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

Summary
I.	Montfort’s Quest for Wisdom Along His Spiritual and Missionary 
	Path: 
	1.	Context of his formation; 
	2.	Testimony of the letters; 
	3.	The Love of Eternal Wisdom; 
	4.	The hymns and the sermons; 
	5.	Ten years’ silence? 
	6.	Foundation of a community of Wisdom. 
II.	Wisdom According to Montfort: 
	1.	Toward a definition; 
	2.	Christ Wisdom; 
	3.	Evangelical and missionary Wisdom; 
	4.	Paradoxical Wisdom of the Cross; 
	5.	Mary and Wisdom. 
III.	Montfort Among the Pedagogues of Wisdom: 
	1.	Montfort Wisdom and Augustinian Wisdom; 
	2.	Montfort Wisdom and Franciscan Wisdom. 
IV.	Relevance of Montfort Wisdom.

The contemplation of Christ as Wisdom and a perception of the spiritual 
life as the quest for genuine Wisdom, figure among the most singular 
traits of the spiritual journey and the work of Louis Marie de Montfort. 
Over and above the various influences we can discover under the pen of 
the author of LEW, one fact remains incontestable: Montfort establishes 
himself as one of the rare Christian authors to make Christ as Wisdom 
the cornerstone of his spirituality and his key to biblical sapiential 
thought, with the O.T. Book of Wisdom the fundamental source of this 
inspiration. While we may not isolate Montfort from his century and his 
predecessors, neither may we deny the extreme originality of his vision 
of Wisdom.1

 

I. MONTFORT’S QUEST FOR WISDOM ALONG HIS SPIRITUAL 
          AND MISSIONARY PATH 
1. Context of his formation 
Young Grignion de Montfort’s spiritual route can be established by a 
study both of the sources and of the testimony of the biographers who 
have addressed the question. For the period of his philosophical and 
theological training before his ordination to the priesthood, we may 
refer to De Fiores’ detailed study, which includes an examination of 
Louis Marie’s spiritual formation.2 But even with such a fine study in 
hand, it remains extremely difficult in fact, impossible to determine 
the triggering element that would have induced Montfort, while he was 
still in his formation, to define his spirituality in terms of a quest 
for Wisdom3 or incited him to draw his inspiration directly from the 
biblical Wisdom literature. True, it is possible to see in the 
references he makes to the work of Saint-Jure in N, 392ff., “a prime 
factor sensitizing Montfort to the Wisdom theme and impelling him as 
well to read and utilize the sapiential books.”4 But that would be all 
that we could say, and the treatment Montfort accorded the sapiential 
books of the Bible would far surpass, in extent as well as depth, the 
work of the authors of the French school of spirituality. Among the 
immediate influences on Montfort, however, we ought not neglect the 
contribution of Father Descartes, his spiritual director at the College 
of St. Thomas in Rennes. LEW contains accents akin to those found in 
Father Decartes’ two works, Le Palais de l’amour divin (Palace of Divine 
Love) and Les divers emplois de l’amour divin (The Manifold Uses of 
Divine Love); Montfort’s vocabulary, however, is not only more 
innovative but decidedly more sapiential.
2. Testimony of the letters 
The situation is different, however, for the period dating from his 
ordination to the priesthood in 1700 to his death in 1716. And in the 
front rank we must point to the letters, which probably furnish the 
first references to the use of the term “wisdom” in Montfort’s works. 
They also testify to a very marked evolution in Montfort’s spiritual and 
missionary journey.
Of the thirty-four letters that have been preserved, nearly one-third 
(L 14-17, 20, 28-30, 33-34) address the Wisdom theme in one way or 
another. A mere examination of the chronology of the letters in question 
immediately shows a powerful concentration on the topic at the two poles 
of Montfort’s ministry that is, around the years 1703-04 and 1715-16. 
Thus it is said that the Wisdom theme becomes “strikingly dormant” in 
the missionary’s career, as his correspondence remains silent on the 
subject for a good ten years.5
The first mention that we can date with certitude is from the spring 
of 1703 (L 15). It appears as a variant in the formula of salutation 
used by Montfort in the preceding letters. To his usual greeting, “May 
the perfect love of God reign in our hearts,” Montfort adds, “with 
divine Wisdom.” It should not be forgotten that this letter is the first 
to be addressed to Marie Louise Trichet, who not only would become a 
religious, as Montfort predicts to her in the conclusion of his letter, 
but would be his most faithful disciple and, finally, his partner in the 
foundation of the community of the Daughters of Wisdom.
We should also emphasize another happy coincidence. Montfort’s last 
letter, written shortly before the missionary’s death in 1716, is 
addressed to this same Marie Louise Trichet, now Mother Marie Louise of 
Jesus. Here the Wisdom theme plays a role at center stage, since 
Montfort invites Marie Louise to interpret and to experience the trials 
that she is undergoing with her young community in the context of the 
mystery of Divine Wisdom: “I worship the justice and love with which 
divine Wisdom is treating his little flock, allowing you to live in 
cramped quarters here on earth so that later you may find spacious 
dwellings in his divine heart which was pierced for you to enter. How 
pleasant and safe is this sacred refuge for a soul truly possessing 
Wisdom! . . .If you truly seek to be a disciple of divine Wisdom and one 
chosen among so many, then this unkind treatment you are suffering, the 
contempt, the poverty, the restrictions, all these should be pleasing to 
you since they are the price you have to pay to obtain Wisdom and true 
freedom and become partakers of the divinity of the heart of Jesus 
crucified” (L 34).
Consequently, Montfort asks her to “found our community of the 
Daughters of Wisdom, not on quicksands of gold and silver,” but “on the 
Wisdom of the Cross of Calvary” (L 34).
Montfort’s letter to his mother, written in August 1704, so 
characteristic of the young priest’s evangelical radicalism, furnishes 
an important key for an understanding of the manner in which he 
experienced what might be called the mysticism of his priestly celibacy. 
We read: “In my new family the one I belong to now I have chosen to be 
wedded to Wisdom and the Cross for in these I find every good, both 
earthly and heavenly. So precious are these possessions that, if they 
were but known, Montfort would be the envy of the richest and most 
powerful kings on earth” (L 20).
We cannot escape the parallel between these lines and the highly original 
commentary that Montfort makes on Wis 8:16: “Whenever I go into my house, 
says Solomon, even though I am alone, I will take my rest with Wisdom 
because Wisdom’s company is always pleasing, Wisdom’s companionship is 
never tedious but always satisfying and joyful” (LEW 98). The words “even 
though I am alone” are not part of the biblical text but are an 
expression of Montfort’s personal interpretation.
3. The Love of Eternal Wisdom 
Inasmuch as LEW is the subject of another article in the present Hand-
book, we shall here investigate only the significance of this work in 
Montfort’s experience of the quest for Wisdom.
