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

MARY


Summary
I.	Introduction: 
	1.	Overall context of Montfort’s Marian teaching: 
		a.	Montfort’s overarching principle, 
		b.	Montfort’s Trinitarian Christocentricity, 
		c.	Montfort’s total spirituality, 
		d.	Montfort’s vocation, 
		e.	Montfort’s purpose in writing, 
		f.	Montfort, a preacher of his times. 
II.	Mary in the Life of Saint Louis de Montfort: 
	1.	Marian climate; 
	2.	Family experiences; 
	3.	College years at Rennes; 
	4.	Study at Saint-Sulpice: 
		a.	Olier-Tronson dialectic, 
		b.	Theological studies, 
		c.	The "Monita" crisis, 
		d.	Holy Slavery of love; 
	5.	Apostolic ministry: 
		a.	Parish missions and retreats, 
		b.	Stress on renewal of baptismal vows, 
		c.	Personal spirituality, 
		d.	The approbation of the Pope. 
III.	Mary in the Doctrine of Saint Louis de Montfort: the Incarnation: 
	1.	The Incarnation itself: 
		a.	Stress on the divinity of Jesus, 
		b.	The salvific Incarnation, 
		c.	The compendium of all mysteries; 
	2.	Our Lady’s role in the Incarnation: 
		a.	Some presuppositions, 
		b.	The self-communication of the Trinity to Mary, 
		c.	The consent of Mary, 
		d.	First conclusion: Mary, associate of the Redeemer, 
		e.	Second conclusion: the unifying principle of 		
			Montfort’s Mariology. 
IV.	Mary in the Doctrine of Saint Louis de Montfort: The 			
	Sanctification of the Members of the Body of Christ: 
	1.	Mediatrix of all grace: 
		a.	Mediatrix because full of grace, 
		b.	Mediatrix because of her consent; 
	2.	Mary, Mother of the redeemed: 
		a.	Spiritual Mother because graced by the Trinity, 
		b.	Mary, Mother of the redeemed through her consent;
	3.	The first consequence: Mary, Queen of all hearts; 
	4.	The second consequence: Mary necessary for salvation; 
	5.	Other Marian dogmas: 
		a.	The Assumption, 
		b.	The Immaculate Conception; 
	6.	Summary: The titles of Our Lady. 
V.	Relevance and Prospects of Montfort’s Marian doctrine:
	1.	Challenge to the contemporary world; 
	2.	Development of Montfort’s Marian doctrine.

I. INTRODUCTION

Saint Louis Marie de Montfort is known primarily for his devotion to Mary. There has not been one biographer who has not signaled out this trait; there has not been a mention of this saint in papal documents that has not underlined this characteristic. The vast majority of Catholics acquainted with the missionary immediately connect him to devotion to Our Lady and, in particular, to total Consecration or Holy Slavery. And there can be no doubt that to dissociate Marian devotion from Saint Louis de Montfort would be nothing short of the undoing of his very personality. His renown and enduring relevance in the field of devotion to the Mother of God is best summarized by Pope John Paul II’s statement that Montfort is "master of Marian spirituality" (RMat 48). Montfort focuses our attention on the fundamental role of Mary in salvation history and, therefore, on the solid basis of Marian devotion. It is impossible to deny the extraordinary impact of his Marian doctrine upon the Church.

1. Overall context of Montfort’s Marian teaching

The primary reason this vagabond preacher is known as the Apostle of Mary is his principal Marian work, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, as it was erroneously called by its first publishers after its fortuitous rediscovery in 1842. It has become a religious best-seller. The popes have lavishly praised it, and it has become the springboard for numerous apostolic associations and entered into the fabric of many religious Orders.

Great harm can be done, however, to the true image of Saint Louis de Montfort if his Marian devotion and his principal Marian writing become the sum total of the saint’s character. This has been done in the past, partly because of the impact of the discovery of TD, which relegated to the background his other writings and achievements as if they were not necessary for an understanding of his Marian devotion itself. Only by examining the total context can we appreciate his Marian teachings and thereby authentically promote his Christocentric devotion to the Mother of God. This point was brought out clearly by the second of the three theologians who examined Montfort’s writings with a view to his beatification. The "fundamental principle of the entire Marian Montfort doctrine," he wrote, "is the life of Jesus Christ in souls regenerated by holy Baptism."1

a. Montfort’s overarching principle.

Any study of Mary in the life and teachings of Saint Louis de Montfort must constantly keep in mind the motto he lived and the only one which he gave—somewhat like a battle cry—to his religious Congregations: "God Alone!" Evidently borrowed from his sources, especially H. Boudon,2 it becomes the passkey to an understanding of his life and his writings (cf. SM 20, 21; L 10, 15, 19, 27, 32; TD 151, 225, 265, etc.). Everything flows from God Alone, everything returns to God Alone. This exitus-reditus—the coming from God and the return to God (the skeleton of Saint Thomas’ Summa Theologiae)—is Montfort’s bare-bones outline, as is evident from his principal work, LEW. If we are searching for the role of Mary in Montfort doctrine, it must be situated within this overarching principle; it does not exist on its own. God is, for Montfort, "God-Charity" (TD 215; H 5; LS I, 60-72), the "Good Father" (cf. H 7:31; H 27-28; H 52-53; H 90:1; TD 215), the God of tenderness and loving care (H 52-53): "I have a Father in heaven whose providence will never fail me" (L 2). "These key formulas—God Alone, the Good Father—show the unity of the book. The loving folly according to which the Son of God, coming from the bosom of the Father, has taken the form of a slave in this world is fulfilled by the Cross and by the fiery gift of the Holy Spirit; it is completed in the filial return to God Alone, to the only Father, the source and the ultimate term of all love, in the Trinity as for humanity."3

An understanding of Montfort’s evangelical Marian doctrine can only be grasped if we constantly gaze upwards at the keystone that ties all together: God Alone. And as Montfort insists, this God is Charity, Love itself (cf. 1 Jn 2:4, 8). When this preacher proclaims that it is through Jesus that God is "calmed,"4 or that Mary "calms" Jesus our God, he is using an expression not only common to the Scriptures (cf. Rom 5:9) but suitable for the hearers of his time. In no way does he offend his overarching principle of God Alone, God Who is Love. Rather, it forcefully proclaims that Infinite Love is only effectively answered by Jesus’ redemptive cry of love from the Cross (cf. LEW 154, 176). If Mary "calms" Jesus, Montfort is proclaiming that Infinite Love wills that the Mother of God be humanity’s corporate personality in accepting acceptance, in total surrender to the Redemption won for us by Christ Jesus. She is the summary of the Church in total harmony with God through Christ Jesus. The analogy of "calming the wrath of God," in popular use in Western Christianity right up to the mid-twentieth century, may not appear appropriate in many contemporary cultures. But although the literary tool may not be always advisable today, the truth conveyed by Montfort is as solid as its scriptural foundation.

b. Montfort’s Trinitarian-Christocentricity.

Stated so emphatically in TD itself, Jesus Christ is the only Redeemer, the only Mediator, the only Way to the Father in the power of the Spirit (TD 61, 248). This essential Christian principle is a constant in everything that can be said about Montfort and, most especially, his Marian spirituality. So insistent is the missionary on Jesus Christ, the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom of the Father, that he does not hesitate to declare that if devotion to Our Lady did not lead us to Jesus, it must be called a diabolical illusion (TD 62). A summary sentence of the saint is found in LEW: "To know Jesus Christ the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom is to know enough; to know everything else but not to know Jesus is to know nothing" (LEW 11). Montfort’s Marian devotion must be situated within and never outside the emphatic Trinitarian-Christocentricity of his life and writings (cf. MC 25).

c. Montfort’s total spirituality .

LEW gives a more complete picture of Montfort spirituality than any other of his works. In it we encounter not only his theocentricity and his Christocentricity but also his stress on the Cross, which he exalts to the point of declaring: "Wisdom is the Cross and the Cross is Wisdom" (LEW 180). Montfort stresses that the Cross is to be adored, not Mary (H 102:23). The "emptying" of Incarnate Wisdom (cf. Phil 2:7) becomes the source for his phenomenal, practical love for the poor and for his utter simplicity of life: basic characteristics of Montfort spirituality. The meekness and approachableness of the Incarnate Wisdom, so constantly stressed (cf. LEW 117-132), are also found detailed in his hymns (cf. H 9:3-14; H 97:3-9; H 130:4-6; etc.)—a veritable catechism of the Christian faith—along with his emphasis on the Eucharist (H 129-134; etc.) and love for the Sacred Heart (H 40-44; H 47-48; etc.). LS gives us outlines of some of his missions, during which, usually on Saturday, a sermon on Mary was inserted (cf. GA, 567-571). In other words, all Montfort’s writings, their context, and his missionary, vagabond lifestyle form the essential framework for an authentic understanding of his Marian doctrine. Distortions will be attributed to his teaching on Mary if it is isolated from the total portrait of the saint and not inserted within the entire design of his spirituality.

d. Montfort’s vocation.

Saint Louis de Montfort is not a professional theologian. The pulpit is his rostrum, the crowded church his class. Saint Louis Marie is a missionary, a vagabond preacher to the masses, and his writings reflect his fundamental vocation. He is explicit on this point: "I speak particularly to the poor and simple who being of good will and having more faith than the common run of scholars, believe more simply and more meritoriously " (TD 26). It was never his intention to write a summa of Marian doctrine and devotion or to compose a Mariological treatise. And that is his genius: to proclaim the Gospel boldly, authentically, in words and style that truly enable his hearers —like Our Lady—to "hear the word of God and keep it" (Lk 11:28). Mary forms an integral part of the Good News, and the missionary here again displays a unique talent for proclaiming the core truth about her in a concise, stirring, down- to-earth manner, demonstrating how Mary is "the greatest means of all" (LEW 203) of arriving at union with Divine Wisdom. Although he heralds the truth "quite simply" (TD 26), this does not imply that his preaching is not founded on solid theological principles that he has integrated into his own life.

e. Montfort’s purpose in writing.

Montfort the author is identical with Montfort the missionary. But his principal Marian works—SM, TD, SR, and the hymns, especially 49, 74-90, 104, 111, 145, 151, 155, and 159—do not touch on all aspects of his Marian preaching. There is, for example, precious little about Mary’s Assumption and Immaculate Conception or even Mary at the foot of the Cross, although we can presume that these did form part of his evangelizing.

His works on Our Lady have as their stated goal to form true disciples of Jesus Christ (TD 111, 114). He therefore decides to focus his more doctrinal Marian writings on a rather precise aim: to depict Mary at the very heart of the Christian mystery, the Incarnation, so that in her and with her we may live our baptismal commitment ever more fully in the Spirit, through Christ Jesus for the glory of God the Father.

f. Montfort, a preacher of his time.

Finally, it is the glory of this roving troubadour of Our Lady that he speaks so eloquently and powerfully to the people of his age. He is not a man of the twenty-first century; if he were, he would have been a failure as a preacher in the early 1700s. He is, like all God’s creatures, time- and culture-bound. We must not expect, therefore, to find in his writings on Our Lady topics like "Mary and the feminist movement," any more than we would expect a reference to Our Lady of Lourdes. It is remarkable how closely his doctrine does dovetail with Paul VI’s MC and LG, chap. 8; nonetheless, it is, of necessity, couched in the culture, language, and thought patterns of the very beginning of the eighteenth century.

Although extraordinarily a man of the Bible,5 Montfort does not interpret the sacred text as would a contemporary university Scripture professor. Like the Fathers of the Church, he searches for the depths of the spiritual sense of the Word of God, while accepting the historicity of the text itself.6 His Marian applications are often to be taken in a spiritual sense distilled from the liturgy and not as strict scriptural proofs (cf. TD 29-34, 184-212).

His many Marian references to the Fathers of the Church—for which he must be commended—reflect an age when not only relatively few critical texts were available but also a time when sources obtainable were secondhand or third-hand. Yet he does capture the thought of these early writers’ teachings on Mary.


II. MARY IN THE LIFE OF SAINT LOUIS DE MONTFORT

All experiences—indelible expressions of God’s providence and of our response—are the means by which the mystery of one’s person-hood evolves. These encounters form dynamic, intertwined, concentric circles, beginning with the powerful influence of whatever is "family" and extending out through the networking of acquaintances, of embodiments of culture, to the farthest reaches of the cosmos, for everything and everyone in this universe are interrelated, interdependent.

Louis de Montfort’s life is quite difficult to analyze, as the various attempts by biographers down through the years has proven. A fruitful method of examining his personality from the point of view of his Marian devotion is to use the symbol of the frontier, or boundary. Somewhat like the German-American theologian Paul Tillich, Montfort lived "on the boundary."7 He experienced the tension of two or more opposing energies in almost every aspect of his life. This dialectic was never fully synthesized, resulting in a life of energetic paradox, similar to that of a person who truly embodies multiple cultures that can never be altogether blended. This is hardly to be classified offhandedly as a defect or handicap; it can be, as it is in Montfort, the source of an extraordinarily powerful, creative personality that has a unique and challenging ability to absorb diverse experiences and ideas while always striving for the ever-elusive perfect unity or harmony. The richness of such a personality produces an unsettled, dynamic, searching mind, a lifestyle that appears strange to others and impossible to categorize. It is also often marked—as it is in Montfort—by episodic withdrawal and discouragement, for it produces a sense of not being fully understood, not being fully at home in any one particular place.

