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

CHILDHOOD


Summary
I.	Montfort and Childhood: 
	1.	Montfort’s childhood; 
	2.	Montfort’s concern for children and the 
		establishment of schools. 
II.	The "Spirit of Childhood" in the Seventeenth Century. 
III.	Childhood Spirituality in the Work of Montfort: 
	1.	Contemplation of the Infant Jesus; 
	2.	Loving contemplation of children; 
	3.	Spiritual childhood and Marian spirituality. 
IV.	Actualization: 
	1.	Mission of educating children; 
	2.	Spiritual childhood, adult spirituality; 
	3.	Spiritual childhood in the hands of Mary.

I. MONTFORT AND CHILDHOOD

1. Montfort’s childhood

Louis Grignion was born on January 31, 1673, in the small town of Montfort-la-Cane, which borders on the dense forest of Brocéliande. The newborn was baptized in the hands of the Montfort parish priest, Father Pierre Hindré, on February 1, and given the name of Louis. Grandet states that Montfort added the name Marie to his own name when he received the Sacrament of Confirmation, because of his great devotion to Mary, the Mother of God.1

Louis Grignion did not remain at home but was put in the care of a wet nurse, Mother André, who lived on a farm on the family property of La Bachelleraie, four kilometers from Montfort-la-Cane.

On July 16, 1675, Louis’s father, Jean-Baptiste Grignion, purchased the lands of the Bois Marquer, the Plessis Bois Marquer, and La Chesnaie in the parish of Iffendic. From 1675 to 1685, between the ages of two and eleven, Louis lived in his family’s newly acquired manor house. The family was not notably wealthy, but its members were conscious of their social position. Their income from the legal profession was negligible.

The first biographers of Louis-Marie (Grandet, Blain, Besnard) described his childhood as that of a saint whose character was angelic. They presented Louis as a human being who had been touched neither by original sin nor by the consequences of Adam’s disobedience. He was not attracted to evil, had no difficulty practicing virtue, and was capable of tasting the joys of holiness. However, it must be said that Louis had a normal childhood. He grew up with both feet planted on the ground. His psyche was influenced by the same growth factors that contribute to the development of any child.

Louis was the second of eighteen children in the household. The first, Jean-Baptiste, had lived only five months. Eight of the children lived to adulthood: Louis, Joseph, Gabriel, and Jean-Baptiste among the boys, and Guyonne-Jeanne (Louise), Renée, Sylvie, and Françoise Marguerite among the girls. As the eldest, Louis demonstrated a sense of responsibility and a great maturity that would only be strengthened with time.

Louis Marie benefited from his environment, from the warm affection that was showered upon him, and from his relationships with those around him. In short, he spent his childhood in a positive environment, which contributed toward making him the man and saint he was to be. This is confirmed by Father Gilbert, his first professor at Rennes, who said that even then the pious young man "was one of those whom God had favored with the marks of distinction."2

Thanks to the love and patience of their parents, the Grignion children grew strong in their sense of personal responsibility and confidence in them- selves. But not surprisingly, Louis’s father, responsible for raising a large family on a meager income, was easily provoked. He was, however, a solid Christian and a member of the con-fraternity of the Blessed Virgin. He raised his children in "the fear of God."

Louis’s mother, Jeanne Robert, silently and humbly devoted herself to educating her numerous children. Pregnancies at short intervals and the birth of eighteen children had its effect on the health of Madame Grignion. Louis realized that his mother’s situation was difficult and showed her compassion. From the age of four or five, according to his uncle Alain Robert, he "he supported his mother when he saw her afflicted, consoling her and encouraging her to suffer with patience."3

The church of Iffendic must have made a deep impression on the spirit of the young Grignion, laying a solid foundation for his unwavering faith with its stained glass windows magnificently depicting the mysteries of salvation history, its baptismal fonts where he assisted at the baptisms of his brothers and sisters and where he himself renewed his baptismal promises on many occasions. In this church he received the Sacrament of Confirmation and was instructed in the rudiments of the Christian faith.