While the letters of 1703 and 1704 were written during a period called 
by Perouas “the time of crises,”6 the treatise LEW stands out somewhat 
as the resolution of a crisis. Not that Montfort claims to have reached 
the end of the evangelical adventure or believes himself sheltered from 
the storm. Here we need only consider his protestations of humility and 
avowals of “incompetence and ignorance” (LEW 7; cf. LEW 1). But the 
exposition of the topic is at once magisterial and serene. The 
composition is a powerful synthesis of biblical Wisdom and a treatise on 
the Christian life, situated in a comprehensive view of salvation 
history. It is the Incarnation that sets the tone for the entire book. 
Creation, however, is not neglected, and while we may regret the fact 
that, in keeping with the theology of his time, Montfort does not stress 
the mystery of the Resurrection, we find sublime pages in LEW on the 
Love that saves by the victorious Cross.
LEW is a work of the saint’s youth; it is also a masterpiece. It 
situates his Christological perspective, from which, as starting point, 
Montfort views his spiritual experience and apostolate. It already 
enunciates, in very condensed terms, the great themes of his preaching 
and writings: the mystery of the Incarnation, the demands of a Wisdom 
inspired by the Gospel, the foolishness of the Cross, and the unique 
place of Mary in the mystery of salvation.
4. The hymns and the sermons 
Montfort’s hymns are of undeniable catechetical interest and, by virtue 
of their popular character, afford us a better perception of the 
teaching addressed by Montfort to the public at large. Of the 164 hymns 
that have come down to us, only 5 bear explicitly on Wisdom (H 78; H 
103; H 124-26), while Hymns 19 and 102, which are manifestly parallel 
and devoted to the “Triumph of the Cross,” contain numerous sapiential 
echoes. Indeed, they present the Cross in terms unmistakably reminiscent 
of LEW, chap. 14. Just as Wisdom is a mystery that surpasses 
understanding, so also is the Cross: “The Cross is a mystery / profound, 
here below. / Without brightest light, / unknowable it remains. / Who 
can comprehend it? / A lofty mind alone. / Yet grasp it we must / if we 
would be saved” (H 19:1).
Stanzas 10-11 of the same hymn apply to Jesus the spousal language of 
pseudo-Solomon (Wis 8) in order to speak of Jesus’ quest for Wisdom: “So 
fair He found it, / He made it His crown, / and companion everlasting: / 
bride of His heart! / From tenderest childhood, / His heart would sigh / 
sigh for the presence / of this Cross He loved. / Yea, from His youth, / 
He sought [it], / and with mighty stride!” (H 19:10-11). 
The hymn’s finale focuses on the acquisition of Wisdom today. After 
all, Wisdom seeks disciples still: “Wisdom everlasting / seeks, yet 
today, / a heart that will be faithful / and worthy of this gift” (H 
19:25).
The last strophes (28-31) then present, in terms very much akin to the 
biblical discourse on Wisdom, the Cross as that treasure par excellence 
that is to be sought at the cost of all else besides and fills the human 
heart to overflowing: “I take thee for my life, / my pleasure, my honor, 
/ for my single beloved, / my unique beatitude” (H 19:29).
As for the hymns explicitly consecrated to Wisdom, these fall first 
and foremost under the sign of prayer. Except for the first stanzas of 
Hymn 125, which take the form of an exhortation, all is ardent 
supplication and dialogue with God. Hymn 78, for example, brief as it 
is, is a fine paraphrase of the prayer in Wis 9 “that asks for Wisdom,” 
and Montfort adds a Marian note in the second and last strophe.
Hymn 103 is surely the most important of those that Montfort devotes 
to Wisdom. First, we observe the wealth of Christological titles 
(“divine Wisdom,” “Son of God,” “beauty supreme,” “Word equal to His 
Father,” “Light of Light,” “God become a human being,” “immortal 
Spouse,” and so on), along with the intensity bestowed on the note of 
supplication with the recurrence of the refrain, “Come dwell in me!” The 
hymn reaches its climax in a declaration of the greatest assurance of 
being heard: “I would walk in Thy footsteps: / come dwell in me! / 
Behold the grace of graces: / come dwell in me! / With Thee I walk in 
gladness, / to the Cross and to the skies! / Jesus, Child of Mary, / 
come dwell in me! / She it is who prays within me: / come dwell in me! / 
Thou, in my exile, / be my every bounty. Amen” (H 103:28-29).
Hymns 124-26 form a unified canticle on the Wisdom theme. While 
shorter than Hymn 103, they are no less compact. There is the very 
beautiful and classical Hymn 124, which opens with the words “O Wisdom, 
come, behold, a poor one begs” and continues in ardent accents: “I seek 
thee night and day! / Come, my soul desires thee, / come, for I am faint 
with love” (H 124:2).
Here we find the actual words of the Beloved of the Song of Songs. The 
same thrusts recur in Hymn 126: “O divine Wisdom, / I love thee with a 
burning fire! / Thou art my mistress, / I thy lover! / Thee alone below 
/ I seek and love. / Beholding thy charms / I am beside myself!” (H 
126:1)
As for the sermons, we find none on Wisdom. There is only S 9 (GA 562-
566), entitled, “On the Love and Gentleness of Jesus,” which recalls the 
sapiential themes. We find the same divisions as in LEW, chap. 10 (“The 
Captivating Beauty and the Inexpressible Gentleness of Incarnate 
Wisdom”). The theology is the same in both cases, and it scarcely comes 
as a surprise that we see Montfort concluding his second point with a 
reference to Jesus as Wisdom: “Behold that Eternal Wisdom who, to 
captivate our hearts and to take away our sins, has gathered into his 
person all that is meek” (LS 120). Do we have here a sermon from the 
beginning of the missionary’s career, before the appearance of the 
Wisdom theme in his work? Or on the contrary, would this be a sermon 
from the period when the theme was so strikingly dormant in the saint’s 
work? At all events, judging solely from LS, it appears that Montfort 
did not preach on the subject of Wisdom as such.
5. Ten years’ silence? 
In addition to this notable absence of the Wisdom theme in Montfort’s 
popular preaching, a great deal of attention has been called in recent 
years to its near disappearance during the zenith of the Breton priest’s 
missionary career, 1704-14.7 Only the last two years of Montfort’s life 
see the reappearance of the theme with some force: in his last letters, 
which are usually addressed to the Daughters of Wisdom.
The period from 1704 to 1714 is surely the most productive from the 
literary viewpoint, since it is in this period that SM, PM, SR, FC, RM, 
RW, and TD were composed. Indeed, other thematic topics and other 
perspectives emerge here, and the Wisdom theme appears only now and 
then. When it does appear, it assumes a certain importance. A brief 
survey of the works concerned will enable us to form a better idea of 
the place of Wisdom in them.
SM contains only one reference to Wisdom. This work, which, in the 
light of God’s free choice, defends the crucial importance of devotion 
to Mary, “following the order established by [God’s] divine wisdom” (SM 
23). Otherwise no appeal is made here to the acquisition of Wisdom as 
one of the fruits to be sought by this devotion, nor do we find in the 
closing prayer to Jesus (SM 66) the Christological title Wisdom.
