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

END TIMES


Summary	
I.	Montfort’s Conception of Earthly Time: 
	1.	Relationship between time and eternity; 
	2.	Appreciating the true value of time; 
	3.	Secrets for gaining time; 
	4.	Past, present, and future. 
II.	Montfort and the End Times: 
	1.	A progressive discovery; 
	2.	Sources: 
		a.	Bérulle and Saint-Sulpice, 
		b.	Eudist sources, 
		c.	Post-Joachimite sources; 
	3.	Scenario of the end times: 
		a.	First stage: tragic state of the Church, 
		b.	Second stage: divine intervention within salvation 	
			history, 
		c.	Third stage: the Second Coming and reign of Jesus 	
			Christ, 
		d.	Fourth stage: the deluge of the fire of justice and 	
			the Last Judgment; 
	4.	The protagonists: 
		a.	The Trinity, 
		b.	Mary, 
		c.	The apostles of the end times, 
		d.	Satan. 
III.	The Apostles of the End Times: 
	1.	Who are they? 
	2.	Their activity; 
	3.	Their spirituality: 
		a.	Union with God, 
		b.	Apostolic zeal, 
		c.	The Marian experience, 
		d.	The experience of the Cross. 
IV.	An Elaboration of Montfort’s Thought: 
	1.	"Spiritual" interpretation; 
	2.	Eschatological interpretation; 
	3.	Millenarian interpretation; 
	4.	Attempt at resolution. 
V.	Theological Evaluation: 
	1.	Prophetic character and verification in history; 
	2.	Scriptural and extrabiblical arguments; 
	3.	Theological arguments. 
VI.	Consequences for Montfort Spirituality: 
	1.	The future: a key to the life of Montfort; 
	2.	Devotion to Mary.

I. MONTFORT’S CONCEPTION OF EARTHLY TIME

On first encounter, Montfort does not appear to have a specific theory about the end times but shares the conception common to his period. On deeper examination, however, we find that while he assimilated several ideas of his day, in preaching for example,1 he added interesting points of his own and, in particular, formulated an organic and original conception of the end times of the Church.

Montfort’s era was a time of transition. The seventeenth century and the intellectual dominance of Bossuet were giving way to the eighteenth century and Voltaire.2 The passage from the baroque culture to that of the Enlightenment also had an effect on the contradictory portrait we have received of the period. Those who lived in this time of wars, misery, famine, and infant mortality gave voice to a negative and pessimistic judgment on the period. In particular, the acute sense of sin and human frailty, on the one hand, and of eternal life, on the other, led to an emphasis on the perversity and decay of the time. They often found refuge in the past, in medieval legends, or in admiration of the fervor of bygone saints. This culture, which often made reference to the immutable workings of Providence, had difficulty coping with change, which was accused by Tronson of being the "daughter of time, mother of disorder."3

Within the milieu of Enlightenment culture, by contrast, the critical spirit of P. Bayle became more and more widespread, attempting to dissipate the shadows of the past with the light of reason and refusing to become resigned to the status quo. The historical criticism penetrated the ecclesiastical world and called into question the sacred legends and apocryphal texts of the Breviary; as a result, the bourgeoisie viewed the period as one of social progress and well-being. The past was regarded as an inheritance to be examined with suspicion and left behind.

What are Montfort’s options with respect to his times? They appear clearly in his writings.

1. Relationship between time and eternity

For Montfort as for the Christians of his times, the primary term of reference for evaluating our time on earth is eternity. He often links time and eternity as two essential stages in the life of Christ Wisdom (LEW 13, 14, 19, 95, 223) and the life of humans (LEW 2, 51; TD 265; SM 69). Eternity is the axis of reference, a lasting phase, while our time on earth is brief, and valuable only insofar as it prepares us for blissful eternity: "Your momentary suffering will be changed into an eternity of happiness" (LEW 180).

The value of worldly time is relative: it must be directed toward eternity. Montfort coins the phrase "in time and in eternity" (LEW 2, 225; FC 21; TD 265; H 20:18; 77:20), which he applies to the glorification of God, to the possession of Wisdom, and to the gift of oneself to Christ through the hands of Mary. By contrast, those who give absolute value to their time on earth rather than eternity are "blind," "impostors" who "to Heaven prefer the earth / . . . and time to eternity" (H 29:72).

2. Appreciating the true value of time

For Montfort, earthly time is precious, "of immense value" (H 30:8), and not "one single moment" should be lost. He laments the time spent in the search for comfort and diversion (LEW 81) or the philosopher’s stone (LEW 88), and in the useless company of others, even the devout (LEW 200). Montfort views time as a gift from God "to acquire heaven / when our actions are just" (H 30:7) and later as a totality that must be offered to God. Intermittent devotion to Mary, praying to her "occasionally" (SM 25) and serving her "only for a time" (SM 33), is not enough: we must consecrate ourselves "to God through Mary" as a slave of love, "for life" (SM 32-33, TD 71).

The time in which Montfort is interested has nothing to do with seasonal changes, even though he is admiring Wisdom when he expresses his "wonderment at the changes we see in the seasons and the weather"; they are the seasons of salvation. He is attentive to "time marked for the redemption of men" (LEW 33), which transforms time into a "gift of the Holy Spirit" and confers on it "the price of Jesus’ blood" (H 30:8). When he dies, the sinner, like those who play with cards and dice, will have "a thousand regrets / For having lost his time this way / In games and pastimes of today, / While never doing penance" (H 30:8).

3. Secrets for gaining time

In his missionary work, Montfort fought to win earthly time for his listeners: it is a "favorable time" (H 105:10), even "holy time," although it "passes quickly." We must profit by this time and forget our worldly preoccupations (H 115:1, and refrain). A refrain of the hymns is that earthly time is an opportunity, an auspicious moment that we must not allow to escape: "it is time" to love the Good Shepherd (H 94:5), "it is time" to plant the Cross on the Crescent (H 95:10), "it is time" for the Kingdom of Jesus to arrive (H 126:11), "it is time" for the sinner to repent his deeds (H 137:14), "it is time" to abandon the shrill, changing world (H 142:10).

Montfort is familiar with time that seems endless and time that is very brief. His search for Wisdom occupies him "night and day" (L 15; LEW 73, 188), like Solomon, who "only received this gift after he had desired it . . . for a long time" (LEW 183-184). Similarly, poverty is a hidden treasure for which he has "searched for so long" (H 20:1). But there are secrets for "quickly" obtaining marvelous effects (TD 82); one of these is Mary, who brings Wisdom to us "easily and in a short time" (LEW 212). Perfect devotion to Mary "is a quick way and leads us to Jesus in a short time" (TD 168), because it is the same road that "Jesus took to come to us with giant strides and in a short time" (TD 155). If we cultivate this devotion, then, the Tree of Life "will grow so tall that the birds of the air will make their home in it" (SM 78).

4. Past, present, and future

Montfort is acknowledging this tripartite division of time when he consecrates to Jesus, through the hands of Mary, "good actions, past, present, and to come" (LEW 225). He is sensitive to the past and the future at his side in his own time. Like Tronson and most others, he admires the fervor of the community "at the beginning of the Church" (H 20:12-13) and the happiness of mankind before original sin (LEW 35-39). In addition, he chooses an "apostolic" life—walking in the steps of the Apostles—and proposes to the Missionaries of the Company of Mary that they do the same (PM 22; RM 2, 6, 22, 43, 50).

As for the present, Montfort is quick to point to its negative aspects: the introduction of comfort and luxury, unlike the voluntary poverty and customs of the ancients (H 22), and of a critical spirit that laughs at the piety of simple folk and demolishes the "miracles and stories" of the past (TD 93). The present suffers in comparison with the past: "My Good God, there is a difference / Between days gone by and now! / The ancients had intelligence / We all seem fools now!" (H 33:40). Montfort is conscious of living in "a time full of perversity," dominated by luxury, vanity, and malice (H 33:23, 35): "hard times which are hard only because people do not have enough trust in God" (LCM 4).

