to the 
observance of community life, which had been virtually abolished in 
the house, and in banishing from their breasts the spirit of 
appropriation {propriete\ that fatal source of dissipation and often 
even of disorder in a convent.* 

* It is not easy to render the term profriMhy any corresponding English word. 
It signifies that which is the very opposite of the spirit of community life, viz.. 

The S(£ur Donfard. 


Before M. Olicr could complete the reform he had hcRun at T.a 
Kdgrippi^re, he was obliged to leave for Nantes, proposing to go 
thence (as has heon said) to the assistance of M. Meysler in 
Saintonge, and afterwards to return to Paris, liut his presence being 
still needed for tiic confirmation and guidance of the religious who 
had yielded to grace, God allowed him to be attacked by the 
epidemic already mentioned, which detained him in Hrittany until 
the beginning of the following year. He was taken ill on the 
Nativity of the lilessed Virgin, a circumstance which he regarded as 
a special token of her favour; "a recompense," he writes, "for my 
small labours the most precious a Christian can receive." From a 
spirit of devotion to that heavenly MothL/, he always reckoned the 
years of his own life from her birthday, and her Divine Son (he says) 
never failed on that day to bestow some blessing upon him. His 
intention had been to remain at his I'riory of Clisson, to which he 
had retired from Nantes, until his health was fully re-established, but 
he was so strongly urged to return to the latter place by Marie- 
Constance de Bressand, Mother Assistant of the Convent of the 
Visitation, that he complied with her request. The only accom- 
modation the good nun could offer him was a room in the gardener's 
cottage ; but this, she well knew, would be exactly to his t.iste, 
especially as it resembled the lodging which St. Francis de Sales had 
occupied at Lyons during his last illness. Indeed it was all for the 
sake of this great prelate that he accepted the invitation. The M^re 
de Bressand, before entering religion, had enjoyed the happiness of 
being under the saint's direction, and M. Olier hoped to derive much 
edification from her reminiscences of his habits and conversation, 
particularly in all that concerned the spiritual life. Nor was he 
disappointed in his expectations ; while she, on her part, seemed to 
perceive in him so large a measure of the lights and graces of her 
saintly director that she was moved to take him as the guide of 
her soul. 

It was at this time also that he was brought into spiritual relations 
with another very holy woman, the Sceur Marie Boufard, who was 
then living in the world in a state of great poverty and confirmed 
ill health, but who subsequently, through his assistance, entered the 
Convent of ihe Visitation as a lay-sister and died, in the odour of 
sanctity, at the advanced age of eighty-seven years. She supported 

when religious, instead of possessing all things in common, love to appropriate 
something to themselves, whether lor use or in possession. 


:'■/•■' » ■fvpl 


Lt/e of M. Clier, 

herself by keeping a school, and such was the reputation in which 
she was held that people came from all parts to consult her on affairs 
of importance. Like M. Olier, she had a profound devotion to the 
Most Holy Sacrament and a tender love for the Blessed Virgin, and, 
as God led her by extraordinary ways and lavished extraordinary 
favours \ipon her, the fear of being deluded caused her to accept with 
particular joy the guidance of one who was competent to direct her 
with safety along those heights of perfection to which she w?s called. 

While he was at Nantes, M. Olier received the tidings that a son 
had been born (September 5th, 1638) to Louis XII L and Anne of 
Austria, and consequently an heir to the throne of France. A 
matter of so much importance had been made the constant subject 
of his supplications to Heaven, and his joy and thankfulness were 
proportionately great. In this behalf he had offered to God, not his 
prayers only, bnt his penances also ; in reference to v/hich M. Faillon 
relates a litile incident which is not without its value. M. Picot^ — 
of whom more will be said hereafter — was passing one day through 
the court of the Louvre, on his return from visiting the Queen 
Mother, who held him in high esteem, when the boy-king perceived 
him and begged to be remembered in his prayers. " Sire," replied 
the simple-hearted priest — as though to assure Louis that his request 
had been a superfluous one — " you have cost me, and M. Olier too, 
many a good scourging." M. Olier's solicitude for the interests of 
religion — it may here be observed — made him so anxious that the 
future monarch should be educated in a truly Christian manner that 
he would not have shrunk from the responsibility of acting himself as 
the young Dauphin's preceptor ; and, as it appears, he even expressed 
a willingness to undertake the onerous office. 

But to return. During his stay at Nantes M. Olier became the 
witness of a miraculous circumstance, and one that from its nature 
would affect him very powerfully. There was in the Convent of the 
Visitation a nun named Frangoise-Madeleine de la Roussifere, who 
was consumed with an insatiable hunger for the Divine Eucharist. 
On the evenings before receiving Communion she might be observed 
all sighing and panting for the Bread of Life, which to her was the 
very meat and drink of her soul ; her countenance was in a flame, 
and the perspiration stood in drops upon her forehead, even in the 
depth of winter. One day, when M. Olier was saying Mass as usual, 
and was about to communicate this Sister, the Sacred Host deta "bed 
Itself from his fingers, and went of Its own accord into her mouth, 

Reform of La Rdgrippicre. 



as though hastening to satisfy the longing desire of so ardent a soul. 
The parish priest of Nort likewise beheld the same extraordinary 
manifestation of the Divine favour to this holy nun. 

M. Olier profited by the delay to follow up the work so auspiciously 
begun at La Regrippibre. He visited the convent on several 
occasions, and addressed the religious in letters which were scarcely 
less effectual than his presence and oral exhortations. The Soeur de 
Vauldray remained stedfast in her good resolutions, and showed a 
most admirable courage amidst all the discouragements and sufferings 
she had now to endure from those who maintained their spirit of 
independence and refused to submit to the yoke of discipline. But 
a reform such as alone would satisfy the zeal of God's servant was 
not to be brought about in a few duys or even months : how he 
succeeded in the end we shall see hereafter ; but meanwhile the state 
of this religious house was a matter of deep anxiety to him ai.d the 
subject of his constant prayers. It was to the ScEur de Vauldray 
that he looked as the instrument, under God, by which the change 
was to be effected, and, with P. de Condren's permission, he continued 
to correspond with her in the capacity of her director, even after his 
return to Paris. Providence also assisted him in an unlooked-for 
way. In the beginning of January, 1639, he felt himself sufficiently 
recovered to leave Nantes, but he was unequal to a journey on horse- 
back — which, as he had sold his carriage, v/as now his only means of 
travelling— especially in the middle of winter. In this perplexity, he 
betook himself to his usual resource of prayer, when a gentleman of 
the country, who was aware of his embarrassment, offered him a seat 
in his coach and six, only begging to be allowed to go a little out of 
the way to visit an abbey with the Superioress of which he wished to 
confer. This was no other than the Abbey of Fontevrault, the 
mother-house of the convent at La Rdgrippifere. M. Olier had thus 
an opportunity of preferring a petition for the success of which 
nothing less than a personal application would have sufficed rie 
knew that in the neighbouriiood of Fontevrault there was a nun, pious 
and prudent, and every way qualified, on whose co-operation he 
could rely for completing the reform which he had so much at heart. 
This nun he now begged the Abbess * to send to La Regrippi^re. 

• Jeanne-Baptiste de Bourbon, natural daughter of Henri IV. From her child- 
hood she was remarkable for piety, and on becoming abbess of Fontevrault she 
m.anifested all the virtues of a perfect religious. Such was her love ot poverty 
and mortification that she shrank from no employment however menial ; washing 


Life of M. Olier. 

It was not without some trouble that he obtained his request, but the 
result amply proved both the justice of his representations and the 
wisdom of yielding to them. 

On reaching Paris, M. Olier hastened to confer with P. de 
Condren, whom he had not seen for six months ; and it was with an 
inexpressible satisfaction that he found his method of prayer, and his 
mode of disposing himself thereto, approved by so gifted a master of 
the spiritual life. Under this Father's direction, he now resumed 
his theological and scriptural studies, but his attraction to prayer was 
so strong that he asked and obtained permission to make a second 
hour's meditation in the evening, except on certain days, when, for 
the sake of study, it was not to be prolonged beyond half-an-hour ; 
but by the mercy of God (he says) he never omitted the full hour's 
meditation in the morning, howevei he might be employed. 

The course of this history now introduces us to thr.e men, 
perhaps the most remarkable of their time, at least for what may be 
called their holy eccentricities. The first is Claude Bernard, con- 
verted by the Bishop of Belley, who distributed all he possessed 
among the poor, and was himself commonly called " the Poor 
Priest." He was a person of original genius but of great singularity 
of character, and one who seems to have been sent into the world 
for the purpose of condemning and confounding its maxims and 
notions by what to many would appear to be an indiscreet display of 
the folly of the religion of the Cross. His delight seemed to be to 
defy the opinion of the world and to affront it in every way which 
his zeal could prompt or his wit devise. Human respect, human 
prudence, worldly propriety, what men called wisdom, he absolutely 
scorned, ; .:d he gave expression to his scorn in a way which, in its 
turn, excited the world's contempt ; so that, while his friends, and all 
who were acquainted with his real character, knew him to be a man of 
great intellectual acuteness, thorough earnestness of purpose, and a 
most saintly life, to people in general, who knew only just so much 
of him as he was pleased to let them see, he looked more like a 
buffoon or a madman. Between this good but eccentric man and 
M. Olier there sprang up a peculiar friendship, based on the know- 



the dishes, sweeping the cloisters and the kitchen, waiting on the sick night and 
day, and assisting the dying. Her accomplishments were no less remarkable. 
Her ordinary reading consisted of one of the Latin Fatliers, and she composed 
several treatises of theology and philosophy. She died on the i6th of January, 
1670, at the age of sixiy-two, having been abbess thirty-three years. 

Pierre dt Queriolet. 


ledge of each other's estimable qualities, and especially on their 
common zeal for the honour of God, their tender devotion to Mary, 
and their love of the poor. 

The second is Pierre de Qudriolet, who, while leading a life of 
habitual impiety, had been converted in the manner about to be 
related. He came at this time to Paris to see P. Bernard, out of 
respect for his sanctity, and it was from his own lips that M. Olier 
learned the following particulars,* in the presence of St Vincent de 
Paul, P. de Condicn, and the other ecclesiastics with whom the 
reader has been made acquainted. '• You will agree," he said, '* in 
regarding me as an example of the extraordinary mercy of God 
when you have heard the narrative of my horrible crimes. Up to 
the "ige of thirty-five I passed my life in the practice of every kind 
of abomination, and in the habitual profanation of the sacraments, 
whi'^.h I received that I might have the appearance of being a good 
Catholic. At last I was possessed with so unaccountable a hatred 
for the Person of Jesus Christ that I left the kingdom in order to go 
to Constantinople and turn Mahometan. I had ascertained that an 
envoy from the Grand Turk was at Vienna, and I made haste that I 
might be in time to accompany him on his return ; but the infinite 
mercy of God determined otherwise. While passing by night 
through a forest in Germany I fell into the hands of robbers, who 
killed my two attendants. Seeing their guns levelled at me, I made 
a vow to visit the shrine of Notre Dame de Liesse, if God would 
deliver me from this peril. I was delivered ; but, alas ! I did not 
the less persist in my impious intention, and hurried to Vienna for 
the purpose of joining the envoy ; but he had taken his departure. 
In the hope of overtaking him, for he had left only the day before, I 
took boat on the Danube, and reached the confines of Hungary, 
where I was stopped for want of a passport. I then repaired to 
\ cnice, waiting an opportunity to embark for Constantinople, and 
with this view I enlisted as a soldier of the Republic in the garrison 
of the place from which the vessels sailed. For six v^'eeks it pleased 
God that no vessel left for Constantinople, and, being tired of the 
life I was leading, I deserted, regardless of the peril I was incurring, 
and returned to France. At Paris I heard of the death of my father, 
hastened by his distress at my unhappy determination, of which he 
was aware. I then turned Protestant, thinking it more for my 

* They were taken down by M. du Ferrier at the time, and are to be found in 
his (unpublished) Memoira. 


Life of M. Olicr. 

interests ; but, as I was destitute of all religion, on my family ofTer- 
ing me what appeared greater advantages I again professed myself 
a Catholic. I resumed my practice of making sacrilegious com- 
munions, accompanied with the most frightful profligacy. Though I 
did not drink to intoxication, yet the quantity of wme in which I 
indulged kept me in such a state of excitement that I was always 
engaged in some quarrel. I seemed to have an insatiable thirst for 
human blood, and killed several persons in encounters and duels. 
As a protection to myself, I purchased the situation of councillor to 
the Parliament of Rennes, although I had no knowledge of law. 

" In the midst of these detestable enormities God twice preserved 
me from death, but I only became more impious and violent than 
before. Thus, on one occasion, after I had been vomiting forth 
most horribl'j blasphemies against God, the chamber in which I lay 
was struck with lightning, which tore away the roof of the house, the 
ceiling of the room, and even the top of the bed, leaving me exposed 
to a storm of rain ; but I only commenced blaspheming anew, defy- 
ing the lightning and Him who sent it. A feeling of remorse, how- 
ever, followed ; I had thoughts of changing my life, and went and 
begged the Carthusians to receive me into their Order; buc on the 
third day I took my departure without a word of farewell. From 
that time I became an absolute atheist, believing neither in God nor 
in devils, neither in Heaven nor in Hell," 

It was the time at which the diabolical possessions at the Ursuline 
Convent of Loudun * were agitating all France, and, being on his 
way to the town, Que'riolet thought he would go and witness the 
exorcisms, which to him, denying as he did the existence of devils, 
were a mere piece of jugglery, and he went (he says) as he might to 
a comedy, from no other motive than the desire of amusement. 
The exorcism had nearly terminated when one of the possessed, 
turning towards him, or, rather, the demon who spoke by her mouth, 
began giving vent to the most horrible blasphemies against God, 
accusing Him of injustice, in that He had condemned so many 
millions of angels for one only sin and yet showed mercy to the 
most wicked of men, who had committed the most dreadful crimes 
without number; having delivered out of his hands that wretched 
blasphemer and atheist, who had made a vow to Our Lady of Liesse 
which he never performed, and was altogeiher undeserving of that 

* A full account of these diabolical possessions is given in the work of P. Suria 
entitled, Triotnphe de l^ Amour Divin sur Us Puissances de fEnftr. 


Meeting of Qud violet and P. Bernard. 



Virgin's pity. This reproachful mention of his vow, of which he 
had never breathed a syllable to mortal being, fell upon his soul witli 
a force more startling than that of the thunderbolt which had 
awakened a passing feelinrj of compunction within him, and, rushing 
from the place, he sought a neighbouring chapel and there, with his 
face to the earth, gave free course to his sorrow. Those who saw 
him thought he had been seized with sudden illness and would 
have raised him irom the ground, but his countenance, all bathed in 
tears, showed the nature of his emotions, and he was left alone. 
All that night he lay on the floor of his chamber, bewailing his sins, 
and on the morrow he made a general confession of his whole life. 
The first act of his new existence was to repair to Liesse in fulfilment 
of his vow ; he dismissed his servants, gave all he had about him to 
the poor, put ^ sggar's dress, and made the whole journey bare- 
footed and bare-headed, asking alms by the way and weepii.g 
unceasingly for his crimes. From L,iesse he went, in the same 
manner, to La Sainte Baume, in Provence, to obtain through the 
intercession of the holy Magdalen some portion of her spirit of 
penance and her love of Jesus. Returning to Rennes, he sold his 
post of councillor, and devoted his whole fortune to the relief of the 
poor and suffering, whom he frequently visited both in the hospitals 
and in the prisons. At length, after going through a course of the 
severest penance, he decided, by the advice of his director, on t:aking 
holy orders, and was ordained priest on the 28th of March, 1637. 
To the day of his death he persevered in the practice of the most 
rigorous mortification, condemning himself never to raise his eyes 
from the ground, making eight or ten hours' prayer a day, and taking 
scarcely any food from Thursday at mid-day until Sunday at the 
same hour. He died on the 8th of October, 1660. 

"VVe have said that he had come to Paris to make tho acquaintance 
of P. Bernard ; rhe manner of their meeting is too characteristic to 
be omitted. We give the story as P. Bernard himself told it to M. 
du Ferrier. "As I was going," says he, "in the direction of the 
Carthusians, I saw a man coming towards me, covered with dust, 
with his cassock tucked up, as sorry a looking figure as you can 
conceive ; he stopped me, and asked if I could tell him where a 
certain M. Bernard lived, who went by the name of the Poor Priest. 
I inquired if he knew the man, and what he wanted with him. * I 
am come,' said he, ' to make his acquaintance, for they tell me he is 
a good man, but a little crack-brained' Feeling somewhat surprised 



Life of M. Olier. 

at this observation, 'I do not know,' answered I, 'that you are much 
wiser than he is.' 'Perhaps,* continued he, 'you are yourself the 
very man I am seeking.' 'Yes,' replied I, 'the very man.' Upon 
which he seized me in his arms, saying, ' I am Qudriolet ; I am 
come all the way from Brittany to have the pleasure of seeing you.' 
I cordially returned his embrace, for I knew him well by reputation, 
as having been converted at Loudun by means of the devil who had 
possession of the nuns." 

The third of these eccentric but eminently holy men is Adrien 
Bourdoise, of whom mention has been made before in this history. 
He was the founder of the Seminary of St. Nicolas du Chardonnet 
at Paris, and appears to have been raised up by God to perform the 
ofifice of pioneer in the work of ecclesiastical reform. Consumed 
with grief at the scandals which everywhere prevailed, and especially 
at the decay of ecclesiastical discipline, he lifted up his voice, like 
another John the Baptist, and called on men to do penance ere the 
wrath of God fell upon them.* Ignorant of fear and utterly regard- 
less of what was said or thought of him, he spared no one, whatever 
might bs. lis station, but spoke the truth plainly and without disguise, 
in season and out of season, with a freedom and a bluntness, a 
power of sarcasm, and sometimes even with a caustic facetiousness, 
which, while it irritated or moved to laughter, often succeeded in 
mitigating or repressing the evil he denounced where a milder 
manner and a more polished address would have failed of effect. 
So secularised both in spirit and in manners had the clergy become 
that they were not distinguishable in dress or demeanour from ordi- 
nary laymen, going about with moustaches and boots, like mere 
men of the world ; indeed, it would seem that on occasions they did 
not take the trouble to put on their ecclesiastical attire even when 
performing the sacred duties of their calling. Going one day with 
M. Brandon, M. Amelote, and M. de Barrault into the abbey- 
church of St. Denis, M. Bourdoise caught sight of a man in the 
sacristy wearing a coat and short cloak, and booted and spurred, 

• His character is aptly portrayed in the following distich : 

** Hie fuit Elias more, et clamore Joannes, 
Ore Nathan, curd PauUis, amore Petrus." *• 

A Life of this remarkable man is still a desideratum. There is a short memoir of 
him in manuscript (composed from a larger work, also in manuscript), which M. 
Faillon pronounc :s to be a masterpiece of biography. 

p'» -*<''*v^""*^^i»'"'" 




Adrien Dotirdjlse. 


who was hearing the confession of a priest vested in alb and stole. 
Immediately he went in search of the Prior, and said to him, "Come 
here, my father ; come here, and see a soldier confessing a priest ! " 
This stroke of severe pleasantry, as it may be called, had the desired 
effect, for the Prior instantly gave peremptory orders to the sacristan 
never to allow such scandals for the future. 

Zealous and single-minded himself, he was impatient of the want 
of these qualities in others, and such men were peculiarly obnoxious 
to his raillery and wit ; but where he perceived genuine earnestness 
and a heart-felt love of God it seemed as if he could not sufficiently 
express his admiration and sympathy, and all the hidden sweetnrss 
and kindliness of his nature was allowed to gush forth with an over- 
flowing abundance which would have astonished those who knew 
only the more obvious and less engaging, though not less estimable, 
portions of his character. The apparent severity and almost rude- 
ness of his speech and manner, * particularly when he wished to 
try a man's worth, may be inferred from the following incident. 
Knowing the zeal and piety of M. Olier and his friends, he wished 
to be better acquainted with them, especially with a view to con- 
ferring together on the obligations of the clerical state. The mode 
he adopted for gaining his object was such as would have occurred 
to none but himself. One morning M. Olier, accompanied by M. 
de Foix and M. du Ferrier, went to St. Nicolas, the model parish- 
church of Paris, for the purpose of saying Mass. They waited on 
M. Bourdoise, who received them courteously, but, when they men- 
tioned the object of their visit and asked permission to say Mass, he 
replied, "No, gentlemen, I am sorry to refuse you, but you must 
have more of the look and demeanour of ecclesiastics before I can 
let you approach my altars." The young priests, imagining that so 
holy a man had perceived some impropriety or defect in their 
manners and conduct, reproached themselves accordingly and 
thanked him for his rebuke. This was just what he wanted ; he 
continued the conversation, and soon their hearts were all a-glow 
from the affectionateness with which he spoke to them and the 
warmth of divine love which animated all he said. It need not be 
added that all three said Mass that morning at St. Nicolas. From 
that day a firm friendship was estab'.ished between M. Olier and M. 
Bourdoise ; arid, if our Abbd honoured the Superior of the Oratory 

* To wit, he one day reproached St. Vincent de Paul for his pusillanimity, 
and called him z.poule mouilUe (a chicken-hearted fellow). 




Life of M. Olier. 

as his spiritual father and guide, he now accepted the Rector of St. 
Nicolas as his master in the clerical life. 

M. Bourdoise was not long in finding work to be done by M. 
Olier and L.. friends. In a little mission he had been giving at the 
ch&teau of the Presidente de Herse,* mother of M. F^lix Vialar, 
one of M. Olier's associates, who was also his cousin, he had become 
acquainted with the spiritual destitution of the surrounding villages. 
The chateau stood in the parish of Monchefroy, near Houdan, in 
the diocese of Chartres; and hither he now sent our Abb^ and 
others to evangelize the neighbourhood. They found an admirable 
coadjutrix in the mistress of the mansion, who, in her zeal for the 
reformation of the clerical body, had contributed largely towards the 
establishment of exercises for the candidates for orders both at 
Chartres and at Paris. One day they had scarcely begun dinner 
when M. Bourdoise put to them what appeared a whimsical ques- 
tion. " May I ask," said he, " whether these gentlemen wlio have 
been preaching with so much fervour have each done tiieir sermon 
(avaient fait chacun leur sermon) to-day ? " " How can you ques- 
tion it?" was the reply. "I question it," he rejoined, "until the 
fact be proved. We have already had our first course, and here is a 
crowd of poor people who have come twenty miles and more to 
hear you preach, and who have not a morsel of bread. Unless 
we give them something they will faint by the way. Now, then, 
gentlemen, let us do your sermon {faisons voire sen/ion) .-■[■ let us 
give them the rest of our dinner, and content ourselves with a little 
(dessert." The proposal was adopted, and instantly put in execution, 
to the edification and, no doubt, entire satisfaction of the poor 

Shortly after, M. Olier gave another mission at Illiers, a small 
town near Chartres, which was attended with unusual effects, not 
only among the poor and working classes, but also among the higher 
ranks. The family of a M. Bellier, one of the Queen's officers and 
otherwise well connected, afforded a striking instance of this. He 
had some property in the neighbourhood, and his family consisted of 
four sons and two daughters. So deep was the impression produced 

* Charlotte de Ligny, widow of the President de Herse ; she had been under 
the direction of St. Francis de Sales, who held her in the highest esteem. 

+ The double meaning oifaire sermon cannot be fitly rendered in English by a 
single phrase ; but what M. Bourdoise may be said to have wanted was a practi' 
tal sermon. 

t > 

Franfoise Fouquet. 


by M. Olier's sermons that both daughters eventually entered the 
Order of the Visitation, and their two elder brothers also embraced 
the religious state. The third died young; the fourth, who was a 
most fervent Christian, died soon after marriage, and his widow 
consecrated herself to God in the Congregation of the Sisters 
of Providence. 

It was while engaged in this mission that M. du Ferrier discovered 
one of those holy souls thousands of whom, it may be believed, have 
lived and died in obscurity, and whose supereminent sanctity is 
known only to God and His angels. He was summoned to attend 
a poor blind woman who was lying dangerously ill. Her name was 
Frangoise Fouquet, and she was fifty-two years of age. She made 
her confession, but in a manner so spiritual, with so keen a discern- 
ment of her faults and of her infidelities to grace, that he was filled 
with astonishment and admiration. Her compunction for what 
hardly amounted to a defect or an imperfection affected him power- 
fully. He found, too, that she had a thorough knowledge of all 
those profound truths which had formed the subject of P. de 
Condren's conferences; and all this joined with the most exalted 
virtues. She had become blind when twelve years old, at which 
time also she lost her mother. Her father, who was a vine-dresser, 
took another wife, who treated her unkindly, driving her from the 
house at dawn of day, when her father was gone to his work. The 
child went and sat under a tree, crying and thinking of God ; ready 
to receive her father when he returned in the evening. Yet she 
made no complaint, and to the day of his death her father never 
knew how cruelly she was treated. When he died her step-mother 
turned her out of doors; on which she went, accompanied by a 
cousin, on a pilgrimage to some of the famous shrines of the country, 
praying God to restore her sight. But, perceiving that it was His 
will that she should remain blind, she returned to lUiers, where she 
was able to earn a few pence by spinning, living the while on bread 
and water. The church was so near that she was able to spend a 
large portion of the day before the Tabernacle. For five or six years 
she had taken a little orphan girl, a relative, to live with her, whom she 
brought up in the faith and fear of God, the few pence she earned 
serving for their joint maintenance. She had never been favoured 
with any extraordinary graces, but she was wholly occupied with the 
presence and love of God. The purity of her conscience may be 
estimated by Vao faults of which s^e accused herself in conversation 


Life of M. Olier, 

with M. du Ferricr. The first was that, a neighbour having been 
crushed by a waggon, she had prayed and then touched him, and he 
was instantly healed ; this, she thought, betokened presumptuousness 
and pride. The other that, on some mischievous person thrusting 
a piece of dung into her mouth, she had made a movement of 
repugnance, forgetful, as she said, of the gall and vinegar which her 
Saviour tasted upon the cross. One thing there was which for a 
while perplexed M. du Ferrier, that when he asked her whether from 
her heart she renounced the world, and put aside all desire of 
remaining in it, she replied, "I never give it a thought." On 
his repeating his question in mother form, and asking her whether 
she did not deem those miserable who 'oved this earthly life, full of 
so many occasions of sin, her reply was still the same : " Sir, I never 
give it a thought." A third time he said, " Fran^oise, let us renounce 
the world, and all that belongs to it ; and let us abandon ourselves 
entirely to our Lord, that He may separate us from it." And then 
came an answer which explained all : *' Ah, Sir, excuse me ; I do not 
wish so much as to think of the enemy of my Saviour." M. du 
Ferrier ascertained that for two days her sole sustenance had been a 
little water, which she was able to imbibe, through a quill, out of a 
bottle which stood by her bedside. He bade her landlady send for 
some soup for her from his lodging, but the girl who was deputed to 
fetch it took alarm at the numbers she saw gathered about the door, and 
retu ned without fulfilling her errand, so that the poor creature was left 
for a third night with nothing but her water-bottle. So far, however, 
from uttering any complaint she made excuses for the girl, and declared 
that she had suffered no inconvenience, and did not wi?*" that any 
one should be put to any trouble on her account. She died on the 
day she had predicted. By some she was held to be a witch, because 
she cured so many sick persons by touching or praying for them, but 
the crowds that flocked to pray beside the humble pallet on which 
her body lay showed that the faithful people had not failed to discern 
in that poor afflicted woman all the lineaments of a true and exalted 

M. Olier was still in the full career of missionary zeal when he 
received a missive which obliged him to repair at once to Paris. 
This was a royul nomination to the Episcopal coadjutorship of 
Chilons-sur-Marne. The Bishop of that see, Henri Clausse de 
Marchaumont, was overwhelmed at the appalling condition to which 
the total loss of discipline had reduced his diocese, and had long 

•tmv.Cjl' ^^ '^ 

( I 

He refuses a bishopric. 


desired the Citablishment of an ecclesiastical seminary. He had 
addressed himself with this view to M. Uourdoise, both personally 
and through his grand-vicar. The latter wrote thus : — '* The least 
of the ecclesiastics of Paris would here be worth their weight in gold. 
How many jwor souls are perishing in these parts through the 
neglect of their pastors, who are ignorant, and more than ignorant, 
but whom it is impossible to remove from their benefices ! " M. 
Uourdoise, however, was unable to supply the urgent need, and the 
Bishop then turned his thoughts to M. Olier, as the man most 
capable of effecting a reform which his own advanced age did not 
permit him to undertake. Accordingly, he solicited tlie Cardinal de 
Richelieu to recommend M. Olier to the King as his coadjutor. 
That great minister, who, whatever his faults, had an earnest zeal for 
the honour of the Church and the good of the realm, not only 
readily acceded to the Bishop's request but urged the appointment 
with all the force of his authority. "Sire," he said to Louis XHI., 
*• in recommending M. Olier, I feel that I am proposing the man 
who, of all others, is the most fitted to fill this important see ; and I 
even venture to assure your Majesty that in the whole kingdom I 
know no one who by his intelligence, piety, and prudence is more 
capable of doing honour to the Episcopate." An eulogium so 
emphatic did but express the unanimous sentiment of all good men, 
and in the July of 1639 the nomination received the royal assent. 

In the estimation of the public the matter was now concluded, but 
the intended bishop was of quite another mind. P. de Condren's 
response was still the same : " God has other designs respecting you ; 
they are not so brilliant or so honourable, but they are fraught with 
greater advantages to the Church." And this response was under- 
stood by M. Olier, in his humility, only as a signification of his 
unworthiness. " The dignity of which you speak," he wrote, in reply 
to the clergy of Le Puy on a future occasion,* "supposes great 
talents, which far exceed my capacity. I pray our Lord that He 
will give me grace to remain of the number of His least and lowest 
servants in the holy work of missions, and not compel Him to 
exclude me from it. Beg Him, Messieurs, to give me a share in 
those holy qualities which are necessary for the discharge of this 
Divine office ; among others, a great reverence for God, a great love 
of my neighbour, a great annihilation of myself, and a perfect death 
to the world, without which I should not dare to call myself a priest 

• See note, page 120. 


Life of M, Olicr. 


or your brotlier." He therefore returned the brief to the Cardinal 
with all suitable acknowledgments; but the Cardinal declined to 
accept his refusal, and he was obliged to request a private interview, 
for the purpose of explaining the motives on which he was acting. 
A disinterestedness so rare, especially as a peerage was attached to 
the see i i question, struck the minister with admiration, and he did 
not refrain from giving public testimony to the respect with which he 
regarded him. 

1 laving failed to obtain M, Olier for his coadjutor, the Bishop of 
Chdlons endeavoured at least to secure for his diocese the services 
of one who had taken an active part in the same labours of charity, 
and was known to possess a large share of his devotion and zeal. 
The prelate's choice fell on M. F<51ix Vialar (of whom mention has 
been already made), to our Abbd's extreme joy and satisfaction ; 
feelings which, it is scarcely necessary to say, were not reciprocated 
by the members of M. Olier's own family, who were loud in their 
condemnation of what they deemed his obstinacy and folly. His 
mother especially set no bounds to her resentment, which became 
still more exasperated when, shortly after M. Vialar's nomination and 
before he had even received the bulls, the Bishop of Chdlons died, 
and he became the occupant of the see. But M. Olier, foreseeing 
the storm, had left his mother's mansion and gone to reside at St. 
Maur-les-Fossds,* in a house belonging to M. Brandon, where he 
and his friends were in the habit of staying during the intervals of 
their Apostolic labours. It was now that, by P. de Condren'c 
advice, they chose one of their number to be the head of their little 
community; the individual selected was M. Amelote, who, young 
as he was, for he had not yet attained his thirty-second year, had 
acquired a decided influence over the rest by his greater know- 
ledge and experience, and a judgment singularly matured ; and 
accordinplv i , was under his direction that the succeeding missions 
were conducted. 

Tne first was that of Amiens, the occasion of which was an acci- 
dental sermon preached by M. Meyster, which threw the whole town 
into a ferment. The Bishop, M. de Caumartin, invited M. Olier to 

• There was in the Abbey of St. Maur-les-Fosses a shrine of the Blessed 
Virgin, which was a frequented place of pilgrimage. It went by the name of Our 
Lady of Miracles, and such was the veneration in which it was held that the 
monks of St. Maur never entered it except barefooted. M. Olier himself received 
riany tokens of the Divine favour in this privileged spot. 

Conversion of a Sivcdish colonel. 


give a mission in the cathedral, but he was so absorbed in the study 
of Holy Scripture, in which the Spirit of God favoured him with 
extraordinary lights, that he hesitated to accept the invitation. In 
obedience, however, to P. dc Condren's injunctions, he proceeded to 
Amiens, accompanied by MM. dc Foix, du Ferricr, dc Bassancourt, 
Ikandon, and three others. It was a new and untried experiment, 
as, like the Vincentians and the Oratorians, they had hitherto con- 
fined their ministrations to villages and hamlets, and many grave and 
prudent persons strongly condemned the enterprise. But it was 
soon apparent that the blessing of God was with them, for their 
labours were attended with unprecedented success. The cathc i...I 
was crowded all through the day, and such multitudes besieged the 
confessionals that it was necessary to call in the aid of seventeen 
priests of the city. 

Many notable conversions took place, the most extraordinary 
being that of a Swedish colonel, a Protestant, who was in command 
of a troop of horse in the town, consisting of eight hundred men ; 
extraordinary, not only in itself, but in the effects it produced on 
others. M. Meyster learned that he was dangerously iil, and went 
late one evening, accompanied by M. du Ferrier, to visit him. They 
had some difficulty in gaining admission, as the colonel had given 
express orders that no priest should be permitted to enter his 
chamber, but, on their persisting, the mistress of the house, who was 
favourably disposed, allowed them to pass, and they found him lying 
in bed, with his wife and fifteen or twenty of his men sitting round 
the fire. The missionaries were civilly received, but, on M. Meyster 
telling the sick man that he had come for the purpose of offering? 
him his services, he was met with the reply that he had no need 
of his instructions, that he was quite content with the religion in 
which he had been born, and wished to be left at peace. M. du 
Ferrier was greatly disheartened at this reply, but M. Meyster, asking 
for a light, produced a miniature in a case and, showing it to the 
Swede, inquired what he thought of it The man answered that it 
was very beautiful " It is the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ," 
said the priest ; " will you not salute it ? " The colonel did so in 
military fashion. Then, turning to his companion and to a young 
and devout Catholic who happened to be present, M. Meyster said 
*' Let us pray to the Blessed Virgin for his conversion ; " and, 
making all kneel down with him, he recited the Litany of Loreto. 
When it was ended, he laid both his hands on the shoulder of the 

' i.^: 



Life of M. Olier. 

I ! 

sick man, and said, ** I am here to tell you from God that you must 
no longer delay your conversion." ** Yes ! " replied the man ; " I 
wish to be converted, seeing it is the will of God." " But," resumed 
M. Meyster, " I mean that you should become a Catholic j " and, to 
the astonishment of all, the man continued, " I wish to be a Catholic, 
a Roman Catholic, with my wife and children, and to abandon 
the religion I have hitherto professed, and which I now believe to 
be false." M. Meyster received his abjuration on the spot, heard 
his confession at his own earnest request, and gave him absolution. 
The next day the Bishop of Amiens went and administered Con- 
firmation to him. 

One remarkable circumstance remains to be told. Three days 
afterwards, M. Meyster was hearing confessions late at night, when 
(it being ii o'clock) he was called away to take a little food, in 
order that he might not be prevented celebrating Mass the next 
morning. He was in the act of saying grace when he suddenly 
stopped, threw on his cloak, and saying, '• This is no time for eating, 
the colonel is dying," hastened out of the house. All was silent 
when he reached the sick man's lodging, and he was assured that 
there was no alteration for the worse. Proceeding, however, to his 
room, the Swede no sooner saw him than he cried, '* Ah 1 Sir, help 
me." M. Meyster begged him to join in spirit with the acts of faith, 
hope, and charity which he himself repeated aloud, and gave bi.r 
the last absolution. The man warmly expressed his gratitude, and, 
praying God to bless his benefactor, he expired. So quickly had all 
been dispatched that M. Meyster, after reciting the prayers for the 
departed, had time to eat his supper before the clock struck twelve. 

During the three days which elapsed after his conversion, the 
colonel had acted the part of an apostle to his men, and with such 
success that many of them were converted. The work thus begun 
was concluded by M. Olier and his colleagues, and, indeed, by the 
men themselves, for they who had yielded to grace became mis- 
sionaries to their comrades, and a strange, and an almost incredible, 
spectacle was to be seen in the streets of Amiens. When the priests 
emerged from their lodgings in the early morning they found them- 
selves surrounded by bands of soldiers, complaining that they were 
unable to get near the confessionals, around which penitents ha^ 
been gathered, several ranks deep, two hours before daybreak. The 
missionaries explained that they must in justice take all comers in 
turn, and that they could not therefore show them any preference ; 

^rr.'^'^'.fwvrff, ti'" 

TAe lllumifiJes of Picardy. 


on which, to excite their compassion, and, as though to compel the 
priests to hear them, the men began telling their sins out aloud, and 
such as were Catholics numbered up the years that had elapsed 
since they had been at confession. *' We may have to rnour*; horse 
any day — any hour," they cried. " Are we to go to be killed before 
we have got absolution?" An ap;^aal at once so piteous and so 
vehement could not fail of its effect. The people were so moved by 
their fervour that they gave up their places to the soldiers, and they 
made their cr'nfession. Three days afterwards this very troop fell 
into an ambuscade, and was cut off to a man. 

So great was the enthusiasm which these extraordinary conversions 
caused in the town that the corporation of the city proposed sending 
the missionaries a present of wine and sweetmeats, the customary 
mark of honour shown to the Governor of the province on occasion 
of his official entry. As M. Olier and his friends never received 
presents, and would have been puzzled how to dispose of six large 
pewter vessels full of wine, with the city arms thereon, to be presented 
by as many town-sergeants in their scarlet robes of office, they sug- 
gested that the whole should be carried to the public hospital for 
the use of the inmates. However, there were not wanting those who 
made the very success of the missionaries the occasion of a charge 
against them. Some monks of the place, jealous of the influence 
acquired by these secular priests, went to the Governor, the Due de 
Chaulne, and gravely represented that M. Meyster had obtained this 
ascendancy over the inhabitants in order thai he might deliver up 
the town to the King of Spain, whose born subject he was. The 
Governor was foolish enough to listen to these envious counsellors, 
and actually wrote more than once to the Cardinal de Richelieu 
apprizing him of the threatened danger. The Cardinal, however, 
was too sagacious to be so easily imposed upon, and, after communi- 
cating privately with the Intendant of Picardy, who was the brother- 
in-law of M. Brandon, to ascertain the truth of the matter, informed 
M. le Due that he need not be under any alarm. 

This mission, which lasted five incnths, was followed by another at 
Montdidier. Here they took up their abode at the Hotel Dieu, 
served by Sisters who were known throughout France as the 
Illumineis of Picardy. Besides the deplorable illusions into which 
they had been betrayed by their former director, the notorious 
fanatic, Labadie, much disunion pre^'ailed among them. Moved 
with compassion for their miserable condition, P. de Condren 




Life of M, Olier. 


counselled the missionaries to observe great moderation and charity 
in dealing with these "foolish virgins," bidding them comport 
themselves among them like St. Paul among the Corinthians, know- 
ing nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Acting faithfully 
on this counsel, the influence of their daily example was so effectual 
that the nuns, one and all, made a general confession, their eyes 
were opened to discern their dangerous errors, and peace was 
restored to the community. On learning the wonderful change 
which had been wrought, the Bishop desired to make M. du Ferrier 
Superior of the Hospital, a post which was then vacant, but by P. de 
Condren's advice he declined the office, on the ground that he was 
not endowed with sufficient spiritual insight to undertake so respon- 
sible a position as that of director of religious, and was qualified only 
to conduct the faithful along the ordinary paths of the Christian 

At the close of this mission M. Olier and his associates were 
invited to Abbeville, but P. de Condren, fearing iest .>■-•' might be 
overburdened with work, bade them return to iaris. After a few 
weeks' repose, instead of resuming their labours in Picardy, they 
went, at the invitation of the Bishop, M. i^l^onor de Valencd, 
to Mantes, in the diocese of Chartres. This was in the month of 
July, 1640. The fruits were, as usual, most abundant; they suc- 
ceeded in terminating amicably as many as five hundred law-suits ; 
an event so astounding that certain interested persons accused the 
missionaries before the Parliament of Paris of making the occupation 
of a lawyer a sin beyond the grace of absolution. To these wise- 
acres the Chancellor simply replied that the Parliament of Paris had 
nothing to do with the sacrament of penance. 

The labours of the missionaries were not confined to the a tv. 
their zeal extended also to the clergy. Already they contempl? ■ ;» 
jirodigious work — the restoration of ecclesiastical discipline throij^i - 
out the whole sacerdotal order. This appears from a letter addressed 
to them by M. Fran9ois de Harlay, Archbishop of Rouen, in which, 
referring to a book they were about to publish for the instruction of 
the clergy, he proffers his advice as to the nature of its contents and 
promises at their request to give the work his personal revi-ion. It 
was probably with a view to this publication that, after the mission at 
Mantes was concluded, M. Olier and his friends retired to a country 
place that belonged to one of them at Loreau, near ^pernon, in the 
diocese of Chartres. Here they were visited by M. Bourdoise, who, 

M. Bourdoise and the Abbi de St. Cyran. 99 

ever consumed with the desire of communicating to other priests 
what he called the parochial spirit, began at once to give them a 
lesson on a subject of which, by their own confession, they had 
very little knowledge. Ever on the move, and engaged continually 
in giving missions up and down the country, they were but imper- 
fectly acquainted with the ceremonies of the Church, the manner of 
performing the more solemn functions, and, in short, the whole art, 
as it may be said, of regulating a large parish church. M. Bourdoise, 
to his great surprise, found that they each said Mass and performed 
their other devotions in the chapel of the house, instead of repairing 
to the parish church, and he proposed Xtizc they should all go forth- 
with and solemnize High Mass in the face of the congregation, it 
being St. Matthew's day (September 2r, 1640). With his charac- 
teristic energy he instantly set every one his part, and High Mass 
accordingly was celebrated, with all the prescribed ceremonies, to 
the great edification of the people and, it may be added, the no 
small surprise of the chief actors themselves, who scarcely knew how 
they had been able to acquit themselves so well Solemn Vespers 
were improvised with equal rapidity and equal success, P. de Con- 
dren, who had come to Loreau, assisting with the rest. The lesson 
learned that day was not forgotten ; wherever they went the parish 
church was now their centre and their place of resort ; the ceremonial 
of the Church was accurately studied, and every endeavour used to 
celebrate the Divine offices, not only with befitting decorum, but 
with all possible solemnity. The example became contagious: a 
taste, or rather a zeal, for the beauty and decorum of God's house 
began to spread among the clergy, and soon the progress of the 
missionaries through the country might be traced as much by the 
order that reigned in the sanctuary as by the devotion of the people. 
Delighted with the docility and earnestness of his disciples, M. 
Bourdoise invited them to frequent the church of St Nicolas du 
Chardonnet whenever they were at Paris, and it was there that they 
perfected themselves in the ecclesiastical chant and ceremonies. 

There was, indeed, a danger for a time that these cordial relations 
might have been interrupted through the intrigues of the too famous 
Abbd de Saint-Cyran, and the subject is worthy of notice, as indi- 
cating what first gave occasion to the repugnance which M. Olier and 
his associates entertained for this disingenuous leader of the Jan- 
senistic sect. With a subtlety only equalled by his arrogance, he 
sought, in private conversation, to im bue the m inds of these eccle- 




Life of M. Olier. 

siastics with a low opinion of the Council of Trent, as though it had 
not been guided by the Holy Spirit and had shown no true under- 
standing of the doctrine of grace. Having failed with them, he tried 
his arts on M. Bourdoise, who was not conversant with the particular 
points in dispute, and by adroitly insisting on the necessity of 
restoring ecclesiastical discipline, as practised in primitive times — a 
subject on which he knew his hearer to be peculiarly susceptible 
— he succeeded so far as to produce a certain confusion in his 
mind.* But it was not long before this good man became aware 
of the trap which had been laid for him, and broke off all personal 
intercourse with Saint-Cyran. That arch-deceiver, however, did not 
relax in his efforts to insinuate the virus of his teaching among the 
inmates of St. Nicolas du Chardonnet, and contrived to get one of 
his partisans admitted into the seminary. Warned by M. Amelote 
of the real character and designs of this secret traitor, M. Bourdoise 
eventually dismissed him but, unfortunately, not before he had suc- 
ceeded in perverting one of the most promising members of the 
community, Claude Lancelot, who afterwards distinguished himself 
in the world of letters and ranks among the foremost of the Port- 
Royalist divines. It is a satisfaction, however, to le.^rn that, despite 
this untoward event, there was never any actual estrangement 
between M. Bourdoise and P. de Condren's disciples, and that M. 
Olier, in particular, continued to regard him with the same filial 
affection and esteem. 

An anecdote is related of M. Bourdoise so characteristic of his 
contempt for human respect and his uncompromising ecclesiastical 
spirit that it may well be inserted here. 

One day, the Duchesse d'Aiguillon,t niece of Cardinal de Riche- 
lieu, went to hear Mass at St. Nicolas, and her attendants placed her 
cushion within the sanctuary. Whereupon, M. Bourdoise with his 
own hands removed it into the choir, at the same time respectfully 
signifying to the Duchess that the sanctuary was not the place for the 
laity. When the Cardinal was informed of the circumstance he sent 
for the Rector. M. Bourdoise at first refused to go, saying that he 

* Vesprit un feu embarrasse are the words employed in one of the earliest 
(manuscript) biographies of M. Bourdoise. 

f She had been left a widow at the age of eighteen. Being compelled by her 
rank and the affection with which the Queen regarded her to remain at Court, she 
nevertheless spent a large portion of her time at the Carmelite convent, to which, 
but for her uncle, she would have retired altogether, and distributed her wealth 
among destitute parishes, hospitals, and prisons. 





AI. Bourdoise and Cardinal de Richelieu. 



had not the honour of his Eminence's acquaintance, and that the 
message must have been intended for some one else. However, 
not only did he rec.l.v, a second summons, but a carriage was sent 
to convey him to the Cardinal's hotel. Of this M. Bourdoise would 
not avail himself, but proceeded on foot, and was at once admitted 
to the great man's presence, when the following dialogue ensued. 
"So it was you who turned my niece out of the choir?" "No, 
Monseigneur, it was not I." " Why, is not your name Bourdoise ? " 
" Yes, Monseigneur." " It was you, then, who put that affront upon 
her." " Pardon me, Monseigneur." " Who, then, was it ? " " Your 
Eminence and the prelates in council assembled, who interdicted 
the laity, and particularly women, from entering the sanctuary, in 
order that the clergy might have free space for their performance of 
the sacred functions." * The Cardinal was taken aback at this 
unexpected rejoinder, and was not very well pleased. The Duchess, 
liowever, to her credit be it said, received the rebuke in good part, 
and treated M. Bourdoise ever after with especial regard. She went 
frequently to St. Nicolas, proved herself a great benefactor to the 
seminary, and did not forget it in her will. 

* Referring to the 4th canon of the Council held at Tours, in 567, which forbids 
laymen to stand among the clergy near the altar during Mass or Office, Fr. Bridgett 
writes, " The reasons for excluding the lait/ were not Pharisaic pride and the assump- 
tion of special sanctity on the part of the clergy, but motives of decency and order. 
Had the laity been admitted to the sanctuary, psalmody would have become almost 
impossible. Not the humble and devout, but the proud and worldly, would have 
coveted these ' first places in the synagogue,' and unseemly contests would have 
arisen, besides scandal to the poor and other inconveniences which may easily be 
imagined." History of the Holy Eucharist in Great Britain, Vol. i. chap, ii. 


( I02 ) 






HITHERTO we have seen M. Olier in the full and vigorous 
exercise of all his natural powers, bodily and mental, 
favoured of God and honoured among men. He had encountered 
obstacles and contradictions, but they seemed ever to give way 
before him. He had undergone many interior trials, but they were 
of short duration, and he came forth all the stronger for the contest. 
He had been sick and disabled, but he was restored speedily and as 
by miracle. Entire freedom from pain and inward affliction he 
seems never to have enjoyed, but his sufferings neither attracted 
attention nor incapacitated him for severe and prolonged exertion. 
Over his immediate friends and associates he exercised a powerful 
influence; as a missionary he achieved extraordinary success; in 
short, he had acquired the highest reputation as well for his abilities 
as for his virtues. But in all this there was danger, and he knew it ; 
the consideration with which he was regarded was a perpetual 
martyrdom to him, and he trembled lest he should yield to the soli- 
citations of vainglory by which he was, unceasingly assailed. 

It was during the illness he had in Auvergne, at the close of the 
mission of 1637, that his eyes (he says) began to be opened, and he 
was enabled to perceive how much of self-love mixed itself up with 
everything he did. The sight of what he was filled him with dismay, 
and he became possessed with an intense desire of being wholly 
united with God, so that he cared not what might befall him if only he 
could attain to this blessed state. His soul was assailed with foul, 
afflicting thoughts, and often during the day he felt moved to repeat 
those words of the royal Psalmist : " Create in me a clean hearty O 
God^ and renew a right spirit within vie;" his confessors, too (he 
says), guided by Divine Wisdom, used frequently to give them as his 

* Psalm L. 12. 

M. Oliers extraordinary Trials. 


sacramental penance. Sometimes, after one of his severest paroxysms, 
he would conceive a profound idea of the soul perfected in God, and 
rould experience a powerful attraction to aspire after such a state. 
In his solitary walks this idea would recur to his mind, and, raising 
his eyes to heaven, he would say, all bathed in tears, " O life divine ! 
life divine ! when shall I live only of God?" In July, 1638, while 
in retreat, preparatory to going to Brittany, he was moved to make 
two petitions : first, that the vexations and annoyances he was then 
enduring in consequence of certain legal proceedings in which he 
was involved, as well as from other causes, might be exchanged for 
spiritual trials more beneficial to his soul ; and, secondly, that the 
good opinion which men had of him might be turned into contempt. 
And now both of his requests were about to be granted. God would 
raise him to a still higher degree of sai.ctity ; He would empty him 
entirely of self, and form within him the life of His dear Son ; and to 
this end He subjected him to humiliations the most painful to pride 
and self-love. He withdrew from him, not only those spiritual gifts 
for which he had been conspicuous, but the exercise of his natural 
po'vers and faculties. At times he lost the use of his bodily limbs ; 
thiy would suddenly refuse to obey the motions of his will, as 
though God would jhow him by actual experience that we live and 
move only in Him. Sometimes he trembled and staggered as he 
walked, at others he was unable to put one foot before another ; he 
could not lift his food to his mouth ; he wondered (he says) to see 
others eating with such facility, while everything he took seemed as 
if it were put into a lifeless body. His mind was at the same time 
affected with a similar torpidity : his memory and understanding 
failed him ; often he knew neither what he said nor what was said 
to him ; he felt (as he describes it) like a deaf man in a crowd, 
neither hearing nor comprehending what was going on around him. 
He would have a clear perception of what he was about to express, 
and would have begun to put his thought into words, when in an 
instant it would pass from him, and he no longer recollected what 
it had been in his mind to say • and this, not merely on subjects 
of high import, but in the commonest things, and while in easy con- 
verse with a friend. He seemed also to have forgotten the art of 
writing, and would be hours accomplishing three or four lines, and 
those (as he adds) all awry. He would suddenly forget where he 
was going, and the names of the persons he wished to see; he 
would lose his way in the streets, so that he was obliged to be 



Life of M. Olier. 

always accompanied by a servant. His mother, seeing him in this 
miserable state, told people they would take him for an idiot or a 
fool; while he, on his part, offered himself to God to depr^ ': him 
altogether of his senses if such were His holy will.* 

*' Our good Master," he says, " withdrew His succours, not only 
from the natural faculties of my soul, but also in regard to His super- 
natural gifts. The soul elevated in grace and, as it were, naturalised 
in charity, looks upon these succours as if they belonged to it : it 
believes falsely, and lets itself be secretly persuaded, that this grace 
is a thing of its own and its own property, like the wings which grow 
naturally on birds and are a part of themselves. Hence it follows 
that it esteems itself and prides itself on these gifts. Hitherto I 
had regarded them as attached to my person, and, when God with- 
drew them, I was left in a strange state of darkness and dryness. 
Always empty of God, at least sensibly, filled with sentiments of 
pride and self-love, encompassed with human respects, harassed 
with fears, I was for ever seeking to know wh at the world thought 
of me ; whether I passed for an ignoramus and a fool, a man desti- 
tute of piety, charity, and patience. I could think of nothing else, 
nor drive such thoughts out of my mind. These feelings of pride 
and human respect, which everywhere pursued me, were a perpetual 
crucifixion to me, because I seemed to consent to them. In my 
inmost soul I wished to do everything for God, and my greatest 
torment was the having been unfaithful to Him in the slightest 
matter, or persuading myself that in my actions I had taken any- 
thing to mysei*"." 

He says tne same of the blessings which had accompanied his 
ministry : how he had been tempted to think that they were attached 
to his person, and how it pleased God to undeceive him by showing 
him that the gifts he had possessed were not his own, and that, 

* Extraordinary as these trials were, they are not of unfrequent occurrence in 
the spiritual life of chosen souls. Boudon describes the state to which P. Surin 
was reduced in very similar terms. "For a long time" (he says) "he was 
unable to read, and for nearly twenty years unable to write. He could neither 
dress nor undress himself, and was obliged to lie down in \ivi clothes. All food, 
however excellent, was tasteless to him ; wine was to him like pure water. For 
eight days he remained dumb, unable to make his confession except by signs ; 
and such was the extremity to which he was reduced that he could not even 
walk, had hardly any use of his hands, and for fifteen years could not see things 
distinctly." V Homme de Dieu, Part iii. chap. x. The state of his mind corre- 
sponded with that of his body, and he was regarded as a madman. 



His extraordinary Trials. 



deprived of His aids, he was powerless. He was unable to preach ; 
often, when directed to do so, he could find neither ideas nor 
language ; if he attempted to expound a text of Scripture, he 
became so confused and the terms he employed were so ill chosen, 
that he was obliged to desist. Yet on one occasion (he says), as 
though God would not have him wholly discouraged, he delivered a 
discourse before a large audience with more than his usual facility. 
In the confessional he did not know what to say to his penitents, 
and in his misery could not refrain from deploring their ill fortune 
in having recourse to so incompetent a guide. With all this was 
conjoined great interior darkness and distress. He seemed to be 
abandoned by God, r.nd his soul was filled with disquietude and 
fear. If he opened the Gospel, or any spiritual book, his eye was 
sure to light on some passage which spoke of the narrowness of the 
way of salvation and the judgments of God on the wicked ; while 
the name of Judas was like the stroke of a dagger to his heart. 
" Ah, Sirs ! " he once said to his colleagues, " you may think that 
the traitor is mentioned only four or five times in Holy Scripture, 
but his name occurs more than twenty times." He felt as if he 
were himself the Judas of the little company, and the thought was 
never absent from his mind. One day, when saying Mass at the 
high altar, having to read this hated name, he was seized with such 
an agitation that it was with difficulty he could proceed. He was 
harassed, moreover, with scruples of conscience, so that (as he 
declares) he was a torment to his confessor, his colleagues, and to 
everybody. If any one spoke of the marks of reprobation he recog- 
nized them all in himself; everything that fell from the mouth of 
his director, or of anyone else, seemed to condemn him j nothing 
was capable of affording him consolation. 

The name of God recalled to him only a cruel, arbitrary, inexor- 
able being, whose pleasure it was to make his creatures suffer ; while 
the mention of Hell had a certain terrible fascination for him, as 
being the place to which he was destined for all eternity. Although 
he remained constant in prayer he received not a single ray of light 
or comfort ; he could not lift up his heart to God, and shrank from 
presenting himself before the Tabernacle.* The only devotion of 

* The fo'ilowing passage which fell under the writer's observation while 
engaged on the above account of M. Olier's interior sufferings may aptly be cited 
here. It occurs in a touching narrative of God's dealings with a holy Tertiary 
of St. Francis which appeared in the pages of the Month, February, 1882 


W«WP»^IPW»WlliW"F*'lfl|l, I|»J1W:,IM«"« 


Life of M. Olier. 


which he was capable was that of the rosary, which he vowed to 
recite daily for a year, in order to recover the presence of the Holy 
Spirit, of which he deemed himself deprived. He experienced also 
n sensible satisfaction in making a pilgrimage ; but in all things else 
he felt as though his heart were dead within him ; he seemed (as he 
says) to have sunk utterly back into his own nothingness. One day 
P. de Condren assured him that all these things were but pains and 
trials, to which he answered, " Would to God they were but pains, 
and that they might even last for all eternity ! So that I were not 
abhorred of God I should not distress myself ; " and, in saying this, 
tears fell in large drops from his eyes. In his anguish he took refuge 
in one of the chapels of Notre Dame where hitherto he had received 
only caresses of divine love, but there also he found no consolation, 
and he could only lie with his face on the ground and prostrate 
himself interiorly before the Majesty of God. All the favours 
and consolations he had enjoyed were now to him but mere delu- 
sions ; he believed that he was the object only of the hatred of God, 
and so dreadful was the thought that his whole appearance was 
altered, and his countenance became so pale and haggard that it 

" When Almighty God bestows marvellous and shining graces upon great souls, 
He is never slow in visiting them with overwhelming and searching trials alsoi 
which lay bare the inmost thoughts and intents of their hearts, rooting up and 
destroying every fibre of self-confidence and self-love. Such trials are, in fact, 
surpassing tokens of His Divine predilection. . . . Not only did good men who 
stood in God's place to her, stand aloof and add to her sufTerings, but God 
Himself appeared to desert her. The consolations of which before she had so 
abundantly partaken were almost wholly withdrawn. She was assailed by 
painful scruples, tormented with dryness, desolation, and darkness of soul, and 
violent temptations against faith and hope assaulted her. Above all, the fearful 
thought that she was not among the number of the elect was continually before 

The biographers of St. Francis de Sales relate how he suffered from a similar 
dread of reprobation. He was tempted to think that the spiritual dryness and 
insensibility that afflicted him was the punishment of some grievous sin, by 
which he had lost the grace and friendship of God and had become an object of 
His wrath and hatred. In spite of all his prayers and protestations of fidelity and 
Jove, the terrible thought continually recurred ; he could not banish it from 
his Ind, and nothing gave him comfort or relief ; so that he remained sunk in 
a state of profound melancholy and spent whole days and nights in weeping and 
lamenting. His features showed the mental tortures he was enduring ; his 
countenance became pale and emaciated ; he could neither eat, drink, nor 
sleep ; he could scarcely walk or sustain himself on his trembling limbs. 
MarsoUier, quoted by M. Faillon, Part i. Liv. vii. chap. vi. n. Hamon, Liv 
i. chap. iii. 

He is contemned and derided. 



was feared he was sinking under some fatal disorder. His sleep 
was disturbed with horrible drernis ; he would awake in the night 
and think he saw devils at the foot of his bed, ready to dr.ig him 
down to Hell. The particular temptation with which he was 
assailed was, not to do evil, but to perform extraorc'inary acts and 
practise excessive mortifications, which might be tie occasion to 
him of vainglory ; and once he heard a voice accising him of 
pride, in tones so terrible that he remained shuddering and tremb- 
ling in all his limbs. 

This depression of spirits and loss of capacity provoked animad- 
versions of the most humiliating kind. It was supposed that he now 
bitterly regretted having refused the coadjutorship of Chdlons, and 
that this was the cause of his melancholy and want of energy. The 
King, the Cardinal de Richelieu, as well as the bishops and others 
about the court, indulged in many a jest at his expense, and he 
became (he says) the laughing-stock of the whole town. His col- 
leagues shared the general opinion ; they looked upon him as a 
vain-glorious man, who wished to gain a character for disinterested- 
ness but had broken down in the attempt M. Amelote, who was 
now (as has been said) the superior of the little community, wishing 
to try of what spirit he was, would laughingly ask him whether he 
had ordered his equipage yet, and what number of servants he 
intended to have in his train. These bantering questions, so little 
in harmony with the sentiments of compunction and self-reproach 
with which his soul was filled, jarred painfully on his feelings; and 
one day he replied, "Ah! father, such thoughts are far from me ; I 
wish only for a hole in which to do penance for my sins." He 
was now convinced that there was an intention to exclude him from 
the society ; in fact, M. Amelote had one day told him to do as 
he pleased, and go where he would, for they had nothing to say 
to him ; and on another occasion had advised him to resign his 
benefices, and hide himself in that hole he talked about. All this 
he bore with the utmost meekness, and in his humility deemed him- 
self deserving only of contempt. So far from taking offence at M. 
Amelote's treatment of him, he regarded him as his truest friend, 
who occupied himself with his spiritual interests as though they had 
been his own, and was favoured with particular lights respecting the 
state of his soul. The truth, however, was that both M. Amelote 
and the rest wholly misapprehended M. Olier's character and con- 
duct ; they thought they perceived in him an arrogant and intract- 



Life of M. Olier, 

able temper, and believed that God had withdrawn His Spirit from 
him and refused any lonpcr to bless his ministrations. This 
apparent pride and haughtiness of manner was, indeed, not alto- 
gether imaginary ; M. Olier was himself most painfully conscious 
of it, but it seemed as if his movements were not subject to his 
own control, and that, in spite of himself, he had at times the air 
of a man full of his own conceits. The result was that he was 
interdicted from preaching and other similar employments, even 
to the hearing confessions, except in tases of absolute necessity ; 
to aH which he silently submitted, without seeking an explanation or 
attempting to justify himself. 

Such were the extraordinary trials to which this holy man was 
subjected for the space of two years ; and if we look for a reason in 
the designs of Divine Providence, over and above his personal 
sanctification, we may find it in this : that it might be proved 
beyond all dispute that he who was to inaugurate the great work of 
ecclesiastical reform was chosen for the office, not by men, but by 
God. M. Amelote had been preferred before him by his asso- 
ciates ; M. Olier had become the object of suspicion and contempt ; 
and yet he it was, and not M. Amelote, v^o was destined by God 
to be the founder and first Superior of Community and Semi- 
nary of St. Sulpice. 

Even P. de Condren apparently fell in with the general opinion, 
and for the two last months of his life seemed to withdraw his 
confidence fVom him. This to M. Olier was the greatest blow of 
all, for he no longer experienced the same consolations in his 
direction which he had hitherto had, and was left, as it were, in a 
state of complete abandonment. Herein, however, he recognized 
the hand of God, who would have him cease from all dependence 
on creatures, however holy, and adhere to Him alone. And yet, 
for all his coldness and reserve, it would appear that this master of 
the spiritual life discerned in the state to which his pupil was re- 
duced, only a further proof of God's love and favour towards him 
and one of the stages in that course of perfection along which he 
was being led. In the very last interview which M. Olier had with 
him in December, 1640, he spoke much of the adoration of Jesus 
in the Blessed Sacrament, as being the peculiar devotion of priests 
and that which he should labour most to propagate ; bidding him 
pay particular honour to that angel of the Apocalypse who will 
come at the end of the present dispensation and is described as 

Marie Rousseau s Vocation. 


castinp on the earth the fire with which he had filled his censer 
from the heavenly altar. He spoke also of the singular graces with 
which God had gifted individual souls. M. Vincent (de Paul), he 
said, was remarkable for prudence, M. Amelote for wisdom, while 
his own peculiar gift he considered to be that of a childlike spirit ; 
and, on M, Olier asking what was his particular grace, he answered 
that it was the same as his own ; that (as M. Olier himself writes) 
God would have him conduct himself after the manner of a child, 
without care or deliberation, with all simplicity, casting himself into 
His arms, as into those of a father j desirous only of pleasing Him, 
loving Him, praising Him, seeking only His glory, and willing to be 
himself despised. P. de Condren added that he should take as his 
director the Infant Jesus : a suggestion the more remarkable that 
M. Olier, unknown to his spiritual guide, had begun to practise 
this particular devotion from the time that P. de Condren appeared 
to become estranged from him. 

It was now that Marie Rousseau began to take a prominent part 
in promoting the twofold object which she had so long cherished in 
her heart — t' e erection of a seminary for the training and educating of 
priests and i lie reform of the parish of St. Sulpice. For some time 
past she had known by divine revelat'on that this object was on the 
eve of accomplishment, and had felt a strong conviction that God 
was calling her to co-operate with Him in the furtherance of His 
designs ; that it was she whom He had chosen as His instrument for 
urging upon the destined ministers of His will the duty of fulfilling 
their vocation, and assuring them of success despite all the opposition 
that could be raised against them. Nevertheless, perceiving clearly 
as she did the immense difficulties that would have to be encountered, 
she shrank from yielding an interior assent to the call. Again and 
again she besought the Lord with tears that He would not lay this 
charge upon her. Who was she that she should be an Apostle to 
the priests of God ? She was but a poor weak woman, and would 
be treated as a wild enthusiast, or her motives would be miscon- 
strued, and she would be repulsed with scorn. This struggle con- 
tinued for several years, until her director, P. Armand, of the Society 
of Jesus, who from time to time had bidden her offer her communions 
for this intention, at last engaged her to make an act of consecration 
by which she bound herself to devote all her energies to the holy 
enterprise and to the assistance of those to whom God should entrust 
the conduct of it. 


Life of M. Oiier. 


I I 
I \ 

On the 8th of December, 1638, P. Armand died, and she was led 
to take as her director P. Hugues Bataille, a Benedictine of St. 
(lermain's Abbey, of whom we shall learn more in the sequel. With 
P. de Condren this holy widow had never had any direct communi- 
cations, although, through the medium of P. Je".!! Chrysostome, of 
the Third Order of St. Francis, a man universally esteemed for his 
great spiritual discernment,* they had asked counsel of each other 
and begged each other's prayers for their several intentions. One 
day, however, that she was in the church of the Oratory, in the Rue 
St. Honor^, where P. de Condren was then residing, an interior voice 
said to her, " Here is your father," the meaning of which at the time 
she did not apprehend. But in the month of March, 1640, a mes- 
sage was brought her from P. de Condren by P. Jean Chrysostome 
and F. Jean-Baptiste, a Brother of the same Order to the effect that 
he wished to speak with her, and that, if she did not come to him, 
he would go to her. Accordingly she repaired to the Oratory in 
their company. 

The interview took place on the 6t,h of the same month, and, as it 
was the first, so also it was the last, which ihese privileged souls held 
together. For more than two hours P. de Condren gave vent to the 
thoughts with which his soul was habitually engaged, discoursing 
sublimely of God and the beauty and glory of the Most Holy 
Trinity ; and then he turned to the subject which lay closest to his 
heart, tl:e foundation of seminaries in which the clergy might be 
sanctified for the duties of their holy office, and said that he had it in 
his mind to wriie four t'- jatises for the use of ecclesiastical students, 
and intended to retire for that purpose to the Gratorian house of 
Notre Dame des Vertus. Before leaving him, Marie Rousseau urged 
him to fulfil his intention without delay, and, on the Father replyir-.g 
that he should begin that very Lent, she told him that he might, 
indeed, think of doing so, but that he would never put his design 
into execution, and would not witness even the beginning of the work 
on which it had pleased God to impart to him such luminous ideas. 

As Marie Rousseau had forwarned him so it came to pass. Lent 
sped away, the year advanced, and yet he had not put pen to paper* 


* A Life of this holy man was written by Buudon and is among his collected 
works. Whether P. Jean Chrysostome was ever formally declared Venerable the 
present writer has been unable to ascertain. French biographers are apt to give 
this appellation to saintly persons in the general, and not in the technical and 
authoritative, meaning of the term. 

p. de Condi en discloses his designs. 

1 1 1 

She had now become fully aware, — as, indeed, had been dimly dis- 
closed to her before, — that the men who were destined to accomplish 
the work which had been for years the subject of her prayers would 
be chosen from among P. de Condren's disciples, and that he was the 
father of whom the voice had spoken to her. Frequent communi- 
cations took place between them, through the usual channel, on the 
one great tneme of common interest, and Marie Rousseau never 
ceased importuning the holy man to speak what was in his mind, for 
that his time was short. But it was not until the very day before he 
was seized with his last illness that he opened his lips on the subject 
which was ever in his thoughts, and even then, as it appeared, more 
by accident than from premeditation, M. du Ferrier had gone to con- 
sult him as usual, when, in the course of conversation, the Father 
repeated a remark he had before made, that there was a still greater 
work to be done than that in which he and his companions were at 
present engaged ; and, on M. du Ferrier inquiring what greater work 
there could be than that of converting sinners, he replied, " I will 
tell you." M, du Ferrier, howevei, fearing that he had asked the 
question from a motive of mere curiosity, would have had him be 
silent, but he said, " No, make yourself easy, it is not c riosity ; it is 
an effect of the Providence of God, who would have me at length 
make known to you what it is He requires of you. The time is come." 
He then appointed an early hour on the following day for pursuing 
the conversation. On returning the next morning, M. du Ferrier 
found the Baron de Renty with the Father, but, on the latter observ- 
ing that the young priest was faithful to his appointment, M, de 
Renty took his leave. When they were left alone, P. de Condrcn 
proceeded to show that the effects of the missions, great as they were 
at the time, were not as lasting as they otherwise might be, because 
of the lack of zealous pastors. It was useless (he said) to endeavour 
to change those who had been raised to the priesthood without due 
preparation ; it was necessary to educate an entirely new race of 
ecclesiastics, and this could be effected only by means of seminaries, 
such as the Council of Trent had enjoined. M. du Ferrier pointed 
to the attempts which had been made at Toulouse, Bordeaux, and 
Rouen, but which had failed notwithstanding all the exertions of 
Cardinals de Joyeuse and de Sourdis. The Father, however, in 
return showed him the reason of this failure, maintaining that the 
youths admitted into an ecclesiastical seminary ought to be of such 
an age that it might be possible to judge of their character, and, after 





Life of M. Olier. 



due trial, to determine whether they possessed the necessary qualifi- 
cations. He entered at some length into the subject, and assured 
M. du Ferrier of the Divine assistance, and of entire success, if only 
the undertaking were commenced at once, and before the demon of 
discord had introduced dissensions into the clerical body. This he 
said with a prophetic eye to the evils with which the Jansenistic heresy 
was about to afflict the Church ; and he ended by counselling him 
to avoid contentions and " strifes of words," and never to espouse 
any side but that of the Holy See. 

Ten o'clock struck while he was speaking, and the Frfere Martin, 
his assistant, came to remind him that it was time to say Mass. He 
bade him wait awhile, and the Brother retired. At eleven he came 
again, when, to M. du Terrier's amazement, who knew with what circum- 
spection the holy man guarded every word he uttered, P. de Condren 
said to him, *' Brother, if you knew what I was about you would not 
be so urgent ; for I am engaged upon something even of greater con- 
sequence than that you would have me do." He continued discours- 
ing till noon, when he said, "Brother Martin will be losing all 
patience ; we must reserve the rest till to-morrow ; " but when the 
morrow came he was too unwell to receive visitors, and M. du Ferrier 
never saw him again. On his making the others acquainted with 
what had been said to him thus far they received his report with joy ; 
M. Amelote, however, expressing some surprise that P. de Condren 
had never spoken to him on the subject. In the evening, M. du 
Ferrier, fearing that the Father might die before he had concluded 
his instructions, sent in a note to the priest who was in attendance 
upon him, begging him to entreat the sick man, if God should call 
him to Himself, to bequeath his spirit and his lights to some one 
who should be able to supply what he had left unsaid. The result 
of this appeal we shall presently see. 

On the morrow, being the 7th of January, 1641, P. de Condren 
died. His last hours were troubled with the thought of the evils 
which the Jansenistic heresy was about to introduce into the Charch. 
" I foresee a schism," he said to the assembled Fathers ; " and in 
two years it will disclose itself." His soul, like that of his Saviour, 
was inundated with a mortal sadness, and so profound a sense had 
he of the purity and holiness of God that it seemed to be more than 
he could bear, deeming himself only worthy that his body should be 
exposed upon a gibbet as a warning to all evil-doers. At the same 
time those who were gathered round his bed felt their hearts filled 


p. de Condren appears in glory. 1 1 3 

with an ineffable peace and joy, as he spoke to them of the things of 
God with an elevation and aii eloquence such as even he had never 
before displayed. No sooner had he departed than the world seemed 
at once to recognise the consummate sanctity of one whose life had 
been hidden from its sight His virtues became the theme of every 
tongue. Louis XIIL, disregarding the express wishes of the deceased, 
ordered his obsequies to be conducted with unusual honours, and, 
by the command of the Queen, M. de Virazel, Bishop of St. Brieuc, 
delivered the funeral oration. The people flocked in crowds to pray 
beside the bier on which the body lay in the church of the Oratory, 
and gazed with admiration on the saintly countenance lit up with a 
glow of colour which it never wore in life ; and, indeed, when P. 
Bernard, with others, unclosed the eyelids, the orbs were filled with 
such a lustrous brightness that they exclaimed he was not dead. 

P. de Condren, as has been said, passed away on the morrow of 
the Epiphany, and that very night he appeared to M. Olier in a halo 
of brilliant light, and told him that he left him the heir of his spirit 
and his counsels, in conjunction with two others whom he named, 
one of whom was M. Amelote. On the night also of his burial he 
appeared, clad in his sacerdotal vestments and surrounded with 
glory, to M. Meyster, who had an intention of leaving the society, 
bidding him abandon his design, for that God Himself would bring 
about a separation, seeing that He destined his colleagues to take 
part in the establishment of a seminary, which should be the source 
of the greatest benefits to the Church ; a seminary, the directors of 
which should be bound, not by vows, but by ecclesiastical rules in 
obedience to their bishops. M. Meyster communicated to M. du 
Ferrier all that the Father had said to him, which tallied exactly 
with the instructions he had himself receiv . from him when alive, 
although M. Meyster had not heard a word previously on the 
subject.* M. Olier, however, kept his own counsel ; and it is only 
from the Memoires which he composed by order of his director, 
and solely for his inspection, that we incidentally learn the nature 

* With reference to these appearances of P. de Condren after his decease, M. 
Faillon is anxious to show (B. vii. n. o) tliat M. Olier and his associates were 
very far from being ready believers in the marvellous. P. de Condren himself 
discouraged anything approaching to credulity, and M. Olier had so great a dis- 
trust of imputed supernatural gifts or extraordinary states of prayer that he bade 
his followers maintain a strict silence concerning such things, and was strongly 
opposed to their taking part in exorcisms, except in cases of necessity, because 
of the imminent danger either of deception or of delusion. 




