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Saint Vincent's Reading List LVI: The Roots of Vincent's Christocentrism

by Rev Edward R Udovic CM 8/25/2014 3:15:00 PM

Les Veritez et Excellences de Jesus-Christ, Nostre Seigneur: Recuellies de Ses Mysteres, Caches en Ses Etas & Grandeurs, Prêchées par Lui sur la Terre, et Communiquées à Ses Sts., by François Bourgoing. Paris: Sebastien Huré, 1636.

Call number: SpC. 242 B773v1636


The defining element of Vincent de Paul's spirituality is that it is Christocentric. In his 1658 Common Rules for the Congregation of the Mission, Monsieur Vincent would say, "Jesus Christ is the rule of the Mission." This of course should not be a surprise since this Christocentrism is one of the defining characteristics of Catholic Reformation spirituality, as well as the spirituality of the so-called "French School" of spirituality which emerged at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

One of the leaders of this French movement was Pierre de Berulle (1575-1629). For Berulle, this spirituality and its accompanying theological and scriptural reflections led him to found a new French religious community in 1611: The Congregation of the Oratory of Jesus. The group eschewed the identity of a traditional religious order and sought to define itself as a group of secular priests, without vows, working together for the reform of the priesthood in France. During this period Vincent de Paul was relatively new to Paris, but seems to have almost immediately been drawn to Berulle and his circle. The new community struck a chord in France and the French Church and grew quickly in power and influence, especially as a counter-point to the Society of Jesus (the Jesuit order).

One of the founding Oratorians was François Bourgoing (1585-1662). As he joined the new community, Bourgoing renounced the pastorate of the parish of Clichy near Paris in favor of his friend Vincent de Paul. It is generally believed, that Berulle had some influence in directing Monsieur Vincent to the pastorate at Chatillon-les-Dombes in 1617 after Vincent's abrupt departure from his position with the Gondi family. Later, it appears that a certain distancing occurred between Vincent de Paul and Berulle who died in 1629 shortly after being made a cardinal. Philippe-Emmanuel de Gondi was ordained and joined the Oratory after the death of his wife. Bourgoing became the third superior general of the community in 1641 and served until his death in 1662. The Oratorians would later be torn apart by the Jansenist controversies and would be generally identified with the Gallican and anti-ultramontane forces within the French Church.

The featured title is considered Bourgoing greatest work, and is fully representative of the meditations on Jesus Christ produced by the French School presented in a format designed to appeal to the faithful. 



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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