Nonetheless, Montfort welcomes certain aspects of this critical culture and is open to a revised post-Joachimite spirituality that opens onto the future: he desires a reformed Church and a transformed world. Therefore he looks willingly to the future, which he describes as a synthesis of the present and the past. Future times, "the end times" (TD 50, 54, 58), will be "perilous times" (TD 114) in which the devil "intensifies his efforts and his onslaughts every day" (TD 50). But it will also be a "happy time" when the Spirit and Mary will prepare the reign of Christ (TD 217). We must reflect on this future time to discover Montfort’s prophetic design.


II. MONTFORT AND THE END TIMES

 

In order to penetrate Montfort’s thoughts, we will look at his texts on the end times, attempt to recover the sources that inspired Montfort, and describe the protagonists and scenario of the end times.

1. A progressive discovery

Montfort devoted few pages in his writings to the end times (about 17 pages out of 1,700), but they form an elaborate and coherent whole that was the fruit of his reading, reflection, and prayer.

His perspective on the future of the Church and the world is not immediately apparent but becomes progressively clearer and more precise.4 In LEW, Montfort makes no mention of the end times or, consequently, of the role that Mary and the Holy Spirit will play in them; he merely remarks that Wisdom will be preceded by the Cross, "and with this Cross and by it, he will judge the world" (LEW 172). In SM 58- 59, Montfort speaks of the Second Coming of Christ to "reign over all the earth and to judge the living and the dead" and of the "great men filled with the Holy Spirit and imbued with the spirit of Mary" who will destroy sin and establish the kingdom of Jesus Christ. In PM, the saint does not explicitly mention the Second Coming of Jesus (although he does speak of the coming of God the Father in PM 5), but he emphasizes the Spirit-filled times to come (the special reign of the Spirit and the deluge of fire) and the apostolic spirituality of the Missionaries of the Company of Mary.

In TD 46-59, Montfort expressly refers to the "end times" (a phrase used in TD:35, and three times in 50, 54, 58). In these passages he writes at length on the works and the spirituality of the "apostles of the end times" (TD 58), and he speaks of the Second Coming of Christ and of his reign in the world, as well as of the roles of the Holy Spirit and Mary. In TD, the deluge of fire is not mentioned, but it exists interiorized or as seen in its effects (the apostles are like a blazing fire and driven by the Spirit). In other passages of the book, this perspective reappears in different forms: he speaks of the difference between the first and second comings of Jesus (TD 1, 13, 22, 158), and he foresees the participation of men and women of the laity in the battle against the devil and in preparation for the kingdom of Christ (TD 113-114). Montfort also writes of a "happy time" when Mary will reign over hearts, "subjecting them to the dominion of her great and princely son" (TD 217).

In other works, including H, the end times do not appear, but certain aspects of the subject are present, such as the necessity of the coming of Christ’s kingdom and of its extension to the Crescent (H 126:11).

2. Sources

It is not easy to identify Montfort’s sources for his thinking on the end times.5 Current research indicates clearly that none of his predecessors had developed their thoughts on the subject to a comparable extent. Among his contemporaries, we find various elements scattered widely but never discussed with such coherence and organization as we find in Montfort. One or another of the musical themes may have been composed previously, but the symphony is the work of Montfort alone.

We can distinguish three sources on which Montfort apparently drew in his teaching on the end times.

a. Bérulle and Saint-Sulpice.

We have no indication that Montfort possessed a doctrine of the end times during his seminary years in Paris. We find no such doctrine either in Bérulle, leader of what is called the French school of spirituality, or in Olier, founder of the seminary of Saint-Sulpice. In their spiritual works are found significant elements that may have influenced Montfort.

Bérulle, cited by Montfort in TD 162, speaks of the imminence of the kingdom of Jesus and of his Second Coming; he even asserts that priests are "on earth and in the Church to establish and hasten the glorious and desirable coming of Jesus."6 Rather than reflecting on the role of priests in the end times, Bérulle discusses how the sacerdotal ministry is essentially oriented toward the "final coming of the Son of God."7

Olier also reflects on the formation of priests for his own time, and not for the end times as Montfort does. But Montfort does integrate into his thought two ideas that Olier proposed: reform of the Church by the sacerdotal ministry and the description of priests as "men of flames and fire."8

During his time at Saint-Sulpice, Louis Marie notes in LS two ideas that he will take up again in his writings: the "deluge of fire" that falls from Heaven and the "difference between the first and second comings of Our Lord."9

b. Eudist sources.

Textual comparison seems to suggest a certain literary dependence in Montfort on Saint John Eudes; both writers discuss the general conversion predicted by several saints and the cry of "Fire! . . . Fire!"10 On the other hand, Eudes says nothing on the subject of the apostles of the end times.

More certain and more direct was the influence exerted on Montfort by Marie des Vallées († 1656), the so-called saint of Coutances and the spiritual daughter of St. John Eudes. Louis Marie read her biography, which was written by M. de Renty, and cites her in his description of the great saints to come "who will surpass in holiness most other saints as much as the cedars of Lebanon tower above little shrubs" (TD 47). It is probably to Marie des Vallées that Montfort owes the scenario of the end times: the reign of sin, the trials ordained by the Antichrist, the reign of grace, the coming of Christ for the Last Judgment. Above all, he takes from her the idea of the "three deluges," in connection with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and the affirmation that "all of this will be accomplished by the Blessed Virgin."11 In Montfort’s hands, the subject receives a more rigorously theological treatment than in de Renty’s biography, which is wordy and given to inorganic and incoherent symbolism. Saint Louis Marie uses only that which enters into his theological perspective, and he then completes and develops it. Thus, he precedes the "three deluges" with the "three reigns" (PM 16), so that the vision of Marie des Vallées is made more positive, less somber.12 Moreover, he invests the saints of the end times with a high evangelical and communal spirituality (PM 7-13, 18-25; TD 46-48, 55-59). And using several different arguments, he creates a theological foundation for the role of Mary in the end times, connecting her with the battle against evil, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the Second Coming of Christ (TD 49-56; PM 13, 15, 24).

c. Post-Joachimite sources.

Montfort was probably not familiar with the work of Joachim de Flore (died 1202). Although there are numerous differences between them, Montfort and the Calabrian priest share a number of views: the tripartite division of history, including a third age to exist in time and on earth and ushered in by the Holy Spirit; the anticipation of an abundance of grace, as if for a new Pentecost ("tempus maioris gratiae," according to Joachim); the announcement of the coming of "spiritual men" who will bring about the existence of the eternal Gospel. Like the religious orders that had appropriated it earlier, Montfort applies the Joachimite prophecy of the "spiritual men" to the prophetic roles of evangelical men from which saints such as Francis of Paola, Vincent Ferrer, and Catherine of Siena had profited. These names appear in St. John Eudes’s work, but in inverse order. With respect to Vincent Ferrer, however, Montfort indicates that he had direct access to the source material, because he cites "one of his works."13 Was he, then, familiar with the opinion of St. Vincent de Paul on the prophecy of Vincent Ferrer? There is nothing to suggest he was; in any case, he dissociates himself from that opinion by applying to the Missionaries of the Company of Mary the prophetic vision of Ferrer.14 Similarly, Montfort’s reliance on Mary of Agréda († 1665) seems to be slight; she is cited anonymously in TD 206, but not in connection with the end times.15

3. Scenario of the end times

Comparative study of the three works in which Montfort speaks of the end times (SM, PM, TD) leads us to distinguish four successive and intersecting stages. Together they make up the scenario of the final days of the Church.

a. First stage: tragic state of the Church.

