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Bishop Bossuet: Get him before Lent begins

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Feb 12, 2014

I haven’t read it, but you can still get it before it is too late. I’m talking about the new book from Sophia Institute Press, Jaques-Bénigne Bossuet’s Meditations for Lent. So far, I know Bossuet by reputation only, but that is exactly why I am going to use this book for spiritual reading during Lent. If you wait for that to get your own copy, it won’t do you much good until next year.

Bishop Bossuet was one of the most famous bishops of the late seventeenth and very early eighteenth-century. Court preacher to the Sun King, Louis XIV of France (a man who was not too humble to quip “après moi, le deluge”—after me, the flood!), Bossuet was a strong advocate of the Divine right of kings. Of course, this means only that Bossuet believed kings received their authority from God, a thought not unknown to St. Paul. Still, such political absolutism is off-putting in an age which fairly begs government to control daily life far more than any regime did in the 17th century, but in the name of the people.

Politics, of course, is a strange beast, and very difficult to extricate from the cultures in which it thrives. But if Bossuet’s politics seem uncongenial, that should not blind us to the fact that he was also a brilliant theologian, probably the most famous disciple of St. Vincent de Paul, and certainly the most brilliant preacher of his age. It is precisely these characteristics which recommend these Lenten reflections, drawn from the great Bishop’s spiritual writings—which were prized by such diverse holy souls as Blessed Junípero Sera and Pope Pius XII, who kept them on his bedside table.

Meditations for Lent offers the good bishop’s reflections for each day of Lent, from Ash Wednesday (“Pray to God in Secret”) to Easter (“To Unite Ourselves with Christ”). The 209-page volume also includes mediations for two solemnities which fall during Lent, that of St. Joseph and the Annunciation. Each meditation is just a few pages long. The book is perfectly tailored to the season, which is why it would be foolish to wait for me to read it before obtaining it for yourself. Since the mediations are brief, it will be easy to share them with others in your household.

Bishop Bossuet believed the whole purpose of life was to make the journey to heaven well. “O my Savior,” he exclaimed, “receive your traveler! Here, I am ready, holding on to nothing. I want to leave this world with you and go to the Father.” Under Bossuet’s capable guidance, by the end of Lent this year, perhaps you and I will be ready to say the same.

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