JESUS LIVING IN MARY: HANDBOOK OF THE SPIRITUALITY OF ST. LOUIS DE MONTFORT
I. France and Gallicanism during Montforts lifetime: 1. Montforts sensus fidei; 2. Montforts "Roman spirit;" II. Montforts Relationship with the Pope and Bishops: 1. Bishops Montfort met; 2. An evaluation: a. Montforts obedience; b. Montforts persecution. III. The Pope and the Bishops in Montforts Writings. IV. Relevance of Montforts Obedience to Popes and Bishops.
"When Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort . . . came to this august city of Rome, to venerate devoutly the tomb of Blessed Peter, he learned from our predecessor pope Clement XI . . . that he was destined to preach the truth of the Gospel, not to the foreign nations as he had wished, but rather to regenerate Christian practice in the heart of his own country. This is why, submitting quite willingly to this invitation, Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort returned to France, and during his life left no stone unturned in responding by energetic apostolic activity to the invitation and plan of the Sovereign Pontiff."1 It is with these words that Pope Pius XII began his homily on the occasion of Montforts canonization on July 20, 1947. This article may be considered a commentary on the words of the Holy Father.
I. FRANCE AND GALLICANISM DURING MONTFORTS LIFETIME
1. Montforts sensus fidei.
To understand Montforts ecclesial attitudewhich entails his attitude toward the popes and the bishopsit is necessary to recall the incredible struggle between the opposing forces of "Ultramontanism" and "Gallicanism,"2 which existed in the Church from the Council of Trent down to Vatican I. The former looked toward Rome and the Holy See, the latter looked to the church of France. St. Louis de Montfort was well acquainted with these movements. He was richly endowed with a sense of the faith and gifts of the Spirit that guided the disciples of Christ. This guided him to recognize the primary role of the pope and the bishops.
2. Montforts "Roman spirit."
In Montforts time France was troubled by the controversy surrounding Jansenism and Gallicanism. Church doctrine "was the root and foundation of Jansenisms moral notions and, at least indirectly, of its attitude toward discipline;"3 however, Jansenism did not consider infallible, nor consequently binding, the judgment of the Church on the theses held by Jansenius in the Augustinus. In the best of cases it hid behind an "obsequious silence" which precluded inner assent to the Roman decrees. In 1705, the year before Montforts Roman pilgrimage, the Bull Vineam Domini of Clement XI rejected the theory of the Jansenists. Thus it is true that in the west of France, evangelized by Montfort, people still lived in the beneficent atmosphere of the Pax Clementina (1669) until the beginning of the eighteenth century, when the conflict rekindled. But it is also true that, "we would fall into the opposite mistake were we to refuse to consider the undoubted repercussions of the Jansenist struggle on Louiss career, sent back as he was to the heart of the Gallican Church, furrowed with rebellion."4 Montfort never let himself be won over by Jansenist ideas: "Jansenism, away with you!" (H 139:55). As for the Gallican controversies, which accompanied the Jansenist ones in the eighteenth century, "a complex frame of mind, defiant of Roman authority, jealous of its own independence, very attached to its own ways, faced with State interference, was then quite widespread in France."5 "It cannot be said," observes G. De Luca with a touch of irony, "that in the France of that day there was an excessive devotion to the papacy."6
II. MONTFORTS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE POPE AND BISHOPS
The study of Montforts relationship with the hierarchy will first examine, in chronological order, the Popes and Bishops Montfort encountered, followed by an attempt to evaluate the often strained relations between the missionary and those in ecclesiastical authority.
1. Bishops Montfort Encountered.
a. Henri Bazan de Flamenville, Bishop of Perpignan (d. 1721).
Around 16931694 Montfort was his collaborator in the evangelization of the footmen of Paris. It was he who ordained him priest on June 5, 1700.
b. Antoine Girard de la Bournat, Bishop of Poitiers (d. 1702).