In the eyes of a missionary and mystic like Montfort, the state of the Church and the society of his time offered scarce consolation. Although historians argue that conditions at the close of the seventeenth century improved as a result of the intense pastoral commitment of the French clergy,16 Montfort would disagree. In his converging texts, he refers to the "universal failure" of contemporary Christian practice (TD 127), to the "corrupt kingdom of the world" (SM 59) and the reign of the enemies of God (PM 4). The encroaching wave of sin takes on cosmic dimensions and does not spare even the Church herself: "Your Gospel is thrown aside, torrents of inequity flood the whole earth carrying away even your servants. The whole land is desolate, ungodliness reigns supreme, your sanctuary is desecrated and the abomination of desolation has even contaminated the holy place" (PM 5; see also PM 14: "the ever-swelling flood of iniquity"). The Church herself has become a "languishing heritage," "so weakened and besmirched by the crimes of her children" (PM 20). Behind the domination of sin, Montfort sees the work of the devil, which is "daily increasing until the advent of the reign of anti- Christ" (TD 51). Montfort is so dismayed that he invokes his own death if divine intervention does not bring a change: "Send me your help from heaven or let me die" (PM 14). Thus does he feel compelled to send up a cry of alarm when confronted with such a grave and imminent danger: "The House of God is on fire! . . . Help!" (PM 28).

b. Second stage: divine intervention within salvation history.

This intermediary stage is the most dynamic and active, because during this stage we pass from the reign of sin to the reign of Jesus Christ in the hearts of men and women. Montfort is convinced that the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ should not be projected into the hereafter but must come into existence on earth, in this world: "Is it not true that your kingdom must come?" (PM 5). This is the leitmotif of TD from its first sentence: "It was through the blessed Virgin Mary that Jesus Christ came into the world, and it is also through her that he must reign in the world" (TD 1; cf. 13, 22, 49, 157, 217, 262). Who will be able to transform the world? For Montfort there is no doubt: God alone can accomplish such a task. He will intervene with "a deluge of fire, love and justice" through the mediation of the Spirit and the manifold acts of Mary (PM 13, 15, 24-25; TD 49-56). This divine intervention will be through and in mankind, especially through the "apostles of the end times" (TD 58). Their task will be twofold: "destroying sin and setting up the kingdom of Jesus" (SM 59).

c. Third stage: the Second Coming and reign of Jesus Christ.

There is no doubt that "the whole Church expect[s] him [God] to come and reign over all the earth and to judge the living and the dead" (SM 58). This Second Coming of Jesus will lead successively to the reign of Jesus in the world and to the Last Judgment, although not in tandem. Here we see the characteristic vision of Montfort: the universal and stable reign of Jesus (PM 4) anticipated in time as an effect of his coming. Jesus "comes in glory once again to reign upon earth" (TD 158), "the knowledge and the kingdom of Jesus Christ must come into the world" (TD 13), "you yourself will ask of Jesus, together with Mary, that he come with his kingdom on earth." It is not a visible and personal advent of Jesus and a temporal kingdom, as millenarians would hope for; Montfort insists that the kingdom of Jesus is "in the hearts" (TD 113) or "in our soul" (TD 68). In other words, Jesus will reign when, by the intervention of Mary, he is known, loved, and served (TD 49). In TD 217, we have the logical and perhaps even chronological steps: reign of Mary, coming of the Spirit, reign of Jesus Christ. We also see here how Montfort spirituality has as its goal the establishment of the kingdom of Christ: "‘When will that happy day come . . . when God’s Mother is enthroned in men’s hearts as Queen, subjecting them to the dominion of her great and princely Son?’" (TD 217).

d. Fourth stage: the deluge of the fire of justice and the Last Judgment.

Montfort describes the end of time and the world from a pneumatological and then a Christological perspective. In the first, the deluge of the fire of love will be followed by the deluge of the fire of justice, an expression of divine anger, which "reduces the whole world to ashes" (PM 16-17). In the Christological version, the reign of Christ in the world is followed, as if in continuation of his Second Coming or the Parousia, by the universal judgment: God will "come and reign over all the earth and to judge the living and the dead" (SM 58). Then the end times themselves will end, and the true eschatology—that is, eternity—will begin.

4. The protagonists

In the four stages (tragedy, drama, happiness, and finally destruction and judgment) of the end times, various personages will play a role.

a. The Trinity.

This is the principal and final Agent, Who is the origin of the plan for salvation and on Whom the glory of what has taken place in time reflects (TD 22; 50,6).

The three Divine Persons display Their efficacious works in the end times, beginning with God the Father, to Whom Montfort attributes "merciful plans" (PM 2); the selection, dispatch, and formation of the great saints at the end of time (TD 47-48, 57); the revelation of Mary (TD 50, 55); the enmity between Mary and her children and the devil and his children (TD 52, 54); and the knowledge of time and of how the end times will unfold (TD 59; SM 58).

The protagonist of salvation is Jesus Christ. His Second Coming on earth becomes real, and he once again reigns over men and judges them (SM 58- 59; TD 48, 217); the purpose of the time of revelation is to lead us to know, love, and serve him (TD 49). The apostles of the end times will be "the true disciples of Jesus Christ" (TD 59). The Lord Jesus will again assume the power to give to Mary "this new company so that you may renew all things through her" (PM 6). The missionaries will be established on Mary, the mountain of God, and "Jesus Christ, who dwells there forever, will teach them in his own words the meaning of the eight beatitudes" (PM 25).

The work of the Spirit is preponderant and efficacious. The Spirit intervenes in the end times with a "deluge of fire, love and justice" (PM 16-17), like a new Pentecost. The Spirit will "create priests who burn with this same fire and whose ministry will renew the face of the earth" and renew the world (PM 17); the Spirit will sanctify them (PM 15), assemble them (PM 20-21), and send them on their mission (PM 9; TD 57).

b. Mary.

She is one of the principal protagonists and supports, acting in many ways in the end times and in collaboration with the three Divine Persons. With the Most High and by His will, Mary forms the apostles and the great saints (TD 47, 59). With Christ, she does battle with the proud Satan (TD 52, 54; PM 12-13) and brings the years of grace to an end with the new company of missionaries that the Son, dying on the Cross, entrusted to her (PM 1, 6). With the Holy Spirit, Mary is entrusted with begetting the sons of God and forming the saints of the end of time (PM 11, 15). The end times bring the full revelation of Mary, not in the sense of a deeper abstract knowledge, but insofar as we will experience her presence. She will be revealed in her merciful love toward sinners, in her battle against the enemies of God, and in her support of the faithful disciples of Christ: "In these end times Mary must shine forth more than ever in mercy, power and grace" (TD 50,6). The Mother of God is a spiritual leader and teacher for the apostles of the end times, particularly the Missionaries of the Company of Mary. Montfort affirms this by applying to Mary the symbolism of the mountain: those who live in her grow in holiness and learn of contemplation and intercession. They are introduced to the logic of the evangelical beatitudes and participate in the mysteries of Christ that took place on the mountain: the Transfiguration, the Crucifixion, and the Ascension (PM 25).

c. The apostles of the end times.

They are the necessary instruments for the realization of God’s plan, as will be detailed below.

d. Satan.

Satan establishes his own plan in opposition to God’s plan. He will plot dire attacks on the heel of Mary (TD 54; PM 13), he will redouble his attacks (TD 50), and he will instigate wicked persecutions that will increase until the reign of the Antichrist (TD 51). The devil will lead the battle with the enemies of God, who will be his active intermediaries in the end times; trembling with rage, they are ready to break out in every direction, rebelling, uniting, and sounding the alarm (TD 48, 50; PM 5, 27, 28).


III. THE APOSTLES OF THE END TIMES

 

Although this phrase, (TD 58) of Montfort, is used only once, it summarizes his thought on the end times. He describes at length the condition, activity, and spirituality of these apostles.

1. Who are they?

Their identity gradually becomes clear. Montfort speaks first of "great saints" (TD 47), "great souls filled with grace and zeal" (TD 48). He then refers to them as "the valiant soldiers and loyal servants of Jesus Christ . . . . the true children and servants of the Blessed Virgin" (TD 50,6; 52; 54), "the elect" (TD 55), "these servants, these slaves, these children of Mary" (TD 56). Finally he refers to their sacerdotal character: "ministers of the Lord . . . . the children of Levi" (TD 56), "true apostles of the end times . . . . in the midst of other priests, ecclesiastics and clerics" (TD 58). In his ardent prayer for vocations to the Company of Mary, he speaks of "missionaries" (PM 3, 20, 21, 25) and of "priests" (PM 2, 18, 25, 29). His proposed congregation of missionary priests forms the core of these apostles. But the activity and the mighty battles of the end times must not be reserved to them alone. In two other prophetic texts, Montfort speaks more generally of "chosen souls" in whom Mary will reign sovereign (TD 217), and he enlarges the horizon to embrace "a mighty legion of brave and valiant soldiers of Jesus and Mary, both men and women" (TD 114).

