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Jean-Joseph Surin

B. 1600; d. at Bordeaux, 1665

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Surin, JEAN-JOSEPH, b. 1600; d. at Bordeaux, 1665. He belonged to the Society of Jesus, and enjoyed great celebrity for his admirable virtues, his trials, and his talents as a spiritual director. Bossuet declared him “consumed with spirituality”. At the suggestion of the Fathers of the Province of Aquitaine, assembled in provincial congregation (1755), the father general ordered his name inscribed in the “Menologe de l’assistance de France“. At the age of eight he took a vow of chastity, at ten he was taught to meditate by a Carmelite. Having been sent to Loudun to exorcize certain Ursulines tormented by the evil one, he was so horrified at the terrible sacrileges intended for three desecrated hosts that he immediately made an offering of his own spirit to be possessed by demons in expiation for this frightful crime. His prayer was granted, and for more than twenty years he was harassed by evil spirits, plunged in the depths of despair over his eternal damnation. At times he was unable to use his hands, his feet, his eyes, his tongue, or was impelled to commit a thousand extravagances, which even the most charitably inclined deemed foolish. The wrong impression under which he labored at such times caused him the greatest joy. At no time, however, did this state of obsession prevent his devoting himself to preaching. It is true he was unable to prepare himself for this by any reading or study, but on entering the pulpit and making the sign of the cross a wonderful transformation was manifest. His vigorous mind instantly gained the ascendancy; his powerful voice and facile oratory won universal attention and admiration. His physician declared it miraculous. Even in writing or dictating his works he seemed gifted with Divine inspiration. He was healed eight years before his death and was thenceforth absorbed in the abundance of Divine communications. His principal works are: “Catechisme spirituel” (Paris, 1659), published by the Prince de Conti, anonymously; “Fondements de la vie spirituelle” (Paris, 1667); “Cantiques spirituels” (Paris, 1660); “Dialogues spirituels” (Paris, 1704); “Lettres spirituelles” (Paris, 1695). His “Catechisme spirituel” is on the Index, but with certain modifications soon to be made, it will be taken from the list.


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