JESUS LIVING IN MARY:
HANDBOOK OF THE SPIRITUALITY OF ST. LOUIS DE MONTFORT

BAPTISM


Summary
    
I.	Montfort in Continuity with a Century of Pastoral Renewal: 
	1.   The renewal of the seventeenth century; 
	2.   A privileged tool at the service of the renewal: parish 	
	     missions; 
	3.   Parish missions and Baptism. 
II.	Montfort’s Practice of Baptismal Renewal: 
	1.   From first awareness to definitive choice; 
	2.   A mandate of Clement XI; 
	3.   Parish missions shaped by baptismal renewal; 
	4.   Public solemn renewal of baptismal promises; 
	5.   Renewal through the hands of Mary. 
III.	Montfort’s Teaching on Baptism: 
	1.   Reference texts; 
	2.   Christocentrism; 
	3.   Baptism and Consecration; 
	4.   Baptism and Montfort’s "slavery of love"; 
	5.   Baptism and renewal; 
	6.   Baptism and perfect renewal through Mary. 
IV.	Current Value of Montfort’s Thought on Baptism: 
	1.   Baptism, point of departure for re-evangelization; 
	2.   Renewed and adapted teaching on Baptism; 
	3.   Baptismal renewal and Mary; 
	4.   Baptism and the Body of Christ.
    

To assist at one of Saint Louis Marie’s parish missions was to witness a magnificent sight: a crowded church, splendid sermons, enthusiastic singing, elaborate processions, numerous confessions. It was an area wide event involving in one way or another all the people of the town. At the heart of everything was the specifically Montfort characteristic of a parish mission: his version of the solemn renewal of the promises of Baptism. That event was the hub of everything else that made up a parish mission preached by Saint Louis de Montfort.

Baptism is, then, central to Saint Louis de Montfort’s spirituality.1 His teaching concurs with the CCC that "Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission."2 In this dawn of the third millennium, when the Church calls for a "new evangelization," Montfort’s insights into Baptism are a blessing for all Christians.


I. MONTFORT IN CONTINUITY WITH A CENTURY OF PASTORAL RENEWAL

Saint Louis Marie’s baptismal preaching is in direct continuity with a century marked by strong efforts to renew the faith among all classes of society.

1. The renewal of the seventeenth century

Although religious and political wars debilitated the France of the 1600’s, it was also a period rich and fruitful in art, culture, and particularly religion. In spite of serious deviations (Jansenism, Gallicanism, Quietism), it was a great century for the Church in France. The backbone of the spiritual renewal was the strong influence of the members of the French school of spirituality, of which Montfort was one of the last.

The Council of Trent (1545-1563) sought to initiate a true Catholic reform (or Counter-Reformation). Its decrees were finally adopted in France by the Assembly of the Clergy in 1615 and enthusiastically received by those primarily responsible for the proclamation of the faith. The council’s insistence on the renewal of the clergy was implemented especially through the establishment of new seminaries, thanks to Vincent de Paul, Cardinal de Bérulle, J.J. Olier, and Jean Eudes. With solidly educated clergy, work progressed on the ultimate goal of the council, the instruction of the Christian people in the faith.

2. A privileged tool at the service of the renewal: parish missions

The formation of the faithful should, according to the Council of Trent, be done chiefly through religious instruction. The Catechism of the Council of Trent (or Roman Catechism), published by Pius V, was a strong force in this regard.3 The hoped-for renewal called forth by the Council of Trent, however, found a decisive tool in parish missions. A special period of intense teaching given to a community over several weeks (from three to five or even more) by itinerant missionaries, the parish mission called for popular methods to touch hearts and stimulate conversions. It was an extremely effective instrument of the renewal so desired by the Church of the seventeenth century. Religious orders, like the Jesuits, Dominicans, Capuchins, and Benedictines, all became involved in preaching parish missions, as did many of the leaders of the French school of spirituality and the Congregations founded by them: Vincentians, Oratorians, Sulpicians, Eudists. Teams of diocesan priests also took part in this "new evangelization."