Louis Grignion was shaped by these realities. His faith as a child echoed that of his parents and his entire community. But there was something else. The tender hand of God constantly guided him by means of a special grace, and this changed everything. Grandet and Blain point this out. A modern psychologist would call it religious conditioning. But in religious terms, it is obvious that God was forming Louis and that the first spark of his faith, like his first desire for God, was God’s work.4

2. Montfort’s concern for children and the establishment of schools

One of Montfort’s concerns in his missionary life was to educate children in the faith. Charles Besnard says that the establishment of Christian schools and of the Daughters of Wisdom at La Rochelle preoccupied Louis Marie for the six or seven weeks he spent in that coastal town. The bishop assured him of the necessary building and money, but preparing for the opening of classes was a difficult task. Louis Marie, however, gave himself no respite and did not allow himself to become discouraged by the difficulty. To the great surprise of everyone, he overcame the obstacles and opened the boys’ schools first, with three teachers whom he had chosen and with a priest to say Mass.5 Montfort’s concern with the educative aspect of the Church’s mission, and for the Brothers who were fulfilling this mission, was so great that in his will he bequeathed his small pieces of furniture and his mission books "for the use of the four Brothers who joined me in a life of obedience and poverty; namely, Brother Nicholas of Poitiers, Brother Philip of Nantes, Brother Louis of La Rochelle, and Brother Gabriel, who is at present with me." He also put at the disposal of the "Brothers of the community of the Holy Spirit to conduct charity schools" "two pieces of land given by the Lieutenant of Vouvant’s wife, and a small house given by a good lady of rank" (W).

To ensure that everyone, especially the poor, could benefit from the Christian schools he had established, Montfort insisted that the education be given at no charge. He established detailed regulations governing the teachers and students, the use of their time, the exercises to be adhered to, and the pious observances to be introduced.

He wished to educate children in the faith so that his missions would bear fruit for generations to come. Louis Marie himself trained the schoolmasters and instructed them how to teach in his way and draw the best from the students.

After the establishment of the charitable schools (schools for the poor) at La Rochelle, the young people remained neither rude nor ignorant, and the town’s inhabitants were pleasantly surprised. As late as Besnard’s time, the schools founded by Louis Marie were still in existence "for the use of the public, the honor of religion, and the glory of these two great men."6 The two great men were apparently the Bishop of La Rochelle and Louis Marie de Montfort.


II. THE "SPIRIT OF CHILDHOOD" IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

Montfort’s historical and spiritual environment was not indifferent to children. We need only remember the various institutions for children that resulted from the zeal of J.B. de la Salle, Démia, and Montfort himself, who was particularly interested in the development of children and the establishment of charity schools.

But it is also necessary to identify the shape of a spirituality of childhood, which reached "its historical zenith" in France during the seventeenth century.7 In the reign of Louis XIV we find several spiritual writers whom Bremond called "the doctors of the spirituality of childhood."8 They included well-known authors, such as Bérulle and Condren, but also others who were less well known, such as Amelote, de Renty, Saint-Jure, and the Sulpician Blanlo, who in 1665 wrote a book entitled Christian Childhood.9 One reason for the seventeenth century’s interest in Jesus’ childhood and the spirituality of Christian childhood lies in the prevailing cultural conception of mankind. It was influenced by the occasionalist philosophy of Malebranche, by Protestantism, and by Jansenist rigorism. In general, they saw human nature from a negative point of view. Man was weak, a sinner who must be humbled, who must attain even the smallest of virtues in order to be saved. Spirituality required fidelity to the most obscure aspects of life.10 This interest in small things might explain in part why seventeenth-century authors gave such attention to the mystery of Jesus’ childhood.

