The priestly ordination of Prosper Guéranger

The series of articles on the day of ordination of well-known historic priests by Patrick H. Daly, a parish priest in the Diocese of Birmingham, continues with an analysis of a detailed memoir left by one of the most celebrated French priests of the nineteenth century.

The French Revolution and the ecclesiastical policies of the Napoleonic Empire dealt a fatal blow to religious life in France, which had seen the birth of Cluniac monasticism in the tenth century, the Cistercians in the twelfth, the great learned Benedictine Congregation of St Maur in the seventeenth, and the Trappist reform of the Cistercian Order which Armand de Rancé initiated in 1664. What monasteries and convents there were in the twilight years of the Ancien Régime had long lost their original fervour, numbers were low, and discipline was notoriously lax. The Jesuits had been suppressed with the connivance of the papacy with Europe’s secular powers in 1773, but when the Revolution came, especially given the decadence into which monastic life had sunk, the avarice of Robespierre and fellow zealots meant monasteries and convents fell easy prey for requisitioning by the State. Monastic life was extinguished at the stroke of a pen.

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