Congregation of Priests of the Mission
FREE Catholic Classes
A congregation of secular priests with religious vows founded by St. Vincent de Paul. The members add the letters C.M. to their name. As with many other communities, an appellation from the founder or the place they dwell in has superseded the original title. Thus in France and in almost all countries they are called Lazarists, because it was in the Priory of St. Lazare in Paris that St. Vincent de Paul dwelt and that he established his principal works. In the Irish province, which includes practically all English speaking countries except the United States, they are called Vincentians, and this name is gradually replacing that of Lazarists in the United States. In countries whose language is Spanish they are called Paules. This appellation, like the preceding, is obviously derived from the name of the founder. The name Congregation of the Mission indicates their first and chief object.
I. ORIGIN OF THE CONGREGATION
In the beginning of the year 1617, Vincent de Paul was at the Château de Folleville in Picardy with the family of M. de Gondy, Count de Joigny, General of the Galleys of France, and had charge of the education of M. de Gondy's sons, one of whom became the celebrated Cardinal de Retz, Coadjutor of Paris. Vincent had opportunities of observing the ignorance of religion of the peasants of the neighbourhood. As the result of a sermon which he preached on the 25 Jan., 1617, in the church of Folleville, Vincent, with two Jesuit Fathers, began, at Mme de Gondy's request, to preach to and instruct the people of the neighbouring villages on her estates. Thus began the work which was to become eight years later, in 1625, the Congregation of the Mission. Mme de Gondy wished to make a foundation that would secure a mission every five years for the rural population of her extensive estates. The Oratorians and Jesuits being unable to undertake this work, she urged Vincent to gather together some zealous priests and organize missions for the poor country people at that time so little in touch with the clergy. Ecclesiastical authorization was easily obtained from John Francis de Gondy, then Archbishop of Paris, brother of the General of the Galleys. He also handed over to Vincent the ownership and all the rights of an old college in Paris, called "des Bons Enfants". Vincent de Paul took possession through his first disciple and co-labourer Anthony Portail, 6 March, 1624. The next year a contract confirming the previous promises was signed by the de Gondy family in favour of Vincent and his companions united "under the name of Company, Congregation or Confraternity of Fathers or Priests of the Mission". This took place on 17 April, 1625.
Edified by the success of their labours, the Archbishop of Paris gave his official approval a year later, 24 April, 1626, to the contract of foundation, and on 4 Sept., 1626, before two notaries of Châtelet in Paris, Vincent and his first companions declared that they had joined together "to live in a community or confraternity and to devote themselves to the salvation of the poor country people". Only three priests signed this declaration with Vincent de Paul: Du Coudray, Portail, and de la Salle. Very soon afterwards four other priests joined the little company: John Bécu, of the Diocese of Amiens ; Anthony Lucas, of Paris ; John Brunet, of the Diocese of Clermont ; and John d'Horgny, of the Diocese of Noyon. The King of France, Louis XIII, added the seal of his royal authority to the act of foundation already approved by ecclesiastical authority the preceding year. In May, 1627, he issued letters patent, allowing the missionaries to form a congregation, to live in community, and to devote themselves with the consent of the bishops to works of charity. Community life being established, St. Vincent could no longer hold as his own property the College des Bons Enfants, which was annexed to the mission by a decree of the Archbishop of Paris granted 8 June, 1627. The court of the Parlement ordered the registration of the letters patent of 1627 which the opposition of certain pastors of Paris had delayed, and pontifical authorization was granted by the Bull "Salvatoris Nostri" of Urban VIII, 12 Jan., 1632. In 1632 an important change took place in the installation of the new community. On 8 January, Vincent took possession of the house of St. Lazare, then in the outskirts of Paris. It was an immense priory where only eight regular canons of St. Victor remained and which Prior Adrian Le Bon, seeing the great good that Vincent de Paul and his missionaries were accomplishing, had resolved in concert with his religious to transfer to him. An agreement was entered into between Adrian Le Bon and his religious on one side, and Vincent de Paul acting in the name of his community on the other, on 7 Jan., 1632, and the next day the Archbishop of Paris granted the transfer of the house of St. Lazare, and came himself to introduce Vincent. Vincent left some of his priests at the College des Bons Enfants, which was destined to become a seminary under the name of St. Firmin. The house of St. Lazare became the headquarters of the Congregation of the Mission.
