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

Summary
I.	Virtues Practiced by Montfort: 
	1.	Two comprehensive testimonials; 
	2.	Practice of some virtues in particular; 
	3.	Special difficulty with certain virtues; 
	4.	Meaning of these virtues and their unity; 
		a.	Virtues and holiness; 
		b.	Virtues and devotion to Mary; 
		c.	Meaning and unity of Montfort’s virtues. 
II.	Montfort and the Virtues: 
	1.	The “Treatise on the Virtues” in Father de Montfort’s hymns; 
	2.	Virtues of the Christian and the apostle; 
		a.	Virtues of the Christian; 
		b.	Virtues of the apostle; 
	3.	Reflection on the meaning of these virtues and their unity; 
		a.	Virtues and virtue; 
		b.	Virtues of the Christian and those of the world; 
		c.	Virtues and love; 
		d.	Virtues and the consecration. 
III.	Virtues of Mary: 
	1.	Virtues of Mary 
	2.	Mary and the virtues; 
		a.	Mary, model of the Christian virtues; 
		b.	Mary, mother who shares her virtues. 
IV.	Virtues of Jesus: 
	1.	Virtues of God; 
	2.	Virtues of Jesus. 
V.	Montfort Virtues Today: 
	1.	Some difficulties; 
	2.	Effective directions for today; 
	3.	Useful reminders for today.

I. VIRTUES PRACTICED BY MONTFORT
One cannot separate the virtues practiced by Father de Montfort from 
those he called others to practice, such as in his set of hymns known as 
the “Treatise on the Virtues.” One of Montfort’s dominant virtues was 
precisely that his preaching and his own life were one. A priest who 
worked with him and knew him well, Father Dubois, writes: “What was 
unique in the life of Father de Montfort was his integrity. At no moment 
did he appear different from his ordinary self . . . on retreat or in 
public functions, with the poor, with the rich, in drinking and eating, 
alone or in company, and so on.”1 
1. Two Comprehensive Testimonials
There are two key testimonials to the virtues of Father de Montfort. One 
was written at the beginning of his active life, the other at the end. 
The two can be regarded as containing a basic list of his virtues. The 
first is a letter from Father Leschassier (Louis Marie’s spiritual 
director) dated May 13, 1701: “I have known Father Grignion for some 
years. God has outfitted him with many graces, and he has responded 
faithfully. He has appeared to me, as to so many others who have 
examined him closely, to have been constant in the love of God and the 
practice of prayer, mortification, poverty, and obedience. He has a 
great deal of zeal in helping the poor and instructing them. He has 
industry and perseverance in many matters. He appears rather single 
minded, and his manners not quite to the taste of a goodly number of 
folk. He has such a high idea of perfection, plenty of zeal, and little 
experience.”2
The second list of virtues comes to us from his biographer Blain, who 
speaks to us of his friend’s death: “He died as he had lived, as a 
saint, with the liveliest sentiments of faith, the most tender piety, 
the most perfect abandonment to God, the purest charity, and a trust in 
and tenderness toward the holy Virgin that is practically without 
precedent.”3
2.  Practice of Some Virtues in Particular
The whole life of Father de Montfort would have to be analyzed in order 
to show how he practiced each of the virtues that made a saint of him. 
Suffice it to cite some of these virtues, without distinguishing between 
what might be called the basic Christian virtues and the properly 
apostolic virtues.
With Montfort, personal poverty, self-abandonment to divine 
Providence, and love for the poor, were perhaps one and the same virtue. 
He chose poverty, traveling always on foot, “in the manner of the 
apostles,” begging for his bread along the route, renouncing the 
benefices that would have brought him security (L 6, 20). He wrote to 
his mother (L 20) excusing himself for not being able to help his 
brothers and sisters (“For the moment, I have no worldly goods to give 
them for I am poorer than all of them”): he does not wish to “exchange 
divine Providence for a canonry or a benefice” (L 6), for this would be 
“to be separated from my mother, divine Providence” (L 10). This choice 
also enabled him to enter into solitude with the world of the poor, to 
be one with those in whom he recognized the very face of Jesus. “His 
tenderness for the poor, if I may make bold to say so,” writes Blain, 
“went quite to excess. He regarded them as a sacrament, containing Jesus 
Christ hidden beneath their repulsive exterior. A poor person, he used 
to say, is a great mystery. One must be able to penetrate it.”4
In the radiant warmth of this love for the very poorest shine two 
other virtues that Louis Marie practiced to a heroic degree, both of 
which find their crown in mercy and love of enemies: a love of others as 
his brothers and sisters, and graciousness. When Montfort sings, in his 
canticle of charity: “Who should be surprised / that I love my neighbor 
so?” (H 148:4), we have a strong feeling that he is expressing his own 
experience. He who possessed a heart “more tender than anyone else’s” 
had a more than motherly tenderness for his neighbor, especially for the 
very poorest. “The Christian and fatherly love I bear you,” he writes to 
the people of Montbernage, “is so great that you will always have a 
place in my heart as long as I live and even into eternity” (LPM 1). 
Altogether naturally he is called “the good Father from Montfort.” But 
his goodness appears in its full light—in its full holiness—in the 
forgiveness he accords those who have done him harm. For Father Brenier, 
who humiliated him “fully, at length, and publicly” the whole time he 
was his spiritual director, his penitent has only words of gratitude: “I 
take the liberty of greeting Fr. Brenier and humbly thanking him. God 
only knows all the good he has done for me” (L 10).
However, Louis Marie obtained this forgiving graciousness only at the 
price of painful battles and fervent prayers. He himself testified to 
Father des Bastières that, “if God had destined him for the world, he 
would have been the most terrible man of his century”; but, his friend 
adds, “he bent unbelievable efforts to conquer his natural 
impetuousness, succeeded in the end, and acquired this charming virtue 
of graciousness. . . . It was painted on his face, it burst forth in all 
his dealing.”5 His last sermon, just before his death, was to be on “the 
tenderness of Jesus” (LS 1718–26).
This graciousness doubtless has its roots in two other deeply 
integrated virtues, which were, it appears, the basis of Montfort’s 
holiness, and which he lived as essential apostolic virtues. They 
allowed him to practice self-effacement, in order to let Christ himself 
speak and act in him. Humility led him to obey, and obedience needed 
humility. “These two virtues appeared in very tangible ways in all of 
Father de Montfort’s actions,” Besnard writes. “He was always seen 
blindly submitting to the most rigorous and most unexpected orders. 
Perhaps he would never have acquired them [these virtues] had the desire 
to be humiliated, and despised, not tempered his great zeal and the 
freedom of the gospel.”6 It is beautiful to see Louis Marie writing to 
the people of the outlying districts of Montbernage, to whom he has just 
preached a mission: “dear women of St. Simplicien who sell fish and 
meat, and other shopkeepers and retailers” (LM 5). Although only thirty-
two years of age, he noted: “Surrounded by all this I am very weak, even 
weakness personified; I am ignorant, even ignorance personified and even 
worse besides which I do not dare to speak of” (LM 6). But again, barely 
a month before his death, he concluded a letter: “Humility! 
Humiliations! Humiliations! Thanks be to God for them,” after having 
asked to be prayed for, “so that,” he wrote, “God will not punish my 
sins and refuse true conversion of heart to all the poor who listen to 
my preaching” (L 33).
Although he directed his missioners “to state openly and 
straightforwardly the reasons they may have for omitting or for not 
undertaking what is commanded” (RM 27), he sings: “I tell it before my 
very God: / I had rather die, / and die anathema, / than disobey” (H 
91:28).