Life of M. Olier. 

of the revelation that was made to him. All the time that the body 
of P. de Condren lay exposed in the church of the Oratory, and on 
the day of his funeral, M. Olier felt himself (as he says) more and 
more penetrated with that spirit of self-annihilation which was so 
conspicuous in the deceased; indeed, he was so wholly engrossed 
therewith that it formed his sole interior occupation. Meanwhile 
his spiritual trials still continued, and his associates little suspected 
that the man so humiliated and so meanly regarded was he to whom 
they must look for the accomplishment of the great design nov 
communicated to them, and in which some of them were destined 
to bear a part. 

J ! 


( "5 ) 


attempted seminary at chartres. reform of la 
r£grippi£:re completed, m. olier delivered from 
his trials. 

ONE principal end for which the French Oratory had been 
instituted was the education of ecclesiastics, but Providence 
had other designs ; and, contrary to the mind and will of the founder, 
Cardinal de B^rullej it was employed almost exclusively in the con- 
duct of missions, the performance of parochial duties, and, more than 
all, in the management of schools. So opposed was this last to the 
intention of the Cardinal that he would have had the Pope (Paul V.), 
in his Bull of institution, expressly prohibit the Fathers from con- 
necting themselves with anything of a purely scholastic nature; 
but no such clause was introduced, and, instead of establishing semi- 
naries for priests, the French Oratorians undertook the direction 
of numerous schools. So far, indeed, were they from wishing to 
engage in what their founder intended to be their chief occupation, 
that they even allowed P. Eudes to leave them rather than second 
his designs in that direction. In this we cannot but discern the 
protecting hand of Providence; for, after the death of P. de 
Condren, the Oratory (as is well known) became one of the strong- 
holds of Jansenism, and, had its members at that time had the 
education of the clergy in their hands, the greatest evils would 
have resulted to the whole Church of France. P. de Condren 
seemed to have a divine intimation of this ; for it is very remarkable 
that, with the strong sense he entertained of the urgent need of 
ecclesiastical seminaries, he did not engage the members of his 
own Community in the undertaking, but got together a separate 
company of priests whom he destined for the work. True it is 
that at one time (1637) he had a design of founding a seminary at 
the Abbey of Juilly, in connection with the Oratory, towards which 
M. Olier contributed, but the institution, in fact, never became 
anything more than a school. 



Life of M. Olier. 

The little band of priests, now informed as to their true vocation, 
resolved to abandon the field of missionary labour and, retiring 
first to Loreau, then to li^pernon, in the diocese of Chartres, gave 
themselves up to prayer and instruction of the people, until Provi- 
dence should open out a way for the execution of their design. It 
was now that M. Olier obtained at length some relaxation of his 
trials, from which, however, he was not entirely delivered until the 
end of the same year. It was in the cathedral church of Chartres 
that (to use his own expressions) he first began to breathe interiorly, 
and to recover that exterior cheerfulness which had been natural to 
him previously to his afflictions. His companions were astonished 
at the change, though they little suspected the cause. We have 
seen that he laboured under a continual dread that all his actions 
were defiled with a secret pride and self-love. He had been 
visited with a most vivid perception of the malice of the sin of 
pride : how it robs God of His glory, and sacrilegiously despoils 
His altars of that in which He most delights — the adoration of the 
heart and will ; and the sight had filled him with a horrible fear. 
But on the octave of Corpus Christi, having risen an hour or two 
earlier than usual and repaired to the cathedral, when the famous 
bells of Notre Dame began to ring out sweetly and solemnly in 
honour of the Sacramental Mystery, his mind, as by a sudden and 
divine illumination, apprehended the immense glory which God 
receives during that great festival, when Jesus is enthroned on a 
thousand altars and is offered to His Eternal Father in union with 
the homage of all true believers throughout the world. His soul 
was transported with joy, and with the joy that he experienced came 
also the reflection that his heart, too, shared in this universal 
homage; that it, too, rendered praise and glory to God. The 
thought seemed to remove a heavy burden from his mind, and he 
found relief to his feelings of lOve and devotion in a gush of tears 
to which he had been long a stranger. From that moment his fears 
diminished, and gradually departed. 

God also was pleased to grant him, in the person of M. Picot^, 
who was a member of the community, a director in whom he could 
repose entire confidence and from whom he experienced all the 
affection and sympathy of a father. This good priest had been 
deputed, among others, by the King to enquire into the affair of the 
Loudun possessions. He went with a mind prejudiced rather than 
otherwise against the reality of the manifestations, but returned per- 

M. Picote and the Highwaymen. 


fectly convinced. His opinion, it may be added, was shared by M. 
Meyster and M. de Foix, the former of whom investigated the matter 
at the instance of the Bishop of Saintes. For some time after, M. 
Picotd was afflicted with great interior sufferings, which left him no 
peace night or day. In his distress he sought the aid of M. Laisn^ 
(ie la Marguerie, formerly a Counsellor of State, who, on the death 
of his wife, had received holy orders. M. Laisnd, being a novice in 
direction, felt that he could render M. Picotd no assistance and took 
him to Marie Rousseau, in whose spiritual discernment he had the 
greatest confidence. He was thus the first of the associates to be 
brought into close relations with Marie Rousseau, and by the help 
of her prayers he was delivered from his trials. This led him to take 
other members of the little community to visit that holy woman 
simply for the purpose of edification, and she, on her part, made no 
allusion to the designs of God regarding them. M. Olier, indeed, 
was not in a condition at the time to discuss such questions, or to 
engage in any exterior matters at all. But it would appear that at 
some of these interviews his state was made the subject of conversa- 
tion between his associates and Marie Rousseau ; for in his Memoires 
he writes, " During the time my trials lasted, when I was forsaken 
and derided by everybody, and was looked upon as a person who 
had not only lost his senses but was given over to reprobation, she 
alone maintained that I was not what they imagined me to be ; she 
and M. Picotd believed me to be in the grace of God." In this good 
j)riest, accordingly, M. Olier found one who seemed to be super- 
naturally enlightened respecting the dispositions of his soul, as though 
God, who alone knows the secrets of the heart, had communicated 
them to him, and he was able to entrust to him the conduct of his 
affairs, temporal and spiritual, without the least reserve. 

An amusing instance of the simplicity of this worthy man is related 
by M. du Ferrier, which, though it occurred at a later date, may be 
given here. Having gone from Paris to Orleans, of which city he 
was a native, he was stopped in the Vale of Trois Croix by six 
mounted highwaymen, who, with the politeness which in that age 
characterised these gentry, begged he would favour them with his 
purse. Suspicious of no evil design, M. Picotd no sooner heard the 
request than he replied, " Willingly, good Sirs, and with all my heart." 
Then, taking out his purse, m which there were five or six crowns, 
he emptied the contents into his hand, and, presenting it to them, 
said, " I wish it was a better one, for your sakes." Half surprised. 


Life of M. Olier. 

' \ 

half indignant, the men asked him what he meant. " Why," said he, 
" I thought you asked me for a purse, and here is one at your service." 
The unaffected simplicity of the reply so delighted them that, burst- 
ing out laughing, they said, " Tht^t joke is worth all your money ; 
pray, Sir, keep your purse ; we have no wish to deprive you of it ; " 
and, so saying, they gallopped off, still laughing with all their might. 
The death of P. de Condren might naturally have been expected 
to be a fresh source of sorrow and distress to M. Olier, but he 
accepted it in a spirit of perfect resignation : proof, if any were 
needed, that the interior trials through which he was passing came 
from God. Thoughtful, however, of others, he wrote to console the 
Soeur de Vauldray, who was suffering from a bereavement of a much 
less grievous kind.* " Ah, well, my dear daughter," he said, " if 
we are to be troubled about every misfortune that happens to us, we 
shall never have any peace in this world. I will tell you what has 
befallen myself. My dear father and master has been taken from 
me by the appointment of the Divine Will, which is our dear mis- 
tress both in privation and in abundance, in aridities as much as in. 
sweetest consolations. He it was who aided me so much in apply- 
ing myself to God, which is what I most value and desire. He it 
was who encouraged me so much to help you, you yourself in par- 
ticular, and commended the convent of La Rdgrippifere to my care. 
He it was from whom I learned so many good and holy things. Ah, 
well, my sister, is not the Will of God worth as much as that saintly 
man, who possessed nothing save through the holiness of that Divine 
Will? Cannot that Will supply all which It has taken away? Can 
It not do as much good of Itself as It did by means of another ? 
My dear daughter, let us adore the Will of Jesus, let us adore that 
beloved Master : it is for our sanctification that He permits us to 
meet with such thorny trials." 

* It had been P. de Condren's wish that M. Olier should relinquish the 
direction of the nuns of La R^grippibre, as not being compatible w^h the work 
to which he knew that he was destined, and confine himself to writing ta them a 
few times in the year. M. Olier accordingly obeyed, and P. Chauveau, a Jesuit 
Father, undertook the office of director. But the Soeur de Vauldray, who w.i.s 
unable to reconcile herself to the loss of one whose counsels she felt to be needful 
to the health of her soul, fell into such a state of darkness and desolation that the 
Father, fearful of subjecting her to too severe a trial, withdrew his prohibition. 
From a letter which M. Olier wrote to her, it appears that she had a great repug- 
nance to eating off pewter instead of silver, to which she had been accustomed. 
This may be taken as significative of the utter secularity in which the community 
had been sunk. 

. >m'i I! wiwM^nwfBfP!" 

'V f 

Faihtre of the Chartres Seminary. 


By the desire of M. de Valenc<5, Bishop of Chartres, the little 
band of priests, eight in number, gave a mission to the inhabitants 
of the town, during which M. Olier preached four or five times on 
the glories of Mary with all his accustomed power. So great was 
their success that the Bishop invited them to take up their abode in 
the city, with a view of conducting the regular retreats provided for 
the candidates for orders. To this they gladly consented, under the 
idea that it would gradually lead to the establishment of an ecclesi- 
astical seminary. Accordingly they engaged a house in the parish of 
Ste. Foi, close to the cathedral, furnished it at their own expense, 
and ijok upon themselves the entire support of the candidates as 
long as the exercises lasted. Their hope was that some of these 
might be induced to remain with them, in order to being more 
perfectly instructed in their priestly duties ; but nothing of the kind 
followed. Notwithstanding their charity and zeal, and the edifying 
example of their lives, not a single individual joined them during 
the whole eight months they spent at Chartres. The parishioners, 
moreover, had conceived a prejudice against the undertaking, 
simply, as it would seem, because it was one with which they were not 
familiar ; but, whatever the cause, the attempt to found a seminary 
met with no encouragement Their labours, however, had not been 
altogether fruitless. M. Olier, struck with the devout behaviour of 
a youth who was constant in his attendance on the exercises of the 
misoion, took particular pains in insi^ructing him. On the departure 
of his spiritual master, this pious youth set down in writing all the 
principal maxims which he had learned from his lips, and drew up 
a plan of life in accordance therewith, by which he regulated the 
actions of each day. Thus M. Olier had the happiness of being 
instrumental in providing the parish of St. Saturnin at Chartres 
with its celebrated Curd, M. Gilles Marie, whose edifying Life has 
been given to the world. 

Left thus without occupation, these zealous men employed them- 
selves as best they could in the several parishes of the city, until 
God should more clearly disclose His will to them. M. Olier 
devoted himself in particular to catechising the children, whose pro- 
ficiency he rewarded by distributing among them little presents 
which the Soeur de Vauldray sent him for the purpose. The ill 
success, however, which had attended their efforts began to produce 
an unsettled feeling among the associates, and it was soon apparent 
that the community had arrived at a crisis in its affairs. M. de 

^l^-l..r'!£ ^''''^rary.^.^'?^-p^>^^*|h3|gg^.^ f ^^ 


Life of M. Olier. 


\ i 

Foix and M. du Ferritr, whom business had taken to Paris, were 
on the point of returning to Chartres, when M, Meyster, who at 
this time retired from the society, said to them, while at dinner, in 
a tone of great earnestness, " My dear friends, you are losing your 
time ; you are not doing what God requires of you. He disap- 
proves of your remaining at Chartres, and I am bidden to tell you 
so." He added that M. Anielote was called to other labours. His 
words had such effect upon them that, rising from table, they went 
at once to consult the Fathers of the Oratory at St. Magloire, and, 
acting on the advice they received, they resolved, instead of return- 
ing to Chartres, to proceed on a pilgrimage to Notre Dame des 
Ardilliers,* near Saumur in Anjou. It was at the same time agreed 
between them that they should not speak of the matter on the way, 
but should make it simply the subject of prayer, and ^eave the issue 
in the hands of God. 

At this juncture t M. Olier also arrived in Paris, before the feast 
of the Assumption, for the purpose of settling a difference with the 
Prior of his abbe- whom the monks had, in defiance of all right, 
just nominated to the office. While there, he received a visit from 
the Abbess of Fontevrault, Jeanne-Baptiste de Bourbon, who begged 
him to repair in person to La R^grippibre, with a view to complet- 
ing the reform which he had so auspiciously commenced. Nothing 
could be more in accordance with his wishes, and he followed his two 
friends to Saumur, with the hope of inducing them to accompany 
him into Brittany. He was especially anxious to have the co-opera- 
tion of M. du Ferrier, as he relied upon his assistance to effect a 
conversion in which he had himself entirely failed. It was that of 
a nun whom he describes as the haughtiest and most self-sufficient 
in the house, and who had conceived a great aversion to him, either 
because of his success with the Soeur de Vauldray, who had been 
the leader of the opposition, or because (as he says) she despised 

* This celebrated pilgrimage owed its origin to the following circumstance. 
A peasant, while digging in a field, found a little image of Notre Dame de Pitie, 
by which many miracles were wrought. A chapel was built over the spot where 
it was found, which became much frequented by the faithful. This chapel was 
served from the year i6l6 by the Fathers of the Oratory, to whom it belonged. 

+ It was about this time (according to M. Faillon) that, on the demise of the 
Bishop of Le Puy, the Chapter begged the King to nominate M. Olier to the 
vacant see ; in which they were warmly seconded by the very persons who had 
been the authors of the violent opposition which he encountered during his mission 
in Auvergne. 

l\ ^ 

• *-•«- «-> ,»*^» fv,*-*"-* , t 


Conversion of the Sosur de la Troche. 


what she regarded as want of spirit in him. She it was, in fact, who 
upheld the rest in their disobedience and disorders. His two friends 
consented, and they arrived late one October evening at the con- 
vent, where they were well received. The Superioress and elder 
nuns, together with the fourteen whose conversion M. Olier had 
effected at his first visit, came at once into the parlour. There 
were two grilles^ at one of which M. Olier stood, at the other M. de 
Foix. M. du Ferrier remaining apart and saying nothing, the 
Sisters called him the " Abbd of silence ; " but they were soon to learn 
that he could speak, and with irresistible efi'cct. That evening M. 
Olier was seized with one of his fits of timidity, and said to his com- 
panions, " Three years ago I had the courage to preach to these 
religious, and now I protest to you I should not venture to open my 
mouth." But in the morning, rising an hour before the rest, he took 
for the subject of his meditation those words of our Lord, " They 
shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth" * of which his mind 
had been full the evening before, when he was proceeding to the 
convent. The result was such an accession of strength and light 
that, when, on his wav to say Mass, the Mother Prioress requested 
liim to preach, he at once consented, and delivered himself with so 
much unction and power that the hearts of all were touched. They 
who did not yield to grace on that occasion were brought to con- 
trition by a second sermon on the following day, and begged, with 
many sobs and tears, to be heard in confession. 

M. Olier, however, was right in his conjecture that the presence 
of another priest was needed to effect the conversion of the nun to 
whom allusion has been made. On the second morning after their 
arrival, M. du Ferrier, who was about to depart for Clisson, was on 
his knees before the high altar, preparatory to saying Mass, when 
the Soeur de la Troche (such was the name of the nun), who had 
been watching him through the grate, sent the sacristan to beg him 
to offer the Holy Sacrifice for her intention. Acting on a sudden 
impulse, M. du Ferrier, who was naturally of an obliging disposition, 
refused, in a way which, on after-reflection, surprised and confounded 
him. The sacristan, thinking he had not heard or did not under- 
stand the request, repeated it ; on which the priest replied, '• I tell 
you I will do nothing of the kind." So stern a refusal, coming from 
a man whom she regarded as gifted with a divine discernment, struck 

* St. John iv. 23. 

>>.~ . «>.».. i y.. ^ ,,^ ^ ,,^,,..,j^^ yy.»y^/a..*ryf.,,.»..^, , .11 ,., ..,. .. . ^ 

iW./4^ .^ A ...VA.V.^r^ 


Life of M. Otter. 

the Sister with a sort of terror : she thought she was lost beyond 
rei)entance and, throwing herself on the floor of her cell, shed a 
torrent of tears. She then begged one of the nuns who had been 
converted on the occasion of M. Olier's first visit to procure her an 
interview with M. du Ferrier ; but, finding that he had departed for 
Clisson, she was seized with such a paroxysm of grief that M. Olier 
despatched a messenger after him to bring him back to the convent. 
No sooner had M. du Ferrier returned than the Sxur de la Troche 
made a public confession of her pride and obstinacy, avowing, to 
her shame, that hitherto she had encouraged the rest of the religious 
in the violation of their engagements, but protesting that for the 
future her only desire was to lead a life of obedience, and to fulfil 
the obligations of her state in silence and recollection. The others 
who had still held out followed her example ; all insubordination 
was now at an end : moved by M. du Ferrier's powerful exhortations, 
they one and all embraced each other, and perfect harmony was 
restored by a solemn act of reconciliation before the Blessed Sacra- 
ment At the request of the Abbess, to whom a report had been 
sent of all that had occurred, M. Olier and M. du Ferrier remained 
for a month at the convent, during which they instructed the nuns 
in the practice of mental prayer, and in all the duties and require- 
ments of a community life. 

One abuse there was which M. Olier now succeeded without 
difficulty in abolishing. Within the convent domain was a thick 
wood, in which the nuns were in the habit of walking, and where 
also there was a pond which afforded them the recreation of 
fishing ; b ' ; strange to say, this wood had no inclosure, so that it 
was open to sportsmen and other intruders. M. Olier had no wish 
to deprive the nuns either of their walks or of their fishing, but he 
insisted on the grounds, which were extensive, being properly in- 
closed ; and this accordingly was done by the erection of a wall, 
which exists at this day. 

This long-desired reform being at last happily effected, the two 
priests retook their way to Chartres, whither they had been preceded 
by M. de Foix. In passing through Angers, M. Olier was enter- 
tained by M. Gui Lanier, Abbd of Vaux, in Saintonge, a holy and 
zealous priest, to whose particular charge he committed the convent 
of La R^grippifere. From Angers he repaired to Tours, where, on 
the nth of November, he had the satisfaction of assisting at the 
magnificent ceremonies observed in honour of the great St. Martin, 

Dissolution of the Society. 


whom he had always held in singular veneration for his heroic 
humility and self-abjection. During this journey he was favoured 
with ■ a greater calm in his soul than he had enjoyed since the 
commencement of his interior trials. He met with a confessor to 
whom he could open himself witliout reserve, and from whom ho 
received such helps and encouragements that all his doubts and 
obscurities vanished, and he beheld with a clear vision the road 
along which he was to walk. On reaching Chartrc^, he found the 
greatest differences of opinion prevailing among his associates as to 
the course to be pursued, and it soon became evident to him that a 
dissolution of the community was impending. M. de Foix strongly 
urged the necessity of abandoning the establishment at Chartres, as 
having failed in the object for which it was designed, and to this 
opinion M. Olier himself inclined ; but it was as strongly contested 
by others of the society. In the midst of these debates M. du 
Ferrier, after imploring the assistance of the Blessed Virgin in the 
subterranean chapel of Notre Dame de Chartres, went to consult the 
Mfere Gabrielle, a Carmelitess, sister of P. de Condren. She was 
under the spiritual direction of M. Amelote, to whose judgment in 
the matter in question she would naturally defer, but this did not 
render M. du Ferrier, who placed the greatest reliance on her piety 
and prudence, less desirous to obtain the benefit of her advice. On 
learning what P. de Condren had said to him before his death, on 
the subject of which that great man had never uttered a word to M. 
Amelote, she replied without hesitation that, if the latter decided on 
breaking up the establishment, M. du Ferrier might take it as a sign 
that it was the will of God that he should associate himself with V . 
de Foix and M. Olier in the endeavour to found an ecclesiastical semi- 
nary. The very next day M. Amelote pronounced in favour of a 
dissolution of the society, and from that moment M. du Ferrier 
became convinced that this ecclesiastic was destined to have no part 
in the work of which P. de Condren had spoken. The friends, 
however, continued to live together in perfect amity and concord 
until the translation of the Bishop of Chartres to the archbishopric 
of Rheims determined them to quit the place. 


( 124 ) 





\ 1 

! 1 

MEANWHILE M. Picot^ had gone to Vaugirard, a village in 
the close neighbourhood of Paris, to assist Marie Luillier, 
Dame de Villeneuve, who had the superintendence of an establish- 
ment the members of which were engaged in the management of 
schools in country-places. It had been commenced at the sugges- 
tion of St. Francis de Sales, who was her director, and with the 
active co-operation of St. Vincent de Paul ; and from the difficulties 
and trials which the institution had encountered its members had 
obtained the appellation of the Sisters of the Cross.* Mme. de 
Villeneuve, like so many other devout persons, had long made the 
reformation of the clergy the subject of especial prayer ; and on hear- 
ing from M. Picot^ an account of what was passing at Chartres she said 
at once, "* Perhaps our Lord would have you establish yourselves at 
Vaugirard." M. Picotd would have taken no notice of the remark, 
but she pursued the subject, representing the facilities and advan- 
tages which such a situation offered : its seclusion, and yet its close 
proximity to the capital : the assistance they would derive from the 
Cur($, M. Copin, who would willingly place the parish church at their 
disposal ; while for herself, she would engage to give them all the 
aid in her power, even to their entire maintenance, if that were 
necessary. Her earnestness had its effect on M. Picote, and, after 
recommending the matter to God, he wrote to his friends at Chartres, 
and in particular to M. de Foix. When his letter was read there 
was but one opinion of its contents, and an immediate answer was 
returned that the proposition was neither feasible nor reasonable. 
But on M. de Foix going to Paris, he was induced by M. Picotd to 

* Through the exertions of M. Olier, the Sisters of the Cross were established 
in several towns where he had been engaged in giving missions, in order to per- 
petuate the benefits which had been derived from the ministrations of himself and 
his fellow-labourers. 


Divine Illuminations. 


hear what Mme. de Villeneuve had to say on the subject, and her 
representations, combined with those of M. Picotd, who was now a 
strenuous advocate of the plan, had the effect of bringing him entirely 
over to her views. As for M. Amelote, he regarded the whole scheme 
as a piece of extravagant folly, but, considering that his friends had 
need of retirement and repose, he advised them to repair to Vau- 
girard for the good of their health. The jubilee was about to be 
observed in the parish, and, as there was a lack of confessors, M. 
Picotd begged M. du Ferrier to come and help him, with the ho^^e 
of enlisting his services also in the cause he had so much at 'icia t. 
Mme. de Villeneuve, moreover, availed herself, for the sa' j j ' ;- 
pose, of the influence of the Abb^ de Pormorant, who, like herself, 
was devoted to the Christian instruction of youth; but nothii.^ that 
was said to him had any effect on M. du Ferrier until, while saying 
Mass in the church, at the moment he communicated he found him- 
self possessed with the conviction that Vaugirard was the place which 
God had chosen, and that he must abandon himself entirely to the 
Divine will. 

Their next endeavour was to gain over M. Olier, but the attempt 
did not meet with the success expected. Yielding to the solicitations 
of his friends, he returned to Paris, but was found to be more entirely 
opposed to the projected establishment than even they had been, and 
expressed himself accordingly. At the request, however, of M. 
Picotd, his director, he consented to commend the matter to God, 
and in the beginning of December, 1641, retired for that purpose to 
a country house at Notre Dame des Vertus, near Paris, where M. 
Picot^ continued to visit hira While in this retreat the Lord was 
pleased to speak to him in vision, after a manner of which he had 
hitherto had no experience. It was on the 5th or 6th of the same 
month that, being absorbed in prayer, he seemed to behold in spirit 
the Eternal Father bearing in his arms a company of ecclesiastics 
who were the objects of His tenderest care ; and at the same moment 
there rose to his lips, with a significance he had never before realized, 
those words of David : " Qui regis Israel^ intende; qui deducts velut 
ovem Joseph— {GivQediX, O Thou that rulest Israel; Thou that leadest 
Joseph like a sheep)." * He was about to mount his horse and return 
to Pans, in compliance with a message he had received from his associ- 
ates, when he was moved (he says) to return to his chamber, and there, 

* Psalm Ixxix. i. 


''-.V ^^ ^ ,i5^4 

AilVX.Wllt«b.B V 


TifeofM. Olier. 


casting himself on the floor and abandoning himself without reserve 
to God, he supplicated an outpouring of His love on those who were 
to be united with Him in the fulfilment of His designs, and, as in 
reply to his petition, there came vividly before his mind the words of 
the Divine Son to His Eternal Father : ^* Mea omnia tua sunt, et tua 
mea sunt — (All My things are Thine, and Thine are Mine)."* He 
prayed for all with whom he had been associated at Chartres, and 
offered them one by one to God ; and then an interior voice seemed 
to speak to him, and to tell him that some of these, and in particular 
M. Amelote, were destined for other spheres ot labour. From that 
moment his course was clear before him. 

By this time the community was entirely broken up, and its mem- 
bers were living separately at Paris. M. Olier, encouraged by the 
heavenly vision, would have re-assembled them for the purpose of 
laying the foundations of a future seminary, but the failure at Char- 
tres withheld them from making a similar attempt, and especially 
in a mere village like Vaugirard. Besides, they had not recovered 
sufficient confidence in M. Olier since his state of trial, and were 
less disposed than ever to listen to his counsels. The result, there- 
fore, was that, with the exception of M. de Foix and M. du Ferrier, 
all his old associates withdrew from him, some accompanying M. 
Amelote, who, while at Chartres, had resolved on quitting the society, 
to Rouen, where he had been invited to take part in a great mission 
given by Pbre Eudes. M. Olier, however, nothing disheartened, lost 
no time in procuring a house at Vaugirard, near the parish church, 
and then prepared to enter on his new mode of life by a second 
retreat at Notre Dame des Vertus, where he had received so many 
favours. It was a peculiar satisfaction both to himself and to his 
two associates that their future residence should be in a place especi- 
ally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin ; the church also possessed a 
miraculous imaget of his beloved Patroness, before which it was his 
daily habit to pray, and he never left the sacred building without 
first saying an Ave Maria at its feet. 

With such expedition were all the arrangements completed that 
they were able to take posssession of their new abode in the begin- 
ning of January, 1642. It was a mean-looking building, so small and 

* St. John xvii. 10. 

+ This image was broken to pieces at the Revolution, and local tradition avers 
that the perpetrator of the sacrilege received a wound in the arm from a splinter 
of the wood, which long remained unhealed. 


His Directors. 


inconvenient that, to make room for the ecclesiastics whom they 
hoped to receive, it was necessary to partition off a few cells in an 
adjoining dovecot, and even the best apartment in the house scarcely 
deserved the name. They were but three in number, of whom M. 
de Foix was regarded as the head, M. Picot^, who was engaged at 
the establishment of the Sisters of the Cross, not being in a condition 
to join thern ; and, as they had exhausted their private resources in 
the expenses incurred at Chartres, they were obliged to practise the 
strictest economy. They had no servant, but performed all the 
offices of the house with their own hands, while for their daily meals 
they were dependent on the charity of Mme. de Villeneuve, who (as 
we find from M. du Ferrier) used to send them soup and bouilli in 
a little tureen for their dinner and a few slices of roast mutton for 
their supper. Their occupations consisted in prayer, the reading of 
Holy Scripture, and study ; they recited the collect of the Blessed 
Sacrament at the beginning of every conference, and even a portion 
of the time set apart for recreation was spent in adoration before the 
Tabernacle. Thus they waited, ignorant of God's intentions, but 
assured that He had special designs regarding them and prepared 
simply to fulfil them, whatever they might be. 

Nor was it long before God made known His will. Since the 
death of P. de Condren they had had (properly speaking) no director; 
but, a few days after taking up their abode at Vaugirard, they placed 
themselves under the spiritual guidance of one who has been already 
mentioned, Dom Gr^goire Tarrisse, Superior-General of the Bene- 
dictines of St. Maur. He was a man of extraordinary virtue and 
sagacity, and, as such, was held in the highest esteem by som^ of 
the greatest personages in France. Though indifferent to all merely 
humai interests, it was under his auspices that the Abbey of St. 
Germain-des-Prds became celebrated for the many learned and 
accomplished writers who in the several departments of literature, 
science, and art exercised so powerful an influence in their day. 
And here, with M. Olier, we cannot but admire the watchful care 
which the good Providence of God exercises over those who simply 
surrender themselves into His keeping. When first he devoted him- 
self to works of active charity he was given for his director St. 
Vincent de Paul, Superior of the Priests of the Mission; then, 
when the time arrived that he should be more deeply instructed in 
all that concerned the interior life, he became a pupil in the school 
of P. de Condren, who, perhaps, of all men living had the pro- 




Life of M. Oh'er. 





roundest knowledge of spiritual things; and now, when God would 
draw him nearer to Himself and admit him to the sweetest caresses 
of His love, he was favoured with the intimate friendship of this 
holy Benedictine, who was a very model of prayer, mortification, 
and detachment from the world. For his own particular director 
he had another eminent Benedictine, P. Bataille, Procurator-General 
of the Order, of whom he says that he possessed greater lights for 
the regulation both of the interior and the exterior life, and a more 
decided gift for advancing souls in the ways of perfection, than any 
one he knew. 

In his Memoires M. Olier frequently adores the wonderful Provi- 
dence of God in having brought him and his two associates into 
such close relations with the very men whose influence and protec- 
tion were to prove of the utmost importance to them in the work 
they were chosen to accomplish, though as yet they knew it not, — 
the reformation of the parish of St. Sulpice and the erection of the 
Seminary which was to bear its name. The state of that parish was 
a subject of poignant affliction to Dom Gr^goire, and the more so 
because, endeavour as he might, he was unable to apply an effectual 
remedy to the frightful scandals which he beheld around him ; while 
P. Bataille was so penetrated with a sense of the outrages which day 
and night were being perpetrated against the Divine Majesty that 
he had offered himself as a victim, even to blood, if God required 
the sacrifice, in reparation of the evil and for its utter extirpation. 
This devoted servant of God had originally made his religious 
profession in the Cistercian house at Cluny, but had been attracted 
to St. Germain's by the great reform of St. Maur, and there he 
remained until he had witnessed the marvellous transformation 
which was effected in the parish and the firm establishment therein 
of the Seminary which was to be the source of infinite blessings to 
France, when he left the Benedictine community and returned to 
his former Order ; as though (to adopt M. Faillon's words) his 
mission at St. Germain's had been fulfilled and nothing further 
remained for him to do. P. Tarrisse, again, departed this life as 
soon as these great works were accomplished and before the con- 
struction of the Seminary had even been commenced. To these 
men M. Olier was mainly indebted, under God, for the success 
with which he was enabled to communicate to others the spirit with 
which he was himself animated, and to surmount the formidable 
obstacles which his zeal encountered. Indeed, it would seem that 

His state of union with God. 


eighteen months before, when his state of humiliation was at its 
lowest, and he appeared to be abandoned by all, he received a divine 
intimation that to Dom Grdgoire Tarrisse and Dom Hugues Bataille 
he was to look for guidance and support. How it came about that 
he and his associates were led to communicate to these religious 
cheir design of founding a seminary we are not told, but they were 
no sooner made acquainted with it than they exhorted them to 
persevere, assuring them, with a confidence which only the Spirit of 
God could have imparted, that they were called to do a work which 
would be of the greatest service to the Church ; and in this they 
were seconded by St. Vincent de Paul and the celebrated Jesuits, 
PP. Hayneuve and Saint-Jure. 

But that which most clearly marked the Divine approbation was 
the marvellous change which was produced in M. OUer himself. 
From the moment of his arrival at Vaugirard, not only was he 
entirely delivered from his alflicting trials, but he was visited with 
the most consoling proofs of God's love. He experienced that 
blessed and utterly supernatural effect of Christ's indwelling pre- 
sence which is accorded only to a few most favoured souls — pre- 
pared for so transcendent a boon by first passing through a state of 
extraordinary humiliation — and of which St. Paul speaks, when he 
says, ^^ I live, now not /, but Christ liveth in me."* In M. Olier 
these words were literally fulfilled. His soul, nay, his very body, 
became the sensible habitation and organ of Jesus Christ moving in 
him and operating by him ; so that he no longer spoke or acted as 
of himself, but only with the concurrence and by the disposal of 
Him who lived within him. His state, as he describes it, was now 
the precise opposite of what it had been in the time of suffering. 
He felt the presence of the Spirit that ruled him in the exercise of 
all his natural powers and faculties; not only in his speech and 
general bearing, but in his very gait and each particular gesture ; so 
that they who beheld him were astonished at the composed, self- 
possessed demeanour of one whose movements had always displayed 
a certain precipitancy and absence of control. M. Tronson, in the 
work entitled L' Esprit de M. Olier, thus writes: "The Spirit of 
our Lord rendered Itself such absolute master of his heart, and 
took such complete possession of his soul and all his faculties, that 
It no longer permitted him the slightest movement save in depend- 

• Gal. ii. 20. 

^-^•v^-'Wif^ Rr7r«''WF»'3^w "ww^r- 





Life of M, Olier. 

\ ■ \ 

\ \ 


ence on Itself and with Its concurrence. It showed Itself in his 
very eyes, his tongue, his hands, making him act, or preventing him 
from acting, according to Its pleasure." The Spirit of Jesus was the 
soul of his soul, and the informing, animating principle of his whole 
life. If he set himself to write, It dictated his words and seemed 
even to guide his pen. And this presence and influence was abiding 
and continual. "If I leave It (he writes), It immediately follows 
me, and again takes possession of me the instant I give myself to It, 
whether at home or abroad, in action or in repose ; whether alone 
or with others this Divine Spirit is with me everywhere." * 

He experienced the same marvellous change also in his mental 
powers and supernatural gifts. Instead of the darkness and con- 
fusion in which his soul had been involved, it was now filled with 
light ; his thoughts were clear and distinct, his tongue unloosed ; 
that distressing dryness from which he had suffered so much was 
succeeded by an influx of the sweetest spiritual joy, and his mind, no 
longer occupied with its own miseries, was able to raise itself to God 
with the utmost facility and the liveliest affection. " I remember," 
he writes, " that during my trials one consoling thought occurred to 
me, that if God should deign to make use of me in His service — an 
event of which I had no expectation — at least it would be plain Who 
was the agent My state of abandonment taught me that whatever 
good we possess is from God alone, and that the absence of it is all 
that is our own. What I now possess is not my own property, it 
does not belong to my soul ; it is a grace, a mercy, for which I did 
not look, and of which I am utterly unworthy. Then I was wholly 
without direction, whether interior or, I might almost say, exterior ; 
now the goodness of God gives me all the counsel I can desire. If 
two things presented themselves for me to do I had no power of 
deciding, there was nothing to determine my choice ; now I am 
scarcely ever at a loss. I am guided interiorly like a child tended 
by a father of consummate wisdom and perfect goodness. This 
takes place in the depth of my soul by a divine operation inexpres- 
sibly delicate, and which the devil cannot counterfeit. Sometimes 

* This statement lias nothing in common with the doctrine of the false mystics, 
as if it were meant that the soul, in such a state of union, loses its liberty of action, 
and consequently can no longer sin, even venially, and is incapable of falling from 
grace. In the case of M. Olier himself the extraordinary aids of the Holy Spirit, 
although habitual, were not always available, and were sometimes suddenly with- 
drawn. The true Catholic doctrine will be found explained at length in the 
Catechisme Spirituel of P. Surin, Part I, chap. iii. 


His vow of servitude. 


it is a movement, sometimes a voiceless word, making itself heard 
more distinctly than any utterance. For God, who is the Word, 
renders Himself more sensible to our souls than man can do by 
articulate speech. O Divine Substance, who art word, light, power, 
love, O Divine Being, be Thou praised, exalted, and blessed for 
ever ! " 

This supernatural assistance of the Holy Spirit became more con- 
stant from the day on which he made himself by solemn vow the 
servant of Jesus Christ, abandoning himself without recall to be at 
His entire disposal, with an utter dependence on His Spirit in mind 
and body, even to the smallest things. The first time he felt a 
desire to take this servitude upon him was during his state of suffer- 
ing, and especially within the octave of the Epiphany, 1641, three 
days after the death of P. de Condren, who had made the same 
vow, although M. Olier was not aware of the fact. His confessor, 
however, had advised him to wait a year, and it was not until the 
January of 1642, shortly after his arrival at Vaugirard, and on the very 
day on which he and his associates took P. Tarrisse for their spiritual 
guide, that he made the irrevocable engagement " From the 
moment I made this vow," he writes, " I have been able neither to 
speak nor even to think of God save in dependence on the Spirit of 
my Master, who possesses me and applies my soul to what He wills. 
Heretofore I believed such a state of subjection well-nigli impossible. 
It is the Spirit of my Master alone which now enables me to practise 
it, and, although this dependence is universal and unceasing, it is 
nevertheless full of peace and sweetness. This, indeed, is a true 
characteristic of the Spirit of God, which, great as It is, accommodates 
Itself to things so mean as the guidance of a vile and miserable 
sinner. The vow of servitude to the Spirit of Jesus demands like- 
wise an absolute confidence and an abandonment without reserve 
into the hands of this blessed and faithful Master, who is all-wise, 
all-powerful, all-good, and who by His perfections supplies for our 
blindness, our weakness, and our self-love, which too often, alas ! 
are the directors we consult. . . . Blessed are the rebuffs which pro- 
duce such sweet caresses! If the world knew how sweet His 
service is, if it only knew Him, all would follow after Him. O 
my good Master, make Thyself known and loved ; make others 
taste how sweet and lovable Thou art" 

Such were the extraordinary ways by which it pleased the Holy 
Spirit to lead this favoured soul. God, who desired to pour down 


Life of M. Olier, 




S I 


upon him the ahundance of His graces, would liave him on his part set 
no bounds to his generosity and devotion. He had chosen him for 
the high office of sanctifying tliose who were called to minister at 
His altars, and it was His will that he should have experience of the 
extraordinary operations of His love, in order that he might be able 
to bring otliers, each according to the measure of his grace, to a 
state of union with His dear Son, albeit after a simpler and more 
common manner. 

The " three Solitaries of Vaugirard " (as they were called), never 
for a moment doubting the designs of God, had no sooner entered 
their retreat than they proceeded to consecrate themselves to His 
service and form themselves into a community. As the end which 
they proposed to themselves was to promote the glory of the Most 
Holy Trinity by means of the sacerdotal order, they desired to take 
as their only bond of union the ineffable love of the Three Divine 
Persons. In this they followed the counsels of P. de Condren, who 
had forbidden their binding themselves by any vow. In furtherance 
of their design they resolved to go together on a pilgrimage to 
Montmartre, and there solemnly consecrate themselves to the work 
to which they believed they had been called. The form of consecra- 
tion, which was approved by P. Bataille, ran thus : " Three priests, 
feeling themselves called in the unity of the Spirit to the service of 
God and His Holy Church, to form for Him ministers who may 
worthily promote His glory, honour His Son Jesus Christ, and love 
His members, have resolved, in honour of the Divine Society of the 
Three Persons, indivisible by the unity of Their essence and Their 
holy love, n bind themselves by a sacred promise never to abandon 
or to depart from the design which it has pleased God to manifest 
to them and even to confirm by numerous signs. If any one among 
them should deem himself called by the goodness of God to serve 
Him apart from the others, he shall be free to do so only with their 
mutual agreement and consent. This it is which they desire to 
promise, in the presence of the three martyrs, St. Denis, St. Rusticus, 
and St. Eleutherius, devoting and consecrating themselves, after the 
pattern of the same blessed martyrs, as living victims, to the honour 
of the Most Holy Trinity, the glory of Jesus Christ, and the exalta- 
tion of His Church." 

It had been the constant prayer of M. Bourdoise that three priests 
might be given to the Church who, in honour of the Three Divine 
Persons, would unite to raise the sacerdotal order, in France from 

M. Doiirdoise visits Vaitgirard. 


the degradation into which it had sunk ; and now, unknown to him- 
self, his prayer had been fulfilled. Hearing, therefore, that M. Olier 
and his two friends had established themselves at Vaugirard, he 
wrote to them in the following terms : ** Oh, that God would give 
us three faithful men whose sole aim it should be to do His will, and 
in His own way 1 Oh, that there were found three priests so filled 
with love for the Church as to be willing to trust her in all those 
rules which have been dictated to her by the Holy Ghost, and to 
espouse her cause against the world and all its customs j three priests 
who, when the rules of the Church are put before them, will not 
reply, ' This is not the custom ; we do otherwise. What would 
people say ? — they would laugh at us. Let us leave things as we 
find them ; we are not wiser than those who have gone before us.' " 
And then from that narrow house at Vaugirard there came a reply 
after his own heart : " Come here, and you will find three such 
priests as you are looking for, if only you will teach them the things 
which the Holy Church has ruled. Nor custom nor aught else 
shall prevent those rules being faithfully obeyed, with the help of 
God's grace, which we entreat you to ask Him to give us." 

Accordingly, M. Bourdoise went to see his friends at Vaugirard, 
and many, doubtless, were the pious witticisms in which he indulged 
relative to the dovecot and its expected occupants, as he shared the 
contents of Madame de Villeneuve's little tureen. The house and 
all its arrangements — no servants and an empty larder — with a 
plenteous allowance of prayer and meditation, must have been 
thoroughly to his taste. Good advice, too, we may be assured, was 
liberally bestowed, and that in the plainest and often not the most 
complimentary terms. " We admired the dealings of God with him," 
says M. du Ferrier, " in that off-hand bluffness which was natural to 
him, but we tried to conduct ourselves with a little more graciousness 
of manner." M. Bourdoise, however, was a thoroughly practical man, 
and the three weeks he spent with his friends were employed in 
giving them instructions in all that concerned the ecclesiastical 
regimen, down to the smallest minutiae of chants, rubrics, and cere- 
monies, with explicit directions as to their personal attire, the wearing 
of their hair, and their demeanour and conversation generally. His 
opinion was that they should occupy themselves very little with the 
spiritual direction of women, but apply their whole energies to the 
forming of ecclesiastics. His zeal and his firmnes continued to be 
of the utmost service to the young associates ; he put into their 


' « 

\ ■! 

K h 


Life of M. Olier. 

hands from time to time certain manuscript treatises which he had 
composed for the use of priests living in community, and never 
ceased to testify towards them on all occasions the sincerest friend- 
ship and esteem. 

But the person from whom they received the greatest assistance 
and support was Marie Rousseau, to whose prayers and lights they 
had never ceased to have recourse in all their doubts and discourage- 
ments. " This poor woman," writes M. Olier, '• though of low 
extraction, and of a condition in life which it is almost a disgrace 
to name, is nevertheless become the adviser of persons the most 
illustrious by birth "nd rank, and the guide of souls the most exalted 
in virtue. Even princesses have recourse to her counsels, and 
recommend their most important affairs to her prayers. The 
Duchesse d'Orldans, the Princesse de Cond^, the Duchesses d'Aiguil- 
lon and d'Elbeuf, the Mardchale de la Chatre, and many others 
count it an honour to visit her ; indeed, I have known a lady of the 
highest rank afraid of even going into her presence. Souls the most 
advanced in the ways of God seek lessons of perfection from her 
lips ; men *" the most Apostolic spirit go to consult her before 
entering ou any enterprise which they have in contemplation. P. 
Eudes, that famous preacher, the wonder of our age \ P. de Condren, 
General of the Oratory ; Mile. Manse, raised up by God to lend her 
fostering care to the infant Church of Canada ; M. le Royer de la 
Dauversibre, to whom that Church owed its first establishment ; M. 
du Coudray, devoted to the missions of the Levant and the defence 
of Christendom against the Turks ; Dom Jacques, the Carthusian, 
the bold rebuker of vice in the wealthy and the powerful, — when 
these, and so many others of the most zealous servants of God who 
at this day adorn the Church of France — statesmen and magistrates, 
including the Chancellor Siguier — are to be seen seeking counsel of 
this wise and holy woman, we might think we beheld the ' Virgin 
most prudent ' once more directing the Church of her Divine Son 
and guiding His Apostles after His Ascension into heaven. Such 
is the influence she exerts over the hearts of men that in a moment 
they are completely changed ; there is none so holy but in convers- 
ing with her he derives fresh courage for God's service and the 
salvation of his neighbour ; persons the most eminent for their 
sanctity have experienced the most surprising effects ; and all from 
a few simple, common words. When consulted, her replies are 
short ; she never enters into her reasons for the advice she gives ; 

The change wrought in him. 


she does but say, ' God would have you do this or that.' Sometimes 
she gives advice contrary to that of men most enlightened with the 
wisdom of God, without being able to explain the reasons for her 
replies, and mature consideration has invariably brought them to 
acquiesce in her judgment. In her would seem to be visibly dis- 
played the absolute power of God ; she has but to speak, and at a 
word all that she ask or wishes is done ; and that without any of 
those exterior advantages of appearance, address, or manner by 
which such influence is usually accompanied." 

This holy woman had abstained, in obedient to her director, P. 
Bataille, from disclosing to the disciples of P. de Condren the lights 
she had received in prayer as to God's designs regarding them. 
But the subject was never absent from her thoughts ; it was the one 
absorbing interest of her life, and she was always labouring to pro- 
mote it. As we have said, she had been among the very few who 
retained their high esteem for M. Olier at the time he was con- 
temned by all the world ; and when, after his retirement to Vaugirard, 
God restored to him all his former powers, she never rested until 
she had disabused the minds of his late associates and once more 
collected them about him. She sought out each singly, and urged 
him to go and judge for himself whether the Abbd Olier were such 
as he had come to regard him. Several accordingly went, and when 
they saw and heard him they could not disguise their astonishment. 
It was but a few weeks ago that they had seen him stand dum- 
founded in the pulpit when desired to address the people, and now 
they heard him expounding the mysteries of the faith in language so 
sublime, and with so much authority and command, that it was 
with difficulty they recognized him as the same person, saying one 
to another, *' Oh, what a change is here ! the hand of the Most High 
is manifest; never man spake more eloquently of the things of 
God 1 " Those among them especially who had been disciples of P. 
de Condren seemed to find again in this lately despised priest the 
lights, the wisdom, and the virtues of their holy master, and they 
could not refrain from loudly testifying their astonishment and 
delight even to M. Olier himself. *' I am confounded," he writes, 
*' when I think of it : that I, a vile worm of the earth, so mean and 
despicable that I wonder I dare make my appearance before the 
world, should be listened to with surprise and admiration by those 
to whom but yesterday I was the object of contempt and ridicule 
But well may they be surprised, for I am amazed at myself, knowing 


Life of M. Oiier. 

as I do my ignorance and dulness, and so long assured as I have 
been, in the mercy of God, of my own blindness and utter nothing- 
ness. And yet it is true I have no difficulties on any subject ; on 
the contrary, I receive the clearest lights respecting truths of which 
I had never so much as heard, and of which the greatest theologians 
amongst us are astonished they should have remained in ignor- 
ance, in spite of all their science. It is now that I behold 
accomplished the promise of the deceased Father-General, that I 
should be one of the inheritors of his spirit. I cannot doubt it : 
things which I heard him formerly say, and which at the time I was 
incapable of comprehending, are now laid open before me with a 
clearness exceeding the brightness of the sun." 

Providence, too, in a marvellous way gave Its approval to the new 
institution ; and that so notably, that men were constrained to 
confess that God was there. Every day M. Olier saw visibly 
fulfilled before his eyes the intimation conveyed in those words 
which had been so forcibly presented to his mind during his retreat 
at Notre Dame des Vertus : " J/m omnia tua sunt^ et tua mea sutit" 
His tongue seemed to possess a wonderfully persuasive power; nay, 
lie no sooner even wished a thing than it was done. Conferring one 
day with his colleagues — and it was the first time that the subject 
had been mooted — on the need they had of a practical man of 
business who could transact their temporal affairs for them, at the 
very moment he was speaking, there came a rap at the door, and he 
beheld standing before him the very person whose help they needed, 
who had come to oflTer himself to the community, to assist them in 
any way they might require. "I declare," he says, "that never in 
my life was I more confounded or more amazed at the goodness of 
God than at that moment. I could not restrain my tears, and in 
spirit annihilated myself before the Divine mercy." Then, too, 
began to be realized those other words which had risen to his lips 
when he had beheld in vision the Eternal Father : " Qui regis Israel, 
intende; qui deducis veiut ovem Joseph " All the tenderest care and 
nurture which a parent could bestow upon his children was sensibly 
lavished upon him and his associates; their wants were supplied 
with a bountifulness and a loving solicitude which was even in 
advance and in excess of their requests or desires. All things 
seemed to work together for their good ; the services they received 
from others, so far from being rendered grudgingly and as of con- 
straint, were offered from a motive of charity and out of the abun- 


Af. de Biissancourt. 


(lance of the heart ; and they who lately had held aloof from him 
now seemed to find their satisfaction in heajjiiv,' kindnesses upon 
him. His father had left a lawsuit on his hands, which (as usual in 
such matters) appeared interminable. His opponents had refused 
all accommodation, when one clay, to his surprise, thty begi^cd him 
to forego further proceedings, and yielded all his demands. 

Gradually also new members began to offer themselves to the little 
community. How one of these was gained we learn from M. Olier 
himself. They had need of an accomplished theologian, and the 
matter had been made the subject of their united prayers. Now, it 
happened one day when he and M. de Foix were on their way back 
from Paris, that they met an ecclesiastic of high repute for his theo- 
logical science, who had been to see them at Vaugirard, and was 
returning. M. Olier, in his humility, stepped a little aside, to allow 
M. de Foix (who at that time was superior) to speak to one whom 
he knew to be a person of no ordinary ability. Hut M. de Foix 
obliged him to come forward, and, against his will, M. Olier found 
himself drawn little by little into the conversation. Then, abandon- 
ing himself (as he says) to the Spirit who ruled him, and speaking 
the words that were put into his mouth, he gave utterance to thoughts 
so high and holy, and expressed himself with so much energy and 
command, that the ecclesiastic was moved in an extraordinary way. 
M. de Foix himself was equally astonished at his companion's elo- 
quence and at the effect it produced. Indeed, as M. Olier avers, 
no one was more surprised than himself ; but, he adds, " the Divine 
Spirit hides Himself in what is meanest and most abject, to show 
that the creature has no part in His works, seeing that He operates 
them by instruments so incompetent and so contemptible." The 
result was that the ecclesiastic in question, whose name is not men- 
tioned, but who proved to be the very person of whom they stood 
most in need, joined the community, and for several years taught 
theology and philosophy to the inmates of the Seminary. 

About this time also the attractions of the same marvellous grace 
drew to the community another ecclesiastic who, though not possessed 
of equal theological science, was remarkably well versed in the 
Sacred Scriptures, and had an extensive and accurate knowledge of 
all that related to the duties of the ministry. This was M. de 
Bassancourt, already known to the reader as one of M. Olier's early 
associates, and a man of considerable powers. After the dissolution 
of the community of Chartres he had accompanied M. Amelote on 


! « 





Z^/^ ^il/. (9//^n 

his mission into Normandy, and on his return to Paris lost no time 
in paying his friends a visit at Vaugirard. They had felt the want 
of him, at least they had a great wish that he should join them — for 
(says M. Olier) '* we wanted only God " — but they had small hope 
cf winning him, knowing how strongly he was attached to M. Amelote. 
Nothing, indeed, was furthe. from his own thoughts. He went to 
see them simply for old affection's sake, and almost for the amuse- 
ment of the thing, and began by rallying them in a good-natured, 
humorous way on the wonderful reform they were about to effect in 
the clergy, settled down as they were, like so many hermits, in that 
obscure little village. But after he had listened a while to M. Olier 
his manner completely changed, and he said, " My friends, I am 
convinced that I shall be more sure of finding our Blessed Lord 
among you than in my mother's house. No, it is not among their 
relatives that ecclesiastics are visited by His Spirit My choice is 
made ; I pray you give me a ceil, and let me stay with you." Then, 
aware that the house was full and seeing the dovecot at the back, he 
begged them to let him occupy it. " You may do as you please," 
he said in his usual lively manner, ** but go back to my mother I 
declare I will not : I sleep here to-night." They took him at his 
word, called a conference immediately, and then they told him he was 
their friend, their brother, and they could not deny him a request 
made with such a grace. 

This resolution on the part of M. de Bassancourt created much 
sensation at Paris, where his family were held in high consideration, 
but the public attention was even more arrested by what next followed. 
M. A-melote himself paid a visit to Vaugirard and desired to be 
admitted into the community. This was the < ccasion of much 
embarrassment to M. Olier and his colleagues. On the one hand 
they were reluctant to exclude an old associate of whose virtues and 
abilities they had so intimate a knowledge, but, on the other, they 
were convinced, from what both M. d'A Ferrier and M. Meyster had 
said, that he did not possess the requisite vocation. Such, therefore, 
was the answer they returned. M. Amelote, however, was not so 
easily repelled, and renewed his solicitations with redoubled vigour, 
pressing his suit more particularly on M. Olier, who (as we shall see) 
shortly became superior. There was no one for whom the servant 
of God entertained a warmer admiration, nor had the words of P. de 
Condren lost any of their effect with him, when, on occasion of his 
appearing to him after his death, he told him that M. Amelote was 


< ^ I* l> M 

ii\ i r i !<■ A' i 

M. de Sainte-Marie. 


one of the two persons whom together with himself he had left 
inheritors of his spirit. But neither had he forgotten that interior 
voice which, in his retreat at Notre Dame des Vertus, had assured 
him that this ecclesiastic was destined to serve God elsewhere. 
Nothing, therefore, could shake hi- resolution. M. de Bassancourt 
was most urgent in his friend's behalf, offering to endow the seminary 
with an income of 4,000 livres if he were received among them. 
Mme. de Brienne, also, wife of the statesman of that name and one 
of M. Amelote's penitents, persevered for three years in repeating the 
same request, even engaging the Queen Regent to use her influence 
in the matter ; but all to no purpose. M. Olier was willing to endure 
any amount of obloquy rather than go against what he believed to 
be the will of Cod ; and, in fact, his refusal to receive an ecclesiastic 
of such undoubted merit was made the subject of many injurious 
remarks, certain ill-natured persons not scrupling to aver that it was 
founded on a jealous fear of having a rival in the community. M. 
Olier held his peace, never disclosing to any one except to his 
director, and that under obedience, the motives which determined 
him in his opposition ; for he could not have done so without at the 
same time making known the divine illuminations with which he had 
been favoured. His conduct was justified by the event. The 
institution in which M. Amelote was called to labour for the glory 
of God was that of the Oratory, which he entered eight years later, 
and where he contributed more than any one to uphold the doctrines 
of the Church against the pestilential errors with which, unhappily, 
the greater part of that Congregation became infected. At the 
request of the French clergy, he published a version of the New 
Testament in opposition to that of Mons, 100,000 copies of which 
were distributed by the order of Louis XIV. He also composed 
several treatises against the Jansenisiic heresy ; among others a 
Defence of the Apostolical Constitutions, and a Treatise on Grace, in 
support of the condemnation of the five propositions. His attach- 
ment to the faith and the persecutions he underwent in its defence 
endeared him still more to M. Olier, with whom, and with the com- 
munity generally, he continued till the day of his death bound in the 
closest ties of friendship.* 

M. de Bassancourt was followed by M. Houmain, more commonly 
known as M. de Sainte-Marie from the name of his priory, an ecclesi- 

* M. Amelote wrote a Life of Pere de Condren anu also of Sceur Marguerite 
du Saint-Sacrement. 

,PI»llJl»,"A'*,*|,WiW!-"*WillW'"''*W'''WvP'^"''F-^W ' HWfWJWIPf ',!WW! 


Life of M. Olier. 

astic of great merit and talents. He was of a good family, and 
being of a delicate constitution, had been so daintily nurtured that 
before joining M. Olier in the missions he was afraid of the slightest 
exposure to cold or damp. His room was matted and carpeted, 
and furnished with double hangings of cloth and paper. But no 
sooner had he embraced the laborious life to which God had called 
him than his health seemed to undergo a complete transforma'.ion ; 
he slept on the ground like the rest, and bade adieu for ever to all 
his self-indulgent ways. He had been a witness of the humiliations 
which M. Olier had endured during his time of trial, and on visiting 
him at Vaugirard, he was so moved by his words that he resolved 
not to leave him. 

( 141 ) 



J HE three prieslrt had been but a short time at Vaugirard when 
Cardinal de Richelieu, hearing of the new establishment 
surmising that its originators, with whose merits and — what 
was of no smrll importance in his eyes — wjipse high connections he 
was well acquainted, were among those to whom P. de Condren had 
alluded in conversation as destined to vender great services to the 
Church, sent his niece, the iJuchesse d'Aiguillon, to pay them a 
visit in his name. He had it in contemplation to lay the foundations 
of a general Episcopal seminary, and in his own mind had fixed 
upon M. Olier and his associates as the men whom he wished to 
employ in the execution of his plans. He commissioned his niece, 
therefore, to express to them his regret that they should be so ill 
accommodated In tneir present dwelling, and to offer them his own 
chateau of Ruel, where they should be at liberty to live in as com- 
plete retirement as they pleased ; engaging at the same time to assist 
their undertaking with alj his nersoiiaj influence and the whole 
weight of the royal 4Ui|ionty. So gracious an offer was received 
with all the respect attd gratitude it deserved, and, had they not 
been resolved to rest on no other support but that of Cod alone, they 
might have recognized in this proposal of the great statcoman a 
providential dispensation in their favour. But they desired to have 
no human patron, and begged the Duchess to represent with all 
humility to the Cardinal that, having fixed upon the village of 
Vaugirard as the place where they could insure the greatest seclu- 
sion, they should find it difficult to follow their vocation in the 
house of a prime minister ; and that the meanness of their dwelling 
rendered it only the more suiubie to their purpose. 

I -a 



Life of M. Olier. 

The Cardinal, far from manifesting displeasure at such a replj/j^ 
sought only how to give them further proofs of his confidence and 
respect, particularly in regard to M. Olier, who was now (liejr riiPOl' 
nized head At first, as was said, M. de Foix had a( tet| rts Bl(|/6fjf?f 
of the little community, but he soon insisted on resignifif^i Ms rj/fif^e, 
and M. Olier, on whom God had plainly -"at the seal of IJis apjjiuvfll, 
was with one voice elected in his room. The credit .vhi<;h IiIm v\\W 
duct in this matter had gained him at Court, and the eHtliiiollon Itt 
which he was held by the powerful minister, attracted public ndentlon 
to him and his associates, and miiny young ecclesiastics of merit 
were led to join them. The first to be received al Viiii|^iiiinl were 
M. Louis-Henri de Pardaillan de Gondrin, then in his twenty-third 

• In the Mhnoires of M. du Ferrier we have an anecdote of this great man 
which may surprise those who know him only as the astute politician or iron- 
handed statesman. M. Meyster, after paying a visit to his friends at Vaugirard, 
went to see the Cardinal, who for several years had desired to couvei~e with so 
eminent a missionary. On this occasion he oftered M. Meyster more than a 
million livres for the use of the missions, and, to his astonishment, met with a 
decided refusal. A circumstance so unexpected deeply moved him, and even 
filled him with alarm. "But, Monsieur," he said, "has God revealed to you 
that I am reprobate, and that He will not accept anything at my hands ? Tell me, 
I pray you, do you think that I cannot be saved in the position I occupy ? " " My 
lord," replied M. Mieyster, "we have spoken on the subject several times with P. 
de Condren." "And what conclusion did you come to?" asked the Cardinal. 
" We were agreed," was the reply, " that you had at your command one means of 
making sure your salvation, and that ""is the power of upholding the rights of the 
Churcli and procuring the nomination of good men to bishoprics." " I declare 
to you," said the Cardinal, " that I am so entirely of this sentiment that I never 
dream of selecting any but the most worthy and most capable men, without regard 
to the solicitations or the services of relatives. I know of how momentous a 
nature the matter is, and am convinced that a man would incur damnation who 
should nominate to a benefice out of consideration for friends, or on account of 
services rendered by relatives, as much as if he were to sell it to the highest 
bidder." And, in fact, to this great minister was due the alteration that was 
made in the briefs of nomination to bishoprics and abbeys. He cancelled the 
fallowing wore J which before had been inserted ; ** Et pour reconnattre les bans 
et agrJables set-vices rendus — And in acknowledgment of good and acceptable 
services rendered," 

Truth, however, compels us to add that, notwithstanding this protestation, the 
Cardinal had taken care to provide himself with the abbeys of Citeaux and Cluny, 
and nearly nil the great abbeys of France ; and thai, in direct violation of the 
decrees of the Council of Trent, which had forbidden that any of the principal 
abbeys of an Order should be held in commendam (Comte de Montalembert : — 
Les Moines d" Occident; Introduction^ p. clxvi.) It may be that he considered 
himself un exception lo the rule, as being " the most worthy and most capable " 
man in the kingdom. 

Donation of M. Rochefort, 


year, who two years later was promoted to the Coadjutorship of 
Sens,* ard M. Gabriel de Thubiferes de Queylus (or Caylus), Abb^ 
of Loc-Dieu, who was afterwards one of M. Olier's most distinguished 
colleagues. These were followed by M. Pierre de la Chassaigne, 
Provost of the Chapter of Brioude, who entered the Society early 
in the year 1642. The next was one of whom we shall have fre- 
/|iient mention in this memoir, M. Antoine Raguier de Poussd. He 
was the intimate friend of M. de Gondrin, and the account which the 
latter gave of the sanctity of M. Olier and his great spiritual discern- 
r",ent inspired him with a strong desire to see so extraordinary a 
man. Accordingly, he went to Vaugirard, and a few minutes' con- 
versation with the servant of God sufificed to lead him to beg with 
all earnestness to be admitted among his disciples. To these 
were soon added M. d'Hurtevent, who died Superior of the Seminary 
of St. Iren^e at Lyons, M. de Cambiac, brother of M. du Ferrier, 
and several others. All these bad concluded their studies in letters 
and philosophy, and had arrived at an age which enabled the 
directors to judge of their vocation : such being the express condi- 
tions which P. de Condren had prescribed in the instructions which 
he gave to M. du Ferrier before he died. 

The community, which had consisted at first of only three indivi- 
duals, now numbered twenty f members, but the Providence of God 
had not failed to provide them with an adequate dwelling. Indeed, 
in nothing was the munificence of the Master whom they served 
more conspicuously displayed than in what occurred in this matter 
of a habitation. M. Olier and his associates were not destined to be 
long confined to the narrow and incommodious building which they 
had chosen on first coming to Vaup^irard. They had been but a few 
days in the village when M. Copin, the Cure, requested them to 
take charge of the parish for a fortnight during his absence in Paris ; 
an absence, however, which was prolonged to a space of nine 
months. This circumstance not only placed another house at their 
disposal, but was providentially so ordered as to afibrd them ample 
opportunity for giving the younger ecclesiastics a thorough, experi- 
mental knowledge of the duties of a parish priest, including preach- 

* Sad to relate, M. de Gondrin was dismissed from the Seminary, for reasons 
which will hereafter appear (P. iii, C. I.) and, on succeeding to the see of Sens, 
became an ardent supporter of the Jansenists. 

t Including, that is, M. du Ferrier, who acted as parish priest in the absence 
of the Cure, M. Copin, and M. Picote, who was still engaged in assisting Mme. 
de Villeneuve in the management of her institution. 




Life of M. Olier. 

! ' 

ing and catechising. Their ne> piece of good fortune was far more 
remarkable. Near to the churc stood a large house with an exten- 
sive garden, surrounded by a wall newly constructed. Finding that 
the tenant, who was an official in the royal stables, never resided in 
it, they proposed that he should sublet it to them. This, however, 
he declined to do, but insisted on their taking up their abode in it, 
all furnished as it was, merely stipulating that he should be permitted 
sometimes to come and say his rosary in the garden alleys. The 
house belonged to M. de Rochefort, Seigneur of Souplainville and 
Grand-Vicar of the Archbishop of Auch, where he resided ; and, as 
it was very commodious and in all respects suitable to a large com- 
munity, they made overtures to him for the purchase of it. But 
here again they were met with a refusal, the good man protesting he 
would not let them have it at any price, and begging them to accept 
it as a gift. This, however, they absolutely refused to do ; and, as 
he saw the uselessness of persisting, he affected acquiescence, and 
made over to them the house with all its appurtenances, which com- 
prised several '.cres of vineyard and meadow-land, for the nominal 
sum of two thousand crowns, the land alone being fully worth the 
price. And then, when they proceeded to pay the purchase money, 
he would not accept it, declaring that, as he had b' lueathed them 
the amount in his will, he preferred leaving it in their r;ands, with-CMit 
charging ihem interest.* 

They had now, therefore, 'wo ^*tablishments. S'^me of the 
rommunity remained at the presbyN /y for the discharge of parvthial 
duties, the rest took up the-: residence at th<p house of M. de Rocr-e- 
fort, where they conducted all their spiritual exercibes with tr« 
utmost regularity. 1 hey began, in fact, to put in practice the 

* On ihe iSth of March, "1643, M. Olier and M. de Foix bought the ^Kxue 
adjoining that of M. de Rochefort, but the contract of sale wm aot isoociuded 
with M. ie Rochefort himself till July 4th in the same /ear. Oti the 2mi of 
March, 1096, \ thiri tenement was added, and the three buffings, united siaim* 
quentlj? into J»e, foinied the Little Seminary of St. Sulpice until the year Vfff^ 
when it was occupied by a conrmmaity of poor scholars, called the Roberlins. 
In 1453 tbe lands were sold by M. Olier 10c 5,000 livres. At the Revolution the 
howe wa^ seized as national property, and iu part demolished. M. Emery, how- 
ever, who was thft ninth Superior of the Seminary of St. Sulpice, made great 
personal sacrifices » order to re-purchase it ; and there at this day may be seen 
ibe chamber occupsed iy M. Olier, now converted into a chapel, it subsequently 
became tbe property oi the Jesuit Fathers, who placed an inscription under the 
bust of M. '.Mier commemorative of his having there commenced the Seminary 
and Commanity of St. Sulpice. 

Opposition to his undertaking. 


; far more 
an exten- 
iding that 
esided in 
lode in it, 
ys. The 
iville and 
; and, as 
irge com- 
it. But 
esting he 
to accept 
; and, as 
mce, and 
lich corn- 
i^orth the 
c money, 
ed them 

, YftthOUt 

of the 

■ ith UJf 
:ticc the 

the >oage 
lie 2aci of 
ted ssitjse- 
^ear 1739^ 
•lution the 
lery, howr- 
lade great 
ly be seen 
under the 

principal tuV:6 which were afterwai .Is observed both at St. Sulpice 
and in the seminaries established in the provinces. Thus, every 
evening the seminarists were given their subjects for mental prayer, 
and every morning they spent an hour in making it. In the after- 
noon there was a conference on Holy Scripture, at which the 
directors, unless otherwise employed, were invariably present, a 
custom which continued to be loUowed at St. Sulpice. M. Olier 
was usually the principal expounder, and the profundity of his theolo- 
gical knowledge, together with the :irofound irrsight into the mean- 
ing of the Sacred Writings of which he now gave evidence, struck 
all who heard him with astonishment ; so that they who but lately 
had acted as his instructors voluntarily placed themselves in the 
ranks of his disciples. In ail this the humility of the servant of 
God became only the more apparent, while his rightful position as 
head of the community was more muisputauiy recognised. " My 
greatest joy," he wrote at the time, "is to see that every one is per- 
suaded that what I say is not of nnvself, but of God only. I rejoice 
thereat, and I rejoice the more in perceiving that of all that is done 
in our little community nothmg is ascribed to any one of us, but God 
alone is acknowledged as doing all things here. There is not one 
among us who can give th*; world occasion to say, ' He did this or 
that.' Blessed be God, wao would alone be glorified in His own 
work ! Sometimes I see my nothingness and that of the whole 
company in a light so fall and clear, I am so convinced of my 
incapacity and my powerlessness to do anything for God, that I feel 
as if all were lost, as if the whole society were going to ruin, because 
there is nothing in us which can enable us to endure a moment 
longer. These convictions of our nothingness, filling me with dis- 
trust of ourselves, make me iook to God as the only preserver of our 
society at every instant of irs existence." 

M. Olier had been forewarned as to the opposition which the new 
insatution would have to .ncounter, aird that to God alone must he 
look for succour and sun inert ; indeed, it might have been expected 
that an undertaking b^pua simply frcan supernatural motives and on 
supernatural grounr ild not command general confidence and 

-espect, even am. .... ^. .jd men. Why (it was said) abandon the 
held of missionary .atncmr, in wrhicli so much had incontestably been 
accomplished, i sake of an uncertain and speculative good 

which experience t«hi proved to be unattainable ? Many also who 
at first had e«mcsd a warm interest in the work disapproved of M. 



Life of M. Olier, 

Oiler's measures, and augured ill of its success. Others, who were 
admirers of his zeal and abilities, and had f^xpected great things from 
him, protested loudly against the infatuation which led him to bury 
his talents in retirement and obscurity. The Grand- Vicar of the 
Archbishop of Paris, when M. Olier paid him a visit, gravely pro- 
posed that he should establish himself at Rome, and there inaugurate 
an institution which should extend itself throughout the Church. 
"St. Peter and St. Paul," said he, "did not remain shut up in Judea, 
— they went to Rome ; and thither also ought you to go. Yes, I 
repeat it, you must go to Rome ; indeed you must. Now attend to 
what I have said." In such an address voice and manner are every- 
thing, and the reader will be at no loss to supply them. "This 
speech," says M. Olier, "surprised me not a little, as coming from 
such a person and delivered with so much assurance ; " but it had 
no other effect upon him. 

At the root, however, of all these objections and counter-suggestions 
lay the fact that every endeavour hitherto to found an ecclesiastical 
seminary in France had proved a failure. Eighty years had now 
elapsed since the Council of Trent enjoined the erection of semi- 
naries for the education of the clergy ; many provincial councils at 
different times had repeated the injunction; and yet nothing had 
been done. In some dioceses the chapters had refused to move in 
the matter ; in others the injunction had simply been disregarded, 
or the question had been left pending. By dint of repeated remon- 
strance and entreaty M. Bourdoise, the Doctor Duval, and some 
others had succeeded, in 1625, in bringing the subject before the 
General Assembly of the Clergy, and it was proposed to establish 
four seminaries for the whole of France ; but, although the proposi- 
tion met with a favourable reception, it appeared in the end so 
difficult of execution that it was judged better to leave each bishop 
at liberty to provide for his own diocese in such way as seemed to 
him most advantageous. The question was wliat form should be 
given to the seminaries, and to whom the government should be 
confided. It had been the intention of the Council of Trent, as 
also of those provincial councils in which the subject was discussed, 
that the candidates for the ecclesiastical state should be received 
into the seminaries at an early age ; but whether the selection of 
subjects had been unfortunate, or those who undertook their direc- 
tion were wanting in the necessary qualifications, the institutions 
had cither become extinct or had degenerated into mere schools. 

His acknowledged success. 


St. Vincent de Paul, indeerl, in the year 1636 had established a 
seminary at the CoUdge des-Bons-Enfants, but even he was forced 
to confess that, owing to the youtlis being admitted before their 
character was sufficiently pronounced, the experiment had resulted 
in no permanent advantage to the Church. From the same high 
authority we learn that other attempts had met with no better 
success; that the seminaries of Bordeaux, Agen, and Rheims were 
deserted, and that the Archbishop of Rouen had failed in realizing 
half a dozen vocations out of all the numerous young men on whom 
he had expended so much l;ibour and care. To which it may be 
added that the seminary founded by M. de Ventadour in the 
diocese of Limoges had not produced a single priest during the 
whole twenty years it was in existence. 

The Oratorians (as mentioned in a previous chapter) had been 
equally unsuccessful. Their house at Paris (formerly the Abbey of 
St. Magloire), which twenty-two years before had been erected into 
a diocesan seminary, had not fulfilled its object, and they had found 
themselves obliged to confine their exertions to giving lessons in 
theology to such of the pupils in their schools as were intended for 
the ecclesiastical state, and providing them with a retreat of ten days 
previous to ordination ; which was all that bishops the most remark- 
able for their zeal were able to accomplish. Even M. Bourdoise, 
who for more than thirty years had devoted all his energies to sup- 
plying the crying need of the Church, had succeeded only in forming 
a community of parish priests at St. Nicolas du Chardonnet;* 
and when to these we add such prelates at St. Francis de Sales and 
M. Alain de Solminihac, Bishop of Cahors, each of whom had made 
the attempt and had failed, we cannot be surprised that, on M. 
Olier and his associates commencing their establishment at Vau- 
girard, it should be regarded as a mere chimerical undertaking. 

The remarkable success, however,' which attended the new 
institution speedily led to an entire change of opinion, and it began 

* M. Bourdoise and the ecclesiastics associated with him long remained with- 
out any fixed aljode, and their poverty was so great that they wanted even the 
most ordinary pieces of furniture, making the shutters of their windows serve them 
for tables during the day. Cardinal de Retz employed them in '"^tructing the 
younger clergy to say Mass, manage schools, &c. ; and tlie Bisliops of Beauvais and 
I^on also commissioned M. Bourdoise to take the direction of ecclesiastics belong- 
ing to their dioceses while resident at Paris. The Community of St. Nicolas du 
Ciiardonnet was incorporated in the year 1631, but it was not until the 20th of 
April, 1644, that it was erected into a Seminary. 


Life of M. Olier, 

to be acknowledged on all hands that, if any one wore able to carry 
into execution a work which hitherto had appeared impossible of 
accomplishment, M. Olier was the man. And, in fact, to him 
belongs of right the tiilc of the founder of the first seminary ever 
erected in the land of his birth, if by founder be meant one who 
succeeds in maintaining what he has established,* In this was 
fulfilled the prediction of the M^re Agnes de Jl-sus, when (at their 
first interview) she assured him that God had destined him to lay 
the first foundntions of ecclesiastical seminaries in France. True it 
is that St. Vincent de Paul had made a beginning, but, by his own 
confession, that beginning had no permanent results. However, he 
was not to linger long in the rear ; for in this same year, 1642, with 
the approbation and assistance of Cardinal de l-lichelieu, who gave 
him a thousand crowns for the work, he made his first essay in 
establishing a greater seminary, by admitting twelve young men into 
the Colle'ge des Bons Enfants. Shortly after, the same great states- 
man encouraged P. Bourgoing, General of the Oratory, to commence 
three seminaries of the same kind, — one at Toulouse, a second at 
Rouen, and a third at Paris ; but the first did not last more than a 
year, the second was not of much longer duration, and the third had 
scarcely been opened when the Cardinal died, before he had pro- 
vided the necessary funds for its support. 

