Chautard, Jean Baptiste

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Reformed Cistercian abbot, ascetical theologian, and writer; b. Briançon, March 12, 1858; d. Sept-Fons, near Moulins, Sept. 29, 1935. Chautard entered the Trappist monastery at Aiguebelle, near Valence, at the age of 19. In 1897 he was elected abbot of Chambarand, near Grenoble, and two years later abbot of Sept-Fons, a position that he held until his death. In addition to the heavy spiritual and temporal responsibilities of his own monastery, Chautard had the direction and control of several other monasteries of the order. In 1903 he pleaded so well before the senate and G. Clemenceau the cause of the Trappist communities threatened with dissolution that the government reversed its decision and the order was allowed to continue in France. A man of action with little time for writing, Chautard exercised his great influence within the monastery by his daily conferences to his monks and outside by his tremendous correspondence. Among his various writings he is noted particularly for L'Âme de tout apostolat (1910, English translation "The Soul of the Apostolate"). This book, written without regard for style, but filled with the fire of Chautard's spirit, became immensely popular at once. Its great success in spite of its austere tone proved the value of Chautard's central theme that to be fruitful in the ministry of souls one must lead a truly interior life and keep close contact with God. Chautard based his teaching on the Rule of St. Benedict and the writings of St. Bernard. The means that he recommended for a fruitful apostolate are those of these two great masters of the spiritual life: personal prayer, full liturgical life, and self-renunciation.

Bibliography: Abbaye de Sept-Fons, Dom-Jean-Baptiste Chautard, Abbé de Sept-Fons (Paris 1937). e. maire, Images de dom Chautard, abbé de Sept-Fons (Paris 1938).

[m. j. barry]