The Funeral Oration for Vincent De Paul: 23 November 1660, by Henri de Maupas du Tour and Edward Udovic. Chicago, Illinois: DePaul University, 2015.
Call number: 271.7702 V768Ymp2015
Vincent de Paul died on 27 September 1660 and was buried the next day at Saint-Lazare in Paris. Two months later on 23 November 1660, Henri de Maupas du Tour—the bishop of Le Puy—delivered an oraison funèbre (funeral oration) for his deceased mentor. The discourse was delivered before a large and appreciative crowd at the church of Saint Germain l’Auxerrois in Paris. In January 1661, as was customary, the bishop published the text of oration for wider distribution.
In 17th century France, an oraison funèbre was a formal rhetorical exercise which reflected on the civic, moral and religious values that were to be found in the life of the deceased. At the time of his death Vincent de Paul had been a nationally revered symbol of a vibrant reformed Gallican Church, and the common assumption was that he one day would be canonized.
Maupas du Tour’s discourse is the first public reflection on the life and virtues of Monsieur Vincent. Maupas du Tour’s organized his reflections around Vincent’s humility and charity. Vincent had been famously reluctant to share details of his life, or speak in any public way about his accomplishments. Consequently, his admirers and followers had begun to surreptitiously construct his biographical narrative. Maupas du Tour, who had known Vincent for decades, gathered these reflections and presented them in a carefully constructed portrait. This portrait in turn served as the basis for Louis Abelly’s famous biography of Vincent published in 1664. This biography has long overshadowed Maupas du Tours’ contribution to Vincentian historiography.
Maupas du Tour dedicated the published text of his oraison funèbre to Cardinal Mazarin in an attempt to curry the cardinal’s support in a contemporary political-religious dispute. Thus, in addition to providing indispensable insights into Vincent’s life, Maupas du Tour gives the contemporary reader an insight into Vincent’s 17th century world.
Examples of Maupas du Tour’s published text are exceedingly rare. The present newly-published volume republishes the 17th century French text with an annotated English translation and introductory chapters.
St. Vincent’s Reading List is a recurring blog series exploring texts known to have been read and recommended by Saint Vincent de Paul, those which can be presumed to have been read by him, and works published during his lifetime (1581-1660) illustrating his world. All materials discussed are held by DePaul University’s John T. Richardson Library. The entire series may be viewed here.