But to return to M. Olier at Vaugirard. The foundations which 
it was his design to lay were such as should be sunk deep in the 
interior man, and these were, in Scripture language, the putting off 
the old Adam and putting on Christ. These were the great prin- 
ciples which he followed in his conduct of souls and on which he 
grounded the whole perfection of his society. "We were fully 
agreed," writes M. du Ferrier, *' that no good can be expected from 
a seminarist unless he be firmly convinced that, to live a Christian 
life and thence ascend to the ecclesiastical state, he must die to 
Adam and live to Jesus Christ. This it is which must be inculcated 
on all who come to us ; if they have no relish for this it is useless to 
look for any good from them ; we can but say to them, * Ideo vos 

* The Abb^ Faillon is at the trouble of establishing this fact at some length, in 
refutation of those wlio have given the precedence, in point of time, to St. ^'incent 
de Paul, M. Bourdoise, and others. He shows, also, how M. Olier's Iaboiir.> were 
destined, as P. de Condren had foretold, to inspire the Congregation of the C i atory 
and other societies with a corresponding zeal in the erection of ecclesiastical 

Crucifixion of the old man. 


non auditis, quia ex Deo non eslis ,• ' * we can but r( mind them of 
the words of the Apostle to his Roman converts, ami say to them, 
•Ktu V ye not that all we who arc baptised in Jesus Christ are 
baptised into His death, and are buried wi:h Him, and with Him 
are risen again, that we may live the life, not of the old man, but of 
tlu' new ; a life of death to everything which nature, the senses, and 
the world luvi and esteem ; a resurrection life, conformable with 
the life of Jesus Christ, whose Sjjirit we have received ^ ' " f 

It was at this time that, in obedience to his director P. Bataille, 
he began to set down in writing the particular graces which he 
received from God, and ail the more notable circumstances of his 
life, so far as related to the progress o( his sanctification. We are 
enabled, therefore, to give in his own words the instructions which 
in conversation and otherwise he imparted to his ecclesiastics. 
" Speaking one day " (he writes) •' to our young associates on the 
necessity of crucifying the old man that the life of our Lord may be 
made manifest in us, I said that "n order to give Jesus Christ com- 
plete liberty to act within us, we must crucify the flesh by poverty, 
suffering, and mortification ; that never would I le enable us to make 
acts of humility unless we mortified the spirit and the movements of 
our own pride. Whereupon one of them said to me relative to the 
subject of poverty, * Is there, then, no difTerence between counsels 
and precepts ? Wherein do they differ, if the renunciation of the 
goods of fortune, which appears to be only a counsel, is nevertheless 
necessary to us all ? ' God suggested to me the following reply : ' In 
this matter of renunciation two things must be considered — interior 
detachment and actual despoliation. The first is of precept ; the 
second is of counsel. The first is in such wise necessary that with- 
out some degree of interior detachment from earthly goods we cannot 
save our souls; according to those words of our Lord which are 
addressed, not to any individual in particular, but to every Christian : 
Every one of you that doth not renounce all that he posses set h, cannot 
be My disciple.^ % We must live in the midst of worldly goods, and 
even acquire them, as if we possessed them not, without allowing 
our affections to cling to them by any disorderly attachment of the 
heart Whereas that which is of counsel is actually to part with 
these same goods, because of the difficulty there is in not loving 
them when we possess them ; as if our Lord said to us, ' I counsel 

"Therefore you hear not, because you are not of GdcI." St. John viii. 47. 
t Comp. Rom. vi. 3-5. J St. Luke xiv. 33. 





£f tiS, i2.0 


L25 III 1.4 










WEBSTER, M.Y. 14580 

(716) •)'2-4»03 

i'^:i:<pl..'iU^. .ii.--k 




Life of M. Olier. 

you to part with your goods in case you cannot possess them without 
loving them.' This appears in those words addressed to a certain 
young man who loved his possessions : Go sell what thou hast, and 
give to the poor* God commands even this exterior renunciation 
when there is evident peril of sin. 

"A few days ago a question was put to me to which I will here 
give the answer, as it does not seem to have come from myself. 
One of our young associates, experiencing some difficulty in giving 
up the habits of the world, and particularly in the matter of his hair, 
asked me why we have such an attachment to mere trifles. I replied, 
on the moment, that it has its source in self-love, and i:i the great 
desire we have of pleasing the world and possessing a share in its 
esteem and affection, one of the strongest and most deeply-rooted 
desires in man, who is made up of pride. Now, the hair having been 
given him for ornament, and conducing to a comely appearance 
and consequently to making him well regarded and agreeable in the 
eyes of the world and of himself — th's is why we are so extremely 
attached thereto. Wiien it is cut off we feel it keenly, as thougli we 
had been shorn of a portion of our self-love, and our pride had been 
maimed and mutilated ; for one of our means of attracting the love 
and esteem of the world has, in fact, been destroyed. The pain we 
feel is a measure of the desire we have of making an appearance, 
and being admired and loved by creatures. This it is to which we 
must die, as I am constantly saying, seeking the love and esteem of 
no one, that v/e may do no wrong to our God, who alone ought to 
fill all minds and all hearts." 

M. Olier exhorted his followers to kill the old man t only that he 

* St. Matthew xix. 21. 

+ A ludicrous story is told in connection with M. Olier's frequent repetition of 
this phrase. One day he was exhorting his followers with his usual energy, and 
of.en repeated the same expression: " II fatit faire niourir le vieil hotnme — (We 
must put the old man to death)." The gardener's wife happened to be listening 
at the door, and, thinking that "the old man" meant her husband, hastened in 
a state of great consternation to apprize her spouse of the fate that awaited him. 
Terrified at his wife's report, the old man resolved to quit the house that very 
day, and, going to M. Olier, he r,aid with a voice almost choked with fear, " Oh ! 
Sir, pray give me leave to go ; my w.fe has told me everything ; I wish to live a 
little longer; I know all your design." "What design?" asked M. Olier. 
" Oh ! you know better than I can tell you." " But, my good friend, what do you 
mean?" " Why, did you not say that the old man must be put to death? I am 
old, it is true, but old age is no crime, and I am still able to support myself" 
Despite the evident terror and agitation of t'le poor gardener it was impossible 

Union ivilh the Intentions of Christ. 


might establish within them the life of Jesus Christ, the new man, 
created in justice and true holiness. This was the point to which 
all his addresses were directed. With the affection of a father he 
applied himself to the removal of any doubts by which their minds 
were perplexed or disturt ed, as well as to the mitigation in practice 
of the apparent rigour of his maxims ; and always with eventual 
success. There was amongst them an ecclesiastic of excellent dis- 
position and an accomplished theologian, but he had come filled 
with his own ideas and furnished vnth a system of piety devised by 
himself. His mind revolted at the pure spirituality proposed to him, 
and he combated it with all the appliances of his theological science, 
'i o punish him for his attachment to his own views, God permitted 
him suddenly to lose all recollection of the knowledge he possessed ; 
and when he endeavoured to reason on any subject he became 
bewildered and confused. Sensible, at last, of the miserable state 
to which his pride had reduced him, and unable to resist the force 
of truth, he confessed himself v:.nquished ; and immediately God 
restored to him all that, in chastisement of his obstinacy. He had 
taken from him. and he became one of the humblest and most 
obedient in the community. 

The very spirit of the seminary was that of union with Jesus Christ. 
"Explaining one day," writes M. Olier, "a number of questions 
which had been put to me on the necessity of uniting ourselves with 
our Lord in our actions, I said : — ^^'hen we unite ourselves to Him 
by faith, that instant we ^re clothed with His intentions ; He resides 
within us only to be entirely ours, to the end that His Father may 
be glorified by us; and our works, done by the movement of the 
Holy Spirit, become invested through Him with a marvellous sanctity. more easy than to say to God, at the beginning of all our 
actions, * My God, I renounce my own disorderly intentions, and I 
give myself to Thee, to perform my actions in Thy intentions, which 
are infinitely adorable ' ? We may unite ourselves to the intentions 
He had in doing works similar to our own ; as, for example, when 
He ate, drank, slept, conversed, prayed, and the rest. Although 
you know not what those intentions were, do not the less consent to 
all, and desire them such as they are in themselves, and as God 

for M. Olier and his companions to refrain from laughing ; but it was no easy 
matter to persuade him that the "old man" whose death M. Olier had so 
veiiemently demanded was nothing else but that corrupt nature which every one 
ought to endeavour to mortify in himself. 



Life of M. Olier. 

knows them. The Eternal Father, seeing you would desire to have 
all the intentions of His Son, and that you would be glad to give 
expression to them in your interior, if you were capable, will regard 
your actions with great complacency. We may unite ourselves with 
the intentions of the Son of God even in actions which He never 
ijerformed exteriorly on earth, for He offered them all previsionally 
for us. In constituting His Church He designed to make it perform 
all its works to the glory of His Father ; so that all Christians, with- 
out: a single exception, are but the executors of the designs and 
intentions of Jesus Christ. 

"To all my instructions," he adds, "I bring no other preparation 
but that of renouncing myself and my own knowledge, waiting for 
what God may please to g've me for the good of His children; and 
this way of acting is so efficacious and so powerful that I see them 
making far greater advances in three weeks than I made myself in 
eight or ten years, during which I was ignorant of the ways which it 
is necessary to follow in order to arrive purely at God. I pray our 
Lord to continue His graces both to them and to myself; but, if 
they go on as they have begun, I cannot help persuading myself that 
they must become saints. I firmly believe that God regards the 
whole community v.'ith complacency, because of the purity with which 
it walks and the zeal with which it labours in His service. I may even 
say, in passing, that, having the consciences of all in my keeping, I 
have been a considerable time without remarking in any one of them 
a single venial sin. There is no longer any question here of the 
things of the world, or of aught that may content the flesh, any more 
than if we were living the life of the saints after the resurrection." 

The conversion of the Canadian Indians had long been an object 
of the deepest interest to M. Olier, and it was in this same memor- 
able year (1642) that he first made the acquaintance of one who, by 
his prayers and personal exertions, contributed most effectually to 
the success of that holy enterprise. This was Claude Leglay, or, 
as he was always called, Brother Claude, a native of Lorraine ; 
of whom it is sufficient to say that his low estate and exalted sanctity, 
combined with the extraordinary influence which he exercised over 
the good and great, render him worthy of being classed in the same 
category with Marie Rousseau. His condition in life was that of an 
artisan, and he had come to Paris, with his wife and family,* to 

• More particulars respecting this remarkable man will be found in the Life of 
M. Boudon. He died at an extreme old age. His wife, who survived him, was 

Brother Claude. 


escape the effects of the dreadful famine which was then desolating 
his country. Desirous only of serving God in lowliness and 
obscurity, his piety and virtues acquired him a reputation, and even 
a celebrity, which equalled, if it did not surpass, that of any of the 
most accomplished masters of the spiritual life. His knowledge of 
Divine things was truly marvellous in one who was, not only 
illiterate, but compelled to labour for his daily maintenance, and 
could have been imparted to him only by the immediate teaching of 
the Holy Spirit. Persons distinguished both for their piety and 
their rank in the world went to hear and to converse with him ; 
and on Sundays and other holidays, when he was not engaged in 
his work, a long line of carriages might be seen standing in the 
humble street in which he lived. Men who were reckoned the 
oracles of the day in religious matters were in the habit of consult- 
ing him, and in 1641, when M. Le GaufTre succeeded P. Bernard in 
the conduct of those works of charity to which the Poor Priest had 
devoted himself, Brother Claude was induced, after much entreaty, 
to enter the service of that good pastor for the purpose of assisting 
him in his labours. It was then that the more supernatural portion 
of his life began to develop itself. Although naturally of a lively 
disposition, he was inwardly so occupied with God as to be at times 
wholly withdrawn from this outer world. In the crowded streets of 
Paris he remained insensible to all the din and tumult around him ; 
he neither saw nor heard aught of the thousands who were crossing 
his path in all directions ; in truth, he was as unconscious of their 
presence and proximity as if he had been traversing a lonely, silent 
heath in utter darkness. He was jostled, struck, thrown to the 
ground, run over, trampled on; in an instant he was on his feet 
again, and, though often bruised, and even, in appearance, injured, he 
seemed to be protected and preserved from harm by an invisible 
hand. He had in him the very spirit of Elias in rebuking and with- 
standing evil, and a heart filled with an impatient desire to quit the 
world and go to God ; " such," says M. Olier, " as the souls of the 
blessed might be supposed to have if they revisited their mortal 

On the i6th of July, 1642, being the feast of our Lady of Mount 

largely indebted for her support, after her husband's death, to the bounty of the 
Community of St. Sulpice. She was permitted to reside in a house at Vaugiranl 
belonging to the Society, and M. de Bretonvilliers left a sum of money to lie 
expended upon her from time to time according to her needs. 

h 4 1 


! ; 1 

' 5 


L?/e of M. Olier. 

Carmel, M. Olier went to say Mass at Notre Dame dcs Champs, 
the church of the Carmelites.* There was a gathering of the friends 
of the Canadian mission, and among them were several who were 
jireparing to go to Montreal. Brc .^r Claude was also present, and 
by a particular movement of the Holy Spirit — for he had no know- 
ledge of M. Olier's vocation — he was led to pray all through the 
Mass for two things : first, that the priest then offering the Holy 
Sacrifice might attain to a perfect union with God ; secondly, that he 
might become a great captain in the army of Christ, to marshal 
soldiers in His service. At the same time he conceived a strong 
personal affection for him, and, on meeting M. Olier in the after- 
noon of the same day, he declared that in him he had at length found 
the friend he had long been seeking. From that moment these two 
holy men remained bound to each other in the closest ties of unioa 
In this circumstance M. Olier did but find another occasion of 
humbling himself, and confessing his own vileness. " It has made 
me feel," he says, " more than ever that in my very self I am mere 
nothingness and sin, worthy only of being hated and accursed of 
God. Bpt I see, with a clearness exceeding that of day, that there 
io something in me which is not myself: this it is which constrains 
these holy souls to come to me, and to speak words of benediction 
directed truly to our Lord." 

But not only did M. Olier exercise an extraordinary influence 
over those with whom he was brought into contact, he seemed to 
possess a supernatural insight into the secrets of men's hearts. 
Scarcely had they who came to consult him opened their lips, when 
he knew, as by a divine instinct, the nature of their requests and the 
state of their souls. One of the members of the community, yield- 
ing to the suggestions of others, had formed the design of quitting 
the society. Dissatisfied, however, with himself, he went to M. 
Olier and begged him to tell him his faults. In an instant the 
servant of God perceived what was in his mind, and laid open 
before him his intentions in such fulness of detail that, struck with 
astonishment, the man went about among his brethren declaring 

• An interesting account of the negotiations by which the Priory and Church of 
Notre Dame des Champs, which had belonged to the Benedictine Order, came 
into the possession of the Carmelites, on their first introduction into France in 
the year 1604, is given in the first volume of the Abb^ Haussaye's valuable 
history of the life and times of Cardinal de Berulle. The church was taken down 
to make rooni for a street called subsequently Du Val de Grace, and only the 
vestibule was preserved, which at the present day forms the chapel of the convent. 

miiivririiiitiii ,. 

His interior lights. 


that M. Olier had disclosed to him all the hidden thoughts of his 
heart. And so it was continually. He would feel himself moved 
to speak with peculiar earnestness on some particular subject, and an 
hour or two afterwards one of the community would come and tell 
him that the words he had uttered had gone home to his conscience 
with a force he could not resist. He would address himself to some 
of his young ecclesiastics when he had made his thanksgiving after 
Mass, and their souls would be set on fire with divine love, and they 
would be filled with an intense desire of ofiering themselves like so 
many living victims on the altar of God. V>y the help of the light 
within him he would solve the deepest questions of theology : some- 
times on the instant ; at others, as though to remind him that the 
knowledge he had was not his own but the mere gift of God, he 
would be left awhile in darkness, and then, as with a sudden flash, 
the truth would dart into his mind, and all would be clear to him. 
" This," he says, " is my daily experience, whether in conversation 
or in hearing confessions. The clearness of the light varies with 
different persons, but to all I answer according to their respective 
needs, with no other preparation than that of renouncing my own 
spirit, waiting for whatever it may please God to give me for the 
good of His children." 

The same thing happened in his public preaching. One day, in 
particular, — it was the Eve of the Annunciation, 1642, — he was 
desired to go and prepare the people for a worthy celebration of the 
feast He went at once, but with his rnind as if in a state of blank ; 
he felt unable to utter a word. Twice he was on the point of avow- 
ing as much ; but, accustomed to this feeling of incompetency, he 
resigned himself with all simplicity into the hands of Him who gives 
sight to the blind and makes the dumb to speak. Immediately his 
mind was filled with light, and he spoke with so much power and 
fervour that his auditors were deeply affected, and himself not least, 
at the sweet and holy things that fell from his lips as he discoursed 
of Jesus and Mary. Such wai, the effect of his exhortation that in 
the morning the people came in crowds to confession and com- 
munion, and it was between one and two o'clock in the day before 
all had finished. His words also had often a wonderful application 
beyond his own knowledge or intention. Thus, one Sunday, in the 
fervour of his address, he broke out with a panegyric on the sanctity 
of the great Patriarch St. Francis. Now, it so happened that at that 



Life of M, Olier. 



very moment, unknown to him, there came into the church a friar 
of the Order who had gone back into the world The poor culprit 
was covered with confusion, and, following M. Olier into the sacristy, 
stood before him with eyes cast down and as if speechless with 
shame and remorse ; so cut to the heart had he been by the impas- 
sioned words of the preacher, which seemed to have been directed 
at himself. 

Another instance was still more remarkable, and is characteristic 
both of the man and of the times. It was the feast of St. James, 
and he was preaching on the Gospel for the day, inveighing 
with his accustomed energy against those who, like the mother of 
Zebedee's sons, seek to promote their offspring to high places in 
God's kingdom for the sake of the emoluments and dignities attach- 
ing thereto. " Verily," said he, '* the altars of Jesus Christ would 
be deserted, and the churches left empty, v/ere it not for the pride 
and self-love which urge so many to enter the ecclesiastical state." 
Then, lifting up his voice and carried, as it were, out of himself by 
the indignation which worldly vanity and ambition ever excited in 
his soul, he exclaimed, " Had this blessed Apostle been in my place, 
and were he standing at this moment in this pulpit, he would have 
preached against his own mother, and with Ms own lips have de- 
nounced himself for having suggested the unhallowed request which 
she had preferred in his behalf." In the midst of his harangue 
therf came into the church his cousin, Mme. Dolu de Dampierre, 
accompanied by her two sons. M. Olier saw her enter, but had no 
suspicion of the object of her visit, which was nothing else but to 
request him to use the influence he possessed at court to obtain 
preferment for her children. When the sermon was ended, the 
lady, nothing daunted by what she had heard — in all probabiUty 
perfectly unconscious of any application the discourse might have 
to herself, or regarding it as nothing more than one of those un- 
meaning oratorical displays which it had not unfrequently been her 
lot to witness in other places — paid her i* ended visit, and preferred 
her request with all the confidence imaginable. The reader will 
not need to be told what kind of reception she met v.'ith from her 
relative ; it is sufficient to say that she retired in tears, which, we 
may hope, had their source in true compunction and not in a mere 
feeling of mortified pride. 

The inmates of Mme. Villeneuve's establishment, as well as the 

Instructions to school-mistresses and scholars. 


children under their care, were the objects of his tender solicitude, 
and we read of his collecting both mistresses* and scholars together, 
and making them an exhortation which produced the liveliest effects, 
and on none more sensibly than himself. He spoke to them of the 
Holy Spirit, experiencing (as he says) a peculiar delight in making 
Him known to souls. He adds that he scarcely ever preached on 
any subject without himself, in the course of his address, deriving 
lights concerning it which he had not enjoyed before ; and he 
instances a sermon he delivered on the feast of the Transfiguration, 
in which thoughts were suggested to him infinitely surpassing any- 
thing that had occurred to his mind in his previous meditations. 

* Among tliese was Mile, Bellier, whom the reader will recollect as having 
been led to retire from the world by M. Olier's preaching during the mission at 
llliers. In 1651 she entered the Order of the Visitation. 

( 158 ) 



A FEW months only had elapsed since the establishment of the 
seminary at Vaugirard, and the Providence of God, to which 
M. Olier and his companions had wholly surrendered themselves, 
was already opening a way to the fulfilment of their designs, under 
circumstances which set at complete defiance all human calculations. 
The parish of St. Sulpice was the most extensive in the metropolis, 
being a sort of city in itself, under the jurisdiction, civil and ecclesi- 
astical, of the Abb6 de St. Germain,* and had become the very 
cesspool, not only of Paris, but of all France, the home and the 
haunt of all that was foul and iniquitous. The Duchesse d'Aiguillon, 
who resided within its limits, horrified at the disorders which met 
her eyes at every turn, had prevailed on the priests of the Con- 
ferences of St. Lazare to give a mission in one of its quarters. This 
had taken place in the preceding year, 1641, under the conduct of 
M. de Perrochel; but, although much good was effected in the 
immediate locality — the concourse being so great that the mission 
was obliged to be transferred to the abbey-church of St. Germain 
— it did but reveal more distinctly the enormity of the evil and the 
hopelessness of providing an adequate remedy by ordinary methods. 
At length the Curd, M. Julien de Fiesque, determined in his despair 
to relinquish the benefice whenever he could meet with a worthy 
successor. His thou'^hts adverted to M. Olier, with whom he was 
personally acquainted and for whom he entertained a particular 

* It included the present parishes of St. Sulpice, St. Germain-des-Pr^s, St. 
Fran9ois Xavier, Ste. Clotilda, St. Thomas d'Aquin, and Notre Dame des Champs, 
not to mention the parish of Gros Caillou and the Hotel des Invalides. The 
population numbered over 4So,cxx3 souls, being greater than that of any city or 
town in France, with the sole exception of Paris. 


m he was 

Marie hoitsseaus preUrnatural knowledge. 1 59 

respect; many also had begun to speak of the new institution at 
Vaugirard, and of the devotion of its dircctorfj ; and he seemed to 
see in these men, detached from the world and living solely to (lod, 
the only persons capable of executing a work which, with all his 
good intentions, he had proved utterly powerless even to attempt. 
An opportunity soon presented itself of soundin^j their dispositions. 
Every year, on St. Mark's day, there was a procession of his parish- 
ioners to the church at Vaugirard, and, as M. Copin was still absent, 
it fell to the lot of the little community to preside at the usual 
ceremonies. But, if M. de Fiesquc had conceived any hopes that 
his proposition would be favourably entertained, he must have been 
greatly disappointed, for, on the part of both M. Olier and the rest, 
he met, not only with a decided refusal to undertake the charge, 
but with a positive reluctance to speak on the subject. Circum- 
stances, however, shortly after enabled him to renew his overture. 
Vaugirard lying on the borders of Paris, some of the parishioners 
of St. Sulpice came to make their confession to M. Olier and 
his priests, and M. du Ferrier was accordingly deputed to ascertain 
from the Cure whether he had any objection to their receiving his 
people. M. de Fiesque gave his cordial consent, and took occasion 
at the same time to repeat his proposal. *' If," said he, " your object 
be to labour for the good of souls and to form a community of 
priests, why put people to the trouble of going so far to seek you ? 
Come here, where you will have everything you lack at Vaugirard, 
and your friends will be near you. Besides, it will be an accommoda- 
tion to me. Let M. Olier make over to me his priory of Clisson in 
Brittany, of which I am a native ; the benefice brings in 1,600 livres ; 
add thereto a pension of 1,400 livres, and the matter is settled." 
M. du Ferrier, however, could hardly listen to him with patience, 
and so they parted. 

Now, Marie Rousseau (or Marie de Gournay, as she was indiffer- 
ently called) resided near the church of St. Sulpice, and it occurred 
to M. du Ferrier that he would pay her a visit and acquaint her with 
the proposal which had been made to him ; when, to his astonish- 
ment, he found that she was already in possession of all that had 
occurred. " This morning, at nine o'clock," said she, " you were 
with M. le Cur6 ; he was the first to begin the subject about resign- 
ing his parish, and begged you to obtain M. Olier's concurrence ; " 
and she proceeded to relate in detail everything that had passed. 
This circumstance, as showing that the project was one in which 






Life of M. Oiler. 

Heaven was iiUcrcstcd, no doubt contributed not a little towards 
preparing M. du Ferricr's mind for a favouvable consideration of the 
Cure's proposal. And here it may be mentioned that M. du Ferrier 
had conceived a strong prejudice against Marie Rousseau on account 
of the extraordinary graces with which she was favoured, and all the 
more because she was held in high estimation by many distinguished 
persons. He feared there might be, not only illusion, but some- 
thing of vainglory, and had no wish to make her acquaintance. 
However, he had so far yielded to the remonstrances of M. Olier 
and M. Picotd as to go on several occasions to see her, but some 
time elapsed before he succeeded in finding her at home ; at wnich, 
he says in his Memoires, he was all the better pleased. At last he 
found her within, and she then informed him that every time he 
had set out to visit her she had received a divine intimation of his 
coming, and had been admonished to leave the house before he 
reached it. And certainly (he adds) she was made acquainted in 
some mysterious way with his movements, for one day s'.ie had told 
him that a conference he had prepared for the seminarists, and which 
no one had seen, was too strongly worded, and had suggested the 
mode in which it might be cori-ected. 

Ever since M. Olier and his associates had taken up their abode 
at Vaugirard, Marie Rousseau had made their removal to St. 
Sulpice the subject of her continual pleadings with God. On Sun- 
day, the 1 8th of May, while thus engaged, she felt herself interiorly 
moved to make known to M. Olier what had been revealed to her 
in prayer. Accordingly, she went to him and said that the proposal 
which M. de Fiesque had so often and so persistently urged upon 
him was the means provided by God for carrying into effect the 
work he had been called to do, — the evangelisation of a vast parish, 
to the saving of numerous souls, and the formation of a seminary 
whiv-h should be the parent and the model of similar institutions 
throughout France. The effect of these representations on the part 
of one in whose judgment he placed the greatest confidence was to 
dispose M. Olier in favour of the plan proposed, and, on his com- 
municating the change in his sentiments to M. de Foix and M. du 
Ferrier, the three discussed the subject together ; the former marking 
down with a pencil, on the back of a letter, the reasons for and 
against, with the view of consulting their director P. Tarrisse. 

At an early hour the next morning M. du Ferrier repaired to 
Paris, where he said Mass, and then took post to Vendome, where 

-"T"'".^-' « -fT ■ >"" 

Opposition of Friends. 


keir abode 
al to St. 

On Sun- 
ed to her 

ged upon 
effect the 
ist parish, 

1 the part 
ce was to 

his com- 
nd M. du 

; for and 

paired to 
ae, where 

P. Tarrisse, with P. Hataillc, was holding a general chapter of his 
Congregation. Day had not dawned when M. <lu Furrier left 
Vaugirard, and on his way he beheld a meteor wliich seemed to 
explode directly over St. Sul[»ice, and, although he knew it was but u 
natural phetiomeno-i, it recalled to his memory the words of our Lord 
to His disciple". : "/ saw Satan ltk( li^htnitii^ falling from fteaiin" * 
and he accepte:' it as a sign that Clod would succour His Church, 
and defeat all the power and malice of the devil. It was evening 
before he reached Vcndome, and he proceeded at once to lay the 
matter before the Father. His reply was direct and decisive : tliat 
the hand of Providence was visible in the opportunity that now 
presented itself of establishing a model seminary for the whole of 
France, and that the affair should be prosecuted without delay. 
He added that they might rely on receiving all the assistance which 
his Congregation could render ; at.d this was not small> for, the 
parish of St. Sulpice being dependent on the Benedictines, under 
the Holy See, and altogether exempt from the jurisdiction of the 
Archbishop, the affair rested ent' ely with themselves, and there 
was no occasion to obtain the approval or sanction of that prelate 
or of his council ; a proceeding which might have been attended 
with difficulties and have provoked opposition, as it would have 
been necessary, not only to convince them of the feasibility of the 
undertaking, but to obtain their approval of the persons to whom 
its administration should be confided, as well as of the rules af ' 
practices, both disciplinary and devotional, to be adopted by the 
community. Fortified by this decision, M. du Ferrier, on his return 
through Paris, lost no time in calling on M. de Fiesque and receiving 
from him a verbal assurance of his readiness to resign his parish 
into M. Olier's hands on the conditions which he had himself 

No sooner did it become known at Paris that the community of 
Vaugirard were about to undertake the pastoral charge of St. Sulpice 
than the greatest dissatisfaction prevailed. So strong was the con- 
viction that the reform of a parish so extensive and so depraved 
exceeded the powers of M. Olier and his associates, that even good 
men conspired together to crush the project at its birth. But here 
again the supernatural knowledge manifested by Marie Rousseau 
came to their rescue. On the 22nd of May she knew by an interior 
light that at that moment two ecclesiastics at the other end of Paris 

* St. Luke X. 18. 


Life of M. Olier. 

1 1 

Avere concocting measures for the overtnrow of the design ; and she 
imparted the fact to a person who lived with her. The next day 
one ot these very ecclesiastics came to confer with her, and was met 
on his appearance with these words, uttered with her usual simpli- 
city ; " So, Sir, a pretty business this in which you are engaged ; 
you want, then, to frustrate the work of the Lord. Yesterday, 
between four and five o'clock, you and such a one (mentioning his 
name) were busy enough at it. I saw how the devil, who is bent on 
upsetting the work, succeeded in warj)ing your mind ; but take care 
what you are r.bout." These words produced so complete a change 
in the dispocftion of her visitor that he went to Vaugirard, and 
himself pressed M. Olier and his colleagues to take charge of the 
parish. Some even of their own immediate friends exhibited mucii 
indignation at their presumption and temerity, for such they regarded 
the at'empt to grapple with an evil of so tremendous a magnitude; 
and M. Renar (of whom mention has been before made) proceeded 
to Vaugirard for the purpose of remonstrating with them. They 
listened to his protest, which was couched in no gentle terms, and 
thanked him for his counsel, but assured him that they had not 
acted without consulting the Divine will ; adding that they deserved 
all the ill-success and confusion which he predicted, but that they 
begged him to pray to God that they might have grace to profit by 
their discomfiture. " Ah ! " exclaimed he, " thr^t is just what I said : 
when they are warned of their imprudence, they will think they set 
all straight by mr.king an act of humiliation ; and yet good people 
will be despised, and piety itself decried, because these gentlemen 
are pleased to undertake v;hat they will never be cble to accomplish." 
When M. Olier first acceded to M. de Fiesque's i)roposal it 
formed no part of his design to undertake the office of Curtf, and 
he begged several of his colleagues to accept the charge, but they 
one aitei' another declirad. By some, including (it need hardly be 
said) Marie Rousseau, he was strongly urged ro take the office 
himself, but his humility impelled him to refuse. He was afraid of 
the consideration and honour which such a position would bring 
with it, especially on the part of the great people of the Faubourg, 
and he prayed God with all earnestness to deliver him from so great 
a peril. On the Eve of the Ascension, May 28th, he went to consult 
Marie Rousseau, who at once, and without hesitation, decla'-^'d that 
he was himself to be Cur^ of St. Sulpice ; that such was the will 
of God, and that no opposition could prevent it. She bade him, 

Interposition of three Religions. 


theroforc, abandon himsell courageously to the Divine pleasure, and 
not be disheartened, even if nil his friends and associates were to 
forsake him and follow other vocations. Siic told him at the sime 
time that a person who was opposed to the undertaking would 
induce M. de Fiesque to increase his demands ; which, in fact, 
came to pass as she said, for he subseciuently required his pension 
to be raised to i,8oo livres. 

With the exception of his three original colleagues, all the priests 
of the little community were of opinion that the charge of a parish 
so vast in extent and so notorious for its demoralisation would be too 
-^avy a burden, particularly as coupled with the establishment of an 
. rclesiastical seminary in the suburbs of Paris. Their resources 
were exhausted by the attempts that had been made, first at Chartres 
and afterwards at Vaugirard, and the two projects combined would 
involve a large exi:)enditure, for which they saw no prospect of being 
able to provide. In vain did Marie Rousseau bid tlicm trust in God, 
whose will tliey would be fulfilling : she could offer no guarantee 
for the success of the enterprise except her own assured convic- 
tions ; and in these they reposed no confidence. Nearly a month 
had now elapsed and the affair had made no sensible progress, not- 
vvithstandmg renewed importunities on the part of M. de Fiesque, 
when an end was put to all further debating through the agency of 
three religious who had been Marie Rousseau's directors^^and whom 
she had made acquainted with the lights she had received from 
tin> ; to time in connection with the matter in dispute. These were 
P. Andre of the Petits Augustins, who was highly esteemed by 
persons of piety for his great spiritual gifts, and who had known 
Marie for fourand-twenty years; the Pere IgPice, a Discalced 
Carmelite, who was believed to have been favoured with heavenly 
communications, a man for whose virtues M. Olier entertained the 
deepest respect, styling him. a great servant of God, of singular 
sweetness and simplicity, whose life was truly hidden in Christ; and 
a Jesuit Father, whose name is not given, but who had been for a 
while the guide of her coul after P. Armand's decease. Going wO 
Vaugirard to confer with the ecclesiastics there, these three religious 
enumerated so many instances in which she had made known to 
them the will of God in matters of the greatest moment, that the 
prejudices of those who had been ignorant of her merits were 
entirely removed, while they who had be.n adverse to the proposed 
transfer to St. Sulpice withdrew their opposition, and it wus defini- 


Life of M. Olier. 

lively determined to conclude the negotiation with M. de Fiesque 
without luriher delay. The only diflficulty which remained lay in M. 
Olier's unwillingness to accept the charge of the parish. St. Vincent 
de Paul and M. Bourdoise had from the first been urgent with him to 
do so,* and, on his still hesitaiing, P.P. Tarrisse and Bataille, as his 
directors, ordered him, under obedience, to accept the office. 

No longer doubting the Divine will, the servant of God cast him- 
self at the feet of his heavenly Patroness and begged her to aid him 
in bearing the burden ; henceforth there was no indecision or dis- 
trust. Was it objected that so srnall a body of priests would be 
unable to cope with an evil of such gigantic magnitude, he answered 
that God, who had himself and his little band with the 
courage to undertake the work, was able to impart the same grace to 
others also, and that, if with twelve Apostles He had subdued the 
world, He would not fail, even by their ministry alone, to win to 
Himself this single parish, if such were His holy will. Was he 
warned of the injury to health which so heavy a charge would 
entail, his reply was simply that to do God's will we must sacrifice even 
life itself, and that there could be no greater happiness than to die 
in the exercise of charity. ''If Jesus Christ," he said, "was pleased 
to give His life for the glory of His Father and the salvation of men, 
who shall prevent me from sacrificing mine for the glory of the same 
God, and to secure to souls the possession of those graces which He 
purchased for them by His death ? " Moreo'er, a profound convic- 
tion now possessed him that at length the designs of Providence 
which had long ago, and all through his life, been intimated to him 
with more or less distinctness, were about to receive their consumma- 
tion. He called to mind the dream which had left so indelible an 
impression on his memory when, nine or ten years before, he had 
seen Pope St. Gregory the Great on a lofty throne, with St. Ambrose 
seated below him ; while below again were seats for priests, with a 
vacant place immediately beneath the latter saint, and below all, 
and, as it seemed, even far below, were ranged a number of Car- 
thusian monks ; and now he understood its import in its full signifi- 
cance, and it was shown him that the reform of a parish so notorious 
for its wickedness as that in which he was called to labour, would 
be an example and a model for similar reforms, not only in Paris, 
but throughout the realm. At the same time, as appears from the 

* In the processes of his canonization, St. Vincent is represented as having been 
instrumental in causing M. Olier to accept the charge of the parish of St. Sulpice. 

Conchtsion of the 7icgotiaiion. 

i6 = 

writings he has left us, there was unfolded before him the whole 
scheme of his vocation, involving as it did these three great objects : 

1. The instruction and reformation of the people, high and low. 

2. The introduction of the highest Christian maxims into the 
schools of the Sorbonne, by means of those seminarists who should 
jjroceed to the doctorate. 

3. The formation of young ecclesiastics for all the functions of the 
sacred ministry. 

It was on June 25th, during the octave of Corpus Christi, that the 
agreement for the transfer of the parish was finally concluded, of 
which, however, M. Olier was not to have actual possession until the 
arrangement had been sanctioned by the Holy See. But so assured 
was he of the Divine will that, with the approval of his director, P. 
Bataille, he had already hired a house adjoining the Presbytery, 
where he was preparing to receive the ecclesiastics who had been 
admitted at Vaugirard. On July 31st he had an interview with the 
Abbe de St. Germain, Henri de Bourbon,* who welcomed him with 
every demonstration of regard. On the same day he made a solemn 
l)rotestation of perpetual devotion to the service of the parish on 
behalf of himself and his colleagues ; and he notices, as a remarkable 
coincidence, that twelve members of his society came also on that 
day to the church of St. Sulpice for the same purpose, without having 
communicated v'ith each other, as though to ratify severally, one by 
one, the oblation which he had made in the name of alLf 

* It is worthy of note in how many instances men like this Abl^/J de St. 
Germain were constrained, as it were, to co-operate in the reform of those very 
abuses of which they were themselves the most flagrant examples. Henri de 
Bourbon, Marquis de Vemeuil, was a natural son of Henry IV. Although he 
had never received holy oiders, he was given the see of Metz, and held nine rich 
abbeys in addition to that of St. Germain, the revenues of which he squandered 
in luxurious living at Paris, even at a time when the people of his diocese were 
dying by thousands of famine. In i6;8 he married. Many of the great abbeys 
of F-ance were held by laymen and even by Protestants : that of Fontgombault, 
for instance, was in the possession of ^ Protestant family for nearly a hundred 
years {Histoire Du Berry, T. I. L. XI.). ' )ften, too, they we^e farmed out by the 
holders in order to raise money for their lavish expenditure. For some very gross 
examples of this iniquitous and most scandalous abuse of patronage 
the reader is referred to Montalembert, Les Moines d" Occident: Introduction, 
Chap. VII. p. clxi.-clxvii. 

t This act seems to have been accepted by the Divine Goodness, for from M. 
Olier's days to our own the Cur^s of St. Sulpice have always been .nembers of the 
Community. Indeed, so essential t® the spirit and object of ihe institute has this 
connection between the seminary and the parish been considered, that in 1802, 
when the house was takeu down, M. Emery, the Superior, preferred purchasing, 



I i 

I ' 

1 66 

Lt/e of M. Olier. 

The position of parish priest had become so contemptible in the 
eyes of the world, or, in other words, of worldly ecclesiastics, that no 
one of good birth would condescend to assume the office. Persons 
of quality who entered holy orders were content with nothing short 
of being bishops or abb^s, or of possessing some benefice which 
yielded revenues sufificient to enable them to live in affluence, 
frequent the Court, and make a figure in society. Even the largest 
and mos important parishes in Paris, as we learn from P. Rapin, ci 
the Company of Jesus, were served by priests who had been brought 
from the provinces ; a Cur^ being regarded as belonging altogether 
to an inferior caste. It was, therefore, with infinite disgust that M. 
Olier's relatives learned that, after refusing a bishopric to which a 
peerage was attached, he had actually accepted the charge of this 
country parish, for so they regarded one of the faubourgs, or suburbs, 
of Paris. That a scion of their house, who might have appeared at 
Court with all the pomp and circumstance of a prelate of the Church, 
should be seen walking the streets of the capital in the garb of a 
humble Cur^, appeared to them a studied personal affront. They felt 
themselves positively aggrieved and outraged by conduct so unseemly, 
ana his mother, accompanied by his eldest brother, went to Vau- 
girard for the purpose of formally remonstrating with him on the dis- 
grace he was bringing on himself and his family. Finding all their 
expostulations unavailing, Mme. Olier, in her indignation, forbade her 
son ever to set foot again inside her doors ; while that true child of 
God, though deeply wounded in heart, so far from imputing blame, 
sought even to excuse the unkindness with which he had been treated. 
■ 'I can hardly bring myself to tell you," he said, writing to P. Bataille, 
" what I have suffered from my mother and my eldest brother ; and 
yet I will say nothing to their prejudice, for they only do what they 
think is right. They are far more free from guilt than I am in my 
most ordinary actions. I believe them to be quite innocent in this 
matter ; they think I am doing something unbecoming a man of 
my birth." His youngest brother alone seemed capable of appre- 
ciating his conduct, for, thanks to M. Olier's counsels and assistance, 
he had unlearned and now estimated at their due value the false 
maxims of the world.* 

at his own expense, a building within the limits of the parish to accepting a more 
commodious habitation, which was ofTered him on peculiarly advantageous 1>erms 
in another quarter of the town. 
* M. Olier had the happiness of leading his eldest brother to repentance, and 

His sentiments 07i the pastoral office. 1 67 

The following extract from the Mimoires of this devoted pastor 
will show with what sentiments he entered upon the sacred duties of 
his ministry : — 

" I remember saying to one of our missionaries, more than six 
or seven years ago, that the fruits produced by missions were but 
an earnest and a beginning of 'that which must be done in the 
Church at large. The mission serves only to purify hearts and 
lead men to repentance, not to inculcate Christian sentiments and 
teach Christian practice. This must be done by familiar addresses, 
catechisings, meditations, and retreats. I experience in myself such 
a vehement desire of exhibiting to men the vanity of the world, the 
obligation which lies upon us of dying to its maxims, its manners, its 
laws — in a word, to everything which is not God and Jesus Christ, 
His Son — that I am unable to restrain it; it excites in me sometimes 
a sort of holy rage ; it is a participation of the horror which Jesus 
Christ had for the follies and vanities of the world. I feel such a 
passionate desire to expose them before the eyes of men that I see 
no other means of satisfying it than by availing myself of the occa- 
sion offered by Providence in the parish of St. Sulpice. This desire 
becomes still more inflamed when I reflect that all our greatest people 
reside in that parish ; and then I rejoice at having the opportunity, 
so long coveted, of showing them their vanity and disabusing them 
of their errors. All our Company are burning with the same zeal, and 
long to go into that faubourg and make God known there. Ah ! if 
the exercise of the pastoral office inspires us with such sentiments of 
zeal and devotion as the mere prospect of it has generated in our 
hearts, I hope that our great Master will find therein His honour 
and glory. ... I experience such a mighty desire to save all the 
world, and to spread abroad zeal for the love and glory of God in 
all hearts, that fain would I have a thousand emissaries whom I 
could send to carry everywhere the love of Jesus Christ My heart 
is all consumed with zeal when I think of the profession which the 
prieats of our little society will make — a profession of servitude to 

of disposing him for death. Frangois Olier died in the month of March, 1644, 
after filHng the offices of Maltre des Requetes, President of the Grand Council, and 
Director of Mines. His youngest brother, Nicolas- Edouard, who was indebted to 
him for many acts of generous affection and solicitude, died suddenly on the 27th 
of November, 1669. In the GMalogies des Mattres des ReqiiHes he is described as 
Counsellor of State, Secretary of his Majesty and of his finances, Grand Audiencier 
of France, Seigneur of Fontenelle, of Maison-sur-Seine, of Touquin near Rossy 
in Brie, &c. His wife was Mme. Ren^e de Thurin. 

■i4 Ji^.'-V.-^t^- 





1 68 

Li/e of M. Olier, 

Jesus Christ and to the Church His spouse. She is a spouse whom 
He loves supremely ; a body all of whose members He has espoused, 
that He may give Himself to each one in particular with as much 
love as to all united. Who would not wish to love her whom Jesus 
Christ so loves ? Who would not wish to serve her whom He Him- 
self does not disdain to serve? Therefore it was tl.?t 5t. Paul 
said,* ' VVe proclaim ourselves your servants for the love of Jesus 
Christ' And so we also have had the thought, through the mercy 
of God and in conformity with the sentiments of our Lord who 
came to be the servant of His Church, of dedicating our labours to 
her irrevocably in this parish, ever ready to shed our blood to the 
last drop, after His example. I pray Him to order our life in this 
wise, that we may devote ourselves to the salvation of His flock 
in very deed, and not by word or writing only." And again, he says 
that, when hearing confessions one day at Vaugirard, he regarded 
himself as the servant of every soul that came to him, and it was 
signified to him interiorly that this was the spirit which should 
animate him in his parochial duties at St. Sulpice : " I ought to 
look upon every soul as my queen, and consider myself as the com- 
mon servant of all, ever ready to minister to every one according to 
his needs, being verily and indeed the servant of the whole Church, 
and of the parish of St. Sulpice in particular. I am no longer my 
own, I am the property of all, having sold and devoted myself to 
their service." 

On the 4th of August, in order to prepare himself for entering on 
the duties of the pastoral office, M. Olier commenced a retreat t under 
the direction of P. Bataille, in which he was inspired with an extra- 
ordinary love of crosses and humiliations, and with an intense desire 
to suffer a thousand deaths, if thereby he might promote the glory 
of God and the sanctification of souls ; regarding himself, in his 
sacerdotal office, as another Jesus Christ, sent by the Eternal Father 
to make the continual sacrifice of himself for the good of his flock. 
It was at the same time revealed to him that grievous trials awaited 
him in his new position. 

He was still in retreat when information was brought to him that 

* Comp. 2 Cor. iv. 5. 

+ A summary of his meditations during this retreat, as committed to writing by 
himself, will be found appended to this chapter. They exemplify, in a remark- 
able manner, the spirit with which he was animated in undertaking the pastoral 
charge, and which he succeeded in infusing into the members of his community. 

Inihiclcd as Cure' of St. Sulpice. 


M. de Fiesque, wishing to avoid all explanations with his parish- 
ioners, had suddenly resolved on quitting St. Sulpice before the 
feast of the Assumption. The news had not taken him by surprise, 
for, while engaged in prayer, the Blessed Virgin had said to him, " It 
is my wish that you should assist at my triumph ; " in allusion to the 
solemn procession which would be made in her honour at St. Sulpice 
on that day. Several of his colleagues were averse to anticipating the 
approval of the Holy See, but the Benedictines of St. Germain, unwill- 
ing to let ' parish remain without a pastor, desired that he should take 
provisional possession without delay, and fixed the loth of August, 
beingthefeast ofSt. Laurence, for his induction. P. Bataille also gave 
his counsel to the same effect. Accordingly, without further prepara- 
tion, M. Picot^ and M. du Ferrier proceeded to take up their abode 
in the Presbytery ; the removal being conducted with such haste that 
they had not even time to lay in provisions. This was on Saturday, 
the 9th of August, and the next day M. Olier was to enter on his 
ministrations. Providence, as he says, seemed to give Its approval 
of what was being done, for, having need of one on whom he could 
rely for managing some affairs of importance relative to the transfer, 
a person came and offered his services who was so eligible in every 
respect that, had he had a thousand to choose from, he declares he 
could not have made a happier selection. The Saturday was spent 
by him in paying visits of respect to some of the great ladies in the 
parish, but, previously to setting out, he went to present himself 
before his heavenly Patroness in order to know her will and obtain 
her blessing. " It seemed to me," he says, " as if she wished me to 
look upon those I visited simply as her representatives ; and this is 
what I sensibly experienced. I paid no regard to creatures, my 
mind being occupied with the thought of the Blessed Virgin, and of 
her alone, all the time I was addressing them." He then blesses the 
Divine goodness for prompting an act of thoughtful kindness which 
relieved him of a heavy sorrow. The Duchesse d'Aiguillon came 
and offered to go, with the Princesse de Cond^ and other ladies, to 
call upon his mother, and by their personal civilities endeavour to 
appease her anger, and make amends to her for the loss of honour 
which she conceived she had incurred by the conduct of her son. 

M. Olier had hoped that P. Tarrisse, as Superior-General of the 
Benedictines, would have been present in person at his induction 
and given him formal possession of the church, but, being absent 
from Paris at the time, he was represented by P. Bataille and another 


Life of M. Olier. 

■ \ ! 

religious. When they led him to the altar and he stooped to kiss it, 
he seemed (as he says) to become at that moment the spouse cf his 
Church ; he felt as though he were charged with the sins of the whole 
flock, and bound henceforth to share its sufferings and woes, to be 
its advocate and protector, and to have only one object and one will, 
that of procuring it all imaginable blessings and investing it with all 
possible beauty ; that, as St. Paul says,* he might present it to God 
without spot or wrinkle. " Ah, my God," he exclaims, " what a grace 
to choose me from the midst of sinners, from the dregs of humanity, 
from the mire and filth of my sins, to exalt me to this high, holy, 
and divine dignity of pastor and s[)ouse of the Church ! To Thee 
alone does this dignity and title of right belong. How blind is the 
world, how depraved, miserable, and ignorant, which judges so 
unworthily of the true glories of God, when in its blindness and 
stupidity it thinks that a cure of souls is nothing — that it lowers the 
dignity of a man of good birth — and believes, vile and wretched as 
it is, that an origin which dates from Adam, mere birth, accompanied 
with imaginary goods, riches and honours, is something worthy of 
esteem ! " 

The first act of his pastoral office was performed at his youngest 
brother's house. A gentlewoman belonging to the household, who 
believed herself to be indebted to his prayers for her deliverance 
from a grievous malady, having married a parishioner of St. Sulpice, 
M. Olier was invited to the nuptial feast, and at the end of the repast 
he felt moved to give the newly wedded couple some instructions on 
the duties of their state ; thus changing, as he says, the tasteless 
water of earthly pleasures into the rich wine of God's word. He 
seemed to receive a particular grace for the occasion, the influence 
of which was felt by all present, the husband testifying to the joy of 
his soul in terms suggested by the Gospel : " You have given us a 
delicious draught, far better than the first ; you have kept the good 
wine to the last." 

On the feast of the Assumption took place that event which was to 
be the source of untold blessings to the Church of France, the 
establishment of the Seminary and Community of St. Sulpice. 
Early in the morning the ecclesiastics of Vaugirard repaired to the 
residence prepared for them, and later in the day High Mass was 
celebrated, at which, by P. Bataille's express desire, M. Olier, 
surrounded by his clergy, offered the Holy Sacrifice and afterwards 

* Eph. V. 27. 

Establishmenl of the Seminary. 


conducted the procession in honour of the Queen of Heaven. All 
through the Mass, and especially at the moment of communion, he 
had so intimate a sense of the presence of our Lord that his soul 
seemed to swoon and grow faint with the excesses of divine love. *' I 
had no longer either strength or feeling," he says, '* and the thought 
of the most holy Virgin throned in glory served but to increase 
the flames, and to kindle stiil more those consuming heats." lie 
preached the same day, taking for his text the first words of our 
Lord's Sermon on the Mount : " Deati pauperes spirilu, </uom'am 
ipsorum est regnum cceloruin."* "To-day," he began, "this pro- 
phecy of our Lord Jesus .iceives its great fulfilment, whereon we 
behold exalted into heaven her who was the humblest of creatures 
on earth." His heavenly Mistress seemed to rejoice in making him 
a sharer in her glory on this her day of triumph. Swept away for 
ever from the memories of men were the humiliations by which the 
servant of God had been tried in the day of his abasement, and they 
who had despised and mocked at him now came and did him 
rever-i-nce. Persons holding office in the State, several even of his 
own relatives, whose influence might prove of the greatest advantage 
to the cause of religion, were forward in testifying their admiration 
and respect. The members of his own immediate family were filled 
with amazement when they perceived how one who fled from 
honours and the notice of the great was pursued with praises and 
applause, when they heard themselves congratulated on possessing 
such a relative, and beheld men and women high in rank and repu- 
tation hastening to offer him their services or place themselves 
under his direction. He meanwhile, though he blessed the good- 
ness of God in thus removing obstacles from before him, and giving 
him that support and authority which he needed in the execution of 
his arduous ofiice, nevertheless estimated all these tokens or pro- 
mises of success at their true value; and when, on the 27th of 
August, the feast of the Translation of St. Sulpice,+ he preached 

• " Blessed are the poor in spirit ; for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." St. 
Matthew v. 3. 

t The translation of the relics of St. Sulpice from the monastery at Bourges 
took place on the 27th of August, 1518; and, owing to the numerous miraculous 
cures which continued to be wrought at the shrine, that day was observed by the 
people with greater solemnity and devotion than the feast of the Saint, which 
occurred on the 17th of January. In M. Oiler's own days, the iron bedsteads 
were still to be seen, in the vaults of the church, on which the sick were laid to 
pass the night before the Saint's relics. 

ii^ibW", .-.■.^.-.■'u. 


Life of M. Oiicr. 

before a crowded audience, among whom were many doctors of the 
Sorbonne and other ecclesiastics, on the greatness of the sacerdotal 
office and the duties of the pastoral charge, anr'. men celebrated for 
their theological science thronged about liim to express the satisfac- 
tion with which they had listened to his address, so far from showing 
contentment at the effect he had produced, we find him saying, in 
that record of his life to which such constant refe'cnce has been 
made, " It seems to me that as yet I have not preached in the full 
light of God, and in the energy of His pure word, as by His mercy 
I did heretofore. I hope that Jesus Christ, my Master, will one day 
bestow this grace upon me, and I have a confidence that He will. 
This will be when I shall have received my bulls of institution from 
Rome, for that is the time at which I begged God to give me His 
Spirit that I may be able to acquit myself of the charge intrusted to 
me. Indeed, 1 feel that I am awaiting this assistance, and that, if I 
now perform the functions of parish priest, it is but by anticipation," 
The Bulls of institution to which the servant of God attached so 
much importance arrived, as he had hoped, within the octave of our 
Lady's Nativity, a circumstance which afforded him a sweet and 
lively satisfaction ; and, as always happened to him on that festival, 
he experienced a sensible renewal of zeal and fervour. But he was 
to be fitted and prepared for the discharge of his sacred office by a 
favour (as he regarded it) of quite another kind, — a sudden and very 
grievous malady, which brought him to the borders of the grave, 
but only (as his biographer expresses it) to exliibit in a clearer light 
the perfect renovation which was being wrought within him. Of 
that interior work of grace he writes in his Memoires, " I may say, 
to the glory of God, that this malady was extremely profitable to me 
in helping me to die to the world and to myself, sweetly disposing 
me to live only for God — the life that may be truly called a new life, 
the life of the Resurrection. During this illness I felt throughout 
my body a great weakness and sinking, which I offered to my God, 
with great joy, for the salvation of souls, enduring it with much 
patience and love. In this state, I beheld myself as brought to 
naught before God, like a poor victim, covered with all the sins of 
the world and praying for their remission with my whole heart. God 
permitted that during all that time I should experience most im- 
portunate temptations of secret pride and self-love, in order that I 
might die thereto, having henceforth no object save His glory, no 
de.sire save that of honouring Him by serving Him, free from all 

If is twofold vocation. 


s'^lf-seeking. For it pleased the Divine Goodness to change those 
dispositions in which I had been during the course of my iUncss, 
and to say to inc on the 21st of September, the feast of the glorious 
St. Matthew, that it was His will that I should enter on a new life : 
that I should be more gentle, more patient, more charitable than 
ever ; that I must renounce every sensible satisfaction in this life, 
according to what I have heretofore observed in the life of such 
("hristians as are dead to this present life and live only for the other, 
experiencing no consolation or joy except, like the blessed, in the 
sight of God and the interests of His glory. And, through this same 
goodness, God renewed in my soul the disposition in which He had 
called me to His divine service; to wit, a very great desire of His 
ulory, founded on my own annihilation, endeavouring to promote 
in every possible way the great glory of God, without myself appear- 
ing therein in any manner whatever, without being myself spoken 
of or thought of in any way, attributing all the honour and glory 
of His work to God alone, without the creature having any part 

Such were the sentiments with which the soul of this true priest of 
God was filled, as he lay under the weight of what appeared to be 
a mortal illness ; and, indeed, the rumour was widely spread abroad 
that M. Olier was dead. But for himself, he was all along assured 
that he was not doomed to die ; for, as he told his director, P. 
Bataille, he had received a divine intimation, some time be.'bre, that on 
the day on which he attained his thirty-fifth year he should be made 
a bishop, which hie interpreted to mean a pastor of souls.* And 
strange to say, contrary 10 all appearances, on the 20th of September 
the malady left him as suddenly as it had seized him, and on the 
2ist he was formally installed as Cur^ of St. Sulpice, Dom Tarrisse 
now presiding at the ceremony. It was like a resurrection from the 
dead, so unexpected and so complete was his return to health and 
to vigorous activity ; as though he was now at Itngth entering on the 
life to which the Providence of God had destined him. 

The work which M. Olier was called to do was, as we have seen, 
twofold ; for he was not only to establish a seminary for the training 
of ecclesiastics, and to unite therewith a community of priests who 
should discharge all the ordinary functions of parochial clergy, but 
with this double task, hitherto found impracticable, he was to com- 

* "Episcopum vero, id est, inspectorem, visitatorem, et (ut I.aiiae verlunt 
(|uidam) curatorem." Estius in B. Petri Epist. I. c. ii. v. 25. 



Life of M. Olier, 



bine another from which the stoutest hearts might well have shrunk 
back appalled, that of reforming the most vicious parish in the whole 
city of Paris. The several works went on together, but for the sake 
both of clearness and of completeness we shall treat them sei)arately, 
and, reserving to the third part of this biography the history of the 
measures he pursued in the formation and sanctification of his clerj^y 
and of his successes in establishing seminaries in various cities of 
Fran j, shall confine ourselves in that which follows to an account of 
his Apostolic labours in the evangelisation of the people committed 
to his pastoral care. 


"On the 4th of August, being the feast of St. Dominic, my director gave me 
for my subject of meditation the importance of succouring souls, and the zeal I 
ought to have for their salvation, after the example which the Son of God left to 
all the pastors of His Church. Addressing myself, then, to prayer, I saw that 
this great love of our Lord for souls had its source in that which He bears His 
Father. That the glory of His Father is His great and only desire, and that, 
sieing souls who might glorify Him eternally. He loved them from this motive ; 
He willingly left the bosom of His Father, He quitted His own proper glory, and 
huml)led Himself even to conversing with men, not disdaining to share their 
poverty. Tiiat to render them capable of honouring and glorifying God His 
father, He endured so many labours, watchings, and sufierings, and in the end 
the ignominious death of the Cross. That, as this death would open Heaven to a 
multitude of souls who should render to God an immortal glory, He would for 
this end have given a hundred thousand lives, and have suffered a hundred 
thousand deaths. Nay, more ; that His deaih appearing to Him as nothing in 
comparison with this glory, no pains, no sufferings were sufficient to satisfy the 
immense desire He felt of promoting it. 

" While I was occupied with these thoughts, it pleased the goodness of Jesus, 
my only Master, to communicate to me something of these sentiments, so that I 
felt my heart all on fire, and experienced the most ardent desires to give my God 
a thousand lives, and a hundred thousand millions of lives, if that were possible, 
to procure some accession to His glory. This divine communication, which came 
to me quite suddenly, lasted almost the whole time of my prayer ; there was no 
circumstance in the life or death of my Master which, as I contemplated it, I did 
not desire closely to imitate, and which I did not resolve to practise, with the 
approval of my director. My Saviour not only desired to die a thousand times 
for His Churcli, He desired also to give Himself to her as food ; and this He 
accomplishes daily in the Most Holy Sacrament. Of this de.-ire, likewise. His 
gci dness made me partaker. If I have not the happiness of shedding my blood 

His Meditations during Retreat. 


fur the Churcb, I will be, at least, lier living victim, to serve for her nourishment ; 
I must po-i»css nolliing wiiich is not hers, — al)ove all, my woihlly ^;oo<ls, which 
niust be devoted to the support of the poor of ihis great parisii. It shall be my 
desire, moreover, after having given the day to labour, to spend the night also in 
prayer before the Most Holy Sacrnuicnt. I entreat my din-ctor not to deny me 
this favour, fur which I have >ighed so long — at least, me the boon some- 
times. I desire to imitate in this the piety of my good Master towards I lit 
Father, and to be like tliosc lamps whose lot I have so often envied, that my life 
may he consumed ft)r the glv)iy of God and of Jesus Clirist His S'>n. 

"This morning, when preparing to say Mass, I felt in my heart an ardent 
desire to be in as many places as there are Ilostn in all the worlil, that everywhere 
I might glorify CIcmI : this also is the disposition of my Jesus, the Host (or 
Victim) of God, As I was about to offer the Holy Sacrifice in honour of the 
great St. Dominic, who, by means of his Order has L.en, as it were, dispersetl 
and multiplied throughout the world for so many ages, as often as there have been 
good religious in his community — wliich is as a vessel of fire to burn and consume 
heresies and rekindle fervour in the hearts of the faithful — I be-out;lU God tliat 
He would bestow on all parishes, and on every place where my Master reposes in 
the Tabernacle, good pastors who should be ever vigilant in guarding and honour- 
ing this divine and adorable treaHure, and should know how to dispense it in a 
manner worthy of its infmite sanctity. O Lord Jesus, true Pastor of the universal 
Church, apply a speedy remedy to her needs ; raise up men who may renew the 
divine Order of St. I'eter, the Order of pastors, with as much love and zeal as St. 
Dominic established his Order in Thy Church. Inflame with the fne of Thy love 
and of Thy devotion others, again, who may carry and spread it through all the 
world. Were I not so wretched and so proud, were I not a very sink of fdlh and 
corruption, how willingly would I offer myself to Thee to be employed in any 
wny that might please Thee for the good of Thy Church ; how heartily would I 
offer and devote myself, even as at this moment I do, as a worthless vessel to be 
])ut to any use, and to become whatsoever Thou willes^l I am Thine without 
reserve. I am Thy slave, O my Jesus. I have vowed to Thee an absolute 
servitude, and what I have done is irrevocable ; and now I give myself up anew 
and for ever, not reserving to myself any right to revoke the offering which I 
make of myself to Thee. Dispose of me according to Thy good pleasure, as an 
absolute lord and master disposes of his servant and his slave. Of myself I can do 
nothing. Thou only, O Lord, who art almighty, canst produce anything out of 
my wretched nothingness. 

"On the second day of my retreat I had for the subject of my meditation this 
truth : The pastor of souls must be a Jesus Christ on earth. Our Lord showed 
me that I must produce fruit in souls by example ; that they are not to be ruled 
by commanding, but by touching hearts by means of all the Apostolic virtues, and, 
above all, by sweetness and humility; that being, as I am, the greatest sinner, I 
must be the most humble of all my flock ; being burdened, moreover, with the 
innumerable sins af all this people. This good Master di.sposed me yesterday, 
during the reading at supper, to this last thought of which I speak, drawing my 
mind to dwell on the command which God gave St. Peter, the universal pastor of 
the Church, — to eat of all the creeping things contained in that mysterious sheet.* 
Whence He taught me that, participating in the sins of the whole Church, I ought 

* Acts X. 10-16. 






Li/e of M. Olier, 

to do penance for her, and weep for her sins as for my own, seeing that I am her 
spouse ; for tlie spouse shares the debts as well as the goods and possessions of 
his consort. It is also said that this holy Apostle wept continually, not only for 
his own sins, but likewise for the sins of his spouse ; for whom he implored 
pardon, giving her at the same tin^e an example of penance, that she inight 
imitate him in weeping for her own sins : the true and lawful wife ever shares the 
sentiments of her husband. 

" I learned also that our Lord, seeing Mirnself loaded with the sins of the whole 
world, refused all consolations during His mortal life : never once v.'ss He seen to 
laugh ; and not even the society of His holy Mother could divert Him from this 
abiding sorrow. He went on His way as though the impetuous torrents of our 
sins were perpetually rushing ia upon Him and overwhelming Him ; He wept 
without ceasing in His Heart, doing penance for His people, and imploring 
pardon continually for them in His prayers For although these were not the only 
afTeclions m which His soul was engaged, seeing He was filled also with the love 
and praises of His Father and with gratitude for the blessings granted to man, 
yet the spectacle of our sins was ever before His eyes, and this kept Him con- 
tinually plunged in affliction. As I entertained myself with these thoughts, it 
pleased the goodness of my Master to communicate to me this interior disposition, 
and I scemeci to be wholly possessed with it, feeling expeiimentally, not only this 
speci js of sadness, but also the deep humility in which I ought to live, and the 
lowly sentiments which ought to accompany that state ; in fine, it seemed to me 
that I ought to be prepared in mind to suffer with the most perfect sweetness 
every conneivable outrage of which I might be made the object. 

*' On the third day of my retreat, continuing my meditation on the imitation of 
our Lord, of whom I was to be the living representative before the eyes of the 
faithful, I perceived that I ought to imitate His modesty. Now, this modesty 
has for its principle the respect due to God, and proceeds from the Holy Spirit, 
who, when He has possession ot the body as well as of the soul, composes and 
keeps it in a state of perfect recollection, thereby inspiring all beholders with 
piety, and darting forth as many arrows of the love of God as there are hearts 
susceptible of the movements of charity. It must not be mundane in its nature, 
or the effect of self-complacency : this is the aHected modesty of the old man ; on 
the contrary, it must be a virtue of the new man, an exterior composure which 
has its source in that of Jesus Christ Himself, who, dwelling in us, dilTuses it over 
our whole person, regulating 01 r exterior after the pattern of His own — our very 
gait, our manner of speaking, eating, and all else : this is v/hat is called Christian 
modesty. The excellence of this virtue appears in the powerful results which it 
produces, as in winning hearts and leading them to God ; in a word, all those 
admirable effects of which St. Paul speaks (2 Cor. x. i) when he beseeches the 
faithful 'by the modesty of Christ,' so mighty in inPuence over the minds of men. 

"To-day I was taught that in the mystery of the Trunsfiguration, which we 
celebrated yesterday, our Lord spoke of His cross to show that He came princi- 
pally with this object, to preach it to men, and that, moreover, as an excellent 
Master, He came to teach us the practice of it. This is why it is written in the 
Gospel of the day (St. Luke ix. 30, 31), ' Dicehant * excessum ejus — They spoke of 
His decease : ' here ia the teaching of the Cross ; ^ quern compleUtrus erat in Jeru- 

* Quoting fro.n memory, M. CMier wrote I.oquthatur instead of Dicehant, his mii.d, no doubt, 
reverting to the words loquebantur cum iilo in the previous verse. 

His Meditatiojis iuring Retreat. 


saUm — wbicli He should accomplish in Jerusalem :' here is the confirmation of 
tne teaching by example. Yesterday, in my prayer, I beheld our Lord trodden 
under foot, struck, thrown to the grounc, by the Jews, and I beheld myself in the 
same condition, treated in like manner by the world. At the same lime I con- 
templated the interior disposition cf our Lord, whilst He v;as enduring all these 
afflictions and sufferings. It was all ineffable sweetness and patience, a continual 
s.iying to Himself that He well merited this treatment, seeing He had taken the 
sins of all upon Himself; I saw that He had laden Himself, not only with the 
sins which men have vommiited against Goc!, but with all those of which they 
liave been guilty towaids their neighbour, as robbery, treason, all the infidelities 
which thieves, servants, and subjects can commit against men, masters, and king ,. 
Now, as a thief, or a faithless servant, taken in the very act, is maltreated and 
loaded with insults and ignominies, I learned that our Lord, having loaded Him- 
self with all thece kinds of sins, was pleased to bear the penalty and the just 
chastisement of them with equal sweetness and patience, and that so I also ought 
to resolve to bear all kinds of ignominies and insults, (.eeing that I was taking on 
myself the sins of all my flock, and to abandon myself as a victim into the hands 
of Divine Justice, to receive on my own person the chastisements destined for 

"I cannot refrain from manifesting the love which our Lord gave me for His 
Cross during my pr.iyer, and the great joy He caused me to experience in assuring 
me that in roy ministry at St. Sulpice, on which I am about to enter, I should have 
a large sha'e in it. This assurance quite transported me with joy, and constrained 
me to ofTer myself to His love with ardent aspirations and words like those of St. 
Andrew : • O bona Crux, diu desiderata I — (O good Cross, so long desired !).' 
To confirm me in the promise of this grace, it pleased God to renew before my 
mind the vision of a cross which He had already shown me, and which I am to 
carry when it is His will to lay it on my shoulders. I believe it is approaching, 
for I have heard that there is n certain person who is violently incensed against 
me, and threatens to publish libels against us, of which our director, it would 
appear, has already had some intimation. This morning, when I was engaged in 
fervent prayer, and was meditating on self-abandonment to crosses and sufferings, 
word was brought me that the Cur6 of St. Sulpice had retracted his promise con- 
cerning the transfer of his parish ; then, without experiencing any movement of 
disappointment, I said to the bearer of these tidings, ' This news is very welcome, 
blessed be God for all things! * The goodness of my Master is thus pleased to put 
me in dispositions the most fitting to receive such crosses as on thatp!>.rlicular day 
I le had designed for me. The news, however, proved to be false. 

"Ah ! Lord, now that I see myself charged with the sins of all this people, said 
to be the most depraved in the whtle world, if in Thy mercy Thou wouldst inspire 
me with those sentiments of humility, confusion, and self-annihilation which I 
ought to have by reason of this burden, O my Saviour, I would imitate Thee in 
Thy deep humiliation. Alas ! ought I not to take great nhame to myself, that, 
being Thy representative in the Church, I should have nothing in me which 
represents and reflects Thy virtues? On Friday, August 8fh, in my morning 
prayer, I had so clear a perception of my own nothingness, and so intimate a 
conviciion of it, that I said to my Master, that, but for my hope that He would 
Himself support for me the burden about to be laid upon mc, I should fly to the 
ends of the earth rather than accept it, having in myself only nothingness, blind- 
ness, ignorance, weakness, and an utter incapacity to do Him any service. It 


■i-ii-i^a.!ir>i^":-;'''i/' . 

S,-'.'::£'.^;kij« ii.'''«'t:i.':. 

..-^rj'-V-!' --,' n •',^"1 ^- 


Life of M. Olier. 


seemed to me that our Ix>rdhad inspired me with an utter horror of worldly honour; 
I earnestly implored Htm to give me death rather than the praise of men, which I 
can in no wise accept ; for my Saviour lived and died in the midst of confusion and 
contempt. Moreover, all my desire being to procure the glory of my Master, I 
cannot experience a greater pain than in receiving honour, seeing it is a good 
which belongs only to my God. Alas I O my God, to Thee be all honour and 
glory, and to me all confusion. If I could steal from Thee all the ignominy Thou 
endurest, and could restore to Thee all the honour of which Thou art robbed, I 
should be content. Vouchsafe, then, to be honoured by my confusion, seeing it 
is Thy pleasure to employ me for Thy greater glory, aiid that Vhou desirest to 
ground it on my humiliation as a parish priest, a charge now fallen into contempt 
with all the functions belonging to it ; in nne, on the ignominy which has always 
been promised to me in this condition. 

"I am not astonished at the love which ought to be felt for the Church, and 
for the meanest cf creatureb, so far as such creature is a portion of that august 
body ; for what more admirable than the Church ? Rather, I am unable to con- 
ceive how it is that one does not die of lovc for the faithful, seeing that each shall 
be one day a component part of the Church triumphant, which shall praise the 
greatness of God to all eternity. While I was full of these thoughts they brought 
me a poor child, begging me to bestow some alms upon it. I do not know what 
I did not feel ready to do for it, regarding it as a member of that Church so 
admirable and so divine, that kingdom so perfect, that throne so magnificent of 
the adorable Majesty of God. O Goodness ! what shall we not be willing to do 
for Thee ? How readily would I shed my blood for Thy love, — yea, and if it were 
mme, the blood of all creatures 1 " 

orldly honour; 
' men, which I 
confusion and 
my Master, I 
g it is a good 
.11 honour and 
jnominy Thou 
art robbed, I 
ision, seeing it 
ou desirest to 
into contempt 
ch has always 

! Church, and 
>f that august 
inable to con- 
hat each shall 
ill praise the 
they brought 
}t know what 
at Church so 
nagnificent of 
willing to do 
and if it were 

IPart tt 




( iSi ) 



IN the first half of the 17th century the immorality and impiety 
which prevailed throughout Europe — consequent on the loosen- 
ing of all the bonds of society which had attended that great revolt 
against the authority of the Church commonly called the Reforma- 
tion — had reached such a height in France that, confounded at the 
spectacle which everywhere presented itself, wise and holy men had 
begun to fear that their country was about to lose the light of faith^ 
as had befallen most of the northern nations. Thus St. Vincent de 
Paul, writing to M. d'Horgny, Superior of the Mission at Rome, 
says, " I fear that God is allowing the faith gradually to perish from 
among us on account of the depravity of manners, the novel opinions 
which are spreading more and more, and the generally evil state of 
things. During the hundred years last past it has lost the greater 
part of the Empire (of Germany), and the kingdoms of Sweden, 
Denmark, Norway, Scotland, Ireland,* England, Bohemia, and 
Hungary. The loss of these Churches during the past hundred 
years gives us cause to fear that in another hundred years the 
Church will have altogether disappeared in Europe. For what we 
know, it may be the will of God to transfer the faith to heathen 
nations, which perhaps have preserved the innocence of their 
manners more than have the greater part of Christians, who have 
nothing less at heart than the sacred mysteries of our holy religion. 
For myself, I confess, this has been my opinion for a long time." 

Of this demoralisation and corruption the quarter of Paris in 
which M. Olier was called to minister was a flagrant exemplification. 

That is, through the political ascendancy of Protestant England, for the Irish 
people had remained devotedly loyal to the Church. 



Life of M. Olier. 

The Faubourg St. Germain, which constituted the largest portion of 
the parish of St. Sulpice, was notorious at the time for the number 
of professed atheists and libertines who had made it their abode. 
In the previous century it had become the stronghold of the Cal- 
vinists ; it was there they had erected their first conventicle, and 
had made their first public and most daring demonstrations. Hither 
they had continued to resort from all sides during the contest which 
desolated France, and such was the success of their proselytising 
efforts that this quarter of the town had acquired the name of the 
Little Geneva. The effect had been to undermine and destroy the 
faith of the people, to inspire them with a hatred of priests and a 
contempt for religious, and to make them regard whatever was 
expended in the support of the clergy and the decoration of the 
churches as so much which might have gone towards maintaining 
themselves in idleness and debauchery. The most horrible blas- 
phemies were openly promulgated, while the essential doctrines of 
Catholicism, and even the first principles of natural religion, were 
rejected with scorn and derision. Christianity, in short, had come 
to je generally regarded as an invention of the governing powers, 
and its ministers as impostors or the paid agents of tyranny. 

