Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saint Louis de Montfort

St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (31 January 1673 – 28 April 1716) was canonized in 1947. He was a French priest and known in his time as a preacher and author, whose books, still widely read, have influenced a number of popes.

He is considered as one of the early proponents of the field of Mariology as it is known today, and a candidate to become a Doctor of the Church. His "founders statue" by Giacomo Parisini is now placed at the Upper Niche of the South Nave within Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.

He was born in Montfort-sur-Meu, the eldest surviving child of the large family of Jean-Baptiste Grignion, a notary, and his wife Jeanne Robert who was known for being deeply Catholic. He passed most of his infancy and early childhood in Iffendic, a few kilometers from Montfort, where his father had bought a farm. At the age of 12, he entered the Jesuit College of St Thomas Becket in Rennes.

At some time during his college days, he became aware of a call to the priesthood, and at the end of his ordinary schooling, began his studies of philosophy and theology, still at St Thomas in Rennes. Listening to the stories of a local priest, the Abbé Julien Bellier, about his life as an itinerant missionary, he was inspired to preach missions among the very poor. And, under the guidance of some other priests he began to develop his strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He was then given the opportunity, through a benefactor, to go to Paris to study at the renowned Seminary of Saint-Sulpice towards the end of 1693. When he arrived in Paris, it was to find that his benefactor had not provided enough money for him, so he lodged in a succession of boarding houses, living among the very poor, in the meantime attending the Sorbonne University for lectures in theology. After less than two years, he became very ill and had to be hospitalized. Somehow he survived his hospitalization and the blood letting that was part of his treatment at the time.

Upon his release from the hospital, to his surprise he found himself with a place reserved at the Little Saint-Sulpice, which he entered in July 1695. Saint-Sulpice had been founded by Jean-Jacques Olier, one of the leading exponents of what came to be known as the French school of spirituality. Given that he was appointed the librarian, his time at Saint-Sulpice, gave him the opportunity to study most of the available works on spirituality and, in particular, on the Virgin Mary's place in the Christian life. This later lead to his focus on the Holy Rosary and his acclaimed book the Secret of the Rosary.

In June 1700, when a young Louis de Montfort was ordained a priest, he was but another young and idealistic man who wanted to be the champion of the poor, having been inspired as a teenager to preach to the poor. But he also had a very strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and was prepared to risk his life for it. Centuries later, he influenced four popes (Pope Leo XIII, Pope Pius X, Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II), and is now being considered as a Doctor of the Church.

Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius X both relied on de Montfort in their writings and promulgated his Marian vision. It has been said, that the Marian encyclical of Pius X, Ad Diem Illum was not only influenced but penetrated by the Mariology of Montfort. and, that both Leo XIII and Pius X applied the Marian analysis of Montfort to their analysis of the Church as a whole.

Pope Leo XIII

Pope Leo XIII was concerned about secular attempts to destroy the faith in Christ, and, if possible, to ban him from the face of the earth. In his analysis, the destruction of the ethical order would lead to disaster and war, so Leo XIII dedicated the human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But in his analysis (based on Montfort's writings) any re-Christianisation was not possible without the Blessed Virgin Mary, so in ten encyclicals on the rosary he promulgated Marian devotion. In his encyclical on the fiftieth anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, he stressed her role in the redemption of humanity, mentioning Mary as Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix, in the spirit and words of Louis de Montfort.

Pope Leo XIII then beatified him in 1888, and, as a special honour selected for Montfort's beatification the very day of his own Golden Jubilee as a priest.

Pope Pius X

The key Marian encyclical Ad Diem Illum was issued in 1904 in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It gave Pius X the opportunity to urge his intensified Marian devotion in his second encyclical, and relied heavily on the views expressed in Montfort's book True Devotion to Mary.

In fact the language of both writings is strikingly similar, which is not surprising, since Saint Pius highly esteemed True Devotion and granted an Apostolic Blessing to all who read it. Echoing Montfort, Pius X wrote: "There is no surer or easier way than Mary in uniting all men with Christ."

Pope Pius XII

Pope Pius XII was often called the most Marian pope. He was impressed by Montfort's work God Alone and when he canonized Montfort on July 27, 1947, he said:

God Alone was everything to him. Remain faithful to the precious heritage, which this great saint left you. It is a glorious inheritance, worthy, that you continue to sacrifice your strength and your life, as you have done until today

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II once recalled how as a young seminarian he "read and reread many times and with great spiritual profit" a work of de Montfort and that:

"Then I understood that I could not exclude the Lord's Mother from my life without neglecting the will of God-Trinity"

According to his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, the pontif's personal motto "Totus Tuus" was inspired by St. Louis' doctrine on the excellence of Marian devotion and total consecration, which he quoted:

“Our entire perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ. Hence the most perfect of all devotions is undoubtedly that which conforms, unites and consecrates us most perfectly to Jesus Christ.

Now, since Mary is of all creatures the one most conformed to Jesus Christ, it follows that among all devotions that which most consecrates and conforms a soul to our Lord is devotion to Mary, his Holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to her the more will it be consecrated to Jesus Christ."

The thoughts, writings, and example of St. Louis de Montfort, an example of the French school of spirituality, were also singled out by Pope John Paul II's encyclical Redemptoris Mater as a distinctive witness of Marian spirituality in the Catholic tradition. In an address to the Montfortian Fathers, the pontiff also said that his reading the saint's work True Devotion to Mary was a "decisive turning point" in his life.

Priest and poet

While the saint is best known for his spiritual writings, he was also a poet and during his missions managed to compose more than 20,000 verses of hymns.

Saint Louis's life coincided with some of the great highlights of French literature and Molière, Pierre Corneille and Jean Racine dominated the literature of his day. Yet Montfort believed that his battle-cry, "God Alone!" did not allow him to encourage his people to prefer classical works over sacred hymns. Montfort’s hymns and canticles were, for the most part, meant to be sung in village churches and in the homes of the poor. They were aimed at the masses and had a missionary motive above all. Some authors argue that a reading of Saint Louis’s hymns is essential for an understanding of him as a man and for appreciating his approach to spirituality.

Montfort was a missionary at heart and many of his hymns were addressed to the people whom he was evangelizing. He went from one parish to another with his ever-growing collection of hymns to be sung during the parish mission. But he also wrote hymns to express his own personal feelings, e.g. his numerous hymns in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Based on the analysis of Bishop Hendrik Frehen of the Company of Mary, Montfortian hymns fall into two major categories: "inspired" and "didactic." The inspired canticles flow spontaneously, on the occasion of a pilgrimage to a Marian shrine, or on the occasion of a joyful celebration. The didactic hymns took more effort and time to compose, and focus on instructional and informative qualities: they teach the audience through the use of a moral and a theme.

After the Saint Louis's death, the Company of Mary (which continued his work of preaching parish renewals) made great use of his hymns and used them as instruments of evangelization.

April 28 Feast Days:

* St. Theodora
* St. Peter Chanel
* St. Louis Mary Grignion
* St. Vitalis
* St. Luchesio
* St. Valerie
* St. Aphrodisius
* St. Artemius
* St. Valeria of Milan
* St. Theodora & Didymus
* St. Cronan of Roscrea
* St. John Baptist Thanh
* St. Louis de Montfort
* St. Mark of Galilee
* St. Pamphilus
* St. Patrick of Prusa
* St. Peter Hieu
* St. Pollio
* St. Cronan of Roscrea
* St. Gianna Beretta Molla

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