It was true that for certain spiritual writers in the tradition, childhood possessed human qualities of happiness, beauty, and tenderness, which reflected higher supernatural ones. But this assumption would be incorrect for most spiritual writers of that time. As Bremond remarks, devotion to the childhood of Jesus "such as proposed by Bérulle offers little to comfort our understanding or soften our heart. Bare, austere, merciless, it speaks to us of humiliation and death."11 In fact, for Bérulle and his disciples, childhood is the lowliest and most abject state of all, except for death.12 Condren identifies four basic childlike qualities: smallness of body, dependence on others, subservience, and uselessness.13

As a result, the spirit of childhood, so fundamental to the Gospel, did not mean imitating the joy, trust, ingenuity, and candor of the young Jesus; rather, it meant imitating his absolute helplessness. Bremond interprets the phrase "Nisi efficiamini sicut parvuli" in Bérullian terms as "If you do not adhere to my state of childhood, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven."14 This refers not to devotional practices but to a spirit, a condition, a coming together of interior dispositions. And this "spirit of childhood" requires "the annihilation of ourselves, docility before God, silence, and innocence" (Saint-Jure), "a state in which we are dead to everything" (de Renty), "no longer directing ourselves by our own spirit, but allowing ourselves to be moved and ruled by the Spirit of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (Blanlo).

This spirit of childhood, which does not proceed merely from a simple joyous contemplation, implies a relationship with the Cross, because Jesus in his cradle is destined for the Cross. It also implies a concrete relationship realized through charity: "The servants of the Holy Infant Jesus thought to aid one through action, not simply through an ideal devotion, as personified in the poor and abandoned little children" (Parisot).

After J.-J. Olier’s encounter with Marguerite du Saint-Sacrement, the spirituality of the childhood of Jesus entered into his life and into the seminary of Saint-Sulpice. But Olier was also sensitive to the most positive and attractive aspects of Jesus’s humanity: "The graces of this mystery are: innocence, purity, simplicity, obedience."15 Montfort would draw on this spirituality of childhood and speak of it as an aspect of his personal approach.

We should also note that in the mystery of the childhood of Jesus, Mary, his mother, is always present. If the crib is humble and austere, Mary’s womb is tender and venerable (Condren). Bérulle contemplates the "delights of Jesus in Mary," while his disciples pass quite naturally from Mary’s biological maternity to her spiritual maternity of humankind. Olier calls Mary "the nursing mother of the Church,"16 whereas Tronson, before Montfort, attributes to the Virgin Mary Ambroise Autpert’s expression (and believed to be Saint Augustine’s) forma Dei - to be shaped or formed in the mold of God.17


III. Childhood Spirituality in the Work of Montfort

1. Contemplation of the Infant Jesus

Montfort’s perspective on childhood is not so austere as that of Bérulle. Certainly, Montfort does not forget that the Incarnation is a mystery of kenosis (cf. LEW 70). In fact, with Bérulle, the saint emphasizes Jesus’ submission to Mary (he is not too familiar with the word "annihilation"), like "a slave captured by love." In effect, Wisdom "did not come into the world independently of others in the flower of his manhood, but he came as a frail little child dependent on the care and attention of his Mother" (TD 139). For Montfort, the idea of childhood is tied to that of dependence and, indeed, obedience. That is why he interprets the evangelical demand to become a child to mean giving the most complete obedience: "You must become a child, / . . . A child obedient. . ." (H 10:11). Later in the same hymn he writes, "We will obey a child / . . . As a child I obey" (H 10:24 and 40; cf. H 45:13; RW 297).

But Montfort’s divergence from Bérulle’s austerity is obvious when he contemplates Jesus in Mary’s womb and in the cradle at Bethlehem. Mary’s womb is the "truly earthly paradise" where the new Adam "performed . . . so many hidden marvels" (TD 248); "There are in this earthly paradise untold riches, beauties, rarities and delights" (TD 261). It is the glorious throne of Jesus, where can be found greater happiness than in the bosom of Abraham (TD 199).

