The founding of the Jacques Maritain Center in 1957 consolidated the great French Catholic philosopher's association with the University of Notre Dame. For some years previously, Maritain had been coming to Notre Dame to lecture and stay for short periods of time. Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, the president of the University, friend and admirer of Maritain, wanted to make the relationship permanent. The Center was founded to ensure that the thought and spirit of Jacques Maritain would remain at Notre Dame long after those present on the happy occasion of its founding were gone.
Jacques Maritain was born in 1882 to a French Protestant family. A year later, Raïssa Oumansouff was born into a Jewish family in Russia. The two met in Paris as university students where both were chiefly interested in science and philosophy. Raïssa and Jacques married in 1904. Their love for each other did not prevent them from making a pact to commit suicide if they had not, within a year, discovered the meaning of life and existence. The lectures of Henri Bergson, but more importantly the influence of Léon Bloy, helped them find the answers they sought. They were converted to Roman Catholicism, entering the Church with Raïssa's sister Vera, in 1906.
It is impossible to think of Jacques without thinking of Raïssa, whom he called dimidium animae meae: half my soul. Her recollections, We Have Been Friends Together and Adventures in Grace, have made millions familiar with the intense cultural, intellectual and spiritual life of the Maritains. They jointly authored Prayer and Intelligence, Jacques published The Journal of Raïssa after her death, and in his own Carnet de Notes both recalls and documents their early life together.
Jacques Maritain is a paradigmatic Catholic philosopher, providing a model of the way in which religious belief and various cultural, intellectual and political concerns can be interwoven. Maritain responded with enthusiasm to the Church's recommendation of St. Thomas Aquinas to the faithful as their master in theology and philosophy. His writings exhibit how his mind was permeated by the thought of the Angelic Doctor.
The Center exists to contribute to the continuing influence of the spirit of Jacques Maritain at Notre Dame.
Father Leo R. Ward and Professor Frank Keegan were associated with the founding of the Center along with Professor Joseph Evans, director of the Center from 1957 until his death in 1979. Originally located in the library which has since become the Architecture Building, the Center moved to its quarters on the seventh floor of the Hesburgh Library in 1963.
The Center houses a special collection featuring the works of Jacques and Raissa Maritain in their original editions; a fair collection of translations which includes all English translations of works that originally appeared in French; books to which Maritain contributed a chapter or a preface; and a backup collection, consisting of the works of people associated with the Maritains, as well as books devoted to the thought of Maritain.
We have some memorabilia (e.g., pocket diaries of Maritain dating from the 1920s); manuscripts (e.g., the manuscript of the Walgreen Lectures published as Man and the State); some original letters, as well as photocopies of others obtained through exchanges with Madame Antoinette Grunelius of Kolbsheim.
Thanks to the generosity of Madame Paule Simon, the Center has a vast amount of papers from the late Professor Yves Simon, one-time member of the faculty of Notre Dame and an early associate of the Maritains. The published writings of Simon form part of the Center's special collection.
Professor Joseph Evans spent his long tenure a director of the Maritain Center in the twin occupations of translating works of Maritain into English and teaching thousands of students. The indelible personal impression he made on them was a living tribute to the impact that the thought and life of Maritain had on him. It was his passion to convey to others the teaching of Jacques Maritain and he did this in a manner that was completely sui generis.
When Evans died in 1979, Ralph McInerny was asked to take over. He faced an impossible task. There was simply no way anyone could succeed Joe Evans, if this meant carrying on what he had done. It was necessary to find a new path for the Center. To this end, a good deal of effort has been put into the preservation of archival materials to facilitate the research of those who come to the Center. The Center has sponsored a number of meetings devoted to the thought of Maritain, one in conjunction with the Institut International Jacques Maritain, another as host to the American Maritain Society.