3. Parish missions and Baptism

One of the chief characteristics of the Tridentine renewal, and one that be-came integrated with parish missions, was the insistence on the fundamental importance of Baptism. Time and again the Roman Catechism reminded pastors of their obligation to see that the faithful appreciated the Sacrament of Baptism and always remained faithful to this most radical of commitments to Jesus Christ (cf. TD 129).

Charles Borromeo, archbishop of Milan († 1584), was the most zealous in putting into practice the conciliar directives: he revived the custom of celebrating the anniversary of Baptism and introduced the fairly new practice of renewing the promises, or "vows," of Baptism. The renovation of baptismal promises as part of the Tridentine reform spread far and wide.

The public enactment of baptismal renewal became a part of parish missions by the middle of the seventeenth century. Julien Maunoir, a popular parish missionary of the time, integrated a baptismal-renewal ceremony into the end of the first week of the mission, usually on a Sunday afternoon. Another parish missionary, Jean Leuduger, with whom Montfort preached some missions, composed a formula of renewal that was to be signed by each person making the mission.

Father de Montfort was a successor to these many missionaries and reformers. But he brought special characteristics of his own to the practice of baptismal renewal during a parish mission.


II. MONTFORT’S PRACTICE OF BAPTISMAL RENEWAL

Heir of those who first implemented the Tridentine reform, Saint Louis Marie insisted that the renewal of baptismal promises should be celebrated regularly, most especially during a parish mission. His stress on Baptism developed early in life.

1. From first awareness to definitive choice

When the young Louis Marie began formal studies in Rennes, conciliar reforms had begun to bear fruit. The clergy, thanks to the vast improvement in seminary training, was better formed in theology and spirituality. The Christian people were better instructed in the truths of the faith. Central to this renewal was a greater insistence upon Baptism.

We can see the first sign of Montfort’s deeper appreciation of this initial Sacrament when he renounced his civil identity and exchanged his family name for the place of his Baptism, the village of Montfort. He would be called only "the Father from Montfort." It was a means of reminding himself and others that Baptism defines an individual far more deeply than family or national origin; it is the Christian’s fundamental relationship, which in turn determines all others. A letter of October 1702 to his sister Guyonne-Jeanne is signed De Montfort. Several other letters, including one to his mother in 1704, are signed in the same way. Louis Marie spent only months at Montfort, the village of his birth; most of his youth was spent at the nearby town of Iffendic. It was, however, at Montfort that he was immersed into Christ Jesus. Montfort would then become his "family name."

There are other indications of his growing appreciation for the Sacrament of Baptism. While serving at Poitiers shortly after his ordination, he and a group of young people he organized restored the fourth-century baptistery of Saint John near the cathedral. We can also well presume that Baptism was a prominent topic in his preaching: writing to the inhabitants of Montbernage, a suburb of Poitiers and a place where he preached, he declared, "Do not fail to fulfill your baptismal promises and all that they entail" (LPM 2).

2. A mandate of Clement XI

When the Father from Montfort wondered if he was on the right track preaching parish missions in northwestern France, he journeyed to Rome to seek the advice of the Holy Father, Clement XI. The Pope’s words to the itinerant preacher were clear: "There is a large enough field in France for you to exercise your zeal; go nowhere else and work always in perfect submission to the bishops to whose dioceses you may be called."4 Clement XI also be-stowed upon him the title "Apostolic Missionary" and recommended that he teach Christian doctrine throughout the villages and towns of his area of France, renewing the spirit of faith through the renewal of baptismal promises.

Saint Louis de Montfort believed that the words of the successor of Peter were not only an encouragement but a mandate to continue his work as a parish missionary and to proclaim everywhere the renewal of baptismal promises. In 1707 and 1708 Montfort formed part of the team of Jean Leuduger, director of missions for the diocese of Saint-Brieuc in Brittany. In the course of some ten missions, Louis Marie was initiated in the methods of this great missionary, himself a disciple of the celebrated Fathers Maunoir and Huby. The climax of these missions was, as we have seen, a ceremony of renewal of baptismal promises, including the distribution of a printed formula for this purpose, which each one making the mission was asked to sign.