The Congregation of the Mission, according to the desire of its founder and from a canonical standpoint, is a "congregation of secular clergymen "; this is the term the Sovereign Pontiffs use; for instance, Benedict XIII in the Bull of the Beatification of St. Vincent de Paul calls him "Congregationis presbyterorum sæcularium Missionis fundator" (13 August, 1729). To ensure its permanency St. Vincent surrounded his work with safeguards including vows, but on the other hand, for many reasons, was careful to prevent its becoming a religious order. Meanwhile the missionaries extended their labours over France and in foreign lands. They undertook labours of various kinds. But the exact form of the congregation had not yet been determined. Vincent saw communities around him, which he used to say, people entered and left like a well conducted hotel. In 1642 and 1651 he held two assemblies of the priests who had been longest with him. They decided at first on a vow of stability, and afterwards on the three ordinary vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, without meaning to form a religious order, though they had due respect for the religious state. Almost immediately after his election Alexander VII completed the work of Urban VIII, confirming the transfer of St. Lazare to the Congregation of the Mission, and authorizing on 22 Sept., by the Brief "Ex commisso Nobis", the constitution of the community. The Brief declares that at the end of two years of probation, simple vows are to be taken, but that nevertheless the community belongs to the secular clergy. That there might be no question of changing the nature of his institute, Vincent did not establish a novitiate for the aspirants to his community, but a seminary, which is known as internal, to distinguish it from the diocesan or external seminaries. He also made it a rule that his missionaries wear the dress of secular priests ; in a word that they should be distinguished, in the exercise of the apostolic functions, only by their organized effort to save souls (cf. Maynard, "St. Vincent de Paul", I, p. 253, ed. 1886). Such is the canonical status of the Congregation of the Mission.
II. RULE AND GOVERNMENT
There was, moreover, need of rules according to which the society he had just constituted should perform its functions. Vincent de Paul wished to test first, by experience, what circumstances might gradually require among the missionaries as to their manner of life and their work. Thus he was 82 years old when, 17 May, 1658, he distributed to the community the little book of "Common Rules or Constitutions". From these rules can be seen the elements of which the congregation is made up, the life it leads, its spirit, and the works to which its energies are directed. The elements, or members, of which it is composed are according to the "Common Rules", ecclesiastics and laymen. The ecclesiastics are, in imitation of Christ and His disciples, to preach and break the bread of the Word of God, to recall sinners to a Christian life, to give themselves up to various apostolic works which zeal for God's glory may call for among the people and the clergy. The laymen, or coadjutor-brothers, have for their work, while labouring also at their personal sanctification, the care of temporal concerns, and the practice of prayer and mortification to obtain the blessing of God upon the labours of the missionaries. The life prescribed by the rule is that which was led by Jesus Christ and His disciples. It does not prescribe any special austerities. But as Collet, one of the disciples of St. Vincent de Paul, says, although the life prescribed has nothing very extraordinary about it, nothing laid down as a law for ecclesiastics who live in community, the servant of God knew that he must adopt special means to sustain human weakness in so regular and laborious a life. For this purpose he prescribed to his followers the daily exercises of piety which every priest who is desirous of his own perfection should impose on himself. As to their daily intercourse, he especially recommends charity among his followers, urging them in particular not to speak evil of any one, above all of other communities, and never to decry other nations or countries. So far as intercourse with the outside world is concerned, he prescribes dependence on superiors, which is a guarantee of prudence and regulates whatever unwisdom might be found in even the best intentioned zeal. If, in the words of Abelly, Bishop of Rodez and first biographer of St. Vincent de Paul, the man of God made it his rule never to anticipate xxyyyk.htm">Providence, in the words of another Bishop of Rodez, Cardinal Bourret, in the nineteenth century, it is not less true to say that St. Vincent de Paul has always followed closely in the footsteps of xxyyyk.htm">Providence. Asylums for foundlings, for old people, the institution of the Daughters of Charity, retreats in preparation for ordination, seminaries, the apostolate of foreign missions among the infidels of Madagascar and Barbary, all show the zeal of St. Vincent de Paul, and this zeal he urged his sons not to allow to be extinguished among them after his death. Finally, according to the rules, the works that form the special object of the congregation founded by St. Vincent de Paul are thus determined: besides devoting himself to his own perfection, each one shall be employed in preaching the Gospel to the poor, especially to poor country people, and in helping ecclesiastics to the knowledge and virtues requisite for their state.
