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Collet

Jose Maria Roman writes...

The eighteenth century saw the second great biography of Vincent de Paul. Pierre Collet wrote, "La vie de Saint Vincent de Paul, instituteur de la Congrégation de la Mission et des Filles de la Charité". (Nancy. A. Lescure, 1748), two volumes (XVIII + 588 and + 616 pages).

Pierre Collet was a distinguished theologian in the Congregation of the Mission. On the instructions of Cardinal Fleury he completed Tournely's work, "Institutiones Theologicae" which was in seventeen volumes and it took him thirty-one years to finish this. He also produced other works on moral and polemic theological issues. He was a fierce opponent of Jansenism.

Collet's biography of St. Vincent was published shortly after the saint's canonisation. Because of Jansenist opposition, the book had to be published in Lorraine, and even then the author's name couldn't be revealed. In a methodical and systematic manner, Collet collected all Abelly's material and added to this the collection of documents that had been the basis for the beatification and the canonisation processes. He arranged all this in strictly chronological order for his book and he added critical notes; something not found in Abelly's work.

It has been said of Collet that he was not very original. This criticism is only partly true. For the most part he followed Abelly fairly slavishly but he did introduce new material, he criticised many documents, argued against the Jansenist representation of Vincent de Paul and high-lighted the political background to Vincent's work. This biography was an erudite work, written in the scientific style of the 17th century. It complements Abelly's work in more ways than one but it is less readable, because if Abelly's style errs on the side of being sugary, Collet's book is dry and rather heavy.