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Louis Gaston de Ségur

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Prelate and French apologist, born 15 April, 1820, in Paris ; died 9 June, 1881, in the same city. He was descended on his paternal side form the Marquis of Ségur -- Marshal of France and Minister of Louis XVI, who occupied this position during the participation of France in the war of emancipation of the United States -- from the Comte de Segur, companion of Lafayette in America, and on his maternal side was descended from the Russian Count Rostopchine who burned Moscow in 1812 to wrest it from Napoleon. After his humanities, from a comparative indifference to religion he experienced a remarkable fervour; entering the diplomatic service, he was made attache to the Embassy at Rome in 1842, but the following year he left this post and even gave up painting, for which he had excellent taste and much talent, to enter the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice and to prepare himself for the priesthood, to which he was ordained in 1847. Thenceforth he dedicated himself to the evangelization of the people in Paris ; the children, the poor, the imprisoned soldiers to whom he was the volunteer and gratuitous chaplain, occupied his ministry until he was appointed to be auditor of the Rota for France at Rome. he remained in this position for four years, honoured with the affectionate esteem of Pius IX and with the friendship of many personages of the pontifical and diplomatic Court. He united with his judicial functions some political negotiations which Napoleon III had confided to him, and also ministrations to the French soldiers in the garrison of Rome. Attacked with blindness, he was obliged to resign from his duties in 1856; he returned to Paris with the honours and privileges of the episcopate, the title and reality of which his infirmity prevented him from receiving. His life was devoted to his official duties and to religious works. The chief among these was the patronage of young apprentices, the union of workingmen's societies, ecclesiastical vocations and seminaries, military chaplaincies, and the evangelization of the suburbs of Paris. To each of these works he gave unstintedly his time, his care, his preaching, his money, and that of others, of whom he asked it without false pride. Among his undertakings, and one which most occupied him, was the work connected with the St. Francis de Sales Association, for the defence and preservation of the Faith. After founding this devotion he established it in forty dioceses of France in less than a year after its foundation (1859), and was able also to gather and distribute 30,000 francs in alms. Mgr. de Segur worked incessantly for its development. When he died it numbered 1,900,000 associates, collected annually 800,000 francs, and extended its activities and benefits to France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and even to Canada.

Besides his apostolate and ministry he was also engaged in writing. In 1851 he published in a modest form "Réponses aux objections les plus repandues contre la religion"; it met with much success. At the time of his death 700,000 copies had been sold in France and Belgium without counting the many editions in Italian, German, English, Spanish, and even in the Hindu language. After his affliction with blindness his works multiplied noticeably; some were destined to make known or defend Catholic ideas concerning questions which occupied public attention; others to extend or to confirm his apostolate of preaching in forming souls to piety or to the interior life. To the first category belong among others the "Causeries sur le protestantisme" (1898); "le Pape" (1860); "le Denier de Saint Pierre" (1861); "la Divinité de Notre Seigneur Jesus Christ" (1862); "les objections populaires contre Encyclique [Quanta cura]" (1869); "Les Francs-Maçons" (867); "le Pape est infallible" (1870); "l'Ecole sans Dieu" (1873). To the second class belong among others: "les Instructions familières sur tontes les vérités de la religion" (1863); "Notions fundamentales sur la piété (1863); "La piete et la vie intericure" (1864); "Jesus vivant en nous" (of which an Italian translation was put on the Index) (1869); "La piete enseignée aux enfants" (1864). One need not seek in these works vast learning nor didactic discussions. The author did not strive for this; he intended his apologetic books for the people and for all who ignored religion. They were mostly brief pamphlets, vigilant, full of vivacity and spirit, written with a frankness wholly French in a popular style, sprinkled with caustic irony and Parisian pleasantries. In his ascetical works he aimed above all to spread the true principles of Catholic spirituality in opposition to the old traditions of Jansenism and Gallicanism. His zeal was crowned with success, his little books attained numerous editions. Thus at his death there had been sold 44,000 copies of his "Instructions familières", his works "Le Pape", "La Communion", and "La Confession" were issued to the number of hundreds of thousands of copies. His complete works have been edited in ten volumes (Paris, 1876-7); since have appeared "Cent cinquante beux miracles de Notre Dame de Lourdes" (2 vols. Paris, 1882); "Journal d'un voyage en Italie" (Paris, 1822); Lettres de Mgr de Ségur" (2 vols. Paris, 1882).

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