In all the annals of human endeavor there are no examples more inspiring, more worthy of remembrance and esteem in every age, than those of saints like Louis Marie. This in itself, we think, would be sufficient reason for presenting the life of one of these glorious figures in each issue of our new Houseotps magazine, as we shall be doing. But our purpose in offering such a series runs to greater considerations. By way of introduction, we would like to take a moment to explain some of them before beginning the story of the holy priest from Montfort.
So many souls are lost because they simply do not believe or do not live by the primary and, in many ways, most important lesson which the catechism gives us. That is, God made each one of us to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him in this world, and to share with Him the unending, unimaginable bliss of Heaven. Regardless of whatever else we sometimes may prefer to believe, we have no other purpose for existing. Father Feeney reminds us in his article, “Is Faith A Gift?” that Our Lord gave this same lesson as His greatest commandment when He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.” So it is more than a mere lesson; it is an obligation that every one of must meet — or risk that our souls perish in hell. It can be said in other words, therefore, that we are all born with a call to try to become saints.
Who, better than those who now wear the crown of sainthood, then, can inspire us zealously to fulfill this duty in our own daily lives? Who, better than those upon whom the Church has conferred the highest attainable recognition, can, by their illustrious examples, teach us humility and obedience to the Divine Will? Who, better than those pious souls so near to the Heart of Our Saviour, can help us, through their powerful prayers, to conquer worldly distractions and temptations and to strive toward the Christian perfection of saints?
And at what time in all the history of the Church has there been greater need for saints? Or in what land, more than in America? We have said that ours is a crusade — a crusade to convert America to the Catholic Faith and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to whom this country is consecrated under the title of the Immaculate Conception. Realistically, such a challenge, in a time and place where all manner of error is flourishing, will have to be met with the unfailing determination, courage, and confidence of saints. It is that challenge of sanctity which we now wish to present to all American Catholics.
At Fatima some sixty years ago, Our Lady promised the world: “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” Two centuries earlier, a holy Marian apostle prophesied the coming of great saints in the latter times — the Age of Mary — who would be “valiant soldiers” in the army of the Immaculate Heart. We are pleased, therefore, to offer the lives of the saints in the hope of inspiring our fellow Catholics of twentieth-century America to be the fulfillment of these prophecies.
With that purpose, it is only fitting that we begin with the Marian prophet of the latter times just mentioned — the magnificent saint who taught that the surest and easiest way to sainthood is through Mary, and who is the holy patron of our crusade.
Between the years 1399 and 1419, a holy Dominican missionary from Brittany traveled throughout western Europe on foot, converting souls to the Faith and teaching the necessity of penance. This was the great “Apostle of the Last Judgment,” Saint Vincent Ferrer. Once, while preaching at La Cheze in France, he came upon the old chapel of Our Lady of Pity that had long since fallen into ruin through total disuse and neglect. Saddened by the pitiful sight and the thought of the heartless disregard that had caused it, Saint Vincent foretold that the chapel “will be restored by a man whom the Almighty will bring into the world at a distant date. He will appear as a stranger, will be insulted and balked, but he will achieve his purpose.”
That man did come to La Cheze, almost exactly three hundred years later. He too was a Breton who, like his early herald, tirelessly traveled on foot. And like another saint, Alexis, he lived as a beggar, sleeping under staircases or in open fields. Like Saint Bernardine of Siena, he was a powerfully compelling preacher; like Saint Bonaventure, a brilliant theologian; like Saint Vincent de Paul, he loved God’s poor; and like Saint Francis of Assisi, nursed the diseased. He was, in fact, so much like many of the great saints in their special virtues that he indeed was a very special saint himself. He was Saint Louis Marie de Montfort.
The name Jean Baptiste Grignion was well respected in his community. He was Crown lawyer of Montfort and the Parliament, as well as treasurer to the factory of St. Jean. Typical of country gentlemen of the time, Monsieur Grignion was a man of recognized position and no money. But he and his wife, Jeanne Robert, were rich in other treasures, for as many as eleven of their eighteen children became saints. Ten were taken into Heaven in infancy. The other, the greatest of the Grignion saints, was born on January 31, 1673. On the following day he was baptized and given the name Louis Marie.
