Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet—St. Joseph: A Man after God’s Own Heart
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“Joseph merited the greatest honors because he was never touched by honor. The Church has nothing more illustrious, because it has nothing more hidden.”
Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet was a seventeenth-century French theologian and bishop. During his life, he was highly regarded for that for which today he is still most remembered: his preaching. His style and accomplishment as an orator has seen him numbered among the likes of Augustine and Chrysostom—two of the Church’s greatest preachers—and the most celebrated of his written works, Discourse on Universal History, has been favorably compared to Augustine’s own City of God. St. Junipero Serra and Pope Pius XII are included among those who cherished Bossuet’s writings, the latter of whom kept a copy of Bossuet by his bedside table.
For all his fame as an orator and French stylist, however, Bossuet was also a man of great love for the study of Sacred Scripture, and for devotion to retirement and the interior life. It was only at the urging of St. Vincent de Paul (under whose spiritual direction Bossuet had prepared for the priesthood) that he moved to Paris and devoted himself entirely to preaching in the first place.
Though he would eventually go on to become the court preacher of Louis XIV, Bossuet continued to esteem hiddenness. In today’s reading, Bossuet observes: “The Christian life should be a hidden life, and the true Christian should ardently desire to remain hidden under God’s wing.”
Indeed, it is Joseph’s hiddenness that Bossuet recognizes is most essential to his greatness. Bossuet’s reflections here have fresh significance today, in our modern prestige economy played out on the Internet and in social media.
May Bossuet—among the best of preachers—convict us with his words; and may St. Joseph—the best of Teachers—teach us to be hidden.
St. Joseph, pray for us!
St. Joseph: A Man after God’s Own Heart full text: https://catholicexchange.com/saint-joseph-man-gods-heart
Meditations for Lent, Sophia Institute Press: https://www.sophiainstitute.com/products/item/meditations-for-lent
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Posted by: James T. Majewski -
Mar. 22, 2021 9:49 AM ET USA
I'll have to look into that text, Randal -- thanks for the tip!
Posted by: Randal Mandock -
Mar. 19, 2021 10:02 PM ET USA
I have an excellent book that I believe is part of Bossuet's "Discourse on Universal History". The book is called "The Continuity of Religion". Filled with subtle humor, it can definitely keep an informed Catholic's attention. I tried using it as a textbook for an 8th-grade CCD course that I gave the same title. Unfortunately, it is too deep for modern 8th graders. What I like about Bossuet's approach is that it is Catholic. By this I mean more concerned with message than with literary criticism