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Monday, August 25, 2008

Father Henri Lacordaire

Louis Janmot (1814-1892)
Portrait of Father Henri Lacordaire. (1847)
Oil on canvas 99 x 80cm
Bibliothèque du Saulchoir, Paris


Father Lacordaire (1802-1861), was ordained priest in 1827 and became a Dominican in 1840

He founded the first new Dominican convent in France since the Revolution. It was in Nancy in 1843.

The wearing of a religious habit had been forbidden in France since 1792. For him, the wearing of the habit was a means of asserting the right of religious freedom. He was not prosecuted.

In a letter of 2nd October 1846, he wrote to a friend, Sophie Swetchine about the wearing of a religious habit. For him to wear a habit was a means of preaching and a means of making the Church and its servants visible in the world.

"Ce dernier pas achèverait de conquérir en France le port public de l’habit religieux, et cette liberté consacrée par un usage solennel est trop importante pour négliger de se l’assurer."


Lacordaire posed for this picture in 1845 at Chalais near Grenoble, where he had just founded another Dominican novitiate. One can see the Alps in the background. There were 16 novices.

In the same letter mentioned above, he said that the requests to become novices had grown and grown. It would appear that at first the Bishop of Autun (Mgr Bénigne-Urbain Trousset d’Héricourt) was at first very hostile to the establishment. However, once he saw the number of priests go into Chalais and the effect on the lives of those who entered the novitiate, he expressed his support publicly.

"J’ai laissé seize religieux à Chalais. Les demandes pour entrer dans notre ordre se multiplient de plus en plus. Mgr l’évêque d’Autun, qui s’était montré fort hostile, après avoir vu plusieurs de ses prêtres entrer à Chalais et avoir su d’eux la vie qu’on y menait, s’est exprimé publiquement en notre faveur. Bien des signes annoncent l’augmentation des notre autorité morale. Bénissons-en Dieu et confions-nous à lui."