Maritain was born in Paris in 1882 and later studied at the University of Paris. There he came under the influence of the philosopher Henri Bergson, who destroyed his philosophical skepticism, and the essayist and novelist Leon Bloy, who shared his Catholic faith with him. He married Raíssa Oumansoff in 1904, and together in 1906 they entered the Catholic Church.
Maritain went on to hold professorial chairs in Paris, in Toronto, and at Princeton. He also had another career as a diplomat, serving for many years as French ambassador to the Vatican and French representative to UNESCO.
Upon becoming a Christian, Maritain thought that he would forswear philosophy, but after discovering Thomas Aquinas, he wrote a score of books, applying the principles of Thomistic philosophy to every facet of intellectual life. And true to the example of St. Thomas, Maritain's philosophical pursuits only helped to reinforce his evangelical calling. From 1961 on,after the death of his wife, he lived with the Little Brothers of Jesus. In 1970 made his novitiate and took their habit. He died in 1973 at the Little Brothers' house in Toulouse.
When Maritain brought his intellect to bear on the question of the relationship between man and the state, he combined the best of his philosophical and evangelical spirits: “In the course of twenty centuries, by preaching the Gospel to the nations and by standing up to the flesh and blood powers in order to defend against them the liberties of the spirit, the Church has taught men freedom. Present times, however miserable they may be, have the wherewithal to elate those who love the Church and love freedom. The historical situation they are facing is definitely clear. The great drama of the present day is the confrontation of man with the totalitarian State, which is but the old spurious God of the lawless Empire bending everything to this adoration. The cause of freedom and the cause of the Church are one in the defense of man.”