Marc Sagnier

Founder of the Sillon Movement (1873–1950)  
  • Post author:
  • Reading time:2 mins read
You are currently viewing Marc Sagnier
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Marc Sangnier, who was born in France to a wealthy family, determined from an early age to apply his faith to the social problems of his day. With fellow Catholic students he formed a study circle to examine social reality in the light of Catholic teaching. Entering the world of the workers, they sought to establish personal contacts and friendships. These efforts found encouragement in Rerum Novarum, the first great social encyclical by Pope Leo XIII in 1891.  

In a newspaper called Le Sillon (“The Furrow”), founded in 1894, Sangnier tried to reconcile the principles of Catholicism with democracy and social justice. This became the foundation for a lay movement of the same name that attracted thousands of idealistic youth. Sangnier conceived of the movement as a kind of leaven to elevate the spiritual and social consciousness of French society.  

Many of the bishops supported this endeavor. But with its growth came increasing opposition. Conservative “integralists” charged that Sangnier wanted to introduce democracy even into the Church. In 1910 they successfully pressed Pope Pius X to condemn the movement.  

Afterward, many of Sangnier’s supporters urged him to defy the pope. But he obediently complied with the Vatican decree, believing this sacrifice was the best means to “serve the cause to which I have devoted my life . . . to give to the Republic a moral inspiration and to the democracy a Christian spirit.” Sangnier never again achieved social prominence. He died on May 28, 1950.  

“The truth must be sought with all one’s soul. . . . Love is stronger than hate.” —Marc Sangnier 

© Liturgical Press.

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

Sign up for our daily prayer emails