Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The diacre Pâris (cont.)

A little more on the diacre Pâris:  The following is summarised and (loosely) translated from the first of the "lives" to be written, Pierre Boyer's , Vie de Monsieur de Paris, Diacre, which was published 1731, but probably composed in 1728. 

 The account begins with the diacre's family circumstances and the difficulties he faced in pursuing his religious vocation against his parents' wishes.  He was obliged to study law and taught to ride a horse but resisted efforts "to form him for the world" (p.9-10) He was finally allowed to go on retreat for three months with Oratorians of St Magloire, and acquired himself a Jansenist spiritual director, père Gaffarel (p.11) He sought out the figurist scholar, the abbé Duguet.  Forced to leave, he spent most of the time in his room pursuing meditation and prayer.  It was at this time that he contracted smallpox and was scarred. Eventually his stubbornness prevailed and in August 1713 he was allowed to return to the seminary. He kept himself to himself, apart from his close association with his brother (p.17). He attended the conferences of the abbé d'Asfeld at St Roch; and helped with catechism classes in the nearby parish of St. Jacques-du-Haut-Pas (p.18)  After the death of his father, he returned to the paternal house to be with his brother, but passed part of the year (in 1717, 1718 and again 1719) in retreat at Boissy. Here he lived frugally, and occupied himself in charitable works:

 Everything about him spoke of simplicity and even poverty. His only furniture was a bed, a table, three chairs; but he impoverished himself thus only for the benefit of the poor.  He provided as far as he could for all their needs, he visited them in their illnesses, offered them remedies,  brought them broth with his own hands;he made homemade wine which he distributed to the poor, principally to the sick. (p.25)

Back in Paris, he assisted at the parish of Saint-Côme. He avoided attempts to appoint him a canon at Reims Cathedral, and later to become the parish priest of Saint-Côme, a project backed by Archbishop Noailles himself.  He consented to becoming a deacon in 1720 but resisted full ordination. 
He now withdrew to the Collège de Bayeux where he occupied himself in study and meditation, but always found time for deeds of charity.

  "He willingly left his books and his solitude to go to those in need or suffering and his door was always open.  He did not content himself with giving money to the  priest of S. Saint-Côme for the poor of the parish, he had a great number come to him each month so as to have the consolation of helping them personally.  He picked out those who were able to work and had them taught a trade. He sought ought families who had hidden their indigence for shame.  He considered how he could bring them salvation (p.35-6) 

At  this time and throughout his subsequently life, he offered sanctuary to  persecuted Jansenists.
He furnished them with all they needed  - lodging, board and upkeep.  He also consoled  and encouraged them with his discourses and impressed them with his humility and engaging affability. (p.39).

At this time he decided to devote himself entirely to God, and to find companions to join him in his life of penitence.

It was not to the priesthood, or even the ministry, that Our Saintly Deacon was called although he served well by his example and learning in the instruction of priests and ministers....He was attracted to absolute separation from the world, to retreat and penitence; if study entered into his plan it was mainly for his own edification and to arm himself against the errors of the time. From his earliest years, his heart and mind were inspired by the saints of Port-Royal, who had distinguished themselves both by the austerity of their lives and their love of  truth and justice. This was the model that he chose to imitate.  He wished to revive it  by assembling around him in his solitude a number of chosen companions.  This plan never left his heart...and he always executed it as far as God permitted. (p.50)

"The Sainted Deacon did not loose sight of his great plan, which was to form an Ecclesiastical community of penitents.  Several projects for regulations were found among his papers.  In a word he wanted to revive Port-Royal on earth."

Im 1721, about a year after his ordination as Deacon,he got to know a priest [the abbé Tournus]  who had come to Paris from the provinces with a similar plan. After three months of retreat, animated by renewed zeal,  he sold his furniture, his house in Palaiseau and dismissed his servants. He rented a room in the rue de l'Arbalète, next to the abbey of Val-de-Grâce in the Faubourg Saint-Marceau. He now severed all connections with his former colleagues, going only by the name of "M François".

There follows a general account of the penitent life he prepared to practise:

"He saw all about him and under the same roof, only working people, and the poor.  In his room everything breathed poverty; the bare walls; the total lack of furniture, even a cupboard; his bed with but a poor mattress; the fireplace which he lit only for cooking;  windows that closed badly and faced North.  There M. de Paris prepared his own food, eking out a tiny portion of meat. Later he renounced meat entirely, having already renounced wine; his most substantial meal in his solitude was hard-boiled eggs.
All this was but a was a prelude and a trial-run for his future penitence, heroic in itself and prodigious in the eyes of all  who observed it.......He confided that he believed he must attempt to appease the wrath of God which had been ignited by the Bull Unigenitus.  He said privately to M. Louis that, since he was useless otherwise to the Church, he hoped to serve it through his penitence.  It is evident from what followed how greatly he had been struck by the ills of the Church, the progress of error and scandal...."(p.51)

p.75 The deacon was joined by the abbé Tournus and four other like-minded men. They lived in the rue Saint-Jacques, again close to the abbey of  Val-de-Grâce.  He subsequently moved with" M. Louis" to an even more secluded location in the rue de Bourgogne [rue de Bourguignons], where they inhabited a lean-to ("cabane")  at the back of the property. (p.76)    Details are given  of the daily routine of the two men (p.77-8)