Montfort would always be on the boundary between speculative knowledge and experience, between the contemplative and the active apostolic. He was never fully at home on one side of the boundary to the exclusion of the other. He had to live on both sides. This is evidenced in his mature Marian teaching, where, e.g., he insists on the burning apostolic zeal characteristic of a devotee of Mary (TD 56-59; cf. PM) and yet also stresses that the true child of Mary is one whose conquests are made at home, in a sedentary way, through prayer (TD 196). In spite of this insistence on solitude, he called all those in solitude to leave their retreat and join him in the open battle against the forces of Satan, the great enemy of Mary (cf. PE 29). He was a citizen of the baroque and of the beginnings of the age of the Enlightenment; he was the contemplative and yet the Missionary Apostolic; he was the hermit and the town-square preacher; he was the clear thinker, and yet his mystical experiences took him beyond the confines of the scholastic syllogism. He was a man of paradox. His life was lived on the boundary: an important context for an authentic understanding of his life and of his Marian teaching.

1. Marian climate

Life on the boundary is certainly true for the Marian spirit of Saint Louis Marie’s age, for he was born and raised in what can be called the baroque age, the extravagant, maximalist period of seventeenth-century Europe, and yet he lived out his apostolic ministry in what has been termed the critical era of eighteenth-century Europe.8 He was caught between both, and his life and writings manifest this tension. Most of the principal Marian authors he consulted are clearly baroque: F.Poiré,9 J.B.Crasset,10 L. F. d’Argentan,11 P.Spinelli,12 Cardinal de Bérulle,13 H. Boudon,14 and J. J. Olier.15 It was an age that witnessed an explosion of Marian theses, of distinct tracts on Mary, of fervid expressions of devotion to the Mother of God, such as the "slavery of Mary" and the "oblatio" of the sodalities of Our Lady.16 An example of this stress on the incomparable grandeurs of Mary was the great reluctance to call Mary our "sister," or even a "servant." During the baroque age, the danger was ever present of practically denying Mary’s identity with us as creature and member of the Church.

Montfort, although steeped in the baroque through his studies, clearly became involved in the critical Marian epoch. In what was in some ways a reaction to the extravagance of the preceding years, the later Marian authors stressed a rational, non-emotional approach, a disregard for what was judged to be "superstitious," a proud, if not haughty, neglect of the past.17

Montfort’s N contains primarily texts from the baroque author Poiré (N 1-127), to whom the missionary was heavily indebted for the most theological sections of TD (14-37). His option was for the baroque but not without accepting a number of the censures raised by "critical" authors. An example of this is seen in his repeated absolute insistence on the Christocentricity of all devotion to Our Lady (TD 61), in his condemnation of hypocritical and interested devotees (TD 102-103), in his explanation of Mary as not "absolutely" but "hypothetically" necessary in God’s plan (TD 14, 39), in his "corrections" of any false impression that could be given concerning the authority of Mary over grace (TD 27, 76) and Mary’s relation to the Spirit (TD 20, 21), etc. Being on the boundary helped Montfort to come to a balanced Mariology, even if his terminology remained baroque.

2. Family experiences

Here, too, Montfort was in a boundary situation, considering the opposing temperaments of his father and mother.18 But to attribute his Marian devotion, if not every aspect of his life, to a supposed over- attachment to a tender mother and a non-identification with a choleric father is too facile a solution. God’s grace expresses itself in many experiences that cannot be locked in as "Marian-oriented" or not. As important as his relations with his parents were—and they are impossible to know in detail—they formed one important aspect in a constellation of youthful experiences, including his attachment to his wet nurse and his admiration for his priest-uncle, Alain Robert. It cannot be forgotten that he was brought up in an area of France at that time renowned for its solid Catholic faith. Marian devotion was part and parcel of almost every aspect of his youth.19

3. College years at Rennes

Here, too, diverse currents flowed into the formation of Montfort’s ever-developing understanding of the role of Mary. Father Descartes, his spiritual director, instilled in him a deep appreciation of God, Who is Love, and a Christ-centered spirituality. His conferences, together with the example of Louis Marie’s professor of rhetoric, Father Gilbert, drew the young student from Montfort to a life centered on prayer and to an appreciation of solitude.20 The boundary situation again appears when Louis Marie came under the influence of a young diocesan priest, Julien Bellier, whose ministry attracted him to an apostolic life among the poor. The Sodality of Our Lady, although aimed directly at forming an overall solid, apostolic Catholic, included a Consecration of self to Our Lady.21

Is devotion to Our Lady apostolic or contemplative? Where does she fit into the overall redemptive plan necessarily centered on Christ? If these were questions beginning to surface in the young student’s mind, he still remained, according to his schoolmate Blain, characterized by a simple, special, tender devotion to Mary: "This devotion . . . was not a passing fancy, as in so many other children; it was a daily devotion. . . . If the young Grignion was in front of an image of Mary, it seemed as though he didn’t know anyone and was in a sort of ecstasy. . . . He spent hour upon hour, immobile, without budging, at the foot of her altar praying to her . . . and consecrating himself to her service."22 In fact, Blain, with characteristic flourish of his time writes: "The love for Mary was as if born with Monsieur Grignion, and it could be said that the Blessed Virgin chose him for one of her great favorites."23

4. Study at Saint-Sulpice

At the age of nineteen, Louis Marie made a decisive break with his family. His crossing of the hometown Cesson bridge, and the beginning of a long trek to the Seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris were decisive moments in his spiritual journey. There was a deep yearning in this young man to live, to experience, to taste what he had known through study and prayer: God is Love, His fatherly Providence never failing, and Mary is truly the tender, caring Mother. Four experiences in particular during his years at Paris played an important role in the formation of his Marian doctrine:

a. Olier-Tronson dialectic.

Montfort was caught between the mystical spirit of Saint-Sulpice, as outlined by its founder, Jean-Jacques Olier, and the rigid, "proper" attitude of the then superior of the Sulpicians, Father Tronson, well represented by the director of the seminary, Father Leschassier. Through his spiritual director, Father Bayün, and through his incessant reading, he became acquainted with the teachings of the mystic Olier.24 Montfort’s own mystical bent was now caught in the dialectic of Olier- Tronson. Although he would, after a few years of priesthood, break with Tronson’s clericalism and actually identify with the outcasts of society, he would never relinquish Tronson’s insistence on strict obedience. He was also convinced of the need for a contemplative and a clear theological approach to spirituality. Montfort’s Mariology deepened in its mystical dimension under the influence of Olier; its extremes were tempered by the reigning atmosphere of Tronson’s demands for moderation. Saint Louis Marie accepted Tronson’s stress (common to the French school of spirituality) on man’s absolute nothingness of himself (cf. TD 79, 213, 228; H 8:14), but he also insisted with Olier upon man’s grandeur with and in Christ Jesus (cf. H 64:1; SM 3; TD 82; etc). Montfort himself respectfully mentioned Tronson as the person who counseled him to use the more acceptable expression "slave of Jesus in Mary" instead of "slave of Mary" (TD 244).

b. Theological studies.

Saint Louis Marie himself declared that he had read almost all the books that treated of Our Lady (TD 118). His friend Blain writes: "Almost all the writings that treat of the spiritual life passed through his hands."25 During Montfort’s lengthy stay at Saint-Sulpice, his work as librarian brought him into contact with some of the era’s best writings on Mary. Especially through Crasset, he became acquainted with some Marian writings of the Fathers of the Church. His sincere interest in Marian doctrine and devotion is evidenced by N, which gives testimony of his great interest in this aspect of theological studies. His readings and studies gave him the opportunity to verify his own experiences and to broaden and deepen his knowledge and love of Our Lady. It also supplied him with theological foundations on which to build a Marian spirituality. Montfort’s strong Trinitarian basis for his Marian writings, his emphasis on the centrality of the Incarnation, and his stress on Christocentric spirituality were not only in line with the spirit of Saint-Sulpice but were verified for Montfort through the books he critically examined. His theological studies helped foster a healthily discerning analysis of the Marian devotion of his time and gave him great confidence when he spoke about Our Lady.

c. The "Monita" Crisis.

There can be no doubt that Saint Louis Marie knew well Widenfeld’s work, Monita salutaria,26 and books whose teachings contested the author, especially that of Grenier (N 296-302). This appears to have had a double effect on the seminarian. First, as we can tell from N, he studiously listed ideas taken from a variety of books on how to reply to any objections against devotion to Our Lady. Second, he seemed to understand that there was some truth in these criticisms leveled by Widenfeld (cf. TD 90), for, as already mentioned, he goes to great pains to insist that Jesus alone is the final end of all devotion, and definitely not Mary. Again, his Christocentricity was reinforced and the same time the authenticity of his solid devotion to Mary was strengthened.

d. Holy Slavery of love.

If Saint Louis became acquainted with the devotion of Holy Slavery to the Mother of God at the Jesuit College in Rennes, it does not appear to have made any profound impression upon him. It was at Saint-Sulpice that he studied this devotion and in fact became enamored with it. His source was primarily the works of Cardinal de Bérulle and H. Boudon’s Dieu Seul ou le saint esclavage de l’admirable Mère de Dieu (God Alone or the Holy Slavery of the Admirable Mother of God). Saint Louis Marie clearly knew of the Roman decrees against the practice of holy slavery (N 302), yet he felt completely free to study Boudon’s work thoroughly, for he was convinced that it did not fall under the abuses of the devotion, which alone were condemned. It appears that at first his discovery of this devotion to Our Lady so captured him that he wanted everyone at Saint- Sulpice to become a member of the Society of the Holy Slavery of the Blessed Virgin.27 Saint Louis Marie’s mature Marian devotion, however, would radically interpret the Holy Slavery of love of the French school of spirituality.

5. Apostolic ministry

Montfort’s devotion to Our Lady had yet to be tried. It was through his sixteen years of ministry that he developed a Marian spirituality that was not only theologically sound but also adapted to the simple folk of the west of France.

a. Parish missions and retreats.

An important factor in the development of Saint Louis Marie’s Marian spirituality was the more than 200 retreats and missions he preached. Perhaps the principal influence on his Marian devotion was the "needs of the Church"—not just the Church in western France but the needs of the individual diocese, the village parish. There was, first of all, a need to simplify. Although not betraying the theological underpinnings, he insisted primarily upon an approach that could be understood by his people. TD, written probably only a few years before his death, demonstrates his ability to proclaim truths of the faith through examples, symbols, and analogies that appealed to his people, not necessarily to cultures of the twenty-first century. Monarchs, corsairs, dung heaps, rotten apples, molds, family life, pregnancy, birth, servants, and slaves become raw material for his explanations of the role of Mary. He was a theologian, in the sense that he was steeped in solid study. He was also an excellent Missionary Apostolic, using folksy hymns, stage productions, and elaborate processions to bring home to the people complex truths of the faith. Compared, for example, to Boudon’s work on Holy Slavery, Montfort’s TD and SM are concise, clear, and, at the same time, more theologically based than Boudon’s verbose, extremely baroque writings.

b. Stress on renewal of baptismal vows.

Another influence his ministry had upon his Marian devotion was the stress that Consecration to Jesus through Mary is the equivalent of the renewal of the vows of Baptism. He knew this in his seminary days, but it is only in experiencing the pastoral effects of such an approach that he fully realized its value and therefore insisted upon it to the point that it became a hallmark of his missions and retreats (cf. CG; RM 56). It was not only clearly enunciated but taught as the framework of a Marian way of life. Except for his well-known formula of Consecration, found solely in the LEW manuscript (LEW 223-227), only in TD, written after some years of missionary activity, does Saint Louis explain or even explicitly mention that the perfect Marian devotion is the perfect renewal of the vows of Baptism (TD 126-130).

c. Personal spirituality.

His apostolic ministry significantly influenced his Marian devotion by deepening his own Marian spirituality. The profound changes brought about in his village missions convinced him of the need to be ever more immersed in living the faith, of being truly a "child and slave" of Mary, "Mother and Mistress," in order to be filled with the Spirit for the glory of God Alone. Montfort was convinced that he could not effectively preach by words if his life was not a living Gospel (cf. H 91). It was through his proclamation of the faith in barracks, houses of prostitution, and town squares that the role of Mary in Christian life fully matured in the heart of this contemplative missionary. The results he achieved assured him that Mary had to be ever more deeply an integral element of his own life in Christ Jesus. He reached such a degree of mystical union with Mary, he was so totally open to her maternal influence, that he could sing: "I have her image carved within me" (H 75:11); "I carry her in the center of my being" (H 77:15). He could speak of the transforming effects of total Consecration, for he had deeply experienced them himself (TD 257-265). Although he was favored with mystical experiences of Our Lady,28 he never desires "visions or revelations . . . or spiritual pleasures" (SM 69).

d. The approbation of the Pope.

In an age of Gallicanism, Montfort displayed a radical obedience to the Holy Father (cf. H 6:50; H 57; H 147). When his confusion heightened on the direction his ministry should take—again, the boundary situation of a call to the foreign missions and a yearning to evangelize his own people—he, a simple, young, unknown priest, decided that he had to go to the Pope to discern the will of God. The effect of his pilgrimage to the Holy City, of his visit with Clement XI, was profound. He would follow the advice of the Vicar of Christ and return to his homeland, proclaiming the renewal of the baptismal vows. We can well presume that his discussion included his experience of Mary’s influence in his life and preaching. Armed with the new role of Apostolic Missionary, Montfort returned to western France, convinced—as much as his personality permitted—that his life was to be the vagabond preacher of the reign of Christ through the reign of Mary. All was summed up in his conviction that the renewal of the promises of Baptism was the way to a reform of the Church. He needed no more convincing that Mary was intrinsic to this renewal. The essential lines of his Mariology were in place.