In April 1701, Montfort told him about "the attraction he had for working for the salvation of the poor" (L 6). The bishop "rather curtly" thanked him for the information (L 6). Later, Bishop Girard, impressed by the petition addressed to him by the management of the local poorhouse, called Montfort back, spoke to him "more calmly," and ordered him to write to his spiritual director, Fr. Leschassier, to ask him to decide what should be done (cf. L 6). Toward the end of August 1701, the bishop wrote to Montfort in these words: "Father, those at the poorhouse continue to want you with them . . . I even think that Mme. de Montespan was kind enough to write you about this. But now I think I owe it to you to write to you myself that their desires, together with what Fr. Leschassier took the trouble to tell me, lead me to believe that God wishes you at their side, if your bishop [the bishop of Nantes] is willing."7 Louis Marie felt that he had no inclination "to withdraw into his shell" (cf. L 9), and the letter from the bishop, spokesman for the poor, was possibly the long-awaited sign. Thus, without much delay, he went to Poitiers on October 20, 1701. Bishop A. Girard greeted him "with open arms" (L11), and offered him room and board at the seminary "while waiting for hospital authorities" (L 10; cf. L 11). In the meanwhile, he taught "catechism to the poor beggars of the town with the approval and the help of the Bishop" (L 10). He made himself poor with the poor, as he himself wrote to Fr. Leschassier on November 3, 1701: "I explained to the Bishop that even in the poorhouse I do not wish to be separated from my mother, Divine Providence, and with this in mind I am happy to share the meals of the poor and to have no fixed salary. The Bishop agreed heartily to this and offered to act as a father to me" (L 10). "The Bishop, unable to resist the insistent appeals of the poor any longer, allowed [him] to go to the poorhouse shortly after All Saints Day" (L 11). Once there, with the bishops consent and that of the whole administration (cf. L 11), Montfort served the poor in the refectory and went round the town begging for something extra for them (L 11). With the approval of the bishop he gave a conference each week to thirteen or fourteen schoolboys who were the elite of the local Jesuit school (cf. L 11). But in the poorhouse there was "a quick-witted girl who is the craftiest and proudest girl I have ever met" (L 11). For this reason, Montfort wrote to Fr. Leschassier on July 4, 1702, "I am afraid that Bishop de la Poype, like his predecessor, has been greatly deceived by her, because he was too credulous. If you judged it proper you could warn him about this" (L 11).
c. Jean-Baptiste de Saint-Vallier, Bishop of Québec (d. 1727).
Montforts relationship with this missionary bishop, alumnus of Saint- Sulpice, is described by De Fiores: "The affinities of temperament and spirituality of Bishop de Saint-Vallier and Montfort explain the deep friendship that existed between them and attested to by first-hand sources. The bishop of Quebec intervened on behalf of Montfort: recommending his sister to the future Bishop of Poitiers, Antoine Girard, praising his behavior, acting as a mediator in order to avoid the destruction of the Calvary of Pontchâteau. When he asked to leave for Canada, probably in September 1700, Montfort did not fail to think of Bishop de Saint-Vallier in whom he would have found understanding and help for the accomplishment of his vast missionary plans."8
d. Jean Claude de la Poype de Vertrieu, Bishop of Poitiers (d. 1732).
"A generous and very spiritual shepherd,"9 he received Montfort like a father who at the end of the summer of 1702 returned from Paris to Poitiers. Giving him discreet assistance, he allowed him to attempt a complete reform of the poorhouse and to admit, among the poor, Marie Louise Trichet.
But in the spring of 1703, the position of the young chaplain became unbearable. "Louis reacted severely to the indecent behavior of a boy, which released a storm of complaints, and the bishop who had been misinformed acted on impulse. Tired with this priest who put him in such an awkward position, he forbade him to say Mass," although "once the situation was clarified, not in a few days but a few hours, the prohibition was rescinded." After this "harsh action of the good bishop,"10 around Easter 1703, Montfort set out for Paris where he passed through a veritable calvary of rejections. Yet it was to this man of God that Fr. Madot, delegated by the cardinal of Paris, entrusted the reform of the hermits of Mont Valérien.