One sees that this person had taken obedience, like humility , to an 
“all-consuming extreme.”7 As early as the days of Saint-Sulpice, he 
could not resist, Blain tells us, “making use of innocent subterfuges 
and little tricks” to obtain explicit permission to perform acts of even 
the smallest details of community life.8 At Poitiers, again, he felt the 
need to consult constantly his spiritual director, Father Leschassier, 
on the tiniest decisions that he had to make: “Am I doing the right 
thing? . . . Have I done the right thing? . . . Am I doing the right 
thing?” (L 10). Montfort obeyed the bishops with scrupulous exactitude, 
throughout his whole apostolic life. It is no doubt significant that 
among all of the things he was reproached for, the only one he did not 
accept was that of disobedience: “He was convinced,” Blain tells us, 
“that obedience was the mark of the will of God. One must never depart 
from it. But his conscience made him irreproachable on this subject. At 
all times and in all circumstances, he was ready to obey, and to do 
nothing without the approval of his superiors.”9
A study like this one does not permit a detailed examination of every 
virtue that made Louis Marie a saint. We should, though, speak of his 
courage, his apostolic zeal, his heroic mortification, his love of 
crosses, his virtue of religion. He always practiced fervent adoration 
in prayer, the four cardinal virtues—justice, fortitude, prudence, and 
temperance—and the three great theological virtues that have God as 
their object: faith, hope, and love.
However, wisdom was for him the crown of virtues: Certainly nothing is 
higher than faith, hope, and love, but as with these theological 
virtues, wisdom was for Montfort not so much a virtue as a gift. St. 
Louis Marie himself speaks of the gift that is greater than faith (also 
a virtue). It is “the cross,” or more precisely, the enjoyment and 
actual possession of the mystery of the cross (LEW 175). The great 
foolishness of the cross was for Montfort the wisdom of love. In this 
sense we can say that Montfort’s greatest virtue was wisdom. Wisdom was 
central when he began the “Wisdom” prayer group in the poorhouse at 
Poitiers,10 in order “to confound the false wisdom of the people of the 
world”; when he dreamt of erecting a gigantic Calvary at Pontchâteau; 
when he shared his meals with paupers, (letting them treat him as poorly 
as they pleased);11 when he obeyed the least justifiable order of a 
superior. Montfort was, very simply, wise, because he possessed the true 
wisdom of love which is folly, the very folly of God (1 Cor 1:21–24).
3. Special Difficulty with Certain Virtues
It is always difficult to “put one’s finger on” the mystery of holiness. 
Ordinarily, progress in virtue and the practice of the beatitudes will 
render a Christian more “human.” The demands of gospel love know no 
measure, and demand everything, without reserve. Such demands are 
difficult to reconcile with a purely human outlook in which the supreme 
criterion would be some kind of balance.
Some have said that throughout most of his life, Montfort appeared to 
have had difficulty in forming deep personal relationships. “Socially 
maladjusted” and “unable to participate in common social structures” 
have been said of him. It has been observed that he never succeeded in 
“enlisting genuine collaborators while he was alive.”12 However, such a 
judgment, even if correct, should also take into consideration the 
amazing apostolic successes of Louis Marie: the truly amazing 
conversions he brought about, the deep, lasting attachments of certain 
collaborators such as Father des Bastières, the altogether spontaneous 
affection felt for him by the poor of Poitiers: “They have become so 
attached to me that they are going about saying openly that I am to be 
their priest” (L 6). If Montfort had difficulty in relating to others, 
then how can we explain that, as early as 1702 (when he was only twenty-
nine), he could testify how God had given him “a great capacity for 
sympathizing with everyone,” and that he was “highly praised by nearly 
everyone in the town” (L 11)? He who some say “disqualifies himself 
because of his moralistic statements to and about women” is the same one 
who would “forge very delicate friendships with female personages 
throughout his life”:13 Marie-Louise de Jésus, Catherine Brunet, and 
others. One should properly speak of Montfort as a “rare human, with a 
tender capacity for love.”14
It has also been asserted by some that Montfort suffered from a low 
self-esteem, a difficulty in loving himself,15 for he sees himself like 
a “snail in its shell, which, when it is hidden, seems to be something 
of value, but when it comes out is wretched and disgusting” (L 4). 
However, it must be noted that in the next letter, a few months after 
his ordination, he does not hesitate to express his feelings, his 
“tremendous urge” to sow a love of Our Lord and Our Lady in human 
hearts, an urge he finds to be “good and persistent.” As humble as he 
was, he did not bat an eyelash about founding a new congregation of 
priests before he had even begun his own ministry (L 5).
Saint Louis Marie’s insistence on “God Alone” is also considered to be 
another of his faults. It is said that he risked forgetting that he was 
a human person who needed to love other persons. But such words and 
phrases should not be taken out of context. To say that Montfort had 
little regard for himself as a person, or for his neighbor, is clearly 
contradicted by even a superficial glance at his life and writings. 
Montfort insisted: “Though God perform a work, / And we do nothing 
there, / still must we perform it / indeed, and do it well” (H 26:21).
Again, he asked that the Daughters of Wisdom “abandon themselves to 
the care of God’s divine Providence, . . . as though they expected to 
receive food and care directly from an angel sent from heaven.” Yet, 
that they “undertake manual work to help earn their living, as though 
they expected nothing from God” (RW 29).
Such open-minded care is scarcely compatible with the fault with which 
Father de Montfort is most reproached: his “individualism.” His 
Sulpician masters, for whom the term “individual” was synonymous with 
“stubborn,” showed no pity in seeking to rid their disciples of such 
singular tendencies. Toward the end of his life, in 1714, his friend 
Blain reproached him: “‘But where, in the Gospel,’ I told him, ‘will you 
find instances and examples of these unusual individualistic ways of 
yours?’“16 Montfort in response made a distinction between three kinds 
of individualism: the first was from personality, temperament or nature, 
the second was evangelical, and the third might be called missionary. If 
it was the first, he would be helped to notice it for he would be 
humiliated by it—which would prove useful. If it was the second, it was 
a fault possessed by every saint in helping them to avoid conforming to 
worldly wisdom. Third, if it was the third it would tend to support his 
becoming a better missionary by avoiding settling down in one 
community.”17
4. Meaning of These Virtues and Their Unity
Having thus considered the criticisms made of Montfort for his lack of 
“humanness,” perhaps now it might be helpful to reflect briefly on all 
of his virtues.
a.   Virtues and holiness. 
First, all of the virtues practiced by Montfort should not be confused 
with his holiness. His friend Blain, who admired him so much, spoke of 
the “mystery” of Louis Grignion. Blain wrote: “He was an avowed saint, 
and his praises were sung now for his great modesty, now for his 
recollection, now for his humility, often for his great mortification 
and his austerities, at other times for his love of poverty and the 
poor, for his charity and his zeal, and especially for his great 
tenderness and devotion toward the Blessed Virgin. And you ask whether 
he trod the path of the saints?”18
“He is most humble,” declared Father Leschassier, “very poor, very 
mortified, very recollected. And yet I find it difficult to believe that 
he is led by the good Spirit.”19 Almost all of his life, to be sure, 
according to his friend Blain, Montfort posed “a problem for spiritual 
persons.”20 This problem has been solved, in a sense, by Louis Marie’s 
canonization. But at least we are reminded that holiness is not a 
collection of virtues. Holiness consists in the practice of the 
theological virtues, whose pathway is more one of beatitude than virtue. 