Monsieur Grignion was known for his fiery temper which, with the hardships of raising a large family in near poverty, found frequent occasions to be vented. Young Louis, we are told, not only was often the victim of his father’s explosiveness, but also inherited the trait. In fact, he confessed in later years that his most difficult struggle against passions of the flesh was in subduing his violent temper.
Be that as it may, those who knew him in life only witnessed remarkable docility in his nature. Rather than human weaknesses, Louis Marie displayed extraordinary qualities of virtue, even from the early age of four years. “This angelic boy,” Pere de Cloriviere recalled, would console his mother “by words so full of unction and so beyond all material knowledge he would have, that it seemed as if the Spirit of God Himself gave them to him.” Apostolic zeal also was fully evident in his childhood, by his teaching catechism to other children and encouraging their devotion to the Blessed Virgin. For he himself had such strong devotion to his “good Mother” that he would spend hours at a time in the chapel praying to her. In childlike simplicity, he would lay before her all his spiritual and temporal needs, confident that he then had done everything necessary to obtain them.
The boy’s maternal uncle was the Abbe Robert, who said of him, “He showed such a horror of vice and such an inclination to virtue, that you would have thought him immune from Adam’s sin.” Indeed, a close friend of Louis Marie de Montfort, Jean Baptiste Blain, relates this example: “His whole childhood was spent in the most wonderful innocence. He knew so little of what may tarnish purity that when I was speaking to him one day of temptations against that virtue, he told me that he did not know what they were.” But he did know what would violate purity. He once found in his father’s library a book containing what he considered to be indecent illustrations. Monsieur Montfort saw nothing wrong with the pictures, for he did not have the boy’s sensitive conscience. Louis threw the book into the fire, knowing full well that his father would be outraged.
An exceptionally brilliant student, Louis was twelve when he entered St. Thomas’s, a Jesuit college in Rennes where schooling was given free to an enrollment of some three thousand students. The devout Jesuits at the college exercised an edifying influence on their pious student. After their example, and out of his own unbounded charity, he eagerly denoted himself to the care of the poor and the infirm. It was here also that he began his lifelong practice of rigorous penance and mortification with scourges, chains, hairshirts, and fastings. And it was here too that he received his vocation to the priesthood.
But to Louis Marie Grignion the priesthood meant much more than a vocation; it was to be total servitude and self-sacrifice to God. So in his priestly calling, he gave himself entirely to Jesus through Mary, vowing never to hold any personal possessions. Upon setting out for the Seminary of Saint Sulpice at Paris, for example, he promptly gave to some needy soul the ten crowns provided him for the trip and traded his new suit for a beggar’s rags. Moreover, he chose to make the seven-hundred-mile journey on foot, begging for his food along the way. So complete was his abandonment of worldly attachments that he even gave up his family name, to be known simply as Louis Marie of Montfort.
Since he was never one to voice even the slightest complaint, we learn only from classmates that Louis Marie’s attendance at Saint Sulpice was a punishing experience. For while he performed brilliantly in his studies, the young saint continually found his pious exercises under suspicion and criticism. Such practices as his visits to the chapel before and after every class, his spontaneous conversations with the Blessed Virgin wherever he came upon one of her statues, his acts of grueling mortification, and his forming an “absurd” association called “Slaves of Jesus in Mary” — all were jeered at and treated with scorn. Even his confessor and the superior suspected Louis of spiritual pride and tried, by every conceivable kind of humiliation, to break him down, but with no success.
In the year 1700, when Father de Montfort was ordained, the Church in France never seemed healthier, by physical appearances. There were over 100,000 ecclesiastics in the country, 130 bishops, more than l,000 abbeys, and “a veritable galaxy” of lesser monasteries. All the great Orders, as well as forty-two new religious congregations founded in the previous century, were flourishing there. Paris alone, whose population was just half a million, boasted forty six parishes, ten seminaries, eleven abbeys, one hundred religious communities, and twenty-six Catholic hospitals. All of which prosperity certainly would indicate that the Faith in France was vigorously alive and well. So often it is found, however, that the Church outwardly may never look healthier as an institution than when she is being ravaged internally by the malignant growth of error and heresy. And we usually discover in those instances that the root cause of the contradiction is a disproportionate attention having been placed on material endowment, to the tragic neglect of spiritual growth.
