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LIBRARY

UNIVERSITY Of
CALIFORNIA

SAN DIEGO

/






SAINT PETER FOURIER



(TUflif

HENRICUS G. S. BOWDEN
Censor deputatus



*fr FRANCISCUS

ARCHIEPISCOPUS WESTMONAST



Die 8 Sept., 1904.



BY

L. PINGAUD



L



TRANSLATED BY

c. w. w.




LONDON
DUCKWORTH & CO., 3, HENRIETTA STREET, W.C.



NEW YORK, CINCINNATI & CHICAGO:

BENZIGER BROS.



DUBLIN:

M. H. GILL & SON



1905



Authorised 7+anslation
All Rights Reserved



CONTENTS



CHAPTER I

PAGE

FOURIER AND HIS BIOGRAPHERS YOUTH . I



CHAPTER II

THE CURE OF MATTAINCOURT . -23

CHAPTER III

THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME . . 44

CHAPTER IV
THE CANONS REGULAR OF NOTRE SAUVEUR . 75

CHAPTER V

LORRAINE ITS COURT AND PEOPLE . . IOO

CHAPTER VI
FOURIER'S LAST DAYS . . . .127

V



vi CONTENTS

CHAPTER VII

PAGE

POSTHUMOUS FAME. FOUNDATIONS . 147

CHAPTER VIII

POSTHUMOUS LIFE AND FAME . ." l66



APPENDICES . . . . . .187



SAINT PETER FOURIER

CHAPTER I

FOURIER AND HIS BIOGRAPHERS YOUTH

C CARCELY three centuries separate us from the
^ saintly man to whom, in 1898, the Holy See
awarded the supreme honour of canonisation.
What Bourdaloue said of St Francis of Sales, may
be applied with even greater justice to Peter Fourier.
Here is a saint of our own day, whose ever-living
example has still a marvellous power to inspire and
touch us. And yet, as portrayed by his first biog-
raphers, he is in no sense modern. If viewed from a
purely mental standpoint, he is in certain respects
far behind the seventeenth century in the perspective
of history.

Many traits in his life remind us of St Bernard
and St Francis of Assisi, of the founders and re-
formers of the religious orders which rendered the
Middle Ages illustrious. And it was this that his
disciples desired, for they sought for him rather the
glory of the saint than the consideration of the
world.

Among them, Pere Bedel gave the tone to a whole



2 THE LIFE OF SAINT PETER FOURIER

family of biographers. His book, dedicated to " la
Royne mere de Jesus" was printed in 1645, five years
after the death of his spiritual master. In the first
part he relates., from personal recollection and from
accounts given by eye-witnesses, the principal epi-
sodes in Fourier's life ; in the second part, naming
each chapter after some virtue, he strives to show
that Fourier was the model of all.

He is an historian crowning his sovereign, a monk
extolling the founder of his congregation with a
naive partiality, composed of tenderness and admira-
tion ; he becomes a child again when thinking of
him. He was certainly sincere, and his information
on certain points is derived at first hand ; he shows
besides intuitive ease in handling the naive and racy
tongue of the first half of the seventeenth century,
the charm of which is quite indefinable.

On the other hand, he omitted or wilfully attenu-
ated certain facts, and did not dare to say all he knew
on account of his book being printed in Paris ; for
the humble writer always felt suspended over him
the hand of those French censors, who were after-
wards so prompt in suppressing in the writings
of Hugo the Premonstratensian and Calmet the
Benedictine, everything which seemed favourable
to the independence of Lorraine and to the " droits
du roy"

Finally, he had recourse only incidentally, and as
if by chance, to any authentic and essential docu-
ments, I mean to the correspondence and different
writings of Fourier himself.

Among the traits which he has collected at hap-



FOURIER AND HIS BIOGRAPHERS 3

hazard, the greater part are extraordinary. Some
are touching, and others eccentric and puerile.

He even strove to bring into prominence those
which he did not consider of a nature to be imitated
by everyone, and which in our days astonish rather
than edify the worldly reader.

Instead of looking towards the social and political
world, his glance always turned towards the cloister,
to that enclosed garden in which he had seen the
monastic virtues of his model flourish.

His book is a memoir written with a view to the
inquiry concerning Fourier's canonisation rather
than a complete historical study.

One might say the same of his colleagues and
emulators, Pere Piart, 1 Pere Friant, and Pere
d'Hangest, who laboured for the Roman congrega-
tions rather than for the public, and have lovingly
drawn a devout picture rather than an authentic
portrait.

