Pierre de Berulle was born on February 4, 1575, at the Castle of Serilly near Troyes (France). Ordained a priest in 1599, he brought the Carmelite Order to France and founded the Oratory of Jesus. Shortly after becoming a cardinal in 1627, he died at the altar on October 2, 1629.
Berulle brought the Carmelite Order to France
Impressed by the reform led by Teresa of Avila, Berulle dreamed of bringing the Carmel to France. After a trip to Spain in 1604, he returned with six Carmelites, among whom were two former companions of the great reformer. Carmelite monasteries and convents quickly multiplied in France: about forty during his lifetime alone. He was their spiritual superior and, with the permission of the Pope, their apostolic «visitor,» which was at times a source of tension with the Carmelite Fathers.
The influence of the Spanish Carmelites on his spiritual life is evident. At their contact, he discovered the essential place the mystery of the Incarnation holds for the spiritual life. In 1608, a special, mystical grace fixed that evolution, and from that moment on his spirituality became firmly anchored in the person of Jesus, the Incarnate Word.
Berulle founded the Oratory of Jesus for priests
He wished to implement the reforms asked for by the Council of Trent. Persuaded that religious renewal can only happen through the sanctification of the clergy, he gathered a few priests around him, and in 1611, founded the Oratory of Jesus, a society of priests not taking religious vows, living in a community, placing themselves at the service of the bishops and seeking to give back to the Church the breath she needed, through predication, teaching and especially the example of a holy life. At his death, the Oratory had 70 houses in France; other societies of priests, living the same spirituality but with complementary objectives, soon blossomed in the years that followed (Eudists and Sulpicians, notably).
The influence of Berulle, the French School of Spirituality
In 1623, Berulle published the Discourse about the State and Greatness of Jesus, where he expressed his spiritual experience founded upon a very solid doctrine of the mystery of the Incarnate Word. Another book came out in 1629, titled The Life of Jesus.
Berulle demonstrated, perhaps better than anyone before, this paulinian truth that all life is the extension and accomplishment of the life of Jesus Christ in his members.
He clearly established that devotion to Mary isn't a superfluous and optional form of piety, but instead that it necessarily flows from the maternal role that God willed her to have by Jesus' side.
The spiritual and apostolic influence of Berulle has been very important in the Church, in particular through the spiritual movement called « the French School of Spirituality. »
Many became « witnesses and masters» in their turn: Saint Vincent de Paul, Jean-Jacques Olier, Saint Jean Eudes... And Saint Louis Marie de Montfort!