Bernières-Louvigny, Jean de
BERNIÈRES-LOUVIGNY, JEAN DE
Mystic; b. Caen, France, 1602; d. there, May 3, 1659. Son of Baron Pierre de Louvigny and Marguerite de Lion-Roger, Bernières-Louvigny came of one of the most distinguished houses of Normandy. Little is known of his early life or education. He did not become a priest or religious but lived devoutly as a layman. He had part in the establishment of a center of the celebrated compagnie du saint-sacrement, through which he engaged in many charitable works. He assisted, financially and otherwise, in the foundation of many religious houses, hospitals, and seminaries. One of his charitable works was the erection of the Ursuline convent at Caen, where his sister, Jourdaine, was foundress and superior. He placed himself under the direction of a well-known Franciscan, Père Jean-Chrysostome, and following his advice built a hermitage in the outer courtyard of the Ursuline convent, to which he retired with a few companions.
In 1647 he made a private vow of poverty, giving his possessions to his nephews and charity. He led a life of celibacy, and as a layman was noted for austerities commonly associated with the most strict religious life. He acquired a singular reputation as a spiritual director, and after the death of Jean-Chrysostome took over the direction of a number of souls who had been dependent on the friar. He entered into correspondence and was associated with many other contemporary ascetics, particularly St. John Eudes, Marie des Valles, and Mère marie de l'incarnation. Bernières-Louvigny was associated with Mère Marie and a Madame de la Peltrie in the foundation of the Ursuline community at Quebec. He seems to have attended to much of the financial and business negotiations connected with the support of the foundation.
Bernières-Louvigny published nothing himself; but he left notes he had dictated on spiritual topics, and a number of his letters were preserved. Some of his notes were published the year of his death under the title L'Intérieur Chrétien, and others soon after under the title Le Chrétien Intérieur. Both editions were very popular, and there were at least a dozen other publications, all anonymous and some rather dubious. In 1670 his sister brought out Les oeuvres spirituelles de M. de Bernières-Louvigny, which also became popular. Le Chrétien Intérieur was placed on the Index in 1689 and Les oeuvres in 1692, both cited for quietism. There is some doubt that he was really responsible for the objectionable doctrine, because the MSS may have been tampered with. Corrected editions have since been issued.
Bibliography: p. pourrat, Catholicisme 1:1491–92. r. heurtevent, L'oeuvre spirituelle de Jean de Bernières (Paris 1938); m. villers, Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique 1:1522–27.
[a. j. clark]