In the meanwhile things in Poitiers were changing. In two letters, now lost, Bishop de la Poype asked Louis Marie to return while at the same time the residents of the poorhouse were clamoring for Montfort, their "angel" and "venerable shepherd." Louis Marie then returned to Poitiers where the bishop supported him and the poor loved him. Yet in a very short time new jealousies cropped up in his regard. "He sought counsel from Bishop de la Poype who had not withdrawn his confidence and who evaluated objectively the chaplains untenable position."11 Finally, Montfort shook the dust from his feet, and left the poorhouse for good. The Bishop then gave him lodging in the House of Penitents and Montfort had his first encounter with missionary work.
When the missionary was preaching in the church of Our Lady of Calvary, Father de Villeroi, one of the vicars general of the diocese, reprimanded him publicly, expressing disapproval of one of Montforts personal initiatives. "Louis Marie got down on his knees. His face was ashen and expressionless. When the other man withdrew, he said merely, My brothers, we were ready to plant a cross at the door of this church. It was not Gods will. Our superiors were against it. Let us plant it then in the midst of our hearts."12 The following day the church was full. Father Révol, another vicar general, friend of Louis Maries, and the Bishop-elect of Oloron, went into the pulpit and thanked Montfort with great feeling, with the explicit purpose of repairing the damage done. But the news of what had happened at Our Lady of Calvary had already reached Bishop de la Poype. Although he appreciated and understood Montfort, and had granted him generous protection in other difficult moments, he now felt obligated to sacrifice him to keep the peace. Father de Montfort "had barely begun to preach a retreat to the Dominican nuns of Sainte-Catherine when a letter reached him containing the order of the Bishop to leave Poitiers immediately. The blow was a hard one for Louis Marie, not only because of the break with the now familiar atmosphere but because this new ordeal cast a thick shadow over the most precious ideal of Father de Montforts life: the preaching ministry."13
He then decided to go to Rome to "see Peter" (Gal 1:18). Before leaving he wrote a letter to all who had profited from the missions he preached: "If God preserves my life, I will pass by here again, and stay for a while subject to your illustrious Bishop, who is so zealous for the salvation of souls and compassionate with our failings" (LPM). Back from Rome, Montfort showed up in Poitiers, but his presence sounded so loud an alarm that an order came from Bishop de la Poype asking him to leave the town without delay. Montfort took refuge in a religious house for six days of prayer. He then left Poitiers for good and made his way to Brittany.
A few years later he was again in Paris looking for vocations for his Company of Mary. Before going back to La Rochelle, he met in Poitiers with the first two Daughters of Wisdom, Marie Louise Trichet and Catherine Brunet. The next day Louis Marie received an "invitation" from Bishop de la Poype to get out of Poitiers within twenty-four hours.
e. Pope Clement XI (d. 1721).
In the beginning of 1706, five years of difficulties came to a head. Not knowing what God was doing with him, Montfort expressed to Clement XI his availability for whatever ministry the Pope wished. "Louis Marie asked to be sent into the Church by the Church."14 The conversation he had with Clement XI was decisive in Montforts life. "Father, you have in France a large enough field for your zeal. Go nowhere else, and always work in perfect submission to the Bishops of the dioceses to which you will be called. Because of this God will bless your labors." The Pope conferred on him the title "apostolic missionary" and graciously blessed a small ivory cross that Louis Marie presented to him and that he would later attach to his pilgrims staff.
f. Vincent-Francis Desmaretz, Bishop of Saint-Malo (d. 1739).
In 1707, after a short missionary experience with Dom Leuduger, Louis Marie withdrew to the Saint-Lazare hermitage near the town of his birth. Bishop Desmaretz of Saint-Malo, known for his Jansenist sympathies, listened to the rumors circulating about the apostolate of the reclusive priest. It was said that Montfort opposed an exaggerated sense of autonomy on the part of the local clergy, and had spoken against the canons of the Cathedral, etc. Louis Marie was therefore forbidden any form of ministry in the diocese of Saint-Malo.