Still they have partly prepared the way for the
work of criticism and Benedictine patience accom-
plished in our own days by Pere Rogie.

This Religious, who is, like them, one of Fourier's
spiritual sons, undertook a double task.

He first of all collected in ten large volumes, a few
of them being autograph, all the Saint's writings,

1 The work of Piart is still in MS. (Bibliotheque de Nancy).
A part of Hangest's has been published under the title of The
Spirit of B. P. Fourier, 1757, avols. (the second volume contains a
collection of the Saint's letters). Friant has only edited Bedel's
works, with slight alterations ; other lives had been written from
the same source by the Benedictine Bouette de Blemur (1678),
the Canon Gallet (de Besan^on) (1730).



4 THE LIFE OF SAINT PETER FOURIER

his letters, which form the chief source of his
biography, his Constitutions and religious rules,
his occasional treatises, sermons, meditations, and
spiritual exercises. He has afterwards published
from these documents, and the depositions contained
in the Ada beatificationis, a chronological table of
Fourier's life in three volumes, in which he rectifies,
as he goes along, a considerable number of the
errors, as to facts and dates, committed by his
predecessors.

Before him Edouard de Bazelaire (1846), the
Abbe Chapia (1850), M. de Besancenet (1864), M.
de Lambel (1868), the Vicomtesse de Flavigny (1873)
in a collection of studies, and the Abbe Deblaye
in his solid essays on special points, had already
pointed out the important place which Peter
Fourier, by the mere ascendancy of his virtue,
occupied in his country and his age.

To-day the Cure of Mattaincourt is shown, not
only, as in the illustrated frontispiece of Bedel's
volume, kneeling on the clouds with a dove hovering
over him, and presenting to God the Father, to
Jesus Christ, and to the Blessed Virgin, the two
kneeling groups of his religious, the nuns of Notre
Dame and the Canons of Notre Sauveur ; he appears
to us also in his human and social relations in the
midst of those Christians of every station in life,
who benefited by his apostolic zeal, his consummate
experience, and his inexhaustible generosity.

Certain aspects of his public life will always
remain obscure, for his correspondence, such of it
as we possess, is only concerned with the second



FOURIER AND HIS BIOGRAPHERS 5

part of his career, and deals almost exclusively
with his religious foundations. Nevertheless, judg-
ing from the scanty details given in his letters, or
from those handed down to us by contemporaries, it
appears that he was a faithful subject and citizen in
the service of Lorraine, and its dukes, even as Joan
of Domremy had been in the service of France.
Assuredly when sanctity assumes a human form,
every sincere man who comes into contact with
it will own its sway.

But does it then follow that we must subscribe to
the narrow and somewhat Jansenist definition of
sanctity, which was held by our fathers, in which the
saints were above all considered as strange beings,
their virtue consisting in their non-resemblance to
other men. ? l To regard them thus, as always sus-
pended between the world in which ordinary mortals
live and move, and that other which awaits us all,
is not really to know them.

Fourier himself better defines their real character
in describing them as travellers through this world,
but adding, " it is well to notice them as they pass
by, and to see how through, and in spite of, human
weakness they have attained that glory which is
imperishable."

This was to affirm that a saint has no reason to
exist, from a purely human point of view, except for
the sake of the example that he leaves behind; for
from a Christian point of view what matters such a
title on the lips of men to him who enjoys celestial
glory and eternal felicity ?

1 Massillon, Sermon sur le petit nombrc des tfus.



6 THE LIFE OF SAINT PETER FOURIER

Peter Fourier possesses the incontestable merit of
having gained his empire over his contemporaries,
three centuries ago, by those qualities and virtues that
our age might well learn from him ; such as the spirit
of sacrifice and disinterested devotion to youth, and of
generous loyalty to his country. Even if he had no
place in the official calendar of the Roman Church,
he would still appear to us with his triple aureole, as
the emulator of those primitive saints acclaimed by
the popular voice, who by their lives, their works,
and their influence, are models for all time.

In the midst of the political and religious struggles
of the sixteenth century, the Catholic Church pro-
posed, to her priests and the faithful, a double object,
towards which their action should be directed :
resistance to the enemies of that Christian social
order which the Middle Ages had constituted, and
the reform of morals and of ecclesiastical discipline
according to the spirit and decrees of the Council
of Trent.

She had lost all the north of Europe, and the centre
was hotly contested by the Lutherans and the
Huguenots.