2. Their activity

The work of the apostles of the end times swings essentially around two poles, one negative, the other positive: "destroying sin and establishing the reign of Jesus Christ" (SM 59). The first pole involves a series of aggressive actions against the forces of evil: they "will give battle, overthrowing and crushing" (TD 48), they "will thunder against sin, they will storm against the world, they will strike down the devil and his followers" (TD 57), they "will be the odor of death to the great, the rich and the proud of this world" (TD 56). In the PM, along the same lines, Montfort foresees missionaries who will attack and overthrow the "enemies of God" (PM 8, 29), who will "crush the head of the serpent" (PM 12), "address their ardent prayers to heaven, turning them into the weapons which will overcome or convert their enemies" (PM 25). The positive pole, which is described in more detail, consists of actions directed at the reform of the Church and its extension into the world: their "ministry will renew the face of the earth and reform your Church" (PM 17). With this objective, the apostles of the end times will carry out sanctifying apostolic work: they "will enkindle everywhere the fires of divine love" (TD 56); "wherever they preach, they will leave behind them nothing but the gold of love" (TD 58); they will be the "sweet fragrance of Jesus" (TD 56). They will "build the temple of the true Solomon and the mystical city of God" (TD 48), and they will "shower down the rain of God’s word and of eternal life" (TD 57). Moreover, they will work to extend the Lord’s empire "over the impious, the idolators and Muslims" (TD 49), receiving the deluge of fire that will empower them to convert "Muslims, idolators and even Jews" (PM 17).

3. Their spirituality

Montfort’s spiritual portrait of the apostles of the end times (TD 48) includes four aspects of their spirituality:

a. Union with God.

They are "great souls filled with grace" (TD 48), "rich in God’s graces . . . . great and exalted before God in holiness" (TD 54), "closely joined to God" (TD 56). The union with God (the Father) includes "the gold of love" (TD 56, 58), "the frankincense of prayer" (TD 56), "the resolve to seek the glory of God" (TD 58). In connection with the Son, Montfort calls the apostles of the end times "true disciples of Jesus Christ" and of the crucified Jesus because they are radical followers of the Gospel and they speak the Gospel "in pure truth . . . . Their hearts will not be troubled, nor will they show favor to anyone" (TD 59). With the Holy Spirit they live in total mystical availability: they "will be like thunder-clouds flying through the air at the slightest breath of the Holy Spirit" (TD 57; cf. 58).

b. Apostolic zeal.

They are the "great souls filled with . . . zeal" (TD 48), "superior to all creatures by their great zeal" (TD 54). The action of the "true apostles of the end times" (TD 58) consists of spreading "the fire of divine love" everywhere; they are themselves "a flaming fire" (TD 56). In the battle against evil and the enemies of God, these great saints "will become, in Mary’s powerful hands, like sharp arrows," and they will leave "an odor of death" among the worldly (TD 56). Their work will not be limited to reforming the Church, but will include extending it to "the idolators and Muslims" (TD 59).

c. The Marian experience.

Montfort describes this with enthusiasm: "these great souls . . . will be exceptionally devoted to the Blessed Virgin. Illumined by her light, nourished at her breast, guided by her spirit, supported by her arm, sheltered under her protection" (TD 48; cf. also 55). They are "those who belong to the Blessed Virgin," her "true children and servants," "her humble slaves and children," "her heel," who will crush the head of the serpent (TD 54).

d. The experience of the Cross.

There are various reasons for this experience: the need to be "thoroughly purified by the fire of Great Tribulations" and to carry "the myrrh of mortification in their body" (TD 56); the fact that they will be preaching devotion to Mary, which "will make many enemies" (TD 48); the description of the "heel" of Mary, which implies that they will be "down-trodden and crushed" (TD 54).

These four elements are found in the spirituality of the apostolic men whom Montfort describes in the PM. These apostles will be united with God, because they are "enriched by the dew of heaven and the fat of the earth" (PM 25); "entirely dependent on Providence, who will feast to their heart’s content on the spiritual delights you provide" (PM 21); and endowed with "their great love for Jesus Christ which enables them to carry his cross" (PM 24); uniquely preoccupied with the "glory" of the Holy Spirit (PM 23), whose breath urges them forward to their mission (PM 9). In addition, they will burn with "holy anger" and "ardent zeal" (PM 21), because the Holy Spirit will create "priests who burn with this same fire" (PM 17) and who will have a "perfect love . . . for their neighbor" (PM 24). They will do battle against the enemies of God "with the Cross for their staff and the Rosary for their sling" (PM 8) and with an irresistible wisdom (PM 22, 25), and "they will crush the head of the serpent wherever they go" (PM 12). They will thus become the "true children . . . . true servants of the Blessed Virgin" (PM 11, 12), characterized by "their true devotion to Mary" (PM 12) and her maternal solicitude (PM 11, 25). Finally, they will experience persecutions and crosses, because "the devil will lie in wait to attack the heel of this mysterious woman, that is, the little company of her children" (PM 13).

Montfort expresses the spirituality of these missionaries using meteorological symbols (rain, snow: PM 20, 25), cosmic symbols (fire, sun: PM 12), and animals (dogs, lambs, doves, eagles, bees, deer, lions: PM 13), especially those of the four evangelists (man, lion, ox, eagle: PM 21). The key word that embodies this spirituality and that Montfort repeats six times, each time in a way that gives it new meaning, is liberos, in the twofold etymological sense of "free" and "son": the missionaries of the "special reign" of the Spirit are free of all human ties (PM 7). They will accomplish God’s plans with a total availability; their means will be poverty (PM 8), always open to the breath of the Spirit (PM 9) and "to the voice of authority" (PM 10), "true children . . . and servants of the Blessed Virgin" (PM 11, 12).


IV. AN ELABORATION OF MONTFORT’S THOUGHT

 

Exegetes of Montfort’s thought do not agree on an interpretation of the "end times," particularly on the meaning of the "Second Coming" of Jesus and of his "kingdom" (SM 58; TD 1, 13, 22, 48-59, 158, 127). Three interpretations exist that we must grasp and attempt to conciliate.

1. "Spiritual" interpretation

According to the theologians Rosatini and Mercurelli, champions of Montfort’s beatification, when the author of TD speaks of the Second Coming of Christ, he is referring not to the Parousia but to the "kingdom of Christ in this world. This kingdom is surely founded on Christ living in our hearts through faith, and he will come in all his fullness on that day when heresies have been vanquished and the shadows of our errors have been removed, and there will be one true flock and one true shepherd. It seems that God has chosen to accomplish this through Mary, she who has destroyed all of the heresies in the world."17 For these two authors, the spiritual nature of the Second Coming derives from the fact that Montfort had already spoken of the spiritual kingdom of Christ and "of the role attributed to Mary in preparing for this event."18

This line of thought is also taken by H. M. Gebhard in 1918, in his commentary on TD.19 With two arguments, he rejects the idea that the final coming of Jesus Christ will be that of the Last Judgment,20 and he identifies this coming with "the arrival of Jesus . . . among men by means of grace."21 In a similar but more eschatological vein, P. Oger states that "the final coming of Jesus Christ signifies the coming of Jesus Christ ‘in the Spirit’ (Saint Thomas) at the end of the world, not the supreme coming . . . ‘against men’ at the Last Judgment."22 Another commentator on TD, A. Plessis, distinguishes among three comings of Jesus: the first took place with the Incarnation, the second "by means of his grace," and the third with the Last Judgment. Plessis declares that Montfort "does not speak explicitly of the immense distance between the first and second comings" and thus he is hesitant to link the "Second Coming" with the manifestation of Jesus by means of grace or to set it "in the time immediately preceding the Last Judgment," but he does maintain the three comings of Jesus.23