It is a path of “poverty of heart,” and it is compatible with many a 
fault. The secret of this path is hidden from the prideful and revealed 
to the humble. For Montfort the path was his consecration to Jesus 
through Mary.
b.   Virtues and devotion to Mary. 
Devotion to the Virgin Mary is without doubt a virtue, and in the 
classic sense of the term. Within all of Louis Marie’s virtues 
(including the theological ones), and within his holiness, there is the 
great secret of his consecration. Had Montfort merely been content in 
acquiring and practicing virtue at the price of a demanding asceticism, 
he would have “sculpted his statue” and never succeeded in “forming 
Jesus” in a way that was “natural” (cf. TD 220). He did better than 
that: he let himself be led by the Holy Spirit (TD 258). Montfort was a 
very “mortified” person, and his mortifications doubtless were beyond 
what saints normally imposed on themselves. But the profoundest 
mortification that he chose was his spiritual asceticism, which 
consisted in his becoming a soul “thoroughly tractable, entirely 
detached, most ready to be molded in [Mary] by the Holy Spirit,” without 
any reliance on its “own skill and industry” (SM 20), casting itself 
into Mary, “the ‘living mold of God’” (SM 18, citing St. Augustine).
With the devotion to the Mother of God, one might say that, in Louis 
Marie, the virtue of mortification shifted: it was spiritualized, 
deepened. In renouncing self-reliance, and a life lived of himself, he 
installed death (and hence life) at the very wellspring of his being. He 
did this in order that it might no longer be he who lived, but Mary (and 
hence Jesus) who lived in him. With the consecration to Jesus through 
Mary,  it could be said that Montfort’s mysticism becomes asceticism.
c.   Meaning and unity of Montfort’s virtues. 
We should see Montfort’s life of virtue and holiness in the light of 
the consecration. In this way we will better understand what the 
practice of virtue meant to him. For him virtues were not just a series 
of habits to be acquired or commandments to be observed. They were the 
practice of that “necessary and fruitful death,” without which it is 
impossible to bear fruit (TD 81); to put it positively, they establish 
within the person, the life and mind of Jesus, incarnate Wisdom (Ph 
2:5).
These virtues find another source of unity, as it were, in a focus on 
mission. Montfort practiced humility, obedience, and poverty, to the 
point of appearing to be a fool in the eyes of the world. He did so, of 
course, because these were the virtues of Jesus and he wanted to live 
them in his own life. But he also chose to live them because he was a 
missionary. Missionaries did not come from themselves, nor did they 
proclaim themselves. In order to be someone truly sent, and not to 
proclaim oneself but He who sends, one must be humble, poor and 
obedient. One must live what he preaches.

 

II. MONTFORT AND THE VIRTUES
This section considers the virtues Montfort taught and preached.
1. The “Treatise on the Virtues” in Father de Montfort’s Hymns
We find a first listing of the virtues in LEW: “When Eternal Wisdom 
communicates himself to a soul, he gives that soul . . . all the great 
virtues to an eminent degree. They are: the theological virtues—lively 
faith, firm hope, ardent charity; the cardinal virtues—well-ordered 
temperance, complete prudence, perfect justice, invincible fortitude; 
the moral virtues—perfect religion, profound humility, pleasing 
gentleness, blind obedience, complete detachment, continuous 
mortification, sublime prayer, etc.” (LEW 99).
In the Hymns one finds a far more complete collection of virtues. If 
we count as virtues mental and vocal prayer, contempt for the world, the 
cross (as a way of life), praise, thanksgiving, and so on, then we may 
say that Father de Montfort sings the virtues in nearly 80 of the 164 
hymns; i.e., almost half.
A possible catalogue of the hymns on the virtues would be the 
following:
(a.)   Hymn on virtue in general: “Esteem and Desire of Virtue” (H 1).
(b.)   Eleven hymns on the theological virtues—faith: “Lights of Faith” 
(H 6); hope: firmness of hope (H 7), “Joys of Paradise” (H 116); 
charity: generally, “Excellence of Charity” (H 5); love of God: “New 
Canticle on the Love of God” (H 135, 138), “Serving God in the Spirit” 
(H 153); love of neighbor: “Tenderness of Charity” (H 14), “Hymn of 
Charity” (H 148); love for the poor: value of alms (H 17), “Cries of the 
Poor” (H 18).
(c.)   Forty hymns on the moral virtues—one on the virtue of religion: 
“Service of God in Spirit and Truth” (H 153); four on the virtue of 
humility: “Splendor of Humility” (H 8), “Good Odor of Modesty” (H 25), 
“Children’s Great Lesson” (H 97), “New Canticle of the Poor in Spirit” 
(H 144); two on the virtue of trust: “Abandonment to Providence” (H 28), 
“Miseries of this Life, and Trust in God” (H 114); one on the virtue of 
graciousness: “Charms of Graciousness” (H 9); one on the virtue of 
obedience: “Merit of Obedience” (H 10); one on the virtue of patience: 
“Strength of Patience” (H 11); one on the virtue of chastity: “Beauty of 
Virginity” (H 12); four on the virtue of penitence: “Need for Penitence” 
(H 13), “Power of Fasting” (H 16), “The Penitent Who Loved Much” (H 94); 
“Specific Nature of Tepidity” (H 161); four on the virtue of mental and 
vocal prayer: “Splendors of Prayer” (H 15), “Wisdom of Silence” (H 23), 
“Holy Practice of the Presence of God” (H 24), “New Canticle on 
Solitude” (H 157); one on devotion to Mary: “Zealous Devotee of Mary” (H 
80); two on the virtue of poverty: “Treasures of Poverty” (H 20), 
“Treasures of Poverty,” once more (H 108); one on the virtue of 
gratitude: “Duties of Gratitude” (H 26); fourteen on contempt for the 
world: “Misfortunes of the World” (H 29), “Snares of the World: Games of 
Chance” (H 30), “Dancing and Balls” (H 31), “Comedy and Shows” (H 32), 
“Luxury” (H 33), “Human Respect” (H 34–39), “Condemnation of the World” 
(H 106), “Farewell, Mad World!” (H 107), “Vanities of the World” (H 
156); three on the mystery of the cross: “Triumph of the Cross” (H 19, 
102); “Treasures of the Cross” (H 123).
(d.)   Nine hymns on the virtues to be practiced in certain conditions 
of life—For religious: “To the Religious of the Visitation” (H 48), “The 
Good Sisters of the Third Orders” (H 92), “To the Daughters of Wisdom” 
(H 149); for virgins: “Beauty of Virginity” (H 12); for children: “The 
Good Child” (H 93); for soldiers: “The Good Soldier” (H 95); for 
prisoners: “The Good Prisoner” (H 96); for shepherdesses (and country 
folk): “The Good Shepherdess” (H 99); for married persons: “New Canticle 
for the Christian Wedding” (H 146).
(e.)   Sixteen hymns on virtues to be practiced in certain situations—
for persons afflicted with scruples: “The Scrupulous Person Converted” 
(H 45); for persons who live in affliction: “Consolation of the 
Afflicted” (H 46, 100, 101); for persons undergoing trials: “Strength of 
Patience” (H 11), “Miseries of this Life and Trust in God” (H 114); for 
persons to whom a mission is being preached: “Christ’s Call to the 
Sinner to Take Advantage of the Mission” (H 105), “The Mission Opens” (H 
115), “Wake-Up Call of the Mission” (H 163); for converted sinners: “The 
Sinner Converted by Mary’s Intercession” (H 79), “Rule for a Converted 
Person” (H 139), “The Converted Sinner” (H 140), “Resolutions of a 
Converted Sinner” (H 142), “Canticle on the Conversion of a Worldly 
Woman” (H 143), “The True Christian” (H 154); for persons on pilgrimage: 
“Holy Journey” (H 162).
