Bérulle, Pierre de
BÉRULLE, PIERRE DE
Cardinal, diplomat, theologian, mystic, spiritual writer, founder of the French Oratory, leading figure in the French school of spirituality; b. Chateau de Sérilly, between Sens and Troyes, France, Feb. 4, 1575; d. Paris, Oct. 2, 1629. Born of an old and distinguished family, Bérulle was brought up from infancy in a deeply religious environment in which he developed with such remarkable precocity that at the age of 17 he was considered a master of the spiritual life. He was educated by the Jesuits and at the Sorbonne and was ordained June 5, 1599. That same year he was named honorary almoner of King henry iv. In 1607 the king proposed to make him tutor to the Dauphin, but Bérulle declined. He also refused repeated and pressing offers of commendatory prelacies and bishoprics, preferring to devote himself entirely to spiritual direction, controversy with Protestants, and the promotion of reform among religious communities. The augustinians, benedictines, and feuillants were among the beneficiaries of his efforts in this last sphere. In his zeal for a spiritual restoration, Bérulle undertook long and difficult negotiations to introduce the carmel ite nuns of the Teresian reform into France. He, together with André Duval and Jacques Gallemant, was put in charge of these religious by paul v, but in spite of his spiritual influence upon them, he encountered difficulties and resistance with regard to disciplinary matters and the vow of servitude.
After 1605 Bérulle took an interest in the decrees of the Council of trent concerning the education of the clergy. This led him to found in Paris the Oratory of Jesus, usually known as the French Oratory, modeled after the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. This undertaking was a great success, and the Oratory quickly spread to other places. By the time of Bérulle's death he had established 17 colleges, and his engagement in this work brought him into much disagreeable conflict with the university and the Jesuits.
As confidant and counselor of Queen Marie de Médicis and as friend of Louis XIII, he was a powerful influence for good at court. Besides his work as peacemaker (he effected a reconciliation between the queen and her son, Louis XIII, in 1620), he engaged in political activity of importance and conducted a number of diplomatic missions for the king. In this he was motivated chiefly by religious rather than nationalistic considerations. He desired to reunite Christians in an effective struggle against Protestantism. Hoping for the conversion of England, Bérulle supported the marriage of Henriette, sister of Louis XIII, to the Prince of Wales, the future charles i of England, conducted the negotiations with Rome for the dispensation for the marriage, and accompanied the queen to Great Britain. He refused in 1629 to sign the treaty of alliance with England and the Low Countries because he could not abide the thought of France entering into a compact with Protestants against Catholic Spain. Nevertheless, the policy of alliance with the Protestants prevailed, and this put an end to Bérulle's political activity. He fell into disgrace, and Cardinal richelieu wanted to have him sent from France.
Although he was deeply involved in political affairs, Bérulle remained essentially a contemplative, as is apparent in the many spiritual works that he composed. For the most part these were composed for the occasion, were hastily written, and have the appearance of being unfinished drafts. They are discourses and effusions that express the ardor of his faith rather than treatises in the strict sense. He was eminently a man whose orientation was spiritual; his speculation was joined with prayer in an indistinguishable act of adoration (see M. Dupuy, Bérulle, une spiritualité d'adoration, Tournai 1964). His principal works were Discours de l'état et des grandeurs de Jésus (1623, 2e partie 1629); Élevations à Jésus-Christ sur sa conduite … vers S. Madeleine (1625); Bref discours de l’abnégation intérieure (1597); and Oeuvres de piété (184 opuscula, ed. G. Rotureau, Paris 1944).
Bérulle was created cardinal in 1627 and died with a reputation for holiness. To his intercession 45 miracles were attributed. At the petition of François bourgoing, superior general of the French Oratory, Innocent X introduced the process for Bérulle's beatification, but this was interrupted by jansenist intrigues.
See Also: spirituality, french school of.
Bibliography: Oeuvres complètes, ed. j. p. migne (Paris 1856); Correspondance, ed. j. dagens, 3 v. (Paris 1937–39). j. da gens, Bérulle et les origines de la restauration catholique (Bruges 1952) 383–387, a complete list of Bérulle's works and MSS; 379–383, of his biographies. j. f. nourrisson, Le Cardinal de Bérulle: Sa vie, ses écrits, son temps (Paris 1856). m. houssaye, M. de Bérulle et les carmélites de France (Paris 1872); Le Père de Bérulle et l'Oratoire de Jésus (Paris 1874); Le Cardinal de Bérulle et le cardinal de Richelieu (Paris 1875). a. molien, Le Cardinal de Bérulle, 2 v. (Paris 1947); m. villers, Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique (Paris 1932— ) 1:1539–81; Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques (Paris 1912— ) 8:1115–35. a. george, L'Oratoire (Paris 1928). c. taveau, Le Cardinal de Bérulle, maître de la vie spirituelle (Paris 1933). b. kiesler, Die Struktur des Theozentrismus bei Bérulle und de Condren (Berlin 1934). r. bellemare, Le Sens de la créature dans la doctrine de Bérulle (Ottawa 1959). p. cochois, Bérulle et l'École française (Paris 1963). j. moioli, Teologia della devozione B. al Verbo Incarnato (Varese 1964). j. h. crehan, A Catholic Dictionary of Theology 1:263–266. j. orcibal, Le Cardinal de Bérulle: Évolution d'une spiritualité (Paris 1965).
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