2. Eschatological interpretation

A. Lhoumeau gives a different interpretation to the Montfort texts. The second advent of Christ will take place "at the end of time in all the radiance of his glory. That is what we call the Parousia."24 This coming is preceded by the end times, a "period of indeterminate length . . . that will be extreme and terminal, so to speak, in character." Montfort opens up "vast perspectives" on Mary’s role in the Church in preparing for the Second Coming of Jesus.25

More recently, H. Frehen, after having examined Montfort’s texts on the two comings of Jesus, comes down on the side of Lhoumeau against Gebhard. In fact, SM 58 and TD 158 scarcely allow for uncertainty, since both texts locate the first coming of Jesus "in a state of self- abasement and privation" (SM 58), "secret and hidden," (TD 158), whereas the second is "glorious and resplendent" (TD 158). Thus the first coming, in grace, "in an invisible manner" (TD 22), cannot be confused with the second and final coming, which is manifest and visible. When he is confronted with determining the basis of this visibility or this radiance, Frehen rules out Parousia and falls back on the kingdom of Jesus, understood to be the perfect knowledge and service of Jesus himself.26

3. Millenarian interpretation

This interpretation has been put forward by L. Perouas, who considers "eschatological" interpretations of the end times inadequate. In effect, Montfort "envisions this marvelous era arising in the course of the earthly history of the Church. It would be more valuable to speak of millenarianism, the theory that predicts, at a given time, an earthly, collective, and total salvation." Saint Louis Marie would have borrowed certain elements from the predictions of Joachim de Flore and subsequent millenarian thinking, which is similarly weak and utopian.27

J. Séguy has devoted an article to Montfort and the apostles of the end times within the context of his research into the eschatological character of religious institutions. He expands the basis for a millenarian interpretation and emphasizes its centrality and importance in Montfort’s thought.28 Séguy distances himself from spiritual and eschatological interpretations, i.e., from identifying the Second Coming of Jesus with the existence of the Church (as in Gebhard) or with the Parousia (Frehen). Rather, he agrees with G. Barbera29 that the Second Coming includes the earthly time of the Church and the true Second Coming, including the Parousia. He parts with Barbera, however, when he suggests, echoing the scenario uniformly put forth by Joachimite thinkers,30 "an earthly triumph of the Church," "a period of indeterminate length, the ‘kingdom of Jesus Christ,’ between the Great Tribulation and the personal return of Christ for the judgment."31 He underlines certain aspects of Montfort’s thought: the kingdom of Jesus Christ is located "in history and is set on earth" (p. 30); the era of the Spirit has a fundamental Marian dimension, in that Mary will play a decisive role in the final days, a time that "will be pneumatological because of this Marian dimension"; the apostles of the end times are specifically the Missionaries of the Company of Mary . . . 32 Because several of these elements have been borrowed from Marie des Vallées (the division of history into three epochs, the reign of God as a spiritual triumph that will be realized in the world, the Great Tribulation, annihilation of the Antichrist, Parousia and universal judgment), Montfort must be placed in the "post-Joachimite tradition." Indeed, "it becomes legitimate to search in post-Joachimism for the coherence of Montfort’s treatment of apocalyptic material."33

4. Attempt at resolution

The first two interpretations proposed here (Gebhard/Lhoumeau) are true in what they affirm, false in what they deny. The third (Séguy) forces the thought of Montfort in order to give him the ambiguous label "Joachimite." This evaluation becomes evident after making a few precisions concerning Saint Louis Marie’s thought.

(A.) On the comings of Jesus, we must adhere STRICTLY TO MONTFORT’S WORDS, WHICH DESCRIBE ONLY TWO: THE FIRST, AND THE SECOND OR LAST.34 THUS, MONTFORT IS ADOPTING THE LANGUAGE OF THE CHURCH, WHICH IN ITS CREDO CONFESSES ONLY TWO COMINGS OF CHRIST: AT THE TIME OF THE INCARNATION AND AT THE LAST JUDGMENT. MONTFORT CONSIDERS EACH OF THESE A DISCRETE, COMPLEX EVENT. IN FACT, HIS LANGUAGE IS POLYVALENT: THE WORD "COMING" COVERS DISTINCT EVENTS AND PARTIALLY DIFFERENT SUBJECT MATTER. THE FIRST COMING INCLUDES THE INCARNATION AND ALSO THE PUBLIC LIFE AND THE CROSS (TD 18-19, 22; CF. PM 16); THE SECOND OR LAST COMING INCLUDES THE SPIRITUAL REIGN, I.E., IN THE HEARTS OF MEN AND WOMEN OF TODAY, AS WELL AS HIS PERSONAL ADVENT AT THE PAROUSIA TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD (SM 58: "TO COME AND REIGN OVER ALL THE EARTH AND THE JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD"; TD 158: "WHEN OUR LOVING JESUS COMES IN GLORY ONCE AGAIN TO REIGN UPON EARTH"). BECAUSE MONTFORT INCLUDES IN HIS UNDERSTANDING OF SECOND COMING JESUS’ DYNAMIC REIGN IN HUMAN HEARTS, HE EVEN CALLS THIS ASPECT "GLORIOUS AND RESPLENDENT" (TD 158) IN A WAY APPROPRIATE TO THE PAROUSIA ITSELF. AS CCC 670 TEACHES: "SINCE THE ASCENSION GOD’S PLAN HAS ENTERED INTO ITS FULFILLMENT. WE ARE ALREADY AT ‘THE LAST HOUR.’" THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL DECLARES: "ALREADY THE FINAL AGE OF THE WORLD IS WITH US AND THE RENEWAL OF THE WORLD IS IRREVOCABLY UNDER WAY" (LG 48).

The missionary’s use of the expression "deluge of fire" (PM 16-17) illustrates how Montfort intertwines concepts under one symbol when speaking of the end times. There is only one deluge (PM 16), but this deluge unfolds in two ways and in two stages with different effects: the "deluge of fire . . . of pure love" will produce reform of the Church and the conversion of peoples, whereas the "deluge of fire . . . and justice" or of divine anger "reduces the whole world to ashes" (PM 16- 17).

It therefore appears that the spiritual (Gebhard, Plessis, Oger) and eschatological (Lhoumeau, Frehen) interpretations are one-sided. It cannot be underlined sufficiently that in the writings of Saint Louis Marie the Second Coming of Jesus includes the present earthly existence of the Church—Jesus now reigning in our hearts—as well as its eschatological fulfillment in the universal judgment. It is a now opening up to its future eternal completion. Therefore, to speak of three comings of Jesus is to contradict Montfort’s text.

(b.) As for the millenarian interpretation of the end times, we must say that it not only creates confusion but does so by distorting Montfort’s thought. In theological language, millenarianism constitutes "eschatological error, according to which Jesus Christ shall reign visibly for one thousand years on this earth at the end of the world."35 This millenarian kingdom, in its modified form, includes the just rising from the dead.36 This strict millenarianism is altogether alien to Montfort, who mentions neither the millennium (he never even cites Rev 20:3-5) nor the personal coming of Jesus to reign in the world together with the risen martyrs.37 Séguy himself is forced to admit that these definitions do not suit Montfort at all or can be applied to him only with reservations.38

We must make the same distinction about Montfort’s so-called Joachimism. There is no proof whatsoever of any direct dependence by the Breton missionary on Abbot Joachim; in fact, as stated above, Montfort may never even have known of him. The differences between them can only be termed enormous.39 There are two surface similarities: the division of history into three periods (PM 16) and the conception of the earthly existence of the Church as a "reign of the Spirit" during which a new Pentecost ("deluge of fire") takes place (PM 16-17). These two points may be sufficient to classify Montfort within a post-Joachimite tradition, although Henri de Lubac states categorically: "We have found nothing clearly Joachimite, even as a passing breath, in the complete works of Saint Louis de Montfort."40

On a scenario for the end times, the texts of Montfort are limited in their scope. They refer to and describe stages and moments of the end times without placing them in sequence, and any attempt to establish exactly how these events unfurl is guesswork.