In 2005, John O'Callaghan took up the reins of the Center. With the development of the website, numerous Maritain and Aquinas scholars from around the world have found their way to the Center and made it a vibrant place of study. O'Callaghan welcomed scholars from Kenya, Argentina, Italy, France, Mexico, Spain, Chile, Switzerland, China, Venezuela and the U.S. for periods varying from a week to a year. In 2011, he oversaw the move of the offices of the Center and its library of 5000 books from the Hesburgh Library to new quarters in Geddes Hall.
The Jacques Maritain Center of Notre Dame is associated nationally with the American Maritain Society and internationally with the Canadian Maritain Association, the Institut International Jacques Maritain (Rome), and the Cercle D'Etudes Jacques et Raïssa Maritain of Toulouse and Kolbsheim.
Mrs. Alice Osberger is the Administrative Assistant of the Director. William Kevin Cawley is the librarian of the Maritain Center. Visits and inquiries are welcomed.
Thanks to the generosity of George W. Strake, Jr. and the Strake Foundation, the Maritain Center has embarked on an ambitious project of amassing materials necessary for the understanding of the Thomistic Revival in North America.
The Maritain papers and letters in the Center have been catalogued, and computerized access to them developed. This has also been done with the Yves Simon papers. Laval University and Thomas DeKoninck permitted the Center to photocopy the Charles DeKoninck archives at Laval. These papers, too, have been added to our computer data base. Negotiations are under way to add the papers of other eminent figures in the Thomistic Revival.
The Center's collection of dissertations devoted to the thought of Jacques Maritain has been brought up to date. A wider net has been cast and we have added 100 dissertations written at Laval during the Thomistic golden years of the Faculté de Philosophie, as well as hundreds of other dissertations written in the United States on the thought of Thomas Aquinas.
In short, the Center hopes to provide an ideal place for scholars working on the North American response to Aeterni Patris as well as to the later papal encyclicals encouraging the study of the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. Given the role Maritain played in the Thomistic revival, in the United States and indeed throughout the world, the fittingness of this activity of the Center is obvious.
A twenty-volume edition of the Collected Writings of Jacques Maritain in English is in progress under the direction of the Center and published by the University of Notre Dame Press. John O'Callaghan and Bernard Doering make up the editorial board of the series, with Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., acting as honorary editor-in-chief. Former board members were Ralph McInerny and Fred Crosson. Completed to date are:
A three-volume edition of The Works of Charles deKoninck in English is in progress with translations from the French by Ralph McInerny and published by the University of Notre Dame Press.
The Maritain Center offers assistance to a Graduate Thomistic Reading group and the Thomas Aquinas Society, an undergraduate student group that gathers for Mass and discussion. The "Mass Explained" and "Modern-Day Saints" - canonization and the history of Saint Andre Bessette, C.S.C. - were recent events. The Center sponsors an annual Mass on the Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas and contributes to events in coordination with other Notre Dame Centers.
Venerable, established and younger Thomists from around the world are brought together for a week of intensive discussion of aspecrs of the thought of St. Thomas. Coordinated by the staff of the Faith & Reason Institute, the conference at Notre Dame is held under the auspices of our Center.
Director O'Callaghan participates in international and national organizations. He is a member of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, and has served the American Catholic Philosophical Association and the American Maritain Association. He is a member of the Society of Christian Philosophers.
All of the activities of the Jacques Maritain Center are designed to continue and carry on in new ways the kind of Catholic philosophizing represented by the eminent Thomist after whom the Center is named.
It is with great gratitude and our prayers that we thank our current benefactors George W. Strake and Michael Novak, and that we remember those of the past: Thomas and Mollie Raih, James and Mary Ann Walsh, Michael Joyce of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Chauncey Stillman of the Homeland Foundation, James D. Mooney of the Saint Gerard Foundation, and William E. Simon of the John M. Olin Foundation.
The Jacques Maritain Center
University of Notre Dame
430 Geddes Hall
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
phone = (574) 631-5825
fax = (574) 631-3640
email = Maritain.firstname.lastname@example.org
url = http://maritan.nd.edu
Valeria Aleksandrova has kindly made a Polish translation of this article.