During the life of the founder, establishments were made not only in France but also in Poland and in Italy. The congregation undertook mission work in the North, in the Hebrides, in the Tropics, in Barbary and Madagascar. It was under Vincent (in 1642) that the houses of the congregation were grouped in provinces, each having at its head a provincial superior called visitor. The same year a rule was introduced for the holding of general assemblies, for the election of the superior general, for the nomination of his advisers under the name of assistants, and for other matters of importance. The following establishments were founded in St. Vincent's lifetime: in Paris : Bons Enfants (1625) and St. Lazare (1632); Toul: seminary and mission centre (1635); Notre Dame de la Rose: missions (1637); Richelieu: parish and missions (1638); Annecy : seminary and mission (1639); Crécy: missions (1641); Cahors : seminary, parish, and missions (1643); Marseilles : mission (1643); Sedan: parish and mission (1643); Saintes: seminary and mission (1643); Montmirail: missions (1644); Le Mans : seminary and missions (1645); Saint Méen: missions (1645); Paris : St. Charles Seminary (1645); Treguier: seminary and missions (1648); Agen : seminary and missions (1648); Montauban : seminary and missions (1652); also foundations in Rome (1642), Genoa (1645), Turin (16554), Warsaw (1651), Tunis (1645), Algiers (1646), Madagascar (1648). At the death of its founder the congregation numbered 500 members.
The government of the congregation is very simple. It consists of the superior general, and four assistants, aided by the procurator general and secretary general. All these officials are chosen by a majority vote of a general assembly, which is composed of the visitors of the several provinces and two delegates from each province, elected by secret ballot in the provincial assemblies. Each house in domestic assembly selects also by secret ballot, a delegate to accompany the superior to the provincial assembly. The provincial government is made up of a visitor appointed by the superior general and of consultors approved by him. Usually for the appointment of a visitor three names are selected by the provincial council , and presented to the superior general who chooses one to govern the province. Local superiors also are appointed by the superior general, with the advice of the visitor and his council. A general assembly is held every twelve years to legislate for the congregation. This is the only legislative body in the congregation.
An assembly is held every six years made up of the general officers of the congregation, and of one delegate from each province. This body may elect to vacancies among the superior general's assistants and may also decide minor matters of discipline. Decrees of general assemblies are binding on the entire congregation. Their interpretation rests with the superior general and his council. The office of superior general is held for life, or until his resignation. Provision is however, made in the "Constitutions" for his removal from office for crime, or perpetual inability to govern. Visitors remain in office at the discretion of the superior general. In like manner local superiors are removable, for cause, by the visitor, whose action, however, must be approved by the superior general, who alone has the right to appoint and remove superiors.
III. HISTORY From St. Vincent until the Revolution
From St. Vincent's death until the Revolution there were nine superiors general, whose part was to complete the organization of the new society and to forward the various works for which it was instituted. These superiors general were: René Alméras (1661), Edmund Jolly (1673), Nicholas Pierron (1697), Francis Watel (1703), John Bonnet (1711), John Coutry (1736), Louis Debras (1747), Antoine Jacquier (1762-1788). Felix Cayla was at the head of the congregation during the French Revolution. It was during the generalship of René Alméras, especially, that, in 1668, what are sometimes called the "Great Constitutions" were drawn up. They were discussed and accepted by the general assembly held that year from 15 July to 1 Sept., and were approved in October following by the Archbishop of Paris, Harduin de Péréfixe, with authority granted him by the Bull of Urban VIII , in 1632. The title is "Constitutions which concern the superior general and the government of the whole Congregation of the Mission". These are the general constitutions in force at the present day. Alméras is responsible for the compilation of an abridgment of these constitutions which has a still greater authority in the sense that this condensed edition under the name of "Summary", or, in Latin "Constitutiones selectæ", discussed in the general assembly of 1668 and approved by it, has been submitted to the authority of the Holy See. The text was examined and changed in some points by the examiners appointed by the pope. In this form it has been cited in its entirety in the Brief "Ex injuncto Nobis" of Clement X of 2 June, 1670. This is the chief act of internal legislation for the Lazarists. It has been published in the "Acta apostolica in gratiam Congregationis Missionis" (Paris, 1876). Alméras secured the drawing up of the rules for the offices, which were sent to all the houses in 1670. Edmund Jolly completed this work.