When he was ready to withdraw, there was a dramatic turn of events. Msgr. Hindré, pastor of Bréal, had come to see Bishop Desmaretz for the precise purpose of having Father de Montfort preach a mission in his parish. Surprisingly, the Bishop responded affirmatively.15 In the spring of 1708, Bishop Desmaretz came back to the town of Montfort. "This time his speech was unambiguous and terse. He forbade Louis Marie to preach outside of parish churches, including in the prohibition the hermitage chapel [of Saint-Lazare]."16
g. Gilles de Beauveau de Rivau, Bishop of Nantes (d. 1717).
After leaving Saint-Malo, Montfort went back to the diocese of Nantes, where he preached with remarkable success during 17081709.
During the mission at Pontchâteau he launched the idea of a monumental Calvary. After more than a year of work everything was ready for the dedication. However, on September 13, 1710, Montfort received a message from the bishop forbidding him to proceed to the blessing of the Calvary scheduled for the next day. Montfort left immediately for Nantes on foot to plead with Bishop de Beauveau. He was unsuccessful in getting the prohibition rescinded, which had come to him like a bolt from the blue. Late in the morning of the following day, Louis Marie was back at Pontchateau. The missionary informed them that on orders of the local Ordinary, no blessing would take place. Bishop de Beauveau had concealed that the real reason for his prohibition was that he had received an order from the King to destroy the Calvary. Although he tried to defend the missionary, the Bishop felt Montforts behavior was imprudent. While he was preaching a mission at Saint-Molf, Father Olivier, one of his co- workers, came to him with a letter from the bishop forbidding Montfort any ministry whatsoever in the diocese of Nantes and ordered him to get far away from the Calvary of Pontchâteau, never to return. Louis Marie returned to Nantes to speak with the bishop, who finally decided to let him know that the order for the demolition of the Calvary had come from higher up. He marveled at Montforts calm and told his vicar general: "Father de Montfort has to be either a great saint, or an arrogant hypocrite!" Montfort spent the next eight days making a retreat at the house of the Jesuits in the city. He said nothing about what had happened, and there was nothing in his behavior that gave any indication of his distress, even though he had burst out in tears when first informed of the Bishops demand to destroy the entire site of the immense calvary.17
h. Étienne de Champflour, Bishop of La Rochelle (d. 1724) and Jean- François Salgues de Lescure, Bishop of Luçon (d. 1723).
After the drama of Pontchâteau, these two pastors opened "the doors of their dioceses to the missionary, who from this point on would be carrying with him a collection of prohibitions and limitations in the ministry. For the first time he met two genuine shepherds, especially Bishop de Champflour, who were to show him constant and unfailing consideration. Holy prelates like the bishop of Poitiers and prudent ones like the bishop of Nantes, while keeping their esteem for Louis Marie, allowed themselves to be influenced by opinions adverse to the missionary. Both the bishops of Luçon and La Rochelle remained loyal to him."18 The favor the bishop of La Rochelle showed Montfort did not falter when faced with enemies who accused Louis Marie: "Three canons well versed in theology were commissioned by Bishop de Champflour to check Louiss preaching and they upheld his orthodoxy. From this moment, the bishop gave him his complete confidence."19
On the subject of free schools for boys, a project very dear to St. Louis Maries heart, he met with Bishop de Champflour and had lengthy discussions with him in the spring of 1714. In the beginning of 1715, on the verge of completing the foundation of the girls schools, Montfort wrote to Sister Marie Louise of Jesus and Sister Conception: "I have spoken several times to His Lordship, the bishop of La Rochelle, about you and about our plans and he thinks you ought to come here and begin the work we want so much. He has rented a house for the purpose until another house can be bought and suitably furnished. . . I am writing you on behalf of the bishop, so keep this confidential" (L 27). On April 22 1716, Bishop de Champflour paid a pastoral visit to Saint-Laurent-sur- Sèvre, where Montfort was preaching his last mission. "Louis was moved. It was a bit like receiving his bishop in his own house. A rare opportunity was given him to show his loyalty and gratitude to the shepherd who had given him asylum and who had been a father and a friend to him the last five years. What turn would Father de Montforts life have taken if he had never met Bishop de Champflour? We understand the missionarys excitement and his generous desire to have a celebration for his guest."20 The saint died six days after the bishops visit. In his will of April 27, 1716, Montfort left the bishop of La Rochelle and Father Mulot his personal property and mission books (W).
i. Monseigneur Le Pileur, Bishop of Saintes (d. 1726).
