St. Vincent’s Reading List XXIV: Vincent de Paul and the Council of Trent

Council of Trent. [Canones et decreta. 1564]. Canones, et decreta sacrosancti oecumenici, et generalis Concilii Tridentini : sub Paulo III, Iulio III, Pio IIII, Pontificibus max. Romae : Apud Paulum Manutium, Aldi f. [1564].
SpCR. 262.52 C85557c1564


The Council of TrentThe Council of Trent met in twenty five sessions, under three popes, in three distinct periods from 1545-1563.  The Council’s disciplinary and dogmatic decrees represented the Catholic Church’s official reaction to the Protestant Reformation. The adjective “Tridentine” also captures the dynamic spirit of reform and renewal which led the Catholic Church to make a remarkable (though far from complete) recovery during the period commonly known as the “Counter Reformation.”

It is not an exaggeration to see Vincent de Paul as one of the great Tridentine Reformers.  France was the last of the major Catholic countries to accept the council’s decrees and adopt them (in 1615) as the platform for the renewal of its national church. Long torn by religious and civil war, France under its new Bourbon monarchs knew that the basis for a strong and vibrant kingdom was a strong, vibrant, and thoroughly reformed church.  The Tridentine agenda and spirit, as adapted for France, must be understood as forming the basis for all of Vincent de Paul’s efforts.

Vincent himself most commonly makes reference to the authority of the Council of Trent when he describes his efforts in support of the reform of the priesthood.  He says, for example, “And because, nevertheless, the Holy Council of Trent recommends seminaries, we have given ourselves to God to serve Him also in that regard wherever we can.”1 He also always invokes the Council and the papacy in the bitter theological struggle against the so-called “new opinions” of Jansenism.  For example in a letter of 1657 to a Jansenist prelate he notes: “If you expect God to send an angel to enlighten you more fully, He will not do so. He refers you to the Church, and the Church assembled in Trent refers you to the Holy See for the subject in question, as is apparent from the last chapter of this Council.”2

There was certainly a well-worn copy of the Decrees of the Council of Trent in Vincent’s own library.


1Coste, CCD, 2:254.
Ibid., 7:293.


St. Vincent’s Reading List is recurring blog series exploring texts known to have been read and recommended by St. Vincent de Paul, those which can be presumed to have been read by him, and important works published during his lifetime (1581-1660). All materials discussed are held by DePaul’s Special Collections and Archives. The entire series may be viewed here.

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