(f.)   Three hymns on the apostolic virtues: “Flames of Zeal” (H 21), 
“Resolutions and Prayers of a Missionary Perfected and Zealous” (H 22), 
“The Good Missionary” (H 91).
This catalogue is incomplete. Furthermore, some hymns are listed 
twice, since they illustrate two categories of virtues. Finally, some 
hymns that are prayers rather than expositions have been omitted.
Although the theological virtues are certainly represented, there is 
no specific hymn devoted to a cardinal virtue. It must be remembered 
that the Hymns are not the only works of Montfort which present the 
virtues. The Sermons speak of them, as well, and, in a sense, the 
missioner’s entire work is organized in function of them.
2.  Virtues of the Christian and the apostle
It would impossible here to illustrate every virtue whose praises 
Montfort sang. The texts themselves should be thoroughly studied. Here 
we indicate certain key Christian virtues of the Christian, especially 
those that are uniquely apostolic.
a.   Virtues of the Christian. 
Faith, hope, and love.
Faith, hope, and love bring one to God so strongly that, in a sense, 
they “overcome” God. Faith, especially Mary’s, and her love, actually 
attract and  “force” God: “‘So great was the love of Mary,’ explains St. 
Augustine, ‘that it conquered the omnipotent God’—O quantus amor illius 
qui vincit omnipotentem” (LEW 107).
Humility. 
Humility may be the most important moral virtue for Montfort. In the 
“earthly paradise of the new Adam,” the cardinal virtues are but the 
four branches of the great “river of humility that gushes forth from the 
soil” (TD 261). Humility, too, like the theological virtues, has the 
power to attract God, to overcome or “surmount” God: “He is 
insurmountable, / but the humble one is His conqueror; / with an 
ineffable strength, / that one wins His heart” (H 8:4).
Bound up with obedience, humility enables its practitioner to “make 
more progress in virtue than others” (RW 64). At one with the Beatitude 
of “poverty of heart,” such a soul becomes like a theological virtue. 
The soul reaches God all the more easily for God’s incarnation in Jesus 
reveals God to her, and fills her with humility. “Humility” becomes a 
synonym for “perfection.” The true devotion that Montfort undertakes to 
explain “is more perfect,” Montfort makes bold to say, “because it 
supposes a greater humility to approach God through a mediator rather 
than directly by ourselves” (TD 83).
Trust and abandonment. 
From humility a whole constellation of virtues emanate: poverty, 
trust, abandonment to divine Providence. All have their goal in the 
withdrawal of the Christian from self in order to become open to the 
other. It is an experience of total letting go into the hands of the 
Father. There is no contempt for action here. One must toil at the work 
of God, and “toil well” (H 28:21), as if one expected nothing of God 
(RW 29). But one should preserve sufficient openness of spirit not to 
forget that activity, important as it is, is never anything but a 
“virginity” in need of fecundation by the Spirit in order to bear fruit.
When, in TD, Montfort describes the behavior of the predestined, he 
cites the virtues that seem to him to be important for the Christian. 
Christians are interior persons. They have a taste for retreat and 
prayer. “It is true, at times they do venture out into the world, but 
only . . . in obedience”; doubtless because we are ourselves more 
obviously in action than in prayer (TD 196; cf. 187, 191). They rely not 
on themselves, but on God and Mary (TD 186, 194, 199). They are 
submissive and obedient (TD 193, 198). They imitate the Blessed Virgin 
(TD 195, 200), and love her (TD 193, 197).
b.   Virtues of the apostle. 
Every Christian must be an apostle. The virtues of the one are the 
virtues of the other. But it is possible to single out some more 
typically apostolic virtues.
Zeal. 
Zeal is the shape of a love become a missionary love. Montfort sings 
of a raging “fire” with which he would have all apostles burn. “No 
single hour can I rest, / nor sit one minute still: / I see Jesus 
offended!” (H 22:12). “Might I see this soul [my neighbor’s], so lovely, 
/ fall into death everlasting? / I had rather be anathema. Ah, Lord, 
they all outrage you / in the human being, your beautiful image! / Shall 
I keep silent? Shall I bear it? / Rather death itself!” (H 22:2–3)
When we prefer to die, or even to be separated from Jesus, rather than 
see a neighbor going to perdition; when I am able to declare: “I am 
ready to sacrifice my time, my health and my life for the souls of the 
poor in this neglected house” (L 6); or when I can tell someone who 
threatens me with death, “I had rather a thousand times the salvation of 
your soul than ten thousand lives like mine”21 —then I shall be a 
“perfected, zealous missionary” in the spirit of Montfort (H 22).
Freedom. 
“Freedom” could be the name of a whole cluster of apostolic virtues: 
detachment, poverty, abandonment to divine providence, obedience. The 
apostle must be detached from all things, not only in order to be “free 
as the clouds that sail high above the earth, . . . according to the 
inspiration of the Spirit” (PM 9), but also the better to let Christ 
shine through us and act of himself. “What, then, am I asking for?” 
cries Montfort in the burning Prayer for Missionaries. “Priests who are 
free with the freedom that comes from you, detached from everything, 
without father, mother, brothers, sisters or relatives and friends as 
the world and the flesh understand them, without worldly possessions to 
encumber or distract them, and devoid of all self interest” (PM 7). The 
virtue of poverty is significant in this respect. It permits us to 
remove ourselves from all that prevents us from depending on God and on 
others. Shall we therefore fall back into slavery? By no means. If we 
depend completely on God, we shall be able to, and shall actually, work 
“prodigies of grace.”22
Prayer: 
Prayer may not be directly a virtue. Saint Thomas sees it as an act of 
the virtue of religion.23 But Father de Montfort asks his missioners to 
apply themselves to it “unceasingly,” as well as to study, “that they 
may obtain from God the gift of wisdom so necessary to a true preacher 
for knowing and relishing the truth and getting others to relish it” (RM 
60). “It is the easiest thing in the world,” he adds, “to be a 
fashionable preacher. It is a difficult but sublime thing to be able to 
preach with the inspiration of an apostle” (RM 60), “under the impulse 
of divine Wisdom” (LEW 97), with words “that go from the heart of the 
one through whom he speaks straight to the heart of the listener” (LEW 
96). But such a gift, for the apostle, is the fruit of toil and prayer 
(RM 60).
Finally, prayer, in the form of “devotion to the Virgin Mary,” enables 
the apostle to join the grand combat between light and darkness, 
plunging into the very heart of the conflict with the weapons of God (TD 
54).
3. Reflection on the Meaning of These Virtues and Their Unity
a.   Virtues and virtue. 
In the seventeenth century, the word “virtue” in the singular had a 
very different meaning from the plural. In the singular it denoted a 
strength. It is masculine (the Latin virtus): it wells up from the 
depths of being and expresses that being. We have it in Hymn 4, “Esteem 
and Desire of Virtue in General”: the “virtue of God,” the divine “vapor 
of His everlasting glory” (H 4:2), which we are called to take as our 
teacher, is the very love, or holiness, or wisdom, of God.24 In the 
plural, the “virtues” are closer to what we call “virtues” today.