On his return trip to Paris via La Rochelle, Montfort stopped in 1713 to preach in the parish of Vanneau in the diocese of Saintes. He was in the middle of the mission when the bishop, unfavorably informed about the missionary, withdrew from Montfort the right to exercise his ministry. Only the intervention of the pastor succeeded in keeping the mission from being interrupted.
j. Monseigneur Turpin de Grissé de Sanzai, Bishop of Rennes.
In the spring of 1714, Montfort took a trip to Rouen where he wanted to meet his friend Blain. He made a long stop at Rennes and asked the bishop for permission to preach, but to no avail. He ended up by making an eight day retreat with the Jesuits.
k. François Rolland de Coètanfao, Bishop of Avranches (d. 1720).
After leaving Rennes, Montfort continued on to Avranches, arriving there on August 14, Assumption Eve. "The next day he presented himself to the bishop with the testimonial letters of Bishop de Champflour, but he met with a bitter surprise. The bishop forbade him to say Mass, and this on Marys solemnity. A desperate ride on a horse rented for the moment brought Louis Marie outside the inhospitable diocese. He arrived before noon at Villedieu-les-Poêles in time to beg the bewildered pastor to allow him to celebrate Mass."21
l. Monseigneur François de Nesmond, Bishop of Bayeux (d. 1715).
"The next stopping place (after Avranches) was Caen in the diocese of Bayeux, which was hosting its bishop, François de Nesmond. After the recent refusals he had met with, Louis found in this prelate a fatherly welcome and an invitation to stay in the town to exercise his ministry."22
2. An evaluation.
a. Montforts obedience.
Montfort always worked in complete compliance with the bishops in the dioceses to which he was called; it is not known of any time that he did anything contrary to their orders.23 His obedience was never a mere "obsequious silence." Obedience, seen in the light of Gods will, caused Montforts initiatives to mature "through the unpredictable changes between the great deeds and the weaknesses of the Church in its historical expression";24 it also made his own missionary activity all the more zealous without ever allowing that holy inner freedom to fade out. Like any disciple of Christ, "he learned obedience in the school of suffering" (Heb 5:8). "This man, who at Saint-Sulpice learned to obey . . . had continually to risk anew the confrontation of his charism with the institution in a painful tension of unity."25 In this sense, it also appears that there was a development in Montforts attitudes. The day after one of the most frustrating experiences Montfort ever had, the demolition of the Calvary of Pontchâteau, Pierre des Bastières said: "I thought I would find him overcome with sorrow . . . But I was quite surprised when I saw him happier and more content than I who needed consolation more than he did."26
b. Montforts persecution.
How then can it be explained that a great number of the bishops Montfort encountered made him leave their dioceses like a priest in disgrace? If it is true that "the fate of some saints in their lifetime is one of the darkest mysteries of the Church,"27 it must also be acknowledged that these difficulties with the hierarchy are almost impossible for the biographer to explain. "Looking at all the solutions attempted," said Henri Daniel, "without any one of them being fully satisfying, we might wonder whether it is simply beyond solution. Yet however disturbing it may be, it is of such significance that we have to face up to it and not minimize it . . . several of the ecclesiastical authorities [who expelled Montfort] are rightly remembered with veneration."28 The same author then proposes his own solution according to which none of the measures taken by the bishops against Montfort could be attributed to doctrinal differences or to Jansenist intrigue. He adds that logically, judging him from the outside, Montfort must have seemed to be a great saint, or perhaps a hypocrite.