If there was one area where Montfort’s personality and apostolic life did achieve a high degree of unity (always accepting the paradox intrinsic to Christian faith), it was in the frontier Jesus-Mary. His studies and contemplative insights had shown him that they are—although so distinct—one heart (H 40:36, 37; H 134:8). Devotion to Mary is devotion to Jesus, the center of all.


III. MARY IN THE DOCTRINE OF SAINT LOUIS DE MONTFORT:
THE INCARNATION

Mary’s role in the Incarnation is the core of Saint Louis de Montfort’s Mariology. In order to clarify this truth, we will first briefly consider some necessary, pertinent aspects of the Incarnation and then proceed to Our Lady’s function in this. "The Incarnation is the first mystery of Jesus Christ, it is the most hidden and it is the most exalted and least known" (TD 248).29

1. The Incarnation itself

Faithful to the French school of spirituality, Montfort can declare that "this mystery is a summary of all his mysteries since it contains the intention and the grace of them all" (TD 248). Three points must be kept in mind about its relationship to Saint Louis Marie’s Marian teaching.

a. Stress on the divinity of Jesus.

Basing himself on the then current descending Christology, Montfort’s stress is on the divinity of Jesus, although it by no means falls into the trap of docetism.30 For Montfort, Jesus is clearly the enfleshed Second Person of the Trinity. In terms reminiscent especially of the Eastern Fathers of the Church, Montfort underlines that Jesus is God.31 Any hesitations on this point, or Christological opinions that would effectively deny that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity in two natures, human and divine, are totally alien to his thought. This, of course, has important repercussions in his understanding of the mother of Jesus and also affects his vocabulary. Mary is a "pure creature" (TD 14), i.e., she is, in the totality of her being, creaturely, from the Other (ab alio). It would be blasphemous to predicate divinity of her except in an analogical way (the "divine Mary," TD 181; H 81:1; H 82:1; H 88:1; H 98:22; etc.),32 for she is filled with divine grace in order to be the worthy Mother of God. Since Jesus is God, he, and he alone among all human beings, cannot be called a pure creature. This terminology is not Montfort’s invention; it is the common language of scholastic thought. Jesus’ humanity is part of creation (TD 248: Jesus gave God "infinite glory which he had never as yet received from man"); but it is a humanity, as the French school stresses with the early councils of the Church, that only exists as the humanity of God.33 Mary is, then, in Montfort’s writings, the greatest of pure creatures (SM 19). She is, therefore, the model of all virtues as found in pure creatures. Contemporary Christology, with its insistence on the humanity of Jesus, does not weaken Montfort’s Mariology, for Our Lady is always subordinate to Jesus and is always surrendered to God the Father only through and in Jesus. She remains the model of all disciples of Jesus in her total active and responsible fiat to God the Father through the Son, in the power of the Spirit.

b. The salvific Incarnation.

It is equally important, in probing Mary’s role in Montfort’s teaching, to be fully aware that for this vagabond preacher, the Incarnation is truly salvific (cf. MC 46). "He who is has willed to come to that which is not and to make that which is not become He Who is and He has done this perfectly in giving Himself and subjecting Himself entirely to the young Virgin Mary without ceasing to be in time He Who is from all eternity" (TD 157). In Mary’s womb, Jesus has "together with Mary, chosen all the elect. It is in this mystery that He has wrought all the other mysteries of His life by the acceptance which He made of them . . . that [He] has calmed His Father . . . and that He has made restitution of the glory which sin ravished from Him" (TD 8). It is in this self- emptying of the Word (kenosis) that we are divinized (theosis): "He becomes what we are in making us become who He is" (H 64:1; cf. H 5:10; SM 3; TD 82; etc).

c. The compendium of all mysteries.

Finally, it can never be over-stressed that Montfort truly considers that all the mysteries of salvation are found in this compendium of salvation history, the Incarnation. The saint’s reasoning is a simple and valid one: "It is in this mystery that he has wrought all the other mysteries of his life by the acceptance which He made of them. ‘When He comes into the world, He says . . . Behold, I come to do Thy will, O God’ [Heb 10: 5-9]. Hence this mystery is an abridgment of all mysteries and contains the will and grace of all" (TD 248; cf. H 10:6). Therefore, the miracles, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, the death/Resurrection, the Church, the Sacraments, and all grace are rooted and "contained" in the Incarnation. The underlying philosophical reason is clear: the beginning is never merely the first point of a series of further moments in time. Rather, the beginning contains what follows and it is the never-repealed law that governs everything flowing from it. The beginning transcends and makes immanent the moments resulting from it; its structure is different from theirs qualitatively and not just quantitatively.34

Now if Our Lady intrinsically and in a unique manner cooperates in the Incarnation, the beginning of Redemption, "the first mystery of Jesus Christ" (TD 248), then she cooperates intrinsically and in a unique manner in every aspect of salvation history; the objective Redemption and the subjective Redemption form but one plan of God. This is the essential linkage between Mary’s role in the Incarnation itself and her continued role in the consequence of the Incarnation, our sanctification. Since all salvation history is the immutable God’s one plan, whose essential lines are found in the mystery of the Incarnation, Montfort can declare that "considering things as they are, because God has decided to begin and accomplish his greatest works through the Blessed Virgin ever since he created her, we can safely believe that he will not change his plan in the time to come for he is God. Therefore he does not change in his thoughts or his way of acting" (TD 15); "The plan adopted by the three persons of the Blessed Trinity in the Incarnation, the first coming of Jesus Christ, is adhered to each day in an invisible manner throughout the Church, and they will pursue it to the end of time until the last coming of Jesus Christ" (TD 22; cf. TD 1, 262, etc.).

2. Our Lady’s role in the Incarnation

We are at the heart of Montfort’s Marian doctrine. Her role in the Incarnation is also her role in everything that flows from this "first mystery." Mary’s function in the Incarnation implies a twofold dynamic, the Trinity freely pouring grace into her soul and Mary’s faithful response: "It is not possible to express, on the one hand, the ineffable communications of the Blessed Trinity to this most fair creature, and, on the other hand, the fidelity with which she corresponded with the graces of her Creator" (LEW 105; cf. Lk 11:28). This is, for Saint Louis de Montfort, the basic plan of God in all the works of salvation, especially its summit, the Incarnation: call and response. As Pope John Paul II teaches: "Salvation comes from heaven but it also springs from the earth. The Messiah Savior is the Son of the Most High but is also the fruit of the womb of a woman, the Virgin Mary. The history of salvation . . . unfolds in a dialogue between him and his people. Everything is word and response. Mankind’s response of faith must follow God’s creative and salvific word. This logic is present to the greatest extent in the fundamental event of salvation, the Incarnation of the Son of God."35 Basing ourselves on TD 1-21, this could be framed in the following statement: in the salvific mystery of the Incarnation, Mary is the worthy Mother and associate of God the Redeemer, thanks to the immeasurable graces granted to her by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to which she totally surrenders herself by loving, representative consent. We will first examine some presuppositions of this thesis and then consider Montfort’s explanation of the self-communication of the Trinity to Mary and her corresponding faithful consent in the Incarnation of Eternal Wisdom. The better to follow Saint Louis Marie’s own methodology as given in TD, only in the next section will we treat of the Incarnation inasmuch as it reveals Mary’s role in our sanctification.

a. Some presuppositions.

It must first be stated that in Montfort’s eyes, Mary, compared to God, is—like all humanity—a nothing: "With the whole Church, I acknowledge that Mary, being a mere creature fashioned by the hands of God is compared to his infinite majesty, less than an atom, or rather is simply nothing, since he alone can say, ‘I am he who is’" (TD 14). "Mary is entirely relative to God. Indeed, I would say that she was relative only to God because she exists uniquely in reference to him" (TD 225; cf. TD 25: "hid herself even to the abyss of nothingness").36 There is absolutely nothing Mariocentric in the thought of Father de Montfort. Not only is she of herself "nothing at all" but Saint Louis underlines the fact that "this great Lord, who is ever independent and self sufficient, never had and does not now have any absolute need of the Blessed Virgin for the accomplishment of his will and the manifestation of his glory. To do all things he has only to will them" (TD 14). There is no self-redemption in Montfort’s thought, and especially so for the masterpiece, Mary. All is grace, all is gift. She is totally turned to Christ; the only influence she can have on the faithful is in accord with this Christ-centered personality.

The Lord has no absolute need of Mary in the work of Redemption (cf. TD 14). She is necessary to God only because He freely wills it to be so (TD 39; cf. TD 63). Using the accepted theological terminology, Montfort calls this "hypothetically necessary," i.e., in the present—and only— plan of God. Since Mary is, then, necessary in the Incarnation because of God’s free choice, she is necessary to all who enter into the mystery of the Incarnation. Mary is not optional in salvation history as it actually is planned by God. In the present order of things, to withdraw the "Mary-thread" from the fabric of salvation history is to unravel the entire tapestry itself. It would necessitate tearing pages out of the Gospels, like Jn 2, Jn 19, the infancy narratives of Lk and Mt, etc.37

b. The self-communication of the Trinity to Mary.

Saint Louis de Montfort treats of this question ex professo in TD 14-21, 139-140 (cf. SM 8-13, 35). Montfort’s doctrine on the Trinity’s relationship with Mary at the Incarnation appears to be far more profound than declaring that sanctifying grace is a quality elevating us to a state of being pleasing to God and transforming us into temples of the Trinity.38 The danger is ever present of modernizing Montfort, reading into his writings contemporary theological theories that are not his mind. Nonetheless, it is difficult to deny that Saint Louis Marie does speak of Mary being gifted at the Annunciation—in keeping with her creaturely status—with the life of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, precisely in that which constitutes each of them as three distinct subsisting relationships of the one Godhead.39 Saint Louis Marie himself struggles with human language, which of its nature conceals more than it reveals of the mystery of God and which can, therefore, only faintly approximate the ineffable union of Mary with the Trinity.

The Father

"God the Father communicated to Mary His fruitfulness, in as much as a mere creature was capable of it, in order that He might give her the power to produce His Son" (TD 17). In a short, concise phrase,40 Montfort boldly declares that the Father shares with Mary—always in a manner consonant with her condition as a pure creature—that which constitutes Him precisely as the First Person of the Trinity: He is the dynamic source, the One Who generates. Mary and the Father have the identical Son, for the Father generates the Eternal Wisdom within the Trinitarian life and also empowers Mary to be the virginal mother of the Eternal Wisdom according to his humanity.

The Son

Not only do we find the actual enfleshment of the Second Person of the Trinity in the womb of Mary but the sharing with Mary of what precisely constitutes the Son as Son: his total dependence on the Father. For the Eternal Son, this dependence, this filiation, this "being-spoken" is, of course, without any hint of subordinationism, for he is "one in being with the Father," as the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) infallibly declared. Three points are now to be underlined by Montfort:

First, the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom expresses that filiation in and through Mary, for he lives in Mary, united to her by inexpressibly loving ties of sonship. "He is that Infinite Wisdom who had a boundless desire to glorify God His Father and to save men; and yet He found no more perfect means, no shorter way to do it, than to submit Himself in all things to the Blessed Virgin" (TD 139). Using the familiar Bérullian notion of "rest," Montfort considers the Son of God "resting" in the Father. At the Incarnation, Montfort declares, this eternal resting in the Father now takes place in Mary: "The Word who in God His Father / Rests eternally, / Has willed to take you here in time / For his rest and for his mother" (H 81:2; cf. TD 157).

Second, his characteristic of "dependence" on the Father is now expressed in an analogous manner in his dependence on Mary. Although Montfort can speak in general of the Trinity’s dependence (always because of God’s free choice) on Mary (TD 140), it is the specific characteristic of the grace given to Mary by the Son. "He glorified his independence and His majesty in depending on that sweet Virgin, in His conception, in His birth, in His presentation in the temple, in His hidden life of thirty years and even in His death" (TD 18). "It is here that the human mind loses itself, when it seriously reflects on the conduct of Incarnate Wisdom who willed to give himself to men not directly though He might have done so, but through the blessed Virgin" (TD 139).

This dependence of the Eternal Wisdom upon Mary so mystifies Montfort that he—following the florid language of the times—expresses it in the hyperbole of love: "O Servant / All-Powerful, / To do everything, / You have only to wish it" (H 75:15). "The Son of God, the Eternal Wisdom, by making himself perfectly subject to Mary His Mother, gave her a maternal and natural power over Him, which surpasses our understanding. He gave her this power, not only for the length of His life on earth but also in heaven because heavenly glory far from destroying nature, perfects it. Hence, in heaven, Jesus is as much the Son of Mary as Mary is the Mother of Jesus. In this relationship, then, Mary has authority over Jesus, who, in a sense, remains subject to her because He wills it" (LEW 205).