3. Parish missions shaped by baptismal renewal

In LS, sketches probably derived from his studies at Saint Sulpice, Saturday preaching was regularly consecrated to instruction on the Blessed Virgin and on the Sacrament of Baptism. When Father de Montfort became himself the leader of a mission band, first in the diocese of Nantes and then in Luçon and La Rochelle, he organized the missions according to the mandate given him by Clement XI. LS contains new outlines dating from this period, entitled "Sermon-matter for a Mission, or Retreat, or the Renewal of Baptismal Promises." The collection comprises twenty-four subjects developing the formula "I renounce the devil and all his pomps and all his works and I unite myself to you my Jesus" (GA, 569-571).5

It seems clear that for Montfort Baptism and the renewal of its promises were no longer simply an integral element in a parish mission; they were, rather, the driving force, the means and the goal that gave the Montfort parish renewal its special cachet and around which the entire mission was built. Preaching on the baptismal Consecration and leading the people in the renewal of its promises became the core of his renewal efforts. However much Saint Louis Marie owed to his illustrious predecessors in the field of parish missions, not one of them seems to have clarified to such a degree the apostolic meaning and demands of Baptism in order "to renew the spirit of Christianity."

4. Public solemn renewal of baptismal promises

The grandiose ceremony of the renewal of baptismal promises took place at the center of the Montfort parish mission and was, in fact, its goal. As far as we can decipher from Montfort’s sermon outlines on this subject, the ceremony probably occurred towards the end of the last week, before the planting of the mission cross. As his first biographer, Grandet, describes it, this parish renewal of baptismal promises had an elaborate, well-planned, festive character.6 The ceremony began with a procession to a beautifully decorated outside altar. At the lead were the cross, colorful banners, standards of various organizations, musical instruments led or accompanied by the faithful, who walked in time with the hymns or the music or the prayers. Father de Montfort, bearing the monstrance, followed. At the altar of repose, after the chanting of the Gospel and the singing of hymns, Louis Marie preached a sermon. The long procession then began to weave its way back to the church, again with the joyful playing of music, the singing of hymns, and the chanting of prayers, including the Rosary. Each of the parishioners had a printed copy of the act of renewal - "the covenant contract with God" - which also listed practices for those who solemnly renewed their baptismal promises.

The ceremony appears to have included four phases: As the procession slowly made its way through the vestibule of the parish church, all passed in front of a deacon seated with the Gospel book open on his knees. Each one genuflected and venerated the holy book, saying, "I firmly believe all the truths of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Entering the church, they passed in front of the baptismal font, where a priest received them. Kiss-ing the font, each renewed his or her vows with the formula, "With all my heart I renew the promises of my baptism and renounce forever the devil, the world, and myself [i.e., my evil inclinations]."

From the baptismal font, the procession made its way to the Lady Chapel or a side altar of the Blessed Virgin, where the director of the parish mission, the Father from Montfort, held the small statue of Our Lady and the Christ Child (which he himself had carved); each one kissed it, saying, "I give myself entirely to Jesus Christ through the hands of Mary to carry my Cross after him all the days of my life."

Then all gathered together at the baptistery to sing "the great Creed." And after an elaborate ceremony of veneration of the Gospel book, Saint Louis Marie reverently took it, walked up to the pulpit, and continued to preach on the new life to be led by all who were so privileged to renew through Mary their baptismal promises.

Undoubtedly there were variations from parish to parish on the renewal ceremony, as there were on the precise formula of the "covenant contract" that Montfort distributed (cf. CG). What must be emphasized above all is the great importance that Saint Louis Marie attached to this solemn, if not grandiose, ceremony of renewal.