This monstrous impiety, with an inconsistency not uncommon, 
was associated with the most revolting superstition and a syste- 
matic practice of magic. Books on the diabolic art were publicly 
sold at the very doors of the church ; and, shortly after M. Olier 
entered on the duties of the parish, the Bailly of the suburb, being 
in pursuit of three persons accused of sorcery, and mistaking ^ne 
house for another, found an altar dedicated to the evil spirit, with 
these words inscribed upon it : " Gratias tibi, Lucifer ; gratias iibiy 
Beelzebub ; gratias tibi, Azaree/."* The altar was a sort of travesty 
of that consecrated to Catholic worship ; the candles were black, 
the ornaments about it were all in keeping with its infernal object, 
and the book of prayers, as in mockery of the Missal, consisted of 
diabolical incantations. The Bailly took possession of the book, 

* •* Thanks to thee, Lucifer ; thanks to thee, Beelzebub ; thanks to thee, 

The impious men who at the present day, in France and Italy, pay public homage 
to Satan and invoke his aid cannot be said to believe either in his existence or in 
his power. They simply use his name as the symbol of their hatred of the Chris- 
tian religion and of God. He is to them the impersonation of rebellion against the 
Supreme Lord of heaven and earth. But they are none th^ less his agents and 
his dupes. 

State of the Parish. 



but the affair was not prosecuted further on account of the numbers 
and position of those who were implicated. So prevalent also at 
this time had become the study of abirology that P. de Condren 
had thought it necessary to make himself acquainted with the 
mysteries of that false science, in order more effectually to disabuse 
the minds of those who were addicted to it, and at the request of 
Cardinal de Richelieu had even published a treatise to expose its 
folly and wicKedness.* 

But, though impiety and superstition abounded to so fatal an 
extent, these were but secret and partial evils as compared with the 
violence, the riot, the debauchery, the general lawlessness, for which 
this unhappy parish had gained so infamous a notoriety. The long- 
continued civil wars and the scandals of a dissolute court under 
preceding reigns had rendered Paris one of the most demoralized 
cities in the world ; while the insufficient protection afforded to life 
and property by the municipal authorities had left the inhabitants a 
prey to bands of robbers and marauders, who traversed the streets 
at nightfall and set both laws and police at defiance. So intolerable 
at length had theee outrages become that the citizens were ordered 
to keep weapons in their houses and hold themselves in readiness 
to sally out to the aid of the armed patrol. Compelled thus to seek 
a retreat from the vengeance of the laws, these miscreants took 
refuge in the Faubourg St. Germain, where they were sure of find- 
ing perfect security. Pursuit was no longer possible ; for the whole 
parish enjoyed an immunity from the control of the magistracy of the 
city, being (as it has been said) subjected to the peculiar jurisdiction 
of the Abb^ de St. Germain, by whom justice was feebly administered 
and most inadequately enforced. Moreover, the fair f which was 
held in this quarter, and which lasted two whole months in the 
year, conduced beyond all calculation towards fomenting the dis- 
orders. No tolls being exacted, vendors flocked thither from all 
parts of the country to display their wares ; thieves, mountebanks, 
strollers, jugglers, — every panderer to vanity and crime was there to 

* Tliis treatise is given in the collected edition of liis works to which reference 
has been made. 

t The reader will not have forgotten that it was from the fair of St. Germain M. 
Oher and his young companions were returning when they were accosted by Marie 
Rousseau. It was opened annually on the 3rd of February, and commonly lasted 
till Passion Sunday. It retained its popularity till the year 1763, when a fire 
broke out and destroyed all the wooden structures which formed the shops and 







Life of M. Olier. 

ply his trade or exhibit his dexterity ; booths were set up in the 
public thoroughfares ; the people assembled in crowds, especially 
in the evenings, when the concourse was greatest, and the whole 
region became one wild scene of revelry and carousal, riot, frolic, 
and sin. Brawls, too, and assassinations were frequent ; and such 
was the rage for duelling, which in the midst of so much license 
could be practised with the utmost facility and impunity, that during 
M. Olier's administration of the parish seventeen persons were mor- 
tally wounded in one week. 

This frightful picture would be very incomplete without some men- 
tion of the condition of the clergy and of their ministrations. Amidst 
al! this vast and lawless population the principal church was no larger 
than would have been suitable for some country village; and yet, 
small as it was, it was far too spacious for the congregation that fre- 
quented it. The interior was dirty and ill-kept ; the pavement of the 
floor broken and uneven; the high altar naked and desolate; the 
walls were destitute of all ornament ; and there was not even a sacristy, 
properly so called, to which the clergy could retire. In the celebra- 
tion of the Divine Mysteries no order or punctuality was observed ; 
the priests vested before the altar, and a bell, suspended at the 
entrance of "ach chapel, was rung to warn the faithful that Mass was 
beginning. The guilds were so numerous, and their meetings were 
held so frequently, that the clergy who had to attend their frivolous 
ceremonies were unable to devote the necessary time to the duties 
of the parish. The burial-ground, which was contiguous to the build- 
ing, but unenclosed, was the favourite haunt of idlers and drunkards, 
while — will the fact be credited? — a tavern was kept in the very 
vaults of the church, to which even communicants were in the habit 
of resorting before returning to their homes ; for an evil custom had 
grown up of the priests going there to give blessed bread and, what 
was a still more crying abuse, to receive what was called the confes- 
sion-fee. But the scandal did not end there. The clergy them- 
selves, instead of endeavouring to stem the tide of corruption, were 
foremost in setting an evil example to their people ; and we learn 
from M. Bourdoise — in these express terms — that often, after offering 
the Tremendous Sacrifice, they spent the remainder of the day in 
this tavern in the vaults, eating and drinking to excess. When such 
were the priests who served the altar we cannot wonder that the 
officials about the church — the organist, the ringers, and the rest — 
were models neither of morality nor of religion. The suburb, in 

r ■ p^T'^f*'^ ^lUVW^ 

Irreligion of the chief laymen. 

1 8s 

«hort, was a sink of iniquity, and its church was become a den of 
thieves. " To name to you the Faubourg St. Germain," wrote M. 
Olier to a certain bishop, " is to express in one word all the mon- 
strous vices that prey upon humanity." * 

If the men to whom he would naturally have looked for co-opera- 
tion in his pastoral labours were so little qualified or disposed to 
lend him their aid, he was to find no support or consolation in the 
great laymen of his parish. So far from his being able to look to 
them for sympathy and aid, they proved to be the most powerful pat- 
rons of evil and the most formidable opponents of reform. From the 
time that the Court took up its abode at the Louvre, all the great 
lords had built themselves mansions in the Faubourg St. Germain, 
and their presence was anything but an advantage to the cause of 
morality and piety. On the contrary, such was their utter neglect of 
the most sacred duties that, according to the different memoirs 
which have been consulted in this history, there was scarcely a noble 
house in which parents had their children taught the knowledge of 
Jesus Christ and His religion. The princes of the blood-royal had 
only too closely copied in their own practice the deplorable examples 
of preceding reigns. Gaston, Due d'Orl^ans, brother of the King, 
who resided in the palace of the Luxembourg, was notorious for his 
impiety and, especially, for his habit of profane swearing ; so that 
P. de Condren had said — in allusion to his being heir-presurr.ptive to 
the crown — that God would sooner work a miracle than allow such a 
blasphemer, or his issue, to reign as sovereign of France : a predic- 
tion which seemed to find its fulfilment in the birth of a Dauphin 
three-and-twenty years after the marriage of Louis XIIL with Anne of 
Austria. The Duchesse d'Orldans, Marguerite de Lorraine, was, 
happily, a woman of sterling virtue, and succ ded ultimately (as we 
shall see) in reclaiming her husband from his evil courses, but at the 
time of which we are now speaking she was, as M. Faillon styles her, 
" a lily among thorns." A similar account may be rendered of the 
Princesse de Conde, Charlotte-Marguerite, daughter of the Constable 

* M. de Bretonvilliers, in his Life of M. Olier, calls it *'le cloacquedetoutes les 
inechancet^s de Paris, et une Babylone." The Pfere Giry declares it was "le lieu 
de retraite des libertins et de lous ceux qui vivaient dans I'impurit^ et dans le 
d&ordre." M. Baudrand in his MSmoires describes it as "un abime de d^sordres : 
I'h^rdsie, I'impiet^, le libertinage, et I'impurit^ y regnaient ; le peuple y dtait dans 
la derni^re ignorance de nos mystfcres et de ses obligations. " And the Dominican 
Pire de Saint-Vincent writes that " les vices et le libertinage y regorgeaient de 
toutes parts." 


^W A-ip^^^ i*^*?-*^'"^. J*' 1 ' ' ^** 


Life of M. Olier. 


Henri de Montmorency and wife of the Prince Henri de Bourbon,* 
whose h6tel was also in the parish of St. Sulpice. Her husband will 
be found taking an active part in the attempts that were made to 
expel M. Olier from his parish in order to put a stop to the reforms 
he had begun ; while her children and, in particular, Louis de Hour- 
bon, Due d'Enghien, who was afterwards the Great Condd, had the 
misfortune of being brought into intimate relations with that versatile 
genius, the Seigneur de Saint-Evremond, who, if not a scoffer, was an 
avowed unbeliever. 

And this, then, was the soil which the servant of God was called 
to cultivate, and these were his foUow-labourers and patrons ! Not 
that it need be presumed that all the clergy of the parish had become 
so utterly depraved and so lost to all sense of shame as the above 
description would imply — indeed, the contrary incidentally appears 
— but few there were among them who possessed the true sacerdotal 
spirit, or who had any but a low professional view of the obligations 
of their sacred calling. His first efforts, therefore, were directed to 
raising these men out of the depth of degradation, or, at least, 
rousing them from the state of apathy, into which they had fallen 
by placing before them a higher and a holier standard ; and to 
this end he would fain have led them to adopt a community 
life. But here, as may be well imagined, he encountered the most 
determined opposition ; and there was cause to apprehend that, 
if he persisted in the attempt, an insurmountable wall of separa- 
tion would be raised between the parochial clergy and the ecclesi- 
astics whom he had brought with him from Vauj^' -"-d. His heart 
sank within him at the prospect that presented itself, and he was 
often tempted to throw up his office in despair. But the grace of 
God sustained him under the trial. It was given him to see that 
he must follow in the footsteps of our Blessed Lord when He 
conversed with men. " He was content " (he writes) " to preach 
and exhort the people and teach His disciples, who in turn were 
to teach the world and deliver it from sin. My Divine Master 
will vouchsafe to remove all obstacles from my path, and He 
inspires me with a hope that for Him and through Him I shall gain 
an entrance even into the hearts of the great people of this parish." 
He did not therefore relax his endeavours but, committing himself 
to God, summoned all the parish priests together and urged the 

* Called indifferently Prince Henri de Bourbon and Prince Henri de Cond^ 
and sometimes also Prince Henri de Bourbon-Condd. 

1^^^! . . 

1 1 

Address to the Parochial Clergy. 


proposal upon them in an address the substance of which he has 
left us in his writings. 

He spoke of the irksomeness of a priest's existence when leading 
a solitary life in the world ; the teasing distractions from which it is 
impossible for him to escape, and which haunt and hang about him 
even in the performance of his most sacred duties ; the time, the 
thought, the care he must expend on the mere bodily wants of food, 
lodging, and clothing ; and, on the other hand, he enlarged on the 
benefits which those who are specially set apart for God's service 
derive from associating with each other, as contrasted with the evils 
of mixing in secular society. " The association of priests with each 
other," he said, " is always of great advantage, since, as the Wise 
Man * expresses it, by such companionship the tepid are warmed, 
the blind are enlightened, the weak are strengthened ; whereas inter- 
course with seculars, their conversation, their example, can have no 
other effect but that of chilling their hearts for the service of God. 
Sheep newly sheared go close to one another for warmth, and thus find 
shelter from the cold air that surrounds them. So ought priests to 
impart warmth to each other by their holy conversation and their 
mutual conferences, and defend themselves against the chilling in- 
fluences of the world, amidst which their state obliges them to live." 
He then descanted on the principle of association in general, whether 
in cities or in families : that it has the approval and sanction of 
Heaven and is, as it were, an image of the Indivisible Unity of the 
Three Divine Persons ; that in the beginning of creation God formed 
the community of angels, consisting of three hierarchies, themselves 
also a figure of the same ineflTable mystery and the order and com- 
munication subsisting therein ; and that, all on fire with the love of 
God and glowing with mutually engendered heat and fervour, these 
blessed spirits cry continually, " Holy, Holy, Holy." " Now the 
priests of God," he continued, " are His visible angels, whom He 
invites to join together in serving and honouring Him. He would 
have them mutually inflame each other with divine love, speaking 
one to the other of His perfections, extolling His goodness, adoring 
His greatness, and glorifying with one accord His infinite sanctity. 
Seeing, then, that God desires to be honoured by societies, let us 
not refuse Him this glory : Venite, exultemus Domino, jubiUmus Deo 
ialutari nostra ; t and all together, with one heart, one voice, one 

* Comp. Eccles. iv. 9-12. 

t "O come, let us exult in the Lord, let us rejoice before God our Saviour." 
Psalm xciv. i. 


Life of M. Olier, 

r a f 


mouth, offer to the Divine Majesty our jubilations, our praises, and 
our homage." 

On some few of his auditors tliis discourse produced the desired 
effect, but the greater part, including the oldest and best qualified of 
M. de Fiesque's former colleagues, refused to acquiesce in the plan 
proposed. Foiled, therefore, in his endeavours to persuade the 
parochial clergy to live with him in community, he sought to recruit 
his establishment by an addition of fresh members and, as usual, 
had recourse to the powerful assistance of the Blessed Virgin ; beg- 
ging her to gather about him a company of ecclesiastics who, in a 
spirit of entire disinterestedness and detachment from the world, 
would be content to regard the community, not as the vestibule to 
honours and preferment, but as a school of sacerdotal science and 
virtue, where they might labour solely for the glory of God. His 
prayer received a speedy and an effectual answer; for the community, 
which was composed at first of the twenty ecclesiastics who had 
removed from Vaugirard, of seven or eight others who had since 
joined them, and of four of the parochial clergy of St. Sulpice, soon 
numbered fifty members, all men conspicuous for their zeai and 
fervour. M. du Ferrier was made supeiior of the community ; to 
M. de Foix was committed the general superintendence of all that 
concerned the relief of the poor ; while M. de Bassancourt regulated 
the service of th*^ altar and whatever was connected with the order 
and beauty of divine worship ; all three acting as M. Olier's repre- 
sentatives, and under his direction and control. 

Their life was now ordered according to the strictest rules of 
ecclesiastical discipline. All the fees received in the ordinary course 
of their ministry were to be thrown into a common fund, and each 
was to be content with what was suflScient to provide him with food 
and clcdiing. M. Olier particularly enjoined that no fee should be 
charged for administering the Holy Viaticum, and that on no account 
should money be accepted in the tribunal of penance, an abuse 
which prevailed in certain parishes, both at Paris and elsewhere. 
Finding themselves thus deprived of what they had come to regard 
as the rightful emoluments of their office, the parochial clergy 
called on M. Olier to indemnify them for the loss. This he con- 
sented to do, but at the cost of nearly all the remaining fees to which 
he was entitled. On accepting the charge of St. Sulpice, he had 
resolved to resign his abbey of Pdbrac and his priory of Bazainville, 
but, having surrendered the customary fees, he would have found 
himself destitute of wherewithal to support his community had he 

Poverty of the Community. 


put his design into execution. Nevertheless he would have made 
the sacrifice but for the remonstrances of his directors, who repre- 
sented the need he had of the revenues of these benefices in order 
to carry out the reform of the parish with the help of his associates. 
The opposition he encountered in no wise diminished his affec- 
tionate solicitude for those who were its authors ; on the contrary, 
it seemed to operate as a motive for lavishing on them every mark 
of confidence and respect. His generous faith and love of mortifica- 
tion conspired to make him regard as his best friends those who 
gave hiuj occasions of suffering ; and we read in his Memoires that 
he offered on their behalf to God all the pains he endured in a 
severe illness with which he was at this time afflicted, and expressed 
his readiness to undergo much greater sufferings for their sakes. 
So far, too, was he from showing a preference or giving a precedence 
to the members of his community that he maintained all the parish 
clergy in their tormer rank and office, and, for fear that they might 
be led to go elsewhere and fall into worse disorders, he even increased 
their stipends without making any exceptions. He strove, in turn, 
to win their regard and confidence by every manner of kindness 
and attention in his power ; always paying them honour, as the 
oldest of his clergy, inviting them to his table, consulting them on 
the management of parochial affairs, and informing himself as to 
their circumstances, so that all might be properly provided with 
clothing, lodging, and furniture, as well as supplied with whatever 
was needful in case of illness. The consequence of all this privation, 
on the one hand, and of liberality, on the other, was that the Com- 
munity were constrained to embrace a life of evangelical poverty ; 
the priests who had private means contributed out of their superfluity 
to the support of their less provided brethren,* and by common 
consent a rule was adopted not to accept from the poorest parish- 
ioners the customary fees. From M. du Ferrier we learn the sort 
of diet which was usual among them. " It was endeavoured," he 
writes, "to accustom oui priests to a frugal and simple mode of 
living. At dinner they had a basin of soup and a small plate of 
boiled meat, without any dessert, and in the evening a little roast 
mutton." M. Bourdoise, indeed, was disposed to banter them on 
the subject of their viands, as being too luxurious for the future 

* Thus M. Joly, a most exemplary priest, who afterwards became Bishop of 
Agen, not only was maintained free of cost to himself, but received 300 crowns a 
year for the support of his parents, who resided in Lorraine. 


Life of M. Olier. 

' i 

village Curd, who would never be able to afford himself such dainty 
fare in a poor country parish. But, after all (as M. du Ferrier 
observes), he was fain to confess that anything less sufficient would 
not have been expedient, seeing that all fared alike. 

M. Olier himself presented an edifying example in his own person 
of that simplicity of life and love of poverty by which he wished his 
institute to be distinguished ; appropriating nothing to himself of 
all the proceeds of his benefice, but applying one portion of them to 
the relief of the poor, another to the maintenance of the clergy, and 
a third to the support of the community ; thus (as he says) giving 
to those who were in want, and supplying those who wanted not 
with means for giving to our Lord, whether in His Church or in His 
poorer members. His dress, like that of the rest, was such as 
became the priest, but always of the simplest kind, his habit being 
of common serge, and his under-garments of materials still coarser ; 
neither would he permit his surplices to be trimmed with lace ; a 
rule which has continued to be observed in the Seminary down to 
the present day. 

To take away every occasion of scandal, on which the dissolute or 
unfriendly might seize, it was forbidden to give admission to females 
under any pretext whatever. At first, indeed, M. Olier collected the 
ladies of the parish together for the purpose of consulting tb^^m on 
the pious and charitable works which should be established in the 
Faubourg, but from the year 1643 they were admitted only into the 
exterior parlours and into one of the rooms in the Presbytery set 
apart for such meetings, and were not allowed entrance either into 
the Seminary or into the house of the Community. So strictly, 
indeed, was the prohibition enforced that M. de Bretonvilliers, when 
he was ill, would not permit his own sister, the Prdsidente de 
Bailleul, to come into his chamber, and, although she had got as 
far as the ante-room, she was obliged to go down again ; and M. 
Picotd, who lodged near the great gate of the Seminary, could not 
obtain permission to see his penitents in his room, although he was 
unable to descend the stairs without great bodily pain. M. Olier 
also made it a rule that ecclesiastics who were summoned to the 
parlours by females who sought their advice, should always present 
themselves in surplice and square cap, and that the interview should 
be short and quickly despatched. 

In order to make his clergy look upon themselves simply as the 
servants of the people, devoted to their spiritual interests^ he would 

! i 


Observance of discipline. 


have no distinction observed between one priest and another ; all 
were equally to employ themselves in the various functions of the 
ministry, each in his order performing those offices which, in the 
eyes of the world, were esteemed the least honourable. No one, 
for instance, was to be dispensed from carrying the cross at funerals, 
accompanying the priest when called to adrrinister Extreme Unction, 
or walking before the Blessed Saciament with the bell when It was 
borne to the sick and the dying. This last-mentioned office was 
always to be performed by one in priest's orders, who was to 
see that the bystanders bent their knee in adoration, and, if any 
neglected this mark of homage, he was then and there io admonish 
them of their duty ; a practice which v/as continued without interrup- 
tion until the Revolution.* Ecclesiastics, whether beneficed or other- 
wise, who, with the permission of their bishops, came into residence 
for a while, to be more perfectly instructed in their pastoral duties, 
were subjected to the same discipline. The wills of all were to be 
in entire submission to the will of the Superior, who — to use M. 
Olier's forcible metaphor — was to hold them at his disposal like so 
many arrows in a quiver, either to remain by his side, or to be sent 
hither and thither at his pleasure. They were to yield a ready 
obedience, not only to the Cure himself, but to all who shared his 
authority ; to the Superior of the Community, the sacristan, the 
master of ceremonies, and the very doorkeeper, in all things which 
concerned their respective offices and were in accordance with the 
rules. Even bishops who might v/ish to go into retreat, or to have 
the benefit of a quiet habitation when affairs detained them at Paris, 
were obliged to conform to all the regulations of the house ; as, for 
instance, in being present at morning prayer and observing the 
canonical hours. No one was exempted without positive neccosity ; 
and such was the regularity and order which prevailed that they who 

Even as late as the second half of the iSth century, an instance is on record 
of a priest of St. Sulpice, who wn5 preceding the Blessed Sacrament, stopping with 
his own hand a cabriolet the driver of which had attempted to pass without paying 
the accustomed mark of respect. The man, it may l»e added, had to make public 
reparation for his offence. 

In all this there was nothing remarkable or singular ; it was but a remnant of 
the devotion which had bean inherited from the ages of faith ; kings and emperors 
having been wont, on meeting a priest bearing the Viaticum to the sick, to alight 
from their carriages and, placing them at the disposal of their Incarnate God, 
themselves accompany Him on foot: an act of piety which Cardinals and the 
Sovereign Pontiff himself have never failed to observe down to the present day. 






Life of M. Olier. 




( i 

were prevented from attending by other avocations were careful to 
make up the arrears of the exercises they had been compelled to 
omit, as soon as they found themselves at liberty. This fidelity M. 
Olier assured them was the surest means of maintaining a spirit of 
recollection and union with God in the midst of occupations, how- 
ever multifarious and distracting; and that without this spirit of 
recollection and of union there could be no fruit, whether in preach- 
ing, hearing confessions, holding spiritual conferences, or performing 
any of the other duties of their ministry. His instructions on all 
these points, as well as on union amongst themselves, charity 
towards the poor, sweetness and patience with their parishioners, love 
of humiliations, and zeal for the salvation of souls, formed a volume 
of considerable size. 

Looking upon his parish as God's estate which he was set to 
administer, M. Olier divided it into eight districts, dedicated to the 
Blessed Virgin under the titles of her respective festivah. These 
eight divisions he assigned to as many of his oi<; ; s\io had the 
especial charge of the inhabitants within its limits, associating with 
them ten or twelve others as their coadjutors. A list of the several 
households, with a statement of their necessities, spiritual and 
temporal, was to be kept by the priests of each quarter, and to 
be revised every three months. They were to make themselves 
personally acquainted with the poor and ignorant, to see': out 
those who neglected the sacraments, or gave occasion of scandal by 
their immorality, and apply a remedy to all such disorders. For 
this end also he appointed in each street some person of piety 
whose duty it was to give information as to any haunts of vice and 
iniquity, in order to their suppression. From these lists he compiled 
a general survey of the whole parish, as recommended by I ;>e Prul 
v., under the title, De statu animarum, a form of which \ . . a'vn 
up by St. Charles Borromeo and inserted among the Acts ' ne 
Church of Milan. So careful was he to provide for the needs of the 
sick and dying that he strictly charged the priests of each district to 
see that all who were in danger of death were visited every day, and 
that those whose state was precarious were not left for two days 
together without spiritual assistance. Besides these priests of the 
districts, there were others whose special duty it was to administer the 
sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Extreme Unction ; )thers were 
appointed to baptize and solemnize marriages ; others to bury the 
dead ', or, again, to be in readiness to give advice to the people and 


Maxims for Confessors. 


receive their confessions at any hour of the day. In short, each 
hnd his particular ofifice assigned to him, and a complete system was 
thus organized which might be made to bear with most powerful 
effect on all the wants of so vast a parish. 

Even the time of recreation was made subservient to the purpose 
of mutual edification and instruction. After dinner it was the 
practice to propose to the Superior any questions arising out of cases 
of difficulty which had occurred in the parish, whether relating to 
some point of morality, controversy with heretics, or the conduct of 
souls. If the Superior were in doubt as to ttic solution, he com- 
missioned some doctor of the Community to go to the Sorbonne and 
obtain a reply, which he was to communicate to the assembled 
members at supper-time. These conferences were of the greatest 
service to all, being equivalent (says M. du Ferrier) to a large 
amount of study. One principal advantage, however, was that they 
conduced more than anything else to establish in the Community a 
thorough unity of spirit in all that concerned the direction of souls. 
M. Olier, in concert with the rest, drew up a series of maxims or 
general principles, which might serve as the basis and touchstone of 
all their decisions, and to which individually they should be bound 
to conform. Among these were two which bore directly on one of 
the greatest practical evils of the time. It was laid down as a rule, 
from which no one should be at liberty to depart, that absolution 
should be refused to such as remained in a proximate occasion of 
sin, and that in the case of habitual sinners absolution should be 
deferred for eight or fifteeu days.* These regulations were rendered 

* This statement seems to call for remark. No theologian now holds that a 
person who for the first time confesses a habit of sin is to be refused absolution. 
Yet such a person is technically called habitudinarius. Therefore, it would be 
incorrect to state broadly that habitual sinners ought not to be absolved, or their 
absolution deferred. The principle of St. Alphonsus is this : Absolution ought 
always to be refused to recidivi (relapsing sinners), unless they show extraordinary 
signs of contrition, to counterbalance the primd facie presumntion against them, 
arising from the habit. However, amongst these extraordinary signs of contri- 
tion he reckons some which are by no means extraordinary, in the sense of being 
infrequent ; as, for instance, spontaneous confession, that is, the penitent's coming 
to confession without external motive : e.g. at other times than Easter, or Christ- 
mas, or other principal feasts of the Church. On this principle, absolution may 
at once be given to a recidivus who comes to confession of his own free will, 
supposing, of course, that the priest also sees in him the ordinary signs of contri- 
tion. No such rule, therefore, as M. Olier made could possibly be made now, how- 
ever justifiable it may have been under the particular circumstances at the time. 

[This note was supplied by the late Father Dalgairns of the London Oratory.] 



Life of M. Olier, 


necessary by the lax morality then in vogue among the professors of 
casuistry, and by the dangerous facility with which many confessors 
administered the sacrament of penance. This abuse had led to 
another no less pernicious, — an excessive severity, calculated to drive 
souls to despair. M. Olier would have his priests observe the true 
and salutary mean between the two extremes, and gave them for their 
guidance the Instructions of St. Charles Borromeo to the Confessors of 
his Diocese, included among the Acts of the Church of Milan, which, 
under his directions, were now published for the first time in France. 
The edition was dedicated to the doctors of the Sorbonne, and was 
productive of untold benefits to the Church. The Instructions 
became the standard book of authority in the Seminaries, and, 
eventually, among the whole body of the clergy, who, in 1657, 
caused them to be printed at their own expense. M. Olier also 
constituted St. Charles patron of his parish priests, and obtained 
from the Holy See a plenary indulgence for his feast day ; and yet 
he did not propose him to his clergy as the model of the pastoral 
life, considering the virtues he exhibited so lofty and sublime as to 
be inaccessible to the ordinary grade of priests. He preferred St 
Martin, whose life was of a less austere and rigorous cast, although 
he practised mortification and abstinence in such measure as his 
condition allowed. With him he joined, as examples of evangelical 
peace and sweetness, St. Sulpice, surnamed Le Debonnaire, and his 
own spiritual father, Francis de Sales, the holy Bishop of Geneva. 

Soon after his entrance on his pastoral duties, when already an 
evident impression had been made on the people but before he had 
obtained his full complement of auxiliaries, he felt how impossible it 
would be, with the number of priests at his disposal, to provide for 
the spiritual wants of the faithful during the Paschal season. In his 
perplexity, he addressed himself to St. Sulpice, as patron of the 
parish, on his feast day, January 17th, 1643, ^^^h a confident 
assurance that he would be heard. Nor was he disappointed 
therein; for the thought came into his mind to invite a certain 
number of the doctors of the Sorbonne to lend him their aid, and 
also to apply to the Superiors of the several religious communities in 
the Faubourg for priests who were qualified to hear confessions. 
Hitherto, unhappily, there had existed but little concord and joint 
action between the religious of the Faubourg and the clergy of St. 
Sulpice ; the latter looking upon those wtiom they ought to have 
regarded as their natural allies and coadjutors rather in the light of 

•■ / 

His vow of perfection. 


rivals and inconvenient neighbours; and thus, instead of working 
together for the spiritual Z'~^ of the people, the two parties were 
for ever wrangling with each other about thei- respective rights and 
privileges. This miserable state of things was henceforth to cease. 
Sensibly touched by the charity and zeal of the new pastor, the heads 
of the religious houses cordially responded to his appeal and sent 
each two competent priests to assist him in his Easter duties. Fear- 
ing, however, that all these doctors and religious, the latter being 
members of different Orders, might not follow the same system of 
spiritual direction, and that injurious effects might thence ensue, he 
assembled them together three days previously and laid before them 
in detail the maxims and instructions which St. Charles had given 
for the guidance of confessors in the tribunal of penance. Thus a 
general uniformity of practice was established with the happiest 
results. "These good religious," he wrote, "who are associated 
with us have entered thoroughly into our views and sentiments. 
There is no diversity of principle between priests and religious ; all 
are at one ; all follow the same maxims ; and, however various their 
exterior may be, all are perfectly united in their interior dispositions. 
God has chosen these holy souls to be our succour and support in 
this time of desolation. Ah I all that is needed is charity, simplicity, 
and humility : this it is which wins hearts, and nothing can resist 
the Spirit of God, who binds together all things in Himself." M. 
Olier entertained a sincere love and admiration for all the religious 
Orders, but he specially affected the two novitiate houses of the 
Dominicans and the Jesuits, in which sound doctrine and solid 
piety flourished side by side ; and he would often say that, if the 
Divine Mercy shed down so many graces on his parish and effected 
every day so many fresh conversions, they were the fruit of the 
prayers of those two holy Communities. 

One rule M. Olier had prescribed to himself, to which he ever 
faithfully adhered, that in all things he should set the example 
to his ecclesiastics. To this end he lived with them in common, 
took part in the same exercises, and was ever among them as one 
of themselves. Like a good pastor and a true superior, he was 
ready to sacrifice his goods, his health, his life, for those of whom 
he had the direction and the charge. Mindful of the vow of per- 
petual servitude which he had made to his parish, he regarded his 
people as the rightful masters of his time, his person, and all that 
he possessed, to make such use of them as their needs required ; 



Life of M. Olier. 

and, absolute and all-embracing as such an engagement was, it 
never caused him the least disquietude, — proof incontestable that it 
had the approval of God. Convinced, moreover, that in his twofold 
character of pastor and superior he could not present before others 
too high a standard, he made, in addition, a formal vow of doing 
from that moment whatever he believed to be the most perfect. 
This heroic determination, which made itself felt in all his actions, 
enkindled a corresponding degree of zeal and fervour in the mem- 
bers of his Community ; and though, in obedience to the light he 
had received in his retreat, he never addressed any of them in terms 
of command, nevertheless he obtained from them the most generous 
sacrifices by the sole ascendancy of his example. Were it question 
of visiting the sick, hearing confessions, preaching the word of God, 
he was always ready to take the place of his colleagues and spare 
them labour and fatigue. It was his desire that the priests who had 
come with him from Vaugirard and, in particular, M. du Ferrier, 
whom he had made superior of the Community, should display a 
similar spirit ; and in this he was not disappointed, as the following 
instances may show. One night the porter informed M. du Ferrier 
that a sick person required the immediate attendance of a priest ; 
after learning the particulars of the case, which the porter was in- 
structed always to obtain, he sent him to one of the Community 
whom he deemed most fitted for the office, with a request that he 
would go forthwith and visit the sick man. The priest, however, 
feeling himself somewhat indisposed, begged to be excused at so 
late an hour ; upon which, without further delay, M. du Ferrier went 
himself. The next morning, when the priest heard that the Superior 
had discharged the office he had himself declined, he was extremely 
distressed, and the more so when, on going to express his regret at 
what had happened, he was met only with an apology that he should 
have been disturbed at a time when he was not quite well. When 
the same thing had occurred seven or eight times in other cases, 
such a spirit of generous emulation was aroused in the Community 
that every summons, whether to attend the sick or to perform any 
other ministerial duty, was obeyed with the utmost alacrity, and no 
one, for any consideration whatever, would have suffered another to 
supply his place. A few months after the establishment of the 
Community, one of the members, M. Corbel, who of his own choice 
had undertaken the task of awakening the inmates in the morning, 
was sent by M. Olier to Pdbrac, to pursue the work of reformation 

His one dominant desire. 


so much needed there. Nevertheless everything went on as usual, 
and it never occurred to any to inquire who it was that knocked at 
their door and placed a light in their room, until one day, at recrea- 
tion, they began to speculate among themselves who it could be, 
and, as one after another denied all cognisance of the matter, they 
discovered that it was the Superior himself who, for five or six weeks, 
had volunteered to perform the troublesome office. This little 
incident had a most powerful effect in quickening the zeal of the 
Community and stimulating its members to still greater efforts of 

The one dominant desire of M. Olier's heart, the one engross- 
ing purpose of his life, in fulfilment of the mission he had received 
from God, was the sanctification of the St»:erdotal order and, by 
means of the pastors, the renovation of the flock. His own 
words will best exhibit the sentiments which animated him. 
"0 Lord," he writes, "if we behold the Orders of Thy saints 
reflourishing, if we see prayer reigning supreme among the Car- 
melites, zeal for souls among the Dominicans, the love of God 
among t le Augustinians, the spirit of retirement and death to the 
world among the Benedictines, in fine, if we see all the Religious 
Orders regaining their pristine fervour, shall Thy own alone be left 
desolate? Wilt Thou not build up again Thy house, which has 
fallen into ruin ? Lord, Thou art its head, Thou art its founder : 
other Orders have men for their patrons ; wilt Thou leave Thy own 
to perish ? O Lord Jesus, true Shepherd of the Universal Church, 
apply a speedy remedy to her needs ; raise up those who may renew 
the divine Order of pastors, with as much zeal and love as St. 
Dominic showed when he established his Order in Thy Church. 
Enkindle with the fire of Thy love and Thy religion men who may 
carry and disseminate it through the whole world. If I were not so 
wretched and so proud, if I were not a very mass of filth and defile- 
ment, willingly would I offer myself to Thee to serve Thee in Thy 
Church in whatever way might please Thee , in all the fullness of 
my heart would I devote and abandon myself to Thee, as henceforth 
I do, like a broken vessel. I have vowed to Thee an absolute 
servitude, and I have done so beyond recall. I am Thine without 
reserve; and now I give myself to Thee anew, without retaining 
any right whatever to revoke the gift which I make of myself to 
Thee. Thou wilt dispose of me according to Thy good pleasure, 
as a lord and master disposes of a vassal or a slave." 



Lt/e of M. Olier. 

In all, therefore, that lie undertook M. Olier had rega-d, not only 
to the reformation of his own people, but also to the good of the 
Church at large ; and his joy and thankfulness may well be imagined 
when, only fifteen days after his installation at St. Sulpice, he received 
a visit fiom an ecclesiastic who had been deputed by the parochial 
clergy of the metropolis to assure him of their sympathy and con- 
fidence, and to beg him to attend their monthly conferences. They 
at the same time requested that he would make them acquainted 
with the rules he had adopted, that they might profit by them in the 
conduct of their own parishes. Indeed, scarcely had the first year 
of his ministry expired before several of the Parisian Cur^s begged 
him to provide them with priests to assist in the evangelisation of 
their parishes ; and, as the members of his Community were under 
no engagement to remain at St. Sulpice, he was able in some 
instances, with the sanction of ecclesiastical superiors, to comply 
with the request. In all this he seemed to see (as he says) that in 
making him Curd of St. Sulpice it was the will of Heaven that the 
other parishes of Paris should be modelled after the fashion of his 
own.* " God be blessed " (he continues) *' that I have found favour 
in the eyes of these my brethren, and may He give me grace to be 
faithful to His mercies. For myself, I shall ever abide in my own 
littleness : this it is, as I clearly see, which has gained me their hearts. 
O my God, how mighty is Thy Spirit ! what powerful effects does It 
produce in souls ! In speaking to them, I am sensibly conscious 
that it is Thy Spirit within me which speaks to them, and in the 
presence of these great doctors I feel like a child of whom Thou 
art pleased to make use for communicating to them Thy 

M. Olier was still only in his thirty-fi'th year, and it was with sur- 
prise and confusion, inspired by the sense he entertained of his own 
ignorance and unworthiness, that he found himself consulted by 
persons of greater age and experience than himself, some even holding 

♦ Thus Abelly, who in the year 1644 became Cur^ of St. Josse and was after- 
wards Bishop of Rodez, says, in his Life of St. Vincent de Paul, that the institute 
founded by M. Olier became the model on which other parishes were organised, 
with the admiration and applause of all Paris ; and, indeed, he was himself the 
first to follow M. Olier's example in forming his clergy into an ecclesiastical com- 
munity. M. Godeau, Bishop of Vence, writing in 1660, says that in the greater 
number of the parishes of Paris the clergy adopted the plan of St. Sulpice, 
and lived together in community to their own edification and that of their 

people, .j: ,.y;. ■- i •.• ...:.'.-.( ., J.y t.,.j-\. j'-iJ^ i„<U4 l.!-:'-*.- i.l.i'ij. ..■-■ 

•• ; 

His counsel sought. 


respoiisible offices in Church or State, on affairs of the highest 
moment. Thus, in this present year (1643), several of the Bishops 
most conspicuous for their activity and zeal sought his advice on the 
subject of establishing seminaries in their dioceses ; and, after the 
death of Louis XIII., which occurred on the 14th of May, the Queen 
Regent resolved that no ecclesiastic should be nominated to the 
episcopate who had not passed some years in the seminary of St. 
Vmcent de Paul or in that of St. Sulpice. 







( 200 ) 



'T"^HE Apostolic life which M. Olier and his colleagues presented 
X to the world must, no doubt, have had a great effect in pre- 
paring minds for the reception of their ministry, but example was not 
sufficient for a people so utterly depraved and hardened in vice as 
were a large majority of the inhabitants of St. Sulpice. What they 
needed was the Gospel of an Incarnate God preached in all its 
sublime simplicity, for this alone has power to vanquish and trans- 
form the hearts of men, whatever may be their position in life, 
learned or unlearned, rich or poor. M. Olier would, therefore, have 
Christian doctrine taught and expounded in its plainest form, and the 
teaching and the actions, the divinely human actions, of the Man- 
God set before the people as the source and spring whence alone they 
could derive the light of truth to guide their steps and the grace to 
overcome themselves and save their souls. And to example and 
teaching he added one thing more, without which all else would have 
been of little or no avail, prayer — fervent and unintermitted prayer. 
Not content with humbling himself before God for the sins of his 
people, he never ceased imploring Him to grant them His pardon 
and His grace ; beseeching our Divine Lord (as M. Faillon has it) 
" by all the steps He took in His weary journeys on earth, to turn 
away the feet of sinners from the paths of vice ; by His fastings. His 
hungering and thirsting, to give them a distaste for the gross plea- 
sures of eating and drinking ; by His sorrows, to inspire them with 
a hatred of the criminal joys of sin ; by His holy words, to put to 
silence their evil discourse ; by His self-abasement and humility, to 
destroy their pride and vanity ; by His death, to restore them to life; 
in a word, to apply to sinners the good He had wrought for them, 
and put an end to the evils which were so dominant in his parish, 
especially to those vices which were making the greatest ravages, 
gluttony and impurity." 

Instructions to the people. 

20 1 

So neglected hitherto had been the sacred ordinance of preaching 
and, in particular, that most necessary duty of catechising, that 
children and parents, young and old, were equally ignorant of the 
rudiments of Christian doctrine ; many, it would appear, not even 
knowing the words of the Creed. M. Olier, therefore, began by 
instituting a series of catechetical instructions in twelve different 
localities besides the parish church. These catechisings, with the 
exception of those which were given at St. Sulpice, and which he 
undertook himself, were entrusted to the seminarists, two being 
appointed to each locality. Of these, one was called the cierk, and 
acted as the other's assistant ; going through the streets with a bell, 
to call the children to the classes, and even seeking them in the 
houses of their parents. Other ecclesiastics visited the various 
schools in the parish, which were already numerous, to ascertain that 
none of the youth within its limits were deprived of Christian teach- 
ing. A sight so novel in that neglected qu»..:ter as that of young men 
in surplices, many of them known to belong io the best families in 
France,* gathering poor children together for instruction, produced 
the liveliest sensation among the people ; and crowds were drawn 
by curiosity to see and hear what was going forward. This was a 
result which M, Olier had directly contemplated, and care was taken 
to conduct the catechisings in such a way that they should be 
profitable to persons of all ages. The success surpassed all expecta- 
tion ; in a few weeks his clergy had as many as four thousand children 
under their immediate care, who became in their turn mission- 
aries and catechists to their friends and relatives. Every week, also, 
instructions were given preparatory to first communion ; and he more- 
over required, what at that time was an innovation on existing practice, 
that all who were candidates for the sacrament of Confirmation should 
pass an examination before being admitted to that rite. 

Pries's were specially selected to hear the general confessions of 
the younger members of the flock ; nor, in spite of his numerous 
avocations, did the Cur^ disdain himself to receive any who chose 
to come to him. On the contrary, they experienced in him a!l the 

* This custom continued to be observed long after M. Olier's death, as inci- 
dentally appears from the '^ ife of M. de Moutiers de Merinville, Bishop of 
Chartres, who was celebrated for his pastoral zeal and devoted oharity. His 
family were so averse to his entering the ecclesiastical state that, when he was a 
seminarist at St. Sulpice, the Duchesse d'Aumont used to close her windows 
whenever she was made aware by the sound of the bell that her son was summon- 
ing the children to catechism. He died May loth, 1748. 


Life of M, Olier. 




affectionate solicitude of a parent ; his manner towards children (as 
before observed) was characterized, not so much by a gracious 
condescension as by a sort of gentle deference, which inspired con- 
fidence while it touched the heart ; and he strove to trace on their 
tender souls the first lineaments of the new man, as modelled before 
their eyes in the In*"" ^t Jesus, subject to His i)arents and advancing 
daily in wisdom and in grace. At the same time he knew how to 
mingle severity with sweetness, and did not fail to reprove their 
faults when reproof was needed ; yet ever with a tact and a delicacy 
to which their young minds were peculiarly sensitive. A «;'ight 
incident which has chanced to remain on record may serve to illus- 
trate this. He was kneeling one day before the Blessed Sacrament 
when a little girl of the higher classes came to make a request of 
him. There was something in her dress and manner which struck 
him as savouring too much of the fashionable world, and he gently 
remarked upon it at the moment. The better, however, to cure her 
of her affectation, he continued for some time after to call her 
mademoiselU when speaking to her, instead of my child, as he had 
been used to do. The little girl was '•'^nsible of the change, and 
one day begged him, with tears in he* "s, to call her by the old 
endearing name. "When you have .manners of a Christian 

child," he answered, " you will find me as affectionate as ever." 

The good effects of all this careful training were visible in the 
general communion which was made by the children this same year, 
and which acted as a sweet and touching invitation to the parents 
themselves to frequent the sacraments so long neglected. Nor were 
these effects confined to the Faubourg St. Germain ; the city parishes 
adopted the same practice, and a regular system of catechising was 
thus established in the capital which was gradually extended to all 
the large towns of France and has continued to the present day. 
M. Olier also selected from among the boys who were under instruc- 
tion, whether in the schools or at the catechisings, such as were 
most commendable for their assiduity and good conduct, and em- 
ployed them in serving Mass, singing in choir, or taking part in the 
general offices of the church. He taught them to look ':pon their 
employment about the altar as that which the very angels — on 
account of the unspeakable greatness of the August Sacrifice— would 
regard as the most honourable ministry which could be allotted to 
them, and bade them render themselves by their modesty and piety 
more worthy of the privilege which had been conferred upon them. 

1 1 

Insiniciions to the people. 


And such apt scholars in thii school of godliness did these children 
show themselves, that their recollected air and reverent demeanour 
inspired beholders with an interior devotion to which their minds 
had hitherto been strangers. Meanwhile, M. Picotc', in conjunction 
with other priests, was establishing congregations of young girls, asso- 
ciated together under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin, by wliich 
they were formed to habits of piety and virtue and led to encourage 
and support each other in the practice of their religious duties. 

In fact, theio was not a single class among his people which did 
not find itself the object of his particular care. Thus, in addition 
to the exhortations contained in the sermons which were common 
to all, he desired that the servants of the parish should receive 
separate instructions adapted to their condition and ci.cumstances. 
Three times a week during Lent he assembled the pages and footr 
men, who were very numerous in the Faubourg St. Germain ; and, 
not content with making an announcement from every pulpit in the 
parish, he directed the priests in charge of each district to distribute 
handbills from house to house, that neither masters nor servants 
might remain in j^norance of their duty. On three other dpys he 
summoned all the beggars together, and taught them in detail all the 
mysteries of the faith, and the means by which they might sanctify 
their state of life and receive with profit to their souls the sacraments 
of Penance and the Holy Eucharist. On every sur.h occasion there 
was a distribution of alms, according to the attention and proficiency 
displayed by each ; the numbers collected amounting commonly to 
three or four hundred, sometimes even more. Nor were the aged 
poor forgotten : the old men of the parish had special instructions 
provided for them every Friday j and, to encourage them to attend, 
every one received relief in proportion to his needs and merits ; this 
true disciple of Christ following herein (as his biographer observes) the 
example of his Divine Masier, who deferred distributing bodily food to 
those who had gathered round Him in the desert until He had 
nourished their souls with the bread of life. 

In addition to this, he provided what was called a general cate- 
cliism, intended for all sorts of persons. This was given at the 
church, and that none might be kept away by a feeling of shame, 
the language employed was always of a higher order ; without dero- 
gating, however, from that plainness and simplicity which is suited 
to all capacities. And even yet his zeal and charity were not 
exhausted. He directed his ecclesiastics to visit from time to time 

; ;.;vi._,:K''fiv;j 


Life of M. Olier. 

those families who hitherto had lived in ignorance of the truths of 
salvation, and were withheld by motives of human respect from 
attending the public teaching. He had a number of broad-sheets 
printed, embellished with some device or picture, explanatory of the 
chief doctrines of the faith and the necessary duties of a Christian, 
with forms of prayer for niglit and morning and a mode of sanctify- 
ing the common actions of the day by offering them all to God. 
These familiar instructions he recommended fathers and mothers to 
hang up in some conspicuous place in their hou.>es, and to use them 
every day for themselves and their families. Lastly, he established 
a series of short and simple discourses for workpeople, which were 
delivered in the early morning,* in order that they might be able to 
attend ; and again, at the end of the day, some profitable reading was 
given, accompanied by a verbal commentary, a custom which, ere 
long, was adopted in all the parishes of the city. 

But, besides making provision for the poor and ignorant, his care 
was also directed to those who occupied the position of teachers, 
many of whom wero themselves in need of instruction. School- 
masters a'^d schoolmistresses were examined as to their proficiency, 
and trained for the due discharge of their important office. Availing 
himself alao of the powers which the laws accorded him, he assem- 
bled the midwives of his parish, in order to ascertain that they were 
sufficiently acquainted with the form of administering baptism; at 
the same time he urged upon them the duty of fulfillir»g their calling 
in such a way as should best conduce to the spiritual profit of those 
whom they assisted. He gave them forms of prayer which they could 
recite either with or for the objects of their care, and taught them 
how to suggest to the poor women modes of lifting up their hearts 
to God, making acts of contrition, accepting their pains as the chas- 
tisement of sin, and bearing them with willingness, as being more 
pleasing to the Divine justice than any voluntary mortifications, how- 
ever severe. Above all, he gave strict charge that, previous to the 
time of their delivery, they should be urged to make their confession 
and receive communion, that they might not be surprised by death 
without being fortified by the sacraments of Holy Church. 

Another object of his solicitude, and one which was recommended 

* These exercises were usually conducted by M. Dard^ne, who was also dis- 
tinguished by his ability as a controversialist. He first spent two hours before 
the Tabernacle, and then at four o'clock in the morning (during summer) com- 
m^Ared his instructions. 

■ -~*1Ut IrV. B J* »lf X. '' ^ ij^l-^-^ \*AUj,.<. 


Conferences for Protestants. 


to him by the peculiar circumstances of his parish, was the conver- 
sion of Protestants. It abounded (as has been said) in Calvinists ; 
the Lutherans, also, had congregated there in great numbers. The 
latter sectaries were prohibited by the laws from holding their con- 
venticles within the realm ; M. Olier, however, might have left them 
in peace but for r.n abominable sacrilege which they were in the 
habit of committing While adhering to their own heresy, and blas- 
phemously impugning the Catholic faith, they made a practice of 
receiving communion clandestinely at the church of St. Sulpice. 
Justly indignant at so outrageous an insult to the Adorable Mystery 
of the Altar, M. Olier endeavoured, in the first instance, to arrest 
the evil by obtaining an exact register of the houses they occupied, 
with a view to acquiring a personal knowledge of the inmates. This 
plan, however, proving of no avail, as they were able to baffle inquiry 
by continually changing their place of meeting, he determined to 
seek the assistance of the secular power ; and, having first solicited 
the protection of the Duke of Orleans, he proceeded with the Bailly 
of the suburb and two guards, provided by the Duke, to a house 
which had been designated to him. Here, as he expected, he found 
three or four hundred persons assembled, whom he immediat ly dis- 
persed. The Lutherans attempted to continue their meetings else- 
where ; but, unable to evade M. Olier's untiring vigilance, they were 
compelled at length to evacuate the parish. 

But the weapons with which he desired to combat against heresy 
were not carnal but spiritual : perseverance in prayer, a sweet and 
tender charity, and the force of a persuasive eloquence addressed to 
the mind and conscience of those whom he sought to win. To re- 
move the intellectual obstacles to their conversion, he instituted 
public and private conferences, which were blessed with remarkable 
success ; but here, too, the humility which marked whatever he did 
was as conspicuous as his zeal. Writing to St. Vincent de Paul, he 
begs him, for the love of God, to send him M. Lucas, one of his 
priests, to confer with a Huguenot, who had urged objections to 
which he had found himself, owing to his great ignorance, unable to 
reply, and generally to instruct him in the mode of dealing with here- 
tics. To assist him in his arduous task, he also engaged the services 
of the ablest controversialist of the day, the celebrated P^re V^ron,* 

* Author of the well-known treatise on The Rule 0/ Catholic Faith, an English 
translation of which, from the original Latin, was published by the Rev. J. Water- 
worth in 1833. 

S»*4l^ Vt \i ^.TJt.v*' *.' 


Life of M. Olier. 


whose logical subtlety and caustic irony rendered him the scourge 
and dread of the teachers of error. On leaving the Society of 
Jesus, he had been made Cur^ of Charenton, where the Calvinists 
had their largest conventicle, for the express purpose of being a per- 
petual thorn in the side of these obnoxious sectaries ; and his suc- 
cess, so far as confounding his opponents was concerned, was, even 
by their own confession, most signal and complete. Many conver- 
sions followed, but the evil was too deeply seated to be eradicated 
by ordinary means, as we shall hereafter see. 

The proselytising efforts of the Calvinists had been (as already 
said) only too successful in the parish of St. Sulpice in drawing 
away many from the faith, and they laboured no less assiduously 
to deter their deluded victims from recanting their errors on their 
deathbeds. Cases of this latter kind were of such frequent occur- 
rence that it became necessary to have recourse to the most 
determined measures in order to defeat the artifices and even 
violence employed by these heretics. For instance, a young man, 
who had been recovered to the Church, fell ill, and, intimidated by 
the opposition of his friends, refused to receive M. Olier's ministra- 
tions, when, on hearing of his condition, he hastened to visit him. 
Recommending him to the Mother of mercy, this good pastor ceased 
not to beg her intercession ; and his prayer was heard. The sick 
man was seized with so vehement a desire to see a priest that, 
finding all his entreaties and expostulations useless, he protested 
that, weak as he was, he would drag himself to the window, and 
there, until his voice failed him, he would cry to the passers-by for 
assistance ; nay, that, if necessary, he would precipitate himself 
into the street below rather than die without confession. This threat 
compelled his relatives to send for a priest, but thenceforward they 
refused him all aid in his sickness ; and. had not M. Olier caused 
him to be removed to a place of safety, he could only have pur- 
chased the necessaries of life by renewed apostasy. No wonder, 
therefore, thac on hearing that the Calvinist minister, Aubertin, who 
was dying, desired to make his abjuration, but was forcibly pre- 
vented by his relatives, M. Olier should call in the aid of the civil 
power to gain admission to his bedside. He went accordingly, 
accompanied by the Bailly of the Faubourg, as well as by a strong 
party of the parishioners, who had collected for the protection of 
their pastor. The report, however, proved to be unfounded, the 
unhappy man protesting with his last breath that he died in the 

III ilMWHtilfl 


Instance oj fanatical cruelty. 


tenets he had ever professed. M. Olier at once withdrew, and 
having succeeded — not, however, without some difficulty — in per- 
suading the people to disperse, went immediately to the church, 
and, throwing himself before the altar, gave free vent to the sorrow 
that filled his soul. We shall have no difficulty in conceiving the 
use that was made of this display of zeal by the sectaries, who 
accused the Cure of St. Sulpice of violating the terms of the edict 
of Nantes, which forbade that Protestants should be disturbed on 
their sick beds by the intrusive ministrations of the Catholic priest- 

He was doomed to meet with a similar affliction in the case of 
one of his female parishioners who had seceded from the Church 
and, in spite of all his exhortations and the prayers of many devout 
souls, persisted in her errors lo the last To console him in his 
bitter grief, one of his priests suggested that, as he had employed 
every means in his power to effect her conversion, he had nothing 
wherewith to reproach himself. " Ah ! my child," he said, " cease, 
cease to speak to me thus ; you know not the value of a soul. It 
might glorify God eternally, and its loss is irreparable. The thouglit 
is frightful ! " and he sought refuge, as was his wont, in prayer 
before the Tabernacle. This distressing circumstance seemed to 
add even greater vigilance to his zeal, and he neglected no means 
in order to discover if any of his flock frequented the meetings of 
the Huguenots, or evinced an inclination towards their errors, never 
failing to visit them in person or to depute one of iiis priests to 
visit them in his stead, and displaying towards them the utmost 
kindness and solicitude. Nor were these precautions the effect of 
an importunate zeal; they were necessitated by the secret and 
unscrupulous machinations of the sectaries, \n j were indefatigable 
in their endeavours to recruit their diminished numbers by the 
accession of every bad and ignorant Catholic whom they could 
persuade to make even a nominal profession of Protestantism. To 
such an excess, indeed, of fury were some of these fanatics carried 
that an instance is on record, supported by incontestable evidence, 
of a mother revenging herself on her daughter for going to Mass 
by burning the soles of her feet and, when this barbarous proceeding 
did not produce the desired effect, attempting first to stifle her in a 
bath and then to stab her with a knife. At length the poor girl fell 
dangerously ill, and seemed to be at the point of death, when, 
struck with remorse, the mother implored her child's forgiveness for 







Life of M. Olier. 

the cruelty with which she had treated her. Her daughter, however, 
in a spirit of charity truly admirable, replied, " O my mother, I 
deserved far worse in punishment of my sins ; and may it not be 
that God allowed you to treat me thus in order to bring about your 
conversion ? I pray that in His goodness He will perfect the work 
He has begun ! " Unhappily, neither the generous conduct nor 
the earnest prayers of this truly Christian soul were to be rewarded 
by seeing her mother delivered from the toils in which she had 
become entangled. Of noble extraction but possessed of no private 
fortune, she was entirely dependent for subsistence on relatives who 
were members of the sect, and as she knew that they would disown 
her if she became a Catholic, her pride revolted against receiving 
aid from strangers or, like so many others, from her parish priest. 

The charity of this good pastor was never weary f devising 
means both for rescuing his people from the snares of heresy and 
unbelief, and warning tliem against the fatal seductions of vice. As 
an antidote to the number of irreligious and immoral publications 
which were widely dissemina ed, M. Olier planted a book-stall close 
to the gates of the church, where, as it will be remembered, the 
vendors of charms and amulets and books of superstition and magic 
had been in the habit of plying their iniquitous trade. Every work 
exhibited for sale was previously examined to ascertain that it con- 
tained nothing contrary to faith or morals. It may also be men- 
tioned here that, as a means of divine protection against relapse 
and a powerful safeguard against the dangers and temptations to 
which converts from heresy were peculiarly exposed, M. Olier 
attached great importance to their receiving without delay the holy 
sacrament of Confirmation ; a matter to which he considered that 
sufficient attention had not hitherto been paid. In all things he 
was guided, not by the lights of his own judgment, but by simple 
reference to the directions and intentions of Holy Church, to whom 
alone, and not to any man, however great his gifts, Christ had 
given charge to teach, correct, and edify His people. 

We have been witnesses of M. Olier's missionary zeal, his love of 
souls, his tenderness to sinners, his care of the poor, his labours, and 
his sacrifices, and all this in the service of those of whom he had not 
the personal charge ; but now it is his own flock to which he is called 
to minister, and of which he must one day render an account to the 
Chief Shepherd. The profligacy, the obduracy, the ignorance, the 
worldliness, the indifference of the thousands by whom he was sur- 

His gift of preaching. 


rounded filled his soul with a most poignant anguish, and he would 
have willingly sacrificed his life to rescue and save them. It was the 
one continual subject of his prayers as he knelt before the Taber- 
nacle, pouring out his heart to God with sighs and tears and inward 
moanings, and in his discourses to the people it was his ever-recur- 
ring theme. Taking as his text one day those words of the Apostle : 
Continuus dolor cordi meo* "It is the one abiding grief of my 
heart," he cried, *' to behold the little esteem in which the only real 
and solid goods are held by men. Alas ! the world is for ever chas- 
ing vain phantoms, striving to plunge deeper and deeper in vanity 
and lies, and no man thinks of his eternal salvation. Non est qui 
recogitet in corde ; non est quifaciat bonum, non est usque ad unum.f 
See how the courts of princes and the anterooms of statesmen are 
ciowded with greedy and ambitious applicants ! Behold the multi- 
tudes that throng the marts of commerce and all the public places 
of this vast city ! Why all this restless activity and excitement ? To 
fulfil the desires of the flesh. I say it weeping, with St. Vanl—^ens 
dico — all these men who live only for the.'r pleasures are the enemies 
of the Cross and of the Life of Jesus Christ, who condemns this 
accursed self-seeking, the end of which is the ruin and perdition of 
souls ; they make their belly their God \ they labour only for their 
everlasting destruction. O great Saint, who art the patron of this 
parish, thou didst not walk by these ways in the days of thy pil- 
grimage ; thou who now rcignest with God in the Holy Sion, be 
present with us ; grant me something of the spirit with which thou 
wast so abundantly replenished ; grant to me, great Saint^ that I 
may draw the hearts of this people to an imitation of thy virtues, to 
a death unto sin and the love of holiness ; assist me with thy spirit 
and thy zeal." 

His only preparation for preaching was humble and fervent prayer 
before the Blessed Sacrament ; and when he spoke it was as uniting 
himself to Jesus Christ, the true light of man, and surrendering him- 
self entirely to the impressions of His grace. On one only occa- 
sion, when he knew that the Queen Regent and other great person- 
ages were to be present, did he deviate from his usual practice, 
thinking to do more honour to the sacred ministry ; but he experi- 
enced so much sterility and constraint in thought and feeling, and 

* Rom. ix. 2. 

t " There is none that considereth in the heart ; there is none that doeth good, 
no, not one." Jeremias xii. 11. Psalm xiii. i, 3. 



. ^^>J*„ ^ 


Life of JVL Olier, 


I. ./ 

so much difficulty in expressing himself, that he never renewed the 
attempt ; being assured that God would have him renounce his own 
intellectual I'ghts and abandon himself without reserve to the move- 
ments of His Spirit.* As he preached, a beauty not his own seemed 
to pervade his features; his voice, naturally sweet and powerful, 
assumed a richer and more ravishing tone, and to his whole appear- 
ance there was added a nobility and a majesty that had something 
in it celeiitial and divine. The emotions kindled in his breast were 
at times so overpowering that he was fain to pause in his discourse ; 
his voice would fail him, and he would be compelled to leave the 
pulpit. The effect on his audience was of a corresponding intensity ; 
it was not rare to see men and women suddenly burst into tears and 
throw themselves on their knees, imploring the mercy of God ; and 
after the sermon was ended, the confessionals would be surrounded 
with persons who, touched by the grace of contrition for their sins, 
desired to make their peace with God and lead the rest of their lives 
in His faith and fear. 

Nor was this evangelical fervour confined to the interior of the 
church. One day, as he was passing through the streets, he came 
upon a crowd of people, who were amusing themselves with the 
immodest jests and antics of a merry-andrew. Fired with holy indig- 
nation at the shameless language that met his ear, and emulating 
the zeal of the Apostle when, as he walked the streets of Athens, he 
beheld the city wholly given to idolatry, he stopped at a few paces 
from the throng and, lifting up his voice, began to speak of the 
things of God and of eternity. At first only a few bystanders 
gathered round him, but curiosity even got the better of present 
amusement, and soon the whole laughter-loving crowd had left their 
saucy favourite and were hearkening with strange emotions to one 
who spoke to them c* justice and chastity, and judgment to come. 
It was indeed a scene to excite men's wonder, — the influence 
exerted by an earnest and a fearless man over a giddy fickle crowd ; 

* A similar instance is recorded of St. Vincent Ferrer. " One day that he had 
to preach before a prince, he thought he must iise more study and more human 
diligence in the preparation of his sermon. He applied himself thereto with 
extraordinary pains, but neither the prince nor the audience generally were as 
satisfied with this studied discourse as they were with that of the next day, which 
he composed in his ordinary way, according to the movement of the Spirit of God. 
His attention being called to the difference between the two sermons, " Yesterday," 
said he, "it was Brother Vincent who preached ; to-day it was the Holy Spirit." 
The Spiritual Doctrine of Father Louis Lallemant, P. iv. C. iv. A. iii. 


Reform of guilds and confraternities. 2 1 1 

but to this succeeded a prodigy of grace : the poor buffoon, deserted 
by his audience, drew near in turn ; he listened, and was converted 
Allusion has been made to the various guilds or confraternities of 
artisans and workmen, and the onerous yet often frivolous duties 
imposed by them on the clergy. These companies were recognized 
by the laws, and had their peculiar privileges and customs. Instituted 
originally with the laudable object of uniting in the bonds of fraternal 
amity, and by the common obligations of religion, members of the 
same trade or handicraft, whom motives of self-interest might naturally 
render jealous and distrustful of each other, they had degenerated 
into mere associations for merrymaking and carousing; in other 
words, intemperance and debauchery. The principal occasions on 
which they assembled were the festivals of their patron saints, parti- 
cularly that of St Martin, which ancient piety had set apart as times 
of special devotion, but which popular license had converted into 
days of Bacchanalian riot and profaned by a number of heathenish 
superstitions and extravagances. These abuses had become so con- 
secrated by long, immemorial custom that the people indulged in the 
worst excesses, apparently, without shame or remorse ; and the Pro- 
testants, with a disingenuousness examples of which are unhappily 
too prevalent in our own time and country, had the hardihood to 
declare, even from their pulpits, that such were the "devotions" 
authorized by the Church for the observance of these sacred times. 
All these abominations M. Olier now laboured to suppress. He 
called the different confraternities together, and instructed them in 
the proper modes of solemnizing these privileged days. His kind- 
ness, his sincerity, his genuine earnestness, produced a powerful 
effect on the rough but passionate natures of the men he addressed ; 
and from many his appeal met at once with an effectual response. 
Tliese he prepared for a general confession, and afterwards for com- 
munion. A large number of the brothers renounced their profane 
practices, and banished every emblem of their once cherished super- 
stitions from their houses. To give the more authority to his acts, 
he obtained from the doctors of the Sorbonne a formal condemnation 
of the usages in question, which he caused to be printed, and copies 
of it distributed among the members of the companies. He directed 
the confessor of the Community to direct his especial attention to the 
brothers and their families ; visiting them repeatedly, particularly at 
times of sickness and distress, reconciling differences, and exhorting 
them to the practice of all their Christian duties. These offices were 



Life of M, Olicr. 

often discharged by himself in person ; and there was scarcely an 
attic or a hovel— for the parish extended far into the country — to 
which his charity did not take him. The people soon learned to 
regard him, not as a prying servant of the governing powers, or one 
who presumed on his social position to intrude into their dwellings, 
but as an afTectionate and anxious father, a true pastor of souls, 
whose only desire was to promote their welfare, temporal and eternal. 
So great was the influence he obtained over all sorts of men that 
even the public notaries entered into an agreement among themselves 
not to transact any legal business, except in cases of necessity, on 
Sundays and other holidays of the Church. 

A zeal so ardent and untiring, animated as it was by a genuine 
spirit of self-sacrifice, could not fail to be productive of most salutary 
effects. This parish, lately so forsaken of God, had become — with 
the constant sermons and ever-recurring religious exercises, con- 
ducted by a large and devoted band of priests — the scene of what 
had all the appearance of a perpetual mission, and the result was 
a wonderful revival of piety and fervour among the people. So 
great, at length, became the number of penitents that the priests of 
the Community were occupied in hearing confessions on Sundays 
and festivals from five in the morning till one o'clock in the day, and 
again in the afternoon till late in the evening ; and this at the time 
.of the greater solemnities continued for several days together. The 
church was soon so densely crowded that it became necessary to 
concert measures for the construction of a more spaciouf. building ; 
but, as this would be a work of time and, in fact, was not completed 
for several years, all that could be accomplished for the present was 
to enlarge the approaches by demolishing several houses in the 
vicinity. Yet even then the multitudes that filled the precincts were 
so great that, during Lent, the carriage of the Queen Regent was 
detained for nearly ten minutes at the corner of the Rue de I'Aveugle* 
before it could be extricated from the throng. 

* Now the Rue de St. Sulpice. 

( 213 ) 



OF all the measures adopted by M. Olier for the reformation of 
his parish, that on which he most relied was an increased 
devotion to Jesus in the Sacrament of His Love and to His blessed 
Mother. " When God," he wrote, " would revive the piety of His 
people, it is not by preaching or by miracles — these are the means 
He uses for the first establishment of His Church — but by renewed 
devotion to the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. The design of 
the Son of God in coming upon earth was to communicate to men 
Ilis divine life, in order to render them like unto Himself. This 
transformation He begins in Baptism and advances in Confirmation, 
but he brings it to perfection in the Holy Eucharist, that divine food 
which really communicates to us His own life and sentiments, gives 
us a participaiion in His adorable interior, and makes us one with 
Himself: Qui manducat meam carnem, in me manet et ego in eo.* 
He has taken up His abode in the Blessed Sacrament that He may 
continue His mission even to the end of the world, and form in the 
remotest corners of the earth adorers of His Father, who may worship 
Him in spirit and in truth. It is there that He becomes the source 
of a divine life, the inexhaustible fountain, the boundless ocean, out 
of the fulness of which we are sanctified. By the Most Holy Sacra- 
ment He would fill priests with His Spirit and His grace, and con- 
vert souls by their means. My soul languishes and is faint by reason 
of the keen and vehement desire I have to sec the Most Holy 
Sacrament revered by priests. The priest who is assiduous in 
honouring It, invoking It, and supplicating It for his people, will 
sooner or later obtain their conversion. It is impossible but that, 
being assiduous in prayer and remaining thus before the Most Holy 
Sacrament of the Altar, he must communicate in the sentiments, the 

* " He that eateth My Flesh abideth in Me and I in him." St. John vi. 57. 


Life of M. Olier. 

fervour, and the efficacy of our Lord, so as to touch, enlighten, and 
convert the souls of His people. For the power of Jesus risen, who 
now dwclleth in the Church with a zeal all on fire for the glory of His 
Father, must produce these effects. Ah, Lord, if Thou wouldst 
multiply me so that I could be present wherever throughout the world 
the Sacred Host abides, that there I might live and die, there I might 
spend my days and my life, how happy I should be ! I die of grief 
to see how little our Lord is honoured in the Blessed Sacrament 
eitlier by priests or by people." 

At the time he committed these thoughts to paper, devotion to the 
Blessed Sacrament and the piety which nourishes itself with the 
Bread of Life seemed well-nigh to hav. died out in the parish of St. 
Sulpice. It was M. Olier's mission, not only to restore this devotion, 
but to surround it with a special majesty and glory. From the 
moment he took possession of his office, he had laboured to make 
both the church and its seivices less unworthy of Him to whose 
worship they »/ere dedicated. This had long been the subject of M. 
Bourdoise's protests, as also of his prayers. " Scarcely anywhere," 
he had said — " nay, I will aver nowhere — in the whole kingdom will 
you find a church in which the divine service and all that appertains 
thereto, rubrics and ceremonies, vestments and ornaments, as well of 
the officials as of the altars, are ordered and observed as ecclesiastical 
rules and ordinances direct ; at least, I have never seen or heard of 
such One of the most cherished desires of my heart is to see some 
house of God regulated, furnished, and served as the Church would 
have it to be ; so that nothing should be done and nothing seen 
therein for which a reason cannot be given and the rule alleged. 
Such a church would serve as a model to others ; a man's whole life 
would not be ill employed in so excellent a work." 

The desire of this good priest was now to be fulfilled. M. Olier 
had not long entered on the duties of his charge before the church 
of St. Sulpice underwent a complete transformation. Where but a 
few weeks before everytliing testified to the state of ruin and desola- 
tion into which religion had fallen, the order and beauty which now 
prevailed struck beholders with astonishment. The altars were 
reconstructed and richly adorned, the pavement was repaired, the 
sacristy, lately so forlorn, was now duly furnished and decorated, 
while a second was set apart for the use of the priests who said the 
daily Masses. So scanty had become the vessels for the altar that, 
when M. Olier first came to St. Sulpice, the church possessed only 

Renovation of church and offices^ 


three chalices for thi" service of that large parish ; but he never rested 
until out of his own resources, or through the bounty of his wealthier 
parishioners, he had procured an ample supply of altar-plate ; so that 
in a few years no church in the whole metropolis was more richly 
jirovided with all that was necessary for the worthy celebration of 
the Holy Mysteries. Instead of the bells which had been suspended 
over the entrance to each chapel, and which rang at irregular inter- 
vals, as the celebrant happened to be ready, a single bell was 
placed at the sacristy door ; and every day, at every quarter of an 
hour, from six o'clock in the morning till twelve at noon, that bell 
gave warning to the faithful that a priest was proceeding to offer the 
Adorable Sacrifice. For the future the sacristan and the parish 
clerk* were both to be ecclesiastics, and no priest was to appear in 
the church unless vested in surplice or long gown. The singers, 
however, who had not received the tonsure, were prohibited from 
wearing the surplice. No laics, on any pretext whatever, were 
admitted into the sanctuary or choir, with the exception of the 
princes or princesses of the blood royal, when they were present 
in state at any extraordinary solp*nnity. Two doorkeepers were 
appointed, whose business it was to disperse the crowd of beggars 
who gathered round the entrance, to the annoyance of the congrega- 
tion, many of whom, to avoid their importunity, had been driven to 
frequent the chapels of the different Communities in the suburbs. 
No one employed in the sacristy was allowed to solicit presents 
at baptisms. The organist, who in the choice of his pieces had paid 
no regard to times and seasons, was provided with a book of regula- 
tions in accordance with the Roman practice, as then in use. The 
ringers also received a set of instructions ; the sexton, who hitherto 
had been left to his own devices, was subjected to supervision and 
control; nor did M. Olier disdain to see to the ordering of the 
parish clock, on which depended the punctual performance of all the 
offices of the church. Need it be added that an end had been put 
to the tavern in the vaults, where, as M. de Bassancourt with affected 
gravity informs M. Bourdoise, "our communicants used to go to 
take a little draught, and eat a bit of blessed bread, in the excess of 
their devotion ! " 

• Littre in his Dictionnaire de la Langue Franfaise hi\s this explanation : 
"Dans les paroisses Clerc de I'oeuvre, celui qui a soin de certaines choses con- 
cernant I'oeuvre de la paroisse." As there were then no civil registers, this official 
may have been employed in giving certificates, entering parochial accounts, &c. 



Life of M, Olier. 


One sublime and beautiful thought M. Olier had cherished which 
it was now his delight to see realized. It was that, while the greater 
part of the priests of his community were dispersed about the parish, 
engaged in labouring for the salvation of souls, the rest should be 
assembled in the choir of the church, offering to God, in the name 
of clergy and people, the sacrifice of homage and praise. This was 
M. Oiler's great idea, and he expressed it at length in some con- 
siderations which he drew up for the benefit of his ecclesiastics.* 
He would have them bear in mind that " in reciting the Divine Office 
they were acting m the name of the Church, or rather in that of 
Jesus Christ Himself, who was pleased to make use of their mouths 
and hearts as so many instruments wherewith to give praise to the 
Majesty of His Father by His Spirit dwelling in them." Henceforth, 
therefore, the Canonical Hours were publicly recited by the priests 
of St. Sulpice, an endowment being provided by M. Olier for their 
perpetual observance ; in all which his exertions were powerfully 
seconded by the zeal and piety of M. de Bassancourt, who for the 
first seven years after the establishment of the Community was 
Master of Ceremonies at the Seminary. 

Such was the state of religious apathy into which the population 
of this unhappy parish had settled down, that scarcely any one assisted 
at Mass except on Sundays and days of obligation. Pierced to the 
heart by such woeful insensibility, M. Olier strove both by public 
instructions and by private admonitions to rekindle the light of faith 
among his people, showing them the immense graces which are 
attache;^ to an assiduous attendance at the Holy Sacrifice and 
pressing on them the obligation, as parishioners, of repairing the 
dishonour which had been done to God by so general a neglect of 
that supreme act of divine worship. Nor was it only to those who 
had their time at their free disposal that he addressed himself, he was 
no less urgent with the artisans and tradesmen of the parish ; assur- 
ing them that, as a diligent attendance at Mass need not interfere 
with the due management of their affairs, so neither would it be 
found to be detrimental to their temporal interests. In order to 
give them every facility for fulfilling this duty without serious in- 
convenience — although it might entail some sacrifice of personal 
ease — he caused Masses to be said at suitable hours in the morning ; 
indeed, we have already seen that special instructions were provided 
for workmen at the early hour of four o'clock in summer. 

