Lazarists, or Priests of the Mission

Lazarists, Or Priests Of The Mission

a society of missionary priests in the Roman Catholic Church. It was founded in 1624 by St. Vincent of Paul, who, while living as tutor and chaplain in the house of count Gondi, general of the royal galleys, was induced by the general confession of sick men to give a mission for the people of the dominions of the count, The results of the mission so well pleased the count that he offered a sum of money to any religious congregation which would be willing to give a mission in his dominions. Vincent in vain offered this sum to the members of his own order, the Oratorians, and to the Jesuits. Both were so overwhelmed with business that they could not accept the offer. This refusal, and the wish of the family of count Gondi, as well as of the brother of the count, the archbishop of Paris, induced Vincent in 1624 to establish the society of the missionary priests, who were chiefly to devote themselves to the religious care of the country people and the lower classes. 'The new institution soon received the royal sanction, and pope Urban VIII made it a special religious society under the name of the Priests of the Mission. In 1632 they received the college of St. Lazarus in Paris, whence their usual name Lazarists is derived. Their more spacious establishment and the increase of their income now enabled the congregation to extend their sphere of action. In addition to the revival of religion among the masses of the people, the chief objects of the Priests of the Mission were the reformation of the clergy by means of conferences, and the establishment of seminaries in accordance with the decrees of the Council of Trent. Even during the lifetime of St. Vincent nearly all the dioceses of France had been visited by his disciples; and, besides, also Italy, Corsica, Poland, Ireland, Scotland, Algeria, Tunis, and Madagascar received the missionaries, who, on the coast of Africa, vied with the Order of Mercy in the redemption of slaves. To Poland they were called by the queen, Maria Louisa, wife of king John Casimir II. They established a missionary institution, under the direction of Lambert, while the plague and famine were raging, in particular in Warsaw. Lambert and his successor, Ozenne, fell victims to the epidemic, but the mission became very prosperous. The first successors of Vincent as superiors general were Rene Almeras (1672), Edmund Jolly (1697), and Nicolas Pierron; at the time of the first revolution abbé Cayla de la Garde was the head of the congregation. At this time the congregation had reached its zenith; and as in France no less than forty-nine theological seminaries were conducted by it, it exercised a great influence on the theological views of the French clergy. During the Revolution, the Lazarists, in common with all the other religious denominations, perished; but they were restored as early as 1804, and even received from the public exchequer a support of 15,000 francs. At Paris a hospital belonging to the public domain was given to them for the establishment of a central institution and a novitiate; they also received several houses in the departments beyond the Alps, and the right to accept legacies. But when Napoleon had fallen out with the pope he again abolished the Lazarists by a decree of 1809, suppressed all their houses, cancelled the dotation, and confiscated the property which had been given to them or acquired by them. They were legally restored in 1816: and, though they could not recover their original house, St. Lazare, they acquired another house in the Rue Sevres, whither they also transferred their seminary. They now resumed their former labors, but remained for some time without a regular superior general. After the death of Cayla de la Garde two vicars general had been appointed, but in 1829 the pope appointed a new superior general (Pierre Dewailly), as the convocation of a chapter general presented insurmountable obstacles. The pope, in making this appointment, expressly recognised the fact that the office of superior general had always been filled by a Frenchman. According to the Roman Almanac for 1870, the office of superior general was at that time filled by father Etienne. In 1862 (according to P. Karl vom heil. Aloys, Statisches Jathrbuch der Kirche, Ratisbon, 1862) the Lazarists had 18 houses in France, 27 in Italy, 4 in the British Isles, 6 in Germany, 3 in the Pyrenean peninsula, 10 in Poland (with 143 members). In Asia they had establishments in Asiatic Turkey, in Persia, in Manilla, and in five provinces of China; in Africa, at Alexandria, in Egypt, at Algiers and Mustapha, in Algeria, and at Adowa, in Abyssinia. In America they had 17 establishments. In all, there were in 1862 about 100 establishments, with 2000 members. See Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lex. 6:383; Fehr, Gesch. der Monchsorden, 2:254. (A. J. S.)

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