In the south, she was firmly established; both in
Italy, the seat of the Roman Pontiff, and in Spain,
where the principal successor of Charles V. lived ;
she also found solid support in the smaller but still
independent nations which were scattered along the
Alps, the Jura, and the Vosges, and by those tribu-
tary rivers of the North Sea which separated Ger-
many from the Kingdom of France.

On this line of defence Lorraine united the Spanish



FOURIER AND HIS BIOGRAPHERS 7

Netherlands to the Franche Comte, to the Swiss
Catholic Cantons, and to the domains of the House
of Savoy.

Between the Meuse and the Vosges there was then
living a people inheriting the traditions of Austrasia
and Lorraine, and very proud of their independ-
ence, which had been won gradually from the German
Emperors, and consecrated by the defeat and death
under the walls of Nancy of the last " Grand Duke
of the West."

They showed themselves not less firm in confront-
ing the Saxon or German innovators of the faith
which had been preached to their fathers by St Man-
say, St Epvre, St Sigisbert, and St Arnulf, and was
solidly rooted and established in their dioceses of
Metz, Toul, and Verdun ; in their Augustinian, Bene-
dictine, and Premonstratensian Abbeys ; in their
popular sanctuaries of St Nicolas de Port, Notre
Dame de Bon Secours, and Notre Dame de Sion.

In all Europe this land was, as the Calvinists
avowed, "that in which God had least bestowed His
spiritual graces," and at an opportune moment it
became a double bulwark against the German
Lutherans, and against the Huguenots, and the
French political intriguers.

Godfrey of Bouillon had borne the title of Duke
of Lorraine, and the same spirit which had animated
this first and most illustrious of the Crusaders was
to inspire in the seventeenth century two of his
compatriots, Mercoeur and Duke Charles V., the
last heroes of Christendom on the Danube.

In the preceding century this same spirit had



8 THE LIFE OF SAINT PETER FOURIER

armed the prince and his subjects against the
partisans of the "pure Gospel" Duke Antony turned
back and crushed the Rustauds of Alsace at the
foot of the Vosges, and later on the younger branch
of the Guises became in France the guardians of
the last Valois and the heroes of the Holy League.

There was a Lorraine claimant as there had been
a Spanish and a Piedmontese claimant to the throne
of St Louis.

When the era of the so-called religious wars was
ended, Lorraine also took an important part in the
work of the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

All the works of Christian charity there found their
special development in the new orders of women,
such as the Filles de Notre Dame, vowed to teach-
ing ; the Filles de St Charles, emulators of the
French Sisters of Charity; the nuns of the Refuge
under Elisabeth of Ranfaing ; the Benedictines of
the Blessed Sacrament founded by Catherine de Bar.

But no one more completely personified the special
genius and traditional faith of this little country
during the first forty years of the seventeenth
century than did the " good Father " of Mattain-
court, as his compatriots called him.

The title which was bestowed, one hundred years
later, on the great Benedictine Dom Calmet, Patria
Lotharus, religione Christianus, exactly describes his
spirit and his life.

Peter Fourier was born November 30th, 1565,
in the diocese of Toul at Mirecourt, the chief town
of the Canton of the Vosges. His grandfather was
a rich peasant of the neighbourhood. His father



FOURIER AND HIS BIOGRAPHERS 9

leaving the property to an elder brother, went to
settle in the town, devoted himself to commerce,
and became an important personage.

Peter was the first of four children. As kings
are royal from the cradle, so he, says the old
historian, was good and holy even in his childish
sports. He was destined to the Church, and he
corresponded to the wishes of his parents by his
unreserved and precocious piety. In his home he
used to play at being a priest or a preacher, just as
other children play at soldiers, and his vocation,
which was assiduously fostered, was confirmed when
at thirteen years of age, in October 1579, he went
to finish his studies at Pont-a-Mousson.

This little town of the Barrois, near Nancy, the
political capital of the country, was twenty leagues
distant from Mirecourt, and divided between the
dioceses of Metz and Toul. It was to become the
centre of the religious and intellectual life of the
whole region.

Duke Charles III. and his uncle, the Cardinal of
Lorraine and Legate of the Holy See in the Three
Bishoprics, had just founded, in 1572, a University for
the defence of Catholic tradition against Protestant-
ism, and here it was that, more favoured than in
France, the Company of Jesus had the instruction
and the awarding of degrees entirely in their hands.