G. De Luca seems to join Henri Daniel in his "judgment of Solomon" when he writes, "Today we do not think we have to defend any eccentricity of Louis Maries. We do not accuse his accusers, but we do not think we have to excuse the saint. . . . He received public condemnations and prohibitions from the civil and church authorities. He was hunted down like a dog, he was held up to ridicule as a pretender, pitied and shunned like a fool. He was never cowed by such adversity and stayed calm, obedient, courageous and smiling. The strength of his own temperament changed into this new strength, the strength of gentleness."29
The judgment of Cardinal Tedeschini on those who did not understand Montfort and persecuted him seems more severe. "His enemies, these sterile Christians who tolerated neither adherence to the head of the Church nor a breath of love in the holy ministry, opposed him every step of the way and along with them, all those people who were influenced by calumny or led on by the corrupt. And among their number, unfortunately, as with Christ, there were not lacking certain Church authorities who were ill-disposed toward him, whose names I would rather not recall, and who took no account of the immense services Montfort rendered to peoples souls. On many occasions they did not hesitate to inflict on him the most painful suspensions for a priest, those that concerned the sacred ministry. They were misinformed, set against him, and God permitted them to do what they did; they undoubtedly intended to achieve a greater good. Despite all this Montfort bowed to their authority with humility and docility."30
The words of Daniel-Rops in regard to Montfort are à propos: "It was not inappropriate that the Christianity of the grand siècle be reminded that the theology of the Beatitudes is not one of human prudence, and that there is no more violent scandal than that of the cross. . . Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort was a loner in his time, a kind of unpredictable bastion of the religious life, totally outside the austere and rather conformist norms in which the ideal of priesthood was firmly set at the time. An eccentric if you will, but there have been a number of eccentrics in the Church who nevertheless played an important rôle in its life. . . . Even better, he was a fool for God."31 This is an explanation that pleased Grandet and Blain, the first biographers of Montfort. Grandet appeals to Gods law of the history of salvation (cf. 1 Co 1:27) according to which He chooses certain saints and makes them, through the outpouring of the Spirit, "men of a new species," to "combat the false wisdom of worldly men by the apparent folly of His gospel."32 "As a man of the absolute," De Luca adds, "Montfort lived as he believed."33 Montforts absolute obedience to the Gospel, then, basically explains why he was misunderstood and persecuted during his life.
While accepting this Gospel explanation, Montfort himself is obliged to add another more human one. He candidly acknowledged to Blain the "eccentric" ways that he came by "naturally" and which brought him the privilege of humiliation.34 Yet he is well aware that beyond the bounds of nature, every Christian life, when taken seriously, and every genuine proclamation of the Gospel are inseparable from the Cross. Suffering becomes a source of a fruitful apostolate. He admits this himself to his "very dear sister," Sister Catherine de Saint-Bernard, in a letter that has nothing pathologically self-centered about it:
"I have forever to be on the alert, treading warily as though on thorns or sharp stones. I am like a ball in a game of tennis; no sooner am I hurled to one side than I am sent back to the other, and the players strike me hard. This is the fate of the poor sinner that I am and I have been like this without rest or respite all the thirteen years since leaving St. Sulpice. However, my dear sister, thank God for me for I am content and happy in all my troubles. I think there is nothing in the whole world so welcome as the most bitter cross, when it is steeped in the blood of Christ crucified and in the milk of his holy Mother. Besides this inward happiness, there is the great merit of carrying the crosses. I wish you could see mine. I have never had more conversions than after the most painful and unjust prohibitions" (L 26).
III. THE POPE AND THE BISHOPS IN MONTFORTS WRITINGS
Montfort recognized in the "Bishop of Rome" (H 142:2) the "Vicar of Jesus Christ, / An organ of the Holy Spirit" (H 147:3). From this he draws conclusions: "Believe Jesus in His Vicar, / In all that touches on faith, / And take what he says as Pope / As an oracle and certain law" (H 6:50); "I believe what the Holy Father says, / Despite the shrewd hounds of hell, /He is my leader and my light, / I see nothing, he sees most clearly" (H 6:57). In his methods for reciting the rosary Montfort recalls the "faith and obedience to the pope as Vicar of Jesus Christ" (MR 16). And to justify the form of devotion to Mary he fosters, the saint appeals to the bulls and indulgences accorded to it by the popes (cf. SM 42) and to the "great indulgences of Gregory XV" (TD 160). He mentions "the different popes who have approved this devotion" (TD 163), adding that "no pope has condemned it" and that "it could not be condemned without overthrowing the foundations of Christianity" (TD 163). Montfort also names the pontiffs who were devoted to the Holy Rosary: Pius V, Leo X, Gregory XIII, Julius III, Innocent III, Urban VIII (cf. SR 80, 93, 132). It was to Blessed Pius V, canonized on May 12, 1712, that Montfort dedicated his Hymn 147. Montforts missionary work and his religious foundations constitute an act of obedience to the mission received from Clement XI in 1706. Saint Louis Marie stipulates that his missionaries should have people renew their baptismal promises in accordance with the order received from the pope (RM 56). They were to recite the Roman breviary (RM 31).
