UK conference first in Cambridge on ‘Beggars for Heaven’

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UK conference first in Cambridge on ‘Beggars for Heaven’

The Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology in Cambridge hosts a ground-breaking conference, in person and online, on Wednesday March 13, to explore the legacy of Jacques and Raïssa Maritain. Conference organiser, Dr Christopher Grey, reports.


Titled ‘Beggars for Heaven: the Inheritance of Jacques and Raïssa Maritain,’ the conference aims to inspire greater awareness of this saintly couple who are little known in England.

A convert from agnosticism, the French philosopher Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) authored over 70 books, passionately advocating the wisdom of St Thomas Aquinas. His sphere of influence was amazingly wide in his day, with theologians, politicians, popes, painters, and poets drawn to the way he simultaneously embraced contemporary culture and challenged it. But he remained somewhat under the radar – in old age describing himself as ‘a secret agent of the King of Kings.’

Raïssa was a Russian-Jewish émigré who converted to Catholicism following extreme intellectual anguish. She wrote of her university professors: ‘they despaired of truth, whose very name was unlovely to them.’ Dramatically, she and Jacques agreed to throw themselves into the Seine unless their nihilism could be relieved – which, thankfully it was. Raïssa was a poet and contemplative, and marrying Jacques in 1904, she remained his ‘muse’ until her death in 1960. Illness and intense suffering marked her life.

The Maritain home became a place of prayer, hospitality, and intellectual discovery, and their Sunday afternoon living-room meetings in Meudon drew visitors from every walk of life until the war intervened. A cause for the canonization of both Maritains began in 2011, although this has not yet been advanced.

The conference will explore the ways in which the Maritain’s work and example still speaks to the cultural, political and theological spheres, the academy and the Church. Now more than ever, their voices are a clarion call to truth and wisdom, and their witness to the mission of the laity is an exemplar of lives lived for God. Keynote speakers include John G Trapani Jr, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Walsh University, and Sebastian Morello, Senior Editor and Columnist at the European Conservative.

Anyone with an interest and those wanting to discover more are welcome. The Maritains embraced all whom they encountered with generosity and charity, and the aim is to be motivated by their example. Tickets are priced to cover costs, and will include a light lunch and refreshments throughout the day.

Full details of the conference are here.

You can contact Conference organiser, Dr Christopher Grey at: christopher.grey1@outlook.com

Pictured top are Raïssa and Jacques Maritain and, below, keynote speaker John G Trapani Jr.

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