• An extract from these considerations is appended to this Chapter. 


Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament. 2 1 7 

If attendance at Mass was thus unfrequent, we shall not need to 
be told that communions were more unfrequent still ; and, in fact, 
few persons communicated, and that but seldom ; while the very 
idea of visiting Jesus present on the altar was, to all appearance, lost 
among the people. From the moment M. Olier assumed the charge 
of the parish he made this pious practice the subject of his continual 
exhortations ; but he did more : he enforced his teaching by example. 
He was constantly to be seen upon his knees before the Tabernacle; 
he never left the Presbytery without first paying a visit of adoration, 
and he did the same when he returned ; it was observed, also, that 
he chose by preference those streets in which there were churches, 
and where, therefore, he could perform a passing act of homage. 
His ecclesiastics were so emulous of his piety that from morning till 
night there was no lack of worshippers j he would have them resort 
to this devotion as a relief and recreation in their toils, and their one 
habitual occupation in old age : here they were to find their peace 
and repose in their declining years.* 

Further, this gre: t priest of God established a Confraternity of 
the Blessed Sacrament, which included at first only such of the 
ladies of the Faubourg as by their high position and known piety 
were likely to exercise a beneficial influence on others of their sex. 
This was the rule he adopted generally — to engage in the first in- 
stance the women and the children, and then, through their means, 
to gain access to the men. The associates met together every 
Thursday in the parish church, when M. Olier delivered an exhorta- 
tion on the subject of the devotion ; their visits for adoration were 
made in the afternoon, on such days and at such hours as each 
might choose ; and they took part, with lighted torches, in all pro- 
cessions held in honour of the Blessed Sacrament His addresses 
at the commencement were couched in language suited to the more 
cultivated intelligences of his auditors, but soon it was given him to 
see that the devotion ought to be general and the blessings of the 
Confraternity extended to persons of every class ; he modified his 
style accordingly, and, though his instructions were no less elevated 
in their subject-matter, he knew how to adapt them to the poorest and 

t I 

* It was probably for the sake of edification to the parishioners that M. Olier 
never sought permission to have the Blessed Sacrament reserved wi the chapel of 
the Seminary. The Community began to enjoy this privilege in the year 1698, 
but the custom of visiting the parish church still continued to be observed by its 




^Afe of M. Olier. 



I Si 

h f^ 

most illiterate members of his fiock. It was on the third Sunday in 
June, 1643, ^hat he invited all the parishioners, without exception, to 
join the Confraternity. Hitherto (as he said) it had been limited to 
such us had leisure for visiting the church on certain fixed days and at 
certain fixed hours, but for the future there would be no such restric- 
tion, and they whose avocations prevented them frc n paying their 
devotion on weekdays might do so on Sundays and festivals ; and 
that, too, without foregoing their usual recreations, so only they were 
such as good Christians might innocently enjoy. Indeed, as he 
took care to tell them, their recreations were likely to be all the more 
innocent and none the less pleasurable when they carried with them 
through the day the blessing of Him whom they Iiad just adored, 
and by their piety had earned for themselves and their families 
the special favour and protection of their angel-guardians. This 
invitation was cordially responded to by the parishioners, and by 
none more so than by those who may be called the busy classes, 
many of whom were remarkable for their punctuality and their 
fervour. Thus it came about that what in its beginnings was an 
exceptional observance became a general practice, and ladies of the 
highest rank might be seen walking in procession, or i;neeling side 
by side in adoration, with the meanest of the people. This adora- 
tion, which at first was observed only in the afternoon, was shortly 
after commenced in the early part of the day, and at last was con- 
tinued through the night, and so (as we shall hereafter see) became 

Having remarked that some of the greater people had been remiss 
in their attendance during the week, he rebuked them at one of 
the Thursday meetings for their negligence, showing how unbecom- 
ing it was to leave their Sovereign Lord without worshippers at such 
times as He was pleased to invite them to His presence. Upon 
which the Princesse de Cond^, who had been absent on a late occa- 
sion, desirous of repairing any scandal she might have given by her 
apparent indevotion, stood up, and said with a touching simplicity, 
•' I was absent. Sir, on Saturday, having gone to pay my court to the 
Queen." M. Olier, who had no regard to rank or birth where duty 
was concerned, replied, "You would have done better. Madam, 
had you come here to pay your court to the King of kings." The 
Princess, however, had a legitimate excuse. Louis XIII. was just 
dead, and the Queen, who, during the first forty days of public 
mourning, was obliged by court etiquette to remain in her own apart- 

Benediction and Exposition. 


ments, with flambeaux burning, had begged her to come and take 
her out privately for an airing. On being made aware of the circum- 
stance, M. OHer felt that some reparation was due for the public 
rebuke he had administered, and, making her very presence there 
the occasion of a commendation, he bade his hearers take pattern 
by the piety and humility of one of her exalted station, who came in 
the crowd like any ordinary person, and sat with the rest on her little 
straw-chair. This princess, who was under M. Olier's spiritual 
direction, did much, both by example and direct influence, for the 
promotion of piety among the ladies of the parish, and esi)ccially 'i 
this matter of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. 

One of M. Olier's first acts on coming to St. Sulpice had bee to 
establish a solemn Benediction of the Most Holy Sacrament, wit; <i 
procession and exposition, on the first Sundays and Thursdays in 
each month. This most beautiful devotion was at that time of much 
rarer observance in France than it subsequently became ; and it was 
objected by many persons of piety — M. Bourdoise among the number 
— that a more frequent celebration would so familiarize people's 
minds with the tremendous mystery as to lead to irreverence and 
desecration. But M. Olier contended, — and the authoritative sanction 
of the Church, as well as the general experience of the faithful, has 
confirmed his judgment, — that the dispensations of grace vary in 
such matters with the needs of the age ; and that, as in these latter 
days the blasphemy of heresy has especially assailed the August 
Sacrament of the Altar, so it was the will of God that reparation 
should be made by a more open, more frequent, and (so to say) 
more triumphant display of homage and adoration ; moreover, that 
the elevation of the sacerdotal order was inseparably associated with 
this increased devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, of which priests 
were the consecrated ministers and guardians. He was careful, 
however, to provide against the apprehended evil consequences by 
surrounding the celebration with every circumstance that could tend 
to exalt it in the eyes of the people.* On every first Thursday in 
the month there was solemn High Mass, with a procession ; and the 
Exposition was announced by three peals of bells. It was ordered 


* As a proof of the care he took in this matter, it is mentioned that, when a 
person of some consideration in the parish offered to found a solemn Mass of the 
Blessed Sacrament, with Benediction, to be celebrated every Thursday throughout 
the year, he refused his consent, for fear of diminishing rather than stimulating 
the devotion of the people. 


TAfe of M, Olier. 

also that there should never be less than thirty-eight ecclesiastics 
present, four of whom should bear the canopy, four be vested in 
copes or dalmatics, while the rest should carry lighted torches in 
their hands ; two thurifers, moreover, preceding, who were to incense 
continually as the procession advanced. 

For the perpetual observance of this edifying practice, the 
Duchesse d'Aiguillon established a special endowment ; and a similar 
fund was contributed by a pious family in the parish for the 
solemnization of the Forty Hours' Adoration, which M. Olier had 
inaugurated, during the three days immediately preceding the peni- 
tential season of Lent. He also instituted an annual exposition of 
the Blessed Sacrament on the feast of Epiphany and on that of 
St. Martin, both in reparation and as a corrective of the disorders 
which prevailed at that particular time. Unable, by reason of his 
unceasing pastoral labours, to satisfy the ardour of his devotion, he 
kept two tapers continually burning on the altar to represent his own 
consuming love, and provided at his personal expense the torches 
which were borne before the Blessed Sacrament when carried to the 
sick. Such zeal for God and for His honour and worship could not 
fail to be contagious. Accordingly, the days which had been devoted 
to riot or mere amusement, began to be observed religiously ; the 
people came more frequently to the holy offices, and endeavoured 
by their piety and fervour to make reparation for their former 

Communions at St. Sulpice (as has been said) had become both 
few and rare ; a circumstance attributable, not only to the tepidity 
and indifference which is sure to follow where pastors are themselves 
wanting in zeal and devotion, but to that insidious and most detest- 
able heresy which was now fast gaining ground in France, and which, 
under the pretence of aspiring after a higher spirituality and doing 
greater honour to the Sacrament of the Altar, prevented thirsting, 
perishing souls from approaching the fount of life and sanctity. 
Jansenism was doing its utmost, by exaggerating the qualifications 
required for a right reception of the Holy Eucharist, to make unfre- 
quent communion a mark of piety, as it was the badge of its own 
pernicious sect. Against this odious hypocrisy the teaching of M. 
Olier and his community was one continued protest. Equally free, 
on the one hand, from a severe rigorism and, on the other, from a 
too indulgent laxity, he sought to inspire his people with a reverent 
but ardent devotion to Jesus in His Sacrament of Love, and to 

Address to first-communicants. 


instruct them in the necessary dispositions for worthily partaking of 
the Bread of Angels. To accomplish this in the most solid and 
effectual manner, he instructed his catechists to bestow the greatest 
care in preparing children and young persons for their first com- 
munion ; and, to train them from their earliest years in the practice 
of frequently approaching this heavenly banquet, he established a 
monthly general "ommunion, which was the source of incalculable 
blessings to his flock. 

With this most salutary of all devotions was conjoined that which 
is its offspring and its complement, a most tender and confiding 
love of Mary, whose power and prerogatives were also covertly 
assailed, if not openly decried, by the Jansenistic party. On entering 
the parish he had solemnly placed it under the patronage and pro- 
tection of the Blessed Virgin, and in all public processions her banner 
was displayed together with that of St. Sulpice. It was his desire 
that on the first Saturday of each month the younger members of his 
flock should renew their consecration to their holy Mother ; and to 
this end he established a Mass and procession, at which all the 
children in the schools assisted. But it was on the day of their first 
communion that he who had ever loved to bestow that which was 
best and dearest on his heavenly Patroness rejoiced in making her 
the offering of hearts, then most worthy of her favour ; hearts which 
her Divine Son had just deigned personally to visit and had reple- 
nished with the Spirit of His grace. 

A fragment of one of his addresses on these occasions has been 
preserved, and is worthy of being cited as illustrating the vivid 
manner with which he impressed the truths of religion on the tender 
hearts of the young : — " My children, I address to you this day the 
same words which Jesus spoke when He was on earth : * Suffer the 
little children to come unto Me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.* * 
Yes, this is the day on which you are to enter this Heavenly Kingdom. 
What a day of glory and of benediction ! This day, without quitting 
your body, without causing grief and mourning to your parents or 
y <ur relatives, you are to enter into Paradise. You know that when 
children die after holy baptism they go straight to Heaven ; and that 
the Church, instead of weeping and mourning for them, celebrates 
their festival, because, not having lost the white robe of innocence, 
they pass at once from this world into the Kingdom of Heaven. 
Now, this it is, my children, which our Lord desires to do this day : 

* St. Matthew xix. 14. St. Mark x. 14. St. Luke xviii. 16. 

I "' 




Life of M. Olier, 




to admit you into His Kingdom, because He finds you clothed with 
the garment of innocence. This day is a day of triumph to you, it 
is a day of immortality, it is a day of royalty, a day of sanctity. See, 
my children, whether you be in a state to enjoy this blessing and this 
grace divine. Remember that nothing defiled can enter the Kingdom 
of Heaven. Therefore it was that before the gate of the earthly 
Paradise, which is a figure of Heaven, an angei held a flaming sword 
to prevent all sinners from entering therein ; * and Jesus Christ, in 
the Temple of Jerusalem, which was a foreshadowing of Paradise, 
taking a scourge into His hand, drove out of that holy house all 
those who were given to covetousness and whose hearts were attached 
to the goods of this world : t an evident sign of the awful vengeance 
which He executes on those who are so presumptuous as to attempt 
to enter into His Kingdom while in a state of sin. Yet, strange to 
say, in the Gospel J we meet with one who dared to enter the guest- 
chamber without having on a wedding garment, whereupon the 
master of the house, incensed at such audacity and presumption, 
commanded him to be seized, bound hand and foot, and cast out 
into the darkness. This is a figure of those who dare to approach 
the Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin. Wherefore it is that 
the Greek Church bids her deacons cry aloud before Holy Com- 
munion, * If any one hath aught against his brother, let him go first 
and be reconciled ; ' § and why in the Latin Church the kiss of peace 
is given in token of fraternal charity. My children, what the Church 
does will be done also on the day when God shall admit His elect 
into His Kingdom, to make them sit down at the eternal banquet 
which He has prepared for them : the great herald of God will then 
cry aloud and say, ' Begone, ye who are given to anger or immodesty ; 
ye who are covetous or deceitful and love lying.' And it is in these 
same words that I address myself to you : Purify your hearts, and so 
come to this divine banquet. It was instituted to give new life to 
your souls, but it profiteth only those who are already alive and who 
have in them the beginning of the life of Jesus Christ." 

In the Seminary of St. Sulpice is a picture representing M. Olier 
kneeling before an altar with a youth of noble aspect, whom he is 
consecrating to the holy Mother of God. This was Anne-Auger 
Granry, page of the chamber to the Duke of Orleans. He made his 
en he was twelve years old, and having through 


* Gen. iii. 24. 

t Si. Matthew xxii. 11-13. 

t St. Johnii. 15. 
§ lb. ver. 23, 24. 


Brother J oJm of the Cross. 


divine grace preserved his innocence unstained, he came in his 
fifteenth year to make a retreat at the Seminary. Surrounded by all 
the temptations of the court and now arrived at a most critical period 
of his life, the one desire of his heart was that he might sooner die 
than live to offend God by one mortal sin ; and scarcely had he 
enteicd on his retreat when he was taken ill, and in a very few days 
expired. M. de Bretonvilliers, who acted as his confessor during 
his retreat, was so assured of his being in a state of bliss that he 
would have contented himself with saying a few Masses for him ; but, 
on M. Olier declaring that the youth still needed his prayers, he had 
numerous Masses offered in his behalf, until the holy pastor learned 
by divine revelation that the justice of God was satisfied. " This 
morning," he said, " when offering the Adorable Sacrifice, I beheld 
his soul, resplendent with light, ascending into Heaven." 

Next to Jesus really present on the altars of the Church the ser- 
vant of God loved the poor, who are His images and representatives. 
When engaged in giving missions, his first visit on arriving at any 
town was to the Blessed Sacrament, his second to the hospital or the 
asylum of the poor. He had bound himself by vow to be their 
servant to the end of his days, and faithfully did he perform it when 
he became pastor of St. Sulpice. Crowds of miserable objects, the 
fetid odour from whose garments tainted the very air, might be seen 
surrounding the doors of the Presbytery, where they ever met with a 
ready, cordial welcome. Not content with receiving them with a 
sweet and gentle kindness, he invited them to come to him, he went 
out to seek them, he gathered them about him, and distributed alms 
among them according to their several needs. The bashful poor 
were specially the objects of his solicitude, and of these the first list 
presented to him contained no less than fifteen hundred names. To 
inquire into the circumstances and relieve the necessities of all who 
claimed his bounty, he needed an assistant of peculiar talents and 
experience ; and such a one was provided him in the person of Jean 
Blondeau, better known in his own day as Brother John of the Cross. 
He had himself belonged to the tribe of beggars until he was taken 
into the service of Fere Bernard, and the way he obtained the name 
by which he was popularly known is too characteristic to be omitted. 
Great as was their mutual respect, servant and master seem to have 
been a severe trial to each other ; their dispositions and humours 
were always clashing; and so troublesome and vexatious did the 
"Poor Priest" find his adopted beggar that he reckoned him 

m 1 







Life of M. Olier. 



among the extraordinary crosses which God was pleased to lay upon 
him. But Brother John had his grievances too, the principal item 
of which was singular enough. "When I am serving his Mass," 
said he, " he remains rapt in an ecstacy three hours together ; and 
all the time I am wanted elsewhere, for he has nobody but me to 
wait upon him. When I have prepared his meal, and go to tell 
him it is ready, I find him in an ecstacy again, and I have no means 
of getting him out of it. It is perfectly unendurable ! " P. Bernard, 
however, retained him in his service as long as he lived ; and when 
he was gone, the good brother, who had a real veneration for the 
virtues of his master, never ceased reproaching himself for all the 
trouble he had given him. " He has turned out a great saint," he 
would say, with tears in his eyes ; " and what fills me with confusion 
is that, instead of imitating his example, I contributed to his sancti- 
fication by all I made him sufTer." 

Accompanied by Brother John, M. Olier visited in person all the 
poor of his vast parish, listening patiently to their complaints and 
relieving their necessities. For the sick he provided nurses and 
medical attendants ; for the orphans a home ; for distressed females 
employment ; and he charged certain of the parishioners in whom 
he could confide to watch over their conduct and supply their wants 
out of funds which he placed at their disposal. On two days in the 
week he gave food and clothing to crowds of beggars, who some- 
times numbered as many as nine hundred ; and, with an indulgent 
charity, which resembled that of St. Thomas of Villanova, he re- 
frained from enquiring too narrowly into their tale of woe or taking 
note of any artifice they might employ to excite his pity, choosing 
rather, in the spirit of the Apostle's counsel to the Corinthians,* to 
suffer himself to be defrauded* than to deal hardly with the poor of 
Christ, and availing himself of the occasion to touch their hearts 
with a word of counsel and recall them to the paths of honesty and 
virtue. No wonder that with such a constant drain upon them his 
resources were often quite exhausted. One friend, however, he had 
who never failed him in his straits, and who, he used to declare, 
would never be wanting to those who loved and cared for the poor, 
the Blessed Virgin. To the bags which were hung up in the Pres- 
bytery to receive alms for their relief he had attached an image of 
this compassionate Mother ; and, although they were always being 
emptied, they were as continually refilled when the moment of need 

• I Cor. vii. 7. 

-. -.A 

His care of the sick poor. 


arrived. " She it is," he would say to his priests, pointing to the 
image, " on whom I rely to take care of the poor ; I leave the whole 
management to her ; I tell her my wants, and she in her goodness 
provides for them." 

One of his first acts was to re-organize the Confraternity of 
Charity, which had been established at St. Sulpice ten years before 
by St. Vincent de Paul, but had become almost extinct. The asso- 
ciation was composed of the ladies of the parish, many of them high 
in rank, who met every week at the Presbytery after hearing Mass. 
Some contributed a fixed sum every month ; others provided 
victuals ; others again visited the sick at their own homes. Among 
these devoted women one of the most remarkable was Mme. Les- 
chassier, of the illustrious family of Miron, who, though delicately 
and even luxuriously brought up, was in the daily practice of mak- 
ing the beds of the poor creatures and washing and mending their 
linen with her own hands. One day that her daughter, whose 
humility and charity were worthy of such a mother, saw her prepar- 
ing to comb the head of a little girl which was more than usually 
dirty and revolting, she drew the child towards her that she might 
perform the office instead. But Mme. Leschassier, perceiving her 
object, said, " No, my dear ; that is not fair ; you must not take the 
best to yourself." Acting under M. Oiler's direction, this young 
lady refused several advantageous offers of marriage, and devoted 
her whole life to works of charity. 

It was found, however, that the aid thus rendered was uncertain 
and precarious at the best, particularly as many of the ladies, 
unable to give the constant and regular attention which was needed, 
were in the habit of hiring young women, or sending their servants, 
to supply their place. M. Olier, therefore, called in the aid of the 
Sisters of Charity, lately founded by Mile. Le Gras (Louise de 
Marillac) * under the direction of St. Vincent de Paul ; indeed, he 
was the first Cur6 of Paris who introduced them into his parish. 
He established them in the Rue du Pot-de-Fer, and employed them 
in taking care of children and attending to the sick, for whom they 
provided both food and medicine. But it was to his own ecclesiastics 
that he principally looked to minister to the necessities of the suffer- 

* Mile. Le Gras was the widow of Antoine Le Gras, Secretary to the 
Queen Marie de Medicis ; but, as lier husband's family did not, like her own, 
rank among the noblesse, she was not entitled, according to the usage of the time, 
to be styled Madame. This heroioe of charity died March 15th, 1660, aged 68. 





Life of M. Oiler, 

ing poor, to whom, as the dearest and most cherished members of 
the body of Christ, he would have them consider nothing less than 
a father's care was due. To obviate, however, any evils that might 
arise from mixing up together the temporal and the spiritual, no 
confessor was allowed to give alms to his penitents. If the poor, 
when they entered the tribunal of penance, began to complain of 
their bodily wants and sufferings, the nriest was instructed to say, 
'• Do you wish to confess your sins, or to receive alms ? If I hear 
your confession, I cannot give you anything." 

But, deeply pained as, was the heart of this good pastor by tne 
poverty and distress of so ninny of his flock, there was one woeful 
misery which caused it a far more bitter pang. The parish abounded 
in houses of infamy, to the ruin of the peace and happiness of 
families and the eternal destruction of innumerable souls. To cope 
with this monstrous evil, there needed the zeal and the courage and, 
we may add, the charity of an Apostle ; and none of the three were 
wanting in the Cur^ of St. Sulpice. Again and again he urged upon 
his parishioners the strict obligation under which they lay not to 
receive as their tenants persons of notoriously profligate lives ; and 
when this did not suffice, he denounced the vengeance of Heaven 
on all who knowingly lent themselves to this iniquity, enforcing his 
threats by the most terrible examples. He proceeded in person to 
demand the assistance of the magistrates, boldly declaring that, as 
the guardians of the public morals, they would have to answer at the 
judgment-seat of God for the disorders which, through pusillanimity 
or rupineness, they failed to suppress. A number of abandoned 
womvm having established themselves in one of the most frequented 
streets near the church, where their shameless conduct was a scandal 
to the whole neighbourhood, he inveighed from the pulpit with so 
much vehemence against the toleration of the foul enormity that the 
Bailly of the Faubourg, using the authority he possessed, expelled 
the offenders from the parish, and even changed the appellation 
of the street, with the hope of obliterating the very memory of the 
disgrace which attached to the locality. This act the magistrate 
followed up by enforcing the severest punishment allowed by the 
law, which was that of imprisonment for fifteen days on bread and 
water, and adopting other vigorous measures. But M. Olier, mean- 
while, was labouring to turn the vengeance of the law to the spiritual 
profit of its unhappy victims. He strove to provide them on their 
release with the means of obtaining an honest livelihood ; he sent 

His charity to sinners. 


some of the most virtuous among his parishioners ^o visit them in 
prison, and endeavour by kindness and sympathy to rescue them 
from the gulf of misery into which they had fallen ; and, when any 
showed signs of penitence and a desire to return to a better life, he 
engaged charitable persons to provide them an asylum, at his per- 
sonal expense, where they could be duly instructed and reconciled 
to Clod. Uniting himself interiorly to the sentiments of our Blessed 
Lord when He conversed with the woman of Samaria, he would 
himself undertake their reformation, blending in such measure as 
an enlightened prudence suggested, or, rather, as the Spirit of God 
dictated to him at the time, severity with sweetness, and not unfre- 
quently by a word or two of calm persuasion allaying the fiercest 
bursts of passion or subduing the most obstinate temper. 

On its being observed to him one day by a person of piety that 
all the trouble he took was simply thrown away, for that every day's 
experience showed that those on whom so much zeal was expended, 
on returning to the world, betook themselves again to a life of sin, 
he answered, " No ; the labour we undergo for God is never lost. 
True it is that our efforts do not always meet with success, but suc- 
cess is not altogether the end we have in view; there is another 
on which we may infallibly reckon; and that is our own spiritual 
advancement, an increase of personal merit, greater glory in Heaven, 
and the highest honour to which a creature can aspire on earth, that 
of working for God. Besides, have all fallen who appeared to be 
reclaimed?" and, on receiving an admission to the contrary, he 
added, " Then you ought to rest content. If your life served only 
to save one single soul, could it be better employed, seeing that 
the Son of God would have given His own life to save that soul, 
had it been the only one in the whole world?" The better, 
however, to secure the fruits of his labours, he entrusted his 
penitents to the care of the community which bore the well- 
known name of the Madeleine, and, with the aid of some of the 
wealthiest inhabitants, would have founded a similar institution in 
his own parish ; but the project encountered so determined an 
opposition on the part of other influential persons, who represented 
that such a foundation would be prejudicial to the establishments 
already in existence, that he was compelled to desist. In this, there- 
fore, he had only the merit of the desire, without suc' eding in his 
enterprise, and at the same time gave occasion to admire his 
exemplary patience and conformity to the will of God. When told 
that he must abandon his charitable design, he replied, " Ah, well, 




♦ . 





Life of M. Olicr. 

blessed be God! He is master; His holy will be done iti all 

After seven years of incessant toil he had the consolation of 
seeing his parish almost entirely delivered from that open exhibition 
of profligacy which had been its foulest blot, but it was not without 
great mental suflering and much self-inflicted penance. The sins 
and disorders of his people filled his heart with an abiding sorrow, 
and embittered every moment of his life. " I cannot understand." 
he would say, "how it is possible to love God and not to grieve 
over the loss of souls." Often he would shut himself up in the 
church, and there piss the whole night in prayer behind the High 
Altar, t imploring the Divine mercy for his flock ; or he would lie 
prostrate on the floor of his chamber, giving vent to the anguish of 
his soul in audible sighs and groans ; or, again, he would rise from 
his bed after two or three hours' sleep, and remain in prayer till 
morning. To this perseverance in supplication he added the 
severest bodily austerities, wearing constantly, despite all the labours 
of each '' , an iron girdle with cruelly sharp points, and punishing 
his flesh with disciplines so mercilessly that the room in which he 
scourged himself would be found sprinkled with his blood. A 
charity so supernatural and heroic drew down extraordinary bless- 
ings on his people, and obtained the gift of repentance even for 
many inveterate sinners. One remarkable instance is related of his 
hearing for the first time of a certain notorious evil-liver, and saying 
Mass for his conversion ; when, on the very same day, the man, 
suddenly seized with compunction, went to M. Olier, made his 
peace with God, and led ever after a good and exemplary life. 
Such, too, was the grace that accompanied his ministrations that, as 
we learn on the authority of M. de Bretonvilliers, of all the persons 
who were under his direction, or for whose conversion he had 
laboured, there were only two who died without giving signs of true 
contrition. The first was the Calvinist mei.tioned in a preceding 
chapter ; the second was a girl twenty-two years of age, of abandoned 
life, who, struck down by a mortal illness, was brought in a few days 
to the brink of the grave. In spite of all his endeavours, his prayers, 
and his penances, and the prayers and exhortations of the priests 

* In 1684, M. de la Barmondiere, a disciple of M. Olier and one of his successors 
as Cure of St. Sulpice, was able to carry out this beneficent design by establishing 
in the parish a community of the Nuns of the Good Shepherd. 

t The Blessed Sacrament was reserved in the Lady Chapel as well as on the 
High Altar at St. Sulpice. 

His intrepid zcaL 


whom he called to his aid, she persisted in her obduracy, and dietl 
like one possessed by the devil, howling and blaspheming ; her last 
art — horrible to relate — being to spit on the crucifix which was held 
to her lips ! So awful an event produced a great sensation in the 
])arish, and the wretched creature was buried in unconsecrated 
ground, deprived in her den'h of all the rites of the Church which 
in the closing moments of her life she had rejected and profaned. 
'Ihe loss of this soul seemed to strike the holy pastor with a sort 
of consternation; and, for long after, his counteii.i'ice and whole 
appearance gave tokens of the anguish that rent his heart. 

The zeal of this great servant of God was no less conspicuously 
displayed in his unwearied efforts to preserve young and innocent 
girls from the arts of the seducer. If he became aware that there 
were any in danger of falling into sin, through the poverty or ill 
conduct of their parents or their own inexperience and indiscretion, 
he never rested until he had procured them the means of subsistence 
or had rescued them from their perilous position. And here he 
found a powerful coadjutor in the celebrated Mme. de Pollalion, 
(Marie de Lumague),* whose life was devoted to this and similar 
works of mercy. The numbers who are said to have been saved 
from destruction by their united exertions sufficiently prove the 
frightful prevalence of the evil against which they had to contend. 
Not content with interposing where his assistance was asked, M. 
Olier was indefatigable in detecting and defeating the machinations 
of the profligate and vicious. Learning one day that a miserable 
woman had agreed for a sum of money to deliver up her step- 
daughter to a wealthy libertine, and that the iniquitous bargain was 
to be concluded at a certain house which had been indicated to 
him, he obtained privately the protection of a guard, which he 
stationed at a convenient spot ; then, going in company of Mme. de 
Pollalion to the house, he boldly confronted the infamous woman 

* Sometimes called Mile. Pollalion, because, like Mile. Le Gras, her husband 
was a simple fcuyer ; no one below the wife of a baron or a chevalier being 
entitled to be addressed as Madame. She was remarkable for her ardent and 
energetic character. Among other acts which testified to her defiance of human 
respect, it is related of her that she made the pilgrimage to the shrine of Notre 
Dame des Vertus barefoot in winter. Left a widow at the age of twenty-six, she 
quitted the Court and devoted her life to charitable works. In concert with M. 
Le Vachet, a priest of St. Sulpice, she took an active part in establishing an 
institute for the training of school-teachers, who were called the Sisters of 
Christian Union ; and subsequently, under the guidance of St. Vincent de Paul, 
she became the foundress of the Sisters of Providence, who employed themselves 
in the education of the poor. 

1 i' 

/:i !' 








Life of M, Olier, 







and her accomplice, and exposed their nefarious design in the 
presence of the intended victim, who, thus apprized of the plot con- 
trived for her ruin, threw herself into the arms of Mme. de PoUalion 
and begged to be conveyed to a place of safety, liut when a soul's 
salvation was at stake M. Olier was reckless of danger, and would 
brave any insult or outrage to effect his charitable object. He was 
in his chamber one winter's evening when, hearing a tumult outside, 
and being told that it was occasioned by a party of soldiers who 
were carrying off a young girl, in an instant, without consulting liis 
own safety, he rushed into the street and pursued the ravishers, who, 
astounded at the courage and resolution of one unarmed man, gave 
up their prey into his hands. On another occasion he followed a 
gang of ruffians as far as Montrouge for a similar purpose and with 
similar success. His wish was to establish a house of refuge, under 
the care of a religious community, where young females whose 
chastity was imperilled might receive the protection they needed, 
and be brought up in habits of piety and virtue. Failing health, 
however, prevented the execution of this among many other chari- 
table plans which he had devised but was unable to carry into effect. 
Finding that many were living as man and wife in the parish who 
had never been married, or whose marriages had not been validly 
solemnized, he employed the necessary measures for supplying what- 
ever was defective, taking care, however, not to publish to the world 
the shame that had attached to their position or the nullity of the 
previous contract. To prevent as far as possible similar abuses for 
the future, he drew up a paper of instructions, which he caused to 
be distributed among the people, and required that persons, before 
entering into the marriage state, should evince a sufficient knowledge 
of the principal articles of the faith and approach the holy sacra- 
ments of Penance and the Fucharist. From this obligation none 
were exempted, whatever their rank or station in life. The mother 
attended with her daughter, the intended bridegroom came alone ; 
and M. du Ferrier says of himself that, finding that one of his 
penitents who was among the first lords about Court did not know 
hiij catechism, he directed him to learn it, and the young nobleman 
repeated his lesson with all the humility of a child. M. Olier 
solemnly admonished all fathers and mothers of families, as they 
would answer before God for their children's souls, to keep strict 
watch over their morals, himself suggesting the precautions to be 
taken agamst contamination, and assisting the poor to observe them. 

Phe Vvan. 


It was in the midst of these pastoral labours that he was called 
to decide upon an affair of no small importance. The Queen 
Regent, who had vowed to raise a magnificent temple to God if He 
should vouchsafe to grunt an heir to the throne of France, was desi- 
rous of completing the construction of the Abbey of Val lie Grice, 
the first stone of which had been laid, in tlie April of 1645, by Louis 
XIV., then a child. Holding M. Olier in the highest esteem, this 
pious princess wished to i)lace him at the head of the new establish- 
ment, and to this end proposed that he should exchange the parish 
of St. Sulpice for that of St. Jacques du Haut Pas,* in which tlie 
abbey was situated. M. Olier would have been disposed to enter- 
tain the question but for the assurance of Marie Rousseau that such 
a change would lead to the ruin of the Seminary. The Queen would 
then have had him nominate one of his ecclesiastics, in which her 
cfTorts were seconded by those of the Cure of St. Jacques, M. Pons 
de Lagrange. But even to this proposal M. Olier could not bring 
himself to accede, fearing to get embroiled with the Oratorian 
Fathers, whose house of St. Magloire was in the close vicinity of 
the abbey, and with whose views on the now all-engrossing subject 
of grace he was little in accord. For the same reason he sub- 
sequently declined to undertake the superintendence of the Filles 
Penitentes of St. Magloire, lately reformed. 

The great reputation which M. Olier now enjoyed, the order 
which reigned in his parish, and the general editication afforded by 
his community, brought him into close relations with all who, in his 
day, were remarkable for their piety and virtues. It was about the 
year 1644 that he contracted an intimate and lasting friendship with 
M. Crdtenet, who, though a surgeon by profession and a married 
man, exercised an extraordinary influence in re-animating the devo- 
tion of the clergy, and became the founder of the Missionaries of St. 
Joseph. Such was the respect which M. Olier entertained for this 
good layman, who paid frequent visits to the Presbytery, that he 
bade his ecclesiastics take him as their model. But a still more 
notable personage, and one whose name will always remain associ- 
ated with that of M. Olier and the Community of St Sulpice, was 
the Pere Yvan, founder of the Nuns of Notre Dame de la Mis^ri- 
corde, whose acquaintance he made in the same year. Burning 

Or Maupas, being an abbrevation of maiivais pas, so called from a religious 
community whicli was founded in the 12th century for receiving travellers and 
assisting them gratuitously in crossing rivers, &c. 

tl ', 




L?/e of M. Olicr. 


with zeal for the conversion of sinners and gifted with extraordinary 
lights in the direction of souls, this celebrated man, now consider- 
ably advanced in years, led a life of severe austerity, which seemed 
to affect his whole manner and conversation. There was a certain 
roughness in his exterior and plainness in his speech which to men 
of the world must have borne the appearance of insufferable rude- 
ness. He had a way of testing people's merits by taking them to 
task for some fault which he thought, or affected to think, he had 
observed in their conduct, and he subjected M. Olier to this ordeal 
the first time he saw him. Joining the Community in the refectory, 
where the servant of God was taking his simple repast with the rest, 
P. Yvan kept his eyes fixed upon him, and, after observing him 
awhile, he said, as with an air of disappointment and disgust, " I am 
astonished at your want of self-denial ; you eat your dinner with all 
the avidity of a glutton ; " and he continued for some time in the 
same strain with the utmost freedom, adding whatever he thought 
most likely to irritate and provoke. M. OUer listened with all 
placidity and patience, and, when the old man had said his worst, 
he thanked him unaffectedly for the charity which had led him to 
rebuke him so frankly for his faults, and promised, with God's help, 
to profit by his advice ; " for, father," said he, " it is seldom one 
meets with friends who do not flatter, but speak the truth in love." 
While he was uttering these words P. Yvan watched him narrowly, 
to judge by his features whether his speech expressed the genuine 
emotions of his heart ; then, no longer withholding his admiration, 
he enthusiCiStically declared that M. Olier, while taking his ordinary 
repast, practised a mortification as real as the austerest anchorite ; 
and such was the opinion which from that moment he entertained 
of his sanctity that he was wont to say, " M. Olier is truly a saint : 
he is dead ; nature is extinct in him." M. Olier, on his part, 
appreciated no less highly the virtues of his eccentric friend, and 
begged him to aid him by his counsels and co-operation in the 
establishment of the Seminary. P. Vvan had come to Paris to 
claim some property which had been bequeathed to his institute, 
but, seeing that a lawsuit was inevitable, he relinquished his rights 
and, having thus effectually rid himself of worldly distractions, 
devoted all his energies to the seminary and parish of St. Sulpice. 
He was invited to speak at all conferences, and was listened to with 
marked attention as a very oracle of piety and wisdom, notwithstand- 
ing his abruptness and even asperity of manner, which contrasted 

Conversion of a Canon. 


strongly with the sweet and gentle condescension which distinguished 
M. Olier and his followers. 

M. Olier was emphatically the friend of the clergy ; and in nothing 
was his charity more singularly displayed than in the kindness and 
liberality with which he received all ecclesiastics, — and indeed, all 
laymen also, — who came to make a spiritual retreat under his direc- 
tion. The care and attention he paid them extended to every parti- 
cular ; and it was one of his invariable rules that their maintenance 
should be provided for at the sole expense of the Community, 
although voluntary offerings were not refused. He imposed only 
one condition — that ecclesiastics should wear their clerical garb and 
conduct themselves in all things as became their sacred profession. 
He allowed o'' r>o exception. Tlius, a certain Abbd of quality, M. 
Nicolas de Vallavoire, who was not distinguished in the world for 
the gravity of his deportment, having been nominated by the King 
in May, 1650, to the see of Riez, signified his intention of making a 
retreat at St. Sulpice. Th« fact of his doing so might have been 
taken as a sign that he was desirous of changing his whole manner 
of life, but M. Olier, who chanced to be absent at the time from 
Paris, took the precaution of directing M. de Bretonvilliers to give 
the bishop elect a respectful admonition that he must be prepared 
to comply strictly with all the rules of the institute, or he could not 
be received at the Seminary. That he did actually make his intended 
retreat, and must consequently have submitted to the prescribed 
regulations, we have incidental proof of a singular kind. It happens 
that Mademoiselle de Montpensier, known in history as " the Great 
Mademoiselle," who during the troubles of the Fronde was in the 
habit of iiitercepting and opening all letters addressed to the Court, 
mentions in her Memoires having found one from this same Abb^ 
de Vallavoire to Cardinal Mazarin, written at St. Sulpice ; the last 
place in the world, she remarks, from which one would have expected 
to light upon a letter addressed to that personage. The purport of 
the letter was to suggest a plan for reconciling the Duke of Orleans 
with the royal party. 

As an instance of the powerful influence exercised by the Com- 
munity on the outside world, M. Faillon relates how a Canon of 
Cologne, whose manners were little in accordance with the sanctity 
of his profession, being accidentally present at a public conference 
given by M-. de Foix, was so touched at heart ihat on the same day 
he discharged all his servants, with one exception; sold his equipages, 



\ t i, 


Life of M. Olier. 

\ i 

and on his return to Cologne applied himself to repairing by a 
mortified and edifying life the scandal he had previously given by 
his laxity and worldliness. 

Many devout and holy men resorted to M. Olier for counsel ; 
among whom may be mentioned M. Jean Poincheval, who lived and 
died at Paris in the odour of sanctity, and of whom it is recorded 
that he scarcely ever left his chamber except to go to the altar or the 
confessional, or to visit the Curd of St. Sulpice. Were any eccle- 
siastic aggrieved by the rich and powerful, M. Olier stood boldly 
forward in his defence, and never ceased his exertions until redress 
had been obtained. The Curd of Arcueil, M. Gtrvnis Bigeon, a 
doctor of theology and a man of the highest integri'.y, had been 
grossly insulted and, indeed, violently assaulted at the very door of 
the church and in the presence of his flock by the seigneur .)f tiie 
place, who, in his furv, had gone so far as to assail this good priest 
both with imprecations aad with blows and, after I^nocking him 
down, had kicked him unmercifully as he lay on the ground, tearing 
his cassock with his spurs. The name of this lordly ruffian was 
The'odore de Berziau, atid the outrage was committed on the 30th 
of May, 1643. The Parlinvent of Paris took un the affair, but the 
parishioners, dreading the great man's vengeance, dared not make 
any formal deposition, and nothing would have been done had not 
M. Olier addressed an energetic appeal to all the Bishops with whom 
he had any personal acquaintance, as well as to St. Vincent de Paul, 
who had been appointed a member of the Council of Conscience,* 
calling upon them to lay the matter before the Queen Regent, and 
in the name of religion and justice demand satisfaction for the out- 
rage. It was but one instance, he declared, among many, in which, 
as was notorious, the nobles presumed upon the impunity which 
their crimes enjoyed to oppress and maltreat an unoffending priest- 
hood. The General Assembly of the Clergy also, acting at his 
instance, presented an earnest remonstrance in the same influential 
quarter, and with such success that the seigneur of the village was 
compelled to make public reparation for his violence. 

♦ This council was instituted by Anne of Austria with the object of assisting 
the Crown in the nomination of properly qualified ecclesiastics to the highest 
offices in the Church. It consisted of six members : Cardinal Mazarin, the 
Chancellor Seguier, the Grand-Penitentiary Charton, M. Potier, Bishop of Beauvais, 
M. Cosp^an, Bishop of Lisieux, and Vincent de Paul, whom the Queen placed at 
its head, reserving to herself the presidency. An account of the measures intro- 
duced by the Saint will be found in St. Vincent di Paul et les Gondi by M. 


1^ • 

The Canonical Honrs. 




•'Matins and Lauds, which are said at night, denote the praises of Heaven 
rendered to God by the Saints and An^jels in glory ; and so we may consider tlie 
other Hours, which are said in the daytime, as the prayers of this life : viz., from 
Prime, at six o'clock in the morning, till Vespers, at six o'clock in the evening. 

"Tlie Christian life, which is a life divine, is the life of Heaven begun upon 
earth. Hence the four Little Hours, »vhich compreliend the whole day, are com- 
posed of a single psalm, in imitation of Heaven, where there will be but one psalm 
and one song of praise. This single psalm is divided into four Hours, represent- 
ing the universality of the supplicating Church ; and these four Hours are said at 
intervals of three h(nirs, and in each three psalms are recited, or, rather, iliree 
divisions of the same psalm. And here we must observe the wonderful of 
the Church at once to honour and remind us of the sacred mystery of the Most 
Holy Trinity ; for, at intervals of tiiree hours, we find three psalms, all which three 
make up but one, as the Three Divine Persons are one only God. 

" The beautiful distribution of this psalm throughout the day aptly denotes tlie 
establishment of tl;e divine life of tlie Cliristian religion in us, wliicli is an imita- 
tion of Para<lise ; where there is one never-ending song of praise, in which each 
moment is occupied in giving glory to God. This is why we chant that great and 
divine psalm of David, Beati imtitacuLiti in via (Psalm cxviii.), wherein we see 
the hidden life of God within us entirely unfolded ; and this psalm extends through 
all the Little Hours, to show that every hour we ought to ask of God tiiat we may 
thus live, and be filled unceasingly with that divine life, in order that we may live 
in Him every moment of our life upon earth. 

" At six o'clock the day closes, and we begin to reckon the hours of the night. 
Hence these prayers, according to the intention of the Church, are clianted in the 
evening, about six o'clock, which is the time at wliich the evening star called 
\'esper begins to appear: tience the name Vespers. Then we begin to chant the 
praises of God and of Jesus Christ, ascended into His glory, which is the begin- 
ning of all the glory of the Blessed. Compline signifies the completion of the 
prayers of men and of this present life in Jesus Christ, who by the close of His 
Life and by His Death merited for us the happiness and the glory of the life to 
-ome. Hence all the psalms of Compline speak only of our Lord suffeiing, who 
in Heaven, where He is exalted in the fulness of His glory, continues the memorial 
ot' His stale of passion, as being the subject of His gh)ry and of the beati.ude 
which is the recompense He would set before men. The Hour of CompLne is 
not, properly speaking, reckoned among the separate Hours ; it is, in fact, part of 
\'espers, of which it forms the complement {completorium), that is to say, the 
termination and completion of the prayers. 

"The whole Christian year is designed to honour Jesus Christ in His mysteries, 
or in His saints, and throughout all this time you will find only one single day 
set ajiart for honouring the sacred mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, and even 
that without an octave, althougli one more solemn would be due to it than for 
all the other mysteries conjoined. And even on that day commemoration is 
made of the Sunday, which is not done on the Easter or the Pentecostal festival. 
If there be only this one day specially set apart to honour the Mo^t Holy Trinity, 


; ■ \ 



Life of M. Olier. 

it is in order to show that the worship we render thereto cannot as yet take /((If 
possession of our souls, but that this perfect adoratinn must await our entrance 
i.ito Heaven, where, being wholly consummated in Jesus <'liris(. after ^avjp^ 
long adored and contemplated Him on earth, we sliall be, Ijlie ||i(/|. |»/( fil/fi/- 
lasting sacrifice of praise to the glory of God. Meanwliile God the |'rt(l/^^ ftl/WiCil 
Himself to be, as it were, forgotten in the world, as if He desiifc/j \\\ ^S6p|t# 
homage only in His Son. This great God, in ac' nowledgment of the love wfljcn 
His dear Son has testified for Him by His deaih, would make Hiiu pfirlnker nf 
all His glory, and even, as it were, hide Himself in Him, so as only Ic receive 
glory through Him. 

"Jesus Christ, indeed, manifests in Himself all the perfections of W\% pnther : 
His might, His knowledge, His love, .in I all His fulness: ' /« quo inhabitit 
omnis pUnitudo divinitatis corporaliter (In whom dwellefh iijl \\w fiiliiRRS of the 
Godhead corporally.' Col. ii. 9). He is the perfect image of the llle (if God, as 
God; having received all the life of His Father to preserve it, and distribute it to 
all the saints. This is why, after Jesus Christ, the saints are set forth as images 
of the perfection of God and of His divine life ; and why we have every day 
brought before us the holy martyrs, and their heroic and divine nets, which show 
forth the perfections of God in them. Thus we have a St. Martin cutting his 
mantle in two for a poor man, which shows tlie cliarity of God ; a St. Paulinus 
selling himself for his brethren, which shows also the love of Jesus Christ ; a St. 
Agne-s in the midst of torments, displaying the might of God in her feebleness 
and in her bodily weakness ; and so, too, in St. Alexis, hidden under the 
disguise of a beggar at the steps of his father's door, and become the sport of the 
domestics, we see the humility of Jesus Christ suffering abasement in the world 
and despised by His servants. In a word, everything we behold m the Church 
is but a picture of the beauties and perfections of God in their exalted sublimity." 

■ ii 

( 237 ) 




AGP. EAT work was doing, and great successes had been 
wrought, and a whole army, as it were, of auxiliaries had 
gathered about him, and he enjoyed the countenance and support of 
many in high places ; but never for a moment was M. Olier deceived. 
He knew — for God had told him — that a heavy persecution awaited 
him, and that, ere three years had run their course, he siiould be 
driven with ignominy from his parish ; but he knew also that, what- 
ever might be his personal sufferings, the trial would serve only to 
bring about the accomplishment of all that he designed to do. Even 
thus far his path had been anything but smooth or free from contra- 
dictions, and a host of foes beset him on every side. To establish 
the Seminary on a firm foundation, it was necessary that it should 
be erected into a Community, but the Abb^ de St. Germain, who 
had conceived a prejudice against the projected institution, refused 
his consent. Without engaging in overt measures of hostility, he 
threw all the weight of his influence on the side of M. Olier's adver- 
saries, and did his best to embarrass his proceedings. Thus, among 
the priests who had given up their posts when M. Olier entered on 
the duties of the parish was a Cordelier who had abandoned his 
Order and got himself secularized. This man, because he was known 
to be opposed to the new Cure', and would therefore be a ready 
instrument in resisting and counteracting all his efforts at reform, the 
Abbe wished to be restored to his former functions; and to find, if 
possible, some ground of complaint against the directors of the 
Seminary, he took upon himself, in virtue of his powers as Visitor, 
to interrogate the inmates as to the manner in which they were being 
trained for the ecclesiastical state. In short, he adopted every means 
in his power to harass M. Olier and oblige him to quit the Faubourg ; 
for he knew well that, the Seminary once solidly established, that 





, i 





Life of M, Olier, 


'\ ! 

zealous pastor would leave suc( ssors behind him who would per- 
petuate the work which he had . mgurated. M. Olier's zeal, too, 
had raised up many adversaries among the great and powerful, who 
openly or covertly threw obstacles in his way. Several of the old 
clergy also, who had never forgiven him for disturbing their self- 
indulgent ease, caballed against him ; the churchwardens, some of 
whom were of the highest rank, — including, for instance, Gaston, Due 
d'Orleans and the Princes Henri and Louis de Condd, father and 
son, — thwarted and opposed him ; many of the civil magistrates 
resented his interference and the constraint he had laid upon them 
by obliging them to fulfil duties to which they were wholly dis- 
inclined ; finally, and above all, the libertines of the parish, who were 
bent on his destruction, only awaited an opportunity to wreak their 
meditated vengeance. But in the midst of these alarms he possessed 
his soul in peace, convinced that to indulge his natural fears and 
misgivings, and speculate on what would become of him if his 
enemies were triumphant, was displeasing to God, who would have 
him look simply to the present, and repose in confidence on His 
Providence for the disposition of the future. So, like his Divine 
Master, he continued to fulfil the mission with which he was in- 
trusted, embracing willingly in his heart all the shiimc and sufiferiog 
which he knew was fast coming upon him. 

It had become necessary (o ercrl additional buildings for the 
increasing number of seminarisk-, m '\ if was with difficulty he -JDuld 
obtain from the \bbc de St Germain and the churchwardens, per- 
mission to construct three ttnements in the garden of tf <• Presbytery 
at his own entire expense, even on the condition that thej shoulc 
form part of the domam and afford accommodation to the lay persons 
employed about the church. The foundations ha/J been laid and 
the works were already in progress, when the warder^*, us rr.ucb out 
of hostility to M. Olier as from a desire to gratify *he former Cure, 
M. de Fieso-ie, who wished to preserve the garden of the Presbyiicry 
in its entirety, threw obstacles m the way, while some of his personal 
tt-iends represented to him the risks he was incurring in erecting at 
so great a cost, and on ground which was not his own, a building 
which might not. after all, be available as a seminary. M. Olier was 
liKrefore constrained to put an immediate stop to the works which 
had beer commenced, and wait until Providence should enable him 
to obtam £. site whereon he might raise a building which should 
remain in his own possession, and for which he might have all 

i a I 

AI. de Ficsqtte and the Priory of Clisson, 239 

possible security that it would 1 • devoted for ever to the purpose 
for which he destined it. Such a site presented itselt in a piece of 
ground belonging to one of his friends, M. Blaise de Mcliand, Pro- 
curator-General of the Parliament of Paris, and situated in the Rue 
di' Vieux Colombier, in close proximity to the cnurch of St. Sulpice. 
It was a large inclosed garden, containing three tenements, to which 
he at once transferred a number of ecclesiastics, both from Vaugirard 
and from the Presbytery, there to remain until the larger building 
which he contemplated could be erected. The contract was signed 
on the 27th of April, 1645, by M. Olier in conjunction with M. de 
Pousse and M. Damien, and he was put at once in possession of the 
property, the purchase-money being 75,000 iivres ; which sum, how- 
ever, he was not at present in a condition to pay down. 

No sooner was it known that he had relinquished the design 
agreed upon, and was meditating a mmre excensive undertaking, than 
he was assailed with a storm of ridicule and reproaches ; but his 
reply was always the same: "H-e wiio has begun the work will in 
His own time bring it to a conclusion ; we must not distrust the 
mercy of God." Seeing, however, how impiacable was the hatred ot 
his enemies, and not knowing to what extremities their violence 
might carry them, he, on the 2nd of May, being the feast of St, 
Athanasius, repaired with M. de Pouss6 and M. Damien to Mont- 
martre ; and there, in the presence of P. Bataille, they renewed the 
solemn engagement before contracted in 1642, never to abandon 
the work of the Seminary, and at the same time made an entire 
surrender to God, for His sole use and service, both of the ground 
and of the buildings they had purchased, renouncing all personal 
right and ownership in them, although of necessity retaining the 
nominal possession of them. Yet, with all his unwavering confidence 
in God and despite the supernatural peace which reigned undis- 
turbed in the depths of '"ns soul, he was not insensible to the un- 
ceasing opposition he enc .untered, ana feelings of sadness would at 
times weigh heavily upoi: him. On the 2Sth of May especially, 
being the feast of the Ascension, he was thus cast down and 
dispirited, wi-ren an :merior voice said to him, "Thy work shall 
be accomplished." ***'<i»i>t mine, Lord," he answered; "the work is 
wholly Thine ; " liHL'^aie words, as he says, filled his heart with light 
and joy, and he Jft w^ at God accepted him as the servant of those 
whom by His gmet :^ should bring into the Seminary. 

Tha shree ymrS' <rf promised quiet had now all but expired; 




■\ : 

-1 ■:■ 
j i 



! i 


Life of M. Olier. 

already, in the month of January, two devout persons had warned 
M. de Bretonvilliers * of the approaching persecution, and from time 
to time M. Olier would himself speak to his more intimate associates 
of some great trial which was in store for them, bidding them hold 
themselves prepared, and beg fervently the assistance of God's Holy 
Spirit that they might be able to bear the cross He was about to lay 
upon them. The first rising of the tempest showed itself in a quarter 
where it was least of all expected. The relatives of the former Curd, 
irritated at seeing a stranger in possession of a benefice to which they 
considered that one of their own number had a prior claim, sought 
to have M. Olier expelled from the parish ; but, finding all their 
efforts fruitless, they endeavoured to make M. de Fiesque himself a 
party to their design. They represented to him that the priory he 
had received in exchange was of far less value than he had a right 
to expect ; that his simplicity had been imposed upon, and that 
his honour no less than his interest demanded that he should be 
re-instated. These representations were loudly seconded by such of 
the old clergy as disliked the reforms introduced by M. Olier ; they 
assured M. de Fiesque that since his removal nothing b "t disorder 
and confusion had prevailed, and that in relinquishing his parish he 
had deserted and ruined his flock. The poor man, who was natu- 
rally both weak and credulous, thus beset by false friends, fell readily 
into the trap, and, utterly forgetting that the exchange had been 
effected, not only at his own repeated instances, but on the very 
terms he had been the first to propose, allowed himself to be cajoled 
into a belief that he had been deceived and ill treated. There were 
circumstances, too, at the time which unhappily lent a colour to his 
complaints. The Priory of Clisson, which originally belonged to the 
Benedictines of St. Jovin, had ir the year 1626 been converted into 
a simple benefice by an arrangement between M. Olier's father and 
the monks, and from that date had been occupied by four secular 
priests, who performed all the offices of the church. The monks, 
however, now wished to rescind, or, rather, to ignore the arrangement 
to which they had been parties nearly twenty years before, and, in 
vindication of their pretended rights, had sent two of their body to 
take possession of the Priory under the titles respectively of sub-prior 
and sacristan. They had further deputed a chaplain to reside within 
the walls, as tliough the benefice were vacant ; and all this without 

* Some account of this admirable man and of his reception into the Community 
will be given in Part III. He succeeded M. Olier as Superior of St. Sulpice. 

Charges formulated against hint. 


opposition or even protest on the part of M. de Fiesque. Their next 
step was to obtain the royal authorization for their acts ; and the 
judges who were commissioned to inquire into the case had ruled 
that the abbey was to all intents and purposes a conventual establish- 
nient, relying for their conclusion merely on the fact that such had 
been its ancient constitution, as was evident from the very disposition 
of the buildings. Accordingly, they seized the revenues in the name 
of the religious, and pronounced them to be entitled to all arrears of 
rents since the date of the alleged secularization. It was at this 
juncture that M. de Fiesque was iniluced to publish his formal case 
of grievance against M. Olier, in which he set forth that he had been 
surprised into an act of resignation which in law as well as in equity 
was null and void, and had been fraudulently put in possession of a 
benefice in place thereof, from which 'e had been ejected by the 
monks of St. Jovin with the express warrant of the Crown. 

It may be conceived with what undisguised joy and exultation a 
charge so gross and scandalous was received by M. Olier's enemies, 
who felt that they could now proceed against him with some show 
of justice, and even of legality. Some, indeed, went so far as to 
declare publicly that he ough*- to be driven from the parish, put in 
the pillory, and sent to prison. One of the charges brought against 
\\\u\ Mas the having introduced a more frequent celebration of the 
Benediction of the Holy Sacrament without the permission of the 
churchwardens, although the parish had incurred no additional 
expense in consequence, for, as already related, on September ist, 
1644, the Duchesse d'Aiguillon had founded a special endowment 
for the purpose. Unhappily, the churchwardens themselves, in- 
stigated by certain of the older clergy, sided with his adversaries 
and actually instituted legal proceedings, nominally against the 
officers of the Confraternity, but really against M. Olier himself 
under whose direction they acted, with a view of having the founda- 
tion annulled and the novel practice suppressed. Judgment, indeed, 
was given in his favour, and the right to receive bequests for such 
objects, without consulting the parochial authorities, fully confirmed, 
Ijut the part which the churchwardens had taken in the matter 
emboldened the more violent spirits to persist in their opposition, 
and on the 2nd of March, 1645, being the first Thursday in the 
month, after Benediction had been given but before the Blessed 
Sacrament was restored to the tabernacle, several persons, among 
whom — to their shame be it recorded — were four priests, broke out 







Life of M. Olier. 

li M 

,1 ! 

in loud invectives against M. Olier and his colleagues; one of them 
using language of a most profane and outrageous character, which 
was received with peals of laughter by the rest. 

Among M. Olier's most powerful opponents was, as already 
mentioned, the Prince Henri de Bourbon, to the great grief of the 
Princess, who zealously seconded the Cur<J's pious endeavours. 
Accustomed to regard ecclesinstics in the light of civil servants, who 
were to submit in the discharge of their functions to his personal 
caprice, the Prince not only expressed in general terms his dislike 
of the reforms which had been introduced into the parish, buf did 
not scruple to interrupt the order of the services when they failed to 
meet his approval. Thus, on one occasion, being the feast of All 
Saints in the previous year, he gave vent to his ill humour in a 
manner to attract the notice of the congregation. It was his fancy 
at times to sing in choir with the clergy, but, the chant on that day 
being of a graver kind than suited his taste, he endeavoured by voice 
and gesture to quicken the movement, and persisted in doing so 
although the choristers kept to the measure prescribed, causing 
thereby both discord and confusion. This headstrong man now 
openly espoused the cause of M. de Fiesque, and ranged himself 
among those of M. Olier's adversaries whose avowed purpose it was 
to deprive him of his otiSce. 

In the midst of all these threatenings the servant of God did 
nothing towards diverting the persecution which he knew was coming, 
or protecting himself from its assaults. He made no attempt to 
justify himself or to summon to his aid any human means of defence. 
All he did was to pray for his enemies, and especially for the Abb^ 
de St. Germain and M. de Fiesque ; offering himself again and 
again to drain the cup of affliction to the dregs, if such were the will 
of Heaven. One day (he writes), when reflecting on the unjust 
judgment which had been passed upon him and the contempt in 
which it would involve him with the great people of his parish, 
he allowed some thoughts about the future to occupy his mind, and 
he asked himself what would become of him if his adversaries were 
able to execute all they designed against him. But it was shown 
him that such forecastings were not pleasing to God ; that the soul 
which has abandoned itself to Him ought to look oniy to the 
present and repose all its trust in His merciful Providence. On his 
colleagues, however, these hostile proceedings had a most depressing 
effect. Every day they saw their enemies gaining courage from the 

Conspiracy oj libertines and profligates, 243 

criminal apathy or, rather it may be said, the passive connivance of 
the local magistracy ; and they fell persuaded that the insults and 
menaces with which they were assailed would soon be followed by 
open acts of violence, and that they would be expelled with ij,'nominy 
both from the parish and from the Seminary. M. Olicr had entered 
on his charj,' in the monih of June, 1642, and in this same month, 
three years later, they had all lost heart. Even his closest friends, 
the fellow-labourers on whose fidelity he most relied, and on whoso 
adhesion the whole edifice he had constructed seemed to rest — M. 
du Ferrier, M. Picot^, M. de Bassancourt, and M. dc Saintc- Marie * 
— biiared the general discouragement. It v/ould be impossible, they 
declared, to resist the powerful combination formed against them; 
moreover, the work th''y had undertaken was too mu(h for their 
means and their strength ; expenses were daily increasing, while 
resources were failing and debts were accumulating. Some of the 
ecclesiastics had openly declared their intention of quitting the 
Seminary, or, at least, of retv .ing to their families until affairs 
became more settled; others were restless au'' uneasy, varying in 
their minds from day to day and from hour to hour. In short, all 
was confusion and dismay : as it was with the Master, so with the 
servant ; there was none to comfort or stand by him in the time of 
trial. Nor was a Judas wanting to betray him : two of the servants 
of the house, whom he had treated with particular confidence and 
affection, treacherously took part against him, and one of them, fear- 
ing lest he should lose his employment if M. Olier were compelled 
to leave the parish, entered into secret relations with the former 
Cure and abstracted a paper which had an important bearing on the 
question which was pending in regard to the Priory of Clisson. 

By the side of M. de Fiesque's friends and abettors arose another 
faction, louder and more violent in its hostility and bent on far 
more desperate measures. It was composed of libertines and pro- 
fligates of both sexes, who, infuriated by the perseverance with which 
this good pastor pursued them to their most secret haunts, were 
determined to be satisfied with nothing short of liis expulsion and 
that of his whole community. Their numbers were swelled by a 
multitude of grooms and lackeys, a race notorious for their dis- 
orderly conduct and ready for any outrage. In less than a week 
both parties were fully prepared, and it only remained that they 
should join forces, and appeal to the passions of the mob, to excite 

• M. c!e Foix had already been made Bishop of Paniiers. 





n»^»i^?rTv''Ti'' ""r?»^'T^'?v"<^^ ':;-P^~ 








UilM |25 
■^ U<& 12.2 

;!f li£ 12.0 


U ill.6 
















(716; 873-4903 






r A 


.,i ■ '■,',-■'■• 


;/. Jp ■ 

. '''l\'<~ 



\ ■ 

■ : .(, -; ■. . rv;. .- '" ■ '■' 



; ■■■ 

■■' ■; 

;;■ ■^'Alv-'Vi-.r 






"■ ■ ^^ 

' .>)" 



'^- '■,'■-« v>; ':. 





•M.'I'M^lf 1- 



Life of M. Olicr. 

a popular commotion which may be said to have been the prelude 
to the barricades oi the Fronde and the civil war that followed. 

It was early on the morning of the 8th of June, 1645, being 

Thursday in Whitsun week, that M. du Four, a gentleman attached 

to the household of the Due d'Orl^ans, came to apprize M. Olier of 

the formidable conspiracy which was being organized against him ; 

tidings which were speedily confirmed by another person, who 

assured him that an immediate attack was threatened, and that if he 

remained in the Presbytery it would be at the certain peril of his 

life. The only use he made of this warning was to prepare himself, 

not to avert, but to meet the approaching trial. He repaired to the 

church, as usual, in his surplice, and said Mass, offering himself 

in union with the Adorable Victim to drink the bitter draught for 

which he had so long thirsted. It was about eight o'clock when 

he returned, and he had scarcely entered the Presbytery when it 

was besieged by a fuvious crowd, shouting that they had come to 

expel the intruder and restore the rightful pastor. From all the 

neighbouring streets came rushing fre h parties of men and boys, 

who assailed the house with volleys of stones. M. de Bretonvilliers, 

who presented himself at a window, was struck on the head by a 

paving-stoue, which, however, only slightly injured him ; and before 

the doors either of the church or of the Presbytery could be secured, 

some of the foremost of the rabble had made good their entrance, 

and were busy pillaging or destroying whatever fell in their way. 

At the first sounds of the tumult below M. Olier had thrown himself 

on his knees, and was repeating the words of his Lord, *' If it be 

possible, let this chalice pass from me : nevertheless, not as I will, 

but as Thou wilt," when a party of ruffians, headed by one of the 

former clergy of the parish, burst into his chamber, seized him 

violently, dragged him downstairs, showering upon him kicks and 

blows, and bore him, or, rather, threw him, out into the midst of the 

excited multitude, who received him with yells of derision. 

Holding a loaded pistol to his head, his assailants now carried 
him through the neighbouring streets, his surplice and cassock 
hanging about him in tatters, amidst the hootings of the mob, who 
continued to heap upon him every manner of insult and outrage. 
And now, while thus cruelly maltreated, a great grace was vouch- 
safed to him, for he was favoured with a vision of St. Sulpice, the 
blessed patron of the parish, who sustained and comforted him with 
the assurance that the ignominy he was undergoing and the state of 


Attack on ihc Presbytery. 


abandonment to which he was reduced for the love of God and 
His truth would only the more eflectually secure hi.', triumph and 
that of the cause for which he suffered.* But neither was he left 
without natural defenders. St. Vincent de Paul, informed of what 
was occurring, hurried to the spot and, regardless of the danger he 
incurred, strove to penetra.e through the crowd to the rescue of his 
friend. No sooner, however, was he recognized by the rabble than, 
forgetting the inestimable services which his charity had rendered to 
the poor of the capital, and seeing in him only the adviser and 
supporter of their obnoxious pastor, they refused to let him pass and 
assailed him with menaces and blows, while he, good, generous man, 
offered to all their violence the opposition only of a most enduring 
patience, and continued crying, with that imperturbable good-humour 
which never deserted him, " Strike St. Lazare as hard as you 
please, but spare St. Sulpice." Another ecclesiastic, M. Pons de 
Lagrange, Cur^ of St. Jacques du Haut Pas, of whom mention has been 
already made, succeeded in forcing his way through the crush and 
protecting M. Olier by receiving en himself the blows which were 
aimed at his friend ; an act of devoted courage, which, Marie Rous- 
seau was wont to s^' y, was subsequently rewarded by this good priest 
being miraculously saved from death by poison, which had been 
given him in revenge for the assistance he had rendered M. Olier 
and his community on this memorable occasion. 

At length those who had hold of M. Olier, fearing to lose their 
share of the pk nder, left h .m in the hands of the populace, when a 
number of his friends, who had mingled with the crowd, took 
advantage of the movement to draw more closely about him and, 
affecting to treat him as a public criminal, contrived to screen hini 
from the blows which were levelled at him, and to convey him in 
safety to the palace of the Luxembourg. Meanwhile the rioters 
were carrying off or destroying the furniture of the house, laying 
hands on any money or valuables they could find, appropriating 
even the provisions of the Community ; then, having sufficiently 
gratified their vengeance and their cupidity, they abandoned the 
place to the fury of the mob. Some, liowever, who amidst all the 
frantic excitement had not forgotten the original cause of offence, 
set about walling up two openings in the inclcsure of the garden, 
which had been made to facilitate the conveyance of materials for 

* This remaikable fact is mentioned by M. de Bietonvilliers in his biography 
of M. Olier. 







Life of M. Olier. 

X\\ iv 



s ) 

the intended building ; and, as there was no mortar at hand, they 
supplied its place by staving in the heads of some casks of wine and 
making therewith a mixture of earth and plaster. 

In the Luxembourg the man of God was received with all the 
respect and consideration due to his exalted virtues. The Mar^- 
chale d'Estampes entertained him in her own apartments, and 
lavished on him every attention which his situation demanded. At 
the first outbreak of the tumult both priests and seminarists, seeing 
their inability to contend with so furious a multitude, had betaken 
themselves to flight, and for some days many of them did not know 
where M. Olier had found a refuge nor even whether he were still 
alive. M. de Bretonvilliers, however, on learning the place of his 
retreat, immediately hastened to join his frierjd, in a state of the 
greatest anxiety and alarm, and v;as amazed at finding him as calm 
and self-posce'.sed as if nothing had occurred. But that which 
impressed him most wis his extraordinary humility and charity. 
While others were reprobating the conduct of his enemies in no 
qualified terms, M. Olier, on the contrary, spoke of them with so 
much moderation and affection, and suggested so many excuses for 
the violence with which they had treated him, that M. de Breton- 
villiers could not forbear bidding him, in a whisper, be more 
cautious as to what he said, lest in his wish to exculpate others he 
should make himself out to be the guilty party. But the man of 
God merely smiled, and continued to speak lightly of the whole 
matter and to impute the best intentions to all who were concerned. 
" Ah ! wretched man that I am," he said, '* it is I who by my in- 
fidelity throw all these hindrances in the way of God's work ; my 
unworthiness is the sole cinse of them all." 

The parish was now left without a pastor, and from Thursday to 
Saturday the Presbytery remained in the possession of the mob. Dur- 
ing these days the services of the church were interrupted, and even 
the Viaticum was carried to the sick without any ceremony or other 
outward demonstration, for fear of provoking fresh outrages should 
M. Olier's priests be seen still exercising tlieir ministerial functions 
among the people. This closing of the parish church and total 
cessation of divine worship within its walls, which obliged the faith- 
ful to resort to the convent chapels in order to hear Mass, threw a 
gloom over the Faubourg and caused a panic among its inhabitants 
such as modern France has long been familiar with in its antichris- 
tian revolutions. 

.V ■»•'■-! 



( 247 ) 



THE violent comrnotion which had been excited rnd the glar- 
ing outrages with which it had been attended were of too 
serious a nature for the parochial authorities to overlook them, 
however disinclined many among them might be to regard M. Olier's 
proceedings with favour. Accordingly, the wardens of the church, 
together with some of the more influential parishioners, presented a 
formal petition to the Council of State that M. Olier might be re- 
instated, at least provisionally, in his Presbytery. The Abbd de St. 
(lermain, who, as seigneur of the Faubourg, could not countenance 
excesses which savoured too mucn of a popular outbreak, was con- 
strained, however reluctantly, to support the application. But it 
was coldly received by the Council, many of the members of which 
were incensed against M. Olier, whom they regarded as the cause of 
the tumult, while others threw the whole blame on St. Vincent de 
Paul, whom, because the priests of St. Sulpice were commonly called 
Missionaries, they erroneously supposed to be M. Olier's superior. 
That truly good and great man, disregarding all considerations of 
human prudence, generously refused to dissociate himself in this 
hour of trial from M. Olier and his community. On being asked 
by his friends why he kept silence when a word of explanation would 
have disarmed his accusers, he replied that he was domg no more 
than the maxims of the Gospel required ; that he looked upon the 
work in which M. Olier was engaged as no mere matter of personal 
nterprise, but as one which concerned the general good of the 
Church, and which every Christian therefore was bound at all costs 
to defend and uphold. But, besides being unwilUng to comply 
with the terms of the petition, the Council were apprehensive lest, 
if their decision failed to allay the popular excitement, the authority 
of the Queen Regent should be compromised in public estimation. 


1 1 iiivpu'ia«^nnt^>"''^pnmiiir 


Z^/i? of M. Olier. 

i! l! 

Accordingly, on Friday, the gih of June, being the day after the 
events just related, they relieved themselves of all embarrassment 
by leferring the whole matter to the judgment of the Parliament.* 
And now commenced a species of contest which, viewed in the light 
of our modern ideas, must appear issing strange. As soon as it 
was '.:nown that the determination of the affair was left to the Parlia- 
ment, the enemies of M. Olier began to convass the judges to his 
prejudice ; and Prince Henri de Cond^ himself went down to the 
assembly, and inveighed with so much violence against him that it 
was feared his harangue would have an ill effect even on those who 
were disposed to look simply to the justice of the case. On the 
other hand, the Princesse de Cond^ interested herself with equal 
zeal and warmth in his behalf, visiting all the judges in succession 
and pleading his cause with as much earnestness as if he had been 
one of her own relatives ; and her endeavours were actively seconded 
by the Ducliesse d'Aiguillon and other ladies of rank. Doni 
Tarrisse made a powerful appeal to the First President ; and, to 
crown all, the Queen Regent went in person to solicit the favour ot 
the Parliament for the pastor of St. Sulpice. 

All these proceedings were viewed by M. Olier with the same refcr- 
eice to the supernatural in which he loved to regard every event of his 
life. "In the person of the Prince, who stood in the place of the King " 
^he wrote), "God was pleased to manifest His anger against me ; while 
in those who defended my cause, I seemed to see the most holy 
Virgin, the advocate of sinners, who filled their hearts with her own 
charity and pity. St. Anne, again, to whom I have been in the habit 
of confiding my temporal affairs, displayed her goodness towards me 
in the person of the Queen. But for thi pleadings of these ladies 
with my judges, who represented the justice of God, there would 
have been no peac^ for me." According to the practice of the time 
he went to lay the facts of his case before those who were to decide 
upon them, and, as he passed Notre Dame on his way to the Parlia- 
ment, he begged his companion to allow him a few minutes, as usual, 
for prayer. Then, throwing himself on his knees before the shrine 
of his heavenly Patroness, he remained two hours immovable, 
absorbed in devotion. To be eager about the success of affairs, and 

* It is scarcely necessary to remind the reader that the Parliament of Paris had 
nothing in common with that which in England forms an integral part of the 
constitution, being, not a legislative, but a judicial assembly. Its power, however, 
ia course of time grew to be very considerable even in a political point of view. 

■r^'.^iA.^^ - .^**'i^-' 

The Presbytery again attacked. 


to trust to the influence or the assistance of men, he regarded as an 
infidelity to God, and more likely than otherwise to ruin even a good 
cause ; and he was used to say, that in times of particular anxiety 
and trial we ought to be the more diligent in prayer, not only to 
obtain the strength and courage we need, but also to prevent our 
having recourse to creatures, and throwing ourselves upon them ; 
seeing that nature, when deprived of heavenly consolations, is so 
prone to seek for such as are merely human. A friend, who wished 
to recommend him to the favour of one of the chief magistrates, 
asked him in what terms he should speak of those who were bringing 
such calumnious charges against him. " Say," he replied, " that I am 
under the deepest obligations to them ; " and on the other refusing 
to take such an answer, as being contrary to the truth, he repeated, 
"the deepest obligations;" adding, "for they help me in gaining 

The Parliament assembled on Saturday, June loth, and, happily 
forM. Olier, one of the judges most opposed to him, and whose influ- 
ence it was feared would gain many others over to his opinion, with- 
drew the same day into the country, under the idea that M. Olier would 
follow him, with the view of soliciting his patronage. But this petty 
proceeding, which was intended to humble the servant of God, served 
only to secure his triumph. In the absence of this important person- 
age the Parliament ordered that M. de Fiesque should himself appear 
before them ; that instant measures should be taken to seize the 
ringleaders in the late outrage, four individuals being designated by 
name, one of whom was the ecclesiastic before mentioned ; and that, 
unless they surrendered in three days, their goods should be confis- 
cated. It was at the same time ordered that, without prejudicing 
the rights of either claimant, things should be restored to the state 
in which they were previous to the outbreak ; that, consequently, M. 
Olier should be reinstated in the Presbytery, and those who were in 
occupation should forthwith depart. The order was at once executed, 
and two functionaries of the law, accompanied by a representative 
of the Procurator-General, proceeded to put M. Olier and his priests 
in possession of both the house and the church, taking, at the same 
time, what they conceived to be adequate measures to insure the 
public tranquillity and the safety of the pastor and his community. 