5. Renewal through the hands of Mary

Montfort’s imprint on the parish renewal of baptismal promises is nowhere more evident than in his linkage of Baptism with the role of Our Lady in salvation history. One of the sermons delivered at some of his parish missions a day or so before the solemn renewal is entitled: "The manner of renewal through the Blessed Virgin Mary: Mother of the Head, Mother of the members, treasurer, advocate, terror of the devil, refuge, faithful virgin" (GA, 571). Indicative of the importance Montfort attached to Mary’s role was the gesture he introduced into the elaborate ceremony of renewal: passing by the altar of Our Lady, where he personally greeted the candidates for renewal with their printed formula and invited them to kiss the little statue of Mary and the Christ Child.


III. MONTFORT’S TEACHING ON BAPTISM

It was Saint Louis Marie’s sermons on Baptism that impelled the parishioners to take part in the elaborate ceremony of the renewal of the baptismal promises and to make it the highlight of their participation in the mission. Although the missionary has left us neither a separate work on Baptism nor a fleshed-out sermon on the subject, we can gather the main lines of his understanding of this Sacrament from his extant writings.

1. Reference texts

If our search for references is confined to the single word "Baptism," Father de Montfort uses the term over forty times, five of them in reference to the baptism of Jesus. Limiting ourselves to LEW, TD, and H, "Baptism" is found in LEW 19, 113, 223, 225; TD 68, 73, 120, 126-128, 130-131, 162, 232, 238; and Hymns 16, 17, 19, 27, 33, 98, 102, 109, 139. Although TD contains the most references to Baptism, a brief summary of the effects of the Sacrament is found in a couplet of his hymn "The Chief Mysteries of the Faith": "Baptism of itself wipes out / original sin, / gives us grace, / opens Heaven to us, / makes us children of God himself and of the Church" (H 109:8).

2. Christocentrism

What primarily emerges from these texts and their contexts is the Christocentrism of Montfort, a clear inheritance from the French school of spirituality. Saint Louis Marie’s Christocentric doctrine permeates everything he writes: "Jesus our Savior, true God and true man, must be the ultimate end of all our other devotions; otherwise they would be false and misleading. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end of everything" (TD 61). For Montfort, Christ is the raison d’être of all creation, following closely Saint Paul’s thought, expressed especially in the Captivity Epistles. In a few bold strokes, Saint Louis de Montfort summarizes his Christocentric teaching: "If devotion to Our Lady distracted us from Our Lord, we would have to reject it as an illusion of the devil" (TD 62). His famous proverb encapsulates everything: "To know Jesus Christ . . . is to know all we need. To presume to know everything and not know him is to know nothing at all" (LEW 11).

Baptism and Christocentrism go hand in hand. It is because of Montfort’s insistence on the reality of baptismal immersion into Christ Jesus that his preaching is so Christocentric; it is because he is so centered on Christ the Lord that he is so taken up with Baptism. Infidelity to baptismal promises is nothing less, therefore, than infidelity to Jesus Christ: "I must confess that I have not kept the vows and promises which I made to you (Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom) so solemnly at my baptism" (LEW 223).

Since Baptism plunges us into the victorious dying of Jesus, the triumphant Cross is stressed in his teaching: "Wisdom is the Cross and the Cross is Wisdom" (LEW 180; cf. FC). Since Baptism is the beginning of such an intense participation in the divine nature (cf. 2 Pet 1:4), Montfort insists on a life of radical evangelical virtue. The initial Sacrament is, then, nothing short of the source and root of his teaching.

3. Baptism and Consecration

A constant concern of Montfort was to help the baptized to be aware of his or her absolute relationship with Christ Jesus and to grow in it. Baptism becomes, then, the foundation for his spirituality of total Consecration. In fact, it is the insistence on referring to Baptism as "Consecration to Jesus Christ" and thereby so clearly identifying it with his understanding of Consecration that is his most characteristic teaching on Baptism.

In the Christian economy of salvation, there is no Consecration to God that is not in union with Jesus Christ and a part of his own Consecration: "No one comes to the Father except by me" (Jn 14:6); "For their sake I consecrate myself so that they also may be consecrated in truth" (Jn 17:19).

