Feast of Emmanuel Mournier (March 22)   2 comments


Above:  Emmanuel Mournier

Image in the Public Domain



Personalist Philosopher


I am very concerned that we discover a means of entering into the suffering and struggle of the workers….We have vainly tried to work for truth and justice, but we are not entirely with Christ so long as we do not take our place alongside those outcasts.

–Emmanuel Mournier, defending the worker priests movement; quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York, NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 129


Emmanuel Mournier, while seeking the truth and good social ethics, managed to alienate some people to his right and to his left.  Both populations misrepresented him.

Mournier, born at Grenoble on May 1, 1905, matriculated at the University of Grenoble.  At first he studied medicine; later he changed his major to philosophy.  He continued his study of philosophy at the Sorbonne, in Paris.  Our saint, a devout Roman Catholic, found himself threatened by the secular atmosphere of the Sorbonne and put off by the complacency and individualism of the Church establishment.  Mournier began to develop Personalism, a political and mystical variety of religious socialism in which the human person has the highest value.  He argued that each person possesses both spiritual and temporal dimensions–in relationship with others and open to divine transcendence.  Both atheistic totalitarianism and bourgeois materialistic capitalism deny this reality, our saint wrote.  (Martin Luther King, Jr., seems to have been familiar with Personalism.)  Christianity, Mournier wrote, has become infected by the bourgeois spirit and has come to prop up “the established disorder,” which our saint devoted his life to opposing.

In 1932 Mournier left his position as a professor of philosophy and founded L’Esprit, a Personalist journal.  In the pages of L’Esprit our saint challenged Marxism, capitalism, and the Church establishment.  He called for the Church to embrace the values of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to transform culture by infusing it with Christian values.

In 1940 Nazi forces occupied much of France.  The rest of the country was under the control of the French State, or Vichy France, which collaborated with the Third Reich.  Mournier left Paris for Lyons.  There he became involved in the resistance.  For this activity authorities arrested him in January 1942.  Our saint spent 11 months in prison.  The experience left him physically debilitated.

After the liberation our saint revived L’Esprit.  He argued against seeking revenge against those who collaborated with the Nazis.  Mournier also supported the worker priests movement, in which priests identified with industrial workers by becoming industrial workers.  (The Roman Catholic establishment opposed the worker priests movement.)  The Communist journal L’Humanite, unimpressed with Mournier, accused of being an ally of fascists.  On the other hand, some conservative Roman Catholics, ignoring his strong critique of Marxism, accused him of being a communist.

Mournier died of a heart attack at Chatenay-Malabry, France, on March 22, 1950.  He was 44 years old.





Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Emmanuel Mournier,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 60


2 responses to “Feast of Emmanuel Mournier (March 22)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Jacques Ellul (May 19) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. Pingback: Feast of Paul Hanly Furfey (June 30) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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