St. Vincent’s Reading List XXVI: Michel de Marillac’s contributions to devot spirituality

L’Imitation de Jesus Christ: divisez en 4. livres, composez par Thomas a Kempis, chanoine regulier et nouvellement mis en Francois par M.R.G.A.; avec une Methode pour lire avec fruict les livres de l’Imitation de Jesus Christ. A Paris : chez Jean Roger, 1646.
Call Number: SpC. 242 I32Fm1646


L'Imitation de Jesus Christ
L’Imitation de Jesus Christ.

The figure of Louise de Marillac’s uncle and guardian Michel de Marillac (1563-1632) looms prominently not only in the political and legal history of early 17th century France, but also in its religious history. As a leading devot his intense personal religiosity and that of his famous compatriots, helped lay the spiritual foundations for the spiritual renewal and disciplinary reform of the French Church.

One facet of Marillac’s important religious contributions were literary; represented by his famous French translations of the psalms (1625) and Thomas Kempis’ classic Latin spiritual tome De Imitatione Christi (1621). The renewal in France occasioned the publication of a large number of translations and re-publications of classic texts as well as the composition and publication of new spiritual and theological works by the leading lights of the famed Age of Gold.

Thomas Kempis (1380-1471) is traditionally regarded as the author of this devotional handbook. He was a member of a renewal movement known as the Devotio Moderna. The Imitation (believed to have been written between 1418-1427) is the most popular devotional work in the history of Roman Catholicism. It is deeply rooted in the foundation of New Testament revelation and spirituality calling on disciples to lead lives in imitation of the example of Christ. This is to be accomplished by a developing a strong spiritual life including a devotion to the Eucharist, fostered by a withdrawal from the world and all its temptations.

Approbation des Docteurs
Approbation des Docteurs by A. Du Val.

The Imitation of Christwas firmly established in the canon of spiritual classics by the time of Saint Vincent and Saint Louise, both of whom recommended its use. The present volume is a 1646 edition of Michel de Marillac’s translation. An item of additional interest to this volume is the note which attests to the ecclesiastical approval of the original 1621 translation by Vincent de Paul’s great friend and mentor Andre du Val.


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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