Bonnet, elected in 1711, had the longest and fullest generalship of all the superiors general before the Revolution. He had keen intelligence and great capacity for work. A brief sketch of his life and character is given in the preface to a collection of meditations which he composed and Collet published. He had to pass with his community through the difficult period of Jansenism. His congregation in charge of a great number of seminaries, and hence in close contact with a great number of bishops whose tendencies were very doubtful, was indeed in a delicate position. Rome condemned Jansenism, and Bonnet, regardless of the inconvenience his community might suffer, here and there, as a consequence, held firmly the course marked out by the pope. He expelled from the congregation men otherwise most distinguished such as Himbert and Philopald. After him, Couty and Debras showed themselves equally faithful and courageous in the doctrinal difficulties which still continued. The Congregation of the Lazarists had sometimes to suffer for this fidelity: for instance at Auxerre all the directors of the seminary were placed under interdict by de Caylus, an imperious bishop, a friend of the Jansenists, but they were reinstated by de Condorcet, his successor (see Migne, "Dictionnaire des Ordres Religieux", II, 766). The Lazarists held firmly to the side of Rome. One of them, Scardi, superior of the seminary of Avignon, published an important work "De Suprema Romani Pontificis auctoritate" (1747), which passed almost in its entirety into the work of Abbé, afterwards Cardinal, Villecourt, on "The Rights of the Holy See". Another Lazarist, Peter Collet, produced among other works, a theology of merit, which made him the butt of various attacks. In 1764 appeared a "Denunciation" of the theology of Peter Collet addressed to the Bishop of Troyes by a great number of ecclesiastics of his diocese (120 pp. duodecimo, 1764). The clergymen who signed it numbered one hundred and nine says an anonymous note. They accuse Collet of inclining scandalously towards a lax morality. The period of the French Revolution was approaching. The superior general since 1788 was Felix Cayla, a man of great ability. Elected as the first alternate for the deputation of the clergy of the National Assembly, he had in fact to take part in it because of the departure of one of the ecclesiastical deputies, and he refused at the tribunal of the assembly the oath for the civil constitution in 1791. He was immediately sent into exile.
When St. Vincent de Paul died in 1660 the secular clergy of Paris had a solemn service at which the preacher, Henry de Maupas du Tour, Bishop of Puy, who had been for many years in very close intimacy with Vincent did not hesitate to take as his text: "Whose praise is through all the churches" ( 2 Corinthians 8:18 ). Abelly, Bishop of Rodez, writing only four years later, declared that the work founded by this humble priest had already extended most widely and through his congregation would spread still more.
The end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century was for France a half century of political and religious anarchy. The clergy of the large cities, where there were universities, were cultured, but the rural clergy were ignorant and neglected their flocks, who, in face of the disorders created by the conflict between the Protestant Reformation and Catholicism, not knowing which to believe, lost all interest in religion. To remedy this indifference and this ignorance, was what Vincent de Paul chiefly sought. The first missions of the Lazarists were in the suburbs of Paris and in Picardy and Champagne. The method and rule given by St. Vincent de Paul has been preserved for us by Abelly, a contemporary of the saint. It is in all essentials identical with the system used by his missionaries and in fact by all modern missionaries. "There was one thing that Mr. Vincent observed on the missions", says Abelly, his contemporary biographer, "and which he wished his spiritual sons to observe most faithfully; to give all the instructions and render all services gratuitously without being in any way a charge to those to whom they render these offices of charity", and this the priests of the Mission have inviolably observed. It was for this reason that Vincent de Paul would not agree to the establishment of a mission house unless it had a sufficient foundation to allow the missions to be given gratuitously. In the United States indeed where there are no foundations it has been the custom of St. Vincent's missionaries to accept whatever offering be made them, but this usage is confined to English speaking countries, elsewhere this most disinterested custom is in full vigour. The fruits of these missions were very marked and many bishops desired to procure this blessing for their dioceses. Soon after the establishment of the congregation, while he was at the Collége des Bons Enfants, that is to say from 1625 to 1632, St. Vincent himself gave one hundred and forty missions.
