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Olier, Jean Jacques


Founder of the Seminary and the Society of Saint-Sulpice; b. Paris, Sept. 20, 1608; d. Issy, April 2, 1657. Olier was baptized in the church of St. Paul, Paris, on the day of his birth; he spent his childhood in Lyons, where his father had been assigned as administrator of justice. There he completed his classical education with the Jesuits. He made his philosophical studies at the College of Harcourt, Paris. After studying theology at the Sorbonne, he undertook further Hebrew study in Rome. Returning to France in 1631 on the occasion of his father's death, Olier placed himself under the spiritual direction of (St.) vincent de paul and was subsequently ordained on May 21, 1633, by Bp. Étienne Puget, auxiliary bishop of Metz.

Although he remained a lifelong friend of (St.) Vincent, Olier came under the guidance of Père Charles de condren, the superior of the Oratory, who had dedicated himself to the renovation of priestly life in France. When Olier was offered a bishopric, which his family urged him to accept, it was De Condren who prevailed upon him to refuse it. Before he died (Jan. 7, 1641), De Condren divulged his plans for implementing the Tridentine decrees concerning the preparation of candidates for the priesthood.

On Dec. 29, 1642, Olier and two priests rented a small house in Vaugirard, a suburb of Paris, not to initiate a religious community, but to establish a favorable environment for the training of priests. The experiment attracted attention, and soon six priests and eight seminarians shared a common schedule of work and prayer. On Aug. 10, 1642, Olier assumed charge of the parish church of Saint-Sulpice, Paris, and the community of Vaugirard joined him there. In 1643 Olier requested the government's approval for his society of priests. In November 1645, this petition was granted. In 1652 Olier relinquished his pastoral charge of the parish of Saint-Sulpice and devoted the rest of his life primarily to seminary work. He had the happiness of assigning priests of his community to four other seminaries: Nantes (1649), Viviers (1650), Le Puy (1652), and Clement (1653).

The last five years of his life were marked by great suffering and physical hardship caused by his intense labors. Olier is a leader of the "French School of Spirituality," and his writings have had a worldwide influence into the 20th century. Although he did not produce a systematic or scientific corpus of ascetical theology, his works show him to be a master of the spiritual life (see sulpicians).

Bibliography: Oeuvres complètes, ed. j. p. migne (Paris 1857). e. m. faillon, Vie de M. Olier, 2 v. (4th ed. Paris 1873). p. pourrat, Father Olier, Founder of St. Sulpice, tr. w. s. reilly (Baltimore 1932). p. boisard, La Compagnie de St. Sulpice, trois siècles d'histoire, 2 v. (multigraphed; Paris 1962). e. a. walsh, The Priesthood in the Writings of the French School: Berulle, De Condren, Olier (Washington 1949). f. monier, Vie de Jean Jacques Olier, curé de la paroisse et fondateur du séminaire de Saint-Sulpice (Paris 1914). e. levesque, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350) 11.1:963982.

[c. j. noonan]

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