This filial submission to the Father (always insisting that there is no subordinationism) is shared in an analogous manner with Mary when Eternal Wisdom is conceived in her womb. He, the Head of the Body, the Church, freely and with infinite love "submits" himself to Mary. On this, Scripture is clear in describing the Annunciation itself. Montfort will conclude, as we will see below, that this same attitude found in the Incarnation of the Word must be found in all the members of the Head. Moreover, since Jesus is grace itself—she is "the Mother of Grace" (SM 8)—all grace is in a mysterious way "dependent" on her. But in no way does Montfort permit this dependence to be wrongly understood: "We must take great pains not to conceive this dependence as any abasement or imperfection in Jesus Christ. For Mary is infinitely below her Son, Who is God, and therefore she does not command Him as a mother here below would command her child who is below her. Mary, being altogether transformed into God by grace and by the glory which transforms all saints into him, asks nothing, wishes nothing, does nothing contrary to the eternal and immutable will of God" (TD 27).

Third, the Eternal Wisdom shares with Mary his total surrender of love to the Father. It is this aspect of the grace of God the Son that, when shared with Mary, becomes her loving fiat. The consent of Mary to the Father—the return of love—is so important in Montfort’s Marian teaching that it will be seen separately in the next section. It should, however, be noted that this union of Eternal Wisdom and Mary in loving surrender to the Father is strongly stressed by Montfort in more ways than in her annunciation fiat. Jesus, incarnate only to save us by loving self- offering to the Father (TD 248, commenting on Heb 10:5-10), joins Mary to his total surrender to the Father: "Their hearts, united very strongly / by intimate ties / are offered both together / to be two victims / in order to hold back the chastisement / which our crimes merit" (H 87:6). Montfort can, in this sense, declare: "Jesus Christ chose her for the inseparable companion of His life, of His death, of His glory and of His power in heaven and earth" (TD 74). So intense is this union that the saint tries in vain to find words that can adequately express this alliance of Jesus and Mary: "They are so intimately united that one is altogether in the other. Jesus is altogether in Mary and Mary is altogether in Jesus; or rather, she exists no more but Jesus alone in her and it were easier to separate the light from the sun than Mary from Jesus, so that we may call Our Lord, Jesus of Mary and Our Blessed Lady, Mary of Jesus" (TD 247). With frustration, the missionary cries out: "I turn here for one moment to Thee, O sweet Jesus, to complain lovingly to thy Divine Majesty that the greater part of Christians, even the most learned, do not know the necessary union there is between Thee and Thy Holy Mother. Thou, Lord, art always with Mary and Mary is always with Thee and she cannot be without Thee else she would cease to be what she is" (TD 63). Because of Mary’s mysterious sharing in the Son’s life, Montfort can, therefore, conclude: "What I say absolutely of Jesus Christ, I say relatively of Our Lady. Since Jesus Christ chose her for the inseparable companion of His life, death, glory, and power in heaven and upon earth, He gave her by grace, relatively to His Majesty, all the same rights and privileges which He possesses by nature" (TD 74).

The Holy Spirit

Montfort’s teaching on the free and loving communication of the Holy Spirit to Our Lady has been the subject of much discussion and controversy. It would appear that Pusey, Newman, and Faber were embroiled in it,41 as were theologians in the mid-twentieth century.42

Before considering the important text of Montfort on the grace of the Holy Spirit imparted to Mary at the Annunciation, it is well to recall Saint Louis Marie’s insistence that Mary is totally relative to God, is a pure creature. Montfort need not repeat this on every page, since he makes it a key concept of his Marian doctrine. In no way, then, even when filled with outbursts of praise typical of the baroque age, does Montfort ever on any account substitute Mary for the Holy Spirit. On this point he is quite categorical: "It is you alone [Holy Spirit] who form all the divine persons [i.e., the sanctified] outside of the Divinity" (PM 15); "Come, Holy Spirit, who form / the martyrs, the confessors / the apostles, the prophets / the great heroes, the great hearts" (H 141:2). Mary, through the goodness of the Most High and only because of the mysterious Wisdom of God, is the "inseparable companion of the Holy Spirit in all the works of grace" (TD 90), "the faithful and indissoluble Spouse" of the Spirit (TD 85), and all this "because of a singular grace of the Most High" (TD 86). It appears that Montfort is declaring that Mary receives, in an evidently creaturely fashion, the distinctive grace of the Holy Spirit, Who is the Loving Who binds together the Father and the Son: "Glory to the Eternal Father, / Glory to the Adorable Word! / The same glory to the Holy Spirit, Who by His Love, / unites them by an ineffable bond" (H 85:6; cf. H 141:1). The same thought is expressed in TD 36, where the Holy Spirit is called the "substantial Love of the Father and the Son," Who "has espoused Mary in order to produce Jesus Christ."

If we hold, as mentioned above, that Montfort is teaching that each of the three Divine Persons takes possession of Mary according to each one’s personal properties, then it must be said that the Holy Spirit communicates Himself to Mary precisely as the infinite Loving Who binds together the Father and the Son, Who takes possession of Mary for the Father and the Son. The Spirit is pure receiving, Who only exists insofar as He receives His Being from the mutual love between Father and Son. When the Spirit is sent by the Father through the Son, the "pentecost" results in the sanctification of those open to the Spirit, i.e., they are drawn into the Trinitarian life, made new creatures. Although this is true for all humankind, it is uniquely so for the Mother of God, who is overshadowed by the Spirit in the conception of the Wisdom of the Father. In a manner unsurpassed by any pure creature, Mary shares in the life of the Holy Spirit.

This entails, first, the sanctification of Mary to a degree that boggles the human mind. Montfort explodes in effusive exclamations (and yet rather calm, considering his contemporaries) when contemplating the grandeur of Mary: "Oh, what grand and hidden things that mighty God has wrought in this admirable creature. . . . The height of her merits which she has raised up to the throne of the Divinity cannot be fully seen; the breadth of her charity which is broader than the earth is in truth immeasurable; the length of her power which she exercises even over God Himself43 is incomprehensible, and finally, the depths of her humility and of all her virtues and graces is an abyss which can never be sounded. O height incomprehensible! O breadth unspeakable! O length immeasurable! O abyss impenetrable" (TD 7). Montfort can then appeal to the proverb "De Maria numquam satis" (TD 10), "Concerning Mary, there is never enough," for so filled is she with the grace of God, so sanctified by the gift of the Spirit, that she eludes comprehension by anyone but God. Saint Louis Marie is by no means recommending a maximalist approach by quoting this ancient axiom. Rather, he is stressing that Mary’s holiness makes her the "paradise of God"; she ever eludes our comprehension.44

Second, the empowerment of Mary to share uniquely—always in keeping with her creaturely state—in the Spirit’s task of sanctification, of "forming the saints." The Spirit is sent by the Father through the Son to possess all people for the Father and the Son. Mary shares in the work of the Spirit in the enfleshment of Grace Itself, the Eternal Wisdom of the Father: "You [the Holy Spirit] have formed the Head of the predestinate with her and in her" (PM 15), "having produced in her and of her Jesus Christ, this Masterpiece, the Incarnate Word" (SM 13). Again, it is only the foolishness of God’s Wisdom that chooses Mary to be so united to the Spirit in the Incarnation of the Word of God. But "things being as they are," this is a fact of salvation history.

Mary, because she shares in the personal life of the Spirit in such a unique way, is called by Montfort—as she is by his contemporaries—the spouse of the Holy Spirit.45 Montfort the mystic has a penchant for the term "spouse." He uses it for our relationship to Wisdom, for Wisdom’s relationship to the Cross, for the soul’s relationship to Jesus, etc.46 Vatican Council II saw fit to approve LG, chap. 8, without including the term "spouse of the Spirit." Montfort’s theology, dominated by the overarching theme of God’s love, almost naturally employs such a title, and his context makes it clear that the term "spouse" is not used with any pagan connotations of marital intercourse between a god and a human being (cf. H 155:5). The expression is a valid one as employed by Montfort, but its use today should be controlled by the type of audience envisaged. After the Vatican Council, the term fell into disuse; but with its usage by Paul VI47 and, especially, by Pope John Paul II,48 the term is becoming more prevalent.49

It is also in the light of the above explanations that TD 20-21 is to be understood. Leaning on his predecessors, especially d’Argentan,50 Montfort the preacher, the contemplative, declares that the Spirit, "being barren in God, not producing another Divine Person, is become fruitful by Mary whom He has espoused." If Saint Louis Marie stopped here, as G. Philips implies that some members of the French school do, it must be said that this is a rather unfortunate way of expressing Trinitarian theology.51 Speaking of the sterility of the Spirit within the Trinity (ad intra) and the Spirit’s fecundity outside the Trinity (ad extra) can evidently lead to serious misunderstandings. But as Philips points out, Saint Louis Marie "felt the weakness and the danger, for he adds a restrictive commentary that brings him back to the reality of the current affirmations of theology."52 Saint Louis Marie does this not only through the immediate context but by his overall thought gleaned from a study of all his writings and especially by the warning he gives us in TD 21: "It is not that we mean that Our Lady gives the Holy Spirit His fruitfulness as if He had not it Himself. For as much as He is God, He has the same fruitfulness or capacity of producing as the Father and the Son, only he does not bring it into act. . . . But what we mean is that the Holy Spirit chose to make use of Our Blessed Lady, though He had no absolute need of her, to bring His fruitfulness into act by producing in her and by her Jesus Christ and His members."

c. The Consent of Mary.

Mary’s intrinsic role in the Incarnation—the never-to-be-repealed pattern of salvation history—is highlighted by Montfort not only when the missionary proclaims the graces shared with Mary by each Person of the Trinity but also when he reveals the meaning of Mary’s loving consent to God’s plan. Simply put, it is through her Yes, her fiat, that the redemptive Incarnation becomes a reality. There are five principal qualities of this consent of Mary that are found in the writings of Saint Louis Marie.

First, hypothetically necessary consent. True, her consent is not absolutely necessary; but it is evidently willed by God in the present order of salvation history and is, therefore, hypothetically necessary (TD 14, 39). This is clear from the way the Incarnation has unfolded, as narrated in the inspired Word of God (cf. Lk 1:26-38). "The Eternal Wisdom," Montfort forcefully teaches, "desired to become man in her, provided that she give her consent" (LEW 107). Her Yes is, therefore, necessary in God’s plan. "May your faith be glorified, honored and praised! / This Savior has come to us / Only because you have believed / The word of an angel" (H 63:4). "It was for me, Divine Spirit, / That you formed Jesus Christ, / When Mary consented to it" (H 27:9).

Second, freely given consent. Montfort insists that it was not a forced consent but flowed from her free will: "This salutation was presented to terminate the most important affair of the world, the Incarnation of the Eternal Word" (SR 45), and her freedom is implicit in stating that God would become one of us "provided that" she consent. Montfort insists, therefore, on her loving freedom at the Incarnation. "God the Holy Spirit formed Jesus Christ in Mary but only after having asked her consent through one of the chief ministers of his court" (TD 15).53 Does she know what she is doing? For Montfort, this is a foregone conclusion, for he reads Luke’s narrative not like a modern form critic but as a man of his times, understanding the Annunciation pericope as an historical account even in its details. And contemporary theology must say, in order to uphold Mary’s freedom and God’s characteristic of love, that Our Lady knew enough at the Annunciation to make an "active and responsible consent," as Paul VI declares in MC 37. She surely, say modern theologians, does not know all the details, but her Yes, like the consent given at a marriage, is a surrender to everything that will flow from her fiat.

Third, a representative consent. Montfort insists with St. Thomas Aquinas that her Yes at the Annunciation is given in the name of the entire human race: "[Mary] consents [to the Incarnation] in the place of the entire human nature, so that there would be a certain spiritual matrimony between the Son of God and human nature."54 Again, St. Louis Marie tells us that "the Son of God became man for our salvation . . . but after having asked her consent" (TD 16). "[Mary] found grace before God . . . for the entire human race" (LEW 203). We could summarize Montfort’s thought by saying that at the Annunciation, Mary, "the little girl" (TD 18; cf. TD 52, 157) of the human race, summarizes in herself the entire human family, desperately yearning for redemption. Through Mary, all humankind, the entire cosmos, says Yes to Wisdom’s desire to enter our twisted human family. Montfort lyrically praises this consent of Mary when he sings: "You have accomplished without battle / By your consent, / What all the earth / Desired so ardently" (H 63:4). Pope John Paul II clearly expresses this characteristic of the consent of Mary: "Mary’s response is personal, but it has also a community meaning. In her ‘yes’ flows the faith of ancient Israel and there is begun the faith of the Church. Her fidelity to the Lord, through a solidarity of grace, is a blessing for all who believe. The world’s salvation is linked to her faith."55

Fourth, a salvific consent. Since the Incarnation is salvific, so too is the consent of Mary, which forms a necessary element of this mystery. "It is in this mystery that Jesus, together with Mary . . . chose all the elect" (TD 248). Wisdom would become man "for our salvation . . . provided she would consent" (LEW 107). The Second Vatican Council teaches: "The Father of Mercies willed that the consent of the predestined mother should precede the Incarnation, so that just as a woman contributed to death, so also a woman should contribute to life" (LG 56). And again, quoting Saint Irenaeus, it declares: "[Mary] being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race" (LG 56). Pope Paul VI used expressions like "salvific motherhood," "salvific fiat"56 and stated that "one perceives how through the assent of the humble handmaid of the Lord humankind begins its return to God."57 These themes echo Montfort’s insistence on the salvific nature of the consent of Mary: "It was through Mary that the salvation of the world was begun" (TD 49).

