Vincent De Paul, The Lazarist Mission, And French Catholic Reform

Lecture Topic: Vincent de Paul, the Lazarist Mission, and French Catholic Reform offers a major re-assessment of the thought and activities of the most famous figure of the seventeenth-century French Catholic Reformation, Vincent de Paul. Confronting traditional explanations for de Paul’s prominence in the dévot reform movement that emerged in the wake of the Wars of Religion, the volume explores how he turned a personal vocational desire to evangelize the rural poor of France into a congregation of secular missionaries, known as the Congregation of the Mission or the Lazarists, with three inter-related strands of pastoral responsibility: the delivery of missions, the formation and training of clergy, and the promotion of confraternal welfare. Alison Forrestal further demonstrates that the structure, ethos, and works that de Paul devised for the Congregation placed it at the heart of a significant enterprise of reform that involved a broad set of associates in efforts to transform the character of devotional belief and practice within the church. The central questions of the volume therefore concern de Paul’s efforts to create, characterize, and articulate a distinctive and influential vision for missionary life and work, both for himself and for the Lazarist Congregation, and Forrestal argues that his prominence and achievements depended on his remarkable ability to exploit the potential for association and collaboration within the dévotenvironment of seventeenth-century France in enterprising and systematic ways.

This is the first study to assess de Paul’s activities against the wider backdrop of religious reform and Bourbon rule, and to reconstruct the combination of ideas, practices, resources, and relationships that determined his ability to pursue his ambitions. A work of forensic detail and complex narrative, Vincent de Paul, the Lazarist Mission, and French Catholic Reform is the product of years of research in ecclesiastical and state archives. It offers a wholly fresh perspective on the challenges and opportunities entailed in the promotion of religious reform and renewal in seventeenth-century France.

Speaker Bio: Alison Forrestal, Acting Head and Lecturer in History, School of Humanities, National University of Ireland, Galway. She is Lecturer in Early Modern History at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), having previously held lectureships at Durham University and the University of Warwick. She is the author of multiple publications on the Catholic Reformation, including the monographs Catholic Synods in Ireland, 1600-1690 (1998), and Fathers, Pastors and Kings: Visions of Episcopacy in Seventeenth-Century France(2004), and the co-edited volumes Politics and Religion in EarlyBourbon France (2009), and The Frontiers of Mission: Perspectives on Early Modern Missionary Catholicism (2016).

The Many Faces of Vincent de Paul: 19th Century French Romanticism and the Sacred

Guest-curated by Rev. Edward R. Udovic, CM, PhD, as a companion to Four Saints in Three Acts, this special exhibition of 19th century sculptures, holy cards, textiles, decorative arts and prints from the university’s collection will explore how Romanticism impacted the iconographic representations of Saint Vincent de Paul (1581-1660), at the dawn of the modern era.