A fascinating biography in slightly fictionalized form of Mere Angelique (Jacqueline Arnauld), the superior of Port-Royal,...

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THE RELUCTANT ABBESS

A fascinating biography in slightly fictionalized form of Mere Angelique (Jacqueline Arnauld), the superior of Port-Royal, the abbey connected so closely with the Jansenist heresy in the Catholic Church in seventeenth-century France. The style is imaginatively creative, but the work is essentially a serious historical and psychological study. Through the avarice and deceit of her father, Jacqueline was made an abbess against her will at the age of eleven. She eventually undertook the task of reforming her abbey and soon became one of the most controversial religious figures of her time. The important and turbulent events of her life are interestingly set forth, the whole complex religious scene around her is vividly re-created, with its dissolute abbesses and resolute reformers, and imaginatively recounted are her conversations with members of her formidable family, many of whom followed her into religion, and with important religious figures of her day, including the Jansenist leader, Saint-Cyran, and the saintly founders, Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva, and Jeanne de Chantal. The whole adds up to a penetrating study in religious psychology of a frustrated, sexually repressed, guilt-ridden, despairing, neurotic, self-willed, domineering, proud, but in many ways generous, non-contemplative woman, who ruled her cloistered nuns with an iron hand and attempted to lead them to perfection by excessive severity only to lead them finally into heresy and spiritual disaster. A scholarly bibliography and a detailed chronicle of events are appended.

Pub Date: March 27, 1957

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Sheed & Ward

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1957