Neither does PM contain more than a single reference to Wisdom (PM 
22), and it not a direct one, as it is a quotation in Latin of Lk 21:15 
about the assistance that Jesus will give to the word of his Apostles in 
the midst of persecutions. The same verse of Scripture will be taken up 
once more and commented on at length in RM 59-60.
In SR, we discover two references, one of them ambiguous (SR 142) and 
the other expressing a clear meaning (SR 146). The first is a citation 
of Jas 1:6 on the importance of asking for Wisdom in prayer; but here it 
seems that Montfort refers to Wisdom only secondarily, the better to 
illustrate the importance of praying with faith and with the certitude 
of being heard. The accent is not on the acquisition of Wisdom. The 
second occurrence, on the other hand, leaves no doubt: “So, dear members 
of the Confraternity, persevere in asking God for all your needs, both 
spiritual and material, through the holy Rosary; especially should you 
pray for divine Wisdom, which is ‘an infinite treasure’ [Wis 7:14], and 
there can be no possible doubt that you will receive it sooner or later, 
provided you do not give up and do not lose courage in the middle of 
your journey. ‘You still have a great way to go, Grandis enim tibi 
restat via,’ [1 Kings 19:7]” (SR 146).
Given the highly popular character of SR and the practices that 
Montfort expounds there, we may have here one of the missing links that 
help us appreciate the importance of Wisdom in the missionary’s 
preaching and activity.
FC, which is actually a further development of LEW, chap. 13, 14, and 
16, contains three allusions to wisdom. The first (FC 17) consists of a 
very brief reference to the “worldly-wise,” of whom Montfort has already 
drawn an anything but flattering portrait in LEW 75-83. The second (FC 
18) sees in the Cross assigned to each person a particular choice on the 
part of Divine Wisdom. The third is much more important. Here Montfort 
develops the fourth of the fourteen rules that he addresses to those of 
his disciples who choose to “suffer and carry our cross in the footsteps 
of Christ” (FC 41). We note that in this passage Montfort once again 
transfers to the Cross a vocabulary he has used apropos of Wisdom (the 
words underlined in our quotation): “You may, and should, pray for the 
wisdom of the cross, that knowledge of the truth which we experience 
within ourselves and which by the light of faith deepens our knowledge 
of the most hidden mysteries, including that of the cross. But this is 
obtained only by much labor, great humiliations and fervent prayer. If 
you stand in need of this strengthening spirit [Ps 50:14] which enables 
us to carry the heaviest crosses courageously; of this gracious and 
consoling spirit [Lk 11:13], which enables us, in the higher part of the 
soul, to take delight in things that are bitter and repulsive; of this 
sound and upright spirit [Ps 50:12] which seeks God alone; of this 
science of the cross which embraces all things; in short, of this 
inexhaustible treasure by which those who make good use of it win God’s 
friendship [cf. Wis 7:14]if you stand in need of such, pray for wisdom, 
ask for it continually and fervently, without wavering [cf. Jas 1:5, 6] 
or fear of not obtaining it, and it will be yours. Then you will clearly 
understand from your own experience how it is possible to desire, seek 
and find joy in the cross” (FC 45).
TD, which most commentators date to 1712, is, of course, Montfort’s 
best known work, and it remains one of the great classics of Marian 
theology and spirituality. The strongly Christocentric nature of 
Montfort’s argumentation in this work has always been acknowledged. It 
is no less certain that the foundations of his argumentation had already 
been laid in the final chapter of LEW, in which he sets forth “the 
greatest means of all, and the most wonderful of all secrets for 
obtaining and preserving divine Wisdom”: “a loving and genuine devotion 
to the Blessed Virgin” (LEW 203). Now, what of the theme of Wisdom in 
TD, this other masterpiece of Montfort’s? While it is not dominant, it 
may be more present, and more important, than we might have suspected.
The book contains at least fifteen references to Wisdom—itself an 
impressive fact. Of that number, no less than six (TD 18, 80, 139 twice, 
168, 240) make of it a Christological title and refer us to the person 
of Christ and his incarnation, while another two refer more generally to 
Wisdom in God (TD 175, 272). Thus, more than half of these references 
confirm the character of the theological vision of Montfort, for whom 
the mystery of God and Christ translates in terms of Wisdom.
Furthermore, we should cite TD 240-41, where Montfort argues on the 
basis of a sapiential text, Sir 6, whose echoes resound in the NT itself 
(Mt 11:28-30): “Dear friend, break the chains of sin and of sinners, of 
the world and the worldly, of the devil and his satellites. ‘Cast their 
yoke of death far from us’ [‘Dirumpamus vincula eorum et projiciamus a 
nobis jugum ipsorum’ (Ps. 2:3)]. To use the words of the Holy Spirit let 
us put our feet into his glorious shackles and our neck into his chains 
[‘Injice pedem tuum in compedes illius, et in torques illius collum 
tuum’ (Sir 6:25)]. Let us bow down our shoulders in submission to the 
yoke of Wisdom incarnate, Jesus Christ, and let us not be upset by the 
burden of his chains [‘Subjice humerum tuum et porta illam, et ne 
accedieris vinculis ejus’ (Sir 6:25)]. Notice how before saying these 
words the Holy Spirit prepares us to accept his serious advice, 
‘Hearken, my son,’ he says, ‘receive a counsel of understanding and do 
not spurn this counsel of mine’ [‘Audi, fili, et accipe consilium 
intellectus, et ne abjicias consilium meum’ (Sir 6:24)]. Allow me here, 
my dear friend, to join the Holy Spirit in giving you the same counsel. 
‘These chains are the chains of salvation’ [‘Vincula illius alligatura 
salutis’ (Sir 6:31)]” (TD 240-41).
On four occasions, Montfort alludes to the Wisdom of Mary (TD 4, 108, 
156, 217). This gift is hers because of her proximity to Jesus, source 
of all Wisdom; it has been granted to her in order to be shared with us 
as we await the plenitude of the mystery of Christ: “It is in the bosom 
of Mary that people who are young grow mature in enlightenment, in 
holiness, in experience and in wisdom, and in a short time reach the 
fullness of the age of Christ [cf. Eph 4:13]” (TD 156; see also TD 214, 
217).
True, the allusions are scattered, but the fact remains that they can 
be comprehended only in the light of the magisterial exposition that 
Montfort had made on Wisdom less than ten years before, when he wrote 
LEW, and they suffice to show that nothing of this basic theme has been 
retracted.