Fifth, an eternal consent. The consent of Mary enters into the fabric of salvation history itself. It is forever. As all gifts are given in virtue of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, so too all gifts are also given in virtue of Mary’s corporate consent to the Redeemer. Forever Jesus remains the fruit of her womb, the fruit of her faith (LEW 205). Forever Mary remains humanity redeemed by Christ, humanity actively and responsibly accepting the Redeemer. She is the fiat of all creation yearning for healing by the Savior; she is the symbol of the Church, open fully to the capital grace of Christ. Karl Rahner writes: "The absolutely unique Yes of consent of the Blessed Virgin, which cooperated in determining the whole history of the world, is not a mere happening that has disappeared in the void of the past. . . . She still utters her eternal Amen, her eternal Fiat, Let it be so, Let it be done, to all that God willed, to the whole great ordered plan of redemption, in which we all find place, built up on the foundation which is Christ."58

d. First conclusion: Mary, associate of the Redeemer.

Mary’s role as "associate of the Redeemer" is linked with the Incarnation. "Their hearts united so strongly / By intimate bonds / Offer themselves conjointly / To be two victims / In order to hold back the punishment / That our crimes merit" (H 87:6). Montfort can therefore sing: "In this mystery [the Incarnation] the elect / Received their birth. / Mary united with Jesus / Chose them in advance / To have a part in their virtues / Their glory and their power" (H 87:7). "It is in this mystery that Jesus, together with Mary . . . chose all the elect" (TD 248). Mary’s cooperation in the Redemption is summarized in her consent to the salvific Incarnation. Montfort avoids the term "co-redemptrix," although he was well acquainted with the expression and the teaching of his contemporaries through readings of Poiré and Grenier on this subject (N 91, 298). It is highly doubtful that he can be aligned with those who uphold immediate, formal co-redemption.59 Although insisting upon her great sufferings as foretold by Simeon (Lk 2:35), Montfort appears to limit her role as associate of the Redeemer to her perduring and ever intensifying consent. "He glorified His independence and His majesty in depending on that sweet Virgin in His conception, in His birth, in His presentation in the temple, in His hidden life of thirty years and even in His death where she was to be present in order that He might make with her but one same sacrifice and be immolated to the Eternal Father by her consent just as Isaac of old was offered by Abraham’s consent to the will of God. It is she who nourished Him, supported Him, brought Him up and then sacrificed Him for us" (TD 18). If we put this statement in the entire context of his thought, Montfort is declaring that the Yes given at the Incarnation is the very personality of Mary; it is that Yes which accompanies Jesus throughout his life, death, and Resurrection.60 It is that Yes which is Mary’s role as associate of the redeemer (cf. H 90:18).

Another manner in which St. Louis Marie alludes to Mary’s role in the Redemption is through the patristic Eve-Mary comparison: "What Lucifer lost by pride, Mary won by humanity. What Eve ruined and lost by disobedience, Mary saved by obedience. By obeying the serpent, Eve ruined her children as well as herself and delivered them up to him. Mary by her perfect fidelity to God saved her children with herself and consecrated them to his divine majesty" (TD 53; cf. TD 175). Mary’s fidelity is again signaled out as her cooperation in the Redemption.

e. Second conclusion: the unifying principle of Montfort’s Mariology.

Theologians search for that revealed truth from which all Mary’s privileges may be "explained" and from which they flow by the hypothetical necessity of the will of God. The unifying—or prime— principle of Montfort’s Mariology is nothing more or less than the finality in God’s creation of Mary. Without hesitation, one turns to the mystery of the Incarnation. Like a golden thread, this mystery "proper to the devotion" (TD 243) he is teaching binds together his Marian doctrine. Montfort is by no means a speculative theologian, and his understanding of the Incarnation is not as an abstract truth but as it actually unfolds in salvation history. And the fundamental role of Mary in this mystery is the Divine Maternity: Mary the Mother of God, the Theotokos. Not Mother of God considered in the abstract but with all the intrinsic aspects mentioned above when we considered the union of the Trinity with Mary and her consent. This could be called the "concrete Divine Maternity," or the "Divine Maternity in its existential totality."61

Yet to declare that the Divine Maternity as understood by Montfort is his Marian unifying principle does not necessarily entail that it is the first step he takes in attempting to explain Our Lady. The ontological prime principle—the finality of God’s creation of Mary—is not necessarily identical with the epistemological prime principle, i.e., the practical starting point used to arrive at the truth concerning Mary. The epistemological prime principle will vary from culture to culture, from age to age; the ontological prime principle (whatever one’s opinion may be on this score) remains the same.62 In trying to discern Montfort’s epistemo-logical prime principle, i.e., the first step he takes in coming to an authentic understanding of Mary, we would first have to admit that it must have varied, depending upon his audience. Montfort, good preacher that he was, surely adapted his explanations to his people. We can well presume, however, that his epistemological starting point involved the grandeurs of Mary. His was basically a descending Christology, and his Mariology also stressed majesty and awe, for such was the tenor of his times. He would hardly have been a good teacher within his culture if he had done otherwise. Today, in an age where ascending Christology is the favored methodology of Western theologians, the epistemological prime principle is often "Mary our sister," or "Mary the Disciple," or "Mary exemplar of the redeemed," etc. Montfort’s Mariology remains "ardent, solid, and correct," as Pius XII affirmed;63 many, however, are the varieties of starting points available to come to Montfort’s centrality of the Incarnation.

Once arrived at the Incarnation, many modern Western theologians will retain throughout a different stress from Montfort’s. Without denying the validity of his emphasis on Mary’s grandeur, the primary accent today will be on the simplicity of Mary, on Mary as a member of the Church, as one of the redeemed: the ecclesio-typical model. Marian doctrine did not freeze with Montfort, and St. Louis Marie would be the first to recognize and accept the development of dogma within the Church. Nonetheless, the core content of Montfort’s Marian thought, described above, remains not only valid today but also understandable and even appealing in its fundamental simplicity: at the Annunciation, Mary, this "little girl" of the human family, she who is so gifted by the Trinity, freely consents in the name of all to the salvific, liberating plan of God.

While we understand the epistemological prime principle as the broad context within which Montfort presented Mary, LS indicates that he never isolated the Mother of God while he was preaching a mission. In that sense, TD and SM abstract his doctrine on Mary from its total context. Montfort preached on Mary within the framework of the essential truths of the faith. And from what we can learn from a study of his life and writings, we can declare that a contemporary Montfort study of Mary should begin with an expression of the saint’s experience of God Alone: the God of charity, the God who is Love, the God Who is triune. This Infinite Love yearns to share and wills, therefore, to externalize Himself into this rebellious creation. The Wisdom of God comes into our family through its representative, Our Lady. This method also appears to be an excellent harmonization of both the ascending and descending methodologies: Mary, the little girl of the human family, nothing of herself (ascending, Antiochene) and—his principal stress—the Infinite Love Who comes to us in her and through her (descending, Alexandrian).


IV. MARY IN THE DOCTRINE OF SAINT LOUIS DE MONTFORT: THE SANCTIFICATION OF THE MEMBERS OF THE BODY OF CHRIST

"The plan adopted by the three persons of the Blessed Trinity in the Incarnation, the first coming of Jesus Christ, is adhered to each day in an invisible manner throughout the Church, and they will pursue it to the end of time until the last coming of Jesus Christ" (TD 22). The role of Mary in the Incarnation (the objective Redemption) dictates her role in the Church (the subjective Redemption). This essential link in Montfort’s reasoning is enunciated at the very beginning of TD: "It is by the Most Blessed Virgin Mary that Jesus Christ has come into the world and it is also by her that He must reign in the world."

As the three Persons of the one Godhead communicated themselves to Mary in order to bring forth Jesus Christ, so too, Montfort reasons, they preserve the identical plan in the prolongation of the Incarnation, the sanctification of the human race. Montfort, with tightly knit methodology, now clarifies the role of Our Lady in the sanctification of the members of the Body of Christ (TD 23-59).

Faithful to his method of showing how each of the three Divine Persons communicates Himself to Mary, Montfort explains, first of all, that the Trinity’s divinization of Mary makes her the Mediatrix of all grace (TD 23-28) and the Mother of the Redeemed (TD 29-36). He then explains two conclusions of these roles of Mary: she is the Queen of all hearts (TD 37-38), and she is necessary for salvation (TD 39-46) especially in the latter times (TD 47-59).

1. Mediatrix of all grace

Montfort first considers a basic truth of the Trinity’s self- communication to Mary: she is full of grace, for us. "God the Father . . . has a most rich treasury in which He has laid up all that He has of beauty and splendor. . . . Even His own Son and this immense treasury is none other than Mary (TD 23); "God the Son . . . has made her the treasurer of all that His Father gave Him for His inheritance. It is by her that He applies His merits to His members and that He communicates His virtues and distributes His graces" (TD 24); "God the Holy Spirit . . . has chosen her to be the dispenser of all He possesses. . . . [He] gives no heavenly gift which does not pass through her virginal hands" (TD 25). She is "the sole treasurer of his treasures, the sole dispenser of His graces" (TD 44, SM 10, 21, etc.).64

This indubitably Montfort doctrine —Mary, Mediatrix of all grace—is implicit in the very fact that to her has been given all grace, since she is the Mother of Grace, the Lord Jesus Christ, and also since her consent to the Incarnation of All Grace is done as the spokesperson of the entire human race. In her, through her representative consent, Incarnate Grace came to be. Montfort is faithful here to his understanding of the twofold formality of Mary’s role at the Incarnation: the Trinity communicating itself to Mary and Mary lovingly and freely accepting that grace through her consent. Both form one reality: the dynamism of love.

a. Mediatrix because full of grace.

Jesus is Incarnate Grace (cf. Titus 2:11). According to Montfort, every sharing in God’s life is a grace of Christ, who is forever and everywhere the fruit of her womb. All grace then comes to us "through Mary." Montfort does not consider Incarnate Grace as merely residing in Mary or being, so to speak, contained by Mary. Mary actually participates, as the Mother of God, to the extent permitted to a pure creature, in the life of her Son. Mary is not an unknowing instrument by which the Eternal Wisdom comes into this world. She is the loving Mother of the Lord and is united to him by love and knowledge uniquely proper to a mother. She therefore shares in his life in an absolutely unique manner. Jesus gives himself wholly to Mary, and Mary surrenders wholly to her Son, for is not he the best of sons and Mary the best of mothers?

And if grace truly is a sharing in the life of the triune God, who can deny that the immaculate Mary, Mother of Grace, shares in this life to a degree unsurpassed by any pure creature? To be graced by God is to share in some degree in this fullness of grace that is Mary’s. She is the "Daughter of Sion," and in loving her, the Redeemer is loving all of us. Montfort is teaching us a profound and solid doctrine: Mary is the first and the uniquely beloved in the Beloved. And in her the redeemed—the Church—whose form and model she is, are loved also. The love of the Trinity for Mary is the love of the Trinity for the Church (cf. TD 22). In loving Mary, God in Jesus Christ loves us: such is his mysterious plan, his secret. She is truly, in this sense, the Mediatrix of all grace.

b. Mediatrix because of her consent.

Divine Love is incarnate through the consent of Mary, which she gives in the name of the entire human race. She therefore accepts grace for us. She is the corporate personality representing humankind in its nothingness, in its yearning for healing; and in our name, as Rahner says, she agrees to be graced.65 In this sense, all grace comes to us through Mary. This is not only Montfort’s teaching but the common possession of the Church throughout the ages and stated by Vatican II. The truth is nothing more than a prolongation of her consent at the Incarnation. Montfort can say that Mary shares grace with us because "her prayers and requests are so powerful with [God] that He accepts them as commands in the sense that He never resists His dear Mother’s prayer because it is always humble and conformed to His will" (TD 27). Glorified by her Son, she is the Mediatrix of intercession. This is not a task she is given; rather, it is her personality, for she is the eternal Yes of all creation to Jesus.

Montfort the missionary uses language ("canal," "aqueduct," "treasury," "storehouse," etc.) that in itself reifies grace, i.e., changes grace from a quality to a quantity, from the sharing of divine life to the reception of a thing. He is expressing the theology and language of his time. The saint would not want us glued to his terminology, as effective as it may have been for his hearers in Western France at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Each culture must find its own way of expressing the fundamental truth Saint Louis Marie is enunciating: she who, as representative of humanity, shares most intensely in Jesus’ life, she who is the consent of the human race to the inbreaking of grace itself, is filled with grace, for us.

Mary is, then, the "mediatrix of intercession" (TD 86); Jesus is our "Mediator of redemption" (TD 84). He is the one Mediator between God and man. Never does Saint Louis Marie, in spite of a baroque language, withdraw Mary from her creaturely existence, redeemed by Jesus. It is only within the context of the Mediator of redemption, the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom, that Mary is Mediatrix: precisely the teaching of Vatican II.66

2. Mary, Mother of the redeemed

The references that Louis de Montfort makes to the spiritual maternity abound in his writings. Our Lady is "Our Mother," and the titles he gives to the Mother of all the predestined read like a special litany composed in honor of her spiritual maternity: "My good mother," "Mother of Sweetness," "My true Mother," "Mother of the Predestinate," "The best of Mothers," "Mother of Goodness," "Mother of Gifts," "Mother of Grace," "My dear and well-beloved Mother," "His own dear Mother and Yours." In an echo of the Fathers, Mary is also the "Mother of the Living," "Mother of Fair Love," "Mother of Christians," "Mother of His Members." And so often this same truth is proclaimed without the term "Mother": "Christians, lend me your ears, / Listen to me, you chosen / Because I recount the marvels / Of the woman from whom you were born" (H 77:3).