With Father de Montfort, it is also necessary to set the virtues in 
relationship with a whole series of realities which he calls the “graces 
of God” (LEW 207), which are all contained in “Wisdom” (LEW 206). 
Montfort likes to associate virtues with graces, frequently in phrases 
consisting of three members (sometimes in correspondence with the 
persons of the Trinity): virtues and graces (TD 173, 174); virtues, 
graces, and lights (TD 119); virtues, graces, and perfections: In Jesus 
alone “dwells the entire fullness of the divinity and the complete 
fullness of grace, virtue and perfection” (TD 61); virtues, merits, and 
good works (TD 121, 122); virtues, graces, and treasures (TD 178). In 
Hymn 4, virtue comes from the Father: it has been expressed by Jesus, 
and it is the Spirit who brings us to it (H 4:2–3, 6).
b.   Virtues of the Christian and those of the world. 
When Montfort invites us to enter into the Wisdom of God, he is quite 
aware that this Wisdom of Love is altogether opposed to that of the 
world, which itself has created a universe completely contrary to that 
of the Gospel (LEW 199). The world, too, has such “virtues as courage, 
finesse, tactfulness, shrewdness, gallantry, politeness and good humor. 
It stigmatizes as serious offenses, insensitiveness, stupidity, poverty, 
boorishness and bigotry” (LEW 77). But the world is not content to 
oppose the Gospel. Its wickedness runs deeper. It actually cloaks sin 
under the appearance of virtue, and virtue under the appearance of sin. 
“In general,” the worldly “do not teach sin openly, but they speak of it 
as if it were virtuous, or blameless, or a matter of indifference” (LEW 
199). A hymn like the one on the “Axioms of the World” (H 39) shows 
vividly how “worldly” persons can attack new converts by showing them 
that their virtues are nothing but sin: “Drop that meditation! / ‘Tis a 
dangerous thing. / It can be a temptation: / woe to the lazy soul!” (H 
39:135).
One senses a particular resentment in Montfort for that prototype of 
worldly virtues, the seventeenth-century “honest man” or “wise man” of 
the world (LEW 76). Papàsogli has marvelously described this virtuous 
person: “[Here is] the person of calculation, not risk—who will never 
know the irrevocable generosity of ‘going for broke’; the person of the 
useful, not of piety. . . . It is not the great darkness of the world 
[that guides this person], but the ‘bourgeois’ side, and the common 
measure; not atheism, but a diminished God, shrunken to the skimpy 
measure of human selfishness.”25
At bottom, it is not so much the “libertine,” such as Molière’s Don 
Juan, that Montfort resents, but precisely this “honest man.” Don Juan 
at least had the merit of being frank, while the “wise man” of the world 
(LEW 76) has replaced holiness with the appearance of virtue, and the 
folly of the cross with a human equilibrium made up by and large of 
social conventions. In the eyes of this “fool of God” who is Montfort, 
the great sin is the tepidity and compromise of anyone who dares try to 
make the world agree with the Gospel.
c.   Virtues and love. 
It might seem surprising that, in his list of virtues, Montfort has so 
little room for the four “cardinal” ones: prudence, justice, fortitude, 
and temperance. True, no hymn is specially reserved for them. But 
prudence is not neglected: Montfort recommends it in almsgiving (H 
17:41), in mortification (LEW 202), and even in zeal (H 22:20). Are not 
certain virtues, like modesty (H 25) and obedience (H 10), forms of 
prudence? And is not also “wisdom” the authenticity, and immense 
prudence of love? Likewise, while Montfort speaks little of social 
justice, emphasizing instead charity toward the poor. Their cry, which 
he makes his own, is a cry for that justice: “Know that what you hold so 
fast, / when no longer of use to you, / belongs to the poor. Those 
things are theirs! / You owe them that gilded furniture, / those 
precious pearls!” (H 17:18). And let us not forget that our consecration 
to Jesus through Mary is itself a matter of justice, even before being 
an affair of love (TD 68:142; SM 68). Nor is fortitude ignored: it is 
only another name for “graciousness” (H 9) and “patience” (H 11), the 
courage to face “the world, the demon, and the flesh” (PS 20). Fortitude 
is the virtue diametrically opposed to the notorious “human respect,” 
which is composed of nothing but “fear,” which Montfort vigorously 
combats (H 34–39).
Thus, if St. Louis Marie speaks so little of the cardinal virtues, it 
is surely because these virtues are essentially qualities of balance and 
measure. While for him the attractive, magnetic thing is the great 
imbalance: the grand folly of love, manifested in Jesus’ Cross. Not for 
nothing did Montfort laud this “Queen of virtues” (H 5:5) in eight 
Hymns. Without it, life is useless (H 5:18), sanctification impossible 
(H 5:6), and virtue itself sin (H 5:12). But with love, not only do all 
virtues take on meaning and life, they also become easy and sweet to 
practice (H 5:7), since they are loved: “Love makes me love obedience, / 
seek poverty, / flee pleasures, / embrace suffering” (H 45:20).
d. Virtues and the consecration. 
This theological love is at once the motive, the fruit, and the goal 
of our consecration to Mary in the spirit of Montfort. It is the motive 
because consecration ought to be “moved by generous love” (TD 73), the 
love at work in “one who loves God with a pure and unselfish love” (TD 
151). After all, faith has revealed to this person that he or she is 
loved by God, that “Jesus, our great friend has given himself (first) 
without reserve, body and soul.” Our consecration is ever but love’s 
response to a first Love that has, so to speak, beaten us to it. Among 
the fruits of this consecration, its “wondrous effects,” we find the 
“pure love of which Mary is the treasury.” Mary, that “Mother of fair 
love, will rid your heart of all scruples and inordinate servile fear” 
(TD 215). Finally, the goal of the consecration is not primarily our own 
interest, not even our spiritual interest (TD 110), but, as always, 
love, since its two main ends are to “honor and imitate the wondrous 
dependence which God the Son chose to have on Mary,” and to “thank God 
for the incomparable graces he has conferred upon Mary” (TD 243).
In focusing our minds and hearts on this gratuitous love, the 
consecration is the font of its costly demands. It delivers us from a 
too moralistic asceticism. To be sure, we must do violence to ourselves, 
as the saying goes, in order to acquire the virtues and practice them. 
Montfort was very severe with those “presumptuous devotees” who renounce 
“any great effort to correct” their faults (literally, “without doing 
great violence to themselves in order that they be corrected”), 
“believing that their devotion to our Lady gives them this sort of 
liberty” (TD 97). “Nothing in our Christian religion is so deserving of 
condemnation” (TD 98). But the virtues are primarily to be received 
directly, like love, from she who has practiced them to perfection in 
order to share them, for she is our Mother. Mary who “shares her 
virtues” with the one who has succeeded in delivering and despoiling 
himself from that to which he is most attached, receives “her humility, 
faith, purity, etc.” (TD 144), and a great trust in God (TD 216).
In the end, Father de Montfort invites us not so much to practice our 
own virtues as to make a gift of them. For three great reasons, he calls 
us to offer them up together with all of our other interior and 
spiritual goods and with our merits and our good works (TD 121). The 
first reason is that, if our good works are impure and sullied by self-
love (SM 49), and secret pride (RW 159), then the tree that has produced 
this fruit must itself be pruned and purified. “There is no such thing 
as a good tree producing worthless fruit” (Lk 6:43). The tree of our 
virtues must be tended, that our works may be purified. The second 
reason is that it takes a great deal of love to give everything and keep 
nothing back. We must establish and enthrone love from the outset and 
give up everything there and then. Finally, if I want my life to be 
Christian—that is, to be the actual life of Christ in me—then it must be 
his own virtues that lead me, his own spirit, his own wisdom that guide 
me. “If the Spirit is the source of our life, let the Spirit also direct 
our course” (Ga 5:25).