When he wrote RM, which seems to have been essentially complete by 
June 1713,8 Montfort was obviously interested only in the missionary 
dimension of Wisdom, whether on the attitude to be taken in the practice 
of the Sacrament of Penance—“They must not be either too strict or too 
lax in imposing penances or granting absolution but must hold to the 
golden mean of wisdom and truth” (RM 59)—or, especially, on his 
missionaries’ primary activity, preaching: “The preaching of God’s word 
is the most far-reaching, the most effective and also the most difficult 
ministry of all. The missionaries will, therefore, study and pray 
unceasingly 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. It is the easiest thing in the world to be 
a fashionable preacher. It is a difficult but sublime thing to be able 
to preach with the inspiration of an apostle, to speak like the wise 
man, ex sententia (with true understanding [Wis. 7:14]) or, as Jesus 
Christ says, ex abundantia cordis (from the fullness of one’s heart [Mt 
12:34]), to have received from God as a reward for one’s labors and 
prayers, a tongue, a mouth and a wisdom which the enemies of truth 
cannot withstand: mercedem linguam . . . os et sapientiam cui non 
poterunt resistere omnes adversarii vestri [Lk 21:15]” (RM 60).
Once more, Montfort comments upon what he had sketched in LEW in 
describing the “marvelous effects” of Wisdom. Thus, RM 60-61 must be 
read as a direct expansion of LEW 97.
There remains, finally, RW, whose text was in broad circulation from 
1715 onward; it probably was written by Montfort that same year. This 
text contains some ten references to Wisdom, of which three invoke only 
the commonplace sense of the terms “wise” or “wisdom.” Among the 
remaining more meaningful uses, three especially stand out. The first is 
the finest possible definition of the community’s raison d’être: “The 
interior aim of the Congregation of the Daughters of Wisdom is the 
acquisition of Divine Wisdom” (RW 1). But the second is no less 
important, as it presents, in the chapter on obedience, the example to 
be followed or model to be imitated, Wisdom Incarnate: “Holy obedience, 
practiced with all possible perfection, is the special virtue that 
should characterize the Daughters of Wisdom. Just as divine Wisdom, who 
reigned in the heavens, came down to earth to obey from the first moment 
of his incarnation to his death, so, following his example, his 
daughters have left the world to subject their mind and will to the yoke 
of obedience” (RW 46).
Finally, the third of the more important occurrences of the term 
“wisdom” demonstrates the objectively theological character of the 
Wisdom recommended by Montfort to his daughters. He insists on the bonds 
between Wisdom and faith: “As faith is the foundation of all religion, 
so is it the basis of all wisdom and perfection; hence faith, the daily 
bread of the Daughters of Wisdom, is the motivating force of all their 
thoughts, words and actions” (RW 202).
Montfort does not omit recommending the concrete deeds of a Wisdom to 
be lived in day-to-day affairs: Wisdom in conversations (RW 250), the 
Wisdom of silence (RW 175), as well as Wisdom in the exercise of 
authority (RW 294).
6. Foundation of a community of Wisdom 
Montfort’s quest for Wisdom constituted one of the major stages of his 
own spiritual journey. This fact alone renders it worthy of 
consideration. But it is not a matter of an experience confined to the 
saint’s personal pilgrimage. Quite the contrary, it overflows into his 
missionary career, and it has the great merit of having produced 
disciples. The biographer Picot de Clorivière, reporting the crosses 
Montfort had to bear at the Poitiers Hospital, makes no effort to 
conceal his admiration for the “great things” that Montfort’s project of 
establishing a congregation of Wisdom would entail: “But the Lord placed 
wickedness in the service of the great things His servant was to do for 
His glory. This is how I must describe the establishment of a 
Congregation that, one day, would produce great fruits and render to the 
faithful of countless places the most important services, under the 
beautiful name of Daughters of Wisdom.” 9
Montfort, the initiator of the project, managed in short order to find 
an exceptional disciple, capable of uniting in the same passionate 
search and of carrying its project to term. Very early, indeed from the 
moment of his first allusion to Wisdom (L 15), Montfort had not the 
least hesitation in sharing his desire for Wisdom with a young woman of 
Poitiers, Marie Louise Trichet, and in leading her upon an evangelical 
adventure in which Wisdom would play such a decisive role. The young 
priest relied on the fervent prayers of this new disciple and associate 
in order to obtain the treasure of Wisdom: “I will never cease asking 
for this boundless treasure and I firmly believe that I shall obtain it 
even were angels, men and demons to deny it to me. I believe strongly in 
the efficacy of your prayers, in the loving kindness of our God, in the 
protection of the Blessed Virgin, our good Mother; I believe too that 
the needs of the poor are too urgent and the promises of God too 
explicit for me to be making a mistake in seeking Wisdom. For even if 
the possession of divine Wisdom were impossible, according to the 
ordinary workings of divine grace, which is not the case, it would 
become possible because of the insistence with which we ask for it. Is 
it not an unchangeable truth that everything is possible to him who 
believes? Another thing that makes me say that I shall possess Wisdom is 
the fact that I have encountered and still encounter so much persecution 
night and day. So, my dear daughter, I ask you to enlist some good souls 
among your friends into a campaign of prayer especially from now until 
Pentecost, and to pray together for an hour on Mondays from one to two 
o’clock. I will be praying at the same time. Write and send me their 
names” (L 15).
And so Montfort is not alone. Louise Trichet and “some good souls 
among her friends” are invited to “enlist” in the “campaign.” Nor will 
they delay to do so. A few months later, Montfort could write to his 
“Dear Daughter”: “I feel that you are still asking God that by crosses, 
humiliations and poverty I may acquire divine Wisdom. Be brave, my dear 
daughter, be brave. I am grateful to you; I feel the effects of your 
prayers” (L 16).
Not that he did not beg, in concluding this letter, as well as in his 
next to Louise Trichet, a continuation of the prayers. With Montfort, 
then, the personal quest for Wisdom penetrated the marrow of his bones.
To the discourse on Wisdom, which was particularly intense in the 
first years of his ministry, now, after the fashion of the biblical 
prophets, Montfort joined the language of symbolic acts. Besides the 
solemn and significant symbol of the name of the new group, Daughters of 
Wisdom, Montfort would posit three acts that, over a period of a dozen 
years, marked the first steps of the new association, which later became 
a religious Congregation. The first two stand in intimate connection: 
the formation of the very first association of Wisdom, and the ideal of 
life that Montfort inculcated in that association by bestowing on it 
what is ordinarily referred to as the Wisdom Cross of Poitiers. Besnard 
describes these two actions of Montfort: “Following the example of Jesus 
Christ, Eternal Wisdom, he chooses the most base and abject objects in 
the eyes of the world. He gathers together on the grounds of the 
Hospital the poorest of the poor: eighteen to twenty sick ladies, all 
covered with ulcers anything but favored by nature, but virtuous and 
pleasing in the eyes of the Lord. Faithful servant that he is of the 
Head of his household, he gathers in the blind, the lame, to be seated 
at the festive board. He seeks out a suitable place for the 
implementation of his plan. It will become the cradle of his community. 
