|St. Sulpice: Center of Spiritual Renewal and Apostolic Innovation|
|Written by Sherry|
|Wednesday, 24 January 2007 06:00|
The 66 years from 1594, when Frances de Sales set out on foot to re-evangelize alpine France, to the death of St. Vincent de Paul in 1660, was a time of extraordinary spiritual renewal in France. It is sometimes called the "generation of saints" although it spanned three generations.
At the center of this revival was the parish of St. Sulpice and its pastor, Jean-Jacques Olier, founder of the Sulpicians. He lived in a very different time where so many of the things we take for granted were missing: universal public education, innumerable public and private programs and services for the poor and sick; an educated laity, etc. So we can't just imitate what he did but we certainly can imitate his spirit!
What I find fascinating is his intensely apostolic and creative view of the parish, the diocesan priesthood, and the whole Church. For him, the parish was all about mission, not maintenance. The Sulpicians at St. Patrick's told me that Olier was noted for his collaboration with the laity.
Read this (long) description of Olier's amazing evangelical creativity at the parish level from the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia. And then give yourself permission to dream about what God could do in and through your parish:
"In August, 1641, M. Olier took charge of St-Sulpice. His aims were to reform the parish, establish a seminary, and Christianize the Sorbonne, then very worldly, through the piety and holiness of the seminarians who should attend its courses. The parish embraced the whole Faubourg-St-Germain, with a population as numerous and varied as a large city. It was commonly reputed the largest and most vicious parish, not only in the French capital, but in all Christendom. The enormity of the evils had killed all hope of reformation.
Father Olier organized his priests in community life. The parish was divided into eight districts, each under the charge of a head priest and associates, whose duty it was to know individually all the souls under their care, with their spiritual and corporal needs, especially the poor, the uninstructed, the vicious, and those bound in irregular unions. Thirteen catechetical centres were established, for the instruction not only of children but of many adults who were almost equally ignorant of religion. Special instructions were provided for every class of persons, for the beggars, the poor, domestic servants, lackeys, midwives, workingmen, the aged etc. Instructions and debates on Catholic doctrine were organized for the benefit of Calvinists, hundreds of whom were converted.
A vigorous campaign was waged against immoral and heretical literature and obscene pictures; leaflets, holy pictures, and prayer books were distributed to those who could not or would not come to church, and a bookstore was opened at the church to supply good literature. The poor were cared for according to methods of relief inspired by the practical genius of
Orphans, very numerous during the war, were placed in good parishes, and a house of refuge established for orphan girls. A home was open to shelter and reform the many women rescued from evil lives, and another for young girls exposed to danger. Many free schools for poor girls were founded by Father Olier, and he laboured also at the reform of the teachers in boys' schools, not however, with great success. He perceived that the reform of boys' schools could be accomplished only through a new congregation; which in fact came about after his death through St. Jean Baptist de la Sale, a pupil of St-Sulpice, who founded his first school in Father Olier's parish.
Free legal aid was provided for the poor. He gathered under one roof the sisters of many communities, who had been driven out of their convents in the country and fled to
His work for the rich and high-placed was no less thorough and remarkable. He led the movement against duelling, formed a society for its suppression, and enlisted the active aid of military men of renown, including the marshals of
He persuaded the rich–royalty, nobles, and others–to a great generosity, without which his unbounded charities would have been impossible. The foundation of the present church of St-Sulpice was laid by him. At times as many as sixty or even eighty priests were ministering together in the parish, of whom the most illustrious, a little after Olier's time, was Fénelon, later Archbishop of Cambrai. This was one of the best effects of Olier's work, for it sent trained, enlightened zealous priests into all parts of
Olier was always the missionary. His outlook was world- wide; his zeal led to the foundation of the Sulpician missions at
From the start he designed to make it a national seminary and regarded as providential the fact that the parish of St-Sulpice and the seminary depended directly on the Holy See. In the course of two years students came to it from about twenty dioceses of