What does Mary do when we have given her our virtues? She purifies 
them, she strips us of them, like old garments, to clothe us “in the 
clean, new, precious and fragrant garments of . . . her Son Jesus 
Christ.” That is, she dispenses to us his “merits and virtues” (TD 206). 
And since she adds her own as well, we are, as Montfort says, “clothed 
with double garments, her own and those of her Son” (TD 206).
III. VIRTUES OF MARY
Mary is not only the prefiguring of the Church (LG 63), she is the 
perfect model of all of the virtues of a Christian (LG 65). She is also 
the mother who shares them with us in the life that the Holy Spirit 
gives us through her. Therefore it is of the greatest importance for us 
to study her virtues as Montfort presented them.
1. Virtues of Mary
In TD 108 we find a list of the “ten principal virtues” of Mary: her 
“deep humility, lively faith, blind obedience, unceasing prayer, 
constant self-denial, surpassing purity, ardent love, heroic patience, 
angelic kindness, and heavenly wisdom.” In TD 144, Father de Montfort 
refers to this list, taking up three virtues that are reemphasized 
further on: “her lively faith, . . . her deep humility, . . . her truly 
divine purity” (TD 260). In LEW, he shows us a Mary wise, charitable, 
generous, faithful, and so on (LEW 222). There are other lists as well 
(TD 34, 261; LEW 107; SM 15). On the basis of these various listings, we 
may make three observations:
(a.)   While charity occasionally occurs in a list, in Mary “love” is 
above everything. This is evident whenever Montfort crisply 
distinguishes between the love with which Mary inflames us and “her 
virtues” which she shares with us and in which we find faith (TD 144).
(b.)   Aside from love, we may say that Mary’s three main virtues are 
faith, humility, and purity: By her lively faith, she believed the 
angel’s word without the least hesitation, and believed faithfully and 
constantly even to the foot of the Cross on Calvary. Her deep humility 
made her prefer seclusion, maintain silence, and submit to every 
eventuality and put herself in the last place. Her truly divine purity 
has not and will not be equaled this side of heaven (TD 260).
(c.) These three key virtues seem to have, in Montfort’s eyes, a kind of 
theological scope: faith, of course, but humility and purity as well. 
All three, joined in Mary to “her ceaseless entreaties of love,” had the 
effect not only of touching God, as it were, but of actually attracting 
or seducing God, as it were, “conquering” God! “She had won his heart” 
(LEW 107). “Her humility, deep as an abyss, delighted him (se charma26). 
Her purity so other-worldly drew him to her. He found her lively faith 
and her ceaseless entreaties of love so irresistible that he was 
lovingly conquered by her appeals of love” (LEW 107).
The better to grasp their range and purview, it will be useful to see 
all of these virtues of Mary in a single panorama. There are not only 
“the depths of her profound humility,” there is also “the height of her 
merits, . . . the breadth of her love, . . . the greatness of the power 
which she wields over one who is God” (TD 7). Furthermore, Montfort 
associates Mary’s virtues with her privileges, her actions, and her 
grandeur (TD 115). On a deeper level, he links them, especially her 
faith and her love, to her motherhood, which is not primarily a reality 
of flesh, but a deed and work of the Spirit who finds faith and love: 
“Christian, through Mary’s heart / you love the heart of Jesus, / for 
Jesus has taken life in her heart and her virtues. (H 40:35).
Happily, Mary’s virtues are inseparable from her life, her being, her 
calling—her whole person, invested by the Spirit who is faith, hope, 
love.
2. Mary and the Virtues
It is not only a matter of discovering Mary’s virtues. We must also 
wonder what they mean in relation to us. For us, Mary is a model of 
virtues, to be imitated, and a “treasurer” (LEW 207), a mother who 
shares them with us.
a.   Mary, model of the Christian virtues. 
The imitation of the Blessed Virgin’s virtues is for Montfort one of 
the characteristics of the “predestined” and one of the interior 
practices of the consecration. Like little Jacob in the Bible with 
respect to his mother, Rebecca, the predestined “keep to the ways of the 
Blessed Virgin, their loving Mother—that is, they imitate her and so are 
sincerely happy” (TD 200). Without this imitation, devotion to Mary 
would be but “exterior,” and thereby false (TD 96).
“We must look upon Mary . . . as the perfect model of every virtue and 
perfection, fashioned by the Holy Spirit for us to imitate, as far as 
our limited capacity allows” (TD 260). This is also one of the interior 
practices of the consecration. In order to “do everything with Mary, . . 
. in every action . . . we should consider how Mary performed it or how 
she would perform it if she were in our place,” and therefore “examine 
and meditate on the great virtues she practiced” (TD 260). In the same 
passage in which he speaks of living “with Mary” and taking her as our 
model, Montfort adds that “Mary is the great, unique mold of God, 
designed to make living images of God” (TD 219). This plainly shows 
that, in his eyes, to imitate the virtues of the Mother of Jesus is much 
more than to strive, by oneself, to resemble an external model while 
keeping control of the experience. On the contrary, this imitation means 
allowing ourselves to be transformed by the model that then becomes a 
“mold” to shape us (TD 219–20; SM 16–18). When all is said and done, it 
is less a matter of “gazing upon” than of being gazed upon. It is more a 
matter of allowing oneself to be molded by the image contemplated than 
to mold oneself to its likeness.
b.   Mary, mother who shares her virtues. 
This image of the “mold” that is Mary, who fashions us to the image of 
her Son, paves the way to better understanding that she is not only a 
model, but also a mother, who communicates her own virtues. Actually, 
this sharing of virtues is part of an entire series of phenomena that 
might be called the gift that Mary makes of herself in response to the 
one we make of our persons (by consecrating ourselves to Jesus through 
her). “She gives herself completely in a wondrous manner” to “someone 
giving himself entirely to her” (TD 144; cf. 216). But in giving herself 
to her “consecrated one,” she is not content to share her virtues with 
her devotee: “She engulfs him in the ocean of her graces, adorns him 
with her merits, supports him with her power, enlightens him with her 
light, and fills him with her love” (TD 144). And Mary bestows not only 
her own virtues, but also, as we have seen, those of Jesus (SM 38; TD 
206).
All of this helps us to understand that it is not so much that the 
Mother of God communicates to us a whole arsenal of virtues, but rather 
that she shares a life, shapes a face, to which no “feature of Jesus 
Christ” (SM 17) is lacking. She gives birth to a person, that of Jesus. 
All of the blessings that she shares with us so “generously” are naught 
in comparison with “that infinite treasure which contains every good, 
Jesus” (LEW 206), and “of her fullness we have all received” (LEW 207). 
The virtues she shares with us are already the traits of the face of 
Wisdom, that fruit of her faith and the Holy Spirit.

 

IV. VIRTUES OF JESUS
May we speak of the virtues of Jesus, who is God? Are not virtues rather 
a possession of the Church, something attaching to the response of love 
of the children of God to the antecedent love of the Father, manifested 
in Jesus? Are the virtues not part of the spiritual equipment that the 
Christian receives with the grace of baptism? And yet, beyond the shadow 
of a doubt, one may speak—however briefly—of the virtues of God and 
Jesus.
