Olier, Jean Jacques

Olier, Jean Jacques, a distinguished French Roman Catholic theologian, noted as a Lazarist, was born at Paris Sept. 20, 1608. He studied in his native city, and in the Jesuit college of Lyons, the College of Harcourt, and the Sorbonne. He became successively prior of the Trinity of Clisson, in the diocese of Nantes, abbot of Pebrac, and honorary canon of Brioude in 1626; and finally prior of Bazainville, in the diocese of Chartres. On his return from a journey to Rome he became intimately acquainted with Vincent de Paul. Ordained priest, March 21, 1633, Olier associated himself with other priests, and they went as missionaries through the provinces of Auvergne and Velay. While he was traveling through Brittany, his reputation was so great that Louis XIII, at the request of cardinal Richelieu, appointed him coadjutor of Henry Clausse bishop of Chalons-sur-Marme; but Olier, who contemplated forming a seminary for the education of priests, declined the office. Guided by the advice of Coudren, he founded a first establishment at Vaugirard, near Paris, in Jan., 1642, in which he was assisted by able clerical teachers. This little community, numbering at first but three members, soon increased to twenty, and many of these associates rose in due time to the highest stations in the Church. But this was not his only labor. The parish of St. Sulpice, in Paris, subject to the abbot of St. Germain des Pros, was then a center of immorality and licentiousness; Olier was chosen to reform it, and, although he had but little hope of success, he assumed the charge Aug. 10, 1642, still continuing to direct the seminary. Aided by some of his priests from Vaugirard, he succeeded in his undertaking in Paris, and his parish became one of the most regular in the city. Duelling was then a common practice. Olier undertook to form an association of the bravest among the nobles who would bind themselves never to give or accept a challenge, and never to act as seconds in an encounter. This bold plan succeeded, and at the head of those who took the vow on the day of Pentecost, 1651, were marshal de Fabert and the marqais of Fenelon, both renowned duellists. This step created great excitement, and was warmly approved by marshals d'Estrees, Schomberg, de Plessis-Praslin, and de Villeroy. In the mean time the number of priests in his seminary having greatly increased, Olier divided them into two societies — the Congregation of St. Sulpice, who retained charge of the seminary, for which they received a charter in Nov., 1645, and the Community of the Priests of the Parish, who governed the Church affairs; the two divisions, however, continued to form but One body. In 1655 Olier, together with his successor, Le Ragois de Bretonvilliers, laid the corner-stone of the church of St. Sulpice, which still exists. Besides this chief establishment of his, Olier became the founder of provincial seminaries at Clermont, Le Puy, Viviers, and Bourg St. Andeol; and an offshoot of his congregation was planted even in the French colony of Montreal, in Canada, He also organized a number of charitable societies, schools, and orphan asylums. His labors and austerities brought on severe infirmities, which abridged his life. He died April 2, 1657. Bossuet calls him "virum praestantissimum ac sanctitatis odore florentem." He is eulogized by F'nelon as "vir traditus gratise Dei, et plane apostolicus;" and in a letter from the assembly of the clergy to pope Clement XII we find him extolled as "eximium sacerdotem, insigne cleri nostri decus et ornamentum." Olier left a number of writings, chiefly practical, which have often been reprinted. See Vie de M. Olier, Fondateur du Seminazire de St. Sulpice (Paris, 1853, 8vo); Jervis, Hist. of the Church of France, 1:330- 332; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 38, 615-617.

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