Claude-François Poullart des Places
February 26, 1679 – October 2, 1709
I am searching for God. He has given me life for the purpose of serving him faithfully. The world would never bring me any reward for being attached to it: only God really loves me and is genuinely concerned about me. If I can please him, then I am happy; if I displease him, I am the most miserable man in the whole world. If I live in grace, I have everything; if I lose it, I have nothing.
Poullart des Places, Retreat 1701
From privilege to poverty, the life of Spiritan founder Claude-François Poullart des Places is an inspiring tale of transformation through the Holy Spirit.
In 1679, Claude was born into wealth and status as the son of a French aristocrat. He lived during the reign of Louis XIV and enjoyed the lavish lifestyle of a nobleman. His early education was with the Jesuits, which laid the foundation for his later entry into the seminary.
“On Pentecost Sunday 1703, Claude assembled a small band of impoverished fellow seminarians to form a community dedicated to the Holy Spirit, under the special patronage of Mary.”
Serving the Poor
While he was studying law at the Sorbonne in Paris, Claude was awakened to the extreme disparity and poverty in the society around him. Living with the Jesuits, he became aware of the desperate living conditions of homeless boys and chimney sweeps. This opened his eyes — and heart. Claude was moved to help and used his allowance to provide food and shelter. He soon saw that the boys lacked education and spiritual nourishment as well. Claude took it upon himself to teach skills and guide the children in their faith.
Claude’s involvement with the street children deepened his faith and presented him with a struggle. Should he give up everything — a law career, wealth, and a seat in Parliament — to help the poor? After much discernment and spiritual direction, Claude decided to enter seminary. He left his parents and their desires for their son’s distinguished career and went to study theology with the Jesuits. Claude saw that many of his fellow seminarians were also struggling to meet their basic needs and again he sought a way to help.
On Pentecost Sunday 1703, Claude assembled a small band of impoverished fellow seminarians to form a community dedicated to the Holy Spirit, under the special patronage of Mary. The Holy Ghost Congregation was born. Their aim was to support students with little means on their way to the priesthood.
The intention was that these priests would in turn serve the poor people of rural France and people in missions overseas. Claude was still a seminarian when he formed the group. He was ordained four years later in 1707, at the age of 28.
A Legacy Lives On
After ordination, Fr. Claude continued to administer to his rapidly growing community. It was a short-lived assignment; two years later Fr. Claude died 1709, at the age of 30. He was buried in a pauper’s grave. Fr. Claude’s legacy lives on in the Congregation through its service to those in need. The Holy Ghost Fathers, or the Spiritans, became recognized by the Church for going places that no one else wanted to go and for living simply in deep faith.
Content with thanks to the spiritanroma.org
Birth at Rennes of Claude-François Poullart des Places, the son of François-Claude Poullart des Places (an inspector of counterfeit money) and Jeanne le Meneust. (C.S.Sp. 1679-02-26)
Baptism of Claude-François Poullart des Places in the church of St. Peter and St. George. His godfather is Count Claude de Marbeuf, president of the parliament of Brittany: “a high and powerful Lord”! (France 1679-02-27)
“Messire Claude-François Poullart des Places, in the year one thousand, seven hundred and three, on the Feast of Pentecost, while still only an aspirant to the ecclesiastical state, began the establishment of the so-called Community and Seminary consecrated to the Holy Spirit, under the invocation of the of Holy Virgin conceived without sin”. (From an old register of Spiritan archives, copied in ‘Gallia Christiana’). (C.S.Sp. 1703-05-27)
The beginning of the retreat that Poullart des Places makes with the Jesuits at rue Turnefort (Réflexions sur le passé). A year later, he moves with his community into the present-day rue Rollin, near the Place de la Contrescarpe. (C.S.Sp. 1704-12-25)
Claude Poullart des Places receives the sub-diaconate. (Poullart 1706-12-18)
Claude-François Poullart des Places is ordained deacon in Paris. (C.S.Sp. 1707-03-19)
Claude Poullart des Places is ordained priest by Mgr. de Thiard de Bissy, the Bishop of Meaux and the successor of Bossuet. He is a great benefactor of the Seminaire du Saint-Esprit. (Poullart 1707-12-17)
Ordination to the priesthood of René-Jean Allenou de la Ville-Angevin, a disciple of Poullart des Places and second father of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit (Brittany). (France 1712-02-16)
Père Le Loutre, formed in the spirituality of Poullart des Places, devotes himself totally to the cause of the Acadians in present-day Nova Scotia, both before and after their forced deportation by the English in 1755. (Canada 1738-04-23)
The death of Jean-Baptiste Faulconnier, the first student of Poullart des Places. (C.S.Sp. 1747-12-17)
Inauguration of the “Instituto Poullart des Places”, the Spiritan formation community in the Vila Mangalot district of São Paulo. (Brazil 1971-05-19)