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Jean Grou

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Jean Nicolas Grou (1731–1803) was a French Roman Catholic mystic.

Philip Yancey says that Jean Nicoloas Grou was "a mystic from the eighteenth century, [who] prescribed that healthy prayer should be humble, reverent, loving, confident, and persevering — in other words, the exact opposite of impatient." [1]

The following appears in the Manual for Interior Souls, published in 1890 by the S. Anselm's Society, London.


SHORT ACCOUNT OF THE ABBÉ GROU.

Our readers will perhaps not be displeased if we give here a short account of the author of this excellent work, extracted from a longer notice which appeared in " L'Ami de la Religion."[2]

John Grou, born in the diocese of Boulogne, on, the 24th of November 1731, entered the College of the Jesuits when very young, and was admitted to their noviciate at the age of fifteen; he made his first vows at the age of seventeen, and was afterwards employed in teaching, according to the custom of the Society. In this employment his taste for literature was developed. He was particularly fond of Plato and Cicero, in whose writings he found, with a great wealth of style, finer thoughts and a purer code of morals than in the generality of the ancient authors. The first fruit of his labours in Greek philosophy was the Republic of Plato, translated into French in two duodecimo volumes. This translation was followed by another, of the Laws, by the same author, and later on by that of the Dialogues.

Father Grou lived for several years at Pont-a-Mousson, and it was there that he made his final vows, at a time when the Jesuits were already suppressed in France. After the death of Stanislas they were also banished from Lorraine. Father Grou came to Paris, where he took the name of Leclaire. At Paris he led a very retired life, dividing his time between his studies and his religious duties. At first Monsieur de Beaumont, the Archbishop of Paris, employed him to write upon subjects relating to religion; the Archbishop also granted him for some time a pension, which eventually ceased. A holy nun of the Visitation, whose acquaintance he made through one of his brother priests, and who was believed to be favoured with special graces, induced him to enter upon the way of perfection and a life of prayer. He gave to literary work all the time which was left to him after fulfilling his spiritual exercises and the cares of his ministry. The result of this laborious life was the composition of several books upon matters of piety. His first work of this kind was “La Morale Time des Confessions de Saint Augustine.” Paris 1766, 2 vols. 12mo. The author's design was to contrast the morals of Christianity with the systems of unbelievers, drawing his principles from the writings of Saint Augustine. This work was succeeded by “Les Caracteres de la Vraie Devotion” (Marks of True Devotion), Paris 1788, 18mo. In this the author defined what true devotion is, and also its motives, its object, and its means. This volume was quickly followed by the “Maximes Spirttuelles, avec des Explications” (Spiritual Maxims Explained), Paris 1789, 12mo.

About the same time he also composed these little pious treatises which we have now given to the public, and had them copied for the use of a devout lady of high rank whose director he then was. These manuscripts, which consisted of nine small 22mo. volumes, have thus been preserved. He had also undertaken a great work which had cost him fourteen years of research and trouble. Before leaving France he confided the manuscripts of this work to a lady, who was arrested during the Reign of Terror, and whose servants committed them to the flames, fearing they might compromise their mistress.

The life of Father Grou was upright and peaceful ; he was much esteemed, enjoyed a pension from the king, and did great good by his advice and his writings. When the Revolution broke out he at first wished to remain concealed in Paris, and there to exercise his ministry in secret ; but the nun of whom we have already spoken persuaded him to seek refuge in England. He followed her advice, and was invited by one of his former brothers in religion, who was then chaplain to an English Catholic in good position, Mr. Thomas Weld[3], to come and stay with him. Taking up his abode in the castle, Father Grou became the director of the whole family. His gentleness, his wisdom, his experience in the ways of the spiritual life, were most useful to the persons who gave him their confidence. It was then that he learnt that his great work, the fruit of so many years of labour, had been burnt at Paris. He bore this loss with much calmness, and said simply, “If God had wished to derive any glory from this work, He would have preserved it.” He observed, as much as possible, the rule of the Jesuits ; rose every day at four o'clock in the morning, without light or fire, made an hour's meditation, said his office, and prepared for Mass, which he never failed to celebrate every day until attacked by his last illness. He practised the strictest poverty, having nothing whatever of his own, and asking with the greatest simplicity for books or clothes when he needed them. What was most remarkable in him was his lively faith, and the constant tranquillity of his soul, his great humility,modesty, and zeal. In 1796 he had printed in London, the “Meditations, en forme de Retraite, sur I’Amour de Dieu” (Meditations, in the form of a Retreat, upon the Love of God), and also a little treatise upon the resignation of one's self to God—“Don de Soi-mēme è Dieu.” Some theologians imagined these works contained ideas favourable to Quietism; but a French bishop, after examining them, pronounced them to be perfectly sound, and free from any taint of the kind. There was another work of his published in London, called the “School of Christ;“ but it has not yet appeared in French.