In 1638 Louis XIII wished Vincent to have his missionaries give a mission at St. Germain-en-Laye near Paris, where he then was with all the court. Vincent offered many excuses but to no avail. He recommended his missionaries to preach as simply at court as they did in the rural districts, having nothing in view but the good of souls. The mission was a complete success and Anne of Austria a few years later, 1641, asked for another in the same place and under the same circumstance. Mission preaching has been employed in every age of the Church ; but systematic parish missions as now understood were commenced by St. Vincent de Paul (American Eccles. Rev., XI, 90), and the wonderful influence of the modern form of this great work of zeal dates from the first missions of St. Vincent and his companions in the infant Congregation of the Mission. St. Vincent cites instances: "A mission was given among the banditti and these wretched people were converted by the grace of God." Elsewhere he generalizes: "Of all the means which the Almighty has left to mankind for the correcting of their lives there is none that has produced effects more striking, more multiplied and more marvelous than the exercises of a mission." What the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius have done for religious and the clergy and for individuals among the laity, the missions as organized by the Lazarists have done for the people at large. Vincent fully appreciated the value of retreats and his house and the houses of his sons have always been open to laymen and clerics for retreat. From their foundation to the present time innumerable missions have been given throughout the Catholic world and the pioneers in the field have done a goodly share of the work. It has been, however, earnestly pursued by almost all the active orders and, especially in recent years, by zealous members of the diocesan priesthood. St. Vincent always insisted that this is the chief work of his community and should be held in the highest esteem by all its members.
From 1652 to 1660 more than seven hundred missions were given from the house of St. Lazare alone. The number of those given by the missionaries in various dioceses of France cannot be reckoned.
(2) Parishes and Chapels
It is only with regret that the Lazarist Missionaries accept chapels and parishes. For they wish to be free to go here and there on missions to give the help peculiar to their ministry, and by preaching and hearing confessions to revive if need be or maintain the good effects of the work of the parish priests. They accepted the charge of parishes and chapels only in two circumstances: when they could make of these parishes a residence for other missionaries who would go out preaching missions, or when circumstances made it impossible to refuse. An example of these circumstances is the parish of Richelieu founded by the Cardinal of that name, minister of Louis XIII, and the parish of Sedan. In 1638 Cardinal Richelieu wished to establish the Lazarists not only in the city of his ducal title but also in the Diocese of Luçon of which he had been bishop. By an act of 4 Jan., passed at Ruel, he obtained of Vincent seven priests who were to be sent to Richelieu in the following February, and to whom three others should be added within two years. Four of these the act declares "shall remain at Richelieu to perform the functions of the mission. The three others shall be sent every five years for the same purpose, to every town and village of the duchy, and while awaiting the time to begin their rounds again they shall give missions in the Diocese of Poitiers, or other places in the adjacent country as it shall please His Eminence to arrange. The three remaining priests shall be sent to Luçon for the same purpose and all shall go to the country four times a year at the period most suited for this work, and labour there for six weeks each time. One of the four priests living at Richelieu shall act as pastor with as many assistants as shall be deemeed expedient. In the house of Richelieu shall be received gratuitously and for twelve days those who are to be ordained for the Diocese of Poitiers at the four seasons of the year, and for fifteen days such priests of the diocese as the Bishop of Poitiers shall send to make the exercises of the spiritual retreat ". On his part the cardinal agrees to have erected and to furnish a suitable house and to obtain the annexation of the parish to the Congregation of the Mission and to procure for it the necessary revenues.