This establishment, flanked by a college placed
under the same direction, was at first very prosperous.
It contained nearly one hundred professors and two
thousand pupils. The Scotch Barclay and the
Toulousian Gregory used to teach law there ;



10 THE LIFE OF SAINT PETER FOURIER

others, either Lorrainers or foreigners, taught
medicine, the Jesuits reserving to themselves
theology and the arts, such as rhetoric, philosophy,
etc.

The princes of the ducal House of Lorraine went
there to be educated, by the side of youths who
came from the most distant countries in Christendom.
This motley crowd did not offer to the Catholic
world only examples of virtue and peace. Between
Jesuits and Jurists there arose at times futile con-
flicts, bearing witness to the antagonism which is not
unlikely to arise between the ecclesiastical and the
lay mind ; and these kept up a perpetual agitation
in the teaching body.

As to the morals of the young students, Pere
Abram, in his History of the University, has left us
details which are anything but edifying : still the
unity of the faith soaring above these individual
weaknesses covered or caused such shortcomings to
be forgotten. Such was the atmosphere in which
Fourier was educated, and in which at two different
periods he spent thirteen years.

From 1579 to 1585 he lodged with one of the
townsmen and studied according to the Jesuit
programmes, first the classics and afterwards philo-
sophy. Pere Sirmond, one of the future masters
of religious and French erudition in the seventeenth
century, was one of his professors. Thus the young
Lorrainer lived, as regards his intellectual work,
under the laws of this second Renaissance which,
according to the spirit of the Catholic counter-
Reformation, claimed to correct the first, refus-



FOURIER AND HIS BIOGRAPHERS 11

ing to adore the Ancients, though continuing to
love them.

Cicero became so familiar to him, that he one day
invoked him as well as the Goddess Ceres, in order, by
an unexpected quotation from the Verrine-orations, to
justify the strict enclosure of his nuns. Here and
there in his letters and spiritual writings one finds,
along with passages borrowed from the Fathers, quo-
tations or reminiscences from the prose authors and
poets of heathen antiquity. He was so well versed in
Greek, that he spoke it like his native tongue. He
even acquired a taste for the quibbles and puerilities
of the new Scholasticism, and penetrated into the
secrets of the Metric System of the Ancients.

It is true that we have not the belles epi-
grammes found in his papers after his death, or, in
other words, those ingenious compliments written in
verse in honour of some prelate, whose favour he
hoped to gain for his various enterprises.

But there still remains to us a Latin enigma,
written by him in Iambics, which Pere Sirmond
caused to be placed in the class-rooms, and which
was celebrated among the rhetoricians of the time ;
for it reproduced the same words whether spelt
from right to left or left to right, or from the central
letter to each of the two outside ones.

He himself later on treated this jeu cT esprit with
disdain not unmixed with a certain satisfaction for
this youthful souvenir, for he liked such tours deforce,
and one attributes to him the ingenious anagram
on his name : Petrus Fourier Pro Jesu fertur.

In philosophy he was a docile disciple of the



12 THE LIFE OF SAINT PETER FOURIER

traditional master, Aristotle : so much so, that forty
years later he was able to explain lucidly, and with-
out having seen them since, his principles of logic,
his physics and metaphysics.

Everything which appealed to his juvenile curiosity
tended to enhance the evanescent glory of the
Lorraine nation, the daughter and servant of the
Catholic Church.

If he heard France spoken of, it was not the
France which was waiting for Henri Quatre, but
that which had received, as a gift from heaven, the
Guises in the present and Joan of Arc in the past.
No doubt, in 1580, he must have seen represented a
certain Latin tragedy, the work of Pere Fronton au
Due, in which his compatriot from the borders of
the Meuse was exalted in her divine mission as
protectress of the most Christian kingdom.

This precocious mind was allied to an ascetic
frame. Young Fourier, as Bedel tells us, was tall
and powerfully built, his nose was slightly aquiline,
his eyes well-formed, and he had a complexion of
roses and lilies.

Thus he was as beautiful as St Bernard had been, or
as was his fellow-student of Padua, Francis of Sales.
Like them, and firmer than was Joseph, he avoided
the seductions of lurking vice, without leaving her
even a vestige of his garments. And, moreover, he
introduced into his college life the habits of the
monastery, making use of the scourge and the hair-
shirt to conquer his fiery temperament ; and he
imposed such privations of sleep and food on him-
self, that his father, informed by the Jesuits of his



FOURIER AND HIS BIOGRAPHERS 13

macerations, undertook a journey to Pont-a-Mousson
to remonstrate with him, but in vain.