This is due to the fact, recognized by Séguy himself, that Montfort has not "systematically" addressed the subject of the final days of the Church.41 In fact, the saint seems to exclude the existence of any clear demarcation setting off the various stages of the end times; rather, they appear to be more or less simultaneous and overlapping. Thus, for example, perfect devotion to Mary prepares one for the kingdom of Christ, on the one hand (this would then suggest a chronological succession: TD 217), whereas, on the other hand such perfect devotion is only possible during the kingdom of Christ, because it is Mary’s task to fashion Christ in us (this would indicate simultaneity: TD 217-221). Similarly, the kingdom of Christ coexists with that of Satan or the Antichrist, because the children of Belial and the race of Mary will come face to face in the end times leading up to the final battle (TD 51-54). It follows that the coming of Christ is neither automatic nor instantaneous, but progressive and dynamic, just as the destruction of the kingdom of sin is not immediate but staggered over time. The retreat of the state of sin is tied to the advance of the reign of Christ, which is only possible with Mary’s consolidation of the kingdom.


V. THEOLOGICAL EVALUATION

If Montfort’s teaching on the end times contained nothing that was original, there would be no reason to speak of it or justify it theologically. But the scenario of the end times, the interpretation of the Second Coming of Jesus, the presence of extraordinary saints, the deluge of fire, and the role of Mary are elements that are original and Montfort’s alone. They have been neither rejected nor accepted but simply ignored by classical Catholic eschatology, which is generally content to single out, among the signs that precede the Parousia, the decrease in faith (Lk 18:8), the appearance of the Antichrist (2 Thess 2:3-11; 1 Jn 2:18-23), the preaching of the Gospels to every nation (Mt 24:14), and the conversion of Israel (Rom 11:25-26).42

In fact, several elements of Montfort’s thoughts on the end times have provoked objections ever since the beatification proceedings. The first censor of the writings of this servant of God raised difficulties on two points: the necessity of the revelation of Mary in the Second Coming of Christ and the anticipation of great saints superior to those of the past. In the eyes of the Roman censor, these affirmations were not contrary to faith, but they were unclear and without a solid basis in Scripture.43 Two other problematic elements of Montfort’s teaching must be added: the view of the reign of Jesus in the interior of men and women as a time of an outpouring of grace (bearing some resemblance to the "tempus amplioris gratiae" of a Joachimite line of thought), and its preparation by the action of the Spirit and Mary (the deluge of the fire of love and the kingdom of Mary).

1. Prophetic character and verification in history

We can generally respond, as did the theologians who defended Montfort during the beatification proceedings, that because he was making a prophecy, we should not look for rational proofs: "If predictions of contingent future events had some kind of basis, they would no longer be prophetic."44

The censors themselves acknowledged both the extrinsic and intrinsic probability of Montfort’s predictions. The extrinsic probability derives from the authority of the servant of God himself, who had stated 150 years earlier that the revelation of Mary by the Holy Spirit would increase in order to convert hearts to the kingdom of Christ. The realization of Montfort’s prophecies, which can be seen in the spread of devotion to the Immaculate Conception and in the mass conversions in Europe (of years gone by) and in the "foreign missions" shows that he was right. The intrinsic probability of Montfort’s predictions regarding the great saints derives from the very nature of the events concerning the reign of Christ in history or in the end times. In history, when Christ destroys false beliefs and reigns over the just, his reign will likely shine in the splendor of its holiness. In the end times, when the danger to the faithful from false prophets will grow, there can be no doubt that Divine Providence will come to the aid of its Church through the sublime saintliness of one of its servants.45

This kind of argumentation is not without interest, since it ties teaching to life, and prediction to verification in history. We cannot deny to Montfort the charism of prophecy, which his earliest biographers argue is demonstrated by the fulfillment of his predictions.46 We will now examine the theological basis of these predictions.

2. Scriptural and extrabiblical arguments

Montfort is firmly convinced that the Kingdom of God must be realized on earth, as is demanded in the Lord’s Prayer (Mt 6:10; "Is it not true that your kingdom must come?" [PM 5]). The request of the just and of creation itself that God may come into the world (Rev 22:20; Rom 8:22) cannot remain unanswered: "the faithful on earth . . . cry out : Amen, veni, Domine, amen, come, Lord. All creatures, even the most insensitive, lie groaning under the burden of Babylon’s countless sins and plead with you to come and renew all things: omnis creatura ingemiscit, etc." (PM 5). Even the battle between Mary and Belial and their races is based on the Gospel, and remarked on at length by Montfort (TD 51-54; PM 12-13).

Since the Bible does not specify the modalities of the Second Coming of Christ—"Holy Scripture . . . gives no clear guidance on this subject" (SM 59)— Montfort relies on his interpretative understanding of Scripture as a whole and as clarified by the "prophetic knowledge" of great saints like Francis of Paola, Vincent Ferrer, and Catherine of Siena (PM 2), as well as the revelations of Marie des Vallées (TD 47). Certainly these arguments are not of equal value.

3. Theological arguments

On the connection between Mary and the Holy Spirit in the end times, Montfort elaborates a series of arguments that we do not find in his predecessors.

Curiously, however, he does not focus on the Biblical texts that mention the Spirit and Mary together. Thus he never cites Acts 1:14, which shows Mary in prayer in the Cenacle in anticipation of the Spirit, nor the critical verse of Lk 1:35, which links Mary to the Spirit in the virginal conception of Jesus (this is implicitly cited in TD 44).

Montfort’s argumentation is essentially theological: he assumes the biblical information and then deduces conclusions or laws relating to salvation history. His fundamental thesis is based on the mystery of the Incarnation and is clearly expressed in the opening of TD: "It was through the blessed Virgin Mary that Jesus Christ came into the world, and it is also through her that he must reign in the world" (TD 1). This theme recurs throughout the work and is expressed in increasingly eschatological terms, i.e., it is projected to the end of time: "The salvation of the world began through Mary and through her it must be accomplished" (TD 49; cf. TD 13, 22, 50, 158, 217, 262). As the root mystery of Redemption, the Incarnation "contains" everything that flows from it: as at the Incarnation, so too at the end of time.

Saint Louis de Montfort uncovers a typological rapport (of continuity and exemplarity) between the two comings of Christ, a rapport founded on the harmony of God’s plan. Seeing the intimate and indissoluble action of Mary and the Spirit in the first coming of Jesus, the Incarnation, Montfort deduces that it will likewise exist for the Second Coming of Jesus, in the realization of his kingdom at the end times: "Together with the Holy Spirit Mary produced the greatest thing that ever was or ever will be: a God-man. She will consequently produce the marvels which will be seen in the end times. . . . only this singular and wondrous virgin can produce in union with the Holy Spirit singular and wondrous things" (TD 35). It is this unity of the Holy Spirit and Mary in preparing for the God-man’s advent in the world, and its ultimate value for the history of salvation, that reveal the strength of Montfort’s logic. Because the Incarnation is God’s masterwork, it has a definitive quality. God does not change His direction: whenever the coming of Christ or marvelous works in the realm of holiness are at stake, Mary and the Spirit will always be at work.

Montfort develops at length the seven reasons that Mary’s role in the Second Coming of Christ will increase (TD 50). We can restate in our own words these reasons for the revelation of Mary in the end times: 1. Mary personifies the law of humility/exaltation that is a constant throughout salvation history; having "in her great humility considered herself lower than dust," she must be exalted. 2. Mary, a masterpiece of God, joins in the praise and glory of God; the more she is praised, the greater God is glorified. 3. Mary is the introduction to the reign of Jesus, as the Dawn relates to the Sun of Justice, as knowledge of her leads to knowledge of Jesus. 4. As the Eternal Wisdom entered this world through Mary, so he will come through her at the Parousia. 5. The way of Mary is characterized by its holiness, i.e., perfect union with Jesus Christ. This way must be followed by all those who would attain perfection. 6. Mary’s role ("In these end times Mary must shine forth more than ever in mercy, power and grace") is necessary to convert sinners, destroy the forces of evil, and support the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. 7. In the final battle against the devil and his henchmen, Mary will ensure the triumph of Jesus Christ (TD 50; see also TD 51-54).