When Montfort joyfully contemplates the Infant Jesus, "like the Magi" he is conscious of the "tender features of this lovely child" (LEW 121), and with the shepherds he exclaims, "Oh, this child is beautiful!" (H 58:9). He is delighted before "this dear child" who is the "King of Heaven": "Oh this attractive child / has a divine face! / His tender eyes are secret charms / that speak in silence" (H 61:5). Montfort’s strongest impression of the cradle at Bethlehem is admiration for the amiability and beauty of the Infant Jesus: "Oh little baby, / You are so lovable! / Oh little lamb, / You are so beautiful!" (H 59:11). Montfort emphasizes Jesus’ love for children by calling to mind the episode in the Gospel when the Apostles pushed the children away from him. "On seeing this Jesus rebuked his apostles and said to them, ‘Do not keep the children away from me.’ When they gathered about him he embraced and blessed them with gentleness and kindness" (LEW 124).

Montfort’s positive conception of childhood enables us to understand the meaning he gives to Christ’s invitation to become a child: "If you want to get to heaven, you must become as a little child, that is, you must be simple, innocent and gentle as a little child" (MLW 61).

In conclusion, Montfort avoids the unilateral perspective that views the Christ Child only in terms of humiliation and death. While he acknowledges limits to childhood, he sees love beyond the poverty, and beauty and power beyond the abjection: "He is a child, but he is adorable, / He is abject, but he is lovable" (H 60:11); "And all do speak of him / In his divine childhood. / They see in his poverty, / His love is extreme" (H 61:2). Although the Infant Jesus is forever linked to the Cross, there always remains this context of love (LEW 169).

2. Loving contemplation of children

Montfort’s vision of childhood is not idyllic. His own experience leads him to perceive several habitual faults in children: "a tendency to lack religious modesty in your bearing, which makes you act like a child" (RW 176); "children are naturally inclined to laugh a lot" (RM 82); "explained the Hail Mary word by word as he would to a group of children" (SR 13); "were you to cry like a baby or a woman" (LEW 102); "I can only lisp like a child" (LEW 1).

At the same time, Montfort cites Mt 18:3: "Beware of showing contempt for any of my little ones; their angels see the face of my Father" (LEW 147), from which he derives his profound respect for children. Moreover, he applies to Jesus expressions of the most tender love for children: "I love your age very much, / My dear little ones. / I have taken it for my own, / God who I am, / I am a child / And I love childhood . . ." (H 93:3). Montfort addresses himself to children by entrusting to them the recitation of a part of the Rosary and by calling them "dear little friends" (SR 8). He recommends to catechists that they never strike children "either with [their] hand or with the cane" but, rather, that "like a kind teacher, [they] encourage them by praising them, by promising and giving them rewards and by showing them affection" (RM 80). In sum, "the oil of love" must outweigh "the vinegar of fear" (RM 80).

Montfort points to the qualities of children that make them good models for adults: obedience (H 10:11,24,40), tenderness (H 9:16; MLW 61), simplicity (MLW 61), filial trust in Mary (H 79:5; 80:10). These virtues of childhood are necessary for Christians—"Become, through grace, / Like this child . . ." (H 97:10)—but Montfort also wants to lead his people to spiritual maturity, to adulthood in Christ (TD 119, 156; LEW 227). This means abandoning and even scorning the games of superficial value that satisfy children: "Before you can be a perfect man / You must be deaf, dumb, and blind / To all the little jokes and trifles, / Made for children and fools . . ." (H 25:32).

3. Spiritual childhood and Marian spirituality

Abandoning oneself to Providence in complete trust like a child is an important aspect of Montfort spirituality. To remain little is to recognize one’s own nothingness and to expect everything from God, like little children who expect everything from their parents. Louis Marie wrote, "Whatever happens I shall not be worried. I have a Father in heaven who will never fail me" (L 2). Letters 7, 8, and 33 express the same confidence in the Providence of the Father, Who will always be present.