He gathers them all together in a room apart, separated from the wards 
of the Hospital. He calls this place “Wisdom.” He places a superior in 
charge. But what a superior! A poor, sick girl like any of the rest of 
them, but the simplest, most prudent, most pious, and most obedient. He 
places in the middle of the room a great cross, which is a piece of 
foolishness according to the world but which is the Wisdom of Jesus 
Christ. He wants them to be called by the lovely name Daughters of 
Wisdom.10
The third and last of the symbolic acts occurred only at the close of 
Montfort’s missionary career, when he gave to Marie Louise of Jesus and 
her companions a gift of a statue of Our Lady of Wisdom. The deed is all 
the more significant for the fact that Montfort seemed to be quite 
attached to this statue, taking it with him on his missionary journeys. 
Unfortunately, it is impossible to know how Wisdom was represented 
through this “mysterious statue,” but its very existence and the 
testimony we have from Marie Louise of Jesus about it are a further 
indication of the importance of the spirituality of Wisdom throughout 
Montfort’s missionary career. We know the fact through Besnard’s 
writings: “She always made her treasure and consolation this mysterious 
statue of Wisdom that the servant of God had given her. She has told us, 
time upon time, its history. ‘Father de Montfort sent it to us,’ she 
said, ‘from Nantes to La Rochelle around the year 1715, when we were 
setting up charity schools there. “I send you, my dear daughters,” he 
stated, “Wisdom along with the messenger” (meaning that he was always 
united with Wisdom). We have simply set it on a table, and we pray 
before it often, always begging for Wisdom. Father de Montfort had a 
particular devotion to this figure, which represents Wisdom as Solomon 
depicts it in the Book that bears his name.’”11
The saint’s last letters, composed in 1715 and 1716, likewise furnish 
insights on the Wisdom community that Montfort wished to found: “The day 
for the establishment of the Daughters of Wisdom has at last arrived” (L 
28). Among the recommendations he addresses to the new community, the 
fourth leaves no doubt whatever about the name and the kind of mission 
he wishes to entrust to it: “Call yourselves the ‘Community of the 
Daughters of Wisdom for the education of children and the care of the 
poor’” (L 29). Identity and mission are in strict association here: the 
spirituality of Wisdom has a properly evangelical, missionary dimension.
That the spirituality of Wisdom should emblazon the standard of a 
religious congregation is a unique fact in the history of the institutes 
of consecrated or apostolic life. This unique character is all the more 
astonishing in view of the countless institutes, male and female, 
bearing the names of titles of Christ or aspects of his mission: Sacred 
Heart, Precious Blood, Blessed Sacrament, Holy Cross, Good Shepherd, 
Christ the King, and so on.12

 

II. WISDOM ACCORDING TO MONTFORT 
1. Toward a definition 
Just as with the biblical notion of Wisdom, Montfort’s understanding of 
the term is far from being univocal and spans a multitude of meanings. 
Dayet himself recognized this fact: “The word ‘Wisdom’ in Montfort, as 
in Saint Paul and traditional terminology, presents more than one 
meaning.”13 There is no doubt, however, about the “primary meaning” of 
the term “wisdom” in Montfort: “Under the appellation ‘Wisdom,’ Montfort 
intends to designate especially the Son of God, generated by the Father 
from all eternity, who became a human being in the womb of the Virgin 
Mary—Jesus Christ, Wisdom at once Eternal and Incarnate.”14 Then, 
secondarily, Montfort intended by Wisdom “the created qualities so 
magnificently accompanying [Jesus’] presence in the soul either 
actually, or striving to be, holy.”15
The complexity of the notion of Wisdom in Montfort has also been 
brought out by Le Texier16 in some fragmentary, incomplete notes. He 
introduces distinctions that come very close to Montfort’s language, it 
is true, but he also appeals to the authority of Thomas Aquinas, whom he 
frequently cites. Aware of the subtleties of certain distinctions in 
Montfort, Le Texier actually speaks of a “certain confusion” generated 
by a “continual shift from essential Wisdom to a Wisdom that is personal 
by appropriation.”17 While the foundations of the distinctions 
established by Le Texier may be open to question and while the word 
“confusion” may well translate the malaise of the interpreter rather 
than the data of the text, we must acknowledge with him the equivocal 
character of the term in Montfort, as well as a number of sudden 
transitions from one meaning to the other in Montfort’s work.
The distinction proposed by De Fiores appears more apt. He speaks of 
Wisdom “as a person, that is, Jesus Christ,” and of Wisdom “as a gift, 
that is, Jesus Christ’s communication to human beings.”18 Such a 
distinction has the twofold merit of emphasizing the basically 
Christological distinction of the notion of Wisdom in Montfort along 
with its functional or “economic” dimension, according to which Wisdom 
appears in a context of covenant in salvation history.
Montfort’s view of Wisdom, then, is both fragmented—he himself gives a 
number of distinctions or quasi-definitions—and centered, for he refers 
everything to the mystery of Christ Wisdom, essentially a mystery of 
covenant and salvation for humanity.
In LEW, chap. 1, Montfort first proposes a definition based on 
etymology. “In the general sense of the term wisdom means a delectable 
knowledge [sapida sapientia]—a taste for God and his truth” (LEW 13). We 
note, furthermore, the importance accorded in this first chapter to the 
vocabulary of cognition (see the article Love of Eternal Wisdom in this 
Handbook). Wisdom, in Montfort, is bound up with knowledge. But at the 
same time, Montfort defines very clearly the context of his quest by the 
addition of the adjective “delectable” (“savoreuse”). The knowledge in 
question here is not a theoretical, abstract, cold knowledge but a 
knowledge that one can taste and that enables one, as it were, to come 
alive. Here, too, the vocabulary is revealing: in LEW especially, but 
also in the Hymns, Montfort speaks a great deal of “tasting,” “loving,” 
“cherishing,” “treasure,” “sweetness,” “pleasure,” “delight,” etc. The 
etymological definition, then, permits him to introduce and, in a sense, 
justify the type of discourse he proposes on the topic of Wisdom.
But more than etymology is at play here. Montfort also proposes 
distinctions of a more philosophical character, which he draws, this 
time, from his scholastic training: “There are several kinds of wisdom. 
First: true and false wisdom. True wisdom is a taste for truth without 
falsehood or deception. False wisdom is a taste for falsehood disguised 
as truth. This false wisdom is the wisdom or the prudence of the world, 
which the Holy Spirit divides into three classes: earthly, sensual, and 
diabolical [Jas 3:15]. True wisdom may be divided into natural and 
supernatural wisdom. Natural wisdom is the knowledge, in an outstanding 
degree, of natural things in their principles. Supernatural wisdom is 
knowledge of supernatural and divine things in their origin. This 
supernatural wisdom is divided into substantial or uncreated Wisdom and 
accidental or created wisdom. Accidental or created wisdom is the 
communication that uncreated Wisdom makes of himself to mankind. In 
other words, it is the gift of wisdom. Substantial or uncreated Wisdom 
is the Son of God, the second person of the most Blessed Trinity. In 
other words, it is Eternal Wisdom in eternity or Jesus Christ in time” 
(LEW 13).