In this case, the body of the French Church had become critically undernourished through the spiritual ignorance of both the people and much of the clergy. Thus she was rendered dangerously susceptible to the three-fold disease that attacked her, in the forms of Protestantism, Gallicanism, and Jansenism. By far the most contagious and destructive of the three was Jansenism, a condemned heresy which not only refused to acknowledge its separation from the Holy Church, but maintained an audacious pretension of rigid Catholic orthodoxy. Though anything but orthodox, its doctrines certainly were rigid. In general, they placed Divine mercy and grace so far from the reach of all but the holiest souls that even the most ordinary human frailties were cause to despair of hope for forgiveness and salvation. With the extensive but subtle spread of this cold poison, vast multitudes were encouraged to withdraw from the Communion rail, believing their confessed unworthiness to receive Our Lord was a greater act of Christian humility. Hence they denied themselves of the most magnificent Gift that God, in His sublime condescension, so eagerly offered to mankind for its salvation — Himself. Many priests would even allow the faithful to die without the Sacraments. And, of course, devotion to the Merciful Heart of Jesus was considered to be a sin of presumption. To the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a sin of idolatry.
Meanwhile, with the Church in France now functioning in a spirit of political ambition instead of filial submission, many bishops demanded to be recognized as having an authority equal to that of the Bishop of Rome — which is the essence of Gallicanism. To defend their brazen defiance of the Pope, therefore, they sought refuge in an alliance with Jansenism, and thus heresy, being an expedient to personal power, gained protection and momentum from the ambitions of the hierarchy.
Small wonder, then, that Montfort, the obedient slave and champion of the Sovereign Queen of Heaven, found little favor in his native country. On the contrary, Jansenism had become so widespread that this holy priest, for the sixteen years from his ordination to his death, was to enjoy a life whose most conspicuous routine was enduring ridicule, humiliation, slander, threats, contradiction, interdiction, and ostracism. And we do mean “enjoy.” Saint Louis Marie loved nothing more than to suffer calumnies and persecution for his Master Who said: “If anyone will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” He prayed constantly for such crosses, in fact, and accordingly was blessed with an abundance of them. For he was repetitiously driven by his enemies from one diocese to another — from Nantes to Poitiers, to Angers, to Orleans, to Tours, to Paris, to Rennes, to Rouen, and back, again and again — in triumphant persecution.
Temporal enemies were not the only antagonists of the holy man. In Poitiers, cries and sounds of desperate struggles were heard coming from his room on several occasions. Once he had been seen dragging himself on his hands and knees, pleading, “O Mother of God, help me!” His assailant was Satan, as was confirmed in a letter written by Saint Louis Marie From Paris, saying, “Men and devils make war on me in this great city….”
But aside from sufferings, there are volumes of other details that comprise the monumental story of this remarkable man. An imposing figure of amazing strength and limitless energy, Saint Louis Marie de Montfort performed a variety of outstanding works that would stagger a hundred other men of zeal, as may be discerned from the following selective and extremely condensed accounts.
After ordination, it was a year before Louis finally obtained permission to preach. Conducting his first missions at Poitiers (where he also performed his first miracle by curing a blind man) his efforts were eminently successful, producing countless moral conversions. So completely had he captured the affections of the poor that they begged the bishop to give “kind Father de Montfort” a more definite assignment amongst them. Consequently, he was made chaplain of a local hospital — a poorhouse governed in chaos, abuse, and neglect. Animated as Louis was by great love for the poor, he labored tirelessly to comfort the wretchedly afflicted inmates, denying his own needs to allow better portions for the patients.
Trouble, as usual, was not long catching up to Louis Marie. Revolutionary reforms he had instituted at the hospital disgruntled certain staff workers who had an aversion to doing honest work, but none to misrepresenting their saintly chaplain as a tyrannical madman. Added to this, his habit of living and dressing like a beggar made him the subject of incessant community gossip. Then too, there was the “scandalous” incident concerning Marie Louise Trichet, daughter of a prominent and wealthy Crown lawyer. Under Montfort’s spiritual direction, she too took to a life of poverty, devoting herself, as Saint Louis’ first Daughter of Wisdom, to caring for the poor. Both the community and the family of this holy girl were shocked. Other unjust complaints continued to mount against the poor priest, until the bishop at last forbade him to say Mass. Louis then moved on.
