Joseph of Dreux

Capuchin Priest

He lived from 1629 until 1671. Fr Joseph of Draux had but one ideal in his imitation of the Crucified Jesus and that was Francis of Assisi. That he shared in St Francis' love for the brethren can be seen in the fact that he was the first among the Capuchins to write for the benefit of his confreres, that he shared Francis' love of the Crucified can be seen in his practice of rigid poverty, for he never allowed himself anything brand new, and in his constant penance and prayer. He climaxed his imitation of Christ by suffering a painful death without complaint in 1671.

Joseph was born in Dreux, Normandy in 1629. His father was Jacques Cousin, counsellor to the king, his mother was Lady Louise Mirault. He studied at the Jesuit school of Clermont in Paris before entering the Capuchin Novitiate at St Jacques in 1647.

In 1651 he studied Philosophy, in 1662 was appointed Guardian at Senlis much against his liking and in 1665 became Master of Novices at St Jacques. It was in this period that he wrote his ascetical works.

Fr Joseph was quite a prolific writer with three major works taking the fore:

    * Concuite Interieure Pour Toutes Les Actions De La Journee Proposee Aux Novices De L'Ordre Des Capucins;

    * Solitude Seraphique Ou Exercises Spirituels Pour Une Retraite De Dix Jours Seton Le Veritable Esprit De Saint Francois; and

    * Meditations Courtes et Devoutes;

    * The anelecta Ordinis Minorum Capuccinorum notes Fr Joseph's Concuite Spirituelle thus:

      Hoc opusculom merito fama classica gaudet.

Fr Joseph's writings are characterised by their clear language, simplicity, brevity and ascetical nature. His meditations were usually modest and unassuming. These works were intended for the most part for the use of his brothers and were published after his death.

Fr Ubald d'Alencon makes a point of stressing the fact that these ideas are the antithesis of quietism, because at this time the germs of quietism were not dead.

It seems that Joseph's works were not printed in English until quite late this century. There is a record of the first English translation of the third work being undertaken by the Capuchins in Mangalore, India in 1932, giving it the title of Ascetic Meditations.

In conclusion then, these works give us a basic idea of Joseph the man. Because of their soundness and richness of Theology, because of their concern for perfection and decidedly franciscan tone, we are forced to say with the Historian of Dreux that: "He was a very learned man, and possessed all the qualities of a perfect religious".