Sometimes special spiritual needs have caused the Lazarists to accept a parish. Hardly was Louis XIII in possession of Sedan when he desired Vincent to send his priests there. The needs of religion were very pressing for, through their continual intercourse with the Huguenots, the number of Catholics was daily diminishing and the true faith almost extinguished. The parish of Sedan was at first transferred to the Mission by the Archbishop with the consent of the Abbot Mouzon and the religious of the abbey, and Louis XIII gave an annual income of 2,500 livres for the administrration of the parish and the support of the missions. Besides a priest to officiate at Balan, there were to be at Sedan a parish priest, seven other priests, and two brothers. At least four of the priests were to remain in charge of the work of the parish and four others were to preach missions to the people of the surrounding country. Three more priests were added in 1680, because since its foundation in 1644 the number of communicants had increased by two-thirds. Soon, of more than 10,000 inhabitants among whom at first not more than 1,500 Catholics could be counted, hardly a third part remained heretics. It was by means of the pacific method always recommended by St. Vincent, that the Lazarists thus diminished the number of Protestants and increased so wonderfully the number of Catholics. Instead of controversies which often embitter hearts, they preferred the explanatory system which gave solid and practical instruction to Catholics and Protestants alike. At the same time they extended their labours to the districts surrounding Sedan almost depopulated by war and they helped the people by exhortations and alms. Their charity thus helped their preaching and gained the hearts of those that were least disposed. At Sedan as elsewhere they aided the Protestants as well as the Catholics as Brother Sirven testifies whose eulogium Vincent wrote in a letter to Laudin in Mans, 7 Aug., 1660: "The whole city and surrounding country regret him, even the heretics who were edified by his modesty and aided by his charity."
(3) The Seminaries
The Congregation of the Mission founded by St. Vincent has for its chief object together with the missions devotion to the service of ecclesiastics. In France in his day there were in the cities, a certain number of well educated and distinguished clergymen, but the great majority especially in the country places had no practical means of formation. Many zealous priests of this period, Condren and Berulle of the Oratory, Bourdoise of St. Nicholas, above all Olier of St. Sulpice were preoccupied with the matter. Vincent used to say, as it is of the utmost importance for a military commander after he has conquered a country to leave behind him garrisons to maintain his conquest, so when apostolic men have led the people to God, or brought them back to Him, it is a vital matter to preserve this conquest, by procuring worthy and zealous priests to labour among them. He arranged with the Bishop of Beauvais as early as 1628 for a retreat for those to be ordained in that city. During the days preceding ordination they were assembled for exercises of piety and for immediate preparations for the pastoral ministry. These exercises were established at the house des Bons Enfants, afterwards at St. Lazare for the Diocese of Paris. The archbishop made them obligatory for all who received orders in Paris. At Rome, enjoined by the pope, they have been held at the house of the Lazarists at Montecitorio up to the present day. At Paris in the house des Bons Enfants in February, 1642 Vincent de Paul established an ecclesiastical seminary and gave it a rule for the exercise of piety and for the order of studies. It is no doubt the same that was put in practice by the Lazarists when they began the theological seminary at Annecy in 1641, and in the seminary at Alet. It was in substance that which is in vogue in the seminaries of France at the present day. The rule, as given in Maynard (op. cit., II, 211), exhibits an excellent compromise between the secular and the cloistered life and a wise mingling of study, piety, and discipline. The object is to fit the cleric for his sacred functions. In the seminary as conceived and actually established by St. Vincent students of classics were separated from students of theology. He withdrew the former pupils at Bons Enfants and placed them in a separate establishment at St. Lazare, in what constituted the preparatory seminary of St. Charles. The beneficial effect was immediately apparent.
