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Leo of St. John


Carmelite of the Touraine Reform; b. Rennes, France, July 9, 1600; d. Paris, Dec. 30, 1671. He was a man of prodigiously extensive interests and accomplishments. He promoted reform within his own order and held all its most important offices, except that of general. He was a friend of Richelieu and later of Mazarin, whose policies he generally supported, in spite of his connections with the devout party. Although Leo was a conciliator in the Jansenist conflict, he was nevertheless attacked violently by Arnauld. He maintained important political, religious, and intellectual relations with the royal family, great statemen, the nobility, the intellectuals, St. Vincent de Paul, Innocent X, and many cardinals. He was a precursor of Bossuet and wrote a remarkable Traité de l'éloquence Chrétienne (in Année royale, 1, Paris 1655). He entered successfully into the controversy with the Calvinists. His L'Économie de la vraie religion (Paris 1643), was an important work, whose apologetic, completely different from that of Pascal, and foreshadowing Malebranche, took its inspiration from medieval Augustinian rationalism, notably that of Raymond Lull. A Dionysian and Augustinian, Leo can neither be listed among the Thomists nor among the "devout humanists." He was a major instrument in spreading Bérulle's spirituality.

Bibliography: c. de villiers, Bibliotheca carmelitana, 2 v. in 1 (Rome 1927) 2:235246. p. anastase de s. paul, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, 15 v. (Paris 190350) 9.1:394396. j. p. massaut, "Léon de Saint-Jean prédicateur et théologien encyclopédique," Carmelus 8 (1961): 2762; "Autour de Richelieu et de Mazarin: Le carme Léon de Saint-Jean et la grande politique," Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine 7 (1960): 1146; "Thomisme et augustinisme dans l'apologétique du XVIIe siècle," Revue des sciences philosophiques et théolgiques 44 (1960): 617638; "Humaniste ou augustinien? Le carme Léon de Saint-Jean et l'antiquité classique," Revue des études augustiniennes, Aug. 7 (1961): 373388.

[j. p. massaut]

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