Saturday, May 24, 2008

Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle and St Philip Neri

Jacques Sarazin or Sarrazin (1588/90 — December 3, 1660)
Funeral Monument to the Heart of Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle (including panel of the Mass of St Philip Neri) 1653-1657
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Jacques Sarazin or Sarrazin (1588/90 — December 3, 1660) was a French sculptor and painter, but is less known for his paintings.

His best-known work was the decoration of the great portal and the dome of the western facade of the interior court of the Louvre.

He exercised great influence on 17th century art and was one of the founders of L'Académie royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1648

The work above is the centotaph for the heart of Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle (1575-1629), originally commissioned for the Sainte-Madeleine Chapel of the Great Convent of the Carmelites in Paris.

Cardinal de Bérulle was a French cardinal and statesman, one of the most important mystics of the 17th century in France, and founder of the French school of spirituality.

Amongst his friends and disciples were St. Vincent de Paul and St. Francis de Sales.

Bérulle founded the Congregation of the French Oratory in Paris (1611) and introduced the Carmelite nuns into France

He named the new congregation after that of St. Philip Neri, and adopted in part the rules and constitutions of the congregation of St Philip Neri. However in the Italian congregation the houses were independent of one another. De Bérulle placed the government of all the houses in the hands of the superior-general.

One of the panels of the Cenotaph represents the saying of Mass by St Philip Neri.

Of De Berulle, Professor Daniel A. Helminiak OMI wrote in Catholicism's Spiritual Limbo: A Shift in "Incarnational" Spirituality SPIRITUALITY TODAY Winter 1987, Vol. 39, pp. 331-348.

"Cardinal Pierre de Berulle (1575-1629) was the founder of "the French School." His devotion was so focused on Christ as God-become-human that Pope Urban VIII called him Apostolus Verbi Incarnati, The Apostle of the Incarnate Word.

Berulle wanted to emphasize Christ both in his greatness and in his abasement. Berulle's contribution here was significant. It represents an advance over previous approaches, for Berulle reverenced Jesus not just in his humanity but in his entirety, in the mystery of the Incarnation, in the unity of humanity and divinity.

Still, Berulle's notion of humanity was not lofty. The Word's acceptance of humanity represented an abasement, a self-surrender, a renunciation of self, a humiliation, a servitude -- all terms used by Berulle himself. Here the main thrust of the spirituality of the French School is already foreshadowed. ...

To Berulle ...: in imitation of the subservience in Christ, the Christian must take on an attitude of servitude to Christ. The Christian is to become completely empty of self. For according to de Berulle, the human is "the most vile and useless creature of all, indeed, as dust, mud, and a mass of corruption."One can overcome this sinful state only by total surrender of self, heroic self-renunciation. Berulle uses the term "annihilation." One must hold on to nothing of self.

Berulle elaborates on the meaning of annihilation, the proper relation to Christ, by use of two terms: abnegation and adherence.

Abnegation implies that one has no self left. One gives up all authority over self, all moral decision-making. Like the bread of the consecrated host, one is wholly lost in Christ. Adherence implies that one reproduce in oneself the mysteries that is, the states or dispositions -- of Christ during his life on earth.

Berulle's teaching about adherence to the "states" of Christ constitutes the profound and elaborate practical core of his spirituality. But, the important point to be noted here is that the fundamental disposition to be imitated is servitude.

In fact, however, Berulle had worked out this spirituality before he elaborated its christological basis. His position was really more sociological than theological.

Berulle was a product of his own age. Highly influenced by sixteenth and seventeenth century deference to monarchs, well aware of the honor due to kings and princes, Berulle projected the same attitudes onto spirituality.

He held that the most fundamental of all virtues was religion, that is, proper reverence for God. In brief, religion requires two attitudes: a very low esteem of all creatures, especially of oneself, and a very high idea of God. ...

[T]he so-called French School of Spirituality, ... colored Roman Catholic spirituality in the age of Jeanne de Matel and highly influenced her and the centuries that followed, until the midtwentieth century. ...

The seventeenth century response to the mystery of the Incarnate Word was adoration; the appropriate activity was servitude. The result was a certain demeaning of self in the face of the exaltation of God.

The twentieth century response to the Incarnation is the optimistic embrace of our common human condition; the appropriate activity is self-assertiveness, self development, and service in this world. "

1 comment:

  1. The issue here touches upon freedom of the will, in respect of one’s wholeheartedly embracing a religious life in the larger world that is Catholicism, whether of the Western or the Eastern rites---in this case, the Latin: what manner of the giving of self is most pleasing to our Creator, the Triune God of the Gospel?
    Put in its biblical perspective, how does one best represent to men and women of the 21st-century the ideal of “faith working through love”? It is a commonplace that every religious order of the Church Catholic has its particular charism, working as a whole and in its parts, as it were, within a theological perspective based upon the founder’s vision, which allows a man or woman of religion to intelligently lead a life of true devotion, in union with the principles of the Great Commandment
    Therefore, sweet servitude to Christ Jesus our Lord, which is the outstanding charism of the French school of spirituality, is fundamental to one’s love of neighbor, according to Pierre Cardinal de Berulle; indeed, the religiously motivated love-of-neighbor cannot long survive, Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us, without a permanent anchorage in the love of God Thrice-Holy, to Whom all creatures great and small owe their very existence. Our response should be one of loving adoration and unfeigned service, in all times and climes, without too much regard for the passing fancies of a philosophy tethered to existentialistic ideas.