In evening prayer Montfort includes an act of faith: "My God, I firmly believe all that the Catholic, Roman and Apostolic Church believes and teaches, because you, the sovereign Truth, have revealed it" (NP 14). Montfort also urges obedience to the bishop, shepherd of the local Church, not only by his example but in his writing as well: "With regard to the government of the community they [the Daughters of Wisdom] obey the bishop" (RW 54). In a parallel way the missionaries of the Company of Mary "will obey the bishop of the diocese to which they belong, the Vicars-General and other ecclesiastical superiors who represent the bishop" (RM 22).
IV. RELEVANCE OF MONTFORTS OBEDIENCE TO POPES AND BISHOPS
Obedience to the Holy See is intrinsic to Montfort spirituality. The same can be said of all Catholic schools of spirituality; yet, because of Montforts staunch fidelity to Rome while in the midst of Gallican tendencies among the French hierarchy, respect for the papal Magisterium is even more pronounced in his heritage. Moreover, Saint Louis Maries recourse to Pope Clement XI to resolve a fundamental crisis in his life is also a significant sign, not only for the communities he founded, but for all who follow his steps. He alludes to the famous dictum, "Roma locuta est, causa finita est," not only concerning pronouncements ex cathedra but in regard to the ordinary Magisterium of the pastor of all the faithful (cf. H 6:50, 57). His teaching appears to be an early rendition of the famous text of Vatican II: "Loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and that one sincerely adhere to decisions made by him, conformably to his manifest mind and intention" (LG 25; cf. CCC 892).
Benedict XV, on the occasion of the bicentenary of Blessed Louis Marie de Montforts death (1916), summarized this aspect of Montfort spirituality in a handwritten letter to the Father General of the Montfort family: "Among the reasons that make your two communities (Company of Mary and Daughters of Wisdom) so respected, we mention two that are of special importance, that were left to you as an inheritance by your founder: reverence for the apostolic see and devotion to the Virgin Mary. A very enlightening proof of such a devotion . . . is the fact that your members have been in the first rank of those to be relentlessly ill-treated by both the Gallican and Jansenist heretics because they seemed so attached to the Roman pontiff and for the same reason they had to suffer all sorts of acts of cruelty during the French revolution. . . . Furthermore, these two elements [reverence for the apostolic see and devotion to the Virgin Mary] are closely interconnected: the person who truly loves Mary, being incapable of not loving Jesusfor through the intermediary of the Mother we go directly to Jesusmust for this reason have attachment and devotion to the Vicar of Christ."35
The bishops who expelled Saint Louis de Montfort from their dioceses, whatever their motives, have become witnesses to the saints joyful obedience. Although he believed that at times he was treated unjustly and did not hesitate to lay his case before them hoping for a change of decision, he obeyed when he lost his appealnot begrudgingly, not bitterly, but bolstered by a weeks retreat to strengthen him, lovingly praising God for the occasion of such a cross. At times his reputation was clearly damaged by well-intentioned but irresponsible superiors, and the claims of his detractors that he was a fool were thereby strengthened. Instead of curling within himself in discouragement and self-pity, these so called failures became occasions of incredible growth. There is little doubt that it was his deep faith that endowed him with this ability. Saint Louis de Montfort is clearly an example to contemporary Christians and, in a special way, to many preachers and theologians who, at least in this regard, feel a close affinity with him.