When Montfort preached devotion to Mary, he simply asked Christians to follow Jesus Christ, who was submissive and obedient to Mary and dependent on her (TD 18, 139, 156, 157). By offering himself to Jesus Christ through Mary, he took the shortest and most direct road to perfection: that of the child. In this way, he recognized his poverty, weakness, and smallness and gave himself totally to the almighty protection of God. By this simple means of acting like a child, Louis Marie shows us a shortened path to holiness. Those who have received the grace to follow this spiritual road therefore must be malleable like children; they must allow themselves to be shaped and molded according to the desires of the almighty Maker. They must abandon themselves wholly to Mary, body and soul, without reservation, so as to belong to Jesus. It is "the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus" (TD 55). To acknowledge one’s own spiritual incapacity is to practice the spirit of evangelical poverty. To the same extent that we recognize our sins, our poverty, our weakness, and our smallness, we grasp the need to be saved, liberated, and loved by him who alone is capable of filling this need by his own strength. Mary is recommended to us as the way that leads to Jesus precisely so that it will be easier for us always to remain poor in spirit.

Montfort’s exegetes have not failed to scrutinize "the close relationship between perfect devotion and spiritual childhood."18 Montfort often links the words "children and servants" (LEW 222; TD 203, 208), "children and slaves" (LEW 227), "servants, slaves, and children" (TD 56, 113).

According to A. Lhoumeau, who devotes a chapter to Spiritual Childhood, "in order to easily recognize in our own devotion the spirit and practices of spiritual childhood, we have only to consider its object, its motives, and its practices."19 For Montfort, Mary is venerated and "envisaged above all as Mother," i.e., in her spiritual maternity. It follows from this that we in Christ are the children of this same mother, and have infirmities, faults, and needs "analogous to those of natural childhood." Lhoumeau successfully characterizes childhood and slavery. In effect, "what is characteristic of childhood, its most salient trait, is to be in a state of dependence. . . . This state of childhood demonstrates to us clearly that our total dependence on the Blessed Virgin must be a slavery of love."20

For M. Th. Poupon, there is a special affinity between Montfort and Thérèse of Lisieux, even if at first glance the existence of a link be- tween the Montfort path and the Theresian path appears surprising: "Humility and simplicity, charity and abandon, these are the rich virtues that characterize holy slavery; these are also the distinctive jewels of spiritual childhood."21

Whereas for Lhoumeau and Poupon the dependence of love is expressed in voluntary slavery and spiritual childhood, F.M. Lethel sees in Anselm’s "Fac totum tuum dilectione" (Doing everything out of love) the basis for a different language from that of Montfort and Thérèse of Lisieux: "the deepest desire of love is always to give of oneself entirely, to the point of no longer belonging to oneself but of belonging entirely to the loved one, to the point of being possessed by him or her."22

If we can distinguish an itinerary of Marian spirituality that Montfort presents to Christians, it would begin with the state of childhood and end with the gift of oneself in the complete availability or slavery of love, leading to the liberty of the children of God that is the height or the fruit of perfect Marian devotion (TD 215).


IV. ACTUALIZATION

Montfort’s interest in children and his use of childhood to distinguish a level of spiritual life poses to us the challenge of interpreting his intuitions for contemporary life.

1. Mission of educating children

Montfort alerted us to the importance of school for educating children. Today this task is part of the Church’s pastoral mission, which must take an active role in anything that touches the lives of mankind. In its declaration on Christian education, the Second Vatican Council proclaims "the primary rights of men with respect to education, especially those of children" (GE, preamble) and recognizes that "since it can contribute so substantially to fulfilling the mission of God’s people, and can further the dialogue between the Church and the family of man, to their mutual benefit, the Catholic school retains its immense importance in the circumstances of our times too" (GE 8).

We must certainly recognize the fundamental educative role of parents, who, having given life to their children, "have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children." It is their responsibility "to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and men that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children" (GE 3). But parents must be assisted by society and the Church, which appoint authorized teachers to continue the task of education.

The children of Christian families pose a pedagogical problem: should education begin with their human development or with education in the supernatural, as the urgencies of biblical revelation would suggest? It is true that education may have several aspects: intellectual, affective, social, Christian, etc. But contemporary social sciences militate against any partial consideration of children’s needs in favor of a complete and all-inclusive development.

From what we know of Montfort, it is clear that he achieved an educational synthesis that encompassed both ordinary school subjects (reading, writing, mathematics, etc.) and catechism simultaneously. He thus ensured a social education in a context of Christian instruction, following the pedagogy of his time.