It is evident that for Montfort, the spiritual maternity cannot be understood as an adoptive or legal function or in the sense that she merely acts towards us like a mother. Rather, with the three Persons of the Trinity and definitely subordinate to them, she is efficaciously and lovingly cooperating in our incorporation into our final goal, the risen Christ, the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom. We are truly her children.

Moreover, this is for Montfort a dynamic role. The saint declares that "all the predestinate, in order to be conformed to the image of the Son of God, are in this world hidden in the womb of the Blessed Virgin where they are guarded, nourished, brought up, and made to grow by that good Mother until she has brought them forth to glory after death, which is properly the day of their birth" (TD 33; SM 14; LEW 213).67 The entire cosmos is, we could say, "in the womb" of Mary, where she is—always in a subordinate manner—forming us into Jesus come to his full stature.

The foundations for such a vivid description of the spiritual maternity of Mary find their roots in Mary’s role at the Incarnation. What immediately strikes the modern reader is that nowhere does Saint Louis Marie deduce Mary’s motherhood of the human race from the words of Jesus on the Cross, "Woman, behold your Son. Behold your Mother" (Jn 19:26-27). Twice in TD, he does say that those who give themselves to Mary can declare with St. John, "I have taken her for my own" (TD 179, 216; cf. SM 66), implying that Mary’s spiritual maternity is somehow found in the Johannine text. In PM, he declares that his Congregation was confided to Mary when Jesus died upon the Cross (PM 1). The text is never brought forward, however, as an explicit argument for the spiritual maternity. This is strange when we consider that in a small pamphlet of Father J. Nouet, SJ, Dispositions for a Happy Death, found among the saint’s belongings when he died, there is a short commentary on Jn 19, referring this text to the spiritual maternity (HD 36). Again we are faced with the centrality, for Montfort, of the mystery of the Incarnation. His stress is on the root, the source, the compendium of all mysteries, the enfleshment of the Eternal Wisdom. We could say that Jn 19 is for Montfort a promulgation of the spiritual maternity but definitely not its origin.

a. Spiritual Mother because graced by the Trinity.

Montfort employs three symbols to illustrate that Mary is the Mother of the redeemed because graced by the specific life of each of Persons of the Trinity. Concerning the Father: "Just as in a natural and bodily generation of children there are a father and a mother, so in the supernatural and spiritual generation there are a Father, Who is God, and a Mother, who is Mary" (TD 30); concerning the Son: "One and the same mother does not bring forth into the world the head without the members or the members without the head. . . . So in like manner, in the order of grace, the head and the members are born of one and the same Mother" (TD 32); concerning the Holy Spirit, the symbol is that of a spouse: Mary the Spouse is told by the Spirit, "You are always my Spouse, as faithful, as pure and as fruitful as ever. Let your faith give me my faithful, your purity my virgins, and your fruitfulness, my temples and my elect" (TD 34).

These are words not of a university professor but of a down-to-earth missionary who knows that his people are more convinced by examples and symbols than by abstract arguments. Nonetheless, his analogies are not without solid underpinning. And all three of them have basically one foundation: the three Divine Persons each lovingly communicate to Mary— inasmuch as a pure creature is capable—their specific personalities in order to bring about the Incarnation of Eternal Wisdom. But sharing in the life of the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom is precisely what constitutes us as children of God. The mystery of the Incarnation of the Head includes, therefore, the birth of the children of God, since our graced life is "contained" in the divine life of the Savior. "We the many are one body in Christ," says St. Paul (Rom 12:5). Eternal Wisdom is enfleshed "for us and our salvation," offering his entire life even unto death for our Redemption. Christ is, of his very Person, Redemption, Salvation. Mary is Mother of the Redemption. Mary is empowered by the grace of the three Persons of the Trinity to conceive the Eternal Wisdom. She therefore carries all of us in her womb, since all of us are "in Christ Jesus," our Redeemer.

b. Mary, Mother of the redeemed through her consent.

Montfort declares that there is a "necessary consequence" from the maternity of the Head to the spiritual maternity of the members (TD 32; SM 12; LEW 213). If Our Lady is an unknowing instrument of God, in whom Redemption is conceived without her consent, we could not say that Mary becomes our Mother because she is Mother of the Savior. To deny Mary an active and responsible consent, however, is blasphemous in the thinking of Montfort.

It is Mary’s consent—with all the qualities mentioned above—that integrally undergirds the missionary’s statement that we deduce the spiritual maternity from Mary’s conception of the Head of the Mystical Body. In Montfort’s eyes, Mary’s consent to the Incarnation is not a blind act in which she is merely the unknowing instrument of the Lord. Such an opinion goes contrary to every page of his writings.68 Mary’s consent to the breaking forth into our human history of God’s redemptive love is presumed by Montfort when he speaks about the necessary consequence from Mary’s motherhood of Jesus to her motherhood of the members of his Body. If God is Love, he does not force. Love lures, Love requests, Love calls. Love never breaks down doors. And Infinite Love, possessed in three subsisting modes, requests the consent of Mary; Redemption comes into this world "provided that" she consent.69

3. The first consequence: Mary, Queen of all hearts

Because Mary is Mother of all, she is Queen of all hearts: "Mary . . . cannot make her residence in [souls] as God the Father ordered her to do and, as their mother, form, nourish, and bring them forth to eternal life . . . unless she has a right and a domination over souls by a singular grace of the Most High . . . and so we can call her . . . the Queen of all hearts" (TD 37-38). Inextricably united to the Savior’s conquest by her cooperation in the redemptive Incarnation and, therefore, in all that flows from it, she shares in a unique way in his royal authority. Queenship is, for Montfort, a logical consequence of the fact that she is truly and effectively Mother of all. It is a Queenship only analogically similar to the queens of his age, for Mary’s authority is a maternal one of love within the hearts of people, to influence them to surrender all to the overshadowing Spirit, so that Christ may be formed in them to the glory of the Father. Like the queen- mother of the kingdom of Judah, Mary sits upon a throne at the right of the monarch (1 Kings 2:19; TD 76). The biblical theme of the queen- mother (gebirah) is brought to its fulfillment in Mary, mother of the Messiah-King (cf. Is 7:14). Whoever accepts Jesus as King will enthrone the mother of the King beside him.

Her maternal Queenship connotes authority as vast as that of her Son but always—as is everything in Montfort’s Marian doctrine—subordinate to and directed to Christ. Mary is, of her very person, as mother of the Redeemer and therefore Mother of the redeemed, a unique influence in this universe, lovingly luring all to surrender with her to Jesus Christ the King. Montfort’s teaching is in accord with the famous text of "Ad coeli reginam": "Jesus Christ alone, God and man, is King in the strict, full, and absolute sense. Mary shares in his royal dignity in a secondary way, dependent on the sovereignty of her son. She is the mother of Christ God and is his associate in the work of Redemption, in the conflict with the enemy and in his complete victory. It is from this union with Christ the King that she reaches a height of splendor unequaled in all creation."70

4. The second consequence: Mary necessary for salvation

"In the second place we must conclude that the most holy Virgin, being necessary to God by a necessity which we call hypothetical, in consequence of His will, is far more necessary to men in order that they may attain to their last end" (TD 39).71 Montfort is emphatic on this point: Mary is necessary for salvation because God freely wills it so. She is not optional. Even more so, Montfort insists she is necessary "for those who are called to any special perfection" (TD 43). And again, he repeats that core reasoning found throughout his doctrine: "It was through Mary that the salvation of the world was begun and it is through her that it must be consummated" (TD 49). If Mary is necessary to God in the Incarnation, she is necessary to all who will share in the Incarnation, since sanctification is nothing more than the extension of "the compendium of all mysteries," the Incarnation of Eternal Wisdom. Then in the "end times," when Satan will rise up—in vain—in a final diabolical surge to destroy souls, Mary will shine forth more powerfully than ever. For "the most terrible of all the enemies which God has set up against the devil is His holy Mother" (TD 52). Most terrible, because Mary is a "nothing" of herself, a "little girl," and it is through her that the proud Satan is conquered.

The victory over Satan won in the abridgment of all mysteries, the Incarnation, must unfold out to the Second Coming of the victorious Lord. Those whom God chooses to engage in the front lines of this battle against the forces of evil will, then, necessarily be one with Mary in her total dedication to the Lord. In PM, the saint speaks of his missionary Congregation as in a special way involved in this battle and therefore in a special way one with Mary (PM 6, 12, 13).

5. Other Marian dogmas

Because of Mary’s role at the Incarnation, Montfort stresses the ever Virgin Mother of God and associate of the Redeemer, the Mediatrix of all grace, Mary the spiritual Mother, Mary the Queen. The Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, however, are also found in his writings. Neither dogma was declared as such by the Church in Montfort’s time. Nonetheless, they were Catholic teaching, and the missionary strongly upholds both prerogatives of Mary without developing them at any length, for they are not precisely within the scope of his Marian writings.

a. The Assumption.

Although the references to the Assumption of Mary are relatively few and are found most of all in a listing of the mysteries of the Rosary (TD 3, 116; SR 64; MR 4, 13, 30; H 90:31; LS 221, 223 (part 2); N 10), the ultimate victory of Mary is presumed throughout his writings. That she shares, in the fullness of her personality, in the glory of her Son is, in fact, the primary perspective from which he views Mary. Outside the Annunciation, there are few events in Mary’s life that attract his attention as an author of Marian works. That the Assumption itself is not given any special treatment is because it is not directly relevant to the purpose of his Marian writings.

b. The Immaculate Conception.

Saint Louis de Montfort upheld the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady; of this there is no doubt. "She is born immaculate / Never has sin / Tarnished her beauty" (H 75:19). Without explanation, he puts in short rhyme the "potuit, decuit, ergo fecit" (God was able to do it, it was fitting that he do it, therefore He did it) reasoning on this privilege: "I am struck that one reasons thus: / God was well able to do it / I uphold that He should have done it" (H 75:20). In LEW, Montfort describes the Immaculate Conception: "Eternal Wisdom built himself a house worthy to be his dwelling-place. He created the most holy Virgin, forming her in the womb of St. Anne, with ever greater delight than he had derived from creating the universe. . . . The torrential outpouring of God’s infinite goodness, which had been readily stemmed by the sins of men since the beginning of the world, was now released precipitately and in full flood into the heart of Mary. Eternal Wisdom gave her all the graces which Adam and all his descendants would have received so liberally from him had they remained in their original state of justice. The fullness of God, says a saint, was poured into Mary, . . . masterpiece of the Most High, miracle of Eternal Wisdom, prodigy of the Almighty, Abyss of grace!" (LEW 105-106). And again, in the hymns, Montfort can say: "Never did the least sin / soil her purity" (H 88:6). For the most part, Montfort’s writings clearly presume this initial privilege of Mary without making it a special study (SM 17; TD 50, 64, 145, 158; N 29).72

6. Summary: the titles of Our Lady

A summary of Montfort’s Marian doctrine can be seen, to some degree, in the innumerable titles he lavishes upon her. Titles attributed to a person encapsulate the author’s understanding of that individual and disclose his understanding of the "selfhood" of the person. What Vincent Taylor states about Christology can also be applied to Mariology: "The question, who Jesus is, is approached best by considering how men named Him, for it is by His names that He is revealed and known."73

Approximately 200 titles are used by Montfort to designate Our Lady. Many refer to the spiritual maternity, as shown above. The majority are reflections of the baroque: "O Marvelous Virgin," "O Stunning Prodigy," "Clear Image of the Trinity," "The Immense Ocean of All His Grandeurs," "Paradise of the Trinity," "Abyss of grace," "Holy of Holies," etc. At the same time, Montfort, again on the boundary, insists that she is "servant," "a nothing," "less than an atom," "the most obedient of the servants of the Lord," "the little girl." With the French school, Saint Louis de Montfort stresses the greatness with which God has freely endowed this nothingness who is Mary. If all are, in Bérulle’s words, "un néant capable de Dieu (a nothing capable of God)," Mary is for Montfort a nothing who is the "masterpiece of all his grandeurs." She is "all-powerful," yes; but always as a servant of Jesus, a servant of God.

The titles often emphasize that Mary is the "rest" of the Trinity and also of the redeemed: a concept dear to the French school of spirituality and implying being at home, finding one’s peaceful joy, the place of one’s activities. This is expressed in relationship to God, e.g., "Resting-place of the Trinity," "Sacred place of repose," "Paradise of God," "the tabernacle of God," "Royal throne," "His sure dwelling." Yet it is not a sleep to which Montfort refers. Far from it. God works wonders as He reposes in Mary. She is God’s "masterpiece," the "immense ocean of all his grandeurs," the very "mirror of the divinity," the "divine Mary." This is in accord with Montfort’s teaching that the Most High accomplishes such wonders in her. In other words, the titles Montfort attributes to Mary designate a dynamic, free pouring forth of God’s life into Mary to a degree unparalleled in a pure creature. She is God’s "Holy-Place," where God accomplishes his greatest miracles of grace. God is present in her to share divine life with her, not only for her but for others.