They rose two hours after midnight to observe the Vigil (Night office) laid down in the rule of St Benedict; M. de Paris had always venerated the Benedictine order, particularly the Benedictines of St Maur, because of their attachment to the truth...After the Vigils, they followed [a regime of meditation and prayer]

They observed a constant regime of  fasting and abstinence;  the only exceptions were Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, when M. Paris had a small portion of meat brought from the local auberge for himself and his companion.  They took only one meal, at six o'clock in the evening.  It consisted of cabbage soup and boiled rice, with cheap rough bread.  They would cook a quantity of cabbage in one go which would serve to provide pottage for a dozen or so days.  They picked these cabbages as they needed them.  They also cooked enough rice for a week.  M. de Paris decided this was not extreme enough and without the regard he had for M.Louis he would have reduced himself to bread and water. 

They took it in turns during the week to cook and each read  in turn whilst their companion took his meal....

They tended the garden themselves; it was the duty of M. de Paris to draw water from a deep well and to do the watering.  The housework was also shared between the two solitaries, but M. de Paris took over the most humble and humiliating tasks.

The Holy Penitent always wore linen but he wore only the most coarse serge shirts; the start of this mortification originated with an act of charity towards a poor man whom he met in the street almost naked; he had taken him into a quiet dark alley and given him the shirt he was wearing; from that moment on he did not care to wear good shirts again. 

In the beginning he slept fully clothed on a hard palliasse , often on the bare earth...Subsequently he yielded to his confessor who made him use a mattress; but it was hard, poorly made one, more likely to cause suffering than to relieve it.  Later on he slept on a miserable plank that had served as a shutter or a door.  In the end, he used an overturned wardrobe.

For several years he had worn a hair shirt (and used other instruments of mortification) but his Confessor obliged him to stop and permitted him only (a chain around his arm)

It would be difficult to enter into the detail of all the means employed by the sainted Penitent to inflict suffering on himself.... (p.79-81)

He was also distinguished by his humility and the care he took to remain unknown

He went about in a coarse cassock, always well-worn, with heavy coarse shoes and a hat which was old and battered.  He went out himself to buy vegetables and bread for the week, and carried them with the air of a poor man who had nothing.  Out in the streets one day with an friend who was an ecclesiastic, the latter remarked on his strangely neglected appearance.  Perhaps I am making you ashamed, said this humble man, in a gentle tone, full of modesty; if you like I can walk behind you at a distance.  He was not at all troubled by such reproaches.... (p.83-4)

 He lived a life of poverty: 

We are already remarked on the love that the Sainted Deacon had for Evangelical poverty, but he pushed the practice much further when he buried himself in the rue de Bourgogne.  He practised to the letter, without taking formal vows, the regime prescribed to the poorest Religiuex. 
[He gave over all control of his revenue to his brother and asked for funds as for charity].

He sold his few remaining pieces of silverware in his solitude; he gave his linen, even his shirts. He did not think to save for the morrow: the revenues he received passed strait into the hands of the poor of the Parish or to people who suffered for the cause of the Church...He himself appeared in the streets like a poor man...One day, when visiting an Ecclesastic who had been reduced to poverty by necessity, he noticed that he had only a very poor cloak; he orderd a new cloak for himself and during a second visit to the Ecclesiastic took the old cloak when he left and left the new on in its stead. (p.89)

He practised public penance:

[He added] humiliations in the view of the whole Church, as if a man so innocent and pure was distined to make of himself a public victim of expiation.  When the faithful of the parish assembled, he left his retreat with the air of a penitent worn down under the weight of his sins, his eyes lowered, his head bent; he entered the church and took the last place...Although with his Ecclesiastical robes and tonsure, he always remained in the lowest ranks, among the poor(p.94-5).

The deacon decided to take up weaving but was double-crossed when he tried to acquire a loom.

Among his resolutions...was to give a considerable time every day to working with his hands.  For the first four months this work consisted, as we have seen, in cooking, repairing cloths and tending the garden.  But zeal pushed him further.  He wanted not only the merit of earning his living by his own work, but also to make an honest and legitimate profit in order to add to his fund of alms....

He entered into an agreement with a master weaver of the Faubourg for 200 livres to learn the work.  He attended lessons assiduously between 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon.  His work was at first so hard for him, that at the end of three hours he couldn't move his arms or legs....

The weaver swindled him, selling him a loom for 280 livres and failing to deliver it.  A lawyer of his acquaintance got redress but in the end the deacon refused his money back and bought another loom for 300 livres.  It is recorded that the master later ran into financial trouble and "had to disappear for a time". (p.97-103)

At the insistence of the curé of Saint-Médard and of his confessor, he was obliged up duties in the parish, teaching clerics and catechism classes.  He was joined by a third companion, M. de Congis, and received various Jansenist sympathisers whom he sustained at his personal expense. At this time his penitence redoubled; he lived on a sort of potage of boiled vegetables and slept on an old cupboard with a stone for a pillow.  The Vie describes his piety, works of charity and his dedication to the Appelant cause, including the idea that his penitence stood to assuage divine anger at the Bull Unigenitus.  There follows an account of his final pilgrimages, last lingering illness and death.

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