It is interesting to note that the directions of Vatican II coincide with those of Montfort. The council, indeed, favors and promotes an education that "does not merely strive to foster in the human person the maturity already described. Rather, its principal aims are these: that as the baptized person is gradually introduced into a knowledge of the mystery of salvation, he may daily grow more conscious of the gift of faith which he has received" (GE 2). No dichotomy should be imposed between human development and Christian development. The purpose of the Catholic school is "to help the adolescent in such a way that the development of his own personality will be matched by the growth of that new creation which he became by baptism" (GE 8). That is why, for the council as well as for Montfort, the primary appropriate educative means is "catechetical training" (GE 4).

Beyond the content of an all-inclusive education, no educator can dispense with two attitudes that Montfort displayed to the highest degree: love for the children and living testimony to what one teaches.

2. Spiritual childhood, adult spirituality

We have noted that Montfort, while proposing the child as a model for the evangelical life, warned against our falling into spiritual infantilism. He labored to lead Christians to "the fullness of the age of Christ" (TD 156).

Today we are similarly trying to recover the authentic meaning of spiritual childhood in the light of the Gospel while at the same time avoiding "spiritual infantilism serving pseudo-adulthood."23

The NT teaching on this point is quite clear. On the one hand it is necessary to "become like children" to "enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 18:3), to receive the kingdom of God "as a little child" (Mk 10:13-16; Lk 18:15-17), to be "infants" to receive the revelation of the Father (Mt 11:26; Lk 10:21). This is, in its urgency, a permanent attitude, the essence of which is a radical availability to the Word of God and to His Kingdom. "What Jesus recommends is neither the innocence of children, nor their obedience, nor even their simplicity as such, but their humility and their receptivity, full of confidence."24 We must regain the true evangelical message, beyond what is commonplace: "In the social parable of the child, its summit is his trusting behavior, not, as is so often mistakenly believed, his ingenuity. The child does not have the distrustful prudence of the adult but with spontaneity and trust remains open to whatever leads him, without calculation or prolonged reflection."25

On the other hand, "while the Gospels privilege children by endowing them with the symbolic value of authentic disciples, because of their availability to divine calls (Mk 10:15; Mt 18:3-4, 19:14), the Epistles of the New Testament often call on us to give up childhood ‘so that . . . you may grow into salvation’ (1 Pet 2:2)."26 This indicates that the Christian, while remaining childlike in his availability and openness to God, must not stop at the infantile stage characterized by instability (Eph 4:14) and by the inability to enter into the mystery of the Cross (1 Cor 3:1-3). He must become mature (Heb 5:11-14; 1 Cor 14:20), perfect (1 Cor 2:6), spiritual (1 Cor 3:1; 6:9).

Religious writers often quote Saint Thérèse de Lisieux when speaking of spiritual childhood and maturity: "I must remain little, and become more and more so."27 This is because spiritual childhood is a mystical attitude of humble, filial trust, of total and conscious abandon.

So we must accept the words of Jesus on childhood in terms of life and hope. It is a question of becoming and of being reborn. In our current context, being reborn means to become spiritually young again, which implies that we live in joy like a child. To become a child means to refuse defeatism and pessimism. It is to be certain that life and the human adventure have meaning, that our history must be located in the present and also in the future, that the most fundamental hopes of humanity will have the last word. It is to become inventive and creative.

Insofar as Louis Marie rejected defeatism and despair at the worst moments of conflict, when confronted with difficulties and crosses, he was not only interpreting the words of Jesus but practicing them in his life.

3. Spiritual childhood in the hands of Mary

Montfort’s tenderness toward the Mother of Jesus, who became our Mother by the plan of the Trinity (TD 30-32, 37, 85; SM 8-12, 22), finds unforgettable expression: "Mary is my sole support, / In all my misery. / When cares press on me urgently / I say, just like a child, / Mother, mother, mother" (H 79:5). In contrast to the Jansenist rationalistic devotion to Mary, Montfort lives and offers a devotion that is "trustful, that is to say, it fills us with confidence in the Blessed Virgin, the confidence that a child has for its loving Mother" (TD 107).