The Poitiers affair typifies so many in Montfort’s life that it establishes the routine: always inflamed with dedication to his priestly duty, and always rewarded in the same cruel way — ostracism. Wherever he went he found that only his undeserved reputation had preceded him, so that invariably he was greeted with suspicion and contempt. But unfailingly he would leave behind him miracles, conversions, and fervent devotions which remained for generations as living landmarks of the route he had taken.
Journeying on foot to Paris, he arrived in 1704 at another hospital where he found that spiritual formation of most of the five thousand impoverished inmates had never progressed beyond the baptismal font — this, despite the presence of twenty-three priests attending them. Entering as an assistant chaplain, Father de Montfort, through his Christ-like manner of tenderly treating both the physical and spiritual afflictions of his poor patients, portrayed a compelling day-to-day sermon. He would cleanse their wounds at the same time that he washed the defilements of their souls with absolution, like Him Who said: “It is not the healthy who need a physician, but they who are sick. For I have not come to call the just, but sinners.” Such eloquence of mercy, however, was certain to excite Jansenist retaliation. Coming to dinner one evening, the saint found a note of dismissal on his plate.
Montfort returned to the hospital at Poitiers and remained there a year before difficulties again forced his departure. He was, however, permitted to preach in outlying towns — filthy slums of degeneracy where the sight of a priest aroused bitter hatred. In time he worked so complete a conversion of these villages that evening Rosary devotions and processions became a way of life for all. Chapels were restored; saloons were converted into Rosary shrines; bonfires were built for burning impure books and pictures, confessions were heard in unending numbers; miracles were performed; people’s courts were convened under “Magistrate” Montfort for resolving disputes; and a hospital for incurables was begun. But, as always, someone in a position of power resented these spectacular achievements, and the missioner of mercy was summarily expelled from the diocese.
Apostle of France
Several years now had passed and Saint Louis still had no more idea of what his specific service to God was to be than he had on the day he was ordained. At least three times he had tried to devote his life to the poor and had met obstacles. Then too, he had always wanted to work in foreign missions, while at the same time he confessed an attraction to the contemplative life. Since his only reply from hierarchical superiors was hindrance rather than help, he decided to seek the counsel of the Pope. Walking a thousand miles to Rome, resting only at the Holy House of Loreto, he was granted an audience with His Holiness on June 6, 1706. Clement XI intuitively sensed beyond the humble appearance of the beggar priest before him that here was a man of extraordinary sanctity. The Pope, assuring Louis Marie that there was more than enough work for him in France, appointed him as Apostolic Missioner.
Returning home now fully confident that God’s Will had been revealed to him through the Vicar of Christ, Montfort joined the famous missionary company of Father Leuduger and spent eight months with him evangelizing the northeast provinces of France. It was during this time that the indefatigable slave of Our Lady fulfilled Saint Vincent’s prophecy, rebuilding the ruined church at La Cheze while somehow continuing uninterruptedly to conduct a major mission. His miracles throughout this period were numerous and included, besides many cures, several instances of his multiplying fragments of food during a time of famine to feed the throngs of beggars that regularly surrounded him. But these and countless other spectacular blessings disturbed the humble priest, inasmuch as they were not balanced with the usual measure of crosses. Fearing that spiritual pride might overtake him, he greatly intensified his acts of mortification — so much so that his confessor had to intervene and order that he lighten the terrible sufferings he inflicted on himself.
Difficulties did not long fail to arise, however, for some misunderstanding provoked the dismissal of Saint Louis by Father Leuduger, who later was to regret the decision. Montfort hereafter was on his own as the Pope’s Apostolic Missioner, joined only by religious brothers recruited for his small Company of Mary and occasionally assisted by other missionary priests. His successful work continued in the northern diocese of Saint Malo until its heretical bishop drove him away to Nantes, a seething cauldron of Jansenism. One of the more extraordinary phenomena associated with Saint Louis Marie de Montfort occurred here. A young girl, later to become the superior of a hospital, daily had been traveling a great distance to attend one of his missions. She arrived one day only to realize that she had forgotten to bring food for her return trip. As she sat tearfully on the church steps, exhausted, hungry, and too shy to ask for help, there suddenly appeared “a beautiful lady who, with an indescribably graceful gesture, offered her a piece of bread, saying gently, ‘Take this, my child, and eat it.’ A moment later she disappeared.”