Mary is for us, as she is for the Trinity and in a unique way for the Incarnate Wisdom, a resting place: "My rest of love," "My place of rest," "My oratory," "Milieu of mysteries." Yet to live in Mary through total surrender is to experience the divine life of which she is filled for us ("even for us," H 90:52). She is, therefore, "the woman who nurses me," "my Flame," "Mother of Grace," "Mother of Gifts," "Remedy for the Incurable," "Sure Refuge of sinners," "Our all-powerful Queen," "Mother of Fair Love," "Joy of God’s servants," "Tree of Life," "treasurer of the Lord," "New Eve," "the canal," "the aqueduct of all God’s graces"; she is the mother "who feeds us with a milk all divine" (TD 264). We "repose" in Mary to be fed with divine Life. It is especially the sharing of Mary’s faith,74 which Montfort calls an "unshakable rock," "courageous," a "flaming torch," the restorer of life," inflaming "those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death," that we see the apostolic, missionary dimension of living in Mary (TD 214).

Mary is the contemplative apostle. So too are those who dwell in her, for in her reposes the triune God, pouring forth as in a torrent His grandiose gifts of grace to be shared by the other members of the Body of Christ: the basic theme of the titles given by Montfort to Mary.


VI. RELEVANCE AND PROSPECTS OF MONTFORT’S MARIAN DOCTRINE

Montfort’s Marian teaching is not complete. But as has already been noted, he never intended to write a manual of Mariology. His purpose is to form a squadron of apostles of Jesus Christ, and so he stresses the fundamental root of the faith, the Incarnation of the Lord and Mary’s role in this compendium of all mysteries. The saint’s Marian teaching is best studied within the context of contemporary Mariology as a whole; then his stresses can be more clearly understood.

1. Challenge to the contemporary world

Saint Louis de Montfort’s bold teaching that we are called to live the total, loving fiat of Mary is a great challenge to the self-sufficient citizen of the contemporary world.75 His Marian doctrine is nothing less than the call to a profound renewal of the faith, to a life in harmony with the radical demands of the Gospel in imitation of Mary and with the effective aid of her maternal influence. If original sin and personal sin are not popular topics today, it appears to be primarily because the demands of the Gospel are so watered down that a neo-Pelagianism vainly attempts to answer the crises of the day. Saint Louis de Montfort’s clear insistence on living Mary’s total fidelity to the Word makes us understand the radical need for God.

In a world that theoretically accepts the reality of globalization yet appears impotent to face its challenges, Montfort’s teaching offers insight and practical means of implementing this new world order, this "global village." In Mary, the spokesperson for this universe in its yearning for wholeness, we come together as the redeemed brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ; we are all her children. It is clear through Montfort’s doctrine on Mary—one with the scriptural portraits of the Mother of God—that it is only by an active and responsible total surrender to the Lord that the victory of the Cross can be implemented. We cannot just roll up our sleeves and bring about the Kingdom of God. Understanding that without the Lord we can do nothing, like Mary we release ourselves totally into the tenderness of God in order to be divinized and thereby be in harmony with the world, with ourselves, with each other, for we are in obedient harmony with the source of all, God Alone. Montfort’s Marian teaching brings us to the very core of our faith.

Especially, then, in this post-Christian age, Montfort’s teaching on Mary is highly relevant, for Montfort’s Mariology—most especially his "perfect" devotion to Mary—is nothing less than a call to live the Gospel to the hilt, a clear cry for renewal, to turn away from everything that is not God Alone. It is rejected especially by the highly secularized West, which cannot tolerate joining in with Mary’s active and responsible fiat. In a haughty, do-your-own-thing age, an era marked by little if any doctrinal or moral restraints—characteristics of the West —Montfort’s doctrine is as acceptable as Jeremiah’s was to the people of Jerusalem. The saint’s boldness in his proclamation of Mary as the model and of the necessity of joining in with her representative surrender to the Lord is highly unpalatable to the self-sufficient, rugged-individualist citizen of the first world.

Montfort leaves us with no doubt about the permanent validity and relevance of devotion to the Mother of God. The saint makes it evident that only an erroneous understanding of God’s self-disclosure permits one to neglect Mary. At the same time, his teachings, if faithfully followed, prohibit deviations in the Christian’s veneration of Our Lady.

Yet it also holds a strange fascination for modern man. For underneath the thick facade of "I’m OK; you’re OK," there hides a deep-down emptiness, yearning to be filled. Montfort’s teaching on this courageous "nothing," a "little girl" who is truly filled with Infinite Love only by surrendering to the Spirit, becomes the sign of hope. The more so because, in Montfort’s eyes, she represents us in our yearning to be healed and in our divinization. We could go so far as to say that Montfort’s Marian teaching appears to be needed by the jaded, fundamentally fearful modern man and woman. With Mary as Mother and Queen, we "lose ourselves" in God, Who is Love (H 28:43), and joyfully and fearlessly put ourselves at the service of the Body of Christ.

2. Development of Montfort’s Marian doctrine

Nonetheless, contemporary insights must permeate Montfort’s Marian teaching not only so that it speaks more effectively to modern men and women but also so that its powerful roots may flower. The inculturation of Montfort’s Marian teaching in the variety of cultures that make up the world appears to be lagging behind the development of Marian devotion itself; there is a danger that strict fidelity to the "language" of Montfort may in today’s times be a betrayal of his authentic thought. The interdependence and interrelatedness of all things and all peoples—a foundation of much of Montfort’s Marian teaching—must be more fully taken into account so that we can better understand Mary’s role in salvation history, especially as Mediatrix, Mother. Moreover, Mary must be seen within the context of everyone, especially today’s poor, the marginalized, and those suffering injustice under the extremes of capitalism or socialism. We can, then, better understand that when we speak about Mary, we are ultimately speaking about the omnipotent love of our Redeemer and about ourselves as liberated by Christ. Montfort’s Marian teaching has the raw material for a magnificent Mary-Church analogy, but it has yet to unfold. The ramifications of his stress on the role of the Spirit in the divinization of Mary have not yet been sufficiently plumbed. Montfort’s doctrine on Mary offers healthy insights to the feminist movement of Western society, but this investigation has not yet been truly deep. And there are the seeds within Montfort’s Marian teaching for an excellent ecumenical dialogue about Mary: her nothingness of herself, her total relativity to God, the strong Christocentricity of his Marian doctrine, his stress on Consecration as the equivalent of the renewal of baptismal promises, his overarching principle: God Alone. Montfort’s Marian doctrine is a gold mine that has been discovered but as yet scarcely dug.