1. Virtues of God
Although in the seventeenth century the word “virtue” does not always 
have the same meaning that we give it today, Montfort does not hesitate 
to speak of the “virtue of God” (H 4:4), which is nothing else but God’s 
love, wisdom, or holiness. “All that is . . . virtuous in God,” he says 
elsewhere, is “invested in” the one who attains to the carrying of his 
or her cross (LEW 179). “God of goodness, give me / the virtues of your 
heart!” (H 4:21).
It is interesting, for example, to observe that Hymns 4 (“Virtue in 
General”), 5 (“Charity”), and the hymn on the Holy Spirit (H 141), are 
almost perfectly parallel. God’s virtue, indeed, is love—God’s very 
nature (1 Jn 4:8–16): generated in the divine heart from all eternity, 
this virtue has complete authority over God, since it is this that has 
led God to become a human being on earth (H 5:3–4). But if God is love 
and nothing else, it would doubtless be better to speak not of the 
divine “virtues,” but of the “attributes” of God: justice, graciousness, 
mercy, and so on—or, therefore, to say that all of God’s virtues are 
contained in the divine love.
The greatest virtue that this love contains is surely, in Montfort’s 
eyes, humility. True, Montfort never speaks explicitly of the humility 
of God.27 But the “poverty” of the divine heart is everywhere present. 
If the Triune God, in the wisdom of love (Father, Son, and Spirit), has 
willed to depend upon Mary not only in order to effect the wonder of the 
Incarnation, but also to continue its mystery today in the Church, it is 
because God is humble. Humility is not only a human virtue, which 
inclines us to approach God only through mediators (TD 143). It is also, 
and principally, a divine virtue—the virtue that has inclined the 
Almighty, in Jesus, to work the marvel of a God who “made himself 
nothing,” in Mary’s womb, and thereupon “in obedience accepted even 
death—death on a cross” (Ph 2:7–8).
2. Virtues of Jesus
It is this humility, as well, that we must emphasize if we wish to speak 
of the virtues of Jesus. Of course, Wisdom itself is only love—“the very 
love of the Father and the Holy Spirit” (LEW 118). Then it is in this 
love that the fullness of the virtues dwells, like that of the graces 
and the perfections (TD 61), and the Heart of Jesus is the sole source 
of all of the virtues (H 130:8). But his humanity, molded and reared by 
Mary, the “Queen of the virtues” (H 4:22), and Joseph, comes forward as 
our “only model” (TD 61). Among all of Jesus’ virtues, Montfort 
especially loves to underscore his humility, which is only part and 
parcel of his obedience and graciousness, which in turn are identical 
with his charity and his wisdom.
His humility.  
Montfort contemplates Christ’s humility especially in the three great 
mysteries of the Incarnation, the Cross, and the Eucharist. It is 
humility that “reduces” the Word to silence and God to infancy (H 57:1). 
It is humility that, still today, “Draws him from glory, / to hide his 
majesty / in a poor ciborium,” (H 130:4) and makes of God, in the 
mystery of the poor, “the neediest / of all the wretched” (H 17:15).
His obedience. 
“Of all the Savior’s virtues / the very exemplar, the miracle / 
midmost in his heart” (H 10:5). After all, it is in being obedient not 
only to his Father, but to Mary and Joseph as well, that Jesus has 
rendered glory to God and has saved human beings (TD 139).
His tenderness. 
In LEW, Montfort has devoted no less than two chapters to Jesus’ 
“graciousness”: We find the actual word, “meekness,” (tenderness, 
graciousness) at least forty-five times. We see how sensitive the one 
they called the “good Father from Montfort” was to this characteristic 
of Jesus’ love for children, the poor, and especially, sinners (LEW 10, 
11:124, 125).
His charity. 
We should have to cite all of the hymns to the Heart of Jesus (H 40–
44, 47) in order to illustrate that “infinite charity” by which Jesus 
“became our security and our Mediator with his Father” (TD 85), that 
charity which has led him to give himself to us wholly and entirely, 
“body and soul” (TD 138), and impels us today to “Undertake / a grand 
return of love” (H 128:6).
His wisdom. 
Provided we regard wisdom as a virtue (after all, it is also a gift, 
and Father de Montfort identifies it with the very person of Jesus), 
wisdom is that prudence of love that has inspired and animated all of 
the Savior’s choices, in contrast with the wisdom of the world. In being 
willing to become “nothing” and to depend upon Mary, in freely living 
the great scandal of the cross, Jesus has experienced the greatest of 
the wisdoms, that of love. In identifying Jesus with the virtue of 
wisdom and the experience of his cross (“Wisdom is the Cross and the 
Cross is Wisdom,” LEW 180), Montfort plainly shows that Jesus’ virtues 
are not distinct from his person and his life. In Jesus, virtues and 
life are one.

 

V. MONTFORT VIRTUES TODAY
Can Montfort’s teaching on the virtues, and the manner in which he lived 
them, be of interest to us today? Surely, various aspects of what 
Montfort—the man of the Absolute—practiced and taught seem difficult to 
accept for our world. However, the Montfort doctrine and practice of the 
virtues are filled with solid directions for our contemporary world and 
offer support to the ongoing reform of the Church. Finally, prescinding 
from a baroque style and expressions inevitably marked by his age, 
Montfort’s life and message present some useful reminders for today.
1. Some Difficulties
Contemporary Christians find Montfort’s practice of the virtues 
excessive. The Christian life is for everyone, Blain said, but 
Montfort’s life, “so poor, so harsh, so abandoned to Providence, was . . 
. for extraordinary persons, and not for the common person, who could 
not reach so high.”28 Examples of Montfort’s unique actions appear 
excessive, like drinking from the same glass as a person with a 
contagious disease. It is mortification beyond a doubt, but, in order to 
overcome ourselves, must we actually drink the pus that had just drained 
from a sick person, as an early biographer claims Montfort had done?29 
It is true, as well, that Jesus asked persons to leave their families to 
follow him, but must this detachment be pushed to the point of not 
visiting our parents when we are actually in town?30 True, these actions 
can only be judged in their full context, which is impossible to 
reconstruct today. Nonetheless, they are for modern men and women 
definitely excessive.
Do not all of these virtues Montfort explains (thirty or more, in the 
Hymns) bring us to the practice of the Law—a legalism—from which the 
Spirit ought to deliver us? Today we would prefer to replace this 
morality by love alone—or perhaps by the simplicity of the Beatitudes.
Whatever the worth of these arguments may be, it cannot be denied that 
an entire generation today has trouble accepting virtues like humility 
and obedience. They seem to encourage a certain passivity, or to foster 
a destruction of the person, since they involve a self-abasement and a 
dependency, which might appear to prevent one from “being oneself.” Are 
human beings so wicked that they need such a great number of virtues in 
order to set their nature right? What is needed, it is claimed, is a bit 
more confidence in human beings and in life: as the saying goes, “just 
let it all happen!” And what is this “slavery” that Montfort teaches? 
How can it be meaningful to moderns who thirst for freedom? 
Much of the misunderstanding of Saint Louis de Montfort is due to the 
fact that his words are strong, if not shocking. They imitate the 
Gospel. Regrettably Montfort’s thoughts are often considered piecemeal 
instead of taken as a whole. But it cannot be forgotten that “the good 
Father from Montfort” truly stands out in the history of hagiography as 
an outstanding saint. To follow him is to imitate Jesus without any 
“ifs” or “buts.” Montfort does not go “beyond” the Gospel; he lives it 
to the hilt as we must do in our generation, in our times, in our 
context.