It was here also that a group of about a dozen thugs brutally attacked Montfort, intending to beat him to death. This was the second attempt on his life, and like the first it was unsuccessful. Underestimating the humble saint’s might, the assailants soon found themselves in fear for their own lives and quickly retreated.
His work in Nantes continued, bringing with it many conversions and effectively dispersing much of the stifling atmosphere of Jansenism. Miracles abounded as well. For example, barren soil where his foot had trod, soon issued healthy harvests. And there were several reported apparitions of Our Lady to simple peasants following his missions. But again his accomplishments thus far were devoid of the crosses desired by Louis Marie — an “oversight” soon to be corrected.
The saint long since had adopted the practice of erecting impressively large Calvary scenes at the close of his missions. The grandest that he had ever undertaken was the Calvary at Pontchateau, thirty miles distant from Nantes. Though work on it had already begun, Louis remained doubtful about the site chosen for it and interrupted construction long enough to assemble his crew in the chapel to pray for Our Lady’s guidance. When work resumed, two doves were observed gathering dirt in their bills, flying away, and returning repeatedly for more. Discovering that the destination of the winged excavators was the highest point in Pontchateau, Montfort immediately recognized this sign from the Blessed Mother and relocated his operation. (Thirty-six years earlier, crosses were seen to descend from heaven amidst a great noise and singing and to suspend over this very spot — on the same day that Saint Louis Marie was born.) Before long, news of the tremendous project had traveled so far that pilgrimages of men and women of every station in life came from all over Europe to lend their generous help in hauling an estimated 300,000 cubic feet of earth which was to constitute the sprawling seventy-foot-high mount. The undertaking continued through a hard winter for fifteen months, during which time not only did many miracles of the usual variety occur, but “a woman of unearthly beauty” was seen appearing to Montfort on several occasions. Surmounted with three huge crosses — one fifty feet tall — and surrounded by an elaborate Rosary and gardens representing Eden and Gethsemane, the Calvary of Pontchateau was completed in 1710. Then came what had to be the most bitter heartbreak in the life of Saint Louis Marie.
One of his enemies, wielding considerable influence among government authorities, seeded the suspicion that the enormous shrine, which was to be solemnly blessed on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, could be used as a military stronghold by foreign powers warring on France. On the eve of the Feast, Father de Montfort received orders from the bishop prohibiting the blessing. Shortly afterwards the Calvary masterpiece, hill and all, was completely leveled. True, Saint Louis had prophesied that his beautiful Passion site, which had been so clearly blessed by Our Lady, would be destroyed and rebuilt twice before it would survive for the ages. But he had no idea that the first demolition would come so soon. His response, however, shows with what incomparable confidence this magnificent soul was resigned to God’s Will in that bitter trial: “Blessed be God! It was His glory I sought, not mine. I hope He will accept the gift I intended for Him, as though I had had it to give.”
Clouds of ecclesiastical censure finally parted in 1711 for the Breton priest. He was invited to work in the diocese of La Rochelle and from then on was able to preach an almost unbroken succession of missions with the wholehearted support of Bishop Champflour, a determined foe of heresy. Henceforth we find that his ordinary month-to-month activities — if we dare speak of miracles, mass conversions, and all other remarkable works performed by him as being “ordinary” — were redundantly routine right up to the time of his early death.
Yet while assured of the bishop’s staunch backing, Saint Louis had no relief from the hateful torments to which he had become so well accustomed. Much to the contrary, both Jansenism and Calvinism proved mighty forces to be contended with in the La Rochelle district. To illustrate, several attempts on his life by now already had been made, and fortunately — sometimes miraculously — he had escaped them all. But when he converted two of this city’s most prominent and vocal Protestants — one of whom entered a convent of Poor Clares — Calvinist rage could not be quieted. Threats were made against both the converts and Louis Marie. Frequently the great priest was greeted with a hail of stones, and more frequently with cries of “Kill Montfort!” One evening a powerful dose of poison was administered to his broth. Though he swallowed but a mouthful before noticing the deadly presence, the wicked deed was accomplished. Saint Louis did not die immediately from the poison, but the solution was so concentrated that even the small amount of a spoonful ravaged and gravely undermined his once robust health, and the slow, agonizing process of death was begun.
