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Jean Jacques Olier French spiritual master

by Bruno Capparoni

We continue to discover aspects of the figure of Saint Joseph by following the school of France in the 17th century. In that century the French Church, making the great effort to implement the Council of Trent, gave the best of itself through great spiritual men.

Jean Jacques Olier, born in Paris in 1608 into a distinguished family, initially embraced the ecclesiastical profession according to the worldly style widespread at that time. He studied in the best French schools, but without spirit or conviction. His first conversion took place in Loreto; He went to that Marian sanctuary to obtain healing from a serious illness. In 1633 he became a priest and prepared for Ordination with a course of Spiritual Exercises preached by Saint Vincent de Paul. He dedicated himself to preaching without significant fruit, but in 1635 he began studying with another great spiritual master, Charles de Condren, successor of Cardinal De Burulle in the leadership of the Oratory of France. From 1639 to 1641 he experienced a long period of illness and depression, from which he emerged through an internal exercise of total abandonment to the will of God.

In 1642 he was appointed parish priest of the Parisian parish of Saint Sulpice, which was in a disastrous pastoral situation and which he managed to transform with the zeal of prayer and preaching. Other priests joined him and he founded the Seminary of Saint Sulpice, which became a hotbed of good training for generations of French priests. Soon numerous bishops of France asked Olier for priests to found seminaries in their dioceses according to the spirit of Saint Sulpice and along this path the spiritual and pastoral reform that transformed France took place. Jean Jacques Olier, despite being ill for a long time, wanted to send his priests to Canada for the evangelization of those new lands and obtained surprising pastoral results. He died in Paris on 2 April 1657.

A very valid spiritual writer, he entered the spiritual current, called the French School, and had very profound intuitions on the spiritual reflection that the mystery of the Incarnation has on the Christian. He was a great teacher of interior life and prayer and his high-level pastoral action began from this foundation. Just reread some of the titles of his works, The Christian Day (1655); Christian Catechism for the Interior Life (1656), Treatise on the Holy Orders (posthumous, 1676) to get an idea of ​​the content of his teaching. He did not leave us a work entirely dedicated to Saint Joseph, but in his writings he scattered pages rich in piety and devotion towards our Saint. After his death they were brought together in a pamphlet entitled Les grandeurs de saint Joseph. 

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