This union with the Lord and his Consecration is achieved sacramentally by Baptism. In becoming a member of Christ’s body, the newly baptized is established in filial relationship with God, becomes a sharer in the divine nature and, in and through Christ Jesus, consecrated to the Father and to His service. The baptized is, then, a sharer in Christ, priest, prophet, and king (1 Pet 2:9-10). This doctrinal foundation is at the root of Montfort’s affirmation that Baptism "consecrates us to Jesus Christ" (TD 129) and that "all our perfection consists in our being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus" (TD 120).

4. Baptism and Montfort’s "slavery of love"

Saint Louis Marie constantly reminds us that Baptism brings about a radical, total belonging to Jesus. He found no other term to express this fundamental reality than the evangelical word "slavery," stripped of all servility and injustice. Montfort intended to underline the radical transformation of the baptized person and, still more, the newness of life consequent to Baptism: "From what Jesus Christ is in regard to us, we must conclude as Saint Paul says, that we belong not to ourselves but entirely to him as his members and his slaves" (TD 68).

There is a "before and after." "Before baptism, we belonged to the devil as slaves, but baptism made us in very truth slaves of Jesus. We must therefore live, work and die for the sole purpose of bringing forth fruit for him" (TD 68). This contrast of "before and after" is found time and gain in the missionary’s writings (cf. TD 73, 126; SM 34, etc.). Justifying the wearing of little chains as a sign of this dependence, he writes: "These little chains are a wonderful aid in recalling the bonds of sin and the slavery of the devil from which baptism has freed him. At the same time, they remind him of the dependence on Jesus promised at baptism" (TD 238). He recalls holy persons who wore a little chain around their neck or arm "to remind them, as they worked with their hands, they are slaves of Jesus" (TD 242). It cannot be overstressed that slavery of love is for Montfort essentially different from slavery of nature or constraint, for baptismal slavery to Jesus Christ is neither debasing nor dehumanizing. On the contrary, it is the very peak of love and liberty: "Voluntary slavery is the most perfect . . . for by it we give the greatest glory to God who looks into the heart and wants it to be given to him.. . . We must belong to Jesus as willing slaves who, moved by generous love, commit themselves to his service. . . . Baptism made us the slaves of Jesus. Christians can only be slaves of the devil or slaves of Christ" (TD 70, 73). Faith is a belonging to: through Baptism we belong to the Lord not only as Creator and Sustainer but as Lover in Jesus Christ. The "belonging to" is so total that love seeks terms to express the depth of this relationship: "slavery" applied to our baptismal relationship with Jesus is clearly, for Montfort, the language of love.

5. Baptism and renewal

Montfort’s teaching on Baptism is essentially directed towards the renewal of Christianity. It is not abstract theory, not theological speculation. It fulfills a special concern of his apostolic spirit: to renew the spirit of Christianity among the faithful by persuading them to renew their baptismal allegiance to Christ with all that such a step entails.

Saint Louis de Montfort sought to have his people open their hearts not only to the forgiveness of sins but to a dynamic new depth of fidelity to the Gospel in all its dimensions. Among the causes of infidelity to the Lord, the missionary singles out two: forgetfulness/ignorance and weakness in the face of the demands of baptismal life, a weakness heightened by the temptations of the world and the devil.

Louis Marie speaks of the first cause of infidelity when he writes: "Does anyone keep this great vow? Does anyone fulfill the promises of baptism faithfully? Is it not true that nearly all Christians prove unfaithful to the promises made to Jesus in baptism? Where does this universal failure come from, if not from man’s habitual forgetfulness of the promises and responsibilities of baptism?" (TD 127). The only real remedy for this ignorance and forgetfulness was to enlighten his people on the subject of the meaning, splendor, and demands of Baptism. Father de Montfort gives to the conscious and loving renewal of baptismal promises the title "Consecration." He thereby wished to underline that he was advocating a willing endorsement, a formal acceptance of the "covenant contract" previously made with God through godparents (TD 127).