The usual suspicions were awaiting the saint in every new town along his path, and of course he won out over them in his usual fashion. A good example is his mission work at La Garnache. Montfort gained so many ardent followers there that a procession consisting of almost the entire village escorted him on to Sallertaine, the next stop on his crowded itinerary, where in contrast only a wary and hostile mob awaited him. But upon his approach to the church its doors, which had been barred against him, miraculously burst open. Needless to say, the inhabitants of Sallertaine in turn were hastily converted to deep admiration of the saint.
Though most of the time in the few years left for him was spent in the diocese of La Rochelle, Saint Louis Marie continued to make excursions to whatever places in France poor souls could be found. But then not always in such places was there even that token of good will by which the residents could benefit from his presence. On his third and final visit to Rennes, for example, his evangelizing was met only with stubborn obstinacy. Heart broken, he wrote in a farewell poem that a curse was upon the city and warned of its destruction. Five years later, most of Rennes was razed by a fire which raged for ten days.
Nothing could discourage him. He was asked to preach a mission on the Island of Yeu. England and France at the time were at war, and the waters he would have to cross were thick with English pirates. Warned of this, Montfort responded: “By all means, let us go. If the martyrs had been as timid as we are, they never would have received their palms.” While making passage, a miracle saved him and his company only a moment before two English warships could overtake them. Today a large boulder at the base of a steep hill gives testimony to the great saint’s arrival on the Island of Yeu. It had once been at the top of that hill, occupying the spot where Saint Louis decided to erect a Calvary cross. Several men had tried unsuccessfully to budge what the Breton priest dislodged with a touch.
The years of endless work and rigorous mortifications, combined with the severe effects of the poison, ultimately reduced his once strong frame to a pitifully gaunt and badly suffering hulk. It was the year 1716 and his end now was visibly in sight. By this time he already had founded his religious congregations, the Daughters of Wisdom and the Company of Mary. Moreover, he had left a legacy of devotion to the Blessed Virgin that was to survive, and in fact to help defeat, the Satanic Terror of the French Revolution — that evil precursor of Communist barbarity. What more could be asked of him? In his own mind, much. This incredible slave redoubled his labors, hoping to regain all the more souls for his “good Mother” and Her Divine Son right up to the moment he drew his last breath.
Somehow Saint Louis managed a new burst of energy from that wretched body which already looked fit for the grave. On Palm Sunday he began a mission at St. Laurent-sur-Sevre; it was to be his last. Leaving the pulpit one day, he was at the point of collapsing and had to take to his bed. His confessor ordered that the straw and the rock-pillow on which the holy man normally slept be replaced with a mattress. Louis reluctantly but obediently submitted and was given the Last Rites. Yet he insisted on receiving the many followers who wanted one last blessing from their beloved saint.
For several days he lay there dying with a statue of the Blessed Virgin in one arm and the indulgenced crucifix given him by Pope Clement XI in the other. He gave his last will and testament, asking that his heart be buried “under the steps of the altar of the Blessed Virgin.” On the following day, April 28, 1716, Satan made a final desperate bid, to which Saint Louis retorted loudly, “You attack me in vain; I stand between Jesus and Mary. I have finished my course. I shall sin no more.” With that the soul of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort was taken into Heaven. And his entire body was laid to rest beneath the altar of the Queen he loved so much.
There is a dual aspect to the glorious career of every saint. One, the most obvious, is that of the achievements realized in his own time, and the other is that of the benefits with which later ages have been abundantly blessed as the result of his holy works. But it is from the illustrious saint from Montfort that we see these characteristics beam forth most luminously. In fact, it well may be said that Louis Marie is even more a saint for our age than for his own. As he was an apostle to an unfaithful France of the eighteenth century, through his preaching and his works of mercy, so he is all the more the Apostle to a faithless world of the latter times, through his writings and his prophecies.
As a preacher he taught a simple people with simple lessons. Since the poor of France could not read, he gave them a treasure of humble yet beautiful poems and hymns by which they learned and long sustained their childlike faith. But as the Apostle of all later ages he presents a striking contrast in his teaching facilities.
Biographers, being mindful of his spiritual appetite for humiliation, affectionately describe Saint Louis Marie de Montfort as a holy “fool.” Fitting as the description may seem to be in that sense, it is in no way meant to imply that his mental faculties were deficient. On the contrary, he was a brilliant theologian. Indeed, we dare say that Holy Mother may one day confer upon him the honored title of Church Doctor, owing to the outstanding theological expositions given in his flawless writings.