Several distinctions are drawn here. First, between true and false 
wisdom, which calls for judgment and interpretation on the part of the 
reader. We also find two more essentialistic distinctions: first, 
between natural wisdom and supernatural Wisdom—a distinction that would 
not easily hold in light of recent studies on biblical Wisdom and in 
light of the theological and biblical renewal of Vatican II. Finally, we 
have a distinction between accidental, created, wisdom and substantial, 
uncreated Wisdom—which has lost none of its validity today and would 
only call for a bit of rethinking of its formulation, primarily for 
accidental wisdom.
In addition to these essentialistic definitions, Montfort likewise has 
a tendency to define Wisdom in an inductive fashion—that is, by way of a 
detailed description of the effects produced by Wisdom in those who seek 
it: a spirit of discernment (LEW 92), knowledge that instills life (LEW 
93-94), capacity for communication and prophetic witness (LEW 95-97), a 
“relish for everything that comes from God” (LEW 98), gifts of the 
Spirit (LEW 99), apostolic daring and strength in trial (LEW 100). Here 
Montfort appeals to his own experience and sense of observation. In 
doing so, he harks back to biblical tradition, for which Wisdom always 
gives in superabundance, in incalculable richness: “‘He [Wisdom] entered 
the soul of the servant of God and withstood fearsome kings with signs 
and wonders’ (Wisdom 10:16)” (LEW 90).
Indeed, it is from the Bible, even more than from etymology and 
philosophy, that Montfort borrows the essentials of his “definition” of 
Wisdom. On the one hand, he quotes and comments on the main texts of the 
OT on personified Wisdom—Prov 8, Sir 24, Jas 6-8 (cf. LEW 16-17, 20-30, 
65-68)—just as he does with their application by the NT writers to the 
person of Jesus (LEW 16-19). He devotes an entire chapter to Wis 7-8 
(LEW 52-62), which describes in a beautiful way “the excellence of 
Eternal Wisdom” (LEW 52). At the same time, when he attempts to define 
the gift of Wisdom, it is again from Jas 7-8, complemented by Wis 10-11, 
in order to show “the countless effects Eternal Wisdom produces in 
souls” (LEW 91; see also all of LEW, chap. 8). The NT figures 
importantly in this chapter as well, as Montfort has drawn from it the 
distinction between “earthly, sensual, and diabolical” Wisdom (LEW 13, 
quoting Jas 3:15), which will serve as the basis of chapter 7, “Choice 
of true Wisdom” (LEW 74-89).
Montfort’s understanding of Wisdom is extremely rich in connotations, 
(etymological, philosophical, experiential, biblical, and, of course, 
theological). Moreover, there are three fundamental lines of Montfort’s 
theology of Wisdom.
2. Christ Wisdom 
The great originality of Montfort’s views on Wisdom resides first and 
foremost in his Christological reading of the biblical texts on Wisdom. 
It is here that he reveals what J. Hémery calls “St. Louis Marie’s 
charism”—his “particular view of faith in Christ known as the Wisdom of 
God, come among human beings in order to reveal to them the fullness of 
the Father’s design of love and teach them, true master of Wisdom that 
he is, by example and word, the way to beatitude.”19
While the OT abundantly illustrates the varied meanings of the word 
“wisdom,” reflection on this theme leads us to shift questions in 
another direction. From “What is wisdom,” we have come to the question 
“Who is wisdom” (cf. Job 28, Prov 8, Sir 24, Wis 6-8). For Montfort, it 
is evident that this is the great question. And for him, the answer is 
the same as for Paul (1 Cor 15-20) and John (Jn 1:1-18): Wisdom is Jesus 
Christ, creative Word and Word of God become flesh. In LEW, we find more 
than forty instances where Montfort designates Christ as Wisdom, mostly 
in terms of “Eternal Wisdom” and “incarnate Wisdom,” thus referring to 
the mystery of his origin in God and to his presence among us in the 
Incarnation. From the very beginning of LEW, Wisdom’s identification 
with Jesus Christ is strongly emphasized: “So often were these last 
words [Mt 19:24; cf. Mk 10:25, Lk 18:25] repeated by divine Wisdom while 
on earth” (LEW 6). And again, “Why is Jesus, the adorable, eternal and 
incarnate Wisdom loved so little . . . ?” (LEW 8). The identification 
becomes even more explicit as Montfort sets John’s Prologue in 
relationship with the major OT texts on Wisdom in God (Wis 7:25-26, Prov 
8:23-24): “He is the substantial and eternal idea of divine beauty which 
was shown to St. John the Evangelist . . . when he exclaimed, ‘In the 
beginning was the Word—the Son of God, or Eternal Wisdom—and the Word 
was in God and the Word was God.’ . . . This is the Eternal Wisdom of 
which Solomon often speaks in his books when he says that Wisdom was 
created” (LEW 17-18; cf. Jn 1:1).
The book’s title, it is true, carries no explicit reference to the 
Incarnation, but the structure Montfort proposes and the development of 
his reflection invite us to read that title in a Christological sense: 
“Following the example of this great man [Solomon], I am going, in my 
simple way, to portray Eternal Wisdom before, during and after his 
Incarnation” (LEW 7). The identification is explicit once more in the 
enunciation of his project: “Substantial or uncreated Wisdom is the Son 
of God, the second person of the most Blessed Trinity. In other words, 
it is Eternal Wisdom in eternity or Jesus Christ in time. It is 
precisely about this Eternal Wisdom that we are going to speak” (LEW 
13).
Biblical Wisdom is not the whole of Scripture, any more than the title 
“Wisdom” is the whole of NT Christology. But both OT and Christological 
Wisdom afford us a better grasp of the great unity between salvation 
history and the loving presence of God in the works of creation. Through 
his Christian rereading of OT Wisdom, then, Montfort helps us to a 
better understanding of the unity between both Testaments as the unity 
between the first and the new covenants.
3. Evangelical and missionary Wisdom 
The Wisdom Montfort proposes is none other than the Wisdom of the 
Gospel. To paraphrase a turn of thought most dear to him, we might even 
say that for him “Wisdom is the Gospel and the Gospel is Wisdom.” This 
identification emerges in his very project for LEW: he devotes an entire 
chapter to the “principal utterances of Wisdom Incarnate which we must 
believe and practice if we are to be saved” (LEW, chap. 12 [LEW 133-
53]). This sampling does not represent Montfort’s entire structure where 
Wisdom is concerned. As he himself intimates, it is only an abridgment. 
But it is also a way of referring directly to the Gospel, which Saint 
Louis Marie perceives both as prophetical (in oracles) and as sapiential 
(in oracles precisely of Wisdom). Beyond any doubt, it is from the 
Gospel that Montfort invites Christians to draw all of their Wisdom.