Montfort does not stop, however, at true and tender expressions of love for Mary. Responding to the reality of Mary, Mother in the order of grace, he makes himself totally available to the spiritual maternity of the Blessed Virgin. He wishes to live as a child in Mary, depending on her for everything as a child in her womb would, until he is brought forth to eternal life (cf. TD 33).

But it is easy to see that this image of the child in the maternal womb, in slavery to his mother, is not the only expression of a filial life with Mary. The model or paradigm from which Montfort willingly draws his inspiration is that of an adult, a well-loved disciple who receives Mary as his mother and lives with her as her son: "Like St. John the Evangelist at the foot of the Cross, I have taken her times without number as my total good and as often have I given myself to her" (SM 66; cf. TD 179, 216, 266).

Contemporary exegesis underlines the importance of the presence of Mary at the foot of the Cross (Jn 19:25-27). This episode is constructed according to a "plan of revelation": Jesus shows us Mary’s role in the story of salvation, and the reception that his disciples must give her. The disciples are represented by the "disciple whom he loved," who represents the perfect believer, characterized by intimacy with Jesus (Jn 21:21), fidelity (Jn 19:25-27), and the gaze of contemplation (Jn 21:7). To this adult disciple Jesus gives his mother like a precious treasure, which must be received "into his own home" (Jn 19:27). This is the inheritance of the disciple of Jesus: the Word (Jn 12:14, 17:8), the Eucharist (Jn 6:51-58), the Spirit (Jn 7:39, 14:17; 20:22), grace (Jn 1:16).

With these comparisons of the little child and the adult, Montfort seems to apply to a filial relationship with Mary the two orientations of the NT: to become a child is to become mature in Christ.

But the filial life with the Virgin Mary is not a closed circle. For Montfort, "Mary is entirely relative to God" (TD 225): she is not a stopping point for the faithful but projects them toward the Trinity and finally toward God the Father. Living with Mary in an attitude of trust and self-giving is, according to Montfort, only an introduction to living as children of the Father. This is the effect of Montfort’s Consecration: "Those who are led by the spirit of Mary are children of Mary, and consequently children of God . . ." (TD 258).