Scarcely, however, had these proceedings been concluded when 
the tumult recommenced with even greater violence than before. 
The house was again besieged by an armed multitude, gathered from 


I w 

-^f^mtw^^^mrnmr^'^mw^^^^^t^m^m'W'witf^* ,}n«m^ i JlHfii 


L//e of M. Olier. 


: 1 

■) ■•! 

the lowest quarters and exasperated to the utmost fury by the tidings 
that the object of their hatred had been brought back in triumph, 
and that their own leaders were marked out for the vengeance of the 
law. Baffled in their efforts to force in the doors, which this time 
were strongly secured and defended from the inside, some of the more 
desperate among them began calling for fire. At this juncture M. 
Le Gauffre, who, as already related, had succeeded Pbre Bernard, 
arrived on the scene, and was immediately surrounded by a rabble 
both of men and women crying out they must have their old Cur^ 
back. M. Le Gauffre was devoted to M. Olier and his community, 
but, convinced, like so many others, that it would be impossible for 
his friends, in the face of such determined hostility, to maintain 
their position, and thinking likewise to appease the fury of the multi- 
tude by acquiescing in their demands, he replied, " Yes, my children, 
you shall have your Curd back; only keep the peace, and M. de 
Fiesque shall be restored to you." But minds were too inflamed, 
and matters had been carried too far, for anything this good but 
mistaken man could say to restrain the madness of the populace. 
Fagots had meanwhile been brought and heaped up against the 
doors, but, the attempt to set them on fire not being immediately 
successful, another party of rioters directed their endeavours to gain- 
ing an entrance into the house through the adjoining garden. Here 
again, however, they were met by an insuperable obstacle in the 
result of their own labours on occasion of the former riot, when they 
had ir Justriously closed up two apertures in the wall by which an 
easy access might now have been obtained. The struggle continued 
for three hours, and the little garrison, hard pressed and well-nigh 
exhausted, was on the point of yielding, when, just as a body of the 
assailants had all but succeeded in setting fire to the building, a com- 
pany of the royal guards appeared on the spot, sent by the Queen, 
whom M. Picote, at the risk of his life, had hastened to inform of 
the pressing danger. At the first sound of the drums the rioters 
took to flight, and thus, to the joy of M. Olier and his colleagues, 
all effusion of blood was spared. The Pa-'Mament, apprized of what 
was passing, held an extraordinary meeting, and officers of justice 
were at once dispatched with orders to seize all persons whom they 
should find collected in the streets, a proclamation to the same effect 
was read in the public places, and a detachment of soldiers left at 
the Presbytery for the protection of the clergy. 

Throughout the whole contest M. Olier would not permit his 

p .•»«,..•* •»^v»••>^*^M.*•^' 

Restoration of a dying woman. 


ecclesiastics to employ any other weapons of defence except that of 
prayer; and even when the peril was greatest his calmness and 
equanimity remained unaltered. "The cross," said he, "ovght 
never to deprive us of our peace, for it is the cross that gave peace 
to the world." The next day, which was Trinity Sunday, ho appeared 
in the pulpit, and addressed his people with all his usual dignity^ 
afTcction, and zeal ; in eloquence he was thought even to surpass 
himself. There was nothing either in voice or in manner to indicate 
what humiliations he had endured, or through what dangers he had 
passed, since he last addressed them. And yet an incident occurred 
which, slight as it was in itself, might have disturbed a man of 
stronger nerves, aware, as he was, of the excitement which prevailed. 
For some time past it had been the practice to have the blessing of 
the water before the first High Mass on the Sunday, in order that 
the second might follow immediately, without unnecessary delay. 
While he was preaching an old woman stood up in her place, and 
with a quavering, tremulous voice began to accuse him of depriving 
the people of their holy water ; then, emboldened by the silence that 
ensued, she proceeded to give her opinion freely on other changes 
he had made, and, having administered, as she thought, a fitting 
rebuke to her pastor, she looked about her for applause, and sat 
down again. M. Olier let her have her talk out without interrupting 
her, and when he saw she was fairly settled in her place, he said 
quietly, "Ah, well, my good friend, we will think about it" He 
then resumed his discourse as though nothing had happened. 

His colleagues would fain have dissuaded him from venturing out- 
side the doors for fear of endangering his life ; but this good pastor 
would remit nothing of the personal care of his flock, and a circum- 
stance that occurred at the time would seem to show that God 
approved his holy temerity. He was informed that in a house the 
inmates of which were among his declared enemies, a young woman 
was lying at the point of death. He immediately left the Presbytery, 
without apprizing any of his colleagues, who were deeply alarmed 
when they were made aware of his absence. He found the sick 
person in a state of unconsciousness, but, in spite of the representa- 
tions of her friends, who assured him she was not in a condition to 
communicate, he sent to the church to have the Blessed Sacrament 
brought forthwith. Then, taking in his hands the Body of his Lord, 
he, by the power of Jesus really present and in accents which 
expressed the confidence of his faith, bade the fever leave her or, at 



ti! '■' 


WW**'^'^*!**'"'"- "^ 

»H" pii» ^rBp(^wiMwwi'i»i ii|Piipwi^ipni«"nipw«iiii'i.i"jKMPi^ji'w"w^i.ii"i^i •''t'^-'mif^im'Himr 


Lt/e of M. Olicr. 



W ' 

least, permit her to receive the Holy Eucharist ; and, turning to the 
sufferer, he asked her whether she desired to communicate. To the 
astonishment of all, the apparently dying woman returned to con- 
sciousness, replied in the affirmative, and received the liread of Life; 
and so pleasing to God were His servant's faith and courage tlirt 
they seemed to have obtained the cure of the sick woman, for she 
immediately rallied, and was soon perfectly reiitored to health. 

M. Olier's enemies were far from being discouraged by the resist- 
ance they had encountered, and on the same Sunday all Paris was 
astonished by a public demonstration, such as probably it had never 
before witnessed. This was no other than a procession of tlie 
abandoned women of the Faubourg St. Germain and the neighbour- 
hood, three hundred in number, going to demand of the house of 
Orleans the expulsion of the Curd of St. Sul[)ice, as an intermeddler 
in the people's affairs and a disturber of the public peace. They had 
tricked themselves out in their gayest attire, and thought they should 
be able to pass for ladies of distinction, whose very appearance must 
command respect. The ruse, as may be supposed, was too gross to 
succeed, but it served to exhibit the true character of M. Olier's 
opponents, and the audacious extremities to which they were pre- 
pared to go. Nothing disconcerted, however, by the contempt and 
indignation which the attempt had excited at the Luxembourg and 
among all respecf ■'.ble citizens, the miserable creatures resolved to 
try their influence with the Parliament itself. On the Monday, being 
June i2ih, there was to be a Te Detim at Notre Dame, in thanks- 
giving for the taking of Roses in Spain by the Comte du Plessis- 
Praslin, and all the members of the Parliament, with the King and 
the royal princes, were to assist at it. On entering the hall of the 
palace, the magistrates found it well-nigh filled with a strange assem- 
blage of women and others, who received them with clamours and 
menaces. Indignant at the insult offered to them in the very sanc- 
tuary of justice, they ordered the hall to be cleared, and issued a 
decree on the spot denouncing the authors of this fresh outrage, 
interdicting all public ,r,atherings, and prohibiting all persons, at the 
peril of their lives, from coming to the hall of assembly in a larger 
number than four together, under any pretext whatever. At the same 
time, those who had been concerned in the late demonstration were 
ordered to retire at once to their homes, under penalty of being 
treated as enemies of the State without form of trial ; and all officers 
of justice were directed to inflict summary punishment on such as 

.^^'•^^*'\.~-*'^. ,^-' 

jiM-*i**v-— ^^ r*'"*'* 

Af. de Oneylus joins the Community. 


violated the terms of this decree, and arrest any wl\o might be found 
using language of a nature to excite fresh tumults. 

Measures so determined and severe had the effect of preventing 
any disturbance by day, but, as more than one attack was made on 
the Presbytery during the night, it was found necessary to obtain the 
protection of an armed patrol until all fear of danger was removed. 
The feast of Corpus Christi was now approaching, and M. Olier, 
fearing that, if he carried the Blessed Sacrament througli the streets, 
the malcontents might be provoked to the perpetration of some 
sacrilegious outrage, delegated the office to the Apostolic Nuncio, 
Mgr. Bagni, Archbishop of Athens, himself bearing the humble part 
of an assistant. For better security, however, the procession was 
escorted by a company of the royal guards. Some days elapsed before 
the ecclesiastics, whether students or others, felt sufficiently re-assured 
to venture on returning. Meanwhile th*^ man of God never omitted 
for one single morning to offer the Holy Sacrifice privately in the 
chapel of the Presbytery in their behalf, that they might conquer 
their fears and regain confidence, at the same time imploring our 
Blessed Lord to change the hearts of his adversaries, grant the grace 
of perseverance to converted sinners, and pour down His choicest 
blessings on his beloved flock, above all, on those who had laboured 
so generously in his defence. Nor — as need hardly be said — did he 
neglect to implore the most holy Virgin to preserve from all evil and 
to confirm in her lovo the little company which slie herself had 
founded, and which was now so sorely persecuted for her sake and 
that of her Divine Son. His prayers were heard and granted ; for 
by the close of the octave of Corpus Christi, that is, within fifteen 
days after his attempted expulsion from the parish, all his clergy had 
returned both to the Seminary and to the Community, and every- 
thing resumed its usual course. 

Another sign of the Divine favour was also vouchsafed him at this 
time, when the work he had begun seemed to human eyes on the 
brink of ruin. On the 26th of July, being the feast-day of St. Anne, 
M. Gabriel de Queylus came and offered himself to St. Sulpice. He 
had been one of the first to enter the seminary at Vaugirard, but 
without any intention of permanently joining the society. At the 
age of eleven his family had provided him with the abbey of Loc ■ 
Dieu, his great-uncle, Jean de Ldvis, who was almoner to Queen 
Marguerite de Valois, having resigned the benefice, which he had 
held for eighteen years in commendam, and become a simple religious 


'V> ' 

M i 



Life of M. Olier 

I, ' 

in the same house which he had governed. M. de Qucylus liad 
attracted tlie attention of Cardinal Mazarin, who tlitn had the 
supreme conduct of affairs, and was in the sure road to high prefer 
ment, but, on being invested with the priesthood on the isth of May, 
in this same year 1645, tlie grace of ordination so wrcuglit witliin 
liim that, abandoning all his earthly prospects, he gave himself to 
M. Olier, inspired with the sole desire of co-operating with him in 
forming a body of priests who should be animated with the true sacer- 
dotal spirit. He proved himself, as we shall have occasion hereafter 
to see, one of M. Olier's most valuable coadjutors, and by his morti- 
fied life, his exact performance of all the exercises of the Commur.ity, 
and his zeal in discliarging such offices as were of least account in 
the estimation of the world, became a perfect pattern of those super- 
natural virtues which he sought to produce in others. 

The irritation caused by the late events was not speedily abated. 
M. Olier's more moderate opponents, who condemned the violence 
of the mob, bore their defeat before the Parliament with evident 
displeasure, and still hoped that by continual vexations they might 
oblige him to resign his office. With such, ridicule was the favourite 
weapon ; and Henri de Bourbon had the ill grace to offer the man 
of God a public insult, when duty obliged him to present himself 
before the Prince ; the only effect of which was to fill his heart with 
gratitude towards one who had furnished him with an occasion of 
imitating his Master's patience when mocked by Herod and his 
court Towards his personal enemies he manifested, not merely a 
kindly forbearance, but a most tender charity. Hearing that M. de 
Fiesque was on the point of being arrested at the instance of a 
powerful noble whom he had offended, he hastened to intercede in 
his favour, and with such success that all further proceedings were 
stayed. So far, too, from pressing the execution of the parliamentary 
decrees against the authors of the tumult, he sought to obtain the 
liberation of those who were in custody ; and, on being remonstrated 
with for such mistaken leniency, he replied, " Jesus Christ forgave 
His murderers, and prayed for them ; and these, thanks be to God, 
have not proceeded so far; what they did to me was nothing. Grant 
that they bore me some ill will, yet, after all, are they net my 
children ? God gave them to me, and, by the help of His grace, I 
will try to have towards them the heart of a father. David would 
have no evil done to his son, although he sought his kingdom and 
his life, and these had no such intention towards me. Ah ! if their 

\ *■ •£ 

Ills devotion to the IVill of Cod. 


salvation depended on tlic sacrifice of my life, and God enabled nie 
to retain the desire of their eternal good which I now feel, they would 
all '»e sure of attaining to the joys of Paradise." Learning that one 
of his most violent asscilants had been tlirown into prison, he went 
to visit him, and. though the man received him with the utmost 
scorn and insolence, he continued to treat him as though he were 
his dearest friend ; and at length, by rei)eated solicitations, obtained 
for him the royal pardon. He continued to evince the same interest 
in him after he was set free, and when increasing infirmities preventeil 
his paying him any personal attention, he charged M. de Breton- 
villiers to show him every kindness. So, too, he gratified the charitable 
feelings of his heart by assisting another of his worst enemies during 
his last illness, and disposing him for a holy death. To such an 
excess, indeed, did he carry his charity and forbearance that he would 
not even dismiss the two servants who, as related, had behaved with 
such ingratitude towards him ; an act of generous compassioi» which 
so touched the hearts of the offenders that, filled with remorse, they 
vent and besought his forgiveness ; and this true lover of souls, not only 
cordially forgave them, but, as if to snow that every feeling of injury 
was obliterated from his mind, he even bestowed a post of honour 
on the one who had most flagrantly betrayed his trust, hoping thus 
to confirm and deepen in him the compunction which he had mani- 
fested for his crime. In short, so many and so striking were the 
instances of the care and affection he bestowed on those who had 
borne a prominent part in the persecution against him, that it became 
a common saying in the parish that, if you wanted to receive any 
favour from M. Olier, the surest way to obtain it was to do him an 

Although, after a while, the agitation in men'3 minds began sen- 
sibly to subside, many of M. Olier's friends, seeing the determined 
animosity of his adversaries and alarmed for his personal safety, 
endeavoured to persuade him to leave the parish. They represented 
to him the difficulties he would have to encounter, and the impossi- 
bility of establishing his seminary without the consent of the autho- 
rities and in defiance of his numerous and powerful opponents. He 
replied, "We ought never to abandon God's work on account of 
opposition ; on the contrary, opposition ought to increase our 
courage. If we allow ourselves to be disturbed by contradictions 
we shall never do anything for God. Is not the cross inseparable 
from all the works of which He is the author ? In no other way did 

M I 

fl I 






Z?/^ of M. Olicr. 

\ !li 

Jesus Christ establish His Church, and in no other way can we liopc 
to effect anything. Let the world and the devil rage as they may ; 
cannot He who has hitherto vanquished them continue still to triumph 
over them? I have undertaken this work solely for His glory, and 
I will abandon it only when I know that such is His will." His 
resolution was now to be put to a crucial test. M. Berna-din de 
Corneillan, Bishop of Rodez, who had long entertained the desire of 
resigning his see in M. Olier's favour, on learning the difficult cir- 
cumstances in which the servant of God was placed, seized the 
occasion to renew his instances and dispatched his nephew in all 
haste to Paris wit » an express proposal to that effect. Everything 
seemed to make such a step desirable, and his friends redoubled 
their solicitations. The Queen herself> who hitherto had urged him 
to remain, now signified her desire that he should avail himself of the 
Bishop's proposal in order to obtain the peace and repose which it 
seemed hopeless for him any longer to look for in the Faubourg St. 
Germain. But on the 23rd of July — as M. Olier has recorded in his 
Mimoires — his director, the Pfere Eataille, having sought light from 
Heaven in prayer, announced to him that God willed him to retain 
the charge of his parish ; Marie Rousseau gave him a like assurance. 
Accordingly, his reply to his friends was still the same, that the very 
difficulties and dangers on which they grounded their appeal were 
only a stronger reason for his remaining bound to his church ; tha^ 
even to be overwhelmed by the weigh . of a burden which the Divine 
Goodness lays upon us is to die a glorious death, seeing that we 
perish in doing the will of God. If Jesus had considered only 
Himself, He would not have subjected Himself to the pains wl.ich 
He endured in His Passion and on the Cross, but ihe desire of His 
Father's glory and of the world's salvation made Him regardless of 
His own interests : Scripture, indeed, expressly tells us that He 
pleased not Himself nor did His own will.* His friends then 
insisted on the greater means which, as a bishop, he would have at 
liis command for promoting the glory of God ; to vhich he replied 
in these most admirable words : " Not the service we may render to 
our neighbour, nor the excellence of the works we perform, nor even 
the prospect of the good we may do in the Church, ought to be the 
rule of our conduct, but simply the wiU of God, to which we ought 
to adhere solely and unalterably. Though I should be certain of 
working miracles, though I should see at my disposal the me^^iS of 

* St. John V. 3a vi. 38. Rom. xv. 3. 

Sutisfadiou of M. de Fiesques cieinands. 257 

accomplishing the greatest works for the Church, and the utmost 
certainty of succeeding, though even in performing them I should 
.Tiake myself the greatest of all the saints, — I would never undertake 
them except so far as it was the will of God. And, if I were assurv,-d 
of His will, I would not apply myself to them for the sake either of 
the greatness of the works thenr^elves or of the glory to be enjoyed 
in Heaven — for these are not the most perfect rules of our conduct 
— but because it was the will of my Master, which alone I wish ever 
to do." 

The will of God : and might it not be the will of God that he 
should resign the chaige of St. Sulpice? Might not God have put 
it in the heart of M. de Corneillan to relinquish his see in his favour ? 
1 know the will of God, it had ever been his wont to submit 
implicitly to the judgment of superiors, even when that judgment 
was directly opposed to his own inward assurances. He resolved, 
accordingly, to refer the matter simply and absolutely to the decision 
of the Abbe de St. Germain. Going to him, therefore, iie said that, if 
his services were agreeable to him, he would continue to devote them 
to the salvation of the flock with which he was intrusted, and would 
think no more of the bishopric of Rodez ; but that if, on the contrary, 
he did not deem h'm a fitting person to have the charge of the parish 
'>f St. Sulpke, he would at cnce withdraw ; his sole object being to 
fulfil the designs of Providence, and this he would be doing by sub- 
mitting to his judgment as his ecclesiastical superior. Hitherto (as 
we have seen) the Abb^ had been opposed to M. Olier's projects, 
but Henri de Bourbon, with all his faults, was open to generous 
impulses, and a disinterestedness so genuine filled him with admira- 
tion. He begged M. Olier, very earnestly, not to think of resigning, 
promised him his protection, and engaged to assist him to the utmost 
in establishing his seminary. A result so unexpected struck M. 
Oliers friends with astonishment, and they could not but admire the 
Providence of God, which had made the persecution which was 
designed for his overthrow the very means of accomplishing the great 
work he had at heart. The difficulties they had made so much of 
had vanished in a moment, and the confidence of God's servant was 
justified in the sight of all the world. 

Meanwhile M. Olier had resumed negotiations with M. de Fiesque, 
whose requirements, however, were as extravagant as ever. In the 
first place, he absolutely refused to retain the priory of Clisson ; he 
next demanded, not a pension of 1,000 crcvns, as in 1642, but a 



'1: '^ 


Life of M. OHer, 


clear annual income of 10,000 livres — equivalent at the present dy 
to 80,000 or 100,000 francs — as an indemnification for the alleged 
wrong that had been done him. M. Olier's friends would have 
dissuaded him from acceding to a proposal so unreasonable, and 
urged him rather to resign his pastoral ofifice and concentrate all his 
energies on the direction of the Seminary, seeing that, if he im- 
poverished himself in order to retain his cure he would be unable to 
prosecute the great work which was the object of his life. But he 
replied, '* If Jesus Christ bids us give our cloak to him who asks us 
for our coat, why shoiild we not deprive ourselves of something for 
one who makes an excessive and unreasonable demand ? Besides, 
money ought to weigh as nothing with us where the interests of Jesus 
are concerned." The pr;posai, therefore, wav, accepted, and the 
contract signed on the 20th o^ July, 1645 ; and now arose a contest 
of generosity among his friends as to who should strip themselves of 
their benefices to provide M. de Fiesque with the stipulated income. 
That gentleman, howsver, was not to be easily satisfied; several 
benefices were resigned in his favour, but for one reason or another 
they were not deemed either suitable or adequate, and it was not 
until he was offered the well-endowed Priory of St. Condon on the 
Loire that he professed himself contented. Strange to say, this 
benefice was promised without first obtaining the consent of its 
occupant, M. de Barrault, nephew of the Archbishop of Aries and one 
of P. de Condren's disciples, who, however, on being informed by 
M. du Ferrier of the arrangement which had been made, was over- 
joyed at the confidence reposed in him, and declared that he reckoned 
it among the truest tokens of regard which his friends could have 
shown him. The Duchesse d'Aiguillon, it may here be stated, was 
so touched by this instance of generosity on the part of M. de Barrault 
that, a few years afterwards, she bestowed upon him a priory of the 
annual value of 1,000 crowns. Among M. Olier's colleagues who 
despoiled themselves to satisfy M. de Fiesque's exorbitant demands, 
should here be mentioned M. Picotd, M. de Sainte Marie (Houmain), 
and M. de Lantages, and, among his friends, the Abb^ Alexandre 
de Seve, maternal uncle of M. Louis Tronson. It was two years, 
however, before the business with M. Fiesque was finally concluded, 
and then only through the intervention of St. Vincent de Paul, whom 
the Queen Regent had engaged to confer with that intractable 
person, and who himself liberally contributed towards supplying the 
sum that was required. M. Le Gauffre, also, who, as will be remem- 

Attempted reform at Pcbrac. 


bered, in his despair had imprudently assured the rioters that their 
former Cur^ should be re-instated, now sought to make reparation 
for what he regarded as a desertion of M. Olier's cause by large 
benefactions to the church. 

It was about the same time that the affair of the Abbey of Pebrac 
was definitively settled. M. Olier's attempt to introduce the reform 
of Chancellade had been frustrated, as we have seen, by the opposi- 
tion of the monks, who had declared in favour of that of Ste. Genevieve, 
which, however, they never adopted ; and besides, the Cardinal de 
la Rochefoucauld, who was Abbd de Ste. Genevieve, had interdicted 
M. Alain de Solminihac from extending his rule to any other monas- 
tery. M. Olier, therefore, had devised a different plan. Possessing 
full powers, as abbot, to restore the primitive discipline, the thought 
occurred to him of sending one of his ecclesiastics who should take 
the habit as a novice, and thus gradually dispose the minds of the 
religious towards adopting the reform which he sought to introduce. 
The person he chose for this difficult mission was (as already men- 
tioned) M. Corbel, a man of interior life and habitual prayer, deeply 
versed in the conduct of souls, and one who by his eminent virtues 
and, especially, his humility and perfect detachment from the world, 
was peculiarly qualified to exercise a silent, but not less powerful, 
influence on those with whom he associated. He was fifty years of 
age, but, as we learn from M. du Ferrier, he was no sooner apprized 
of the task designed for him than he expressed his readiness to do 
whatever his superior had determined upon, as seeing therein the 
will of God. The only thing he \vas in doubt about was as to how 
he should dispose of a hundred louis d'or which he had reserved for 
any need that might arise ; but, on M. du Ferrier bidding him solve 
the difficulty by giving the money to the poor, he did so at once 
before he went. When the year of his novitiate had expired, he 
wrote to ask whether he should ba professed, but, as no progress 
had been made in the direction of reform, it was deemed advisable 
that his novitiate should be prolonged for another year. To this he 
assented without making any reply. At the end of the second year 
he again wrote for instructions as to what he should do, and, as 
there seemed not the slightest prospect of the religious consenting 
to embrace a stricter rule, he was directed to lay aside his habit and 
return to Paris ; which accordingly he did with as much indifference 
as if he had never quitted the Community. As for the hundred louis 
d'or which he had given away, writes M. du Ferrier, he never said a 


..^■■,;:.-i.ttJ.°ji:-ita';-'-:.>y.>if.ti^'"i<4\ij,''wi,.. , 


Life ^f M. Olier, 


word about tliem, reposing all his confidence in Divine Providence, 
and desiring to die poor and destitute of all things, like his Master, 
Jesus Christ. We find, however, from a note appended by M. 
Faillon, that a few years later he was collated to a rich and populous 
parish, which he served with a zeal and devotion from which all 
thought of self was banished. At length, broken with age and toils, 
he resigned his benefice to an excellent priest, whose poor, small 
parish he took in exchange, refusing to accept any compensation for 
his diminished income. 

This pious experiment having failed, M. Olier resolved to cede 
the abbey to St. Vincent de Paul, as a residence for his Missionary 
Priests, who should labour in Auvergne and the neighbouring parts ; 
and hf had comm.enced negotiations with the religious which seemed 
to promise success, when this plan likewise was entirely frustrated 
by the perverse conduct of the Prior, who again affected to be 
actuated by a desire to embrace the reform of Ste. Genevibve, but 
who, when it came to the point, proposed conditions in every way 
so extraordinary — as, for instance, that each of the monks should have 
a key of the church and of the cloister, with the liberty of going in 
and out at pleasure, subject to no control — that the Superior-General 
refused to sanction the arrangement ; which, indeed, could not have 
been carried out without M. Olier's consent. So matters remained 
till, shortly after the troubles related, M. Olier exchanged the abbey 
of Pdbrac for that of Cercanceau in the diocese of Sens, which was 
then in the possession of M. Vialar, Bishop of Chalons. It was a 
benefice of less value than that of Pebrac, but, in proposing the 
exchange, M. Olier's object was to offer some compensation to that 
prelate for the sacrifices he had made on his account in the affair 
of M. de Fiesque. The transaction was formally approved by 
Louis XIV. on the 23rd of January, 1646. M. Olier was also led to 
make the cession by the hope that M. Vialar would be able to 
introduce the reform of Ste. Genevibve, which, in fact, was accom- 
plished three years later. To this end M. Olier increased its 
revenues, and raised the number of the monks from eighteen, to 
which his father had reduced it, to twenty-one, as fixed by the 
ancient constitutions. The servant of God always considered that 
in the troubles that had come upon him at St. Sulpice he was 
bearing the chastisement of his father's fault, committed inadver- 
tently and by the advice of indiiTerent casuists, in procuring him the 
preferment on conditions not strictly canonical. ** The memory of 

Formal act of association. 


M. Oiier," writes the Abb^ Faillon, ** is still lield in benediction by 
itie inhabitants of Pdbrac. They show the chamber in the Abbey 
which was occupied by the servant of God, and which has been 
converted into an oratory. On a httle turret, at the entrance of the 
courtyard, his arms are still to be seen ; a circumstance which 
would seem to indicate that it or, at least, some portion of the 
edifice adjoining was erected by him. This was probably anterior 
to his establishing the seminary of Vaugirard ; for from that time he 
ceased to use the arms of his family, and substituted in their place 
the monograms of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph." 

The humiliations that had befallen him were not of a nature to 
soften his proud mother's heart, followed as they were by his refusal 
of the see of Rodez and the sacrifices he made to satisfy M. de 
Fiesque's demands ; and her vexation found its usual vent in taunts 
and reproaches. Yet he was not the less assiduous in visiting her 
from time to time, and the modest expression of his countenance, 
when in her presence, was a sufficient indication, remarks M. de 
Bretonvilliers, of the filial respect which he entertained for her, a 
respect all the more sincere and deep as it had a religious root, for 
in honouring his mother he felt that he was showing reverence, not 
merely to an earthly parent, but to the Majesty of the Eternal God. 
It \sas his delight to speak to her of our Blessed Lord, and he 
sought every opportunity to turn her thoughts to the saving of her 
soul. As this is the last occasion on which her name is mentioned, 
it may here be stated that, being in the country and hearing that his 
mother was suffering from an apoplectic attack, he immediately 
hastened back to Paris and rendered her all the assistance in his 
power, although at the time he was himself in a state that required 
the most careful attention, being afflicted with paralysis and suffering 
from the malady which was soon to terminate his life. His mother 
survived him a little more than two years, dying on the ist of 
June, 1659. 

On Wednesday, the 6th of September, 1645, M. Oner, — in con- 
junction vvith M. de Pouss^ and M. Damien, who had been united 
with him both in the purchase of M. Meliand's house and in the 
solemn engagement which he made at Montmartre never to abandon 
the work of the Seminary, — subscribed a formal act of association 
in presence of two public notaries, as was usual in those times. 
Therein they declare that, having before their eyes the sensible 
effects of the benedictions which it has pleased the Divine Goodness 



I! i^3 











Life of M. Olier. 

to pour down on the design they had conceived of establishing a 
seminary, — and seeing that from all sides persons distinguished in 
doctrine and virtue are continually joining them to bear a part in so 
good a work, — they have judged that, if the seminary were erected 
into a corporate community with all due and proper sanctions, it 
would increase from day to day and bring forth those f^uitr. which 
the Church, councils, royal ordinances, and assemblies of the clergy 
have looked for in such an establishment ; wherefore, considering 
that they ought no longer to delay the execution of their design, 
which has for its object the glory of God and the honour of His 
Church, under the direction and disposal of their Lordships the 
Bishops within whose jurisdiction similar establishments shall be 
founded, after invoking the assistance of the Holy Spirit, they 
engage to form a corporate community, in order to discharge all the 
functions of a seminary in accordance with the terms and with the 
spirit of the sacred canons : all under the articles, statutes, and 
regulations which shall be agreed upon among themselves and those 
who shall join them as members of the said community. They 
undertake to be of no charge to their Lordships the Bishops, 
chapters, or abbots, in the several dioceses or jurisdictions wherein 
they shall found such establishments, but to contribute thereto 
solely of their own means and with the aid of the liberality, purely 
voluntary, of those who may desire to co-operate in this good work, 
when the seminary shall be in a condition to acquire property. 

On the :'3rd of October, in the same year, M. Olier had the 
supreme satisfaction of seeing the Seminary erected into an ecclesi- 
astical community with the sanction and authorization of the Abbe 
de St. Germain, as seigneur of the Faubourg ; full power and licence 
being given to him, as superior, together with his colleagues, to 
frame such statutes and rules as he and his associates should deem 
necessary for the due government, discipline, and maintenance of 
the house, and also to construct whatever buildings might be 
required for the purposes of the Seminary, and to have a chapel 
attached thereto. At the same time, the Abbd renounced in favour 
of the new institute the sum of 7,500 livres, to which he was legally 
entitled as temporal lord; and M. Olier, in return, not only gave 
him a participation in all the prayers and good works of the Com- 
munity, but engaged to have a Mass celebrated every year for his 
intention, at which all the priests of the Community should assist. 
This Mass was to be said on the 14th of May, being the day on 

His reliance on God alone. 


which his father, Henri IV., was assassinated ; for which reason M. 
Olier also undertook to have a Dc profundis recited at the end of the 
same Mass for the soul of that monarch. Later on in the year, the 
Abbe's authorization was confirmed by letters patent bearing the 
sign manual of the young King, being then in his seventh year ; 
and in the April of the following year, 1646, all the Bishops of 
France were empowered by royal letters patent to hold provincial 
councils every three years for the reformation of manners and the 
establishment of seminaries for the training of ecclesiastics in their 
several dio ^es. 

Thus was the great work accomplished for which the servant of 
God had so long laboured and prayed, and, it may be added, suffered. 
In spite of the hostility of the world and the defection of friends, his 
confidence in the Divine aid and protection had never failed or 
faltered. " Let us lean only on God," he wrote at this time, " and 
trust to Him alone, for the success of any work which He has con- 
fided to us. Let us look only to Him, and He will guide us securely 
amid all the tempests that assail us. The more violent tney are, the 
more clearly will they manifest His wisdom, His power, and His 
love. His adorable perfections are never more sensibly displayed 
than when the works He has begun succeed in spite of the fury of 
Hell and the persecution of men. Let us abandon everything to 
Him, and abide in peace waiting for His succour. Although we 
should see the whole world rise up against us we must never quit 
the work to which He calls us, seeing that He is able in a moment 
to disperse the clouds that have gathered round us and turn our 
greatest enemies into our most devoted friends. Oh, how little 
reliance ought to be placed on the great and on the children of men ! 
It were sufificient to see what I have myself experienced in order to 
be certain of this truth as much as I ought to be. What joy to do 
the work of God in His Son, and through the ways of humility, 
poverty, and simplicity ! Our Lord has taught me once for all that it 
is His will that I should withdraw myself from the great ones of the 
world, and beware how I place any confidence in them. The jealousy 
of God regarding the work He has committed to me has been shown 
in this — that He has sent away these great ones and thrust them 
aside whenever they attempted to take part therein ; to the end that 
He alone might be acknowledged as the author of that which might 
have been attributed to men if they had given it their patronage and 



a if 


^'i::t'ii!,i-^L-i'^ i:i -■» 

!i I 



( 264 ) 





MOLIER resumed the labours of his parish with renewed 
• energies of mind and body, and the humiliations he had 
so recently undergone seemed to enhance the respect or, rather, we 
may say, the veneration with which he was regarded by all, including 
even those whose minds had seemed to be most envenomed against 
him. The piety of the people responded to the zeal of the pastor. 
His sermons found an echo in the hearts of his hearers, and were 
productive of extraordinary fruits ; all the offices of devotion were 
largely attended, and the number of penitents increased with such 
rapidity that it became necessary to obtain the assistance of addi- 
tional priests. 

The Holy Ghost might have employed ecclesiastics of low extrac- 
tion, as He has commonly done, for the renovation of this parish so 
notorious for the scandalous lives of the great people who inhabited 
it, but, as if to accommodate Himself to the prejudices of their 
caste. He summoned to His service men who, like M. Olier, were 
as distinguished for their birth and rank as for their character and 
virtues. The more surely to accomplish the work to which they had 
been called, He put it into their hearts to practise the most perfect 
disinterestedness and generous abnegation. They rigorously abstained 
from accepting any contributions that might be offered them by their 
people either for the benefit of the Community or for their own 
personal needs ; and in their pastoral visits to the parishioners it was 
their habit to despatch the business they were upon with as much 
celerity as was compatible with a due regard to social amenities or 
with the nature of the office they had been called to discharge. 
Hitherto, notwithstanding all the advantages which the courtiers 
had enjoyed in the zealous labours of men like the P^res de BeruUe 
and de Condren, who both from the pulpit and in the confessional 

Transforming power of the Holy Eucharist. 265 

had addressed them with a freedom and a boldness truly Apostolical, 
little effect, apparently, had been produced ; it was reserved to M. 
Olier and his colleagues to gather in the harvest of which these great 
servants of God had sown the seed 

It was by setting before his auditors the mystery of the Incarnation 
and its consequences — the transcendent dignity with which human 
nature has thereby become invested and the corresponding depth of 
degradation into which it is plunged by sin — that he touched their 
consciences and gained their hearts. He depicted in frightful 
colours the hideous deformity which sin had worked and still con- 
tinued to work in the so-^s of men ; in accents of paternal tenderness 
he described the love ot Jesus in dying for them on the Cross, and 
showed them how by their criminal indulgences they crucified the 
Son of God afresh and trampled under foot the Precious Blood 
which He had shed for their redemption. " To repair the woeful 
disorders which sin had caused, prodigies of power and of mercy were 
needed : the Eternal Word must become Incarnate to restore this 
fallen creature j a God-made-Man must come to present to man, in 
His own Sacred Person, the model of that perfection to which He 
desires to recall him ; and, finally, the Divine Repairer must make 
Himself our meat and drink in the Adorable Eucharist, in order 
that He may enter into and unite Himself with us, so that, dwell- 
ing in our souls. He may re -instate them in their original condi- 
tion, and re -make them according to the primal designs of the 

In these last words we see the dominant thought and belief with 
which this great servant of God was possessed — that devotion to 
Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist was the one solid foundation on 
which the reformation of a parish so reprobate as that of St. Sulpice — 
including as it did the notorious faubourg of St. Germain — could be 
effected and maintained, and that through the revival of this devo- 
tion alone could his people, little and great, learned and unlearned, 
be brought back to the habitual practice of piety and virtue. "Our 
Lord," he writes, "desiring to draw men to His Father, has given 
Himself to them at two several times : once, in the infirmity of the 
flesh, by His Incarnation ; and again, in the power of His Divine 
Life, by the Most Holy Sacrament. By the first state He came to 
establish His Church and merit grace and pardon for it ; by the 
other to renew and make it perfect. The first was a state of weak- 
ness, and consequently it was not meet that He should employ His 


I I 


Life of M. Olicr. 

absolute power in His dealings with men. This is why He acted 
with apparent infirmity, using reasonings, miracles, and prophecies 
in His endeavours to convince them, without availing Himself of the 
almighty power of the Holy Spirit, who would have converted in a 
moment hearts the most hardened in the world. To effect this 
triumph. He waited for the day of His Ascension, which was to 
establish Him on the throne of His royal dignity. Then He began 
to give Himself a second time to men in the Most Ho'y Sacrament, 
communicating to them His divine life and making them like unto 
Himself. This it is which the Church confesses with astonishment 
and gratitude in the first words of the Office of the Blessed Sacra- 
ment : ' Let us adore Christ the King, the Ruler of the Gentiles, 
who gives to those who feed on Him the rich abundance of His 
Spirit,' * as if she said. Behold the mar^-ellousness of this mystery and 
the triumph of Jesus Christ : peoples the most savage, nations the 
most barbarous, which never yielded to the power or acknowledged 
the dominion of the Romans, have now been subjected by this King 
whom they adore. His Flesh which He gives them for food trans- 
forms them interiorly into Himself, impresses upon them His own 
sentiments, and thus He triumphs in their hearts by His meekness, 
by the purity of His virtue, by the secret charms of His power, and 
by thus transforming them makes them, with Himself, perfect 
adorers of His Father. Desiring, then, in this age, not to establish 
His Church, but to renew it, He must needs act in a manner which 
accords with this second state. 

" Inasmuch, however, as it is not His will to appear again in 
person to rekindle piety when it has grown cold, He raises up from 
age to age men whom He fills with a special grace of those mysteries 
which He desires to revive in the hearts of His people. Such was 
St. Francis of Assisi, who received the spirit of His Passion so 
abundantly that, streaming out upon his very flesh ana manifesting 
itself in the sacred stigmata, it renewed in the Church the love of 
the Cross and taught carnal men the obligation they were under of 
resembling in their lives Jesus Christ Crucified. And, in like manner, 
our Lord has shown me that, desiring to renew in our own days the 
primitive spirit of the Church, He raised up two persons to commence 
carrying out this design : Mgr. de Bdrulle, to procure His being 

* " Christum Regem adoremus dominantem Gentibus, 
Qui se manducantibus dat spiritus pinguedinem." 

Ad Alatutinuntt InvUatorium. 


Divine lights and graces. 


lionourcd in His Incarnation;* PItc de Condrcn, in His Life, His 
Death, and above all, in His Resurrection ; bin that it still remained 
to have Himself honoured, after His Resurrection and Ascension, 
as H( abides in the Most August Sacrament of the Eucharist, and 
thus to renew the sentiments of His Divine Life in the hearts 
of men. 

"Alas I I say it only for the glory of God and of His designs in 
regard to the vilest and most wretched creature in the world : Ho 
has been pleased to bestow .;on me myself, as P. do Condrcn's 
successor, the grace and the spirit of this Adorable Mystery, to the 
end that I may teach souls how to live conformably with this state. 
And yet can it possibly be that God should desire to make His slave, 
nay, one of His enemies, as I am, an image of His Son, His Only 
Son, the Victim of the Most Holy Sacrament, by giving nic a share 
in the sentiments of that Divine interior, in order to their being 
sensibly communicated to souls through me ? " 

From his childhood, as we have seen, M. Olier had been endowed 
with a singular grace of devotion to the Blessed Eucharist, and wlien, 
in the year 1642, it was proposed to him to undertake the charge ot 
the parish of St. Sulpice, he felt that now the long-sought opportunity 
was afforded him of promoting Its honour and worshij), not only 
among his own subjects, but in all the provinces of France. " How 
often," he writes, " when I thought of the neglect with which the 
Blessed Eucharist was treated in that parish, did I say to myself, 
'Oil, if ever I became the pastor of that church, how I would labour 
to have honour paid to that Most August Sacrament ! I would devotd 
myself wholly to Its service, I would myself keep watch before It 
like an ever-burning lamp, to show to these blind people the majesty 

♦ This opinion was not peculiar to M. Olier ; it was shared by tlie biographers 
of Cardinal de Berulle. Thus P. Lerat says that he had the gift of imparting to 
souls a supreme love of our Incarnate God : "He thought only of Jesus, he spoke 
only to Jesus or of Jesus, he acted only for Jesus. He undertook everything, he 
suffered everything for Jesus ; " and the Abb^ de C^risy relates liow for this end 
he would have all the houses of the Oratory dedicated to some particular state 
or mystery of our Lord : thus the house in the Rue St. Honore was consecrated 
to the honour of all the glories which accrued to Jesus at tlie moment of His 
Incarnation ; that of the Faubourg St. Jacques to His silent and ineflfable repose 
in the womb of Mary ; that of Orleans to His Infancy." Urban VIII. conferred 
upon him the title of " The Apostle of the Incarnate Word ; " and how truly he 
deserved it all readers of his works know well. 

The remarkable terms in which M. Olier spoke of Pere de Condren have been 
cited at page 49. 



■ i 


t>:,^/«JE^i..«.ViLi'-.i&a»'t>'.>.^V:;i; t,i'.^"-i.i'*it"^i-.i,l*.. .\..:i:«>£y\f-\k:.^^.'-j(i--;.5.i>-i"' 




Life oj M. Oiier. 

of the (lod whom ihey know not !'" Nor was it only a powerful 
impression produced upon his mind, or an ardent desire which he 
experienced of showing honour to Jesus in this adorable mystery, 
but Hj who had chosen him to be His special instrument and like- 
ness, had long before (as we read in his Afhnoins) vouchsafed to 
fiive him a miraculous intimation of His designs. For, being one 
day in adoration before the altar, he beheld our Lord issue from the 
Tabernacle — amid flames of fire and bearing a Cross in His hand — 
and come to dwell within his breast ; thus indicating to him that 
what He Himself was operating insensibly in the IJlessed Eucharist, 
His servant was to efTect sensibly in the souls committed to his 
charge. Of this grace he had abundant evidence on the feast of 
Corpus Christi immediately before his removal to St. Sulpice. " My 
heart," he writes, " was all on fire, all consumed with the love and 
praise of Clod ; and ever since that time I feel to be before God like 
a poor victim loaded with the sins of all mankind and pleading with 
Him for their pardon, ready to sufler in satisfaction all possible 
martyrdoms. Sometimes it was as if my s})irit passed into the hearts 
of men, so as to enter into their needs and make supplication to 
God for them. At other times I felt my soul multiplied, as it were, 
in all the places wherever my Master was present ; or filled with the 
divine praises, as I have seen that of Jesus Christ ; or desiring to 
offer the Holy Sacrifice, in order to honour God in every way in which 
it is possible to honour Him. All these and such-like sentiments 
are those of my Jesus in this mystery. They are innumerable, and 
infinitely greater than I can either understand or feel. His good- 
ness makes me a partaker in them from time to time according 
to my capacity; nor do I experience any difficulty in speaking 
of all this, for I see what I describe in a light clearer than that of 

Such, then, were the thoughts which dominated in M. Olier's 
mind when he first took possession of his parish, and hence the 
zeal and fervour he displayed in reviving devotion to the Blessed 
Eucharist by means of repeated Benedictions and Expositions and 
the establishment of a Confraternity of Adoration. But, notwith- 
standing all his endeavours and those of his coadjutors, during the 
first three years of his ministry there was very little apparent change 
for the better. His efforts were thwarted and counteracted in every 
manner of way, as we have seen, by the more influential of his 
parishioners, and, though the people came in crowds to the sacred 

i« ' 

Increase of conimunicants. 


offices, attracted by tlie unusual beauty of the ceremonial, tlu-y 
seemed to be actuated, not so much l)y a sjjirit of piety, as l)y an 
idle curiosity to witness a grand and imposing spectacle. 'I'hus, to 
the [jfofound grief of this holy pastor, the devotion of the Forty 
Hours was so little regarded by the mrss of the people that fewer 
persons were to be seen at St. Sulpicc during the celebration than 
in the other churches, although the population of the I'aubouri^ 
exceeded beyond all proportion that of any parish in the city. It 
was not until the malice of the wicked had done its utmost to 
blacken his character and destroy his intluence that M. Olier waa 
permitted to see the fruit of his labours. 

Mention has already been made of the heathenish excesses with 
which the eves of the feasts of the Epiphany and St. Martin were 
habitually profaned. Nor was it only the lower classes who indulged 
in these abominations, which were of too revolting a character to 
bear description ; the great lords of the Faubourg also took part in 
them. It seemed as though in very deed Satan had, for a season, 
been loosed from Hell and enthroned on earth as king of men. But 
now a great change ensued.* A large number of the parishioners, 
including all classes, came to receive communion on those festivals, 
and also on Quinquagesima Sunday, which h*d hitherto been re- 
garded only as the day on which the diversions of the Carnival com- 
menced. Indeed, the feast of the Epiphany was made an occasion 
of general communion, and, to encourage and perpetuate this pious 
practice, the Sovereign Pontiff granted a plenary indulgence, on the 
usual conditions, to all who should approach the Holy Table on 
that day. Never, perhaps, says the Abb(^ Faillon, was the number 
of communicants greater than in the parish of St. Sulpice, or the 
fruit thence accruing more abundant. M. Olier exhorted the people to 
offer their communions for the conversion of sinners, as being the 
most effectual way of applying to those poor souls the merits of the 
Precious Blood of Jesus Christ ; and, as the Jansenists were not 
satisfied with deterring the faithful from receiving communion, as 
has been said, but endeavoured to instil into them the odious and 
heretical doctrine that the Blessed Eucharist was beneficial only to 
the recipient and that its fruit could not be applied either to the 
living or to the dead, M. Olier was most diligent in denouncing these 

* Six years after the death of M. Olier the Sulpicians renewed their endeavours 
to suppress these disorders, and with such success that at last they were entirely 


t it 


Life of M. Olier, 



pestilent innovations. His efforts in this matter were crowned with 
singular succeos, for in a parish where but lately the Holy Table had 
been well-nigh deserted, the number of communicants might soon 
be reckoned at 200,000 annually, although thirty other churches 
attached to religious houses were also open for public worship in the 

When M. Olier entered on the duties of his parish theie was but 
a single lamp, and that of copper, kept burning in the church, 
although the Blessed Sacrament was reserved, not only on the High 
Altar, but also in the Lady Chapel behind the choir. But, one of the 
priests of St. Sulpice having taken occasion to observe in his sermon 
that it would be well to have n. lamp before each of these altars, on 
that same day M. Marreau, a notary, presented a costly one of silver; 
and soon after two other lamps of the same material, worth each six 
hundred crowns, were given by M. Morel, who was Maitre d'Hotel 
and Secretary of Finances to the King. One remarkable circumstance 
connected with these benefactions was that these very men, both of 
whom were wardens of the church, had taken part with M. Olier's 
adversaries in instituting legal proceedings against him for having 
established more frequent Benedictions of the Most Holy Sacrament 
without first having gained permission horn the parochial authorities. 
This may be regarded as a proof of the extraordinary change which 
had taken place in men's minds consequent on the late violent 
attempt to expel him from his cure. All three lamps were placed 
before the High Altar, but this ardent adorer of the Eucharistic 
Presence was not yet content, and having one day observed, in an 
exhortation to the ladies of the parish, that, as there had been seven 
lamps kept always alight before the Ark of the Covenant, as repre- 
senting the seven glorious spirits who stand ever before the Throne 
of God, so there ought to be seven lamps perpetually burning, night 
and day, before the place where our Incarnate God vouchsafes to 
dwell, the ladies present immediately resolved to complete the 
number. One was offered, of the value of a thousand crowns, by 
the Princesse de Condtf, to which two, valued at six hundred crowns, 
were added by three other ladies, among whom was Mme. Tronson, 
of whom we shall hear more hereafter ; the seventh was contributed 
by M. Olier himself, who also gave a silver chandelier to hold them 
all ; while M. Marreau, who had led the way in these acts of pious 
munificence, not to be outdone in liberality, asked p rmission to 
take bade the lamp he had presented, and which had cost 

Sacrilegious robbery at St. S 21 /pice. 


him sixty crowns, and to substitute another of the value of six 

In the summer of 1648 an event occurred which wrung the heart 
of God's servant with the bitterest anguish. On the night of July 
28th, some thieves gained an entrance into the Church of St. Sul- 
pice with the intention of stealing the silver plate belonging to the 
confraternity of street-porters. It so happeneil, however, that the 
candlesticks and cross had been lenr for the feast of St. Anne to the 
brethren of the 'hapel lately dedicated to that saint in the Prt'-aux- 
Clercs, and had not been returned. The robbers, not finding these 
objects in their usual place, did noL stay to examine the contents of 
the chest, but turned it upside down, by which means they did not 
perceive a chalice and other vessels whi'^h by between the chasubles 
and which, if discovered, might have satisfied their cupidity. Dis- 
appointed, therefore, of their expected booty, they forced open the 
tabernacle on the altar of the Blessed Virgin and, taking out the 
ciborium, emptied the Sacred Hosts on the elbow of one of the con- 
fessionals. But, even while perpetrating their sacrilegious crime, 
the wretched men seem to have retained some feeling of reverential 
awe, for, a few of the sacred particles still adhering to the vessel, they 
did not dare to carry them away, bat shook them out by striking the 
ciborium on the sifte ot the confessional, the wood of which the next 
morning bore the marks made by its edges; and, some of them 
falling on the ground, they had left them lying where they fell. 

Horror and consternation seized the inhabitants when news of the 
outrage spread through the Faubourg. As with one consent all 
diversions ceased, crowds flocked to the churches to testify their 
grief and to make such reparation as piety suggested for the dis- 
honour that had been shown to their dear Lord in the Sacrament of 
His Love. One only thought seemed to pervade all classes, — that 
of penance and satisfaction to the Divine Justice for a crime of which 
each accused himself as being the guilty cause. Indeed, it was the 
common belief that, in patiently enduring so impious an outrage, 
God was but waiting to avenge Himself by the infliction of some 
national scourge. In expiation of the sacrilege, the Baronne de 





* In i6qi, it was deemed expedient, i.i order to relieve the urgent necessities 
of the State, to send the chandelier with five of the lamps to the royal mint. A 
chandelier and lamps of some inferior metal were substituted for them ; but in 
1732 they were restored by M. Languet, who also placed seven lamps in tb.e 
choir and eight in the nave. 


L ife of M, Olier. 

Neuvillette condemned herself to eat the coarsest bread and drink 
only water for the rest of hor days, in order to appease the anger of 
God ; * and when, on the following Sunday, M. Jo!y, one of the 
priests of the Community, recounted to the people all the circum- 
stances of the sacrilege, the whole congregation were melted to tears, 
and sobs and waitings filled the church. But the chief mourner and 
the chief penitent — need it be said? — was the holy pastor himself; 
and nothing less would satisfy him than a public reparation, propor- 
tioned — if such a term be applicable — to the magnitude of the 
offence. With the consent of the Abb^ de St. Germain he 
announced from the pulpit the order of the observances, proclaiming 
a three days' fast to commence the following day. 

Accordingly, on Monday, August 3rd, 1648, as the bells gave forth 
their lugubrious sound, the people, ^11 in mourning garb, assembled 
in the church of St. Sulpice ; thence they walked n procession, 
chanting psalms as they went, to the Abbey of St. Germain, where 
High Mass was said ''^ pro remissione peccatorum — (for the remission 
of sins)." The gloom of the day added to the universal sadness ; the 
very heavens seemed to weep, for the rain continued to fall in 
torrents, and, owing to the insufficient drainage usual in those times, 
so flooded the streets that the penitential crowd, among which were 
ladies of the highest rank, had to wend its way through pools of water. 
On Thursday and the two succeeding days the Blessed Sacrament 
v*as exposed with unexampled splendour. The whole Court contri- 
buted whatever there was most magnificent and rare for the august 
ceremony : tapestry, and pictures, crystal vases, candelabra, and 

* At the end of five or six weeks, she became so ill that her confessor forbade 
her continuing her penance. This lady, during her married life, had been the 
acknowledged leader of fashion ; her sole ambition was to excel all others in the 
sumptuousness and elegance of her table, her equipage, and her dress. But on 
the death of her husband she felt herself called to give herself wholly to God, and 
through the prayers and counsels of M. de Renty she found courage to obey the 
call, and consecrated the remainder of her life to works of piety and charity. To 
break at once with the world, and mortify in herself all remains of pride and 
human respect, she inflicted on herself a sort of public humiliation, going to visit 
a Indy of her acquaintance in the Luxembourg, attired in a robe of patchwork. 
She had no sooner made her appearance at the palace-gates, than she was sur- 
rounded by a tribe of children, who followed her io the grand staircase crying out, 
" The Queen ! the Queen ! the Queen of Tatters ! " A still greater affront awaited 
her in the presence of the fine lady she came to visit, but she was enabled not 
only to despise the world, but to despise being despised by it, and she conquered 
it in conquering heraelf. She died on the lOth of April, 1657, eight days after 
M. Olier. 

A public act of reparation. 


e forth 
, where 
ss; the 

fall in 
e times, 
ch were 
if water, 
It contri- 

ira, and 

lustres of gold and silver. The Marquise de Palaiseau offered the 
hangings of her bed, worth 20,000 livres, to be used as a canopy ; 
and, though she was warned as to the damage they must sustain from 
the smoke of more than 300 tapers, she persevered in her entreaties 
that what had been made for vanity should be sacrificed to the glory 
of Jesus Christ. Her offer was therefore accepted ; and, as if to 
reward her piety and devotion, at the end of the three days' ceremony 
they were found not to have received the slightest tarnish. The whole 
length of the nave was covered with cloth of gold ; the choir was 
hung with red velvet, on which columns were wrought in bold relief, 
ornamented with capitals embroidered alternately with gold and 
silver, and all so skilfully designed that it might have been taken as 
actually elaborated out of the precious metals ; while in the midst 
of golden candlesticks and vases, darting flashes of light, raised high 
upon a pyramidal throne and surmounted with a crown glittering 
with jewels, appeared the Object of all this honour and glory ; the 
Object, too, of the unceasing adoration of a countless throng which 
day and night filled the church to overflowing. 

On the first and second days of the Exposition two of the most 
celebrated preachers of the capital addressed the assembled multi- 
tudes ; on the third, being the feast of the Transfiguration, the shops 
were shut, all servile work was suspended, and the whole clergy in 
the parish, secular and regular,* carrying lighted torches, accom- 
panied in procession the Blessed Sacrament, which was borne by 
the Papal Nuncio. The Queen Regent walked behind the canopy, 
attended by all the princes and princesses of the blood and a large 
number of the courtiers, all wearing mourning ; the people followed 
in vast crowds. The Duchess of Orleans had caused a magnificent 
altar to be erected at the entrance to the Luxembourg, and the 
ceremony was concluded by a sohmn act of reparation, pronounced 

* i\ circumstance is related in connection with this procession which affords 
a curious instance of the jealousy with which the Benedictines of St. Germain 
Maintained their prescriptive rights. M. Olier, absorbed in liis devotions, inad- 
vertently strayed from his place behind the monks, and walked among their ranks. 
Now, the parish of St. Sulpice (as was said above) was under the jurisdiction 
of the Abbey, and, for fear that this act of its Cur^ should be taken in after time 
as a precedent derogatory to their authority and liberties, they obliged M, Oiier 
to make a formal declaration, in writing, to the effect that, in intruding himself 
among them "in the aforesaid procession, contr.iry to all custom, right, and 
reason," he meant to assert no manner of precedency or encroachment on their 
privileges. This declaration was signed on the 9th of December following and 
inserted among the archives of the Abbey. 






Life of M. Olier. 


by M. Olier with so much fervour, and with such an abundance of 
tears, that none of the assistants could refrain from weeping. 

Three months after the ceremony above described, one of the per- 
petrators of the deed was discovered in the person of a soldier of the 
guards. Information was given by the individual in whose house he 
lodged, which led to his quarters being searched, and the ciborium of 
St. Sulpice, together with other property similarly obtained, was found 
hidden among his goods. The Parliament of Paris condemned him 
to provide funds for a lamp to burn perpetually before the taber- 
nacle in the Lady Chapel, in addition to that which was already 
there ; to make a public act of reparation before the doors of the 
church ; and, lastly, to suffer the punishment of death for the sacri- 
legious robbery ; which sentence was accordingly carried into execu- 
tion on the 1 6th of June, 1649, M. Olier himself attended the 
unhappy man in prison, and accompanied him to the scaffold. 

From the day on which the sacrilegious crime was committed no 
Mass had been said at Our Lady's altar ; it was left stripped of its 
ornaments, with its broken tabernacle exposed to view. It was not 
long, however, before M. Olier replaced it with another, richly 
adorned ; and, to perpetuate for ever in the parish the memory of 
the event, he surrounded with a balustrade the spot on which the 
sacred particles had been scattered, and inscribed upon a marble 
tablet, in letters of gold, the principal circumstances of the sacrilege 
and its reparation. Before this tablet he hung a silver lamp, which 
was to be kept burning day and night ; and, to offer to Jesus Christ 
a homage still more worthy of the love He bears us, he directed that, 
on the first Sunday in August in every year, the Blfissed Sacrament 
should be solemnly exposed in reparation for all the insults offe: ed 
to Him in the Holy Eucharist. But even yet his devotion was not 
satisfied : it was now that he established the Perpetual Adoration of 
which mention was before made, and for which he had long been 
preparing his people. He chose twelve of his flock, the most devout 
to the Sacramental Presence, who should unite themselves in spirit 
to the twelve Apostles, the first and chief adorers of an Incarnate 
God ; and these again he bade associate with themselves twelve 
other worshippers, who thus together with them should represent 
the four-and-twenty ancients of the Apocalpse, who fall down con- 
tinually in adoration before the 1 nrone of the Lamb. Each had his 
hour assigned him, and the whole day was thus distributed among 
them. Into this association others were admitted from time to time, 

Increased devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. 275 

; per- 


ise he 

urn of 


;d him 



of the 

e sacri- 

led the 


itted no 

;d of its 

was not 

r, richly 

stnory of 

hich the 

p, which 
IS Christ 
;ted that, 
;s offeied 
was not 
(ration of 
ing been 
|st devout 
t in spirit 
;s twelve 
own con- 
Ih had his 
;d among 
le to time, 

who shared the devotion of the chosen brethren and supplied for 
those who, through illness or other pressing necessity, were unable 
to attend. In fine, a detailed account of all the particulars of this 
reparation was circulated through the provinces, which had a power- 
ful effect in producing a more tender devotion to the Blessed Sacra- 
ment and a deeper awe and reverence towards that tremendous 

But it was espec'-'.lly in Paris that the ardour displayed by M. 
Olier produced at once the greatest effects. One after another the 
Cur^s of the several churches adopted the practices which were 
observed at St. Sulpice in honour of the Blessed Sacrament ; the 
General Assembly of the Clergy commended them to the attention 
of the Bishops throughout France ; and, in fine, the Prior of the 
Abbey of St. Ge"" ' "> in virtue of his office as Vicar-General, in- 
vested their observance with an almost obligatory force in all the 
churches and chapels of the Faubourg. Tlius he prohibited the 
Blessed Sacrament being exposed, even during the octave of Corpus 
Christi, unless one or two ecclesiastics were present to adore, as 
well to protect the August Presence against irreverence as to offer 
an example of personal piety to the people. St. Sulpice thus be- 
came celebrated for the beauty and solemnity of its services, as it 
has continued to the present day. Queen Anne of Ausiria, who had 
never entered its walls, on account both of the slovenliness with 
which the functions were performed and the rudeness of the build- 
ing, which resembled that of a village church, was now a frequent 
attendant at the offices, as were also the Duchesse d'Orleans, the 
Princesse de Cond^, who came all the way from Chantilly, the 
Princess her daughter-in-law, the Prince de Conti,* the Duchesse 
de Longueville, Mile, de Montpensier, the Duchesse d'Aiguillon, 
the Comtesse de Brienne, the Marechale de Schomberg. the Due 
d'Uzes, and many others of the courtiers, whose devout and 
reverent behaviour, as they knelt in silent adoration before the God 
of the Eucharist, was a touching sight to witness, especially to those 
who, like Marie Rousseau, had deplored the state of desolation in 
which both church and parish had lain for many dreary years, and 
who knew, moreover, that all this religious display was no empty 
pageant, but an effect of the same divine grace which dwelt in the 
heart of their holy pastor and gave him such power over the hearts 
of others. 

* The Prince de Conti was the second son of Prince Henri Bourbon-Conde^ 

/ ♦I 

1 ' ; J 



Life of M. Oli'er. 

We learn from M. Olicr himself the nature and the source of that 
marvellous influence which he exercised over all who approached 
him, especially in regard to the devotion with which he inspired 
tliem towards the Blessed Sacrament. Writing to his director, he 
says, *' Ever since our Lord vouchsafed tp give me a participation 
in His quality of victim, it is no longer I that live, but He llveth in 
me. Every day, after receiving communion, I become, as it were, 
sensible of His presence in my members. He informs me. He 
vivifies me, as though He were my soul and my life. He operates 
in respect to me, after a manner, what He operates in regard to His 
own Sacred Humanity ; at His bidding I move, and at His bidding 
I stay my steps. He opens my lips and closes them. He rules and 
directs my life; in a word, it is He who does all things in me. 
Des'ring that I should represent Him in His Adorable Sacrament, 
He is not content with thus entering into my heart and dwelling 
therein to perfect it, but by His dwelling in me He produces in 
souls the effects of divine communions, and infuses Himself into 
them in a sort of sacramental manner. Many of those who come 
to me are powerfully affected, and carry away with them a desire to 
live by His divine life. In fine, as faithful and holy souls come to 
derive their virtues and graces from out the Most Holy Sacrament, 
so in His goodness He is pleased to make me a sort of sensible 
presence of that Divine Mystery, and souls the most exalted feel 
themselves attracted towards me with a holy and religious fervour. 
It is Jesus Christ within me who works these effects, for, while 
speaking to them, I feel His virtue go out from me and pass into 
them, imparting to them of His lights and graces, as He does in the 
Holy Eucharist* 

"Thus, to give some examples, I was lately administering Extreme 
Unction to a young ecclesiastic of the house, M. de Villars, and, 
while I was addressing him in words which our Lord put into my 
mouth, he experienced this spiritual hunger of which I speak. M. 
Mol^, again, one of the chief magistrates of the Parliament of Paris, 
on occasion of my visiting him to request the verification of my 
letters patent, a matter in which I had encountered difficulties 
hitherto insuperable, felt his heart expand ere I had scarcely ad- 
dressed a word to him, and, throwing his arms round me, he said, 
in the joy which possessed him, * I felt a virtue go out from you 

* This effect, it is related, was experienced in a singular degree by Marie de 
Valence, the holy widow of whom mention has been made 

spiritual influences and attractions, 277" 

r, he 
th in 
, He 
;s and 
n me. 
aces in 
:lf into 
) come 
esire to 
;ome to 



;ed feel 


-, while 

lass into 

Is in the 

^rs, and, 
linto my 
ik. M. 
)f Paris, 
of my 
:ely ad- 
Ihe said, 
[om you 
Marie de 

which has gladdened and comforted my soul ; ' and, as he spoke, he 
was transported in God and filled with the unction of His Spirit.* 
On Septuagesima Sunday, when confe-^sing one of our community, I 
became sensible of a certain supernatural influence which, issuing 
from my breast, communicated itself to him. I remained some 
time without speaking, leaving its effects to flow into his soul, 
and he also continued silent during the whole time. On the feast 
of the Annunciation, M, de Bretonvilliers, on coming to confession 
to me, was similarly affected, and, not being accustomed to these 
divine experiences, he did not know what was happening to him. 
It seemed as though he was unable to leave me, and, in amazement, 

• This circumstance will be again alluded to in connection with the registra- 
tion of the letters patent. Readers of P. Bacci's Life of St. Philip Neri will not 
need to be reminded of the marvellous spiritual influences which were experienced 
by his penitents and others who conversed with him, and which seemed to emanate 
from his very person. This is not the place for entering on so wide a subject, 
but it may just be observed that, granting the reality of the extraordinary pheno- 
mena to which has been given the name of "mesmeric," and of which we hear 
so many astounding instances in the present day, it in no wise militates against 
the supernatural character of such influences and attractions as have been ascribed 
to canonised saints and other holy persons. There must be natural powers, or 
potentialities, however occult and undeveloped, which form what we may call tlie 
basis of extraordinary operations, whether on the part of God Himself or of His 
ministering spirits, or, again, by divi ".e permission, of the devil and his angels. 
The well-known work of Benedict XIV. on Beatification and Canonization — a 
portion of which has been translated into English at the instance of the late 
Father Faber, under the title of Heroic Virtue (Richardson, 1852) — supplies, at 
least, the principles on which such extraordinary phenomena, whether natural or 
preternatural, are reconcilable with the teaching and sanctions of Holy Church 
in respect to the marvellous facts recorded in the Lives of Saints and other great 
Servants of God. See, in particular, chap. x. vol. iii. entitled, Of Transport, 
Ecstasy, and Rapture. 

How little, again, do we really know of what we call the "forces of nature ;" 
while of their primary, operating causes we know nothing at all. As Mr. Lilly 
has well said in his instructive and highly suggestive work, Ancient Religion and 
Modern Thought, "The most accomplished master of natural science is as little 
competent to explain the physical attraction as he is to explain the spiritual. He 
cannot get behind the fact, and if you press him for the reason of it — if you ask 
him why the magnet draws iron — the only reason he has to give you is, • Because 
it does.' " Pp. 224, 225. Having quoted thus far, we may give the writer's con- 
clusion : "The phenomena which we call natural I view as alike the expression 
of the Divine Will : a will which acts, not ca; riciously nor, as the phrase is, 
arbitrarily, but by law. ... It is by virtue of this law that the sick are healed, 
whether by the prayer of faith or the prescription of the physician ; by the touch 
of a relic or by a shock from a galvanic battery ; that the saint draws souls and 
that the magnet draws iron." P. 228. 





Li/e of M. Olicr. 

he said, * I feel you verily in my soul.' Yesterday, being called to a 
dying person, and having to speak to him for four or five hours to- 
geth'-'- without ceasing, a benediction accompanied my words which 
astonished me. It was not I who acted ; these wonderful effects 
proceeded from the Most Holy Sacrament, the virtue of which 
is shed abroad in souls. On the feast day of the great St. Basil, 
being at Chelles, a celebrated abbey of the Benedictine Order, 
whither I had gone to visit the body of St. Bathilde, Queen of 
France, the Abbess, a lady of singular purity and profound 
humility, experienced this ineffable power of Jesus Christ, which, 
issuing from my soul, passed into hers. Filled at once with the 
Spirit of God, she felt herself constrained to summon her community 
to come and hear the word of God, which enlightened and inflamed 
her heart and the hearts of many who were with her. Then, casting 
herself upon her knees, she besought me to return, for that she had 
experienced in my person a most joyful perception of the presence 
of Jesus Christ." * 

Subsequently he speaks of the prominent part which he is called 
upon to bear in all the great enterprises of charity and piety which 
are being undertaken in Paris, and attributes the influence he is 
enabled ^o exercise and the success which attends his efforts to the 
power and beneficence of Jesus in the Sacrament of His Love, 
referring wholly to Him both the marvellous effects which are pro- 
duced and the veneration which he himself inspires. He does but 
figure and represent to men that load-star of all faithful souls. '* It 
is from no love of me," he writes, " that people manifest these senti- 
ments regarding me ; I have no more reason to glory therein than 
the sacred species, the tabernacle, or the ciborium would have if 
they could see the multitudes worshipping before them and the 
countless hearts enamoured of That which they inclose. It is from 

• The abbess here alluded to was Madeleine de la Porte de la Meilleraye, 
sister of the Marshal of that name. She came of a Calvinist family, but had the 
happiness of embracing the Catholic faith. Entering into religion, she was chosen 
by Louis XIII. to be abbess of Chelles in her thirty-third year ; on taking pos- 
session of her office, she presented herself in mean attire, closely veiled, and bear- 
ing a crucifix in her hands. Her administration was a source of benedictions to 
her community, and was distinguished by such an abundance of miracles, wrought 
through the relics of St. Bathilde, that the Archbishop of Paris gave permission 
for an annual commemoration of these marvels, on July 13th, in the abbey church. 
This, in all probability, was the occasion of M. Olier's visit to Chelles in 1646. 
Madeleine de la Porte died with the reputation of great sanctity, in 167 1, in the 
seventy-fifth year of her age. 

Priests living Tabernacles, 


no love of them or of their gold or silver that the faithful come 
before them, but from the love of Jesus who dwells in them. And so 
it is the love of Him whom I bear within me which attracts so many 
persons to me of every condition and state in life." 

The one special mission with which God had intrusted His servant 
was, as we have seen, the sanctification of the clergy : this was liis 
vocation ; and it will readily be perceived how powerfully the super- 
natural state the effects of which have been described conduced 
towards enabling him to fulfil it. " Priests can be holy " (says the 
Abbd Faillon), " and can duly discharge the functions of their sacred 
office, only by conforming their life to that of Jesus Christ abiding 
in the Blessed Sacrament; according to the exhortation which is 
addressed to them at their ordination : * Imitamini quod tractatis — 
Become like to that which you handle.'" Sharing so perfectly as he 
did the dispositions of the Divine Victim, and manifesting them ever 
after a sensible manner, this true pastor of souls had only to speak 
out of the fulness of his heart to communicate to others some mea- 
sure, at least, of those sentiments with which he was himself possessed. 
The sublime character of the priesthood was the constant subject 
of his instructions to the seminarists, and one to which he was ever 
recurring in his writings ; as appears in his Treatise on Holy Orders, 
and in the little work entitled, Fietas Seminarii Sancti Sulpitii. 

" Priests," he wrote, " are like living Tabernacles, wherein Jesus 
Christ dwells to sanctify His Church. For, to be truly priests, they 
ought to bear Jesus Christ within them, labouring with all their might 
to conform themselves to Him in this mystery, both as to their exte- 
rior and their interior. Exteriorly, they ought to be utterly dead 
to themselves, like the sacramental species, letting themselves be 
maltreated, and, if needs be, trodden under foot and pierced with 
knives, as Jesus Christ has been a thousand times in this Sacrament 
by heretics. Therein our Lord has no use of His senses, of His 
hands, His ears. His eyes ; and thus ought priests to abandon them- 
selves entirely to God, that He may make what use He pleases of 
their senses and of their whole selves. Interiorly, our Lord is in 
this Sacrament all transformed in God, all changed in God ; He is 
no longer subject to the assaults of infiirmity or corruption ; He is 
clothed with incorruptness, immortality, agility, subtilty. And herein 
priests ought to be like unto Him, called as they are to participate in 
this August Mystery ; their interior ought to be all divine, all trans- 
formed in the Divine perfections, however ordinary they may be in 



! s 


Life of M. Olier. 

their outward appearance, and dead to all things. The sacramental 
species, holy as they are by close ])roximity to the Son of God, are 
not in themselves sources of grace. Their inmost being has been 
changed, transformed, and transubstantiated in Jesus Christ ; and thus 
do priests sanctify the Church, not by their exterior, but by the inmost 
being of their souls transformed in Jesus Christ, who vivifies it. 

"The species of bread and wine in the Most Holy Sacrament 
have no reason to glorify themselves for the graces which they con- 
tain or for the good they operate in souls ; they are not the causes 
of them, being but a light and fragile bark which easily corrupts, 
although they have been brought into such close proximity to the 
Divinity. Thus also it is with tlie holiest souls : they are but the tegu- 
ment or rind which may soon be spoiled and become corrupt; and in 
like manner, as, when the species of bread and wine become corrupt, 
the Body and Blood of our Lord cease to be present, so, on the very 
instant of their becoming corrupt, the Holy Spirit would forsake 
these poor rotten vessels and leave them in their corruption." Then, 
in a spirit of self-abasement, he adds, "Alas! what a vocation is 
mine ; poor, blind sinner that I am, who would deserve to be cast 
into the fire, as a tree that bears no fruit ; wretch that I am, to be 
cumbering the ground in which God has planted me, and abusing 
His goods and His life ! Ah, Lord, grant that I may possess the 
qualities which Thou displayest in this August Sacrament and the 
dispositions with which Thy Heart is filled. Impart to me Thy 
divine love for the Church and for the souls which Thou confidest 
to me. In vain, Lord, should I be honoured with the office of 
representing Thee exteriorly on earth, if I were i.v>. clothed with the 
qualities necessary for communicating to souls the blessings which 
Thou bestowest upon them by Thy Spirit in the Most Holy 

This humble and fervent prayer was answered in a remarkable 
manner. In ten years the parish of St. Sulpice, which was as notable 
for its depravity as for its extent and importance, became an example 
and a source of edification to all France ; and M. Olier, despite the 
humiliations to which he had been subjected, acquired an influence, 
not only with the people generally, but with the members of the 
Court and with those who may properly be styled men of the world, 
which may truly be regarded as extraordinary and marvellous. Of 
this we shall see abundant proof in the succeeding chapter. 

.i'te. .;:.!,.. 

( 28l ) 




IN nothing were the fruits of his devotion to the Blessed Eucharist 
more strikingly manifested than in the facility with which M. 
Olier succeeded in forming a company of gentlemen united together 
for the twofold object of promoting their own sanctification and 
labouring for the conversion of those with whom they associated in 
the world. It was composed of about a hundred persons of high 
rank, most of whom had acquired considerable military distinction, 
and were still employed in the army or about the Court. Previously 
to enrolling themselves they went through all the exercises of a 
retreat, and bound themselves to make public disavowal, as far as 
discretion allowed, of the false maxims of the world, wiiile continuing 
outwardly to lead an ordinary life, free from any marks of singularity, 
and to fulfil all the obligations incidental to their position in society. 
One principal object at which they aimed was to abolish duelling, 
and to discountenance the practice of profane swearing, so common 
among men of their calling. They were distinguished by a particular 
devotion to the mystery of the Passion, by which name the Company 
was designated, as pledging them to be as ready to bear reproach, 
and even to imperil their lives in resisting sin, as men of the world 
are forward to shed their blood in the vindication of what they term 
their honour. They also engaged not to go to the army, or even on 
a journey into the country, without first imploring the assistance of 
the Blessed Virgin in her own church of Notre Dame, nor to omit 
offering her their thanksgivings on their return. 