That the Gospel is the principal source of Wisdom for him is 
illustrated also by his well-known response to his friend Blain in their 
celebrated exchange in 1714. To the objections raised by his friend to 
his seemingly strange conduct, Saint Louis Marie responded that his 
behavior was dictated by the Wisdom of the Gospel.20
Since, however, the Wisdom theme in Montfort is less known than his 
Marian teaching and since Wisdom does not figure in his sermon outlines, 
it might be objected that Wisdom had no deep impact on his missionary 
career, even though it was embedded in his personal experience. But the 
truth is quite the contrary, and it is again the conversation with Blain 
that best illustrates the repercussions of evangelical Wisdom on the 
life of the missionary: “He added that there were different kinds of 
wisdom, just as there are different degrees—that the wisdom guiding a 
community person in his or her conduct was not the same as the wisdom of 
a missionary and apostolic person—that the former was not a matter of 
new undertakings; . . . that it was not the same with missionaries and 
apostolic persons, for whom there is always something new to be 
undertaken, some holy work to be established or defended; that it was 
impossible not to get them talked about and get everyone in agreement; 
that, finally, if Wisdom was not to be put to work doing new things for 
God and undertaking something for His glory, for fear of what people 
might say, then the Apostles had been wrong to leave Jerusalem.”21
It is the Missionary Apostolic who speaks here, and quite obviously 
his conception of Wisdom has nothing to do with calculated prudence. The 
Wisdom that instills Montfort’s life is a Wisdom that thrusts him to 
“undertake” things, to “leave Jerusalem,” like the Apostles of times 
gone by, in order to do “new things for God.” It is not surprising, 
then, to see him recommend to his religious community of men that they 
esteem the gift of Wisdom as being of the highest utility for ensuring 
success in their preaching (RM 60).
4. Paradoxical Wisdom of the Cross 
Montfort’s celebrated maxim “Wisdom is the Cross and the Cross is 
Wisdom” (LEW 180) admirably expresses how closely connected these two 
realities are in his thought. LEW, chap. 14, “The Triumph of Eternal 
Wisdom in and by the Cross,” is profoundly influenced by Pauline thought 
(1 Cor 1-2). Like the Apostle, Montfort bows in wonder before the 
paradoxical paths of Divine Wisdom: “How remote and how different are 
the thoughts and the ways of eternal Wisdom from those of even the 
wisest of men” (LEW 167), he cries, and again with Paul: “O the depths 
of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How amazing is his choice and how 
sublime and incomprehensible are his ways! But how inexpressible his 
love for that cross!” (LEW 168; cf. Rom 11:33).
The roots of Montfort’s sapiential theology are broader than its 
Pauline origins. That theology is inscribed in the larger framework of a 
biblical theology in which the mystery of God is perceived under the 
sign of what a great contemporary theologian, François Varillon, has 
called the “humility of God” and the “suffering of God,” or what 
Morinay, for his part, calls “the weakness of God.” “Do you think that 
Jesus, now that he is triumphant and glorious, is any the less loving 
and condescending? On the contrary, his glory, as it were, perfects his 
kindness. He wishes to appear forgiving rather than majestic, to show 
the riches of his mercy rather than the gold of his glory” (LEW 127).
In Montfort, the identification of the Cross with Wisdom is evidenced 
in Hymns 19 and 102, which manifestly borrow from the vocabulary of 
Wisdom in order to speak of the mystery of the Cross: “In this princess 
/ we truly find / grace, wisdom, / and divinity . . . / God found 
irresistible / her beauty so rare: / the cross has descended him / into 
our humanity!” (H 102:9-10).
The importance attributed by Montfort to the Cross is altogether 
justified. Here, for the NT writers, is the supreme, decisive deed by 
which Incarnate Wisdom accomplished the world’s salvation: “Jesus knew 
that his hour had come and he must leave this world and go to the 
Father. He had always loved his own who were in the world, and now he 
was to show the full extent of his love” (Jn 13:1). Montfort lacks an 
explicit theology of the Resurrection. He does not, however, entertain 
the least doubt that Golgotha alone is not the Cross. The Cross is the 
“power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). To use his own words, he speaks of the 
triumph of the cross: “By it has Jesus Christ / thrown hell into chains, 
/ laid low the rebel, / and conquered the universe” (H 19:6).
Here is the Cross in all its glory, and Montfort’s gaze is ever upon 
Christ’s victory and the judgment of salvation that flows from it: that 
victory “will have the cross carried in triumph by the Angels, and will 
sing to it canticles of gladness. It will follow this cross, which will 
stand high on the brightest-shining cloud that has ever been, and it 
will judge the world with it and by it” (LEW 184). “From His youth did 
he it follow, / with giant stride. / Of tenderness and love he died / in 
its arms. / I desire a baptism, / once he cried— / the cross I so love, 
/ the object of my love!” (H 19:11).
Here, then, is a theology of the Cross that could very well be 
included in current theological perspectives, provided certain 
expressions were updated and certain of his Christological premises 
reexamined, notably those bearing on the “consciousness of Christ” (LEW 
169-70 and H 19:10 not being without their difficulties for today’s 
understanding of the implications of Jesus’ humanity). Apart from these 
reservations, Montfort’s discourse on the Cross remains altogether 
pertinent and rich in theological and spiritual insights.
5. Mary and Wisdom 
Our concern here is only how Montfort’s Marian thought is integrated 
into his teachings on Wisdom.
First of all, a concrete fact: Montfort carried with him on his 
missions a wooden statuette, apparently carved by himself, and 
christened by him “Our Lady of Wisdom.” Preserved and treasured at the 
Generalate of the Daughters of Wisdom, it is a Madonna and Child; the 
Child is holding the world in his hand and has a playful expression on 
his face, reminding one of the Wisdom taking “delight in mankind” (cf. 
Prov 8:22-31). Mary is not presented alone but, rather, in her 
relationship with Wisdom Incarnate.
Montfort’s teaching on Wisdom preceded and, in a way, framed his 
Marian teaching. While his devotion to Mary can be traced back very far 
in his spiritual pilgrimage, it is no less certain that as a spiritual 
author, Montfort has first given us a developed Christology. His Marian 
doctrine flows from that Christology and is understandable only in its 
light. It is not to be wondered at, then, that he should have devoted 
the first sixteen chapters of LEW to establishing his vision of Wisdom 
before furnishing us, in the seventeenth and last chapter, with his 
Marian doctrine.22
For Montfort, Mary’s connections with Wisdom are manifold. But here 
again our saint begins with the mystery of Christ. If Mary is capable of 
guiding us in the quest for Wisdom, it is by reason of her proximity to 
Him who is not only the source of Wisdom but who is very Wisdom in 
person, Jesus Christ. In a rather bold phrase, Montfort says of Mary: 
“She became the mother, mistress and throne of divine Wisdom” (LEW 203). 
“She became”—suggesting the underlying reality of the economy of 
salvation. It is by virtue not of some necessity but of God’s good 
pleasure and Mary’s free response that she has become what she is in 
salvation history.
