Caussade, Jean Pierre de
CAUSSADE, JEAN PIERRE DE
Jesuit spiritual writer; b. Cahors, capital of Quercy, March 7, 1675; d. Toulouse, Dec. 8, 1751. He studied at the Jesuit university in Cahors, where Fénelon had also been a student. On April 16, 1693, he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus at Toulouse. For more than 20 years he taught the classics, philosophy, and the sciences in the various colleges in his province. He was ordained in 1704 and added to his responsibilities as a teacher those of confessor and preacher, besides acting as spiritual director for his confreres. He gave up teaching in 1724 to become a member of a team of preachers working in "urban missions." In 1729 or 1730 he was sent to Lorraine and became acquainted with the Visitation nuns at Nancy. He was publicly denounced, probably by a Jansenistic pastor, for imprudence of language in one of his sermons, and was sent back to his province where he spent two years in semidisgrace in the seminary at Albi. His spiritual correspondence with the Visitation nuns at Nancy, which extended over a period of about ten years, is the major evidence of his spiritual guidance. From Albi, Caussade was recalled to Nancy, where he divided his time between retreats given at the house of St. Ignatius and the spiritual direction of sisters, especially those of the Visitation and the Good Shepherd. Already deeply influenced by Fénelon's spirituality, Caussade then became familiar with the writings of Bossuet and studied especially the Instruction sur les états d'oraison. He wrote a work in the form of dialogues in which he treated the teaching of the two prelates whose controversy had divided the Church in France at the end of the 17th century. This book was published in 1741 at Perpignan when Caussade was rector of the college in that city. He had left Nancy in 1739 and later was rector of the College at Albi. In 1746 he returned to Toulouse.
The work printed at Perpignan in 1741 was titled: Instructions Spirituelles en forme de Dialogues sur les divers états d'oraison, suivant la doctrine de M. Bossuet, évêsque de Meaux (Spiritual Instructions in the Form of Dialogues on the Various States of Prayer according to the Doctrine of Bishop Bossuet of Meaux). Since the author was not named, the work was attributed to Paul Gabriel antoine, a theologian of repute, whose name appeared in connection with the imprimatur. It would seem that the work caused no stir when it appeared. The Journal de Trévoux, edited by Jesuits, referred to it in moderate terms in 1745. In 1752, a short time after his death, Caussade was attacked by the Nouvelles Ecclésiastiques, a Jansenistic publication.
Caussade is known especially for a work called Abandon à la Providence divine, for which he was not directly responsible. Henri Ramière, SJ, who published it in 1861, tells how the Visitation nuns had kept the letters received from their spiritual director. One of them, Mother Sophie de Rottembourg, had made a kind of treatise of them by grouping into 11 chapters certain passages from his correspondence and from notes taken at his conferences. Ramière learned of this manuscript from the Religious of Nazareth, who had a copy of it. He reworked the text and arranged it according to what seemed to him the dominant theme. He divided it into two parts, the first dealing with the virtue and the second with the state of abandonment. It was printed in Le Puy and enjoyed a considerable success. The treatise was completed in later editions, by the addition of a series of letters gathered from collections preserved at the Visitation convent of Nancy.
Caussade's doctrine is dominated by the idea of peace. A disciple of St. Francis de Sales and of Fénelon, he remained faithful to Ignatian spirituality as interpreted by Louis lallemant. He relates all spirituality to interior peace, obtained by fidelity to the order of God, by faith in the universal and ever actual working of the Creator, by accepting one's cross, and by a confidence in God's fatherly goodness. This is the Salesian ideal of evangelical simplicity and of absolute docility to the will and pleasure of God.
Bibliography: h. bremond, Apologie pour Fénelon (Paris 1910). m. olphe-galliard, Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique. Doctrine et histoire, ed. m. viller et al. (Paris 1932), 2.1:354–370. "Le Père de Caussade, directeur d'âmes," Revue d'ascétique et de mystique 19 (1938) 394–417; 20 (1939), 50–82. "L'Abandon à la Providence divine et la tradition salésienne," ibid. 38 (1962), 324–353.