The Convulsionnaires were an extremely strange and fascinating movement that rocked France during the eighteenth century that slowly fizzled out in the nineteenth century, although one branch lasted into the twentieth century and continued till today. It is a strange movement it that it started off as simple a very devout section of the Jansenist …
Unigenitus Dei Filius is said to have marked the official end of toleration of Jansenism in the Church in France, though quasi-Jansenists would occasionally stir in the following decades. Jansenism persisted in France for many years but split “into antagonistic factions” in the late 1720s. By the mid-18th century, Jansenism proper had ceased to be a viable current within Catholicism.
However, certain ideas tinged with Jansenism remained influential much longer; in particular, the Jansenist idea that Holy Communion should be received very infrequently, and that reception required a lot more than freedom from mortal sin, remained influential until finally “condemned”/rejected by Pope Saint Pius X, who endorsed frequent communion, as long as the communicant was free of mortal sin, in the early 20th century.
With the death of both Jansen and du Vergier, Antoine Arnauld had become the de facto leader of the movement. Antoine Arnauld was born in Paris to the Arnauld family. The twentieth and youngest child of the original Antoine Arnauld, he was originally intended for the bar, but decided instead to study theology. He had studied theology at the Sorbonne, where he was brilliantly successful, and his career was flourishing when he had come under the influence of Jean du Vergier de Hauranne. He would cause the movement to embrace radical moral rigorism and a devotion to returning to the strict discipline of the early Church.