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Saint Vincent's Reading List XXXI: Vincent de Paul and Pierre de Bérulle

by Rev Edward R Udovic CM 7/27/2012 10:50:00 AM

La Vie du Cardinal de Bérulle, Instituteur et Premier, Superieur General de la Congregation de l’Oratoire de Jesus-Christ Nostre Seigneur, by Germain Habert, Abbé de Cerisy. Paris: Veuve de Jean Camusat et Pierre Le Petit, 1646.

Call Number: SpC. 271.79 B563Yc1646

A full-text version of this volume may be viewed here


Title pageWhen the young Vincent de Paul arrived in Paris in late 1609 or early 1610, he almost immediately fell under the influence of Pierre de Bérulle (1575-1629). Bérulle was one of the most important dévot figures whose many volumes of mystical theology contributed to the formation of the famous “French School” of spirituality. In 1611 he founded the Oratory of Jesus in Paris and became its first superior general. He cooperated with Michel de Marillac and Madame Acarie to introduce the reformed Carmel of Teresa of Avila into France, and served as a confessor to Henri IV. Bérulle undertook several diplomatic missions for the crown, including the negotiations which led to the marriage of Louis XIII’s sister Henrietta-Maria to Charles I of England. However, his political influence began to wane with the ascendancy of Cardinal Richelieu. Bérulle himself was named a cardinal in 1627, and died while celebrating mass in 1629.

For some time, Pierre de Bérulle served as Vincent de Paul’s spiritual director, and guided the ecclesiastical career of the young priest, grooming him to become part of the power elite in Parisian dévot circles. It was Bérulle who arranged for Vincent de Paul to become pastor at Clichy, and then to enter into the service of the Gondi family. Vincent turned to him in 1617 when he wished to leave the Gondis to find a quiet pastoral position far from Paris, while the Gondis later sought Bérulle’s support in persuading Vincent de Paul to return to their service.

Detail of frontispieceBoth Pierre Coste and Louis Abelly credit Bérulle for playing a key role in the early stages of Vincent de Paul’s conversion. The close relationship between the two was not to last, especially as Vincent became attracted to the devout humanism of Francis de Sales, found other mentors like Andre du Val, and gained more confidence in his own spiritual synthesis. By the 1620s there appears to have been little ongoing contact between the two. By the end of his life, Pierre de Bérulle had even moved to oppose the foundation of the Congregation of the Mission.

The present volume is a biography of Bérulle which appeared during Vincent’s lifetime. 



St. Vincent’s Reading List is a recurring blog series exploring texts known to have been read and recommended by Saint Vincent de Paul, those which can be presumed to have been read by him, and  works published during his lifetime (1581-1660) illustrating his world. All materials discussed are held by DePaul University’s Richardson Library. The entire series may be viewed here.


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