Of these associates, one of the most celebrated was the young 
Baron de Renty,* who at P. de Condren's death had taken M. 

* A Life of this great exemplar of perfection in the world forms the fourth 
volume of the "Library of Religious Biography " edited by the present writer. 

f Ji 


Life of M, Oliir. 


Olier for his director. To a fearless, generous spirit, and a frank 
and manly bearing, he united, in an eminent degree, all the devotion 
and fervour of a sincere and humble Christian. He was one of 
those men of high principle, genuine piety, and mortified life whom 
Gcd seems to have raised up at this time to quicken the smouldering 
i;eal of His clergy ; and such was the respect and confidence he 
inspired that he discharged the office of spiritual director to many 
ecclesiastics as well as laymen. His personal sacrifices and exertions 
in behalf of the poor were heroic in their character, and there was 
scarcely an institution, whether of charity or of piety, in which he did 
not take an active part. 

Another of the associates was Antoine de Salignac, Marquis de la 
Motte-F^nelon,* who had gained himself a name by extraordinary 
feats of bravery. At the age of sixteen, on learning that his brother 
had been killed by a cannon-ball at the siege of Le Catelet, he went to 
request Louis XHI. to promote him to his company ; and, on tlic 
King's objecting to his youth, he replied, •' Sire, I shall have the more 
time to serve your Majesty." In him an intrepid and, indeed, head- 
strong courage was associated with a charity and a kindness of heart 
as chivalrous as it was religious ; in the midst of a hot engagement 
he would expose himself to a murderous fire in order to rescue his 
wounded soldiers, lifting them on his shoulders and bearing them 
to the trenches that they might receive the Last Sacraments. But 
all his fine qualities were tarnished by a passion for duelling, the 
practice of which he defended with an energy and a sophistry which 
it was alike difficult to combat. On his begging M. Olier to under- 
take the direction of his conscience, the servant of God replied, 
*' What can I do for a man who has not the resolution to renounce 
duelling?" "Why, what harm is there in it?" said the young 
soldier. " Can a gentleman put up with an in mlt without resenting 
ir, ? ' — " Well," answered M. Olier, " since you do not feel the evil 
oi the practice pray to God to enlighten you ; and promise me that, 
when you are convinced of the contrary, you will set your face 
against duelling and labour to convert duellists." The Marquis 
frankly pledged his word, and at the end ef his next campaign 
returned a different man, boldly determined to make a public 
protest against the unchristian practice. By M. Olier's advice he 
retired awhile from active service, refusing several important posts 
offered to him by the Queen Regent, and devoted himself to the 

Uncle of the illustrious Archbishop of Cambrai. 

A penitent malgri: lui. 


interests of his soul We. married Catherine cle Monbcron, daughter 
of the Comte dc Fontaine-Chalandrai, a lady rcmarlcable for her 
piety, who died at the age of twenty-seven in the odour of sanctity. 
Left thus a widower in his thirty-fourth year, the Marquis had 
thoughts of embracing the ecclesiastical state, but M. Olicr dissuaded 
him from his design, being convinced that he would do as much 
good by remaining in the world. For the servant of (Jod he ever 
manifested a tender and reverent aflfcction, and continued to the 
cay of his death a devoted friend of the Seminary of St. Sulpice. 

A third associate, equally celebrated for his personal courage, and, 
it must be added, his forwardness to display it in "single combat 
— for such was the title of honour bestowed on duelling — was 
Abraham (subsequently Mardchal) de Fabert. He had seen thirty- 
five years of military service, had been present at fifty-nine successful 
sieges, and had obtained universal renown by the prodigies of valour he 
had performed, when he yielded to the power of divine grace and 
became one of M. Olier's most energetic coadjutors. Nor must 
mention be omitted of M. du Four, — to whom allusion v/as made 
in a previous chapter, — who was employed by M. Olier in any afiFairs 
in which tact and discretion were particularly required. Such was 
his spirit of self-sacrifice that at times the servant of God was obliged 
to admonish him to have a due regard for his health. *' I am 
waiting for tidings of you," he writes, " before seeing M. Vincent (de 
Paul), and, not receiving any, I am afraid you are not well. I beg 
you will take care of yourself for God, and recruit your strength for 
His divine service. Our Lord has so much need of labourers that it 
is not right to disable them for reaping His harvest and rob Him of 
the servants He has engaged for Himself Live and die in the 
service of Jesus, and die so often to yourself that it may be a substi- 
tute for the sacrifice of your life, for thereby you will render equal 
honour to God. Constrain Him thus to prolong His victim's days. 
If you immolate yourself in spirit, if the sword with which you slay 
yourself be spiritual, it" love consume you to His glory, God will not 
be obliged to mortify you exteriorly.'' 

That ardent spirits such as these should range themselves under 
the direction of the pastor of St. Sulpice was a proof alike of his 
ascendancy of character and of their earnestness and devotion. An 
amusing anecdote is related which may serve to illustrate both ; we 
have it on the authority of one of the parties concerned. He was 
diiving one day to call on M. Olier when, on the Pont Neuf, he met 





Life of M, Olie--. 

a friend and invited him to join him. Aft<;r the other had taken his 
seat, and the carriage-door was closed, he told him, laughingly, he 
was taking him to that good priest whom he had once promised to 
go and see. His friend was loud in his remonstrances, and tried to 
open the door ; but he ordered the coachman to drive the faster, and 
defeated all his attempts at escape. Finding resistance useless, the 
other gradually submitted, and his captor succeeded in conducting 
him to M. Olier's room. The owner, however, was absent, being 
engaged in hearing the confession of an officer of distinction, who 
was a commandant of the Order of the Saint-Esprit, and they employed 
their time in turning over some of the pious books that lay on the 
table. When M. Oiler came in he imagined that the stranger, who 
received him with much respect, wished to go to confession, and 
accordingly, making a sign to him to lead the way, proceeded forth- 
with to his private oratory. On entering, he fell on his knees, and 
the young soldier, taken by surprise, followed his example. M. Olier 
then seated himself, and commenced reciting the usual form, perfectly 
unconscious of his visitor's embarrassment, who saw that he was 
expected to make his confession, whether he would or not. Retreat 
there was none, and, indeed, having gone so far, there seemed 
nothing for him but to go on ; so he began his confiteor, as if he had 
come for no other purpose in the world. His companion, mean- 
while, sat wondering with himself at the whole proceeding . why he 
was excluded from the interview, and why it lasted so long. At 
length the two reappeared, looking extremely well satisfied at the 
result of their conference, and the young men shortly after took their 
leave. When they were alone, the one began complaining to the 
other of not having been allowed to have a share in the conversation ; 
on which his friend informed him of all that had occurred, declaring 
that he had felt himself under the influence of an attraction which 
he was powerless to resist, and had never made a better confession. 
The narrator adds that he could not resist telling M. Ol'er shortly 
afterwards the truth of the matter, who was much amused at the 
blunder he had made ; and as for the penitent, he often recurred to 
his singular adventure and never ceased blessing God for the extra- 
ordinary grace with which he had been favoured. 

It was observed, indeed, that the servant of God had a peculiar 
gift for winning the confidence of military men, and exercising a 
salutary influence over them. At the meetings of the associates he 
spoke to them as a father might speak to his sons, answering their 

His spiritual writings. 


questions and solving their doubts, and encouraging them to practise 
the maxims of Christian perfection with a manly courage and zeal. 
One day that he was exhorting them to make God their end in 
everything, a gentleman present remarked on the extreme difficulty 
and, indeed, the virtual impossibility of adhering to this rule wiien 
mixing with those whose conversation and habits of life were merely 
worldly, even when they were not positively vicious. " This," replied 
M. Olier, "is the very reason why they who live in the world should 
be the more closely united to God, that they may remain uncon- 
taminateJ in the midst of sinners. Besides," he added, "it is not 
our bodily presence that makes us belong to ihe world, but an 
attachment and an affection for its miserable vanities ; let us never 
cease begging God to inspire us with a contempt for them." 

The piety enkindled among these gallant gentlemen was not slow 
in communicating itself to their subordinates, who, again, became 
apostles to the men under their command. Thus, in a certain 
regiment, the captain having been converted to ways of piety, it was 
not uncommon to see even the common soldiers engaged in reading 
such works as those of Louis of Granada or P. Saint-Jure, and taking 
their turns to adore before the Tabernacle. Nor was this fervour 
evanescent in its quality, for, fifteen years afterwards, M. de Lan- 
tages, having occasion to pass through a garrison town in which 
this regiment was quartered, had the consolation of observing that 
these pious practices were still faithfully observed. Among other 
striking examples, mention ought to be made of a certain seigneur 
who, from being a man of very worldly life, became a model of per- 
fection. So devoted was he to the practice of mental prayer that he 
would spend four or five hours daily on his knees in the church of 
ot Sulpice, Although he was not rich, hv never refused an aims to 
a poor man, and, while moving in the highest circles, persevered in 
the practice of the most rigorous mortification, wearing beneath his 
gay attire a shirt of hair and an iron girdle. 

To fix more deeply in the minds of his disciples those maxims of 
self-denial and interior crucifixion which he unceasingly inculcated, 
he published a Catechism of the Interior Life, especially for their 
instruction, wherein, adopting the form of question and answer, he 
insisted on the necessity of mortifying the old Adam and livmg the 
life of Jesus Christ, and showed in detail that prayer was the one 
great means both of acquiring solid piety and maintaining it; to 
which he added prescriptions for its exercise. He composed also 


Life of M. Olier, 



another little treatise entitled, An Introduction to the Christian Life 
and Virtues, which seems to have been particularly intended for the 
Company of the Passion and may be regarded as the complement 
of the former work. M. Olier thus took rank among the most 
enlightened and judicious masters of the spiritual life ; his writings 
were largely read, and were approved by persons of high authority, 
among others, by M. de Maupas, then Bishop of Le Puy, who did 
not scruple to declare, in the commendation which he affixed to one 
of his works, that it might be placed in the same category with those 
of k Kempis, Blosius, and St. Francis de Sales. 

The association of military men which M. Olier had formed was 
eminently successful in checking and bringing into obloquy the fright- 
ful mania for duelling which then prevailed. To what an excess this 
vicious passion was carried may be estimated by the fact (already 
stated) that in a single week no less than seventeen persons were 
killed in these miserable combats in the parish of St. Sulpice alone. 
The infatuation was not extinguished even by the near approach of 
death, as appears from the account which \1 Ferrier gives of 

what occurred in the case of M. de La Roque-Saint-Chamarant. He 
was a very brave man and proud of his courage ; a Christian, too, 
after a fashion ; but in this one particular so obstinate and so infatu- 
ated that, on M. du Ferrier endeavouring to make him promise never 
to take part in a duel again, he consented, but added the proviso 
that a friend whom he named did not ask him to act as his second. 
It was in vain to represent to him the insult he was offering to God 
by preferring to His laws the wishes of a friend, — a friend, too, by 
the way, who had himself unconditionally renounced the unlawful 
practice; on what he deemed a point of honour he was perfectly 
inflexible, and to perish in its vindication was to him the only death 
worthy of a gentleman. Soon after, he was seized uh a mortal 
illness. The priest who attended him hv-^aring hirr viing and 
groaning as he lay upon his bed, asked him the cause oi ' u oorrow, 
with the view of imparting religious consolation, and received this 
startling reply: "Alas! that La Roque-Saint-Chamarant, who has 
proved his courage on so many occasions, should die thus in his 
bed ; " and in these sentiments he expired. 

Hitherto, all means that had been tried to arrest this sanguinary 
frenzy had proved but of slight avail. The rigours of the law and 
the censures of the Church were alike disregarded. M. Olier had 
denounced from the pulpit the severest ecclesiastical penalties 

; I 

Declarations against duelling. 


against duellists and their abettors, and several persons who had 
perished in these detestable encounters had, by his orders, been 
deprived, as the canons directed, of Christian burial. On the loth 
of June, 1650, the Vicar-General of the Abbey of St. Garmain, in 
compliance with M. Olier's earnest request, forbade all the priests of 
the Faubourg to give absolution to duellists except in danger of 
death, and then only on their engaging, in the event of recovery, to 
abjure the practice. In ordinary cases they could be absolved only 
by applying to himself or to the Penitentiary of the Abbey ; and, in 
default of absolution, they could neither receive the Holy Eucharist 
nor be interred in consecrated ground The facility with which 
confessors had granted absolution contributed much to aggravate the 
evil, but M. Olier laid strict injunctions on the priests of the Com- 
munity to question their penitents directly on the subject, and to 
withhold absolution until they had promised never to fight a duel ; 
and this regulation was subsequently approved and confirmed by the 
assembled clergy of Paris. But, although these measures effected 
much, they were not sufficient to disabuse men's minds of the fatal 
maxims which had been so long accredited in society, and it was 
only by opposing the principle of Christian fidelity to that of worldly 
honour that M. Olier at length succeeded in giving an effectual blow 
to a vice which was, not only practised, but lauded, by the noblest 
and most chivalrous of the age. On Whitsunday, 165 1, the asso- 
ciates assembled in the chapel of the Seminary, and there, in the 
presence of a large concourse of distinguished witnesses, he received 
their public declaration and protest, which they afterwards several'y 
signed, that they would never either give or accept a challenge 
under any circumstances or on any pretext whatsoever. At the 
same time they engaged to give public expression to their abhorrence 
of the practice of duelling, as being wholly contrary to reason and 
to the laws and weal of the realm, and irreconcilable with Christian 
principle and practice ; without, however, renouncing their right to 
redress in all legitimate ways any wrongs that might be done them, 
so far as their rank and profession obliged, being ever ready to 
conciliate those who might sincerely believe that they had received 
some affront or injury at their hands, and careful to give cause of 
offence to none. 

Such a protestation, proceeding from men whose valour was as 
unimpeachable as their honour, excited the liveliest astonishment, 
and the Grand Conde, whose mind was filled with ideas of worldly 


Life of M. Olier. 


glory, could not help saying to the Marquis de Fdnelon that, if he 
had not been so assured of his courage, he should have been dis- 
mayed at seeing him "the first to break through such a wall of ice." 
But astonishment soon gave way to admiration. The Marquis 
refused a challenge, with a noble intrepidity which was applauded by 
the whole Court His example gradually wrought a change in the 
public mind, and emboldened many a man to despise a worldly 
prejudice to which he had long been held in bondage. M. Olier's 
declaration against duelling began to be formally approved in 
quarters apparently the least likely to be influenced by such means. 
The marshals of France issued a manifesto, calling upon the gentle- 
men of the realm to adopt the declaration in all its details, and the 
most illustrious persons in the kingdom hastened to give in their 
adhesion to it. Among these were the Prince de Conde and the 
Prince de Conti, the latter of whom took up the matter with his 
characteristic energy and induced the nobles of Languedoc to enter 
into a like engagement ; an example which was speedily followed in 
several other provinces, particularly in Le Querci through the zealous 
efforts of M. Alain de Solminihac. The States of Brittany declared, 
as did also those of Languedoc, that any gentlemen who should fight 
a duel had thereby forfeited their right to a seat in their assemblies. 
In fine, the King imposed the protestation of the Company on all 
the members of his court, and appointed the Marquis de Fdnelon to 
receive their signatures. On the 28th of August, 1651, the Bishops 
of France, in the General Assembly of the Clergy, gave their solemn 
sanction to the protestation, which was approved by the Doctors of the 
Sorbonne, who pronounced it to be '* a holy and magnanimous 
resolution,'' and called on all the nobles throughout the kingdom to 
adopt it, at the same time declaring that any who approached the 
tribunal of penance without giving an interior assent to the protesta- 
tion in question were incapable of receiving absolution or being 
admitted to the sacraments of the Church. 

But, warned by past experience of the inefficiency of all such 
measures, so long as the laws in force against duelling were partially 
administered, or were altogether evaded by pardons and private 
dispensations obtained from the Crown — a practice which had 
extensively prevailed, not only under preceding reigns, but during 
the regency of Anne of Austria — M. Olier laboured to procure a new 
and more stringent edict from the King. Louis XIV. was on the 
point of declaring his majority, and on the 7th of September, in this 

Heroism of the Marquis de F Sue ion. 289 

same year, the servant of God h:td the satisfaction of seeing him 
inaugurate his assumption of the reins of government by issuing an 
ordinance of the severer*^ i„.^ort against blasphemy and duelling, the 
two crying evils of the timo. The principal cLuses of the edict against 
duelling were formulated by the association of gentlemen already 
mentioned ; and, indeed, to them, and to M. Olier, under whose 
direction they acted, are due the honour and the merit of tliis most 
salutary measure. Therein Louis, after recapitulating the enactments 
against duelling, solemnly swore and engaged, on the faith and the 
word of a king, henceforward to exempt no person from capital punish- 
ment, for any cause or. consideration whatever, all remissions and 
abrogations by royal letters, close or patent, notwithstanding ; forbid- 
ding all lords and princes of the realm to intercede for such offenders, 
under pain of his personal displeasure, and protesting that no plea 
of connection with the princes of the blood, whether by marriage or 
consanguinity, should be permitted to avail against this his decree. 

The severity of this edict, and the impartiality with which it was 
carried into execution, drew down upon the Marquis de Fdnelon a 
storm of obloquy, the violence of which might have made a less 
heroic virtue quail. Every calumny v/hich malignity could devise 
was propagated against him, and his name became a very by-word 
of contempt in a world of which he had so lately been one of the 
brightest ornaments ; but he remembered the words which he had 
so often heard from the lips of M. Olier : " If God loves you. He 
will humble you ; and, in exalting the work. He will abase the work- 
man;" and, like a bold soldier of the Cross, he held on his way 
undaunted. This persecution continued until the campaign of 1667, 
in which, for the sake of watching over the conduct of his only son, 
who followed the profession of arms, he served as a simple volunteer. 
In this character, his military genius and capacity, no less than his 
gallantry and prowess, won for him such high consideration from the 
generals and the whole army, as well as from the King, that his 
revilers were at length silenced and their calumnies forgotten amid 
the universal admiration and applause. On peace being concluded, 
he conducted his son and four hundred other young gentlemen to 
assist the Venetians in the defence of Candia against the Turks. 
Louis, who guessed his motive, said to him, "Now, tell me the 
truth; you are undertaking this enterprise in order to withdraw your 
son from the temptations of the Court ? " " It is so. Sire," replied 
the Marquis; "and, when I think what those temptations ace, 


' a 


; i 


Life of M. Olier. 

Candia does not seem to me far enough." Every morning, before 
dawn, he prepared his companions for the struggle of the day by 
acts of devotion, and fought at their head in every sortie that was 
made. His son falling mortally wounded, he ordered him to be 
borne to his tent, himself continuing at his post ; and after the action 
he assisted at his death-bed and received his last sigh. When he 
was dying, the young rnan said to his father, " I confess that I felt 
an extreme repugnance to this expedition ; it took me away from the 
pleasures of Paris and of the Court; I did not see how it could 
further my fortunes ; I regarded it as an ill-judged enterprise, in 
which I was sacrificed to devotion; but what caused me greatest 
pain was a belief that I should never return. I had an abiding con- 
viction that I could not save my soul in the world, and that God 
would have me die in this expedition, in order to save me in spite of 
myself. Miserable wretch that I was, I dreaded so great a blessing; 
but now I know its value, and I thank God, and die content." 

M. Olier, however, did not confine his efforts to the suppression 
of the habitual practice of duelling among the nobles, but strove 
also to lead all in whom he discerned any encouraging dispositions 
to a consistent life of piety and virtue. To this end, he sought to 
draw them under the influence of his counsels, and was urgent in 
beseeching God to enlist them in His service. And God, writes M. 
de Bretonvilliers, was pleased, not only to bless the labours of His 
servant for the sanctification of these gentlemen, but, long after his 
decease, to perpetuate a like grace and power among his spiritual 
children. In one single year, more than a hundred persons of rank 
and distinction made a retreat at the Seminary, with the result that 
they seemed to be changed men, both by the course of life which 
they embraced and by the gentrous courage with which they broke 
through every trammel which might hinder them from giving them- 
selves wholly to God. A community also was formed of military 
men and others, who adopted a common rule of life ; and, although 
they were under the direction of a priest of St. Sulpice, they chose 
one of their own number to be their superior. On every Sunday 
and holiday they assisted devoutly at all the offices of the Church, 
but on other days they heard Mass in their own house, where they 
had a chapel dedicated to St. Maurice. Subsequently, when M. 
Languet completed the Church of St. Sulpice, they caused a chapel 
to be constructed therein which was also dedicated to the great 
soldier-martyr, and still continues to bear his name. Every day 

/ ' 

Reformatio7i of French society. 


they devoted three quarters of an hour to mental prayer, and recited 
the Little Office of Our Lady ; before dinner they made a particular 
exaiiien of conscience, and after dinner paid a visit of half an hour 
to the Blessed Sacrament in the parish church. At their repast 
some pious book was read, and after night-prayers they kept strict 
silence. During the day they visited the prisons and hospitals, and 
assisted the Curds of St. Sulpice in seeking out the bashful poor 
and informing themselves of their needs.* 

A holy emulation was thus excited which affected all classes, and 
before the end of the 17th century two other similar communities 
were established in the Faubourg St. Germain ; one of which, 
whose house was in the Rue de Vaugirard, had the celebrated Pfere 
Guillord for its confessor. The impulse thus given was so powerful 
in its effects that during the remainder of the century those who 
neglected the practices of religion were regarded as persons who 
not only failed in what was due to themselves, but brought 
discredit on their families. Thus, on hearing of the conversion of 
the Comte de Gramont, who had turned to God during a dangerous 
illness that witty sceptic, M. de Saint-Evremond, who was then 
living in England, wrote to his informant in terms which, despite 
their cynicism, are indicative of the change which had come over 
the face of French society. " Hitherto," he says, " I have been 
contented, like a dull ordinary mortal, with being an honest man, 
but now it is necessary to be something more, and I am only wait- 
ing for your example to turn devout. You live in a country where 
people enjoy wonderful advantages for saving their souls. Vice is 
scarcely less opposed to fashion than it is to virtue; to sin is to 
show you do not know how to behave yourself, and is as much 
an outrage on good breeding as on religion. Formerly, to be 
damned in France a man had only to be wicked, now he is vulgar 
to boot. Persons who pay but little regard to another life are led 
to save their souls by the duties and proprieties of the present." 
" Doubtless," adds M. Faillon, " if M. de Saint-Evremond had quitted 
the social atmosphere in which he lived and returned to France he 
would himself have been of the number." 

The subject, however, has carried us beyond the date at which 
we had in due course arrived, and we must here retrace our steps. 

* This community continued to exist, with certain modifications in its rules, till 
nearly the middle of the i8th century, when, owing to the diminution of piety which 
prevailed at that unhappy perio'^., it came to an end, in spite of the strenuous efforts 
which the Comte de Cherbourg, one of its oldest members, made to maintain it. 


( 292 ) 




AS yet only an incidental allusion has been made to the response 
which the women of the parish made to the appeals of their 
new pastor ; but it was both prompt and generous. In fact, as was 
to be expected, they took precedence of the men and set them the 
example, even as their children had gone before and drawn them- 
selves into the ways of piety. His first object was to disenchant them 
of their illusions and show them the utter vanity of all earthly things. 
*• If the whole world must pass away," he said in the ardour of his zeal, 
*' why waste your time so miserably upon it, and run after vanities 
which one day will be destroyed and brought to naught, and even now 
are nothing ? O world ! thy gold is only of the earth, and the eartli 
will be melted and consumed. Thy honours are only smoke, and will 
' ^nish away. Thy pleasures are corruption, and will perish ; and 
all that is in thee will pass away like a shadow. If the fire is to 
devour all this, with what are we vainly trifling ? Alas ! let us not 
allow ourselves to be brought into judgment, let us be the first to 
judge ourselves. If all is to decay, why should we esteem it so 

These truths so plainly spoken were instrumental in effecting 
numerous conversions, so that soon there might be seen among the 
ladies who had been most enslaved by the pleasures and frivolities 
of the world many a repentant Magdalen, who, with a holy audacity, 
cast aside the shackles of human respect and declared herself openly 
on the side of virtue and of God. But one of the obstacles most 
difficult to overcome was the pride which these ladies took in their 
mental accomplishments. During the Regency of Anne of Austria, 
women, as was natural, played a prominent part in the assemblies 
at Court, and their ambition was to distinguish themselves, not 

i f'-- 

,..vt.vv. .£)■--.%. 

( / 

Sermon on female self-display. 


so much by splendour of apparel and personal adornment, as by the 
fineness of their wit and the exquisite delicacy of their taste. This 
spirit of self-display was more opposed to a life of faith than even 
the grossest vanity or the worst of what are regarded as fiishionable 
vices. Not but what it showed itself also in a piece of absurd 
extravagance against which M. Olier inveighed with terrible severity. 
" I think sometimes," he said one day, " of those women who spend 
so much time in adjusting their beautiful hair. Were I to open their 
tomb three months after their decease, and take them by this same 
hair of theirs, on which they have expended so much care, their 
skull would come off together with their locks.* And then I should 
say to myself, 1 his is the head that was so full of vanity, this is the 
woman so proud and haughty, who, as Isaias described her, walked 
with head erect and a gait so dainty and so grand, t This is the 
imposture, the lying pretence, the vain and empty show, the cheat- 
ing falsehood, which deceived the world and deceived your own self. 
May be, that brain on which you prided yourself will be found half 
adhering to the skull : and this is what has become of all your 
boasted cleverness, that accursed instrument of vanity, which you 
employed to attract minds and hearts to yourself, turning them away 
and estranging them from God I O sacrilegious robbery, O insolent 
self-love, O incredible audacity, to dare to turn the creature away 
from its Maker, in order to attract it to yourself! O God, all created 
things ought to combine to promote 'I'hy glory, and yet, by the abuse 
which is made of them, they serve only to diminish it. Every one 
endeavours to become the centre of her surroundings, and that which 
was made only for Thee she appropriates to herself. O faces fraught 
with sorcery, O polluting beauties, O poison-breathing charms, you 
destroy those whom you ought to save ; instead of leading them to 
their Author, you keep them for yourselves, and, instead of adorers 
of the true God, you make them your idolaters ! " 

* Strange to say, a specimen of this elaborately constructed headgear is still 
extant ; and, stranger still, it is supplied by M. Oiler's sister, Marie. In the crypt 
of Notre Dame de Lorette at Issy may still be seen the mortal remains of this 
lady, now consisting only of bones and hair. This hair, remarkable for its state 
of perfect preservation, is plaited with an artistic symmetry of which at the 
present day we have scarcely an idea. It is divided into two long tresses 
descending to the feet, and to these are joined other shorter tresses, all which are 
interlaced with a precision and a regularity such as are only to be seen in the 
most delicately woven tissues, 
t Isaias iii. 16. 


Life of M. Oiit-r, 

Immodesty of dress was one of the crying evils of the day, and 
preachers and confessors had scarcely ventured to insist upon its sin- 
fulness on account of the high position of the ladies who were guilty 
of it, and who excused themselves on the plea that they were but 
conforming to the fashion of the time and to the social necessities of 
their rank and condition. The scandal was not confined to women 
of quality but extended to all classes, and M. Olier set himself to 
repair it with all the energies of his soul. Groaning in spirit over the 
outrages done to Christian modesty, he offered himself as a victim 
to appease the wrath of God, and punished himself by redoubled 
austerities for the sins of his people. At the same time he boldly 
denounced the practice from the pulpit, insisting on its criminality, 
and, in accents at once terrible and pathetic, bidding his hearers 
remember how xie who was Purity Itself and Very God of Very God 
had, in expiation of such offences, suffered the ignominy of being 
stripped of His garments and scourged at the pillar. 

With the same object he endeavoured also to instil into the hearts 
of his people a special devotion to their guardian-angels, who, he 
reminded them, were ever present at their side, and, being thus 
the witnesses of their immodesties,* were constrained to become the 
accusers before God of those whom they were commissioned to 
watch over and protect. Accordingly, he caused the feast of the 
angel-guardians, which he had himself for some time observed, to be' 
publicly celebrated at St. Sulpice with more than ordinary solemnity, 
the first such occasion being Tuesday, the ist of October,t 1647. 

In his sermons he would speak of any acts of irreverence which 
came under his cognisance, and would himself move through the 
congregation to see that proper decorum was observed. Ladies of 
quality at that day — as at this — had an absurd custom of wearing 
long trains, and they appeared with them at church. M. Olier set 
himself against the abuse with so resolute a zeal that he succeeded 
in entirely abolishing it. He directed his priests to refuse com- 
munion to any who came unbecomingly attired ; and, observing one 
day a fine lady approaching to make her offering of blessed bread 
(as was usual on great festivals) immodestly dressed, and attended 

* Comp. I Cor. xi. 10. 

+ The feast of the guardian-angels was not of obligation previously to the 
decree of Clement X., who ordered it to be kept on October 2nd. In M. Oiler's 
time it was observed, as an act of voluntary devotion, on the first free day after 
September 29th, which in the parish of St. Sulpice was usually October ist. 

A viiraculous return to life. 


by a footman, he rebuked her before all the people, and refused to 
accept her offering or allow her to approach the sanctuary. Unless, 
however, it was a case of open scandal he was careful to make his 
corrections in private, and neve; unnecessarily drew attention to the 
ofTenders. Sometiries his rejjroof was conveyed in the shape of a 
delicate hint. Perceiving one day, at a conference he was giving to 
the members of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, one of 
the Queen's maids of honour whose dress ill accorded with strict 
rules of propriety, he quietly sent her a pin, with a request that she 
would use it to fasten the scarf sho had on her neck. The young 
lady received the admonition in the spirit in which it was given, and 
complied with a simplicity no less edifying than was the zeal of Iiei" 
pastor. M. Olier had the more reason £0 administer a rebuke o\ 
this occasion as the Queen had given exprtcs fUrctions that ladios 
who attended receptions at Court should appear in i'igh dres«ies; 
and accordingly he felt that the lady in question was gui .ty of an act 
of indecorum in the House of God which she wouid not 
ventured upon in the presence of her royal mistress. 

God, it would seem, in order to inspire the faithful with a deeper 
veneration for His servant, and thus to render him more powerful 
for good, was pleased at times to bless his ministrations with extra- 
ordinary graces, which bore all the appearance of being miraculous, 
•as the following incident will show. He was called one day to 
comfort an afflicted mother, whose daughter had just died. After 
suggesting some topics of consolation, he went to see the girl, whom 
he found lying on a bed without any signs of life. For awhile he 
stood motionless, with his eyes fixed upon her, powerless to speak 
or to stir. All this time, he says, he felt a virtue go out from him 
and diffuse itself over the corpse-like form ; and then he heard these 
words thrice uttered : " // is life" " I knew not," he writes, " what 
this influence was, unless it proceeded from Jesus Christ dwelling in 
me ; it came purely from Him, and I had no more part in it than 
have the sacred species in the operations of Jesus Christ residing 
within them. After this, the girl recovered her health, and has been 
well ever since, thanks be to God ! The matter was not made 
known, but the parents declare that it was the prayers of this sinner 
which restored her to life." Far, however, from making the circum- 
stance a subject of self-complacency, M. Olier did but regard it as 
an additional motive for confessing his own misery and nothingness. 
"It makes me see," he says, "what little share the ministers of 



Life of M. Olier. 

Christ have in the operations of His goodness and power. He 
effects the holiest results by means of men who in themselves arc- 
often most imperfect and impure, and waits not for their aid or even 
their desire. It is like what happened to the Humanity of our Lord 
in the case of the woman whom He healed of an issue of blood. 
His Humanitv felt the Divine Person of the Word operating throi'^h 
It and communicating His virtue to that sufferer. God, by a move- 
ment which had its source in Himself, was pleased to produce this 
operation in the Humanity of His Son, although that Humanity had 
not interiorly solicited it. Thus we see, by a sort of analogy, how 
He works in His Church through His ministers and yet without 

One of the most remarkable among M. Olier's spiritual daughters 
was Mme. de Rantzau, wife of the celebrated marshal of that name. 
Both were natives of Holstein, and had been Lutherans in religion. 
She was a very active partisan of her sect, and her husband, looking 
upon her as a mere child, for she was then only in her nineteenth 
year, amused himself by pressing her with Catholic arguments, which 
she in her turn was most earnest in refuting. At length she began 
to feel the real force of what he ■ \ but for two years she combated 
her doubts, until she was led nsult the Curd of St. Germain- 

I'Auxerrois, when, after a fortnight's prayer and fasting, she obtained 
the light she needed, and was received into the bosom of the Church. 
Her husband at the time was absent with the army, and on his 
return laboured to reason her out of her childish folly, for such he 
deemed it. Soon, however, discovering that she had acted, not from 
ignorance, but from real and deep conviction, he bade her live as a 
true and sincere Catholic, for that he was satisfied of her prudence 
and good faith. Mme. de Rantzau redoubled her prayers and her 
penances for her husband's conversion, and at length had the happi- 
ness of seeing the desire of her heart fulfilled. At the siege of Bour- 
bourg he fell, as he supposed, mortally wounded, and immediately 
sent for a priest, and begged to be reconciled to the Church. He 
recovered, however, from his wound, and made open profession of 
the faith until the day of his death. Upon her conversion Mme. de 
Rantzau had applied for spiritual guidance to M. Olier, who placed 
her under the care of an experienced director. This ecclesiastic was 
in the habit of hearing her confession in one of the side chapels, 
but, finding him one day seated in a more public part of the church, 
she sent her page with a request that he would come to her at the 

Piefy of the Duchcssc d'Ais^uillon, 


usual place. He replied that, if she wished to make lier confession, 
she must come to him. This accordingly she did, and, with the help 
of her servant, passed before the other penitents, and stationed her- 
self close to the confessional. When she had finished her confession, 
the priest rebuked her for her arrogance in taking precedence of 
those who were patiently awaiting their turn, and bade her observe 
more humility for the future. She went away in tears, but, far from 
taking offence at the correction she had received, she made a prac- 
tice ever after of moving along upon her knees behind the others 
and, although she had a cushion with her on which she appeared to 
rest, she scrupulously abstained from using it, and knelt upon the 
ground. She made an hour's mental prayer every day, and by the 
advice of her director never mixed in any of the gay society of the 
capital, except at her husband's express desire, but devoted herself 
to the instruction of her servants, the greater part of whom were 
Lutherans ; and with such success, that in less than two years sixty * 
of them had abjured their errors. She was, indeed, endued with a 
peculiar grace for the conversion of Protestants, and, with the assist- 
ance of Mm de Treuille, the wife of a captain of musketeers, and 
Mme. de la Rochejacquelein, was instrumental in bringing great 
numbers to the faith. At her husba*^ d's death she entered a house 
of the Annonciades Celestes,! being attracted to it by the strictness 
of the enclosure ; but by a special dispensation of the Pope, who was 
unwilling that the gift she possessed should remain hidden and 
unemployed, she was allowed to converse with any German Protes- 
tants who desired to see her. After spending ten years in the house 
at Paris she founded a convent of her Order at Hildesheim, where 
she died, in the strict observance of her rule, at the age of eighty. 

Of the Duchesse d'Aiguillon mention has been already made, and 
indeed her virtues and her charities are too well known to need 
description. M. du Ferrier, however, relates a little incident which, 
better perhaps than any elaborate eulogy, will give a true idea of her 

* It was the custom at that day for persons of rank to retain a large number of 
servants. It is related of Mme. de la Plesse, widow of the Marquis de Laval, 
that she had as many as a hundred attendants, and that she allowed none of them 
to be idle, employing nearly all in her extensive works of charity. 

+ There were several Orders designated by the name of Annonciades, all estab- 
lished in honour of the mystery of the Annunciation, or the Incarnation. The 
third, that of the Annonciades Celestes, or Filles Bleues, was founded by a pious 
widow of Genoa, named Maria- Vittoria Fornaro, who died in 1617. It was an 
Order of great austerity, and the nuns were strictly enclosed. 

' I 




Life of M. Olier. 

fervent piety. " One night," he writes, " I went into the church of 
St. Sulpice, after taking my repast at half-past eleven o'clock, as was 
my custom. I was kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, when I 
heard the door of the church open ; but I took no notice, knowing 
that in so large a parish it was often nercnsary to administer the 
sacraments to the sick at night. Soon afterwards some one came 
and knelt down very gently behind me. When I had finished my 
prayers, I rose from my knees, and found ihat it was the Duchcsse 
d'Aiguillon, all alone. I expressed my surprise at seeing her the.e at 
such an hour, for it was no\<i^ one o'clock, and asked her the reason. 
She told me that she had been engaged all day, and that, being on 
her way back from the Palais Royal (where the Court then was), she 
wished to make her prayer, not having found time for it during the 
day ; and that, as she would be more retired and collected in the 
church than at home, she had begged the ringer to open the door 
for her. I admired her piety, and withdrew, leaving her at her 
devotions." VVe might search in vain for an incident like this among 
all the numerous memoirs from which modern readers take their only 
idea of the Paris of that day ; yet wnat a glimpse does it give us into 
the interior of that hidden world of sanctity which underlay the gay 
and vicious surface of Parisian society ! 

M. Olier never ceased to combat with all his strength a maxim 
then, as now, very prevalent even among professedly religious people, 
that a life of perfection is only for priests, or such as are bound by 
vows. He regarded it as one of the most cunning devices of the 
devil to ensnare and destroy men's souls, and we have seen how he 
strove to defeat his malice by the numerous confraternities and 
associations which he established for persons living in the world. 
He possessed, however, a wonderful power of discrimination in the 
matter of vocations ; and, as he judged that one person ought to 
marry, and another to enter religion, so he would counsel a third to 
lead a life of celibacy in the world. One instance of the last kind 
caused a great sensation at the time. The Marquis de Portes, 
maternal uncle of the Due de Montmorency who \'as beheaded in 
the reign of Louis XIII., died, leaving an only daughter, Mar.'e-Fdlice 
de Budos. When she was but ten years of age she made a vow of 
perpetual virginity j and her mother, who had taken as her second 
husband the Due de Saint-Simon, when she learned the fact, wished 
to make her go into a convent, in the hope that she would leave to 
her the disposition of her property. Finding, however, that she was 


His respect for the great. 


determined to continue in the world, and devote herself to the 
service of the poor, she treated the matter as a mere girlish fanc) , 
and, on her daughter attaining her sixteenth year, endeavoured, with 
the aid of certain doctors of theology, whom she called together for 
the purpose, to induce her to look upon her vow as null and void. 
The Marquise de Fortes, however, remained firm in her resolution, 
and her mother thought to bring her to submission by keeping her 
strictly confined to the house. The Duchesse de Montmorency, 
Marie-Felice des Ursins, who had retired to the Convent of the 
"Visitation at Moulins, feeling herself bound in her quality of cousin 
as well as of godmother to protect her young relative against so 
unjust a persecution, entreated M. Olier to lend his assistance. He 
succeeded in communicating by letter with Mile, de Fortes, in spite 
of the vigilance with which she was guarded, and recommended to 
her the course she should pursue. She followed his advice, and 
the result was a decisive victory. Her mother called in the aid of 
another conclave of doctors, but scarcely had they taken their seats, 
and begun gravely to discuss the question whether a vow taken at so 
early an age was not void in itself, from default of a sufficient inten- 
tion, when Mile, de Fortes, throwing herself on her knees before 
them all, uttered these words with a loud voice : " O my God, if the 
vow which I made be not binding on me by reason of the tender age 
at which I made it, I renew it this day for my whole life." An act 
so unexpected broke up the conference, and the doctors at once 
retired, declaring there was no longer any room for doubt. The 
Duchesse de Saint-Simon now protested that she would never see her 
daughter again, and Mile, de Fortes accordingly repaired to the 
Convent of the Visitation. Ferceiving, however, that she had no 
vocation for a religious life, but that God had inspired her from her 
earliest years with a desire to consecrate herself to His service in the 
relief of the poor and the conversion of heretics, M. Olier decided 
that she ought to follow the attractions of Divine grace, and remain 
in the world. She therefore quitted Moulins, and went to labour in 
the C^vennes, where her estates lay ; there she also founded a Con- 
vent of the Visitation, to which she was in the habit of retiring 
whenever she needed a calm retreat from the harassing toils to which 
she had devoted her life. She died in 1702. 

Never did man show a more sincere respect for the great than did 
M. Olier, and never was man more zealous that the great should 
show honour to God. In all the ceremonies of the Church, such 

! > li 


Life of M. Olier. 


as the adoration of the Cross, the distribution of blessed candles or 
palms, he made it a rule that the rlergy should take precedence of 
the laity, however exalted their rank, even though they were princes 
of the blood. This rule was cheerfully accepted by all, and by none 
more readily than by the highest in station. Thus, one day that the 
Due d'Orl^ans was assisting at Vespers, M. Olier, for some reason 
or other, omitted to incense him with the thurible, as was cus- 
tomary. But, anxious to repair the neglect, he went to the house 
of the Duke for the purpose of tendering his apologies. Scarcely, 
however, had he opened his lips when the Duke, with an expression 
of the utmost deference, said, " From you, Monsieur, no apology 
is ever needed;" and he ordered a sum of money to be given to 
him for the relief of the poor. Hereafter we shall see all that the 
servant of God did to obtain the conversion of this powerful noble- 
man and the success which attended his efforts. 

It will be remembered that among M. Olier's opponents none 
had been more active than the Prince Henri de Cond^. The only 
effect which this injurious conduct had upon the servant of God 
was to make him pray, and urge the Princess to pray, all the more 
fervently for his conversion. These prayers were heard; for, on 
being attacked by the illness of which he died, the Prince sent for 
M. Olier and testified to him in the most earnest manner his sorrow 
for all the disorders of his life and, among them, for the hostility he 
had manifested towards himself on his taking charge of the parish ; 
a course which he declared he had long deeply regretted. The 
signs of penitence which he displayed were so indubitable that no 
one could question the sincerity of his conversion. The Prince at 
the same time expressed his contrition for the part he had played 
in the preceding reign, when he leagued himself with the Huguenots 
and took up arms against his sovereign. Moreover, with a prescient 
eye to what was soon to happen, lie commissioned M. Olier and 
others, including the Apostolic Nuncio, M. Bagui, and M. de Pons 
de la Grange, Cur^ of St. Jacques du Haut Pas, to warn the Queen 
Regent against the new sect, then beginning to form itself at Port 
Royal, which, unless it were strenously opposed and repressed, would 
one day endanger the security of the throne. The Prince died on 
the 26th of December, 1646. 

Among the letters of M. Olier which have been preserved are 
many addressed to ladies of the highest rank ; and, as an illustration 
oi the sentiments with which he sought to inspire them, we will here 

1 1 

Right use of worldly grandeur. 


quote some of the instructions he gave to the Princesse de Conde, 
who was one of his penitents. In the first letter, which was written 
at her desire, immediately after her husband's death, he prescribes 
the spirit with which she ought to spend her time of mourning, and 
conform herself to the ceremonial which Court etiquette imposed 
upon her. " You have survived," he wrote, " him who was the half 
of yourself, and whose sins ought therefore to affect you like your 
own, seeing you were one with him through the holy state of matri- 
mony. Moreover, the wives of princes are confined for forty days 
to their chamber, where no light is allowed to enter save that of 
torches ; the object of which is to show the closeness of the union 
subsisting between the dead husband and the living wife, who, 
enclosed, as it were, in the same tomb with liim, sighs and weeps 
in the place of him who can no longer lament for his sins. For the 
design of God in this matter of mourning, which from the church 
passes into the houses of the faithful, is to oblige Christians to 
practise penance. Hence, Madame, those trappings of woe in which 
you are enveloped and which are spread around you, are to teach 
you that you ought to weep for the disorders of those who have 
gone before you, and who, having been powerful in the world, have 
left behind them long trains of afflictions and great obligations to 
do penance." 

The Princess also begged M. Olier to draw up a rule of life for 
her, and he sent her a sort of familiar treatise on the right use to be 
made of worldly grandeur. "In creating man," he said, "God 
designed to represent in him an image of His own greatness ; and, 
after man fell from his high estate by sin, God still preserved a 
vestige of his original splendour in the persons of the great. Jesus 
Christ, who came to restore all things, sanctified both conditions : 
that of lowliness, which is common to the lai r portion of men, by 
His own life of poverty and suffering, and that of greatness by His 
life of glory, inasmuch as since His Resurrection He is the King of 
the princes and lords of earth. I am not of the opinion of those 
who, mistaking the meaning of our Lord's words, affirm that the 
condition of the great is an abomination before God. True it is 
that the abuse of a state so august and sacred becomes an abomina- 
tion in the sight of God when men presume to appropriate to them- 
selves the honour and glory with which they are surrounded, and 
would make themselves pass for gods on the earth. But, looking 
at greatness in itself, and, above all, as it has been repaired in 

1 ■ 

4 s 




\ I 




Life of M. Olier. 

Jesus Christ, T find nothing more beautiful, more lovely, or more 
holy ; for, if Christians ought to behold in the great the glory and 
the royalty of Jesus Christ, and to honour Him in their persons, so 
the great ought to be clothed with holiness, benignity, mercifulness, 
and all the perfections of God, whose majesty they represent by 
their state. Remember then, Madame, that you are upon earth a 
sharer in the Divinity, who is pleased to reside in you, not only to 
manifest His majesty before the eyes of men, but to receive their 
homage and load them with His benefits. I beseech you, th:?refore, 
to receive nothing save in the name of God, and for God, whose 
representative you are ; and to take care that all the respect that is 
paid you stop not at yourself, but pass on to Him. Do the same 
also when you give. Do not desire that men should have regard 
to you, but that God alone be acknowledged as the source of your 

"When you see yourself surrounded by your Court, remember 
that in this you ought to be the image of God surrounded by His 
angels and His saints. Say often to God, *It is for Thee, O Lord, 
and for what I have received from Thee, that this assemblage pays 
me honour ; and, as I cannot take aught thereof to myself without 
robbery, let this whole court render homage to Thy greatness, and 
Thy poor creature be annihilated before Thee.' Your retinue 
ought to be to you the image of the majesty of the glory of God. 
You must desire it in God and for God, and not in yourself and for 
vanity. If you pay a visit to the King or Queen, do so with the 
intention of the Principalities of Heaven, who render the homage 
of their greatness to the majesty of God and acknowledge Him as 
their sovereign. If you visit a person of rank inferior to your own, 
honour in him a participation of the greatness of God, who desires 
to be honoured in him ; and, when you visit those who are of still 
lower degree, go with the disposition of God Himself visitin*?; His 
lowly ones, condescending with kindness, sweetness, and charity, in 
order to assist and console them and do them a service. At the 
same time receive on God's behalf the honour they show you, so 
that, referring to Him what they may not think of giving Him, you 
may do your own duty and theirs together." 

His addresses to the rich and great were severe and uncompro- 
mising in their character, but tempered always with the purest 
Christian principles. To cure them of their pride and teach them a 
lesson of self-abasement, he showed them how their very grandeur 


Admonitions to seigneurs. 


ought to be a subject of humiliation to them, seeing how dependent 
they were for their comfort and well-being on a multitude of others 
who ministered to their necessities and without whose assistance 
their life would be miserable ; how the higher and grander they were 
the more numerous were their wants and the more absolute their 
dependency : in short, what helpless creatures they were, as com- 
pared with the poor and lowly, who move about so freely without 
carriages and horses and troops of servants in attendance, and, what 
is more, do not feel the need of them. " O great one of this world, 
so miserable in thy grandeur," he exclaimed, "in what dost thou 
glory? What hast thou to be proud of? Consider what thou art in 
the body ; consider on how many things thou dependest in order to 
be perfectly satisfied and contented. When anything occurs to 
annoy thee, as happens every day, humble thyself, and say, ' God 
has subjected me to this shameful dependency to make me know 
what I am and what I should be if left to myself.* Trouble not thy- 
self thereat, if thou be a Christian, but say within thyself, * I am a 
sinner, and I deserve to lose every comfort I enjoy. Ah, well, it is 
one of my limbs which is paralysed and does not perform its func- 
tions. I will not amputate it, I will have pity on it, I will try to 
heal and to strengthen it, as a thing of my own, a part of myself.' 

•* If this great lord sometimes finds that something is wanting to 
his delicate cravings, in eating, drinking, sleeping, and the like, let 
him humble himself at seeing how dependent he is for his content- 
ment on so many miserable trifles. O fragile peace, which can be 
disturbed by such paltry matters ! O wretched felicity, which can be 
so easily troubled ; felicity which is never solid and entire, because 
it needs the concurrence of so many creatures; creatures, too, so 
weak, so imperfect, so full of defects I Glorietur dives in humilitate 

" my Lord Jesus, in Thy spirit of sanctity, Thou didst not will to 
be dependent on many things ; Thou wast pleased to be Thine own 
servant, and to dispense with the aid of many creatures. In this 
Thou wast poor in the eyes of the world, but, in its blindness, it did 
not see that this very thing was a sign of Thy wealth and Thy 

Neither did the servant of God neglect to instruct the seigneurs of 
his parish in their duties towards those who tilled or farmed the 
lands on their domains. He warned them that, as lords of the soil, 

• " Let the rich man gloiy in his being low." St. James i. 9, 10. 



LiJaofM. Olier. 



they were under strict obligation to see that the peasants on their 
estates received a competent remuneration for their labours, and that 
the occupiers enjoyed an equitable share in the profits of their farms ; 
and further, he insisted that they were bound to supply the religious 
necessities of their people, attend personally to their spiritual welfare, 
set them a good example in their own practice, and be at pains to 
ascertain that they were well instructed in all that was essential to 
their salvation. 

Touched by these exhortations, some ladies of the Faubourg, 
knowing how difficult Mme. de Villeneuve had found it to provide 
subsistence for her school-teachers of the Congregation of the Cross, 
engaged to assist her in sending them on a kind of mission among 
the women and girls of their domains, with the object of instructing 
them in the truths of religion, teaching them how to make a good 
confession, and, generally, how to sanctify their lives by the observ- 
ance of all the rules of piety and virtue. Other ladies, again, like 
the Duchesse d'Aiguillon, charged themselves with the expense of 
employing bands of missionary priests to evangelize the parishes 
dependent upon them. 

In the Life of M. de Renty are given ample details respecting his 
efforts in providing and promoting missions among the people in his 
domains ; here it will be sufficient to cite a portion of a letter which 
he addressed to M. Olier while the celebrated Pfere Eudes was 
preaching in his seigneurie of Citry. It is dated June i6th, 1642. 
" The Reverend Pfere Eudes," he writes, " is labouring here with a 
benediction which passes belief. His wonderful gift of expounding the 
truths of salvation, and manifesting the love of God for us in Christ 
Jesus and the terrible nature of sin, has stirred men's hearts so pro- 
foundly that the confessors are overwhelmed with their labours. 
Sinners ask for penance with tears, they make restitution, they are 
reconciled to theli enemies, and loudly protest that they would 
rather die than sin. His sermons are thunder-claps, which allow 
consciences no rest until they have divulged their most secret sins ; 
so that the confessors are employed rather in consoling than exciting 
to repentance. At the first sermon on the opening day of the mission, 
which was Whitsunday, one of the hearers on leaving the church 
scoffed at the preaching, and turned the mission into ridicule in order 
to keep others away, but during the night he found himself so power- 
fully moved and so completely changed that m the morning he came 
to one of the missioners, declared his desire to amend his life, and 

■■i ^i,^-4i\'Al!■:■J^ .--i'L fJtt-f^'i:!^ ". 


Commitniiy of Magnac. 


thereupon went to confession. A man of Ch^teau-Tliierri, a town 
twelve miles off, said yesterday that a person who was leading a bad 
life returned from Citry determined to break off an immoral con- 
nection he had formed and openly to manifest his repentance and 
conversion. In short, the hearts of tlie people are softened and 
deeply affected with the knowledge of their God and Saviour and of 
what He would have them to do. They readily engage to continue 
the devotions and other Christian exercises which have been taught 
them. Besides these general results, such as leaving off cursing and 
swearing and practising prayer both in public and with their families, 
I might tell you many noteworthy particulars. I have written this 
simply that you may bless our Lord for having at length vouchsafed, 
by means of this mission, to vanquish the demon, defeat all his 
efforts, and destroy the mighty empire which he possessed in these 
parts." We, in our turn, have cited this letter in order to show the 
powerful engines which M. Olier had set to work in the persons of 
the energetic men whom his zeal had enlisted in the service of God. 
.The Marquis de F^nelon, to whom no higher meed of praise could 
be rendered than by saying that he was a worthy rival of M. de 
Renty in his works of charity and mercy, determined to establish a 
community of missioners in his seigneiirie of Magnac, a little village 
of La Marche, in the diocese of Limoges, whose business it should be 
to labour for the spiritual good of the inhabitants. M. Olier warmly 
encouraged the undertaking, and commissioned some of his ecclesi- 
astics to assist at its commencement, removing them for the purpose 
from Clermont-Lodfeve, to which place they had been sent some 
years previously at the request of the Bishop, M. Plantavit de la 
Pause. In his letter to M. Couderc, their superior, he says, " Let 
us abandon ourselves to God's appointments ; let us adore His divine 
providence and His holy dispensations ; let us not think of ourselves, 
nor of the plans of our own devising. Let us give ourselves without 
reserve to the Holy Spirit, who conducted the Apostles by His 
wisdom and not by their own. ' Ubi erat impetus Spiritus, illuc 
gradiebantur ; nee revcrtebantur aim incederent.' * The establishment 
of a community at Magnac will be of very great advantage to that vast 
and important diocese. We must follow the spirit of Jesus Christ 
our Lord and His conduct in regard to His disciples, whom He sent 
from place to place to produce fruits whose virtue should be diffused 

* "Whither the impulse of the Spirit was to go, thither they went ; and they 
turned not when they went." Ezech. i. 12. 


H! ! 


Life of M. Olier. 

and maintained in the souls of n)en : In hoc vocati fsiis, ut fructum 
afferatis, etfructus vester maneaf." * So unsparing was the zeal with 
which the missioners devoted themselves to the work that M. Olier, 
on receiving a report of their labours, wrote to M. Couderc and 
begged him to moderate his ardour, and that of his brethren, lest 
their health should suffer. He advised him to give them a spiritual 
retreat, in order at once to renovate their interior and obtain the 
refreshment which they so imperatively needed. The devil (he wrote) 
would desire nothing better than to see the young associates enfeeble 
their powers by over-exertion : it is a temptation (he added) to which 
the young are especially subject. After a while the Sulpicians with- 
drew, and the work was transferred to other labourers. The Marquis 
endowed the community with adequate funds for its subsistence, and 
it became, in fact, the Petit S^minaire of Magnac. In 1679 it was 
united to the Sulpician Seminary of Limoges, which subsisted down 
to the Revolution. 

* "To this have you been called, that you should bring forth fruit, and that 
your fruit should remain." Comp. St. John xv. 16. 

( 307 ) 



W"^ are now approaching a subject which is of special interest 
to English Catholics, and respecting which the Abbd Faillon 
furnishes details which, so far as we are aware, were previously un- 
known. We allude to the relations into which M. Olier was brought 
with one for whom, with all his faults and vices, we cannot but feel 
a profound compassion, our own King Charles II. The religious 
state of England had long been the subject of M. Olier's most 
earnest solicitude. We learn from his Mkmoires that as far back as 
1642, when he was laying the foundations of his society at Vaugirard, 
he had been moved to offer himself to God as a victim for the 
salvation of our country. This took place after recitation of the 
Divine Office on the 12 th of March, the feast of St. Gregory the 
Great, and he had begged his associates to make their communion 
on thnt day instead of Thursday, as was their habit, and to pray for 
the conversion of England, where, a: he told them, he had heard 
within the last few days that several priests and others had just 
suffered martyrdom. From that time he had never ceased implor- 
ing the mercy of God for "this our miserable country," not only 
with fervent supplications, but with bodily mortifications of the most 
rigorous kind. The desire of his heart, as M. de BretonviUiers 
testifies, would have been to join the heroic band of priests who 
were labouring for the restoration of England to Catholic unity, 
if the Will of God had so permitted, although he knew that he 
would thereby be exposing himself to the peril of a most frightful 
and ignominious death; and, indeed, we find him saying in one 
of his letters, " If I dared to aspire after something of that solid 
glory which is found in the service of our Divine Master by giving 
one's life and shedding one's blood for Him, I should look to 
England as the- prime object of my hopes."* No sooner, therefore, 

• Lettres SpirituelUs, Ivi. 


Life of M. Olicr. 

did he learn that the royal exile had taken up his abode in Paris 
than he sought an opportunity of holding personal communication 
with him. For this opportunity, it would appear, he was indebted 
to the Abbd d'Aubigny, whose own history is sufficiently remarkable 
to deserve particular mention in these pages. 

Louis Stuart had inherited, in right of his father, Edmund Duke of 
Lennox, the domain of Aubigny in Berry, which in 1422 had been 
conferred by Charles VIL on Jolin Stuart and his descendants in 
recompense for services rendered to the Crown of France. When 
still but five years of age, he had been taken to that country, and 
put to school at Port-Royal with nineteen other children of noble 
birth. He had consequently the happiness of being brought up in 
the true faith, and at an early cge, having an attraction to the service 
of the altar, he was admitted to the tonsure. Unfortunately, when 
his school days were over, he was committed to the tutelage of two 
divines who, instead of instructing him in the obligations of his 
state, L ught only to imbue his mind with their own erroneous views 
on the subject of grace ; in which, howev;ir, he took no sort of interest, 
except so far as they afforded him matter of argumentative discussion. 
But, through the mercy of God, he was brought, as if by accident, 
into communication with St. Sulpice. The Princesse Anne de 
Gonzague, daughter of the Due de Nevers et de Mantoue and sister 
of the Queen of Poland, who had made herself notorious by the 
levity of her behaviour, was sought in marriage by Edward, Prince 
Palatine of the Rhine,* who in consequence of family misfortunes 
had taken refuge in France. A Protestant by birth, he was led by 
the Abbd d'Aubigny, who was a relative of his, to embrace the 
Catholic faith. The marriage was disliked by the Princes de 
Lorraine, who were not of the blood royal, because his rank would 
entitle him to take precedency of them at Court, and, to prevent any 
obstacle being thrown in the way, the Abbd undertook to obtain the 
consent of the Queen Regent ; which, indeed, he did, but in such a 
manner that her Majesty supposed he was only speaking in jest. 
The marriage, accordingly, was duly solemnized in the Church of St 
Sulpice, both parties being parishioners, but the Queen Regent was no 
sooner informed of the fact than she made a formal protest before the 
Parliament of Paris against an alliance which she declared her god- 
daughter had contracted without her consent, and that, too, with one 
who was both a foreigner and (as she believed) a Protestant ; and 

♦ Edouard de Baviire was the son of the Elector Frederic V., King of 
Bohemia. His mother was Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James I. 

The Pt'incesse Anne de Gonzagite. 


the Prince was thereupon ordered to quit the kingdom without delay. 
This was on the 3cth of April, 1645. 

Deeply grieved at what had happened, and fearful lest the Prince, 
who was but one-and-twenty, should lapse into Protestantism if he 
rejoined his mother, who was herself an ardent Calvinist, the Abbd 
besought the priests of St. Sulpice to use their influence with the 
Regent in his relative's behalf. They, in turn, addressed themselves 
to St. Vincent de Paul, who was held in high consideration by 
Anne of Austria, and through his mediation the affair was satis- 
factorily concluded. A courier despatched to Dieppe arrived just 
in time to prevent the young Prince from embarking for Holland, 
and, after a residence of six months at Daubigny, he was graciously 
received at Court together with his bride. Grateful for their good 
offices, the Princess sent the Abbd to the priests of St. Sulpice to 
tender them her thanks and to enquire in what way she could 
testify her recognition of their services. The reply they made was 
in full accordance with that holy liberty which they were wont to 
use in regard to the great ones of the parish. It was to this eflfect — 
that the Princess could not oblige them more, or cause them greater 
joy, than by repairing the disorders of her past life by making a 
general confession, which would draw down a blessing upon herself 
and her whole house. The lady took the monition in good part, 
and, after a week's devout preparation, made her confession in the 
church of Notre Dame des Vertus, at Aubcrvilliers, near Paris, 
which was visited every year in pilgrimage by the parishioners of 
St. Sulpice. She repaired thither on foot in a spirit of penance, 
accompanied only by the Abb^ d'Aubigny. For M. Olier personally 
the Princess ever retained the greatest veneration, but, unhappily, 
she did not adhere to her good resolutions, for on the death of her 
husband she fell back into her former courses. In 1672, however, 
she completely changed the tenor of her life. Quitting the Court, 
she secluded herself in her hdtel, and, with her whole household, 
gave herself up to exercises of piety and good works. She observed 
regular hours of prayer, with which nothing was allowed to interfere ; 
her hands were employed in working for the church or for the poor ; 
and in the times of distress which followed her charity knew no 
bounds : she parted with every superfluity, and in all things practised 
an economy which was nigh to the strictest poverty. * 

• At her death the Princess bequeathed a relic of the true Cross to the Abbey 
of St. Germain-des-Fr^s, which is still preserved, under the name of the Palatine 
Cross, in the treasury of Notre Dame in Paris. 




Life of M. Olier. 

It was a happy circumstance for the Abb^ d'Aubigny that he 
was brought into close relations with the Community of St. Sulpice. 
Henceforth his desire was to lead the life of a true cleric, and to 
this end he placed himself under the direction of one of the 
Sulpician priests, his choice falling, in the first instance, on M. dii 
Ferrier, who makes honourable mention of him in his Mhnoires. 
When the divines to whom allusion has been made learned whom he 
had chosen as his director they were not a little chagrined, and said 
to him, "You will be lucky if, in cutting off your flowing locks, he 
does not crop your ears as well." To which the Abbd replied, "If 
he bids me shave my head as close as a choir-boy's, I shall do it 
without a moment's regret ; " and, in fact, he very soon discarded 
the fashions of the Court and assumed, not only the garb, but the 
mien of a true ecclesiastic. At the same time, by the advice of his 
director, he ceased from taking part in the disputations then in 
vogue, and devoted himself to the diligent study of Holy Scripture 
and the practice of mental prayer. Although he held the Abbey of 
Hautefontaine in commendam^ he had only received the tonsure and 
two of the minor orders. He now set himself earnestly to redeem 
the time he had lost and, after several years' preparation, received 
the other two minor orders and the subdiaconate on December 21st, 
1652, at the hands of a prelate so distinguished in our English 
Catholic annals, the Right Reverend Richard Smith, Bishop of 
Chalccdon. On the Sunday following, in virtue of a special dispen- 
sation granted by the Pope, the same prelate conferred on him the 
Jiaconate; and on the feast of St. Stephen he was raised to the 
priesthood. From that moment he regarded himself as entirely set 
apart for the service of God, and, in order to devote all his time and 
energies to his sacred duties, he exchanged the abbacy of Haute- 
fontaine for a canonry at Notre Dame, in which new dignity he was 
formally installed on the 5th of November, 1653. He took up his 
residence in the cloister of the metropolitan church, and became 
a model to his brethren in modesty, religiousness, and assiduous 
attendance in choir, never omitting being present at all the canonical 
hours, both by day and by night : at the first stroke of the bell 
summoning him to the Divine Office he quitted whatever company 
he might happen to be in, without regard to the rank or condition of 
those with whom he was conversing, who, indeed, only honoured 
him the more for his conscientious strictness. In fine, so perfectly 
did he practise all the virtues of a good and holy priest that M. 



I/is conferences with Charles II. 


du Ferrier does not scruple to class "the singular piety of M. 
d'Aubigny among the most notable fruits which St. Sulpice had 

Thus highly esteemed at Court, and with the royal blood of 
Scotland flowing in his veins, it was only natural that the Abb6 
d'Aubigny should be the person through whom the Cure of St. Sulpice 
would seek an introduction to the Stuart King, especially as it was 
well known that Charles regarded his kinsman with sentiments of 
peculiar confidence and affection. In the History of his own Times 
Hurnet avers that no one had more influence with the King, and that, 
no doubt, he was greatly influential in leading him to Catholicism.* 
At the Restoration the Abb6 went to England, and in 1662 be- 
came Almoner to the Queen. It was Charles's ardent desire that 
his kinsman should be created a Cardinal, and he was indefatigable 
in his endeavours to bring it about, hoping thereby to prepare the 
way ibr the re-union of his kingdom with the Apostolic See. In 1665 
the Abb^ returned to France with the intention of resigning his 
canonry and ^.evoting himself solely to the interests of the Church 
in this country, when he was seized with his last illness, and died at 
Paris on the nth of November, in the same year, at the age of 
forty-six. A few hours before his decease, a courier arrived from 
Rome bringing him a Cardinal's hat. His death was a disaster to 
Charles and to the Catholic cause in England. 

To one so easy-natured as Charles access was at no time difficult, 
and M. Olier found a ready way to his confidence by his liberality 
in providing for the necessities of his followers, many of whom were 
destitute of all means of subsistence. Charles took evident pleasr'e 
in his conversation, but on the one subject to which the man of God 
desired to lead his thoughts he was for a time quite unapproachable. 
The young King was all the less disposed to listen to his counsels 
because the Pope, to whom he had written to beg his aid in recover- 
ing possession of his kingdom, seeing that he evinced no intention 
of returning to the faith of his ancestors, or engaging to mitigate the 
rigours of the persecution under which his Catholic subjects were 
groaning, had made him no reply. His resentment, however, at 
length began to yield under the sweet influences which a soul filled 
with the peace of God cannot fail to exert even on the most obdurate, 
and the conversations he held with M. Olier assumed more and 

* Vol. i. pp. 79, 149. Burnet speaks of him in disparaging terms ; but the 
Bishop, we know, is not to be trusted where his religious prejudices are concerned. 




Life of M. Olier, 

more tliC character of conferences on the tenets of the Catholic 
religion. The servant of God, as need not be said, relied less on 
argument than on prayer, and he called in other devout persons to 
his aid. " I earnestly beseech all our brethren," he wrote to his 
priests at Le Puy, "to recommend to our Lord, in our Blessed 
Mother, the affair of the King of England, with which Providence 
has again charged me. He now shows himself disposed to have his 
religious difficulties removed; yesterday I had the satisfaction of 
speaking to him. So far as I can urge one thir.g upon all in common 
and on each in particular, I do so in this matter. Some prayers, 
some petitions, and intentions at Mass daily I must have, for they 
are absolutely needed in order to obtain so great a boon. I leave 
all to the love which you have for Jesus, and for Mary, who once 
had that kingdom for her dowry. I say no more." 

That M. OHer's expositions of the Catholic faith produced a most 
powerful impression on the mind of Charles, and that the impression, 
though overlaid for a time, was a lasting one, there can be no doubt. 
The King himself is known to have declared to one of his friends 
that, although many distinguished persons had spoken to him on 
religious matters, from none of them had he derived so much 
enlightenment as from the Abbe Olier ; that he felt his words to be 
endued with a power quite extraordinary, and that, in short, he had 
fully satisfied his mind.* Indeed, there has always been a belief among 
the Sulpicians that, under M. Olier's direction, Charles made a 
formal abjuration of Protestantism preparatory to being received into 
the bosom of the Church, and that he transmitted it secretly to the 
Pope, promising at the same time to make his conversion public on 
being re-instated in his kingdom. In England no doubt seems to 
have been entertained on the matter by those who were likely to be 
best informed. Burnet states positively, in the History of his own 

• The Abb^ Faillon's authority for this statement is M. de Bretonvilliers, who 
in his Mhnoires added these words : " For the present I cannot say more." In 
the copy of these Mimoirss which the Abbe first consulted, and which their 
author had prepared for publication, M. de Bretonvilliers, in order not to 
compromise Charles in the eyes of his Protestant subjects, had refrained from 
giving his name, describing him simply as "a great English lord;" and conse- 
quently M. Faillon, in the first two editions of his Life of M. Olier, had spoken 
doubtfully on the subject. On referring, however, to the original autograph he 
found that "the great English lord" in question was the King of England 
himself, and in the latest edition of his work he has signified the discovery he 
had made. 

Relapse and remorse of Charles 11. 


Times,* that Charles changed his religion before quitting Paris, 
although the fact was kept secret from most of his own courtiers. 
M. Faillon, moreover, gives extracts from letters which the King 
addressed to Pope Alexander VII., the General of the Jesuits, and 
others, after the Restoration, in which, while protesting his abhor- 
rence of the Protestant schism and his firm belief in the truth of the 
Catholic religion, he seeks — not to excuse his delay in being recon- 
ciled to the Church, but — to exculpate himself for not making open 
profession of the faith. 

His abjuration is supposed to have been made at Fontainebleau 
in 165s; and certainly M. Olier must have had valid reasons .'"or 
believing that the King was sincere, for, with that generous a .^.u- 
which he ever displayed where the interests of religion were conct ned, 
the servant of God undertook to put 10,000 disciplined soldiers .i. his 
disposal, if Charles on his part would engage to re-establish the 
Catholic religion on gaining possession of his kingdom. Nor shall we 
consider the proposal as the mere heedless expression of an enthusi- 
astic zeal, when we recollect the extraordinary influence exercised by 
this holy man over some of the boldest military spirits of his time, 
inspiring them with the courage to defy the tyranny of public opinion, 
which regarded the refusal of a challenge as unworthy of a man of 
honour. Indeed, the very fact that, some years later, the Marquis 
de F^nelon did actually conduct 400 gentlemen to the defence of 
Candia against the Turks in the capacity of volunteers shows with 
what ardour such generous souls would, at the instigation of one 
whom they so much revered, have embarked in an enterprise tlve 
object of which was to restore to England both the hereditary 
monarchy and the ancient faith. Such an expedition, however, 
would have been little in consonance with the policy of Cardinal 
Mazarin ; and, besides, Charles himself had very soon changed his 
mind. The solicitations of divine grace were no longer heeded 
amidst the vicious indulgences to which he had abandoned himself 
in the gay city of Paris, and his degradation was completed by re- 
nouncing the convictions of his conscience for a political advantage. 
Yielding to the counsels of the interested advisers by whom he 
was surrounded, he publicly announced his determination to live 
and die in the Anglican communion, for which his father had suffered 
so much. And live, accordingly, he did ostensibly a Protestant while 
a Catholic in belief and conviction, even consenting to the judicial 
murder of Catholic priests and others whom he well knew to 

♦ Vol. i. p. 78. 



1 , 
k " 







Life of M. Olier. 

be innocent of the crimes laid to their charge. The Queen, after 
his death, declared that Charles " never entered her boudoir, where 
she kept suspended the portraits of the Jesuit Fathers who were 
martyred in the feigned conspiracy, but he would turn towards them 
and, kissing their hands, would beg their forgiveness in the most 
humble manner, and, full of sentiments of repentance, make a most 
hearty protestation of his fault and of their innocence, concluding by 
saying that they were in a place where they knew of a truth that he 
had been forced, and that they would therefore pray to God for him to 
pardon his crime."* And pray, assuredly, they did, and with marvel- 
lous effect, for, by one of those miracles of grace which our merciful 
God sometimes vouchsafes, as though to show forth His longsuffering 
for sinners, the King was to die in the faith which, during life, he 
lacked the courage to profess. For M. Olier his esteem remained 
unaltered, as was shown when, on hearing of his death, he observed 
with manifest sorrow that in him he had lost one of the truest friends 
he had ever possessed. 

The following particulars, which have lately come to light, are 
invested with a pathetic interest Father Augustine Lawrence, of 
the Society of Jesus, who was probably attached to the Queen's 
household, in a letter which he addressed to the Father Assistant of 
Portugal, then at Rome, and which is dated May nth, 1685, says, 
on the testimony of the Queen herself, ** Among some articles which 
were taken from the martyred Fathers [victims of Oates's plot] and 
carried to the King, there was found a relic of the wood of the true 
Cross, which his Majesty took ; and, though the Queen begged for 
it, he would not part with it, saying that he wished to keep it for 
himself, which he did, for after death nothing else was found in the 
King's pocket except the holy relic and a manuscript, in his own 
handwriting, proving by the clearest arguments the truth of the 
Roman Catholic faith." To this extract Brother Foley has appended 
the following note : — " Echard, History of England^ vol. iii. p. 732, 
states that there were two papers found in Charles II.'s strong box, 
both of which were certainly written by the King himself, as was 
attested by King James and declared by the Duke of Ormond. 
These papers contain concise but forcible arguments in favour of 
Catholicity. A copy is given by Dodd, vol. iii. p. 398." t May it 

* Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, by Henry Foley, S.J. 
Series xii. p. 93. 
+ lb. p. 94. These were in all probability the same little treatises which were 

His vocation a hidden one. 


not reasonably be conjectured that they contained a summary of the 
arguments advanced by his saintly instructor during the earlier 
portion of the King's residence at Paris ? 

Two noblemen, his fellow-exiles, came under the same salutary 
influence while staying in that city. Edward Somerset, Marquis of 
Worcester, went so far as to engage, in a document which was 
deposited in the Seminary of St. Sulpice, April 22nd, 1650, to main- 
tain a priest at his own private expense in the event of his regaining 
his patrimonial estates. But unhappily, like his royal master, the 
world proved too strong for him, and in the day of prosperity he 
forgot both his engagement and his God. He forgot also to repay a 
loan of money which M. de Bretonvilliers had made him, and the 
acknowledgment of which, signed with the Marquis's own hand, 
might long have been seen, — and perhaps may still be seen, — among 
the archives of the Community. It was now also that George Digby, 
Earl of Bristol, professed himself a Catholic, but only to become a 
scandal to his countrymen by leading a life of cowardly duplicity, 
and at length publicly renouncing the faith which he had never 
really in heart embraced.* Such conquests are, indeed, only sub- 
jects of pain and grief to the Catholic heart, but even these abortive 
successes may be taken as testimonies to the power which personal 
sanctity exercises over even the unworthiest of men ; and, assuredly, 
if the penitence of Charles at the last were sincere and effective, he 
owed his soul's salvation, under God, to the prayers and unwearied 
charity of the Curd of St. Sulpice. 

What is so remarkable (as M. Faillon observes), is that the fact of 
M. Olier being instrumental in the King's conversion should have 
remained so long unknown and unsuspected. But this was only in 
accordance with God's general dealings with His servant, and with 
the par. assigned to him in the order of Divine Providence. His 
vocation, as he himself says in his Memoires, was to do great works 
and not to be known as the author of them. " On this subject," he 

instrumental in the conversion of the Earl of Perth. See the Month, February, 
1884, p. 195. 

