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Philosopher, Teacher, and Defender of Human Rights

“This documentary tells the story of Jacques Maritain, one of the most highly respected French intellectuals of the 20th century. A philosopher, teacher and writer, he was an influential interpreter of the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. Maritain was deeply engaged in the battles of his time, denouncing anti-Semitism, fascism and Nazism.

“Born in 1882 in Paris, he studied at the Lycee Henri IV andat the Sorbonne. He fell in love with and married Raissa Oumancoff, a Russian emigrant student of Jewish origin. This was the beginning of an extraordinary love story. Tormented by existential questions, they decided to search intensely for a year to discover the meaning of life, and if that meaning was not found, to commit suicide together. Through the philosophy of Henri Bergson, and the literature and friendship of Léon Bloy, they found the answers they sought in the Catholic faith. They were baptized June 11, 1906.

“Jacques became a famous philosopher and writer, teaching at the Insitut Catholique from 1914 to 1939, and Raissa became a noted poet and mystic. The Maritains were friends with many well-known personalities in the arts, politics, and the Church: Peguy, BLoy, Cocteau, Green, Bernanos, Rouault, Chagall, Satie, De Gaulle, Cardinal Journet, Pope Paul VI and many others. Those relationships are explored in this film.

“At the onset of World War II, the Maritains left Europe for the United States, where Jacques taught at Columbia and Princeton from 1941 to 1944. After the war, he became France’s ambassador to the Vatican. He also helped draft the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

“After Raissa died in 1960, Jacques lived in the religious community of the Little Brothers of Jesus in Toulouse until his death in 1973. He is buried next to Raissa in Kolbsheim, France.

Ignatius Press, ©2007, DVD, 53 minutes