Notes: (1) Pius XII, "Homily on the occasion of the canonization of Louis-Marie de Montfort (7-21-1947)," in AAS 39 (1947) 330. (2) G. Martina, La Chiesa nelletà dellassolutismo, del liberalismo, del totalitarismo. Da Lutero ai nostri giorni (The Church in the Age of Absolutism, Liberalism, Totalitarianism: From Luther to Our Times), Morcelliana, Brescia 1974, 364. (3) Ibid., 332. (4) B. Papàsogli, Lhomme venu du vent. Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, Bellarmin, Montréal 1984, 247. English translation: Montfort, A Prophet for Our Times, Edizioni, Monfortane, Rome, 1991. (5) G. Martina, La Chiesa, 187. (6) G. De Luca, Luigi Maria Grignion de Montfort. Saggio biografico, Edizioni di storia e letteratura, Rome 1985, 203. (7) Quoted in OC, 25, n. 1. (8) De Fiores, 251. On Bishop de Saint-Vallier, cf. Anon., Monseigneur de Saint-Vallier et lhôpital général de Québec (Bishop de Saint-Vallier and the Gereral Hospital of Quebec), Darveau, Québec 1882; T. Ronsin, Le Bx de Montfort et Mgr de Saint-Vallier (Blessed De Montfort and Bishop de Saint-Vallier), in Messager de Marie reine des coeurs 30 (1933) 27176. (9) Papàsogli, 167. On this bishop cf. G.-J.-C. Paulze-dIvoy de la Poype, Un évêque de Poitiers au XVIIe siècle, Mgr J.-Cl. de la Poype de Vertrieu (A Bishop of Poitiers in the 17th Century: J.C. de la Poype de Vertrieu), Poitiers 1889. (10) Papàsogli, 17374. When Montforts biographers speak of the "prohibitions" to which he was subjected, they do not mean to say that he received some particular ecclesiastical censure that is defined by the word "interdict": cf. the note of Cardinal Villecourt in A. Pauvert, Vie du vénérable Louis-Marie Grignion e Montfort, Oudin, Paris-Poitiers 1875, 643. (11) Papàsogli, 22829. (12) Ibid, 228-229. (13) Ibid, 230. (14) Ibid, 231. (15) Ibid, 272. (16) Ibid. (17) On the drama of Pontchâteau, we have given a summary here of pages 297300 of Papàsogli. (18) Papàsogli, 307. (19) Papàsogli, 310. On this bishop cf. A. de Lantenay, Étienne de Champflour, évêque de La Rochelle, avant son épiscopat. Mélange de biographie et dhistoire (Stephen de Campflour, Bishop of La Rochelle Before His Episcopate: Both Biography and History), Bordeaux 1885; L. Pérouas, Le diocèse de La Rochelle de 1648 à 1724 (The Diocese of La Rochelle from 1648 to 1724), Sociologie et pastorale, Paris 1964, 256397. (20) Papàsogli, 411. (21) Papàsogli, 36869. (22) Papàsogli, 369. (23) Grandet, 339. (24) Papàsogli, 178. (25) Papàsogli, 231. (26) Grandet, 304. (27) I. Silone, Lavventura di un povero cristiano (The Adventure of a Poor Christian), Mondadori, Milano 1968, 181. (28) H. Daniel, Saint Louis-Marie Grignion e Montfort. Ce quil fut, ce quil fît (St. Louis de Montfort: Who He was and What He Did), Téqui, Toulouse 1967, 12. (29) De Luca, 237, 233. (30) Card. F. Tedeschini, Discorso inaugurale in lode di San Luigi Maria di Montfort (Inaugural Discourse in Praise of St. Louis Marie de Montfort), (December 8, 1948), Typ. Pio X, Roma, 2829. (31) H. Daniel-Rops, LÉglise des temps classiques. Le grand siècle des âmes, Fayard (The Church of Classical Times. The grande siécle of souls), Paris 1958, 330. (32) Grandet, preface. (33) De Luca, 234. (34) Blain, 18490. (35) Benedict XV, "Letter to Fr. Antonin Lhoumeau," April 19, 1916, in AAS 8 (1916) 17273.
Taken from: Jesus Living in Mary: Handbook of the Spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort (Litchfield, CT: Montfort Publications, 1994).
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