Feast of Henri Dominique Lacordaire (May 13)   Leave a comment

Above:  Lacordaire

Image in the Public Domain



French Roman Catholic Priest, Dominican, and Advocate for the Separation of Church and State


When I was in Rome in 1846 Gregory XVI used to bless and shoot down his subjects in turns.  Pius IX puts them in prison….I sincerely hope that Providence will put and end to this scandal.

–Lacordaire on the Papal States


Henri Dominique Lacordaire was a faithful yet unconventional (for his time and place) Roman Catholic.  He would have fit in better after Vatican II than he did during his lifetime.

Lacordaire, born near Dijon, France, on May 13, 1802, made an interesting journey of faith.  He, raised a Roman Catholic, became a Deist in college.  Later he returned to Holy Mother Church.  Our saint entered the seminary at Issy on May 12, 1824.  During his years in seminary Lacordaire’s relative heterodoxy became apparent.  He, ordained a priest on September 22, 1827, was a puzzle to his superiors, who did not know what to do with him.  They assigned him to work as a chaplain–first to a convent then at College Henri IV.  These tasks did not satisfy our saint, who volunteered to serve in New York City instead in 1829.

The Revolution of 1830 changed that plan.  Lacordaire was actually a revolutionary, not a liberal.  In the context of Roman Catholicism during his lifetime his leftist tendencies meant that he favored constitutional government, sought to reconcile the Church and forces of liberty, and considered the separation of church and state essential for the Church to fulfill its proper role in society.  Our saint considered the monarchical and reactionary leaders of French Roman Catholicism, nostalgic for l’Ancien Régime, misguided.  For thirteen months until 1832, Lacordaire, Father Felicité Lamennais, and layman Charles Montalembert operated the leftist L’Avenir (The Future), despite much opposition from French bishops.  After Pope Gregory XVI condemned leftist Catholics in Mirari Vos (1832) the journal ceased to exist.  Lamennais eventually left the Church.  Lacordaire, however, submitted to the Supreme Pontiff with a combination of grief and grace.

Our saint spent the rest of his life as a figure of widespread yet not universal suspicion within his Church.  He, in demand as an orator, delivered series of influential lectures at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, in 1835 and 1843-1852.  Along the way he joined the Order of Preachers (the Dominican Order) in 1840, thereby restoring that order to France after an absence of half a century.  The Revolution of 1848, according to Lacordaire, was an event the Church should have welcomed, not condemned.  That year, for eleven days, our saint served as a member of the new Constitutent Assembly.  He resigned because of conflicts between his political principles and the Pope’s temporal sovereignty in the Papal States, the existence of which our saint condemned.

Lacordaire, a man more than a century ahead of his time, died, aged 58 years, at Sorèze, France, on November 21, 1861.





Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Henri Dominique Lacordaire,

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 (2006), page 60


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