Joachim Jean Isoard was born in Aix-en-Provence on October 23, 1766. He studied at the major seminary in Aix with the future Cardinal Fesch who took him as secretary when he was appointed Archbishop of Lyon in 1802. The Cardinal brought him to Rome when he became he Ambassador of France and, in 1803, had him appointed auditor of the Rota for France. He was the Doyen of the Rota in 1824. In 1825 he was ordained priest and in 1827 he was made a Cardinal by Pope Leo XII. He was declared Archbishop of Auch by Charles X on July 20, 1828 and Archbishop of Lyon by Louis-Philippe on June 13, 1829. The Pope did not have time to confirm this last appointment because the Cardinal died in Paris on October 7 of that year.
Eugene de Mazenod knew Xavier Isoard in Paris. On March 31, 1809, he wrote to his mother telling her that he was going to dine in the home of Mrs. Portalis, the sister of the ex-Minister. “There I shall get to know Monsignor Isoard, the auditor of the Rota, a young man who is very devout and with many graces whose acquaintance I shall be pleased to make.”
While in Rome in 1826-1826, Father de Mazenod went to the home of Monsignor Isoard almost every day and he often dined there, except during Lent. There is hardly any mention between them of the approval of the Rule. Monsignor Isoard took part in papal ceremonies as a mitre bearer. Father de Mazenod often found himself behind him, especially on December on the occasion of the Beatification of Angelo d’Acri, at the closing of the Holy Door on December 24, 1825, at the Mass in the Sistine Chapel on January 6, 1826, at the ceremony of the blessing of candles on February 2, on Holy Thursday etc. It was in Monsignor Isoard’s carriage that he went to the private audience on December 20, 1825 and on April 15, 1826.
At the beginning of 1839, Cardinal Isoard, Archbishop of Auch, wrote some letters to Bishop de Mazenod concerning the less than orthodox teaching of a certain Father Gabriel, preacher. The Cardinal even came to Marseilles on that occasion, at the beginning of April. On the 10th Bishop de Mazenod went to see him and he wrote in his diary: “This morning and afternoon I went to see the Cardinal whom I discovered in a pitiful state of health. He is scarcely able to stand straight. His limbs have shrunk. His head is bent on his chest. He finds it very difficult to speak; the words come from his mouth very slowly and you have to listen very attentively to hear what he wishes to say… It all amounts to the fact that Father Gabriel is impious, sacrilegious, an impostor, dishonest, a hypocrite, a monster… (Oblate Writings I Vol. 20, p. 95).
There was another Father Isoard named Louis Joachim who was auditor of the Rota in 1845. It was he who acted as intermediary between Bishop de Mazenod and the Damas family in arranging the marriage between Césarie de Boisgelin and Charles de Damas.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.