Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Preacher, b. at Chusclan, France, 21 March, 1701; d. at Roquemaure, 22 December, 1767. Having completed his studies at the Jesuit college of Avignon he entered the Seminary of the Royal Missions of St. Charles of the Cross. His oratorical ability announced itself before his ordination to the priesthood by the remarkable talent he brought into play in awakening interest and exciting emotion even in the catechetical instructions which he was deputed to give. When only in minor orders, he was assigned as Lenten preacher in the Church of Aigues-Mortes. It was there he first made use of his peculiar methods. His extreme youth provoked the derision of the people and when Ash Wednesday arrived, the church was empty. Undismayed, he put on his surplice and went out in the principal streets, ringing a bell, and inviting the people to hear him. He succeeded in bringing an immense multitude to the church who came out of curiosity but when he began in a most unusual fashion by singing a canticle about death the congregation burst out in loud laughter; whereupon he opened upon them with such fierceness of denunciation that silence and amazement took possession of all. He was characteristically sensational. He wrote little and gave way to the inspiration of the moment and as a consequence his utterances present at times an incoherent jumble of incongruous figures and ideas, which clash with each other and are often even grotesque. It was Cardinal Maury who called attention to his exordium in the sermon on Eternity which was said to be improvised. Father Cahour, S.J., inserts it in his "Chefs-d'Oeuvre d'éloquence", and Maury who wrote it from memory declares that it was not unworthy of Bossuet or Demosthenes. It was pronounced at St. Sulpice, before an audience in which there were many bishops, a vast crowd of ecclesiastics and men of distinction in civil and military life. Bridaine assures them that in spite of their worldly greatness he is not abashed by their presence, and in the most impassioned language denounces them as sinners, and bids them, haughty and disdainful as they are, to tremble before him. "Today I hold your condemnation in my hand." Opinions are divided about its excellence as an example of oratory ; some finding a self-consciousness in it which is unapostolic.

His voice was so sonorous and penetrating that he could easily be heard by an audience of ten thousand people. To his natural oratorical gifts he added, in order to produce the impression he was aiming at, all the effect that could be obtained by the most gorgeous and elaborate church ceremonial, as well as whatever excitement could be produced by singing, by splendid processions, by unusual prayers, and by novel situations which were all skillfully arranged so as to captivate the eye or ear, or to fix or startle the imagination. A supreme instance of these "methods" as he called them, and which he always insisted upon being carried out, is narrated by Madame Necker in the "Nouveaux Mélanges" (I, 138). He had just delivered a stirring discourse when addressing himself to the great procession which had followed him he said: "I am now going to bring you home" and he led them to the grave-yard. Sensational as he was he wrought many astounding conversions. In the course of his life he preached two hundred and fifty-six missions, traveling to almost every town of France in the performance of his work. Pope Benedict XIV gave him permission to preach anywhere in Christendom. Medals were struck in his honor, and the most distinguished prelates showed him the greatest reverence and affection. He was of a sweet, modest, simple disposition, of lively faith and deep piety. His "Cantiques Spirituels" passed through forty-seven editions. He has also left five volumes of sermons. The Protestants of France are said to have been particularly friendly to him, because of the many good offices he performed in their regard. For fourteen years he followed the spiritual guidance of a missionary like himself named Mahistre. In 1742 Cardinal Fleury proposed to establish a missionary congregation for all France under the direction of Bridaine, but the death of the cardinal caused the project to fall through.

France was wild with excitement about him. His appeals were so powerful that in a mission which he preached at Chalon-sur-Saône in 1745 there were restitutions to the amount of 100,000 francs. His reputation as an orator was so great that even Massillon was unwilling to preach in his presence. In the course of his missions he established what he called "peace tribunals", courts composed of some of his associate missionaries, a number of irreproachable laymen, and the parish priest. To these courts all disputes were submitted and the decisions were accepted as final. His life was written by the Abbé Carron. The book was frequently translated into English, but the last edition was published as far back as 1831.

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 6:1-9
1 Children, be obedient to your parents in the Lord -- that is what ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 145:10-11, 12-13, 13-14
10 All your creatures shall thank you, Yahweh, and your faithful shall ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:22-30
22 Through towns and villages he went teaching, making his way to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 26th, 2016 Image

St. Bean
October 26: On December 16, there is named in the Roman ... Read More