Biography:Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

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Short description: French theologian

Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange

Garrigou-Lagrange as a young priest
Gontran-Marie Garrigou Lagrange

Auch, France
Died15 February 1964(1964-02-15) (aged 86)
Rome, Italy
Other namesGontran-Marie Garrigou-Lagrange
EducationUniversity of Bordeaux (medicine), Sorbonne (philosophy)
ChurchLatin Church
Writingssee below

Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange OP (French: [gaʁigu lagʁɑ̃ʒ]; 21 February 1877 – 15 February 1964) was a French Catholic theologian and Dominican friar. He has been noted as a leading neo-Thomist of the 20th century, along with Jacobus Ramírez, Édouard Hugon, and Martin Grabmann.[1] He taught at the Dominican Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelicum, in Rome from 1909 to 1960. There he wrote his magnum opus, The Three Ages of the Interior Life (Les Trois Ages de la Vie Interieure) in 1938.

In 1918 Garrigou initiated courses in sacred art, mysticism, and aesthetics at the Angelicum[2] influencing future liturgical artists such as Marie Alain Couturier, who studied theology there from 1930 to 1932.[3]


He was born Gontran-Marie Garrigou Lagrange on 21 February 1877 in Auch, near Toulouse, France. While studying medicine at Bordeaux he experienced what he described as a religious conversion after reading Life, Science, and Art by the Breton writer Ernest Hello (1828–85). He joined the French Dominicans and studied and taught at Le Saulchoir before moving to Rome, where he lectured at the Angelicum from 1909 until his retirement in 1960. In 1917 a special professorship in ascetical and mystical theology was created for him at the Angelicum, the first of its kind anywhere in the world.[4]


He is best known for his spiritual theology. His magnum opus in the field is The Three Ages of the Interior Life (Les Trois Ages de la Vie Interieure),[5] in which he propounded the thesis that infused contemplation and the resulting mystical life are in the normal way of holiness of Christian perfection. This influenced the section entitled "Chapter V: The Universal Call to Holiness in the Church" in the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium.[6]

His great achievement was to synthesise the highly abstract writings of St Thomas Aquinas with the experiential writings of St. John of the Cross, attempting to show they are in perfect harmony with each other.[7]

Father Garrigou-Lagrange, the leading proponent of "strict observance Thomism", attracted wider attention when in 1946 he wrote against the Nouvelle Théologie theological movement, criticising elements of it as Modernist.[8] He is also said to be the drafter of Pope Pius XII's 1950 encyclical Humani generis, subtitled "Concerning Some False Opinions Threatening to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine".[9]


The Osservatore Romano of 9-10 December 1950 lists Garrigou-Lagrange among the names of the preparatory commission for the definition of the Assumption of Mary.[10]

Garrigou-Lagrange taught many eminent Catholic theologians during his academic career at the Angelicum. He also supervised the doctoral research of Marie-Dominique Chenu, who was ordained in 1919 and completed his doctorate in theology in 1920 with a dissertation entitled De contemplatione.[11] In the period between World War II and the Cold War Garrigou-Lagrange was the "torchbearer of orthodox Thomism" against Modernism.[12] In 1926 he served as the definitive consulter to Pope Pius XI in declaring John of the Cross a doctor of the church.[13]

He is commonly held to have influenced the decision in 1942 to place the privately circulated book Une école de théologie: le Saulchoir (Étiolles 1937) by Marie-Dominique Chenu, O.P., on the Vatican's "Index of Forbidden Books" as the culmination of a polemic within the Dominican Order between the Angelicum supporters of a speculative scholasticism and the French revival Thomists who were more attentive to historical hermeneutics.[14]

Garrigou-Lagrange gave the retreat in Paris which attracted Yves Congar to leave the diocesan seminary in order to join the Dominicans.[15] Later, Congar's methodology was suspected of Modernism because it seemed to derive more from religious experience than from syllogistic analysis.[16]

Garrigou-Lagrange also supervised the doctoral research of Maurice Zundel who completed his dissertation in 1927 with a dissertation entitled L'Influence du nominalisme sur la pensée chrétienne.[17]

Perhaps the most famous of his students was the future Pope John Paul II, who was supervised by Garrigou-Lagrange for his doctoral research in the mid-1940s at the Angelicum, and whose encyclical Fides et Ratio is attributed to his training under the learned Dominican.