6. Baptism and perfect renewal through Mary

The second cause explaining Christian infidelity to the vows of Baptism is, so Montfort believed, the weakness of mankind of itself, especially in face of the temptations of the world and the devil. His insistence on this point is so emphatic that he is not altogether free from Augustinian pessimism (TD 78-89); it must be said in the same breath, however, that his stress on the grandeur of man flowing from Baptism is far stronger than any comments he makes on the nothingness of man of himself. The question is, then, how to preserve the greatness of our baptismal life in the face of the alien value system of the world. Montfort suggests a way to be counterculture: a loving acceptance of Our Lady’s maternal role and powerful intercession. The more we have recourse to the spiritual Mother of all the baptized, the more easily she can help us to journey in fidelity and to strive for perfection in Christ. This is the whole thrust of the first part of TD. "The more one is consecrated to Mary, the more one is consecrated to Jesus. That is why perfect consecration to Jesus is but a perfect and complete consecration of oneself to the Blessed Virgin . . . or in other words, it is the perfect renewal of the vows and promises of holy baptism" (TD 120).


IV. CURRENT VALUE OF MONTFORT’S THOUGHT ON BAPTISM

As Montfort’s time was an age of "new evangelization," so too is ours. As Montfort stressed Baptism and the renewal of its promises as an effective instrument of reform, we too can find in his practice a contemporary tool of evangelization. In fact, the renewal of our baptismal commitment is a necessity in order for the Church truly to be the "Ecclesia semper reformanda."

1. Baptism, point of departure for re-evangelization

Montfort’s missionary program for renewal of the Christian spirit among the faithful was characterized by the primary and fundamental importance attached to Baptism. And rightly so, for Baptism, with its new life, manifested by a new conduct and spirit, is the Sacrament that establishes the fundamental identity of the Christian. To renew and strengthen the very root of the Christian life clearly contributes to a growing maturity among the people of God.

The Second Vatican Council, with some twenty references to Baptism, pointedly contributed to a reaffirmation of this Sacrament of initiation into new life in Christ. The powerful secularizing trends of the world today challenge the Christian and are so strong that some have been swept away in its flood. A renewal of the sense of Baptism and of its demands in contemporary society can only aid a Christian to appreciate and live the radical newness that this first Sacrament demands.

Pope John Paul II teaches: "It is of supreme importance that all Christians appreciate the extraordinary dignity conferred on them in Baptism."7 Montfort appears as a master in the program of re- Christianization because of his constant teaching on Baptism and its demands.

The Gospel received with faith leads to Baptism (Mk 13:15-16). In this Sacrament the entire Christian existence is found in embryo. The Christian is not someone who was baptized by a rite sometime in the past; the baptized is and always remains a person who must become more and more one with Jesus in the power of the spirit (Acts 2:38). One cannot talk of Christian life and its demands, one cannot stress renewal and "new evangelization" without reference to Baptism itself.

2. Renewed and adapted teaching on Baptism

In the ecclesial context of his time and faithful to pastoral directives, Montfort gave proof of daring and imagination in bringing Christians to a realization of the grandeur of their Baptism. We are not to copy him to the last detail; he surely did not slavishly copy his predecessors. He was conditioned by the sacramental theology of his day; there are other points of emphasis in our time. But his apostolic spirit, his stress on a deeper knowledge and living of Baptism, and his insistence on the solemn renewal of baptismal promises are valid in every age of the Church.

In virtue of the principle that no one desires what is not known (nil volitum quin cognitum), teaching on Baptism must aim first of all at enlightening Christians to the radical and incredibly powerful transformation brought on by this Sacrament. Its essential role as the first gate to union with the Triune God and its foundational importance in every aspect of our life in Christ must be so underlined that hearers are stirred to a desire to live its reality more deeply.

