Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Fealty and Fidelity: The Lazarists of Bourbon France, 1660-1736

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Fealty and Fidelity: The Lazarists of Bourbon France, 1660-1736

Article excerpt

Fealty and Fidelity: The Lazarists of Bourbon France, 1660-1736. By Seán Alexander Smith. (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing. 2015. Pp. xii, 227. $124.95. ISBN 978-1-472-44478-3.)

Seán Alexander Smith was a postdoctoral fellow at DePaul University in 2014 and is currently a fellow at University College Dublin. His fine book considers the legacy of St. Vincent de Paul in the sixty-six years after his death during which the Congregation of the Mission, or the Lazarists, navigated a changing political and religious world. Although many books have been published about Vincent's life and his community's significance as a dynamic force in CatholicReformation France, the history of the Congregation after his death is not often explored, and Smith's book is a welcome addition. Vincent defined the Lazarists as expressing fidelity to "Christ's original mission" through service to the poor, and Smith's purpose is to ascertain the Lazarists' fidelity to this mission (p. 9). In the years before the canonization of Vincent, French society defined fealty primarily as allegiance to the king. The Lazarists earned favor from the Crown in this era when secular interference in religious matters was increasing. Smith examines three critical moments in the evolution of the Lazarists that had the potential to undermine their commitment to the ethos of service to the poor as they tried to balance it with service to the monarch.

Smith explains that six years after a French company secured trading rights in Madagascar in 1642, the Lazarists went to the island to convert the native population to Christianity. The mission failed, and the missionaries left in 1674. The Lazarists' core missions of converting poor non-Christians and reducing their suffering were undermined by their status as employees of the Compagnie des Indes, whose agents in Madagascar were frequently accused of failing to support either the missionaries' survival or their ministry" (p. 67). Smith concludes that, although the Lazarists did not accomplish their goals, the experience in Madagascar did not undermine the Company's fundamental mission of serving the poor; however, its service to the crown threatened to do so. …

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