He died on 15 February 1964 in Rome. The International Dominican Foundation (IDF) established Réginald de Rocquois Foundation in his memory at Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas where he taught most of his career, which grants annual Réginald de Rocquois scholarships.[18]


He produced 28 books and hundreds of articles. Among the most famous works are:

Commentaries on the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas
Theological works
  • Christian Perfection and Contemplation according to St Thomas Aquinas and St John of the Cross (1923)
  • God, His Existence and Nature: A Thomistic Solution of Certain Agnostic Antinomies (1914)
Marian works
  • The Mother of the Saviour and our Interior Life (1948)
Philosophical works
  • Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought Hardcover. Free Audiobook.
  • Le sens commun: la philosophie de l’être et les formules dogmatiques (4th ed., 1936). English translation as Thomistic Common Sense: The Philosophy of Being and the Development of Doctrine (2021, Emmaus Academic)
  • Le realism du principe de finalité (1932). English translation as The Order of Things: The Realism of the Principle of Finality (2020, Emmaus Academic)
  • Philosophizing in Faith: The Beginning and End of Wisdom Volume of collected, annotated, and translated articles, published by Cluny Media in 2019
Works in Latin (originals)
  • De Revelatione per Ecclesiam Catholicam proposita – Theologia Fundamentalis secundum S. Thomae Doctrinam (Volume I & Volume II)
Works in Spanish (translated)

See also

  • Consecration and entrustment to Mary


  1. Romero Carrasquillo, Francisco J. (2007-06-16). "Maritain's Thought and Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange". Ite ad Thomam: "Go to Thomas!". 
  2. Christopher J. Renz (September 2009). In This Light Which Gives Light: A History of the College of St. Albert the Great (1930-1980). Dominican School. pp. 44–. ISBN 978-1-883734-18-3. 
  3. Accessed 4 Dec., 2014
  4. Michael L. Coulter; Richard S. Myers; Joseph A. Varacalli (2012). Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy: Supplement. Scarecrow Press. pp. 124–. ISBN 978-0-8108-8266-9. 
  5. The Three Ages of the Interior Life Online text.
  6. Mullady, Brian, O.P. (2 April 2009). "Rehabilitation of Garrigou-Lagrange". 
  7. "A saint in Heaven", by Fr. Thomas Crean, Accessed 4-10-2012
  8. See “Where is the New Theology Leading Us? .” See also his later article "The structure of the encyclical Humani generis" and
  9. Carrasquillo, Francisco J. Romero (2010-10-23). "Quaeritur: Who are the Post-Conciliar Traditional Catholic Thomists?". Ite ad Thomam: "Go to Thomas!". 
  10. Accessed 2-6-2013
  11. Praeambula Fidei: Thomism And the God of the Philosophers, Ralph McInerny, 2006, Accessed May 24, 2012; Nouvelle Théologie and Sacramental Ontology: A Return to Mystery, Hans Boersma, 2009, 136 Accessed May 24, 2012
  12.'Italia)/ Accessed 10 September 2013
  13. Accessed 17 Feb., 2014
  14.'Italia)/ Accessed 10 September 2013; Y. Congar, Chrétiens désunis. Principes d’un œcuménisme catholique, Paris 1937; The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, 304, Accessed November 13, 2012; Accessed 10 September 2013
  15. Fergus Kerr, Twentieth-Century Catholic Theologians, (Blackwell, 2007), p10.
  16.'Italia)/ Accessed 10 September 2013; Y. Congar, Chrétiens désunis. Principes d’un œcuménisme catholique, Paris 1937; The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, 304, Accessed November 13, 2012
  17. "Archived copy".  Accessed 26 August 2013
  18. "IDF Serving the Dominican Order and the Church". IDF News, International Dominican Foundation. July 2012. 
  19. The server is not always on, so if the link times out, try again later.

Further reading

External links