Cohen, Hermann (Augustine Mary of the Blessed Sacrament)
COHEN, HERMANN (AUGUSTINE MARY OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT)
Jewish convert who became a Carmelite priest after a career as a pianist; b. Hamburg, Germany, Nov. 10, 1820; d. Berlin, Jan. 20, 1870. As a child prodigy, he was brought to Paris by his mother at the age of 11 and became a student of Franz Liszt. He grew up in the artists' circle in Paris and was a special protégé of Georges Sand; he soon gave piano recitals and concerts of his own. Until he was 27 Cohen led an irresponsible artist's life, traveling throughout Europe and gambling. While playing the organ in the church of Saint-Valère in Paris as a favor to a friend, he experienced during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament a sudden desire to change his life and become a Catholic. Two years later he entered the Discalced Carmelite novitiate at Le Broussey near Bordeaux and was ordained after four years. He became a renowned
preacher in France, and when he returned to Paris for the first time his opening statement in the pulpit of Saint-Sulpice was: "My first words from this Christian pulpit must be words of repentance for the scandals I once committed in this city." He founded the Carmelite desert at Tarasteix at the foot of the Pyrenees and led the first group of Carmelites to return to London since the Reformation. When the Franco-Prussian War broke out, it became politically difficult for him to remain in France, and he returned to Berlin where he died of smallpox in the prison camp of Spandau while ministering to the prisoners.
Bibliography: c. sylvain, Life of the Reverend Father Hermann, tr. f. raymond-barker (New York 1925). ÉlisÉe de la nativitÉ, Catholicisme. Hier aujourd'hui et demain, ed. g. jacquemet (Paris 1947–) 5:662–663.
[p. t. rohrbach]