Saint Louis Marie wrote five significant compositions, all of which are still in wide circulation even today. They are Love Of The Eternal Wisdom, Friends Of The Cross, True Devotion To The Blessed Virgin, The Secret Of Mary, and The Secret Of The Rosary. Georges Rigault aptly summarizes these works, observing, “Three words cover the gist of his teaching: Wisdom, the Cross, the Virgin — words which belong to each other: No Wisdom outside the Cross and without the aid of the Virgin.”
Wisdom here does not mean sagacity in the natural sense. Rather, it means “Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Who took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary.” Saint Louis Marie writes, “To know Jesus Christ, the Eternal Wisdom, is to know enough. To know everything and not know Him is to know nothing. . . . A thousand times happier is the man into whose soul Wisdom has come to dwell. . . . To acquire Wisdom we must seek Him ardently, that is, we must be willing to abandon all, to suffer all, and to undertake all things in order to possess Him. There are but few who find Him because there are but few who seek Him in a manner worthy of Him.”
Hence he teaches the necessity of the Cross: “Born in the sorrowful Heart of the Saviour, [a friend of the Cross] comes into the world through His right side, stained with His Blood; he never forgets his birth and crosses, death to the world, the flesh, and sin are all he lives for, that even in this world he may be hid with Christ in God. . . . [He] triumphs over the devil, the world, and the flesh and their three-fold concupiscence. He overthrows the pride of Satan by his love for humiliation, he triumphs over the world’s greed by his love for poverty, and he restrains the sensuality of the flesh by his love for suffering.”
But the surest, the easiest, the happiest, the most perfect way to Jesus Christ is through Mary. And this brings us to the great genius of Saint Louis Marie in explaining Our Lady’s role in the redemption of mankind. In his treatise on True Devotion To The Blessed Virgin, he wrote, “It is through the most holy Virgin Mary that Jesus came into the world, and it is also through her that he has to reign in the world. . . . It was through Mary that the salvation of the world was begun, and it is through Mary that it must be consummated. . . . Devotion to Our Blessed Lady is necessary for salvation. . . . He who has not Mary for his Mother has not God for his Father.
“It is necessary for the greater knowledge and glory of the Most Holy Trinity, that Mary should be more than ever known. . . . Mary must shine forth more than ever in mercy, in might, and in grace in these later times: 1 in mercy to bring back and lovingly receive the poor strayed sinners who shall be converted and shall return to the Catholic Church; in might, against the enemies of God, idolaters, schismatics, Mahometans, Jews, and souls hardened in impiety, who shall rise in terrible revolt against God. . .; and finally, she must shine forth in grace, in order to animate and sustain the valiant soldiers and faithful servants of Jesus Christ who shall battle for His interests.
“But the power of Mary over all the devils will especially shine forth in the latter times, when Satan will lay his snares against her heel: that is to say, her humble slaves and her poor children, whom she will raise up to make war against him. They shall be little and poor in the world’s esteem . . . and persecuted as the heel is by other members of the body. But in return for this, they shall be rich in the grace of God, which Mary shall distribute to them abundantly.”
Who shall these servants, slaves, and children of Mary be? The saint answers himself: “They shall be the ministers of the Lord who, like a burning fire, shall kindle the fire of divine love everywhere.” And “they shall be ‘like sharp arrows in the hand of the powerful’ Mary to pierce her enemies.”
How does one become a slave of the Blessed Virgin? The easiest way is by first carefully studying True Devotion, for which Pope Saint Pius X granted an Apostolic Benediction. (The original English translation by Father Frederick W. Faber is the best.) Then by confidently making, and faithfully living by, the following Act of Consecration to the Mother of God, composed by Saint Louis Marie de Montfort:
In the presence of all the Heavenly Court I choose thee this day for my Mother and Mistress. I deliver and consecrate to thee, as thy slave, my body and soul, my goods, both interior and exterior, and even the value of all my good actions, past, present and future; leaving to thee the entire and full right of disposing of me, and all that belongs to me, without exception, according to thy good pleasure, to the greatest glory of God, in time and in eternity.
1 It is clear that Saint Louis Marie was speaking here in prophecy, as he also foretold that Satan would cause his treatise to be lost. True Devotion was not discovered until one hundred and twenty-six years after his death.