P.Gaffney


Notes: (1) Because of his poor eyesight, the first of the three theologians called to review the writings of Montfort could only read the TD and thereby could not know the global context of Montfort spirituality. The promoter of the faith, in presenting the reports to the cardinals, expressed deep concern about this and underlined the importance of "the fundamental principle" as outlined by the second reviewer. Positio super scriptis beatificationis et canonizationis Ven. Servi Ludovici Mariae Grignion de Montfort, Rome 1851, 23. (2) H. Boudon, Oeuvres Complètes (Complete Works), vol.2, Dieu Seul ou Le Saint Esclavage de l’Admirable Mère de Dieu (God Alone or the Holy Slavery of the Admirable Mother of God), Migne, Paris 1856, 475: "O God alone, God alone, God alone and always God alone!" (3) R. Laurentin, Dieu Seul est ma tendresse (God Alone Is My Tenderness), O. E. I. L., Paris 1984, 198. (4) The roving missionary’s references to the biblical expression "the wrath of God," found mostly in his popular hymns—"anger," "wrath," "to calm God" (cf. SM 66; H 119:16; H 128:3; H 131:3; H 104:2; H 88:12; H 82:7; H 75:1; TD 52, 172)—must, as its multiple citations in Scripture (cf. Mt 3:7; Jn 3:36; Rom 1:18, 3:5, 9:22; Eph 5:6; etc.), be understood as expressing a profound truth: Infinite Love betrayed by those who freely walk away from Love into estrangement, out of Light into darkness. Sin is its own punishment. Montfort uses the biblical image of the anger of God to illustrate to his hearers Infinite Love’s yearning to have the sinner return to his senses: "Listen to me. Like a Good Father, I complain / That for a long time I have been searching for a child / Up till now, I’ve held back my anger. / O! must punishments be used?" (H 98:1). (5) Montfort’s Bible was among the few items he carried in the knapsack flung over his shoulder. His implicit and explicit quotes from Sacred Scripture are well more than several hundred. (6) Cf. H. de Lubac, The Splendor of the Church, Paulist, Mahwah, New Jersey 1963, 218-235, tracing the Marian interpretation of the Song of Songs. (7) Tillich saw himself as a person living his existence "on the boundary." Cf. P. Tillich, On the Boundary: An Autobiographical Sketch, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York 1966. Although the comparison between Tillich and Montfort is not without its weaknesses, it is interesting to read a description of the "boundary situation," which appears to apply to Montfort’s intellectual and personal development, in L. Gordon Tait, The Promise of Tillich, Lippincott, Philadelphia 1971, 11: "It is the condition . . . [that] is the basis of creativity; it presupposes always being receptive to new possibilities. Life in the boundary situation is difficult, dangerous, tense, exciting—but fruitful and rewarding." (8) For an excellent discussion of this entire period, especially in its Marian ramifications, cf. S. De Fiores, Il culto mariano nel contesto culturale dell’Europa nei secoli XVII-XVIII in De Culto Mariano Saeculis XVII-XVIII (Marian Devotion in the European Cultural Context in the 17th and 18th Centuries), Pontificia Academia Mariana Internationalis, Rome 1987, 2:2-57. (9) F. Poiré, La Triple Couronne de la Bienheureuse Mère de Dieu tissue à ses principales grandeurs d’Excellence, de Pouvoir et de Bonté et enrichie de diverses inventions pour l’aimer, l’honorer et la servir (The Triple Crown of the Blessed Mother of God, Women from Her Principal Grandeurs of Excellence, Power and Goodness and Enriched with Diverse ways of loving, honoring and serving Her), Cramoisy, Paris 1639. (10) J.B. Crasset, La véritable dévotion envers la Sainte Vierge, De Launay, Paris 1708. (11) L. F. d’Argentan, Conférences théologiques et spirituelles sur les grandeurs de la très sainte Vierge Marie, Mère de Dieu (Theological and Spiritual Conferences on the Grandeurs of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God), Paris, 1687. (12) P. Spinelli, Maria Deipara Thronus Dei (Mary Mother of God, Throne of God), Tarquini Longhi, Naples 1613. (13) Cardinal P. de Bérulle, Oeuvres Complètes, reproduction of the original ed. (1644), Maison de l’Institution de l’Oratoire, Montsoult 1960. (14) H. Boudon, Oeuvres Complètes, Migne, Paris 1857. (15) J. J. Olier, Oeuvres Complètes, Migne, Paris 1856. (16) Cf. S. De Fiores, Il culto mariano nel contesto culturale dell’Europa, 17-18. (17) The most important Marian work of this period is a sixteen- page pamphlet composed in 1673 by a lay Catholic of Cologne, Adam Widenfeld: Monita Salutaria B. V. Mariae ad cultores suos indiscretos (Salutary Warnings of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Her Indiscreet Devotees). For a study of Widenfeld’s work, cf. P. Hoffer, La dévotion à Marie au déclin du XVIIe siècle. Autour du Jansenisme et des "Avis salutaires de la B. V. Mariae à ses dévots indiscrets" (Devotion to Mary at the End of the 17th Century Concerning Jansenism and the "Salutary Warnings"), Cerf, Paris 1938. (18) Cf. L. Perouas, Grignion de Montfort, les pauvres et les missions, Cerf, Paris 1966, 36-37. (19) Cf. Blain 2:12. (20) Blain 21, speaks of this tendency in describing some summer days spent with Louis Mary at the Grignion home at Iffendic: "He showed me some secluded spots in his garden for prayer, places where he liked to be and where he spent the greater part of his time." (21) This "initiation" into the sodality proclaimed Mary as the "Domina, Patrona, et Advocata" and included the words "Accept me, Therefore, as your servant forever." Cf. Crasset, La véritable dévotion, 465. For a study of the influence of the Sodality on Montfort, cf. Itinerario (22) Blain, 17. Blain speaks with an exuberance about Montfort, especially his Marian devotion and also his apostolic lifestyle. Is some of this hyperbole? Considering the state of hagiography at the time, most probably. (23) Blain, 16. (24) H. de Lubac, The Splendour of the Church, Paulist, Glen Rock 1963, 338, n. 130, points out that Olier’s Vie intérieure de la Sainte Vierge "only just escaped being placed on the Index on account of certain exaggerations; cf. C. Flachaire, Dévotion à la Vierge, p. 104: Henri Bremond, Histoire littéraire du sentiment religieux, 3:494-495. . . . According to Fr. Congar these exaggerations were perhaps the result of ‘a certain monophysicist tendency.’" Montfort avoided the extremes of Olier. The saint cannot be accused of the heresy of monophysitism, which for all practical purposes denies the humanity of Jesus, teaching that Jesus is of one nature, and that divine; cf. n. 31 below. (25) Blain, 52. (26) Cf. S. De Fiores, La devozione mariana del Montfort nel contexto della polemica degli ‘Avvisi salutari’ di Widenfeld, in Mar 36 (1974), 40-69. (27) Blain, 28. (28) Cf. R. Laurentin, Dieu Seul est ma tendresse, 136, n. 18, for a list of the apparitions of Our Lady to Montfort that biographers of the saint recount. (29) Cf. N 175-178, 185 for references to the works of d’Argentan, Bourgoing, and Olier that Montfort used to explain the mystery of the Incarnation. (30) The full humanity of Jesus is stressed, e.g., in LEW 104-132, 154-166, and the noels, H 57-66. Montfort’s understanding of "full humanity," however, is similar to that of Saint Thomas (cf. Summa Theologica III, q. 4, a. 2, q. 5) and not to the contemporary Antiochene Christological thought as represented, e.g., by N. Pittinger, Christology Reconsidered, SCM Press, London 1970. (31) H 55:17 sings of Jesus: "The Supreme Beauty,/ The Supreme Light,/ The Supreme Goodness,/ True God of God the Father." And Mary is clearly the Mother of God: "Mother of Fair Love, May all praise you everywhere / For having given to us this Infant-God / For having given day to the Light, / Being to the true God, life to our Father" (H 60:12); cf. Cyril of Alexandria’s statement: "If anyone confesses not Emmanuel to be God in truth and the holy Virgin on this ground to be Theotokos since she brings forth according to the flesh the Word of God who became flesh, let him be anathema" (PG 77:120). (32) In this ecumenical age, the appellation "divine" Mary would unnecessarily offend. It is, however, still used in expressions like "St. John the Divine," "The Divine Liturgy," "The Divine Office." English theologians were customarily called divines. In the secular world, the term is currently used for opera stars ("Diva") and even for one’s appearance. (33) "In the complete possession of Christ’s humanity by the divinity, wherein the humanity of Christ lacks its own subsistence, its own personality, they [writers of the French school] saw the absolute condition of self- renouncement and clinging to God. From this state of ‘infinite servitude’ they drew the most fundamental characteristics of their spirituality." E. A. Walsh, Spirituality, French School of, in The New Catholic Encyclopedia, McGraw-Hill, New York 1966, 13:605. (34) W. Kasper, Jesus the Christ, Paulist Press, New York 1976, 140, applies this principle to the Easter experience of the first Apostles; cf. A. Darlapp, Anfang, in Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, 1:525-529. (35) John Paul II, Angelus Message of Sunday, 4 December, in L’Osservatore Romano (English edition), December 12, 1983, 2. (36) Montfort is echoing his sources, especially Cardinal de Bérulle, who wrote: "What is man? A nothing capable of God." Quoted by H. Daniel-Rops, The Church in the Seventeenth Century, E.P. Dutton, New York 1963, 58. (37) Paul VI uses the expression "intrinsic element of Christian worship" when speaking of devotion to Mary (MC 56; cf. MC 58). Since, as the Holy Father declares, "devotion must match its doctrinal content" (MC 38), he is declaring that Mary is also intrinsic to salvation history. (38) Montfort’s explanations appear, in the final analysis, as more consonant with a modern understanding of grace as not primarily in the realm of efficient causality (i.e., God does something to us, grace as a created quality) but in the realm of quasi-formal causality (i.e., God actually sharing life, grace as uncreated), the self-communication of God. And Saint Louis Marie appears to declare that God communicates Himself to Mary precisely as triune, each Person taking possession of her according to His personal properties. In doing so, he is not denying that the activity ad extra of the three Divine Persons is one and the same and is ascribed to one of the Persons only by appropriation (DS 3326). His forceful language, however, would have us believe that this is a valid principle only when we speak about efficient, and not quasi-formal, causality. Cf. K. Rahner, Trinity, Divine, in Encyclopedia of Theology: The Concise Sacramentum Mundi, Seabury Press, New York 1975, 1758; P. Gaffney, The Spiritual Maternity according to Saint Louis Mary de Montfort, Montfort Publications, Bay Shore 1976, 19-20. This contemporary understanding of grace is applicable therefore to all, but in a special way to the woman destined to be the Mother of God. (39) Montfort’s writings make it clear that the Divine Persons interpenetrate (circuminsessio of the West, perichoresis of the East), since they are relational realities. In other words, each one implies the others. The missionary’s constant grouping together of the Father-Son-Holy Spirit makes this evident. (40) N 171 sums up the thought of d’Argentan on this point. (41) Cf. J. Pintard, La maternité spirituelle de Marie selon les théologiens du XIX siècle (The Spiritual Maternity of Mary According to Theologians of the 19th Century), in EtMar 17 (1960), 140. Pintard does not appear to realize that the text under discussion by Pusey and Newman is taken from these numbers of the TD; cf. J. Stern, Le Saint-Esprit et Marie chez Newman et Faber (The Holy Spirit and Mary in Newman and Faber), in EtMar 26 (1969), 37-56, and his bibliography; cf. J. H. Newman, A Letter Addressed to the Rev. E. B. Pusey in Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans, vol. 2, London 1885. (42) Cf. De Rosa, La fecondità dello Spirito Santo (The Fecundity of the Holy Spirit), in Mar 10 (1948), 65-72; P. Oger, Intorno ad un passo . . . (Concerning a passage . . .), in Mar 10 (1948), 369; J.M. Alonso, Hacia una Mariología Trinitaria (Towards a Trinitarian Mariology), in EstMar 10 (1950), 183. (43) This is always understood in the full context of Montfort’s writings as mentioned above; cf. TD 27. (44) Her holiness is so astounding that Montfort can declare that the patriarchs could not merit the Incarnation (LEW 104) and "there was found only Mary who by the sublimity of her virtue attained to the very throne of the Divinity and has merited this infinite treasure" (TD 16). The missionary would be speaking about merit in a strongly analogous sense, i.e., Mary’s unmerited gift of holiness is so intense that it was fitting that God answer her prayers for the coming of Divine Wisdom. (45) Cf. S. De Fiores, Le Saint-Esprit et Marie chez Grignion de Montfort (The Holy Spirit and Mary in St. Louis de Montfort), in CM 99, 195-215. (46) The term "spouse" is found throughout the writings of Montfort and used in a variety of ways. A sampling: the Cross is the spouse of Eternal Wisdom (LEW 168); the soul is the spouse of Eternal Wisdom (LEW 54); Mary is the spouse of the Spirit (SM 13, 15; TD 21, 25; H 114:16); the Holy Spirit is the Spouse of Mary (SM 10; TD 152); Jesus is the Spouse of the soul (H 112:1); God is Spouse (H 4:22); God is the Spouse of Mary (LS 214). Mystical union under the symbol of spouse was the common interpretation of the Song of Songs in Montfort’s time. (47) MC 26. (48) Pope John Paul has not hesitated to use the expression in RMat 26: "The Holy Spirit had already come down upon her, and she became his faithful spouse at the Annunciation." (49) Many contemporary theologians still have strong hesitations about the expression "spouse of the Holy Spirit"; cf. R. Laurentin, Dieu Seul est ma tendresse, 181-194. (50) Cf. N 163, where Montfort copies the following from d’Argentan: "[The Holy Spirit] produces in her a divine person, ie., Our Lord, although he produces no divine person in eternity." (51) Cf. G. Philips, Le Saint Esprit et Marie dans l’Eglise, Vatican II et Prospective du Probleme (The Holy Spirit and Mary in the Church, Vatican II and an Overview of the Problem), in EtMar 25 (1968), 31-32; M. Dupuy, Le Saint Esprit et Marie dans l’Ecole Française (The Holy Spirit and Mary in the French School), in EtMar 26 (1969), 27-32. (52) Cf. G. Philips, Le Saint Esprit et Marie, 32. (53) Paul VI strikingly reflects this teaching of Saint Louis: "The Blessed Virgin’s free consent and cooperation in the plan of redemption. . . . Mary, taken into dialogue with God, gives her active and responsible consent not to the solution of a contingent problem but to that event of world importance, as the Incarnation of the Word has rightly been called" (MC 37). (54) Summa Theologica III, q. 8, a. 1. (55) Pope John Paul, Angelus Message, 2. The Holy Father in the same address calls Mary "the heiress and the completion of the faith of Abraham. Just as the patriarch is considered ‘our father’ in faith, so Mary, for all the more reason, must be claimed as ‘our mother’ in faith. Abraham is at the beginning, Mary is at the summit of the generations of Israel. . . . Mary’s words recall the words of the children of Israel at the foot of Sinai on the day of the covenant: ‘We will do everything that the Lord has told us!’" (56) MC 5, 6. (57) MC 28. (58) K. Rahner, Mary, Mother of the Lord: Theological Meditations, Herder and Herder, New York 1964, 100-101. (59) The expert on Mary Coredemptrix, J. B. Carol, in his monumental work on the coredemption, De Coredemptione B. V. M., Disquisitio Positiva, Vatican City 1950, 348-349, is rightfully doubtful that he can include Saint Louis de Montfort among those who support his thesis of Mary’s immediate cooperation in the objective Redemption. Cooperation through consent is itself not considered sufficient by Carol to declare Mary "immediate" Coredemptrix. (60) Notice that Jn "encloses" the entire public ministry of Jesus with the faith of Mary: the beginnings at Cana (Jn 2) and the culmination at the Cross (Jn 19). (61) Saint Louis de Montfort’s sources agree that the Divine Maternity is the unifying principle of all that can be said about her. E.g., H. Boudon writes in Dieu Seul, 171: "Her greatest happiness and the source of all the other favors that heaven has given her is the Divine Maternity." And the missionary himself sings: "She is the Mother of Jesus, / Nothing greater can be said of her. / There is the glory of glories, / The crown of crowns, / May all mortals intone, / In heaven, on earth and everywhere: / Mary is the Mother of God, / She is the mother of Jesus, / Nothing greater can be said of her" (H 88:20, 21). (62) For an excellent study of the meaning of "paradigm" and its application to contemporary Mariology, see Patrick J. Bearsley, SM, Mary the Perfect Disciple: A Paradigm for Mariology, in Theological Studies 41 (September 1980), 461ff. Bearsley clarifies the distinction between the ontological and the epistemological prime principle. (63) AAS 39 (1947), 331. (64) The possible exception mentioned by Montfort in SM 23 is only apparent: Montfort is again alluding to the fact that God has absolutely no need of Mary in sharing His saving love, and so intent is he on stressing this point that he will say that it would be rash to say that he does not bypass Mary at times. The missionary is not saying — and, in the context of his entire doctrine, it is not the thought of Montfort—that God de facto ever does so. Whether this is specifically the thought of his source for this statement, Crasset (N 46), can be debated without demanding that Montfort’s teaching on this point has to be identical to what he read in another author. Saint Louis does have a creative mind, and while we note the literary dependences, he should be allowed to speak for himself. For a different explanation of this text, cf. GA, 285, n. 35. (65) K. Rahner, Mary, Mother of the Lord, 105: "For our salvation you said Yes, for us you spoke your Fiat." (66) Whether the term "Mediatrix" should be employed depends upon the audience. In an ecumenical age, it may unnecessarily confuse, even with the clarifications of the Vatican Council. If so, other terms and other symbols, flowing from the particular culture, must be used to express this fundamental truth, that because of Mary’s necessary role in the Incarnation—the compendium, the beginning of all mysteries—she must be considered the mediatrix by which God shares life with us. (67) Montfort attributes this text to Saint Augustine; cf. Gaffney, The Spiritual Maternity, pp. 59-61. (68) Saint Louis Marie would have no part with those authors who appear to be making a clear dichotomy between what could be called the Mary of history and the Virgin of faith, declaring, against the constant teaching of the Church, that, without any foundation in historical reality, Mary is the symbol of the believing Christian. Montfort insists on the basic reality and fundamental authenticity of Mary’s role in the Incarnation as depicted by the Scriptures. That the Lucan Annunciation scene is couched in literary forms found in the OT (cf. Judg 13:2-5) and language borrowed directly from earlier inspired writings (cf. Zeph 3:14-17), no one can deny (cf. Behold Your Mother of Faith: A Pastoral Letter on the Blessed Virgin Mary, USCC, Washington 1973, 21-33). But to conclude from this that Lk 1:26-38 is a total, although justifiable, fabrication is to confuse the literary instrument with the truth conveyed. The Church has constantly insistent on the reality of the active and responsible consent (cf. MC 37) of Mary to the redemptive Incarnation. (69) K. Rahner, Mary, Mother of the Lord, 100-101, puts this truth—so central to Montfort spirituality—most beautifully: "The absolutely unique Yes of consent of the Blessed Virgin which cooperated in determining the whole history of the world, is not a mere happening that has disappeared in the void of the past. . . . She still utters her eternal Amen, her eternal Fiat, Let it be so, Let it be done, to all that God willed to the whole great ordered plan of redemption." (70) AAS 46 (1954), 625-640. (71) The necessity of Mary for salvation is analogous to the necessity of the Church in order to be saved. The Letter of the Holy Office to Archbishop Cushing of Boston (1952) is the clearest statement of the nature of the necessity of the Church for salvation, stressing that belonging to the Church must be actual (in re) or, if that is not possible, through desire (in voto), even implicit desire (etiam implicito). Cf. DS 3869- 3872; LG 16. The full text and commentary can be found in American Ecclesiastical Review 127 (1952), 307-311, 450-561; cf. Sal Terrae 41 (1953), 22-26. (72) Cf. J. M. Hupperts, L’Immaculée Conception dans la doctrine mariale de Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort, in Virgo Immaculata, Congres mariologique de Rome, 1954, Academia Mariana, Rome 1956, 151- 172. (73) V. Taylor, The Names of Jesus, St. Martin’s Press, New York 1962, 1. (74) Montfort is referring to the effective influence of Mary upon us, so that in the power of the Spirit we resemble her in her total surrender to the Lord. We all affect each other in varying degrees. After Jesus, no human being so influences the human family—because of the will of God—than Mary. (75) Cf. C. Bilo, L’homme d’aujourd’hui face au salut in, Dieu Seul. A la recontre de Dieu avec Montfort, Centre International Montfortain, Rome 1981, 11-19.

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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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