Teaching and catechetical instruction (in a parish mission, a retreat, adult education classes, or a parish celebration) should take their inspiration from the Church’s practice in the renewed baptismal liturgy. Going far beyond any presentation of the sacramental rite as a "thing," what needs to be highlighted above all is the newness and the quality of the relationship of life with Jesus and, through him, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and indeed with all of God’s family on heaven and earth. The rites themselves are the best means of preparing for a renewal of baptismal commitment. In this way, emphasis is given to the symbolic wealth of the celebration: words (the Word of God, the liturgical texts), gestures, material elements (water, oil, light), along with the different people involved. God comes to us through the senses. In a world more and more influenced by the audiovisual, the liturgy—heard and seen in all its power, rather than artificially conducted—offers unsuspected possibilities for teaching and catechetical instruction. This calls for an effort of reflection and imagination on our part.

3. Baptismal renewal and Mary

A characteristic note of Montfort’s program for "renewing the spirit of Christianity among the faithful" and for making them "true disciples of Jesus Christ" (TD 111) was the place he gave to Mary in his teaching and in baptismal renewal. His goal is evident: to assure fidelity to Jesus Christ to the point of perfect, loving unity with him. His staunch advocacy of perfect Consecration to Jesus Christ includes as an essential element the reality of its Marian dimension. Although language, ceremonies, and emphases vary according to generation and culture, the renewal of baptismal commitment is not in line with Montfort’s thought if it does not explicitly bring out the evangelical role of Mary in salvation history. There is no perfect renewal of the vows of Baptism that omits Our Lady. Her role is not an artificial one, imagined by this vagabond missionary. Rather, it is willed by God Himself. The Second Vatican Council and the supreme pastors of the Church have emphasized this maternal influence of Mary. Christians are entitled to know Mary as their spiritual Mother; this knowledge leads not only to imitation but to an openness to her efficacious maternal influence, which can only strengthen one’s living in Christ Jesus, i.e., in one’s baptismal reality.

Montfort is a witness to and a master of such a spirituality, which is rooted in the Incarnation and finds its image in John’s taking Mary into his life as a "disciple" (Jn 19:27). Saint Louis de Montfort is not the only such witness, nor the first, but certainly the greatest and more relevant than ever. We cannot but see a need of our own times expressed in the prophetic words of Saint Louis Marie: "God in these times wishes his Blessed Mother to be more known, loved and honored than she has ever been" (TD 55; cf. 47-50, 113).

4. Baptism and the Body of Christ

At the root of Montfort’s love for the poor and his demands that they share in the opportunities and wealth of the rich is his profound belief in the reality of Baptism. It is the Sacrament that makes individuals "family." It brings all together at the table of the Lord, erasing the differences imposed by society. It makes all understand that everyone shares in one fundamental vocation: Christ Jesus. God is hidden in my neighbor, as Saint Louis Mary sings (H 148), not only because we have all been created by the one God but also because we are called to be one in the Lord through Baptism. This has a radical effect not only on the relationship between poor and rich but also on international relationships. For Baptism clearly teaches that power is not for dominance but for service.

J. Hémery


Notes: (1) Cf. J.M. Bonin, Consécration à Marie et promesses baptismales selon saint Louis-Marie de Montfort, Centre Marial, Montreal 1960; M. Gendrot, Vie baptismale et dévotion mariale chez Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, in De cultu mariano saeculis XVII-XVIII, vol. 5 of Acta congressus mariologici-mariani internationalis in Republica Melitensi anno 1983 celebrati, Pontificia Academia mariana internationalis, Rome 1987, 81-111. (2) CCC, 1213. (3) The Catechism of the Council of Trent for Parish Priests Issued by Order of Pius V is not a manual for the faithful but for pastors, who would find in its clear, orthodox teaching a source for their sermons and conferences. (4) Grandet, 100-101. (5) LS also contains Montfort’s resume of a conference given by Father Lechassier on the Sacrament of Baptism. It is not included in GA but can be found in OC, 1752-1754. (6) Grandet, 408-412. (7) Christifideles laici 64.

 

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Taken from: Jesus Living in Mary: Handbook of the Spirituality of St.
Louis de Montfort
(Litchfield, CT: Montfort Publications, 1994).

Provided courtesy of the Montfort Fathers © All Rights Reserved.

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