TITLE

A Catholic Model of Martyrdom in the Post-Reformation Era: The Bishop in Seventeenth-Century France

AUTHOR(S)
Forrestal, Alison
PUB. DATE
October 2005
SOURCE
Seventeenth Century;Autumn2005, Vol. 20 Issue 2, p254
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
Following the Council of Trent, Catholic bishops and reformers in France sought to construct models of episcopacy that assimilated and adapted examples and ideas from older ecclesiastical traditions for use in the contemporary church. In particular, a refashioned notion of spiritual (white) martyrdom injected new life into an ancient ideal of martyrdom, enabling French bishops to respond to the challenges and expectations presented by their place in an ancien régime that expected them to be ecclesiastical leaders, political agents and prominent members of the social establishment. It offered an understanding of martyrdom that, while recognisably traditional in several key aspects, was demonstrably particular to the situation in which bishops then found themselves. This conception of the episcopal life as a perpetual white martyrdom was immediately indebted to the particular doctrines of contemporary spirituality then circulating in France. The topical model of Bishop Francois de Sales and the theology of the French school of spirituality provided inspirational principles of emotional suffering and sacrifice and the death of the self; the classically Salesian ‘mortification of the heart’ overtook mortification of the body as the prime manifestation of episcopal perfection, and the French school's stress on the notions of suffering sacrifice and self-abnegation tipped the balance towards mental discipline rather than corporal infliction. A substantial number of seventeenth-century French bishops assuaged their consciences by adopting a stringent attitude to their spiritual life and by cultivating the internal spirits of poverty and charity which compensated for a relatively relaxed exterior lifestyle.
ACCESSION #
20896679

 

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