Tuus' meets in a Saint and a Pope
Almost 11 years ago, on 21 June 1997, the Servant of God
John Paul II addressed a Message to the Superiors General of the
Montfort Religious Families for the 50th anniversary of the canonization
of St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort.
"I am happy", he wrote, "to offer thanks to the Lord for
the growing influence of this missionary Saint, whose apostolate was
nourished by a life of intense prayer, an unshakeable faith in the
Triune God and a deep devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother
of the Redeemer" (Message, L'Osservatore Romano English edition
[ORE], 30 July 1997, p. 3).
Thus, after describing de Montfort's Christocentric tone
of Marian spirituality, John Paul II said: "In order to know the Eternal
Wisdom, uncreated and incarnate, Grignion de Montfort constantly invited
people to put their trust in the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is so
inseparable from Jesus 'that it would be easier to separate light from
the sun'. He remains an incomparable bard and disciple of the Mother of
the Saviour, whom he honours as the one who so assuredly leads towards
For a fuller account of the value of de Montfort's
Marian doctrine and spirituality recognized by John Paul II, readers
should refer to the Fragmenta monfortana 3 (Edizioni monfortana,
Rome, 1999, pp. 107-142), which begins on this very note: "Almost
immediately after Cardinal Karol Wojtyła's
election as Supreme Pontiff (16 October 1978), in an article in
L'Osservatore Romano [Italian edition], Virgilio Levi expressed his
wonder at the provenance of 'all his resilience, all his zeal, all his
perseverance', and proceeded to explain:
"'The secret lies in his motto: Totus tuus...
everything written in books on spirituality, in the treatise on True
Devotion to Mary, in the knowledge of the People of God has been
made manifest in this man [Karol Wojtyła],
called to lead the Church in our difficult time. Our Lady is all
powerful through grace and those who entrust themselves entirely to her
become giants in the works of God.
"Choosing", as it were, "between one flower and another"
(cf. Dante, Purgatory 28, 41) from John Paul II's abundant
Writings and Addresses, let us limit ourselves to juxtaposing three
texts. In these, by means of widely disseminated publications, the
Servant of God firmly recounted the experience he lived at the school of
de Montfort — the Saint of the Totus tuus —, which was so intense
that he himself became a witness and teacher of authentic Marian
spirituality and the Pope of the "Totus tuus".
The Saint of the Totus Tuus
In a long conversation with Pope Wojtyła,
published under the title: "André
Frossard dialoga con Giovanni Paolo II: Non abbiate paura!" [André
Frossard talks with John Paul II: "Do not be afraid"] (Rusconi,
1983), the French journalist asked the Holy Father about his personal
devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The great Pope's answer can be found on pages 157-159:
"Reading that book (True Devotion to Mary)", he said, "has marked a
decisive turning point in my life. I said 'turning point', although this
is a long inner journey.... At that very moment this unique treatise
came into my hands, one of those books which it is not enough 'to have
read'. I reread it constantly and certain passages in succession.
"I soon realized that the book contained something
fundamental over and above its baroque style. The result was that the
devotion to the Mother of Christ of my childhood and my adolescence gave
way to a new attitude, a devotion that welled up from the depths of my
faith, as at the very heart of the Trinitarian and Christological
In the book Crossing the
Threshold of Hope by John Paul II (in which the Pope is interviewed
by Vittorio Messori who wrote the introduction [English edition,
Jonathan Cape, 1994]), the Holy Father responded to a precise question
from the interviewer.
"Totus tuus. This phrase is not only an
expression of piety, or simply an expression of devotion. It is more.
During the Second World War, while I was employed as a factory worker, I
came to be attracted to Marian devotion.
"At first, it had seemed to me that I should distance
myself a bit from the Marian devotion of my childhood in order to focus
more on Christ. Thanks to St Louis de Montfort, I came to understand
that true devotion to the Mother of God is actually Christocentric,
indeed, it is very profoundly rooted in the mystery of the Blessed
Trinity, and the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption" (pp.
In the book Gift and Mystery. On the 50th anniversary
of my priestly ordination (Vatican Publishing House, 1996) John Paul
II made this confession: "At one point I began to question my devotion
to Mary, believing that, if it became too great, it might end up
compromising the supremacy of the worship owed to Christ....
"I was greatly helped by a
book by St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort entitled Treatise of True
Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. There I found the answers to my
questions. Yes, Mary does bring us closer to Christ; she does lead us to
him, provided that we live her mystery in Christ....
"This treatise by St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort
can be a bit disconcerting, given its rather florid and baroque style,
but the essential theological truths which it contains are undeniable.
The author was an outstanding theologian. His Mariological thought is
rooted in the Mystery of the Trinity and in the truth of the Incarnation
of the Word of God" (pp. 42-43).
The Pope of the Totus tuus
John Paul II's words in his first note after undergoing
surgery, written on 24 February 2005 at the Gemelli Polyclinic, were:
"But I am always 'Totus tuus'".
Thus, at the school of St Louis Marie de Montfort, Karol
Wojtyla — labourer, priest, Bishop and Pope — gradually developed his
true devotion to Mary.
This is synonymous with that "consecration to Christ
through the hands of Mary" which de Montfort proposed to Christians as
an effective way to live faithfully their holy baptismal commitments
(cf. Redemptoris Mater, n. 48). It was "a secure means of finding
Jesus Christ perfectly, of loving him tenderly, of serving him
faithfully" (True Devotion to Mary, n. 62, pp. 38, 39). And Pope
John Paul II was to become an admirable teacher and apostle of this
With his Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Mater (25
March 1987), John Paul II gave the Church some of the richest passages
of his Marian magisterium. We recall here a few of the most outstanding.
"In Christ's testament on Golgotha... the Redeemer
entrusts his Mother to the disciple, and at the same time he gives her
to him as his mother. Mary's motherhood which becomes man's inheritance
is a gift: a gift which Christ himself makes personally to every
individual. The Redeemer entrusts Mary to John because he entrusts John
"At the foot of the Cross there begins that special
entrusting of humanity to the Mother of Christ.... Such entrusting is
the response to a person's love, and in particular to the love of a
mother.... Entrusting himself to Mary in a filial manner, the Christian,
like the Apostle John, 'welcomes' the Mother of Christ 'into his own
home' and brings her into everything that makes up his inner life, that
is to say, into his human and Christian 'I'....
"Thus, the Christian seeks to be taken into that
'maternal charity' with which the Redeemer's Mother 'cares for the
brethren of her Son', 'in whose birth and development she cooperates' in
the measure of the gift proper to each one through the power of Christ's
Spirit" (n. 45).
To conclude, our two witnesses and teachers of Marian
spirituality seem to be portrayed in the two witnesses mentioned in
Revelation: "These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands which
stand before the Lord" (Rv 11:4). Standing before the glorious Mother of
the Lord, St Louis Grignion de Montfort and the Servant of God John Paul
II invite us to follow them on the immaculate path of Mary.
"May the Totus tuus of the beloved Pontiff [and
may we add, also of St Louis), encourage us to follow him on the path of
the gift of ourselves to Christ through the intercession of Mary, and
may she herself, the Virgin Mary, obtain it for us" (Pope Benedict XVI,
Homily at the Memorial Mass for the Second Anniversary of the Death
of John Paul 2 April 2007; ORE, 11 April, p. 9).