7. The Character of Father Le Chaize, Confessor of Margaret Mary Alacoque: His Last Days 1604-1729

From: “Memoirs of Duc de St. Simon  “These memoirs stand, by universal consent, at the head of French historical papers and are the one great source from which all historians derive their insight into the closing years of ‘The Great Monarch” Louis XIV.  It is the most precious body of documents that exists.”

THE DEATH OF FATHER LE CHAIZE ACCORDING TO SIMON:

“The court at that time beheld the renewal of a ministry;  which from the time it had lasted was worn down to its very roots, and which was on that account only the more agreeable to the King.

On the 20th of January, the Pere La Chaize, the confessor of the King, died at a very advanced age.  He was of good family, and his father would have been rich had he not had a dozen children.  Pere La Chaise succeeded in 1675 to Pere Ferrier as confessor of the King and occupied that post thirty two years.

The festival of Easter often caused him political absences during the attachment of the King for Madame de Montespan (a mistress).  On one occasion he sent in his place the Pere Deschamps, who bravely refused absolution.

Pere Le Chaize was of mediocre mind but of good character, just, upright, sensible, prudent, gentle, and moderate, an enemy of informers , and of violence of every kind.  He kept clear of many scancalous transactions., befriended the Archbishop of Cambrai as much as he could, refused to push the Port Royal des Champs to its destruction, and always had on his table a copy of the New Testament of Perre Quensel, saying that he liked what was good wherever he found it.

When near his 80th year, with his head and his health still good, he wished to retire, but the King would not hear of it.  Soon after, his faculties became worn out, and feeling this, he repeated his wish.  The Jesuits, who perceived his failing more than he did himself, and felt the diminution of his credit, exhorted him to make way for another who should have the grace and zeal of novelty.  For his part he sincerely desired repose, and he pressed the King to allow him to take it, but all in vain.  He was obliged to bear his burden to the very end.

Even the infirmities and the decrepitude that afflicted could not deliver him.  Decaying legs, memory extinguished, judgment collapsed, all his faculties confused, strange inconveniences for a confessor – nothing could disgust the King and he persisted in having this corpse brought to him and carrying on customary business deals with it.

At last two days after a return from Versailles, he grew much weaker, received the Sacrament, wrote with his own hand a long letter to the King, received a very rapid and hurried one in reply, and soon after died at five o’clock in the morning very peacefully.

His confessor asked him two things, whether he had acted according to his conscience, and whether he had thought of the interests and honour of the company of Jesuits;  and to both of these questions he answered satisfactorily.

The news was brought to the King as soon as he came out of his cabinet.  He received it like a Prince accustomed to losses, praised the Pere La Chaize for his goodness, and then said smilingly, before all the courtiers, and quite aloud, to the two fathers who had come to announce the death.  “He was so good that I sometimes reproached him for it, and he used in reply to me:  “It is not I who am good;  it is you who are hard.”images 18.jpg

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