J. Vettickal-S. De Fiores


Notes: (1) Grandet, 2. But Sibold (Le sang des Grignion, I [The history of the Grignions]) believes, with good reason, that Montfort received the name Marie on his baptismal day; his godmother was named Marie Lemoyne. (2) Blain, 4. (3) Grandet, 2. (4) On Montfort’s first religious expressions, cf. S. De Fiores, Itinerario, 19-33. (5) Besnard II, 109-111. (6) Besnard, II, 111. (7) François de Sainte Marie and Ch. Bernard, Enfance spirituelle (Spiritual Childhood), in DSAM 4 (1960), 709. (8) Henri Bremond, Histoire litteraire du sentiment religieux en France depuis la fin des guerres de religion jusqu’à nos jours, 3:525 Paris; Bloud and Gay, 1921. Vol. 3, A Litterary History of Religious Thought in France from the Wars of Religion Down to Our Own Times, trans. K.L. Montgomery (New York; Macmillan Co. 1928) (9) Blanlo, L’enfance chrétienne qui est une participation de l’esprit et de la grâce du divin Enfant Jésus Verbe incarné (Christian Childhood, a Participation of the Spirit and Grace of the Holy Infant Jesus, Word Incarnate), Paris 1665. Several other authors should be added: É. Binet, Les saintes faveurs du Petit Jésus au coeur qu’il aime et qui l’aime (The Holy Favors of the Baby Jesus for the Heart That He Loves and That Loves Him), Paris 1626; R. Luyt, La plus éminente sagesse du christianisme, Jésus-Christ enfant (The Most Eminent Wisdom of Christianity, Jesus Christ Child), Paris 1648; C. Boussey, Jésus en son bas âge pour servir de modèle à la jeunesse chrétienne (Jesus at a Young Age As a Model for Christian Youth), 2 vols., Paris 1652; J. Auvray, L’enfance de Jésus et sa famille, honorée en la vie de soeur Marguerite du Saint-Sacrement (The Childhood of Jesus and His Family, Honored in the Life of Sister Marguerite of the Blessed Sacrament), Paris 1654; J. Parisot, Explication de la dévotion à la Sainte Enfance de Jésus-Christ Notre Seigneur (Explanation of Devotion to the Blessed Childhood of Jesus Christ Our Lord), Aix 1657; P. Floeur, Le Prince de paix, l’Enfant Jésus (The Prince of Peace, the Infant Jesus), Brussels-Mons 1662; B. Chaduc, Dieu enfant (God Child), Lyon 1682. (10) Cf. De Fiores, Itinerario, 202-203. (11) Bremond, p. 516. (12) Oeuvres de Bérulle (Works of Bérulle), 1007. (13) Condren, Considérations (Considerations), 58-62. (14) Bremond, 524. (15) Cf. E. Lévesque, J.-J. Olier, in DTC, 11/1:978. (16) Oeuvres de Monsieur Olier (Works of Olier), ed. Migne, 883. (17) Oeuvres complètes de Monsieur Tronson (Complete Works of Tronson), ed. Migne, 2:577. Cf. M. Quéméneur, La maternité de grâce de Marie chez les spirituels français du XVIIe siècle, de Saint François de Sales à Grignion de Montfort (The Maternity of Mary’s Grace among the French Spirituals of the Seventeenth Century from St. Francis de Sales to Grignion de Montfort), in EtMar 17 (1960), 69-118. (18) A. Lhoumeau, La vie spirituelle à l’école de Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (The Spiritual Life in the School of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort), Beyaert, Bruges 1954 (1st ed., 1901), 273. (19) Lhoumeau, La vie spirituelle, 273-274. (20) Ibid., 278-279. (21) M.-Th. Poupon, Le poème de la parfaite consécration à Marie (The Poem of Perfect Consecration to Mary), Library of the Sacred Heart, Lyon 1947, 418. (22) F.-M. Lethel, Connaître l’amour du Christ qui surpasse toute connaissance. La théologie des saints (Knowing the Love of Christ That Surpasses All Knowledge: The Theology of the Saints), Editions du Carmel, Venasque 1989, 216-217. (23) G. Rossetto, Enfance spirituelle et NT (Spiritual Childhood and the NT), in CM 85 (1972), 267. (24) M.-F. Berrouard, Enfance spirituelle (Spiritual Childhood), in DSAM 4/1 (1960), 691. (25) Rossetto, Enfance spirituelle et NT, 271. (26) S. De Fiores, Itinéraire spirituel (Spiritual Itinerary), in Dictionnaire de la vie spirituelle (Dictionary of the Spiritual Life), Cerf, Paris 1983, 553. (27) S. Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus, Manuscrits autobiographiques (Autobiographical Manuscripts), Lisieux 1957, 245. Therese de Lisieux, Autobiography; The Complete and Authorized Text L’histoire d’une ame, trans. Ronald Knox (New York; Kenedy, 1958) (28) Cf. M. de Goedt, Un schéma de révélation dans la quatrième évangile (A Plan of Revelation in the Fourth Gospel), in New Testament Studies 8 (1962), 142-150, and La Mère de Jésus en Jean 19,25-27 (The Mother of Jesus in John 19:25-27), in Keckaritomène. Mélanges René Laurentin (Keckaritomon: Miscellaneous Writings of René Laurentin), Desclée, Paris 1990, 207-216; A. Serra, Contributi all’antica letterature guidaica per l’esegesi di Giovanni 2:1-12 e 19:25-27 (Contributions to Ancient Jewish Litterature for the Exegesis of John 2:1-2 and 19:25-27), Herder, Rome 1977, and Maria a Cana e sotto la croce (Mary at Cana and beneath the Cross), 2nd ed., Center of Marian Culture "Madre della Chiesa," Rome 1991; Ignace de la Potterie, Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant, trans. Bertrand Buby (Staten Island, New York, Alba House, 1992).

 

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

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