April 2, 2017 is the 360th anniversary of the death of Father Jean-Jacques OLIER, founder of the Society of the Priests of Saint Sulpice (Sulpicians), and remarkable mystic and reformer from the seventeenth century.
This year also commemorates the 375th anniversary of the arrival of Father Olier as pastor of the Church of Saint-Sulpice. Although this historic church is now in the center of Paris, in Olier’s day it was on the outskirts of the city, and under the author of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-de Près rather than the Diocese of Paris. Although it was known as a difficult parish, because of the enormous poverty and a reputation for many unruly and uneducated residents, Olier and his fellow priests successfully organized many aspects of the parish and helped to instill among the parishioners a desire for increased holiness. Father Olier also moved his seminary, originally established in the little village of Vaugirard, to the parish once he became pastor, in order to make it a center for priestly formation. The rest, as they say, is history. The Sulpicians went on to found many other seminaries in France and in five inhabited continents of the world.
The parish is rightly proud of its Sulpician heritage and is celebrating all year-long the Olier Year (Année Olier) to commemorate Olier’s ten-year pastorate (1642-1652). Throughout the year, some eighty parishioners are participating in small discussion groups, working their way through some of Father Olier’s life and teachings to get better acquainted with this saintly priest.
The anniversary year coincidentally occurs during a special art exhibit at the Petit Palais, which displays French religious art from the eighteenth century. It is entitled, “Baroque during the Enlightenment: 18th Century Masterpieces in Paris Churches”. Among the many works of art displayed, are numerous objects from the Church of Saint Sulpice, and works originally created for the Seminary of Saint Sulpice, including several by Jean Restout. The exhibit runs from 21 March 2017 to 16 July 2017.
The cover of the exhibition catalogue, in fact, reproduces a beautiful painting of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by LEMOYNE, which was a sketch of the painted ceiling of the chapel of the Virgin in the Church of Saint Sulpice behind the sanctuary.