There is thus a continuity between the first and second comings of Jesus: both occur through the joint action of the Spirit and Mary. The second is not, however, simply a repetition of the first; their modality, their immediate goals, and their circumstances are different. Jesus came into the world the first time "in self-abasement and privation," whereas he will come the second time to "reign over all the earth and to judge the living and the dead" (SM 58). Mary, who has participated in the self-emptying (kenosis) of Christ while remaining hidden in humility (TD 2-3, 49), will participate in the glorious manifestation of the Son; she will move from kenosis to glory, from secret to revelation (TD 49).

Montfort’s perspective on the end times of the Church appears to be coherent and founded in different ways on Scripture, theology, and his own prophetic charism and that of other saints. Conciliar and contemporary theology confirms several elements of his perspective.

In particular it confirms Montfort’s line of thought anticipating the eschatological reign in time (Jesus "must reign in the world," TD 1). Theology today in effect tends to "insert the eschatological element more strongly into the Christ event" and to "consider what is still, one supposes, viewed too strictly as an event belonging to the future as an asset that is already present."47

Furthermore, theology is more attentive to the action of the Spirit in history. The perpetual renewal and extension of the Church are attributed to the Paraclete (LG 4), so that "a growth of the Mystical Body under the action of the Spirit"48 can link with Montfort’s thinking on the accelerated progress of sanctity and the missionary impulse in the final phase of history. Contemporary Mariology is increasingly sensitive to the link between Mary and the Holy Spirit in the different stages of the history of salvation.49

Nonetheless we do not yet find in recent theology all of the Spirit- related, Mariological, and ecclesial developments that are present in the writings of Montfort.


VI. CONSEQUENCES FOR MONTFORT SPIRITUALITY

The whole of Montfort’s doctrine on time is precious for Montfort spirituality. Montfort compels us to recall the past, to value the present in view of eternity, and above all to prepare for the future of the world. Montfort’s coherent outline on the end times has consequences both for a correct understanding of Saint Louis Marie and for the Marian devotion that he taught.

1. The future: a key to the life of Montfort

SAINT LOUIS MARIE DE MONTFORT’S DETERMINATION TO BECOME AN ITINERANT MISSIONARY HAS OFTEN BEEN EXPLAINED AS AN EXPRESSION OF HIS DESIRE TO LIVE THE LIFE OF THE EARLY APOSTLES. THIS EXPLANATION REMAINS TRUE, BUT IT SHOULD BE COMPLEMENTED WITH MONTFORT’S PROJECTION TOWARD THE FUTURE. THE PRODIGIOUS ACTIVITY THAT THE MISSIONARY ACCOMPLISHED IN HIS BRIEF LIFE WAS ALSO DUE TO THE URGENCY HE EXPERIENCED IN PROCLAIMING THE REIGN OF JESUS CHRIST. THIS PURPOSE IS INTRINSIC TO BOTH HIS PREACHING AND HIS WRITING. ALTHOUGH UNDOUBTEDLY GUIDED BY THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST WISDOM AND THE APOSTLES LIVING IN POVERTY, MONTFORT’S EXISTENCE IS ENERGIZED BY THE URGENT NEED OF TRANSFORMING THE REIGN OF SIN INTO THE REIGN OF JESUS CHRIST. THE SAINT OPENS HIMSELF, THEREFORE, TO THE BREATH OF THE SPIRIT AND THE MATERNAL ACTION OF MARY, BECOMING A PRIEST FULL OF FIRE TO REFORM THE CHURCH AND RENEW THE FACE OF THE EARTH.

2. Devotion to Mary

To read TD without the perspective of the end times—which for Montfort means the present time ("these end times," TD 50)—gives the impression that Montfort is simply attempting to introduce his readers to "the interior and perfect practice" of Marian devotion. But there is one dimension of Montfort’s Marian teaching that is often forgotten: his thought is eschatological and therefore Spirit-related and apostolic.

By indissolubly uniting Mary and the Holy Spirit as the begetters of Christ and Christians (TD 34-36), and by locating this action in the special reign of the Spirit, of the Father, and of the Son (PM 15-17), Montfort avoids the danger of Christomonism.

Moreover, this Marian spirituality cannot fall back on itself, because in Montfort’s view it is projected toward the future and the kingdom of Jesus Christ. It is finalized and dynamically outstretched toward the fulfillment in history. Those who are consecrated to Christ through the hands of Mary will be bound to destroy the kingdom of evil, to establish the reign of God, and to spread His kingdom throughout the entire world. When they breathe Mary as the body breathes air, becoming living copies of her, then Jesus will be loved and glorified (TD 217). In other words, only when the Church becomes Mary will Jesus be "born" a second time and return to establish in the Spirit the fullness of the reign of the Father.

