Between Europe and the United States Jacques Maritain, John Lafarge, S.J. and John Courtney Murray, S.J.
There is no question that the thought of Jacques Maritain had an enormous influence both in Europe and the United States. But just as with the sea, there are waves and ground swells, deep troughs and changing tides, so there are periods when the influence of Maritain was more or less evident, more or less forceful, according to his presence or absence on either side of the Atlantic. Between 1933 and 1940 Maritain made three trips to the United States and Canada for series of conferences. Then during the war years in New York and during his professorship at Princeton, he was continuously present in America, but as Ambassador to the Vatican, Maritain was absent from the United States and, except for a few visits to France, from most of Europe. After his definitive return to France in 1960 – except for two visits, in 1961 to settle his affairs in Princeton and to visit the grave of Vera, and in 1966 to say a final farewell to his three closest American friends – Maritain was completely absent from North America. I would like to treat briefly these periods of presence or of absence, and then to treat in more detail his relations with two famous American Jesuits, John Lafarge and John Courtney Murray, who influenced him or whom he influenced.
Even before his first visit to North America in 1933 for conferences at the Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto and at the University of Chicago, his early philosophical books were already an integral part of courses in philosophy at many Catholic universities and Major Seminaries in the United States, gradually replacing the traditional manuals of Thomist philosophy. Before the war, Maritain’s public in the United States was for the most part Catholic, the majority of whom were descendents of poor immigrants who had arrived relatively uneducated. For those who arrived already educated or who, once they had become settled, succeeded in completing their higher education, Maritain became the model of an erudite Catholic. The first book by Maritain translated into English, Art and Scholasticism, inspired a passionate interest in European Catholic art and culture and in the authors of he French Catholic Literary Revival.