For Montfort, it cannot be a question of Mary’s being able to have 
some precedence or superiority vis-à-vis the Divine Wisdom: “Mary is 
also mistress of divine Wisdom. Not that she is above him who is truly 
God, or even equal to him. To think or say such a thing would be 
blasphemous. But because the Son of God, Eternal Wisdom, by making 
himself entirely subject to her as his Mother, gave her a maternal and 
natural authority over himself which surpasses our understanding. He not 
only gave her this power while he lived on earth but still gives it now 
in heaven, because glory does not destroy nature but makes it more 
perfect (LEW 205). And again: “If it is true to say that Mary is, in a 
sense, mistress of Wisdom incarnate, what control must she have over all 
the graces and gifts of God, and what freedom must she enjoy in giving 
them to whom she chooses” (LEW 207).
As for the expression “Throne of Wisdom” (Sedes Sapientiae) and its 
Marian application, this figure had already seen a long history of 
liturgical usage, even before being popularized by the Litany of 
Loretto: Prov 8 and Sir 24 have been used in the Roman liturgy for the 
feasts of the Blessed Virgin ever since the seventh century.23 In other 
words, Montfort has not given us any innovations on this point. Nor 
indeed should we be surprised to see him invoking, on this subject, the 
witness of the Fathers of the Church. In the following text we observe 
the abundance of synonyms for the word “dwelling”—these, as well, 
inspired by the famous text of Sir 24: “Moreover, Mary is the royal 
throne of Eternal Wisdom. . . . That is why the Fathers of the Church 
call her the tabernacle of the divinity, the place of rest and 
contentment of the Blessed Trinity, the throne of God, the city of God, 
the altar of God, the temple of God, the world of God and the paradise 
of God. All these titles are most correct with regard to the different 
wonders which the most high God has worked in Mary” (LEW 208).
Quite evidently, the liturgical and Montfort exegeses are 
“accommodation” and make no claim to convey the first meaning of the 
texts of Prov 8 and Sir 24, whose reference is to Wisdom in God. In 
fact, even from the viewpoint of a Christian rereading, it is Christ, 
and not Mary, who accomplishes what is said of Wisdom. But the 
liturgical and the Montfort intuition remain correct, precisely 
inasmuch as it is in Mary that Jesus Christ Wisdom became incarnate. 
Mary, in our humanity, is the dwelling place, the tabernacle, the 
place of rest of Jesus Christ, God’s Wisdom.

 

III. MONTFORT AMONG THE PEDAGOGUES OF WISDOM 

 

The question of Montfort’s sources has been the subject of numerous 
studies by the commentators, and it has long been established that by 
virtue both of his extensive reading and of his docility to his teachers 
during his theological and spiritual training, Montfort was mightily 
influenced by the theology of his time, especially by the French school 
of spirituality. Here we may refer to the commentators Lhoumeau, 
Plessis, Poupon, Catta, and Perouas, among others. As for the more 
specific case of the sources for LEW, Father Huré remains an excellent 
reference,24 and that study can be complemented by more recent ones.25 
For the biblical sources, Gilbert’s study is the best and most 
complete.26
We must, however, attempt to bridge a little gap here. What of LEW and 
two sources that antedate the productions of the French school: 
Augustine, and the Franciscan Wisdom tradition?
1. Montfort Wisdom and Augustinian Wisdom 
A certain number of commentators on the Montfort corpus appeal to the 
great Augustine for a grounding of the Montfort notion of Wisdom. 
Father Huré, indeed, in his Introduction historique, reserves 
Augustine the lion’s share, according him some twenty pages out of 
about eighty. The monumental accomplishments of the Doctor of Hippo 
have much to offer, it is true, on the subject of Wisdom: “Key word 
in the language of the philosophers, [“wisdom”] is a key word, as 
well, in the theological language of Saint Augustine.”27 Besides, 
Augustine was one of the first great commentators—and one of the rare 
ones coming before the Middle Ages—to deal with Wis: he cites that 
book at least 760 times, commenting on some 150 verses, or roughly 
the number (140) cited by Montfort in LEW alone. It would be 
interesting to compare the commentaries of the two authors in order 
to see both their convergences and divergences.
On the other hand, we must not forget that in large part, Augustine 
understands wisdom in the philosophical sense,28 while Montfort appears 
rather reticent when it comes to philosophical wisdom (LEW 84-88). 
Besides, while Montfort cites Augustine in LEW 30, 107, 213, Augustine’s 
influence remains diffuse. Montfort generally shares an Augustinian view 
of the human being and salvation. But this is all that we can say, and 
it is unclear to what extent Montfort may depend on specific texts of 
Augustine that deal with Wis.
2. Montfort Wisdom and Franciscan Wisdom 
A less thoroughly explored avenue is that of the parallels between 
Montfort’s Wisdom and the Franciscan Wisdom tradition. Audusseau has 
studied them in some notes—whose non-exhaustive, provisional character 
he acknowledges—bearing mainly on texts of Angelo of Foligno, 
Bonaventure, and, finally, Francis of Assisi.29 It is regrettable that 
this author did not return to the subject later so as to solidify his 
argumentation and the parallels. But the fact remains that his 
conclusions show profound affinities between Montfort’s texts and the 
Franciscan texts and demonstrate that, indeed, there is a tradition of 
Christian Wisdom. The search remains to be pursued and refined, 
especially about Montfort’s ties with Francis of Assisi, Angelo of 
Foligno, Raymond Lull, and Bonaventure, all of whom are cited in LEW or 
other works of Montfort.30
IV. RELEVANCE OF MONTFORT WISDOM 
It would scarcely be an easy task to popularize Montfort’s discourse on 
Wisdom—Montfort himself not having completely taken up the challenge of 
a like enterprise!—but there can be no doubt that his vision of Wisdom 
might respond to more than one felt need crying out in the hearts of 
Christians today.
First of all, in his teaching on Wisdom, Montfort is far from 
expressing a mere marginal, or peripheral, devotion. His devotion goes 
to the essential: it is centered on Christ. And the Christ Montfort 
proposes for our contemplation and imitation is not just any Christ, of 
vague or indeterminate delineation. The Christ Montfort proposes is none 
other than Christ as Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom, whose stamp creation 
has borne since its origins—precisely the element of coherence and 
cohesion in the whole created universe. This Christ is God’s dwelling 
place among human beings, and Love crucified—the supreme manifestation 
of God’s love for human kind.
In the second place, the Montfort Wisdom has the great merit of 
sending us back to the Bible itself. In these times of a biblical 
renewal, no more appropriate undertaking could be imagined. So much 
remains to be rediscovered—especially in the Wisdom writings themselves, 
so long misunderstood by Christians, which offer a unique outlook on the 
mutual relationship between God and the world and on the deep meaning of 
human realities.
Finally, at a moment when so many cults and new religious groups (some 
even calling themselves “wisdom” or “sophia”) propose esoteric 
spiritualities that so often go in tandem with gnostic tendencies 
(proposing a salvation that would be obtained by virtue of the mere 
possession of certain knowledge), Montfort’s teaching also has the great 
merit of clearly revealing the radical evangelical demands of a Wisdom 
that must necessarily be lived, a Wisdom that is acquired only by way of 
a personal appropriation of Jesus’ paschal mystery.
J. P. Prévost

 


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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