* "In 1664 De Comminges, the French ambassador, wrote to Louis XIV. that 
on the last Sunday in January the Comte de Bristol, at Oulmilton, as he calls 
Wimbledon, in presence of the congregation in the parish church, heartily 
renounced Popery, and afterwards took the minister and a few others to dine with 
him." Doran, Memories of our Great Towns, p. 383. Burnet says (vol. i. p. 217) 
that he practised astrology, and had the impertinence to tell the King that he was 
in danger from his brother. 


( . 


I 1 

h 'I 



Life of M. Olier. 

writes, " our Lord instructed me that we ought to appear as little 
as possible, that the less we engage the attention of the world the 
brighter shall we shine throughout eternity, and that the sacrifice of 
all exterior display is a holocaust most agreeable to God. I see an 
example of this in our Lord Himself in the Most Holy Sacrament, 
which ought to serve me as a rule and model in everything. He is 
the source of every good in the Church, and yet He does not appear. 
He does everything in secret in the holy tabernacle ; He appears 
less than does a Bishop or an Apostle ; and nevertheless it is He 
who does all. Thus He desires to reign in me, and by me to effect 
all things with strength and wisdom, but without display, always in 
secret and hidden from the eyes of the world. It is thus He spoke 
to me, in His goodness, this very day, relative to a matter which 
greatly concerned His glory : * You must be, as it were, the heart of 
My works, and give life and movement to everything without being 
perceived. The members of the body must needs show themselves, 
and yet they are entirely dependent on the heart, which beats unseen.' 
Thus it is that, without intending it, I feel myself always foremost in 
all the works of His hands ; I have part in everything, I labour in 
everything, by prayer, by writing, by speech, all which proceed from 
the Spirit of God, and yet I do not produce and exhibit myself, that 
by me our Lord may afford a sensible token of the way in which He 
operates in the Church by means of the Most Holy Sacrament." 

Herein, then, we see why this great servant of God remained so 
long in comparative oblivion, notwithstanding the magnificent ser- 
vices which he rendered, and still continues to render, to the Church; 
this is why so many ecclesiastical writers have scarcely made allusion 
to the labours of this holy priest, and by their reticence have thrown 
a veil over the lustre of his virtues. It was the design of God that, 
prominent as was M. Olier's position in the world of his day and 
conspicuous as were the works which he accomplished, his transcen- 
dent merits should long remain inadequately recognized. "The 
founder of St. Sulpice," said M. Tronson, "desired to be hidden, but 
God will make him manifest in His own time." That time has 


( Z^7 ) 

I ! 



THE Church of St. Sulpice, once all but deserted, was now un- 
able to contain the multitudes which sought admission ; so that 
on extraordinary occasions, when there was a larger concourse than 
usual, it became necessary to celebrate the parochial offices in the 
abbey-church of St. Germain. On Sundays and festivals especially 
the building was so densely crowded that many of the parishioners 
were unable to reach their places, and permission was given to the 
Comte de Brienne and (Other persons of distinction to enter their 
respective chapels by private doors constructed for the purpose. 

We have seen that from his first entrance on his pastoral charge 
M. Olier had it in contemplation to build a new parish church whicli 
should be better proportioned to the extent of the Faubourg, the 
grandeur of the ceremonial which he desired to see introduced, and 
the number of ecclesiastics who formed his community. Full of 
this pious design, he deeply deplored the indifference manifested by 
the great people of the parish, who constructed splendid mansions 
for themselves and left the Son of God a dilapidated dwelling 
devoid of all dignity and beauty. On learning the death of Marie 
de Mddicis, who had expended vast sums on her palace of the 
Luxembourg, while the House of God was allowed to lie waste, he 
felt himself penetrated with a desire, as pastor of her soul, to make 
satisfaction to the Divine Justice for the neglect of which she had 
been guilty. " If only," he writes, " she had been pleased to bestow 
on the church the money she had destined for the completion of 
those wings to her palace which she left unfinished, she would have 
been able to rebuild it and to put it in a state befitting the worship 
of God and the needs of the population. How strange that persons 
should devote so much trouble and incur such enormous expenses 
to lodge themselves, fleeting creatures of earth and very dunghills 


Life of M. Olier. 

in the sight of God, and never give a thought to the erection of 
temples in honour of His ineflfable Majesty ! " 

Already, in the December of 1642, he had laid before the wardens 
his proposal for enlarging the church, and in the following March 
the proposal was adopted at a general meeting of the parishioners 
without a dissenting voice ; but not without personal humiliations to 
the pastor himself, who received them in that spirit of self-abasement 
and submission to the will of God which ever distinguished him. 
In his Mhnoires he alludes to the circumstance but does not enter 
into any particulars. As the proposed building would extend over 
a portion of the public cemetery, M. Olier offered in exchange half 
of the garden belonging to the Community. The celebrated archi- 
tect, Christophe Gamard, was directed to draw up the plans, and 
everything seemed to augur a speedy success, particularly as a pro- 
portion of the stone for the foundations was obtained gratuitously 
from the Crown through the good offices of the Queen Regent, but 
it was not until the excitement consequent on the attempt to expel 
M. Olier from the parish had subsided that the affair was definitively 
resumed. On the feast of the Assumption, 1645, ^^ convened a 
meeting of the wardens, at which M. Gamard exhibited the plan of 
the building which M. Olier designed to erect, and which was three 
times larger than the existing structure. 

Hopeless as it might appear that so vast a design should ever be 
realized, he was not deterred by any consideration of the difficulties 
to be encountered in raising the necessary funds ; and, instead of 
regulating the cost of the building by the amount already collected, 
he fixed his estimate of the expenses at such a sum as in his judg- 
ment the charity of the parishioners ought ultimately to furnish. 
The plan was accepted and endorsed, and on Tuesday, February 
20th, 1646, the first F*one of the new edifice was laid by the Queen 
Regent, after it had been blessed by M. Alain de Solminihac, now 
Bishop of Cahors, with all the accustomed formalities. The Queen, 
on inspecting the plan, desired that one of the chapels behind the 
high altar, nearest to that of the Blessed Virgin, should be dedicated 
to her patroness, St. Anne, and another, in the name of the young 
King, to St. Louis. The Due d'Orl^ans and the Prince de Cond^ 
made similar requests, an example that was followed by other noble 
families of the Faubourg ; the Duke also promised an annual dona- 
tion of 10,000 livres until the building should be completed. M. 
Olier, however, did not rely on the favour or the munificence of the 

> I 

The chapel of St. Anne. 


great, and an incident that occurred soon after the works had com- 
menced was taken by him as a warning not to reckon on the support 
or promises of men for the success of an undertaking intended for 
God's glory alone. The workmen had dug a well to obtain water, 
and he was proceeding to ascertain its depth, when a pole on which 
he set his foot moved away and rolled over to the opposite side, 
carrying him with it, to the astonishment of those who were present, 
and who expected to see him precipitated into the pit. Instead of 
manifesting any alarm at the danger he had so narrowly escaped, he 
seemed to be occupied only with the thought of the lesson which 
it was intended to convey : " So deceitful is the dependence on 
creatures ; he who puts his trust in them will find only weakness and 

His intention, after laying the foundations of the choir, was to 
complete the construction of the Lady Chapel, as an act of fealty to 
Her whom he desired to instal as Patroness of the whole work, but 
owing to the troubles of the Fronde he was able only to finish its 
walls, which in the year of his death were raised to the height at 
which they remain at the present day. The building, interrupted 
for many years, was resumed in 1718 by M. Languet de Gergy,* M. 
Olier's sixth successor, by whom it was completed in 1 745, just a 
century from the date of the attempt to expel the servant of God 
from the parish of St. Sulpice. 

Foreseeing that the projected church would nol be finished for 
many years, M. Olier was anxious to procure the erection of another 
church in the Faubourg to supply the immediate needs of the 
increasing population. The design was approved by the Abbd de 
St. Germain, who, in 1647, by letters patent created a new parish 
under the title of St. Maur in the Pr^-aux-Clercs ; but, on the 
wardens of St. Sulpice, with other parishioners, offering to provide a 
chapel of ease at their own expense, the plan was abandoned, and a 
house which the seminarists used for catechising children in the 
quarter called La Grenouillbre was converted into a chapel and 

* This worthy pastor was a man of extraordinary charity. In 1725, during a 
time of great scarcity, he sold his furniture, his paintings, and a quantity of rare 
and valuable objects which he had been at great pains to collect, and gave the 
proceeds for the relief of the suffering poor. From that time his only possessions 
were three couveris of silver, two straw chairs, and a bed of coarse serge, which 
was left him as a loan, to prevent his giving it away ; carpets he had none. He 
also sent lar^e sums to Marseilles, when in 1720 the plague was ravaging that 
city. The Abbe Languet was Mme. de Maintenon's confessor. 




Life of M. Olier. 

solemnly blessed on the feast of the Purification, 1648. This chapel 
went by the name of St. Anne, or the Petite-Paroisse, and for a 
while M. Olier located some of his priests in the spot, and formed 
what, in effect, was a second community. But, having reason to 
believe that the separation from the parent house was not conducive 
to the benefit of souls, and that the ecclesiastics thus detached 
experienced a diminution of fervour by being isolated from their 
brethren, he recalled them to St. Sulrire and contented himself with 
sending some of his colleagues on stated occasions to instruct the 
people and administer the sacraments. 

It will be recollected that in 1643 M- Olier engaged the cele- 
brated ex-Jesuit Pfere V^ion, to deliver a course of controversial 
lectures at St. Sulpice and to hold public disputations with the 
sectaries ; but the result corresponded neither with the hopes wliich 
his reputation had excited nor with the ability he displayed. M. du 
Ferrier, in his Mhnoires, gives a specimen of the method pursued 
by this divine. "You would reform us," he would say, "on the 
sole authority of Scripture : well, we are ready to hear you. We 
believe, for example, that Jesus Christ is really and substantially 
present in the Eucharist ; you believe He is there only by faith, and 
not in reality, and you are bound on your own principles to prove 
this to us by a formal text of Scripture. Produce it, then, and we 
will believe you." The Protestant minister would quote the words: 
"//■ is the spirit that quickeneth ; the flesh profiteth nothing^* P. 
V^ron, repeating the words after him, would say, "This is not to 
the purpose; I ask you for a passage which says, ' The Body of Jesus 
Christ is not in the Eucharist ; ' the text you have quoted does not 
say this." If the Protestant added what follows : " The words that I 
have spoken to you are spirit and life," he repeated his demand for 
a passage which said, " The Body of Jesus Christ is not under the 
species of bread ;" showing them that they could not produce a text 
which expressly denied the Catholic doctrine. If his opponent 
brought forward those words of St. Peter: ^^ Jesus Christ, whom 
Heaven must receive until the times of the restitution of all things" t 
and argued thence that he could not be present in the Holy 
Eucharist, he replied, "I ask you for a passage which says that 
Jesus Christ is not there, and you give me only reasonings and 
conclusions. Confess that you have no direct passage to quote; 
we will come to reasonings and conclusions presently." He thus 

♦ St. John vi. 64. 

t Acts ill. 21. 

Jean Clement. 


compelled them to admit that they could produce no direct and 
formal text of Scripture; and this provoked them greatly. He then 
came to deductions and conclusions. ** You say that your faith is 
grounded, not on reasoning, but on Scripture only : now show me a 
passage which says that, if Jesus Christ must remain in Heaven until 
He comes to judge the world. He is therefore not in the Eucharist. 
In matters of faith we do not rest, as you truly say, on arguments 
and syllogisms ; we Catholics also believe that Jesus Christ is, and 
will remain, in Heaven, at the right hand of the Father, but we do 
not the less believe that He is in the Eucharist, really and corporally, 
but after an incomprehensible manner." 

By this system of dialectics his opponents, as before observed, 
were silenced, but they were not convinced. He even succeeded in 
obtaining from his auditors, Protestants as well as Catholics, a formal 
declaration of his victory, signed by public notaries, which was 
printed and placarded about the streets, but the Protestants remained 
Protestants still ; they were not converted. His method was perfect ; 
his syllogisms were unassailable ; in the sphere of argument he was 
triumphant, and his opponents, by their silence, acknowledged their 
defeat ; but M. Olier desired, not their defeat, but their salvation, 
and the end he sought remained unfulfilled. 

Providence, however, brought to his aid two men whose manner 
and whose method were wholly different. Simple and illiterate, but 
wonderful adepts in a science truly divine, and which had God 
alone as its author, they seemed to fulfil to the letter that saying of 
M. Oiler's while at Vaugirard : " God will rather create a new race 
of beings than leave His work without effect." The first of these 
extraordinary men was Jean Clement, by trade a cutler. In early 
youth his mind had been perverted by associating with the children 
of Casaubon, the celebrated critic, and, on the family removing to 
England, he repaired to La Rochelle, at that time the stronghold of 
the Calvinists, for the purpose of joining their sect Having no 
acquaintance in the town, he addressed himself to an elderly man 
whom he saw labouring in a blacksmith's shop, and acquainted him 
with his design. To his surprise the old man replied, *'Ah, my 
child, take heed what you do. Perhaps you may fall into the same 
state of misery in which I now am ; for I know that I am doomed to 
hell for having quitted the Roman Church. I was a priest and a monk, 
and I cannot escape from the religion you are about to adopt, because 
I have a wife and four children dependent upon me." He then 














Life of M, Olier, 

bade the youth stay neither to eat nor to drink, but to leave the place 
at once, before God had wholly abandoned him. Filled with horror, 
Clement asked him whither he should go, and the old man directed 
him to proceed at once to the Cur^ of Estrde, six miles distant, who 
would instruct him and put him in the way of salvation. This advice 
he followed, remained ten days with the good priest of Estrde, and, 
on returning to Paris, devoted himself to the conversion of heretics, 
earning his livelihood at the same time by working at his trade. 

His practice was to take up a position within the enclosure, or in 
the vaults of the church, after Pfere V^ron had descended from the 
pulpit, ar 1, letting the Protestants first adduce their texts of Scripture 
and urge their objections, he would explain the passages they had 
quoted, and show that rightly understood they were not opposed to 
the faith of Catholics; and then, in turn, propounding the true 
doctrine, he would support it by Scriptural proofs, so aptly chosen, 
and enforced with so much simplicity and sweetness, yet with such 
marvellous clearness and force, that numbers of those who had only 
been irritated and confounded by the arguments of the learned 
doctor were convinced and converted. He knew almost the whole 
oi the Bible in French by heart, an accomplishment which gave him 
great influence with the Protestants ; nor was his acquaintance with 
Catholic doctrine less extraordinary than his familiarity with Holy 
Scripture and his insight into the meaning of the sacred text. Indeed, 
such was the ability he displayed in the diflficult art of controversy, 
that (as M. du Ferrier says in his Mhnoires) the priests of the Com- 
munity would often leave the dispute in his hands, when by a few 
words he would dissipate doubts which long hours of discussion had 
failed to remove. So great was his success that (as we learn from 
the same authority) in one year he made on an average six converts 
a day. These conversions were sometimes accompanied, in the 
case of very ignorant persons, with circumstances which showed that 
the grace of God gave an efficacy to his words indefinitely surpassing 
any persuasive power they might naturally possess; and M. du 
Ferrier, who, on P. Veron's falling ill, succeeded that theologian in 
the office of preaching to Protestants, records his conviction that 
argument has incalculably less to do with the conversion of souls 
than many are apt to suppose ; for that he found on inquirj' that the 
reasons which had weighed most with the persons he had addressed 
were such as had formed no part of his discourse. 

The other gifted individual was Beaumais, a draper. Like 

Inertness and laxity of the clergy. 


CMment, he was on the point of abandoning the faith for the pur- 
pose of marrying a Protestant, who nmde his apostacy the condition 
of her consent to the union, when remorse of conscience took him 
to Clement, who not only dcHvered him from the distressing doubts 
to which his mind was a prey, but induced him to join with him in 
combating heresy and teaching the truth. By a wonderful effect of 
divine grace hi received an infused knowledge both of the true 
sense of Holy Scripture and of the right interpretation of the Fathers, 
wholly independent of any instruction or study ; and at M. Olier's 
desire he established himself in the Faubourg St. Germain, where 
his exertions were crowned with astonishing success. His powers 
of disputation were allowed to surpass those of the ablest doctors of 
the University of Paris, and no one could be compared with him, 
uneducated as he was, for the facility and completeness with which 
he refuted the objections and exposed the inconsistencies of the 
Protestant teachers. His labours were not confined to this 
single parish, for he visited in turn the towns most infected with 
heresy, and succeeded in reclaiming large numbers of Calvinists to 
the faith of the Church. Beaumais, like Cldment, did not quit his 
business as long as he remained at Paris. The clergy allowed him a 
pension of 400 livres, and he dined every Sunday with the seminarists 
of St. Sulpice. That Clement continued to work at his trade is 
proved by the fact that in the year 1649 he was chosen by the 
associated artisans of Paris to br their spokesman before the King 
and Queen. In his harangue, which was published, he speaks of 
himself as living by the labour of his hands. He died in 1650, or 
1654, with the universal reputation of sanctity. Both Beaumais and 
Clement, it may be added, were equally skilful and successful in 
their disputations with Jansenists. 

It would seem as if by these two striking examples God would prove 
to the clergy of France the little efficiency of educational polish, theo- 
logical knowledge, or dialectic acuteness, when unaccompanied with 
those high moral qualifications and those supernatural virtues — 
humility, patience, sweetness, charity — which He requires in the 
preachers of His word. This it was which made Adrien Bourdoise 
so indignantly exclaim, "The world is sick enough, but the clergy is 
not less so ; frivolity, impurity, immodesty everywhere prevail. Our 
priests for the most part stand with folded arms, and God is forced to 
raise up laymen — cutlers and haberdashers — to do the work of these 
lazy ecclesiastics. Seldom now-a-days do we meet with a man who is 


t< tl 


Life of M. Olier, 

well-born, learned, and at the same time a devoted servant of (lod. 
Whence is it that (lod makes use of M Heaumais the draper and M. 
Clement the cutler, both laymen, as 1 1 is instruments for the conver- 
sion of such numbers of heretics and bad Catholics at Paris, but that 
He finds not bachelors, licentiates, or doctors, filled with His Spirit, 
whom He can employ for the purpose ? It is the heaviest reproach, 
the bitterest affront, He can oiler to the clergy of an age so devoid of 
humility. Long live the draper and the cutler ! * Non multi sapienU's, 
non mulii potetites, non tnuiti nobiles' " * Even if it be admitted that 
there was something of rhetorical exaggeration in this vehement i)ro- 
test, attributable to the ardent zeal of this outspoken man, it may at 
least be taken as indicative of the extent and the enormity of the evil 
against which it was directed, t 

Unable to procure the discontinuance of the fair which, as we have 
seen, was held for two months together in the Faubourg St. f>rmain, 
M. Olier laboured to suppress some of the more flagrant scandals ; 
as, for instance, the exhibition and exposure for sale of pictures and 
other objects offensive to modesty. With his habitual fearlessness 
he went himself into the midst of the crowds, and, with the authority 
which his very presence carried with it, succeeded in putting a stop 
to the worst disorders. When unable to go in person, he commis- 
sioned some of the more influential members of his community to 
act in his stead, and in cases where their interference was productive 
of little or no efiiect, he had recourse to the civil authorities, from 
whom, to their honour be it recorded, he never failed to receive 
prompt and effective support. 

An incident which made some noise at the time may here be 
related. The head of a troop of strolling players who were perform- 
ing during the fair fell dangerously ill, and desired to receive the Last 
Sacraments. The priest who attended him felt himself justified in 
giving him absolution, but refused to bring him the Holy Viaticum, 
on account of his profession, to which, as being dangerous to morals, 
a particular scandal attached. As the man grew worse, his friends 
came late at night to the Presbytery, and begged again and again 
that their dying comrade might be permitted to receive Communion ; 
but M. Olier was inexorable. His refusal, which was conveyed in 

* I Cor. i. 26. 

+ In Abelly's Li/e of St. Vincent de Paul we find two bishops using language, 
when writing to the Saint, no less condemnatory of the lives of the clergy in 
their respective dioceses. 

Disbanding of Moiih'(fs troop. 


terms of the most earnest charity, had such an cfTect on one of the 
party that, two days afterwards, from motives of conscience, he 
retired from the stage altogether ; and, to M. Olier's joy and con- 
solation, the sick man himself, acknowledging his unworthiness to 
receive the boon he had solicited, solemnly engaged from that 
moment to renounce his profession for ever, a promise which, on 
recovering his health, he faithfully performed. The occurrence 
created considerable sensation in Paris, and the matter was discussed 
at the monthly meeting of the clergy, who unanimously approved 
the conduct of the ecclesiastic in (luestion. Nevertheless, it was 
deemed advisable to advert to the circumstance from the pulpit, and 
to enter fully into the reasons which justified the course that had 
been taken. It so happened that the manager of a company of 
actors, who styled himself comedian to the Duke of Orleans, was 
])resent at this discourse, and, offended at the same designation 
being applied to a mere strolling player, he went to the Presbytery 
and made a formal remonstrance. He met with a most courteous 
reception, and was patiently listened to while he enlarged on the 
dignity of his profession, as compared with that of an itinerant 
bufibon who performed before u rabble in a booth ; but all that was 
urged in return made no impression upon him, and he was about to 
retire with a profusion of compliments expressive of the high esteem 
in which he held so zealous a body of ecclesiastics, when, on his 
politely declaring that his services would ever be at their command, 
the ecclesiastic to whom he addressed himself took him at his word, 
and said that there was one thing he could do by which he would 
infinitely oblige them. The actor again protested his readiness to do 
anything in his power. " Then," answered the other, " promise me 
that you will recite the Litany of the Blessed Virgin every day on your 
knees." The actor willingly consented, little thinking to what he 
was engaging himself; for in a few days he returned to the Presbytery 
a changed man, declaring that he had once for all abandoned the 
stage, and was now in the service of M. de Fontenay-Mareuil, who 
was proceeding as ambassador to Rome. 

How profound was the impression produced on the minds and 
consciences of the people by the zeal of M. Olier and his community, 
may be inferred from the fact that even Molifere's * own troop of 

* The name of this famous dramatist was Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, but he took 
the name of Moliere to spare his parents, homely and worthy people, the disgrace, 
as it was then accounted, of being known to have a son connected with the stage. 

1 1' 'ti 

l|fJIWIJH"W<«<)"^ ■im.ii fifi*>ipiiwij>y(n|iii 


Life of M. Olier. 

comedians, despite his extraordinary talent both as a play-writer and 
as a performer in his own dramas, were obliged to disband because 
they found themselves deserted by their audience. The theatre was 
situated in the Faubourg St. Germain and was supported by the 
Prince de Conti, previously to his conversion, and by other young 
men of rank. Neveaheless, Molifere himself, with a certain number 
of actors whom he engaged to accompany him, was fain to betake 
himself to the provinces, and did not return to Paris till the year 
after M. Olier's death. 

Never was pastor more devoted to the interests of his flock. 
There is nothing, perhaps, of which an active-minded, hard-worked 
man is naturally more jealous than his time ; yet M. Olier was 
ever at the disposal of others. With all his multifarious avocations, 
he was always accessible to those who sought his counsel or assist- 
ance ; and such was his sweetness and kindliness of disposition 
that he could not bear to deny himself even to those who seemed to 
wish to converse with him solely for their own gratification. He 
received all comers with a certain respect, blended with humility, 
never betrayed any movement of impatience at being detained from 
his other occupations, and was never the first to terminate the inter- 
view. Sometimes when, towards the end of the day, his colleagues 
observed that he was exhausted with fatigue, they would suggest that 
he should admi' no more visitors until the morrow ; but he would 
answer, "Our lime is not our own; it belongs to Jesus Christ. W'e 
ought to employ every moment of it as He directs; and since He 
permits these persons to come to us now, so far from not admitting 
tiiem, we ought, in a spirit of submission to His adorable provi- 
dence, to receive them with joy and affection." A charity so self- 
sacrificing was accompanied with a sensible blessing ; for many who 
were leading a sinful, worldly life, and who visited him simply from 
motives of courtesy, were converted and gained to God, although 
the conversation apparently had been confined to ordinary subjects. 
The influence he thus acquired was very great, and he used it to 
induce persons engaged in the world and moving in its highest 
circles to lead, nevertheless, a devout and interior life. Under his 

Sufficient: reason for the disfavour with which he was regarded by the Ciiurcli .nay 
be found in the fact that "the tendency of his dramatic productions was to lower 
the moral standard, by almost invariably engaging the sympathy of tiie audience 
and getting the laugh on the side of the wrong-doer, by whose superior smartness 
honesty, truth, and justice are made ridiculous " {The Month, May, 1884, p. 151), 
and, it may be added, to render piety and devotion contemptible and odious. 

Instructions on religious and social duties. 327 

direction, numbers of public men, holding judicial and other civil 
appointments, as well as many ladies of the first distinction, practised 
daily meditation, spiritual reading, and other devotional exercises, 
without, therefore, neglecting any of their social or oflicial duties ; 
while others, of all classes, who had more leisure at their command, 
he encouraged to adopt a fixed rule of life, and assigned them 
particular hours in each day for mental prayer, visiting the Blessed 
Sacrament, assisting the sick poor, and similar works of charity. 

He exhorted fathers of families to give a vigilant eye to the con- 
duct of their children and dependents, and to see that they obeyed 
the precepts of the Church, particularly in keeping holy the Sundays 
and other festivals, and observing the days of fasting and abstinence. 
On the rich especially he urged the obligation of regulating their 
Jiousehold expenditure in conformity with the rules of Christian 
modesty and sobriety, of practising almsgiving according to their 
ability, and, in short, fulfilling all the duties proper to their state 
and sanctifying each day by a good use of that precious time of 
which God, the Judge of all, would demand a strict account. He 
reminded shopkeepers and workpeople, who had to attend to the 
calls of business and maintain themselves by the labour of their 
hands, that they were none the less bound to live as Christians, — as 
those who by baptism had been made the children of God and heirs 
of eternal life, — and taught them how, in the midst of their every- 
day employment, they were to keep tlieir consciences clean, to 
lift up their hearts to God, and refer all their acts to Him, not 
only those which directly concerned piety, but even the most in- 
different and commonplace. These holy lessons he set forth, in 
detail, in a work which he composed for the use of his parishioners 
and entitled The Christian Day. Further, he bade his people 
remember that they had duties to perform as members of civil 
society, which was the ordinance of God ; that no man, whatever 
his rank or condition, was independent of his neighbour, or could 
so much as exist without his co-operation and assistance ; accord- 
ingly, that in the exercise of their several trades and handicrafts 
they ought to regard themselves simply as the instruments of Divine 
Providence whose office it was to help in supporting their fellow- 
creatures, and that buyers and employers should receive with thanks- 
giving the goods they purchased and the products with which they 
were supplied, as coming from the hands of God. *' If," said he, 
" all would enter into these Christian views, trade and commerce, 





Life of M. Olier. 


instead of being made the occasion of fraud and injustice, would 
become, as Providence designed them to be, a daily source of 
graces and a very means of sanctification."* 

From the moment M. Oliei first entertained the idea of under- 
taking the pastoral charge of St. Sulpice, he had resolved on the 
establishment of a house in which females could attend all the 
exercises of a retreat, an advantage which hitherto had been denied 
them. This design, with the aid of Marie Rousseau, he now carried 
into effect. At first only women of the lower ranks were admitted 
to these retreats, but afterwards the higher classes enjoyed the same 
privilege. This institution v/as also made subservient to the accom- 
plishment of another very important object. In every large parish 
there are numerous works to be done whl^h zealous and prudent 
females, like the Deaconesses of the primitive Church, are well 
qualified to undertake, some, indeed, with which i^ might be unad- 
visable for the clergy personally to concern themselves ; as, for 
instance, the maintenance and supervision of fallen women who 
dei,.'re to reform their lives. But there were many other offices of a 
kindred nature in which 'l^cy v/ere employed, according to their 
condition and capacity. Thus, some were charged with instructing 
and preparing young giils for domestic service, or placing them 
with persons would act as parents and guardians to them until 
such time as they were able to maintain themselves. Others, again, 
occupied their leisure hours with making clothes for the poor, or 
furnishing linen and ornaments for the altar and seeing to the clean- 
ing and repairing of the same. All the ,e works were placed under 
the direction of three widows selected for their eminent virtues and 
•abilities, with whom vere associated other widows and younger 
women who, after being themselves instructed and trained, were 
employed as school-teachers. The latter, before entering on their 
duties, v/ere required to pass an examination at the Abbey of St. 
Germain, in order to prove their efficiency and fitness for their 

Among t.xvj parishioners who took a prominent part in these 

* M. Faillon, in one of those valuable notes which follow each chapter in his 
work, gives an extract from an address of M. Olier's on this subject which, 
instructive as it is to read, must have been most effective when delivered, contain- 
ing as it does lessons of far greater practical value than may be found in many an 
elaborate treatise on social economy and science which ignores the relations of 
man to man as God in His Providence established them. 

The Mdison d Instruction. 


various works of charity may especially be mentioned Marguerite 
Rouille, widow of Jacques Le Bret, Royal Counsellor at tlie Chdtelet 
de Paris, who in 1648, conjointly with other ladies, founded a 
school for poor girls, With her was associated another remarkable 
woman, who has already been incidentally alluded to, Mme. Claude 
de Sfeve, widow of M. Tronson, formerly Secretaire du Cabinet. 
She had been under the direction of P. de Condren, and at his 
death had, by the advice of P. de Saint-P<f,* a priest of the Oratory, 
taken M. Olier as her spiritual guide. To her are addressed many 
of his letters, still preserved, which are a monument at once of the 
pastor's enlightened zeal and of his penitent's rare perfections. But 
the greatest work of all, and that which may be said to have been 
the complement of the rest, was the establishment of a central house, 
called La Maison d'Instruction, in which young girls who had left 
school and whom their parents had not the means of supporting 
were taught useful handicrafts by which they might be able to earn 
a decent livelihood. This institution originated with Marie Rous- 
seau, who had commenced a similar undertaking in her own dwel- 
ling, but in 1657 it was transferred to more commodious premises, 
and, after receiving the approbation of the Virar-General of the 
Abbey and the royal confirmation by letters patent, was erected into 
a community, which became known as that of the Sisters of 
Christian Instruction. The rules were drawn up by Marie Rousseau 
and the house itself placed under the immediate direction of that 
saintly woman, who was thus enabled to devote her whole energies 
to the accomplishment of the reforms for which she had prayed so 
long and laboured so much. She had a most valuable assistant in 
the person of Mile. Leschassier, in connection with whom :. charac- 
teristic incident was before related. This lady was as distinguished 
for her rare talents and intelligence as for her untiring zeal, and 
the fruits of her labours were such as to vindicate in a remarkable 
manner the spiritual discernment of M. Olier, who hnd advised 





* Pere de Saint-Pe became Superior of St. Magloire, and, after the death of 
their holy founder, the Sulpicians had frequent recourse to him for advice and 
encouragement, regarding him as the inheritor of P. de Condren's spirit and 
maxims. It is to P. de Saint-Pe that we are chiefly indebted for the worlc pub- 
lished (as already mentioned) under the name of P. de Condren and entitled 
Vldee du Sacerdoce et du Sacrifice de Jhus-Christy which contains the substance 
of certain conferences which that celebrated man delivered to the Oratorians at 
their house of Notre Dame des Ardilliers, at Saumur, but of whicii only the 
first part can, properly speaking, be attributed to him. 



Life of M. Olier. 

her not to enter religion, as she was once disposed to dn, \\\\\ to 
remain in the world and dedicate herself to the serV)<'^ \\\ file poor 
of Christ. She made herself the friend of all who heedeu li^^if 
particularly of the women and girls, whom ij)ie rDnsp|ef| In Hieir 
troubles and fortified by her counsels with a tatnifit ^M|(^i||/||i^ a.u4 H 
keenness of perception as to their individual t-ifHtHCtef^ i/KJ t^fiHlt^- 
ments so remarkable, as to show that she was endowetl Hijiij *{ 
special gift for the fulfilment of the ends to will' h she had devoted 
her life. To her was committed the siiperintRnde/ifee of the 
Orphanage which M. Olier subsequently ffumdeij, filiil v»l )■ h was 
mainly supported by her munificence. The immediate management 
of the institution was confided, on the iiKfiiiiidlion of the wardens 
and with the approval of the Abbd de St. Gerinain, to Mile. Anne 
de Valois, who from the purest motives of charity undertook the 
personal care and instruction of the inmates. 

Some estimate may be formed of the readiness with which all 
classes responded to the call of their pastor, and of the vast amount 
of hard work which was accomplished under his direction, if we 
enumerate the several meetings which were held every month for 
the transaction of business in connection with the various institu- 
tions. Thus, the first and third Sundays were devoted to new con- 
verts, whether from heresy or from a life of sin; the second and 
fourth to the bashful poor, whose condition was often far more 
pitiable than that of persons whose destitution was apparently as 
great or even great er ; while the first Saturday and the twenty-fifth 
day of each month were set apart for receiving poor children into 
the free schools. On the first and third Sundays also the Conseil 
Charitable^ of which more will be said hereafter, held its sittings for 
the settlement of disputes and the prevention of litigation. Other 
meetings were held on the first Thursday in each month for reliev- 
ing the sick poor; on the first Saturday for assisting poor cripples, 
the blind, the paralytic, and other sufferers ; on the second Thursday 
for supplying little children with milk and farinaceous food, and 
engaging nurses for those whose mothers were unable to render 
them the personal care they needed. In fine, r°rtain ecclesiastics 
were charged on particular days with procuring the liberation of 
prisoners, while some of the more experienced ladies of the Faubourg 
undertook to provide work for girls who were without employment. 
"The zeal displayed by the parishioners of St. Sulpice," says M. 
ciu F'w'rrier, "was the theme of universal admiration; it was only 


His devotion to the Chair of Peter. 331 

necessary to propose good works, whether corporal or spiritual, and 
persons were always to be found ready to execute them." 

Of M. Olier's filial love and veneration for the Sovereign Pontiff 
it is needless to speak. Devotion to the Chair of Peter was with 
him an integral part of Christian piety, an indispensable element 
in the spiritual life.* The obedience he rendered to the Vicar of 
Christ was not the mere submission of heart and will to an authority 
ordained of God ; he recognised therein the priesthood and the 
royalty of Jesus and the energizing presence of the very Spirit of 
Truth and of Power. But, in addition to all t|;iis, as Cure of St. 
Sulpice, he was bound by special ties to the Holy See. From 
ancient times St. Peter had been the principal patron of the church, 
and was still so regarded, although, owing to the multitude of 
miracles which were wrought on occasion of the translation of the 
relics of St. Sulpice in the year 1518, it had come to be called, as 
it has continued to be called, by the name of the latter. More- 
over (as was before stated) the parish was subject to the immediate 
jurisdiction of the Holy See, as represented by the Abbd de St. 
Germain. The following extract from M. Olier's spiritual writings 
shows the value he attached to this circumstance, and the fruit he 
sought to derive from tiie contemplation of it. " By a particular 
order of Divine Providence," he says, " the Faubourg St. Germain, 
which from time immemorial the Holy See has reserved in imme- 
diate dependence on itself in token of its universal jurisdiction, 
is governed by the Abbd de St. Germain, to whom the Holy Father 
gives episcopal authority over this territory. But, seeing that, 
although he invests him with this authority, he does not impress 
upon him the character of the episcopate, which nevertheless is a 
source of life to us — as in every diocese it is the principle of that 
influence which sanctifies the whole flock, — it is not his wisli thereby 
to deprive the people of St. Germain of that aid, or to take from 
them that which ordinarily is the animating principle of all parishes. 
He seems rather to desire to reserve to himself that holy influence 
obliging us to regard him as the sole principle of our life, and to 
derive from him the spirit which other dioceses find in their 
bishops. We ought, in consequence, to have a great trust and an 
unfailing confidence in the Prince of the Apostles, and esteem our- 
selves happy that the goodness of God obliges us thereto, by giviiig 

* This idea was developed with singular force and beauty by Father Faber ia 
his Sermon on Devotion to the Poj>e, publislied in i86a 









Life of M. Olier. 

him to us as our patron and requiring his image to be always 
exposed upon the tar of our church and ever present before our 
eyes. Moreover, a. the exterior forms of worship are the same 
in our church as they are at Rome ; for we use the same chant, 
the same ceremonies, the same ritual, and, as these things are but 
an expression of the interior spirit and hidden life which reigns in 
the Church, they represent to us the spirit, grace, and life which 
flow from the Holy Father our Head, and oblige us to show him 
special reverence, submit ourselves humbly to his rule, and, in his 
person, to the divine apostolate of St. Peter, in order that we may 
have a share in that fulness of spirit which is in him and distribute 
it through the world." 

In the same spirit of obedience to the authority of the Churcli, 
and, indeed, to the slightest indications of its will, this true pastor 
of souls strove to interest his people in the devotions and ceremonies 
which marked the different times and seasons of the ecclesiastical 
year, and instruct them in their deep significance. He deemed it 
a matter of the utmost importance that they should be imbued 
wiiii this knowledge, as being a most effectual means of familiarising 
their minds with the several mysteries of the Incarnate Word and 
thereby leading them to reform and sanctify their lives. He 
seemed to have received a particular gift, for expJ*ining these things, 
and the fruits were both ronspicuous an<i abundafit. It has been 
said that the sermons and the numerous cM^a^ of the Church were 
largely attended I// «(l rlasses, but M. Olier -Jicceedcd aiw;> in 
inspiring a spfcia) devotion for pilgrimages, anrc paxticulark for 
that of Notre Dame des Vert us, at Aub^-^villiers, near St. I>«:xi .* 

* This pilgrimage owes its origin to a miraculous ilMlpB •f the Bie-sed 
Virgin, which, in 1338, attracted an immense concoune «( peopl« to tb-e spot. 
During the spring of that year there was a g/'at deattiii «6 water ; b«t o«n xae. 
second Tuesday in the month of May, a y^ung gir: goiag to decorate tlie Miap 
with fl^Dwers, was surprised to observe it all bat lied m mMtliwe, aotwrthRtan^tag 
the fi«iat and dryness of the season. On the people assensiifiiag at ibe tidings 
there fell an abundant supply of rain, which was followeC by 2 nuraftier of 
miracles, and, among the rest, by the restoration to life of tw<o children, wliicii 
took place under circums;ances which precluded the possibility ■»{ frauu or 
coi-asion. Hence the shrine acquired the name of Notre Dame des V*iTtus, or Our 
LrH% of Miracles, for such is the meaning attached to the term. It wa»f. here that 
M. Olier ^as related in chapter ix. ) received those remarkable ^v^urs from 
heaven., previous to the establishment of tiie Seminary of Vaugirard. From Hno 
to rt»8o the seminarists of St. Sulpice took part in the parochial procession, but 
in the latter year the pilgrimage was discontinued in consequence of certain 

Increased respect for the clergy > 


which was performed every year on Whit-Tuesday by the parishioners 
and seminarists of St. v^alpice ; members of the higher classes 
taking part therein, to the great edification of the people. It was 
an act of devotion which involved no slight amount of labour and 
fatigue, as the procession left the church at half-past two in the 
morning and did not return till late in the day, halting on the way 
both at La Villette and at St. Lazare. 

This general renewal of pjcty was accompanied with a correspond- 
ing increase of reverence for the priestly character and office, and 
the clergy were able to go at all houirs into the loneliest quarters 
of the city without fear of injury or insult. The very thieves and 
street-robbers treated them with respect ; and M. du Ferrier relates 
how, being surrounded one dark night by a gang of these men, who 
felt his clothes in order to ascertain whether he wore a cassock, 
he had the courage to harang:ae them on the infamy of their lives, 
and with sucii effect that tkey ofered themselves as an escort 
to protect him on his way himme, and promised to abandon their 
evil courses. On the CKcasion, ajiso, of a tumult caused by the 
revival of an obnoxious tax,* wher. a violent mob were trying to 
break into the church, in ortier to sound the tocsin and summon 
the people to arm^. he affected to believe that they were Huguenots 
who had come wizn the mtention of profaning the sacred building 
and offering outrage to the Blessed Sacrament. On their protesting 
they were Catholics, — " What ! " he cried, " do you believe that 
our Lord Jesus Christ dwells in the tabernacle in the holy ciborium ? " 
"We do," they repioied. "Then, my dear friends," said he, "how 

abuses which occurred, and was replaced, first, by one to the Val de Grace and, 
afterwards, by one to Notre Dame de Paris ; l)ut in 1750 the practice was 
entirely relinquisbed. The seminarists, hosvever, still retained a particular devo- 
tion to the place, and 'o this day make pilgrimages to it during their vacation. 

* In November rtU49 Henri II., alarmed at the dimensions which the capital 
was rapidly assumtag, had prohibited the further erection of houses in the 
suburbs. This edict, if ever in force, had long become obsolete when Cardinal 
Mazariu, desiraig to replenish the .-^offers of the State, imposed a tax on all pro- 
prietors of hoases-in the faubourg> m proportion to the area which they severally 
occupied, and wii«c* was to be determined by actual measurement. Hence the 
name Tois^e, by ^iitMcii the tajc came to be called. Immediately, however, on the 
tiisi measureNMBi. being taken, so violent a tumult arose that the unpopular tax 
was never aemmlt' levied, and in 1640 was dehnitively repealed. In 1672, Louis 
XIV. re!*e«»>« ■'ne impost, on the ground that the extension of the city 
boundane de*, consequent increase of the population rendered it extremely 
difficult ffir nNfcvcivil authorities to provide for the maintenance either of order 
or of 1 


I ill 
■ ' f| 

! i| 

I vT^^ 

4 ^:m 


IIP I .1 v.'itvf>^miimmi''^l'Wf!mimiW^ffff^iimiW'* 


Life of M. Olier. 

do you dare to force open His gates, when you would not venture 
to burst into the chamber of the King, if you knew he was within ?" 
The men felt the force of the rebuke, and by this simple appeal 
to their faith in the Tremendous Mystery of the Altar he succeeded 
in quieting their minds and turning them from their purpose. 

We cannot more fitly conclude this account of what will ever 
rank in the annals of the Church as one of the most marvellous 
transformations, moral and religious, which was ever effected, than 
by quoting the words of an historian * who wrote at a date when 
the completeness of the reformation was placed beyond dispute. 
"At the time when the Seminary was founded, the parish of St. 
Sulpice," he says, " was a very sink of iniquity and of every 
abomination which it is possible to imagine. It resembled that 
infamous city which the Prophet Isaias t depicts as a harlot or 
adulteress, so detestable and so numerous were the crimes of which 
it was the scene. This modern Sodom was the abode of libertines, 
atheists, and heretics, who there were free to indulge their worst 
passions with impunity. It was by a particular dispensation of 
His Providence in regard to this faubourg that God raised up 
M. Olier and his zealous fellow-labourers, who, burning with the 
desire of promoting His glory, broke up this ungrateful soil, replete, 
like that of Canaan before the Israelites entered in, with every 
manner of foulness and impurity. By the unwearied labours of 
these evangelical husbandmen it became a very land of promise, 
where each taught his neighbour to know and glorify God. It 
was easy to note the change that had taken place by the frequent 
confessions, the numerous restitutions, the submission shown to 
the laws of the Church, the earnestness displayed in attending 
the divine offices, the hungering after the word of God, the con- 
trition and penitence of a multitude of prodigals, who came to 
detest in the bitterness of their conscience the enormities of their 
past life." 

* M. Faillon does not mention the author's name, doubtless because it was 
unknown to him. His reference, in the margin, is simply Rem. Hist. {Rhninis- 
cences Historiqties). The writer had evidently a personal knowledge of what 
he relates. 

t Isaias i. 21, &c. 

( 335 ) 



WE should gain but a very inadequate idea of the services 
which this great man rendered to religion, if we excluded 
from our consideration the prominent part he look in resisting the 
insidious encroachments of the Jansenistic heresy, which all this 
time was spreading like a lestilence through the Church of France, 
and insinuating its baneful virus among the religious bodies, both 
of men and women, especially in and about the capital. 

The Jansenists, it must ever be remembered, came forward in tlie 
first instance in the guise of zealous reformers, protesting loudly 
against the scandals which all good men deplored and were labour- 
ing to remove, and exhibiting an unwonted fervour of devotion and 
austerity of life. This apparent strictness with themselves and 
display of earnestness had the effect of deceiving many who, if they 
had discerned the true motive of all these ardent professions and 
the real import of the tenets with which they were accompanied, 
would have been foremost in their condemnation. Of such was M. 
Bourdoise, who, captivated by the specious piety and severe morality 
of the Abb^ de Saint-Cyran,* was slow to credit the warnings 
which keener-sighted friends gave him as to the real character and 



* Jean du Verger de Hauranne, called, from his abbey, Saint-Cyran, was born 
at Bayonne in 1581. He was a personal friend of Cornelius Jansen, author of 
tlie AugustinuSy who was for some time professor in that town and afterwards at 
Louvain, and in 1635 became Bishop of Ypres. Saint-Cyran wrote several works 
tjiving a practical development to the pernicious principles maintained in that 
vork, and was successful in seducing many to his views, among whom were 
Antoine Arnauld and his too celebrated sister, Angelique, Superioress of Port 
Royal. Imprisoned by Richelieu for teaching false docirine, he was liberated on 
the death of that powerful minister, December 4th, 1642, but died on the nth of 
October in the following year. Ke was buried in the parish church of St. 
Jacques du Haut Pas, and his tomb became an object of veneration to his devoted 
followers, who made frequent pilgrimages thereto, especially on Saturdays. 

ii ! 


Life of M, Olier. 

intentions of the man ; and even when his eyes were opened it was 
some time before he could be induced to exercise that vigilance in 
the admission of fresh members into his community which the 
necessity of the case demanded. Towards the end of 1640 (as 
related at the time) a breach had all but occurred in consequence 
between M. Olier's infant society and himself. He was at length 
completely undeceived, but not before the wolf, who had found an 
entrance into the fold, had succeeded in carrying oft one of the 
most promising of his flock.* 

M. Olier, on the other hand, never hesitated for a moment ; from 
the first he had an instinctive feeling of distrust and repulsi n for 
the whole party, and it will ever be one of the chief glories of the 
Seminary of SL bulpice that it stood as an impregnable bulwark 
against the errors of Jansenism, and that this odious heresy could 
never boast of having gained a footing within its walls. A mortified 
life, however, and earnestness in the cause of ecclesiastical reform, 
were identified in the minds of many with a leaning to the new 
opinions, and it was the policy of the sect to encourage the 
delusion. To those who disliked M. Olier's spirituality and zeal, 
but who were withheld from condemning, even to themselves, what 
their consciences told them they ought rather to admire and applaud, 
it was a kind of relief to be able to set him down as a favourer of 
Jansenism ; and the party itself was only too eager to claim him as 
an ally. A public protest which he felt himself compelled to make 
against a certain confessor, who had been called in to a sick person, 
and whose practice was in accordance with those maxims of false 
leniency which, as has been said, were in vogue at the time, was 
seized upon both by Jansenists and by indifferent Catholics as a 
confirmation of the suspicion already afloat. " I detest these lax 
maxims," said the servant of God, "as I devest everything which is 
not in conformity with the purity of the Gospel ; I have a thousand 
times more horror of them than of the open suggestions of Satan, 
and would much rather behold a sick man besieged by a legion of 
the spirits of darkness than see him put his trust in a casuist who, 
to make broader the way of salvation, opens to him the gate of 
Hell." A declaration so decisive was taken as a pronouncement 
in favour of the no less fatal rigorism which was one of the dis- 
tinctive signs of Jansenistic predilections, and M. Olier, who would 
have remained silent under any ordinary calumny, considered it his 

• See page 100. 

His letter to the Marquise dc Partes. 337 

duty, when liis orthodoxy was called in question, to rebut in the 
face of the Church a charge so injurious to his influence as a pastor 
of souls. This he did, not in the way of passionate self-defence or 
of a vehement attacli on either of the two opposite errors, but by a 
simple and powerful exposition of the Catholic doctrine, in language 
which could admit but of one interpretation. From this moment 
he became the object of a relentless hostility which did not terminate 
even with his life ; but he never flinched from the unecjual contest, 
— unequal where one side dealt in unscrupulous falsehood and the 
other adhered to the strictest requirements of charity and truth ; 
and the only effect of the persecution he encountered was to make 
him redouble his exertions to protect his people against the unceas- 
ing machinations of th( innovators. Some of his associates, indeed, 
indignant at the calumnies which were being promulgated against 
him, were preparing to undertake his defence, but the servant of 
God, on being made aware of their intention, had their writings 
brought to him and thrust them into the fire, saying, " Do you not 
know that calumny is one of the rewards which God bestows on those 
who defend region ? Let us bless Him in that He has deemed us 
worthy of suffering persecution or having upheld His interests." 

Heresy is a hateful and a fearful thing ; open, avowed hostility to 
the authority of Christ's Church and to its teachings. But there is 
something still more hateful and more fearful ; heresy, not merely 
nascent, undeveloped, undeclared, but hidden and disguised, — 
secretly lurking within the Church itself, dissembling its hostility, 
professing submission, protesting fidelity. Such was Jansenism ; 
insidious, hypocritical, insincere ; in a word, dishonest : this it was 
that made it so powerful for mischief.* A letter, which M. Olier 
addressed to the Marquise de Fortes, who was under his direction, 
but had allowed herself to be entangled in its toils, so clearly 
illustrates the disingenuousness of these false brethren, and at the 
same time brings out into such strong relief his own upright- 
ness and sincerity, that a portion of it may here be quoted. " I 
cannot express to you," he writes, " my grief and my confusion at 
the tidings I have received. I am assured that you are in private 
correspondence with the Jansenists, and that in your letters you 
evince a great zeal in upholding their party. For more than 

* A rapid but comprehensive and graphic sketch of the history and spirit of 
Jansenism, with its baneful influences and effects, has been given by F. Dalgairns 
in his Devotion to the Heart of Jesus. 












u« lii 12.2 

:^ 1^ 12.0 




1 m |u |..6 





^ y . 


^' « 








(716) S73-4S03 








Life of M, Olier. 

eight months I have continued to refuse credence to the dif- 
ferent reports that have reached me, relying on your own asser- 
tions in spite of all the testimonies to the contrary ; but of late 
such convincing proofs have been brought before me that I cannot 
doubt any longer. My very dear daughter, what would you have 
me do for you ? If you have lost confidence in me, you are quite 
right in believing than I can only be irksome and useless to you. 
No one can serve two masters, as our Lord says, or obey in sim- 
plicity two persons opposed to each other in their sentiments and 
maxims. ... I am sure that my heart is wholly yours, in the charity 
of Jesus Christ, to aid you and to serve yoa ; but I doubt very 
much whether I ought to allow you any longer to practise this 
feigned confidence and submission. I may safely say that I have 
never abandoned a soul which Jesus Christ entrusted to me, and 
that I have always been careful not to give ir any just cause for 
leaving me ; but, when I see a soul following two different paths, 
and joining finesse to concealment, after once making known to it 
my views and convictions I let it go its own ways, knowing that it 
cannot take a more dangerous course than one of divided direction, 
especially if it incline towards the bad side. My very dear and 
esteemed daughter, if you will promise me, in Jesus Christ, to hold 
no further communication with that party, which is creating a 
formal schism in the Church and which persists in maintaining the 
new opinions in defiance of authority, I can assure you, in our 
Lord, that I will render you all the service and all the assistance 
which you could expect from one in my position. But it is not 
possible, nor is it permissible, for me to assist souls which range 
themselves on the side of a party which opposes and, indeed, assails 
the spouse of Jesus Christ, the Holy Church, whose wounds and 
wrongs are more painful to Him than were those which He endured 
in His own person. 

*' What would you say, my daughter, of those who assert that the 
Church ia in error and the fosterer of heresies; who profess that 
their object is to reform her, and, instead of combating her enemies, 
in order either to convert them or to put them to the rout, are for 
ever railing at their mother, rending her heart, and tearing her to 
pieces with unparalleled affliction and desolation ? You see nothing 
where you are. You are furnished only with good books, — such, 
for instance, as recommend almsgiving, because you have an 
inclination that way. Under pretexts the most specious these 


Brother John rescued from a snare. 339 

gentlemen neglect works of the greatest moment, in order to further 
their own malignant views ; thev despise all who do not adopt 
them, and even brand them as heretics and schismatics. Because 
we preach that Jesus Christ died for all, they are scandalized. They 
go so far as to complain and express their displeasure aloud in the 
churcl es, as they did in our own only three days ago. In short, 
in all their proceedings they give frightful signs of passion, anger, 
and rancour, which make one shudder. My daughter, we must not 
believe every spirit, as St. John warns us,* nor, as St. Paul says,t 
be led away with various and strange doctrines. Beware ! error 
has always insinuated itself into the Church under the disguise of 
reform. The last heretics declared that their doctrine was that of 
the primitive Church, founded on the word of Jesus Christ, accom- 
panying their preachings with bounteous alms and announcing 
everywhere a reformation of manners exceeding even that of the 
Church herself When asked who sent them, they replied, ' No 
one ; we come of ourselves ; ' and when again they were asked 
where, then, were the signs of their extraordinary mission, and the 
approbation of the Holy See, they made no answer, for they had 
none to make. Nevertheless, they continued spreading abroad 
their doctrine, without mission, without the approbation of their 
superiors, — a condition absolutely indispensable, and one which has 
always been so regarded in the Church. St. Paul himself. Apostle 
as he was, took his directions from St. Peter. J No, without sub- 
miss'on there is no security; besides, I see in those who have 
gained you over to their party so much obstinacy, impetuosity, con- 
tempt of all who do not think as they do, — so much esteem of 
themselves, to the prejudice of the Church and of the whole body 
of the faithful ; and it is this alarms me about you. Beware, then, 
of this dangerous leaven ; and, however fair the exterior of those 
of whom I speak, make haste to separate yourself from them, that 
you may be united only to Jesus Christ, and to the purity of the 
faith, which will ever be the same in the Church, because Jesus 
Christ will ever be with her." 

Brother John of the Cross would also have fallen a victim to 
their artifices but for M. Oiler's sharp remonstrances. He had 
taken to going every Sunday to hear the preaching at Port Royal, 
his attraction bein i, not the S'srmons, which were beyond his cora- 

* 1 St John iv. I. t Heb. xiiL 9. 

% Gal. i. 18, 19. 





Life of M. Olier. 

prehension, but a paraphrase of the Gospel, which M. Singlin, who 
since Saint-Cyran's death had become the patriarch of the sect, 
was in the habit of giving in French, a practice which he thought 
betokened great zeal for the word of God ; and it required much 
firmness and not less tact on the part of M. Olier to keep this 
simple and illiterate man from being taken in the snare. 

Owing to the troublous state of the times, and the consequent 
occupation of those who ought to have endeavoured to suppress 
the rising evil, the audacity of the sectaries increased every day. 
The machinations to which they secretly resorted, and the influence 
which they possessed in certain high quarters, had the effect of 
deterring many who had no leaning to their errors from making a 
public protest and causing them to take refuge in a safe silence for 
fear of incurring the enmity of Port Royal; while preachers and 
professors, even when opposing and refuting the new doctrines, 
were careful to make no allusion to Jansenius or his tenets, but 
to combat ihem under titles borrowed from the heresies of an 
earlier date, a disloyal and cowardly mode of action which — it hardly 
need be stated — found no favour with M. Olier and the Sulpicians. 
Many, again, of the Parisian clergy openly sided with the party, 
among whom- -strange to say — was M. Copin, Curd of Vaugirard, 
who, notwithstanding the important services which the Sulpicians 
had never ceased to render him, in supplying by their ministrations 
for his frequent absence from his parish, now assumed a hostile 
attitude, and thwarted and molested them by every means within 
his power, even preventing the bells being rung as usual on 
occasion of the procession which (as will be recollected) the parish- 
ioners of St. Sulpice, with the clergy and wardens at their head, 
were wont to make every year to Vaugirard on the feast of St. 
Mark.* This vexatious proceeding on the part of the Cure, we 
may here remark, had no permanent results, for, indignant at the 
treatment which the Sulpicians had received, the people of Vau- 
girard petitioned that the ancient practice might be continued, 
engaging to show them the accustomed tokens of respect, which 
accordingly was done, and we mention the circumstance simply 
as a specimen of the methods of annoyance to which the partisans 
of the new opinions were not ashamed to have recourse. But, 
indeed, any weapon, any artifice, by which they might hope to 

• It was on occasion of this procession in 1642 that M. de Fiesque first 
proposed to make over the parish of St. Sulpice to M. Olier. 


Hostility of the Oratorians. 


injure or discredit the champions of orthodoxy was legitimate 
in their eyes. They spared neither calumny nor menace, they 
assailed them in lampoons and scurrilous pamphlets, they railed 
at them in their sermons, publicly accusing M. Olier of being 
himself the innovator and the author of a schism in the Church. 
This, indeed, was the course which they invariably pursued. Con- 
demned again and again by the Holy See, to whose judgment they 
affected to bow, they impudently persisted in retorting on the 
Catholics the charge of introducing strange doctrines. To tea?h 
that Christ died for all, that the commandments of God are capable 
of being observed, that grace may be resisted — this with them was 
heresy; while the contrary propositions they declared to be of 
faith. Accordingly, they denounced the Sulpicians as Pelagians, 
or Semi-Pelagians, pretending that they referred all to nature and 
made no account of grace. " On the contrary," writes M. Olier, 
" we say with St. Paul, that * we are not sufficient to think anything of 
ourselves, as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God ; for it is God 
who worketh in us both to will and to accomplish according to His 
good will.' * We refer to nature nothing that is supernatural ; in 
ourselves yf^ are no more capable of willing or accomplishing 
supernatural things than we are of thinking them. We have need 
of grace always and in all things ; and we can do nothing without 
the grace of God. What more can we say ? " 

As already intimated, the Fathers of the Oratory took side with 
M. Olier's accusers, and endeavours were accordingly made by the 
Jansenistic party to establish an Oratorian house in the Faubourg 
with the view of recommending their pernicious errors to the 
parishioners of St. Sulpice. So unceasing were their efforts, and sa 
powerful the support which they received in influential quarter.?, 
tliat their success appeared to be assured, and many members of 
the Community were filled with rlarm, believing that they would 
have to abandon the field to their adversaries. But M. Olier's 
courage was equal to the emergency, and, as the sequel will show, 
the Oratory was never permitted to effect an entrance into the 
parish. For the present, having learned that two of its leading 
members, noted adherents of Saint-Cyran, — P. S^guenot, Superior 
of the house at Saumur, and P. Toussaint Desmares, who was held 
in great repute for his rhetorical powers, — had been invited to 
preach in Paris, he succeeded in obtaining an inhibition from the 




i i 

* 2 Cor. iii. 5 ; PhiL ii. 13. 


Life of M. Olier. 

Archbishop, which was immediately put in force.* At nie same 
time, Dom Placide Roussel, Prior of the Abbey of St. Germain, who, 
like his predecessor, Dom Grdgoire Tarrisse, was a staunch friend 
of M. Olier issued a mandement, dated the 14th of June, 1650, 
ordering tha. no sermons should be delivered during the Octave of 
Corpus Christi in any of the chapels belonging to the various com- 
munities in the Faubourg without his express permission, and inter- 
dicting preachcis, on any pretext whatever, from touching on the 
points which were so hotly debated. The faithful generally, he said, 
including religious, need know no more than this — that" if they are 
saved it will be solely through the goodness and mercy of God, and 
if they are lost it will be the just punishment of their sins and 
offences. From this it may be seen, as the Abb6 Faillon observes, 
how very far the Reform of St. Maur, in the days of its first fervour, 
was from giving any support to Jansenism. 

Having failed to penetrate within the Seminary or to win over 
any of its inmates to their views, the innovators directed their efforts 
to the perversion of the laity, and, unhappily, with only too great 
effect ; for they succeeded in enlisting among their followers several 
persons of rank and position, whose houses they made so many 
schools in which to expound and propagate their pestilential 
doctrines. Of these powerful auxiliaries none exercised a larger 
influence that the Due and Duchesse de Liancourt. The Duke in 
his younger days had been the associate of men who were notorious 
for their libertinism and their irreligion, and, in particular, of Th^o- 
phile de Viau, whom the Parliament of Paris had condemned to 
banishment for his open avowal of atheism. But of late years the 
Duke had given great edification to the parishioners by his attention 
to his religious duties and his active co-operation in every good 
work. Both he and the Duchess were persons of cultivated tastes 
and highly intellectual, and their house was frequented by all who 
had made themselves a name in the world of letters. Among others, 
the Abb^ de Bourzeis, of the French Academy, an ardent Jansenist, 
but who had the address to conceal his real opinions, was intro- 
duced to them as a person of remarkable talent, who in literary 
ability ranked next to the famous Arnauld. Knowing the Duchess 
to be prejudiced against the new doctrines owing to the adverse 

• P. Seguenot had, in 1638, been sent to the Bastille by Cardinal de Richelieu 
on account of the part he took in favour of Saint-Cyran ; and in 1648 P. Desmares, 
by ordei of the Queen Regent, had been prohibited from preaching. 

Perversion of influential laity. 


imprcasions which she had received from the Queen Regent, he pro- 
fessed at first to be in perfect accord with her and warmly advocated 
the opposite side.* After a while, however, he adroitly changed 
his line of action and, broaching Jansenistic tenets, as though he 
had derived them from a study of St. Augustine, insensibly imbued 
her mind with the poison of heresy. The Duke, who was a clever 
man but one who did not trouble himself to look deeply into things, 
was easily won over by his wife, to whose judgment he was in the 
habit of deferring. Thus the Hotel de Llancourt, which stood in 
the Rue de Seine, not far from the church of St. Sulpice, became 
the headquarters of the party, where the Abbd de Bourzeis, the 
Pfere Toussaint Desmares, the Pfere Jacques Esprit, and other 
Jansenistic leaders met to confer together and, under the guise of 
free discussion, covertly to impose their false Gospel on the accept- 
ance of the company. 

The Mardchal de Schomberg, brother of the Duchess, was 
strongly opposed to the new opinions, and would fain have induced 
his sister to consult her Cur^, M. Olier, but, being fully aware of his 
sentiments on the subject, she refused to do so ; and a conference 
at which she consented to be present between her adviser, De 
Bourzeis, and Alphonse Le Moyne, a Doctor of the Sorbonne, had 
only the effect of confirming her in her errors and rendering her 
more obstinate than before in her adherence to tlie party. 

Another rendezvous of the Port- Royalists was the Hotel de 
Nevers, occupied by the Comte and Comtesse du Plessis de 
Gu^ndgaud. The Count, who was Secretary of State, took but 
small interest in religious concerns, but the salon of his wife, Isabelle 
de Choiseul, was the resort of all that was most distinguished at the 
bar and in the senate and, indeed, it may be said, of all that was 
most brilliant in the world of fashion. But, besides these private 
reunions, the churches of St. Merry and of Port Royal, at which M. 
du Hamel and M. Singlin respectively held forth every Sunday, 
were attended by an aristocratic throng, including the Due de 
Luynes, ^on of the Constable and a parishioner of St. Sulpice, who 
was won over to the party by P. Desmares during a stay he made 

iii 1 

' Hi 

* Before she was seduced into adopting Jansenistic tenets, the Duchess com- 
posed a rule of life for her grand-daughter on the occasion of her marriage with 
the Prince de Marsillac ; an admirable little work, which was published in 1698, 
and reprinted in 1881, with a notice from the pen of the Marquise de Forbiu 

■.'■^ t -.p- ;^* ^*'TK^(>r'^»'-'¥P f 


Life of M. Olier, 

at the Cli&teau de Liancourt, the Marquis de Laignes, Counsellor of 
State, Charles de Bernibres and Jean Lenain, Maitres des Reqi;etes, 
the Comtesse de Chavigny, the Comtesse de Brienne, Mme. de 
Sabld, and the notorious Anne de Rohan, Princesse de Gudmend,* 
all of whom exhibited a fanatical zeal iii propagating the doctrines 
of the sect. 

It may be imagined with what anguish of heart the servant of 
God beheld the ravages which heresy was making in his flock, and 
especially among those whose influence for good and for evil was so 
powerful. Particularly did he deplore the open s\ipport which the 
Due and Duchesse de Liancourt were rendering to the Jansenistic 
cause. Alarmed at the perils with which he saw them encompassed, 
and grieved at the injurious example they were presenting to his 
people, he neglected no means of withdrawing them from the course 
on which they had embarked. Hoping, therefore, to attach him by 
closer ties to his parish church and at the same time to bring him 
into more immediate relations with himself as his pastor, he invited 
the Duke to undertake the office of warden which had become vacant 
by the death of M. Lecoigneux, President of the Parliament of 
Mortier. The Duke readily consented, and M. Olier availed him- 
self of the occasion to represent to him the satisfaction it would 
cause, not only to himself, but to the parishioners generally, if he would 
give some public attestation of his entire submission to the decrees 
of the Holy See in regard to the controverted subjects of the day. 
The Duke cordially agreed, and just a week after his election, which 
took place on August 24th, 165 1, he, in conjunction with the 
Duchess, delivered to M. Olier a formal protestation couched in 
the plainest and most explicit terms. "We promise," so ran the 
document, " with the help of God, strictly to adhere to the decisions 
which the Pope shall clearly and distinctly pronounce on the subject 
of grace, even though he should condemn all the propositions which 
we believe to be contained in the doctrine of St. Augustine ; our 
desire being to live and die in the faith of the Catholic, Apostolic, 
and Roman Churr' , never separating ourselves therefrom, or 
doubting any of the points of faith which it shall teach us. Given 
at Liancourt this ist day of September, 165 1. — R. Duplessis. 
Jeanne de Schomberg." To which they appended this postscript : 

* For the character of this lady the reader is referred to the Memoirs of De 
Retz, B. I. p. 17 ; F. Dalgairns, Devotion to the Heart of Jesus, p. 22 ; and the 
Dublin Review, April, 1874, p. 373. 

■: ft iiiw ayfiiiii jHj]jisi(fc^-^ieirrag>ifrr'""** 

Discussion on grace. 


" We most humbly beg M. I'Abb^ OHer to preserve this paper, 
wherein we have desired to declare to him our true dispositions for 
his particular satisfaction, and not to allow it to pass into other 
liands, if such be his good pleasure." 

M. Olier received the same assurance from the Hotel de Nevers, 
the frequenters of its salon unanimously declaring that they were 
only waiting for Rome to speak in ord-^r to give in their unreserved 
submission ; and this, too, was the language held by the Abb^ de 
Bourzeis, the Pbre Desmares, M. Singlin, and other leaders of the 
party, being apprehensive of alarming the neophytes who were con- 
stantly presenting themselves. From the same motive they made 
public in 1652 the protestation which the Due and Duchesse de 
Liancourt had delivered in private to M. Olier. 

Despite, however, all these solemn asseverations the servant of 
God was not free from disquietude, for the doctrines attributed to 
St. Augustine were none other than the Jansenistic errors which 
had been condemned by Urban VIII. in 1642. Seeing, moreover, 
that under the influence of their favourite divines the Duke and 
Duchess were becoming more and more attached to these per- 
nicious errors, and that all his endeavours to recall them were of no 
avail, he suggested their conferring privately with Dom Pierre de St. 
Joseph, a religious of the Congregation of the Feuillants, who had 
distinguished himself by his works on the subject of grace. But, the 
Mardchal de Schomberg being of opinion that a proceeding of a 
more formal character would have a greater effect in opening his 
sister's eyes to the real nature of the tenets she affected, it was pro- 
posed that a discussion should take place in presence of witnesses 
on both sides. To this the Duke and Duchess assented, on the 
condition that the Pfere Desmares should take part in the debate ; 
and it was mutually agreed that each disputant should be ready to 
affix his signature to any proposition he advanced, on being required 
so to do by his opponent. 

Accordingly, towards the end of May, 1652, the Duke and 
Duchess repaired with their champion to the Presbytery of St. 
Sulpice, accompanied by the Mar^chal and Mar^chale de Schomberg. 
With P. Pierre were associated M. Olier, M. Bretonvilliers, and two 
others. M. Olier opened the conference by putting a question 
which went straight to the point at issue. " My father," he said, 
" do you condemn as erroneous and heretical the opinion of those 
who maintain that there are graces which are sufficient, but which 

1 1 






I >■ 



Life of M. Olier. 

are not efficacious? In other words, are there, or are there not, 
sufficient graces given by Jesus Christ, which are rendered ineffi- 
cacious and inoperative by the ill use that is made of them ? " For 
three hours Desmares used all the artifices of which he was master 
to evade the question \ and, instead of making any reply, entered 
into a long disquisition on the different systems by which theologians 
explained the nature of sufficient grace, and, among others, that of 
Molina, whom he taxed with heresy and Pelagianism. P. Pierre, 
in his turn, proceeded to show that the system of tne latter had 
never been condemned, and Desmares undertaking, on the other 
hand, to prove his assertion from St. Augustine, M. Olier, who per- 
ceived the object of the subterfuge, interposed, and brought him 
back to the point. " The question," he said, " is not whether, in 
order to do good, it is sufficient to have the grace of Molina, or of 
any other theologian, but whether he who does not do the good 
which he is commanded to do, has, or may have, all the aid 
necessary thereto, and vhether God, on His part, offers it to him." 
The Jansenist still persisting in his distinctions and M. Olier con- 
tinuing to press him for a reply, the Duke and Duchess came to 
their advocate's assistance, deprecating the attempt to drive h'm 
into a corner, on the ground that the term " sufficient grace " was 
used in different senses by different theologians. M. Olier, there- 
fore, contented himself with asking his opponent whether he held, 
or did not hold, that there were graces which were not efficacious ; 
and then, as Desmares still declined to answer, he reduced his 
question to the simplest possible form, and in a single sentence 
struck at the very root of the new heresy. " Either subscribe," he 
said, " this proposition, that there is no sufficient grace which is not 
efficacious, or renounce Jansenius." Instead of replying, Desmares 
went off into a denial that he had derived his opinions from the 
writings of Jansenius ; and so the disputation ended, as such dis- 
putations usually end : the teachers of error departed as they came, 
— unenlightened and unconverted. Thirty times, and more, Des- 
mares endeavoured to evade making a reply, and then, perceiving 
(as P. Pierre afterwards said) that, with all his stratagems, he could 
not induce his opponent to quit his position, " he put up his sword 
into its sheath, — I mean, he put his books and treatises into his 
bag ; " and the combatants separated. M. de Liancourt instantly 
took possession of all the notes of the conference which lay on M. 
Olier's table, and the party did not fail to publish abroad that their 

Du IlameVs system of penance. 


champion had gained a complete victory. The controversy was 
renewed in writing between P. Pierre and Arnauld ; Desmares also 
sent the former a paper in explanation of the points he had 
advanced ; and we may conceive how great was the interest which 
the public took in the debate from the fact that hawkers cried about 
the streets what they called the Pore Desmares's ** confession of 
faith." M. Olier, however, was satisfied with having done his duty 
as pastor of souls, and pursued the matter no further. 

Of all M. Olier's opponents, however, the most formidable, as he 
was personally the most hostile, was M. Henri du Hamel, Cur^ of 
St. Merry at Paris, whom, in 1645, the party had brought from the 
diocese of Sens and placed at the head of that parish for tlie avowed 
purpose of making it the rival of St. Sulpice. Here he established 
regular conferences, in the first instance professedly for the eccle- 
siastics of his community, but really for the laity, who soon formed 
the sole audience. The questions discussed were always such as 
were connected with the subject of grace. The novelty of the pro- 
ceeding attracted a vast concourse of people, among whom were 
many persons of rank, and the greatest eagerness and excitement 
prevailed. Besides the conferences there were catechisings, intended 
rather for adults than children, as also sermons, which produced 
no little sensation. Then, too, M. du Hamel became very popular 
as a director, especially among the ladies of his parish, crowds of 
whom might be seen waiting to consult him. All this was repre- 
sented as an extraordinary revival of the fervour, strictness, and 
purity of primitive times. The Vicaire of Belleville, which was 
attached to the parish of St. Merry, went so far as to determine to 
administer the sacrament of baptism only once a year, viz., on Holy 
Saturday ; and taught that immersion was essential to its validity. 
But the most striking feature in this pretended reform was the 
restoration of public penance, as practised in the early Church. 
This system had already been carried out by M. du Hamel in his 
former parish on true Jansenistic principles. He divided his peni- 
tents into four classes. The fiist consisted of such as were guilty 
only of secret sins ; these, when assisting at the divine office, were 
ranged in the lower part of the church, at four paces distant from the 
rest of the congregation. The second was composed of such as 
had been at variance with their neighbour, but without causing 
scandal j their place was outside the building, in the porch ^nd 
vestibule. The third class consisted of such as had committed 












Life of M. Olier. 

scandalous offences, and these were relegated to the churchyard ; 
while those who had indulged long habits of sin were made to occupy 
an adjacent hill, from which tney had a view of the entrance \q the 
church. All these penitents remained barefoot ind bareheaded 
during the celebration of Mass; they also took the disci[)line in 
public, wore a hair-shirt, and added other mortifications. These 
practices, with some slight modifications, were introduced at St. 
Merry ; and in justification of so startling a proceeding it was 
formally propounded that without previous, and even public, satis- 
faction sacramental absolution was of no avail. 

One of the penances commonly imposed was that of standing at 
the further end of the church, or outside the door, and never raising 
the eyes to the Blessed Sacrament ; and it is related that a pious 
young woman, having accidentally looked towards It, immediately 
ran out into the street for fear of being led to look again and make 
an act of adoration. But a priest of St. Sulpice, to whom she was 
brought by her friends, happily succeeded in disabusing her mind 
of its vain terrors. Another very usual penance was called the 
hour's tears, from its consisting in making efforts to shed tears, as 
if of compunction, for that space of time. Then, too, in the early 
mornings, a strange sight might have been witnessed in one of the 
chapels of St. Merry — a whole assembly of women scourging them- 
selves with the utmost vigour ; so great, indeed, was the ardour and 
enthusiasm with which they gave themselves to these and similar 
austerities that several died or went mad from the effects. Some 
even left their homes, and went to lead a solitary life in wild and 
desert places. One in particular is mentioned who attired herself 
in penitential garb and took up her abode near Issy, in a sort of 
natural grotto that was there, living only on herbs and roots and 
taking water with her hand from a neighbouring spring. She was 
venerated as a saint by the devotees of her party, who went fre- 
quently to visit and consult her. This eremitical sort of life soon 
became one of the fashions of the day. The Dues de Luynes and 
de Liancourt had each beautiful retreats constructed in the valley 
of Port Royal des Champs, nine miles from Versailles, to which they 
retired from time to time, and their example was followed by 
persons of all classes. They formed a sort of new Thebaid, ani- 
mated with a malignant spirit of rebellion against the present, living 
Church of