As early as 1647, Vincent de Paul could write what he afterward embodied in his "Constitutions": "Our institute has but two chief ends, the instruction of the poor country people and the seminaries." After the first successes of Vincent and Olier there was a rivalry among the bishops to endow their dioceses with these most useful establishments. In 1643 the Lazarists were entrusted by Alain de Solminhac, Bishop of Cahors, with a mission house and the direction of the seminary of that city. In 1644 the Bishop of Saintes placed them in charge of his seminary ; in 1645 those of Mans, of St. Malo and St. Méen were confided to them; that of Agen in 1650, and of Montaubon in 1660. After the death of the saint until the time of the Revolution the following seminaries were directed by the Lazarists: Norbonne and Metz (1661); Amiens, Troyes and Noyon (1662); Saint-Brieuc (1666); Marseilles (1672); Saint-Fleur (1674); Sens (1675); Arras (1677); Béziers and Alet (1678); Beauvais (1679); Tours, Chartres, Toul, and Auxerre (1680); Poitiers, Boulogne, and Châlons (1681); Bayeux and Bordeaux (1682); Sarlat (1683); Pau (1684); Manosque (1685); Saint-Pol-de-Léon (1689); Notre-Dame-de-la-Déliverande (1692); Vannes (1701); Angoulême (1704); Avignon (1705); Notre-Dame-de-Buglose (1706); Toulouse (1707); Poitiers (1710); Saint-Servan (1712); Pamiers and Tours (1715); Mornant (1717); Chartres (1719); Villefranche (1723); Figeac (1735); Arles (1752); Lurs (1753); La Rochelle and Metz (1763); Rodez (1767); Luçon (1771); Cambrai (1772); Albi (1774); Nancy (1780); Soissons (1786); finally, Castres (1788), the last seminary that was given to the Congregation before the Revolution. In all 43 theological and 9 preparatory seminaries (Maynard, II, p. 234). The Lazarists soon spread outside of France. In Italy, in 1641, a papal Bull authorized an establishment in Rome, and the Duchess of Aiguillon gave them a donation to devote their time to missions for the rural population, to labour for the clergy, the spiritual retreats for those to be ordained, etc. In 1697 the pope gave them the house and church of Sts. John and Paul on the Cœlian Hill, but this has been exchanged for St. Sylvester's on the Quirinal. In 1645 they were called to Genoa, to Turin in 1655, to Naples in 1668. In St. Vincent's time they went to preach in Ireland and in the Hebrides; later Charles II called them to London for his chapel as Louis XIV had done in France for his chapel at Versailles. In Poland, in the time of John Casimir and his queen Louise Marie de Gonzaga, they were called to Warsaw in 1651, to Krakow in 1656, to Culm in 1677, to Vilna in 1687, and to many other cities, so that before the Revolution Poland was one of the most flourishing provinces. In Spain they were established in Barcelona and from there settled in several other cities. They reached Portugal in 1718 though not recognized by the king, John V, who up to this time was opposed to their dependence upon the superior general in Paris, but who afterwards favoured them and built them the magnificent house of Rilhafolles in the suburbs of Lisbon, a house which was confiscated by the Revolution. At the Revolution of 1834 there were six establishments of the Portuguese tongue.
(4) Foreign Missions among the Infidels
Foreign missions had a place in the schedule of apostolic works drawn up by St. Vincent de Paul, and although this sort of labour did not develop among his sons before the Revolution to so great an extent as it did in the nineteenth century, yet from the beginning they gave themselves to this work. In 1645 the missionaries set out for Barbary, as they then called it. The regencies of Tunis and Algiers in the power of the Turks were a den of pirates where a great number of Christians taken prisoners by Turkish Corsairs were held captives. The Lazarists did mission work there, and from time to time they even fulfilled the duties of consul, when it was too difficult to find a layman for this office. Some were imprisoned by the Deys of Algiers, some were put to death at the cannon's mouth as John Le Vacher and Francillon. They kept this duty till, finally, in 1830, France destroyed that stronghold of pirates. The Lazarists of the seventeenth century also preached the Gospel in the Island of Madagascar, and in the eighteenth century in Bourbon Island and the Isle de France. They passed over into China, at first one by one, like Appiani and Pedrini during the nunciature of Cardinal de Tournon, and like Mullener who became Vicar Apostolic of Se-Tchuen. They were called to Macao, a possession of the Portuguese, by the Portuguese Government in 1784, and directed many houses of education there. After the suppression of the Society of Jesus and despite the refusal of the superior general because of the inadequate number of subjects, through an agreement between the King of France and the Propaganda at Rome, the Lazarists were charged with the duty of taking the places, so far as they could, which had been held by the Jesuits in the Levant and in China (1782-1783). Father Viguier, a Lazarist, took possession of the mission at Constantinople and 8 May, 1785, another Lazarist, Father Raux, took possession of the mission of Pekin. At the outbreak of the French Revolution there were in France, Spain, Portugal, and the Palatinate along with the mission outside Europe about one hundred and fifty Lazarist establishments.Under the Revolution
