Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire

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Jean Baptiste Henri Lacordaire (March 12, 1802 - November 21, 1861), was a French ecclesiastic and orator.

He was born at Recey-sur-Ource, Côte d'Or, the second of four children. The eldest, Jean Theodore Lacordaire, later became professor of comparative anatomy at Liège. For several years Lacordaire studied at Dijon, showing a marked talent for rhetoric; this led him to a legal career, and in the local debates of the advocates he attained a high celebrity. At Paris he thought of going on the stage, but was induced to finish his legal training and began to practise as an advocate (1817-1824).

Meanwhile Lamennais had published his Essai sur l'Indifférence - a passionate plea for Christianity and in particular for Roman Catholicism as necessary for the social progress of mankind. Lacordaire read, and his ardent and believing nature, weary of the theological negations of the Encyclopaedists, was convinced. In 1823 he became a theological student at the seminary of Saint Sulpice; four years later he was ordained and became almoner of the Collège Henri IV. He was called from it to co-operate with Lamennais in the editorship of L'Avenir, a journal established to advocate the union of the democratic principle with ultramontanism.

Lacordaire strove to show that Catholicism was not bound up with the idea of dynasty, and allied it with a well-defined liberty, equality and fraternity. This new propagandism was denounced from Rome in an encyclical. In the meantime Lacordaire and Montalembert, believing that, under the Charter of 1830, they were entitled to liberty of instruction, opened an independent free school. It closed in two days, and the teachers were fined by the court of peers. Lacordaire accepted the setback with quiet dignity; but they brought his relationship with Lamennais to a close. He now began the course of Christian conferences at the Collège Stanislas, which attracted the art and intellect of Paris; he went on to Notre-Dame de Paris, and for two years his sermons were the delight of the capital.

He still preached the gospel of the people's sovereignty in civil life and the pope's supremacy in religion, but brought to his propagandism the full resources of a mind familiar with philosophy, history and literature, and indeed led the reaction against Voltairean scepticism. He was asked to edit the Univers, and to take a chair in the University of Louvain, but he declined both appointments, and in 1838 set out for Rome, revolving a great scheme for christianizing France by restoring the old order of St Dominic. At Rome he donned the habit of the preaching friar and joined the monastery of Minerva. His Mémoire pour le rétablissement en France de l'ordre des frères prêcheurs was then prepared and dedicated to his country; at the same time he collected the materials for the life of St Dominic. When he returned to France in 1841 he resumed his preaching at Notre Dame, but he had little success in re-establishing the order of which he ever afterwards called himself monk.

His funeral orations are the most notable in their kind of any delivered during his time, those devoted to Marshal Drouet and Daniel O'Connell being especially marked by point and clearness. He next thought that his presence in the National Assembly would be of use to his cause; but being rebuked by his ecclesiastical superiors for declaring himself a republican, he resigned his seat ten days after his election. In 1850 he went back to Rome and was made provincial of the order, and for four years laboured to make the Dominicans a religious power. In 1854 he retired to Sorrèze to become director of a private lyceum, and remained there until he died. He had been elected to the Académie française in the preceding year.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.


Preceded by:
Alexis de Tocqueville
Seat 18
Académie française
Succeeded by:
Albert de Broglie
de:Jean Baptiste Henri Lacordaire

fr:Henri Lacordaire

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