2. Effective Directions for Today
The virtues that Montfort practiced and taught do have a role to play in 
contemporary society. First, they find an echo in a whole series of 
current values. Modern theology (especially spiritual theology) comes 
very close to Montfort in its insistence on the three theological 
virtues, especially love and hope, which are the very basis of the 
“consecration.” We likewise observe in many of our contemporaries a 
great thirst to serve freely, out of love for our brothers and sisters, 
doubtless in reaction to a world of output and profit that crushes us. 
In response to this thirst, Montfort proposes the wholly disinterested 
character of true love, whether in devotion to Mary (TD 110), in 
apostolic zeal (H 21:22), or in service to the poor (H 17:42–43). In 
reaction, as well, to a hard, aggressive, pitiless world, we hear so 
much today about “gentleness.” Montfort, for his part, speaks of 
douceur, gentleness or tenderness, and most of all of the irresistible 
gentleness or graciousness of Jesus Wisdom: “Nothing is so gracious as 
Eternal Wisdom” (LEW 53). But he also lauds the gentleness, the 
graciousness of Mary, and that of devotion to her: true devotion to Our 
Lady is tender and trustful (TD 107). Finally, the “preferential option 
for the poor,” which is one of the official choices of the Church today, 
and of so many religious congregations, corresponds completely to 
Montfort’s symbolic gesture in crossing the bridge of Cesson that day 
when, according to a biographer, he “crossed over to the poor.”31
Above and beyond all of the virtues that Montfort explicitly names, 
there is one that particularly enchants the young of today (as it has 
those of all times), as well as those new communities so eager for the 
absolute, striving for a somewhat “foolish” or “insane” way of living 
the Gospel of the Crucified One. It could well be called the virtue of 
radicalism. The Gospel is a book of life. We have no right to be 
satisfied with reading it without putting it into practice, “as is” 
(without seeking to accommodate it to our comforts), here and now. It is 
this Montfort radicalism, this absolutely total living of the Gospel 
which so attracts young people today. Does Jesus ask us to invite to our 
table “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (Lk 14:14)? 
Montfort attends a big family dinner with his friends: every vagrant he 
can find.32 Has Jesus not said, “When I was ill you came to my help. . . 
. Anything you did for one of my brothers here, however humble, you did 
for me” (Mt 25:36–40)? At Poitiers, Louis Marie undertakes to care 
personally for a pauper “covered with infection, . . . rejected by all 
public medical personnel, on the point of being abandoned and ejected 
from the general hospital—the poor house.” He offers him “all of the 
services required by a disease so dangerous and so disgusting, . . . 
right up to the moment of death,”33 for this pauper is “Jesus Christ 
himself” (H 17:14). Many of the objections mentioned above have another 
side to the coin: they tug at the heart of a young person who wants to 
give all. It is not a question of the specific examples of Montfort’s 
total giving of self; it is rather the determination to avoid, like 
Montfort, any half-way measures.
Two other aspects of the “Treatise on the Virtues” can help us a great 
deal today. First, their insistence on the virtue (or gift) of wisdom, 
that compendium of the whole of Montfort moral thought. Perhaps we 
should recognize that we live a fool’s life when we claim to be in quest 
of evangelical wisdom. And so it is with great joy that our 
contemporaries (even unbelievers!) discover that the virtues Montfort 
invites them to practice, such as humility and even faith, are also and 
first of all divine virtues. Does not the just one, according to TD, 
live by the faith of Jesus (TD 109)?
3. Useful reminders for today
It has been observed that, when Montfort speaks to us of faith and love, 
quite often he adds the adjective, “pure”: “pure love” (TD 214, 215); 
“pure faith” (SM 51). This insistence is surely not useless today, when 
we are so ready to say, “All you need is love,” forgetting that we so 
easily seek ourselves, and that self-love (so easy to detect and 
denounce in others) is first of all in us (e.g. SM 49, 146). Montfort 
invites us today to discern the true meaning of “love.”
He reminds us that there is no true love without humility and 
obedience. If these virtues are rather out of fashion today, perhaps the 
reason is that we have forgotten certain evangelical truths of which 
Montfort reminds us. On the path of humility and obedience, God has gone 
before us. It is in gazing upon a God who “made himself nothing, . . . 
in obedience,” that I learn: “We must descend if we would rise” (H 
8:23), and the obedient one “sings ever of victory” (H 10:16–17). God 
has not been content to be the first to love (1 Jn 4:10, 19). God has 
willed to do so precisely along the pathway of obedience and humility 
(TD 18, 139; H 8:8–9, 10:5–8).
In the same spirit, Montfort insists on another virtue so difficult to 
practice today: perseverance, or fidelity. To those who might be tempted 
to live so called “successive fidelities,” or “limited engagements,” out 
of fear of a permanent commitment, Montfort brings understanding and 
hope. Yes, Montfort says, perseverance is difficult, even impossible: 
“It is difficult to persevere in holiness because of the excessive 
corrupting influence of the world” (TD 89). But the miracle of fidelity 
is possible, provided only we do not rely on ourselves, and place all 
our trust in God. Perseverance, too, is one of the “wondrous effects” of 
the consecration to Jesus through Mary’s hands. Montfort’s path of 
perfection calls us to the incredible fulfillment of a permanent 
commitment to God first of all and within that commitment, a pledge to 
serve—forever—our brothers and sisters.
J. Morinay

 

Notes:
(1) Un Apotre Marial: Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort 
(1673-1716) (A Marian Apostle: St. Louis Marie de Montfort), Librairie 
Mariale, Pontchateau 1942. Le Crom, 381–82. (2) Le Crom, 90. (3) Blain, 
350. (4) Besnard 5:216. (5) Grandet, 373–74. (6) Besnard 1:314. (7) B. 
Papàsogli, L’homme venu du vent: Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, 
Bellarmin, Montreal 1984, 189. English edition: Montfort, A Prophet for 
Our Times, Edizioni Monfortane, Rome 1991. (8) Blain, 140. (9) Blain, 
339. (10) Le Crom, 102. (11) Le Crom, 358. (12) Papàsogli, 61, 95, 339. 
(13) Papàsogli, 134. (14) Papàsogli, 40. (15) Pérouas, 124. (16) Blain, 
333. (17) Blain, 334–37. (18) Blain, 223–24. (19) Blain, 225. (20) 
Blain, 222. (21) Besnard 1:223. (22) J. Picot de Clorivière, La vie de 
M. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, missionnaire apostolique . . . , 
(The Life of Louis Marie de Montfort, Apostolic Missionary), Delalain, 
Paris 1785, 323. (23) Initiation théologique, Cerf, Paris 1952, 3:867. 
(24) In seventeenth-century translations of the Old Testament, God’s 
“virtue” is primarily God’s power: cf. Ps 65:7, 11:6. (25) Papàsogli, 
208, 210. (26) “To charm,” in the seventeenth century, has a very strong 
sense: it means to attract someone or something in such a fashion that 
the latter is all but helpless (as in “serpent’s charm”). (27) Cf. 
Father Varillon’s beautiful book, L’humilité de Dieu (The humility of 
God). (28) Blain, 331. (29) Grand, 472–74, 66; Le Crom, 131. (30) Le 
Crom, 174. (31) Papàsogli, 48. (32) Le Crom, 180. (33) Le Crom, 131.

 


Taken from: Jesus Living in Mary: Handbook of the Spirituality of St.
Louis de Montfort (Litchfield, CT: Montfort Publications, 1994).
Provided courtesy of the Montfort Fathers © All Rights Reserved.

 

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