His passion for corporal penance did but increase
with his years, especially under the burden of the
trials inflicted on him by a mysterious yet loving
Providence.

His spiritual children felt themselves obliged to
give him a curator, who was ordered to mitigate the
fervour of his excessive mortifications.

One judicious writer of our own times has even
observed that, "viewed under some aspects, for
example, his austerity and humility, he will never
willingly be accepted as a model by our century
which is not saintly." l And this is true. For there
are certain mortifications of his old age which are
most repugnant, and justly so, to our delicacy, and
even while admitting the authenticity of the facts re-
corded, we must forget the details and merely see in
the whole the expression of that unique and all-
powerful feeling which animated him, the desire to
all but annihilate himself, so that nothing should re-
main except what was necessary for the service of
God and man.

In those days the militant defenders of Catholicism
showed the same ardour in chastising their bodies
and in renewing the practices so dear to pre-
ceding ages, as the Protestants did in discussing
texts and preaching faith without works. All
directors of conscience at that time, even those
considered as the most indulgent, recommended

1 L'Abbe Deblaye, Examen, . . . de rHistoire du B. P.
Fourier par Barthtlemy de Beauregard,



14 THE LIFE OF SAINT PETER FOURIER

penance in its violent and sanguinary form not
only to persons dedicated to God but also to those
living in the world.

We have seen since then one such Religious in
the nineteenth century, Lacordaire for instance, the
reformer of his order,, and, like Fourier, an in-
structor of youth, who in the secret of the
cloister, divulged by one of his disciples (Pere
Chocarne), carried even to the " folly of the cross "
those voluntary austerities, which astonish his most
fervent admirers.

In our own days even non-Christians have pro-
claimed the religion of human suffering, but its
votaries only know of one side, that which is repre-
sented by compassion for the physical misfortunes
of others. But Christians formerly practised it in
its entirety, for they were convinced of the secret
solidarity which united the sufferings of a divine
Saviour to those of the sinful creature, and in the
burden of suffering which oppresses humanity, they
generously and spontaneously took their part so
that they might lessen that of their brothers.

Pitiless as regards himself, Fourier was always
moderate, indulgent, and courteous to others. While
not forgetting what was due to principles, he yet
knew how to take circumstances into account.

Such was the policy of the times, at least the
triumphant policy of our Henry IV. Such also
was religion as represented by its apostles like
Francis de Sales, who recommended a method of
action which should be "petit a petit, lentement
cotmne font les anges," and like Fourier, who would



FOURIER AND HIS BIOGRAPHERS 15

repeat, " Gently, gently, gently," and who took for
his motto the saying of St Ambrose, " Harm no one,
but be useful to all."

To this charity was joined, as in the case of St
Francis of Assisi, an overflowing and naive tenderness
for the lower creation. He had so much pity " for
little captive birds that, if they were taken from their
nests, or fell by accident into the hands of a Religious
or Servant, he had them set at liberty at once ; and
when in winter the earth, like a cruel stepmother,
threatened them with famine, by covering with snow
all their little store of food, he came to their aid and
had grain thrown to them every day, watching from
his window to see that it was not neglected." Even
when ill he would not let them chase the flies from
his room. On his servant presenting him with a hare
which he had captured with one of the forest dogs,
he drove him from the room, quite indignant at such
cruelty. And seeing a mouse between the paws of
a cat, his kind heart was so touched, that he ran to
save its life. 1

Had he wished it, the scholar of Pont-a-Mousson
might easily have found the means of advancing in
the world. His family, owing to a series of un-
expected circumstances, held a certain position at
the Court of Nancy.

His father became a widower in 1582, and was soon
after remarried to Michelle Guerin, a former nurse
of one of the daughters of Duke Charles III. When
this princess became Grand- Duchess of Tuscany, she

1 Bedel. This passage relates to a later period, but the trait
noticed in it must have always been more or less marked.



16 THE LIFE OF SAINT PETER FOURIER

confided the administration of her estates to the
former merchant of Mirecourt, and in 1591 con-
ferred on him a patent of nobility.

Both then and afterwards Peter Fourier never
made any claim to a title which was legally his, nor
to any favours accorded to his family. Neverthe-
less, this elevation, joined to the prestige of his own
virtues, was able later on to facilitate his enterprises
and extend his influence in Lorraine.

From his childhood he had felt drawn to the ecclesi-


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