Even before the Revolution in France many nations had been the prey of internal dissensions. In the first place must be mentioned Poland whose discords were leading it to dismemberment and ruin. In 1772, in the first partition of Poland, twelve houses of the Lazarists passed under foreign dominion, Austrian, Prussian, or Russian. The Polish houses which became Austrian disappeared before the exactions of Joseph II of Austria. The King of Prussia, who when taking his share of Poland had promised to respect religious institutions, soon began confiscating ecclesiastical property. Nevertheless, in 1789 the Polish province of the Lazarists still numbered twenty-two houses. A second and a third division took place in 1793 and in 1795, among Austria, Prussia, and Russia, leaving nothing of unhappy Poland. In the part that fell to Russia the Polish Lazarists constituted a new province called the Lithuanian, remaining as far as possible in communciation with the superior general in Paris. The Polish uprisings of 1830 and 1863 drew down upon the Catholics the rigours of the Prussian and Russian Governments. The Lazarist houses at Culm, Gnesen, and Posen were suppressed by the laws of 1836. The houses in Russia, much more numerous, were destroyed by the Government in 1842 and 1864. It was only later, under the Austrian dominion, that the Polish Lazarists could reorganize. They have establishments on Austrian territory in Galicia and Bukowina. In the different states of Italy, where the princes of the House of Bourbon reigned, life was no longer an easy matter for religious communities. In the Kingdom of Naples they were forced under penalty of suppression to stop all intercourse with the houses of the community in foreign states and especially with the superior general. This state of affairs continued from 1790 till 1815. About 1789 the houses of the congregation in Italy were divided into two provinces: the province of Rome with twelve houses and the province of Lombardy with fifteen houses which included the foundations at Barcelona, Palma, and Barbastro in Spain. In Paris on the day after the taking of the Bastille the mob made an attack upon the house of St. Lazare which was one of the chief religious establishments in Paris. The furniture was broken and thrown out of the windows, the priests and students were obliged to disperse. The missionaries returned and banded together there some days afterwards, but they had to separate again in 1792, and to abandon this house in which St. Vincent had lived and died, and which was the central house of the congregation. The other house of the Lazarists in Paris, the old Collège des Bons Enfants, became the scene of still more dramatic events in 1792. On the second and third of September of this year massacres occurred in different establishments in Paris in which the Revolutionists had locked in the priests. The Abbey, Carmel, and St. Firmin served as prisons. In the last house more than seventy priests were cruelly massacred, among others the Lazarist superior of the establishment, Father Louis Joseph François and his confrère, Henry Gruyer. The superior general of St. Lazare, Cayla, at the Assembly, refused the oath of the Civil Constitution of the clergy. Among members of his congregation several published learned protests against it and all refused it except a few, three of whom afterwards became Constitutional bishops. A goodly number died martyrs to their fidelity to the Church of Rome. Some of these martyrs were François and Gruyer, massacred at St. Firmin in Paris, Matthew Caron, John Colin and John Gallois at Versailles. Many perished on the scaffold: Francis Bergon at Cahors, John Guibaud at Mans, Louis Hayer at Niort, Francis Martelet at Besançon. In addition, several succumbed in prison : Nicholas Bailly, Paul Brochois, Victor Julienne, and Angelus Bernard Lamourette, nephew of the Constitutional bishop, or on the prison-ships of Rochefort and at the Isle Madame, as John Janet and Nicholas Parizot; or at Sinnamari, as Claude Cuin.
Such is the tribute which the Congregation of the Mission paid during the bloody Revolution. As a result of the legislation concerning the Constitutional Church and the decrees of suppression of religious orders, all the establishments of the Lazarists in France were destroyed. At that time they had
Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.