The Supplement to the Library of Jesuit Writers, published at Rome in 1816, mentions also, as written by Father Gron, “La Science du Crucifix,” Paris, chez Aufroy; and “La Science Pratique du Crucifix dans l’usage des Sacrements de Pénitence et de Eucharistie” (Practical Science of the Crucifix in the use of the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist), as a continuation of the preceding.

Two years before his death, he had a very painful attack of asthma. Some time after, he was seized with apoplexy, and dropsy then declared itself; his legs swelled to an enormous size, he could not remain in bed, and passed the last ten months of his life in an arm-chair. He continued to the very end to hear the confessions of the pious family with whom he lived. Holy Communion was brought to him twice in the week. When he felt his end approaching, he asked for the last Sacraments, and received them with full consciousness and great devotion. A short time before he breathed his last, holding his crucifix in his hands, he exclaimed, “O my God! how sweet it is to die in Thine arms!”

His death took place on the 13th of December 1803 : he was seventy-two years of age.

His manuscripts, which were numerous, were given up to his former companions; and by them was printed in 1815 “L’Interaeur de Jesus et de Marie” (The Inner Life of Jesus and Mary), two volumes 12mo. This esteemed work has been reprinted several times since.


The following is an excert from The Characteristics of True Devotion, by Grou that was published at New York: Benziger Brothers, 1895.


A SHORT SKETCH OF THE AUTHOR AND HIS WORKS.[4]

JEAN NICOLAS GROU was born at Calais on the 23d of November, 1751[5], and at the age of fifteen he entered the Society of Jesus. According to all accounts, he made his first studies in the college of Louis-Le-Grand, at that time under the direction of the Jesuits. He had scarcely finished his course of teaching and his theological studies, when an excellent translation of Plato gave him a distinguished rank among the writers of that epoch. The decree suppressing the Society in France obliged him to seek refuge in Lorraine, where he made his last vows, at Pont-à-Mousson, in 1765 or 1766. Later on, a change of circumstances led him to Holland and gave him leisure to continue his labors on Greek philosophy.

Some years after, having returned to Paris at the invitation of the Archbishop, he was charged with the direction of a religious Community. In 1792 Providence offered him a secure refuge in England from the persecutions of the French Revolution. He was received into the family of Mr. Weld at Lullworth Castle, dear to American Catholics as being the place where our first bishop, the Right Reverend John Carroll, was consecrated Bishop of Baltimore. Here his merits and his well-tried virtue won him the veneration and the esteem of all who had the advantage of knowing him.

He died in 1803, at Lullworth Castle, where the Weld family had so nobly and generously offered him hospitality—a hospitality which he richly repaid by his excellent counsels, and by writing for Mr. Weld and his children some of his most valuable ascetic works.

During the last years preceding his departure from France, Father Grou, obliged to keep in seclusion on account of the Revolution, spent much time in writing on pious subjects. It is to this pronounced taste for retirement and labor that we are indebted for several excellent works that he published before leaving Paris. There appeared successively in the space of six or seven years: “Moral Instructions Extracted from the Confessions of St. Augustin,” “ Characteristics of True Devotion,” “Spiritual Maxims, with Explanations,” “The Science of the Crucifix,” and “The Practical Science of the Crucifix.” These were followed, when he had taken refuge in England, by “Meditations on the Love of God,” “The Christian Sanctified by the Lord’s Prayer,” “The Interior of Jesus and Mary,” “The Gift of One’s Self to God,” “ The School of Jesus Christ.” All these works, inspired by an ardent zeal for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls, have already borne abundant fruit, and may be read with great profit by every Christian desirous of perfection. Several of these works have been at various times translated into English, but are now out of print; others have never been translated. That so valuable works may be rendered available for all who read English, the editor, supported by the publishers, is engaged in bringing out a complete edition in English of all the works mentioned above. “The Interior of Jesus and Mary” has already appeared; “The Characteristics of True Devotion” is the second of the series. The others will follow, three being already translated and awaiting revision.

Works

Characteristics of true devotion Full view at Google Books.

The Christian Sanctified by the Lord's Prayer

The Hidden Life of the Soul Full view at Google Books.

How to Pray

The Interior of Jesus and Mary.

The Ladder of Sanctity

A Little Book on the Love of God

Self-consecration

Manual for Interior Soul Limited preview at Google Books. Read at archive.org

Meditations on the Love of God

The Practical Science of the Cross

The Spiritual Maxims of Père Grou

Jean Nicolas Grou's writings are also listed at the Open Library and Library Thing.

  1. Yancey, Philip. Prayer. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006. Page 296.
  2. Vol xxxiii., p. 65 'et.seq.'
  3. Cardinal Thomas Weld
  4. For fuller details, both of the life of Father Grou and his Works, see the Sketch of his Life and Works at the beginning of Vol. I of “The Interior of Jesus and Mary.” This Short Sketch is only added for those who may not have that work.
  5. This is not the same birth date as given above.

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