S. De Fiores

Notes: (1) In LS, Montfort copied five outlines on "time" from contemporary sermon writers (Lejeune, Laselve, Loriot). Cf. Le livre des sermons du Père de Montfort (The book of Sermons of Father de Montfort), International Montfort Center, Rome 1983, pp. 489-493. (2) See the description in the classic work of P. Hazard, La crise de la conscience européenne, 1680-1715, Fayard, Paris 1964. English translation: European Thought in the Eighteenth Century, from Montesquieu to Lessing, trans. J. Lewis May, Yale Univerisyt Press, New Haven 1954. (3) The maxim Novitas filia temporis, mater perturbationis (Novelty is the daughter of time and the mother of conflict) is reported by Gosselin, "Mémoires sur M. Tronson (Papers on M. Tronson)", ms., Archives of Saint-Sulpice, Paris, p. 183. (4) There are signs of this evolution in H. Frehen, Le "second avènement" de Jésus-Christ et la méthode de saint Louis-Marie de Montfort (The "Second Coming" of Jesus Christ and the Method of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort), DMon 7 (1962), n. 31, pp. 98-108. (5) The editors of God Alone: The Collected Works of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, Montfort Publications, Bay Shore, N.Y., 1987). (6) P. de Bérulle, Mémorial de quelques points servant à la direction des Supérieurs en la Congrégation de l’Oratoire de Jésus (Memorial of Several Points for the Direction of the Superiors of the Oratorian Congregation of Jesus), in Oeuvres complètes de Bérulle (Complete works of Bérulle), ed. J.-P. Migne, Ateliers catholiques, Paris 1856 (original edition 1632), col. 833. (7) Ibid. Cf. M. Dupuy, Bérulle et le sacerdoce: étude historique et doctrinale: Textes inédits) (Bérulle and the Ministry: A Historical and Doctrinal Study: Uncollected Works), Lethielleux, Paris 1969, 174-176. (8) Cf. J.-J. Olier, Mémoires autobiographiques (Autobiographical Memoirs), 2:107 (cited by Etienne Michel Faillon, Vie de M. Olier, fondateur du séminaire de Saint-Sulpice [Life of M. Olier, Founder of the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice], Poussielgue-Wattelier, Paris 1873, 2:33); Traité des saints ordres (Treatise on Holy Orders), Langlois, Paris 1676, n.p. For a comparative study between the texts of Olier and those of Montfort, cf. Itinerario, 187-188; S. De Fiores, Lo Spiritu santo e Maria negli ultimi tempi secondo s. Luigi Maria da Montfort, in QM 4 (1986), 22-28. (9) Cf. Le livre des sermons du Père de Montfort, 242-243 (under the title "Universal judgment," taken from P. Lejeune). (10) Cf. the synopsis of texts in S. De Fiores, Lo Spirito santo e Maria, 24-27. The cry of PM 28 can probably be traced to a letter of Saint John Eudes: "I went to Paris to cry out in the Sorbonne and the other colleges, ‘Fire, fire, fire from the inferno that is burning the universe! Come, . . . you ecclesiastics, help to put it out’" (letter 39, July 23, 1659, in Oeuvres complètes [Complete works], 10: 432). (11) Cf. "Mémoire d’une admirable conduite de Dieu sur une âme particulière appelée Marie de Coutances. Copie d’un exemplaire écrit de la propre main de M. de Renty (Memoir of God’s Admirable Guidance of a Special Soul Named Marie de Coutances. Copy of a Manuscript in M. de Renty’s Own Hand)," ms., Bibliothèque Mazarine, Paris, n. 3177, pp. 58-59, 62, 69-70, 90, 92, 100. (12) The "three kingdoms" are mentioned by Madame Guyon († 1717) in the Vita scritta da lei stessa and in the Discorsi Spirituali e cristiani, vol. 1, disc. 63. Cf. H. de Lubac, La posterità spirituale di Gioacchino da Fiore. I. dagli spirituali a Schelling, Jaca Book, Milan 1981, 273-274. There is no indication that Montfort drew anything at all from the work of Madame Guyon. (13) Montfort was probably personally familiar with St. Vincent Ferrer’s Treatise on the Spiritual Life in the 1617 edition published by Madame Julienne Morelle, who added the following commentary to the saint’s text: "Here he foresees the condition of the apostolic men who must flourish before the end of the world. This conforms with the prophecy of Saint Catherine of Siena concerning the great renewal and reformation of the Church." A similar prophecy was familiar to T. Campanella, who in his Articuli prophetales (1607-1609) asserts that "it has been revealed to Joachim de Flore, to Catherine of Siena, and to Vincent Ferrer that the Holy Spirit must be widely distributed among several men, who will bring the renewal of the Church and the conversion of infidels." The same author, in book 20 of his Theologia (1613), foresees, after the victory of the Antichrist and before the end of the world, a temporal pleroma (Sabbath or golden age), of the Church, when the virtue inherent in Christianity will become manifest. (14) St. Vincent de Paul offers three interesting texts on the prophecy of St. Vincent Ferrer, but unlike Montfort, he does not believe that the Congregation is the object of this prophecy. The first text (1642) affirms humorously, "He is a fool who would imagine that Saint Vincent Ferrer prophesized about the Company, that in the end times one would see a company of priests who would greatly benefit the Church of God" (Correspondance, entretiens, documents, Gabalda, Paris 1923, 11:114-115; English translation, Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, ed. Pierre Coste, New City Press, Brooklyn 1985). Several years later Vincent returns to Ferrer’s prophecy about the priests who "by the fervor of their zeal would embrace the entire earth," but this time he adds, more positively, "If we are not so meritorious that God should through His grace enable us to be those priests, may He at least give us their images and their precursors" (ibid., 75). The third text is along the same lines (before 1655); there he speaks with Ferrer of the "good priests and apostolic workers who give new life to the ecclesiastical state and dispose men toward the Last Judgment," and he concludes that we must become perfect "in order to cooperate with this revival that is wholly desirable" (ibid., 8). Cf. J. Séguy, Monsieur Vincent, la Congrégation de la Mission et les derniers temps (Vincent de Paul, the Congregation of the Mission, and the End Times), in Vincent de Paul: Actes du colloque international d’études vincentiennes (Vincent de Paul: Records of the International Colloquy of Vincentian Studies), Edizioni vincenziane, Rome 1983, 217-238. (15) It is easy to note a coincidence in thinking between Marie d’Agréda and Montfort on Mary’s role in the end times, beyond some notable differences. Cf. Marie d’Agréda, La cité mystique de Dieu, Brussels 1715, vol. 3, 1.7, ch. 3, n.33, p. 31; English translation, City of God, trans. Fiscar Marison, Ave Maria Institute, Washington, N.J. 1971. (16) Cf. P. Broutin, La réforme pastorale en France au XVIIe siècle (Pastoral Reform in France in the Seventeenth Century), 2 vols., Desclée, Tournai 1956; L. Cognet, Crépuscules des mystiques (The Twilight of the Mystics), (Desclée, Tournai 1958); Le Brun, France. . . Le grand siècle de la spiritualité française et ses lendemains (France. . . The Great Century of French Spirituality and Afterwards), in DSAM, cc. 917-153; L. Perouas, Grignion de Montfort, les pauvres, les missions (Grignion de Montfort, the Poor, the Missions), Cerf, Paris 1966, 47-48, 82-83. (17) S. Rituum Congreg., Lucion, Beatificationis et canonizationis ven. Servi Dei Ludovici Mariae Grignion de Montfort. Positio super scriptis, Rome 1851, 20. The two theologians imprudently refer to the "septimo millennio" of which Saint Gaudens speaks, following Rev 5:10; 20:4-6. This cannot be deduced at all from Montfort’s texts, as the third censor will observe (cf. below). (18) Ibid., 23. (19) In Regina dei Cuori 5 (1918), 3-4. (20) "1. Simple logical order, followed by the Blessed, excludes such an interpretation. He has spoken at various times of God’s role in the Incarnation, he speaks of this same role after the Incarnation. 2. He says this clearly, because he sets the first coming against the last, noting that the Second Coming began immediately after the first and will last until the end of time. When speaking of the role of the three Divine Persons ‘in this end coming,’ he says that they have and will have the same role forever . . . until the consummation of time" (Ibid,, 3-4?). (21) Ibid., 4. (22) P. Oger, note to Trattato della vera devozione a Maria Vergine, Santuario di Maria regina dei cuori, Redona di Bergamo, Rome 1945, 37. (23) A. Plessis, Commentaire du Traité de la vraie dévotion à la sainte Vierge du Bx L.-M. Grignion de Montfort (Commentary to True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin by the Blessed L.-M. Grignion de Montfort), Librairie mariale, Pontchâteau 1943, 83-84, 154. (24) A. Lhoumeau, La vierge Marie et les apôtres des derniers temps d’après le B. Louis-Marie de Montfort (The Virgin Mary and the Apostles of the End Times according to the Blessed Louis Marie de Montfort), Mame, Tours 1919, 10. (25) Ibid., 9-10, 13. (26) H. Frehen, Le "second avènement," 98, 101-104. (27) L. Perouas, Ce que croyait Grignion de Montfort et comment il a vécu sa foi (The Way of Wisdom), Mame, 1973, 186. The author had admitted that there were in Montfort "certain indications of Marian millenarianism," which nonetheless were not essential to the work. Grignion de Montfort: serait-il maximaliste? (Grignion de Montfort: A Maximalist?), in CM 10 (1966), n. 52, p. 147. (28) "The apocalyptic theme is not marginal to the thought of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. On the contrary, it appears to be central to his conception of the Christian life. Voluntarist and elitist, the Christian life is informed by a Marian devotion that is completely oriented toward the perspective of the Parousia." J. Séguy, Millénarisme et "ordres adventistes." Grignion de Montfort et les "apôtres des derniers temps" [Millenarianism and "Adventist Orders": Grignion de Montfort and the "Apostles of the End Times"), in Archives de Sciences sociales des religions 53 (1982), 23-24. (29) G. Barbera, Tratatto della vera devozione a Maria ss.; di s. Luigi Maria di Montfort. Sviluppo logico et annotazioni. Maria nell’opera divina dell’escatologia, nos. 49-59, in Madre e regina 22 (1968), 8-9, pp. 207- 210; 11, pp. 271-274; 12, pp. 303-306; 23 (1969) 1, pp. 15-18. G. Barbera returns to this interpretation in the article Montfort, homme de l’espérance (Montfort, Man of Hope), in AA.VV. Dieu seul. A la rencontre de Dieu avec Montfort (God Alone: The Encounter between God and Montfort), International Montfort Center, Rome 1981, 145-163. Barbera draws a distinction between the first coming, accomplished in the Incarnation/Redempton/Cross, and the Second Coming, which will be realized in the life of the Church in the end times (TD 28-59) and will conclude with the "last coming" (TD 22, 49) (ibid., 48). This would indicate three comings of Jesus, as Plessis and Oger asserted. (30) This scenario unfolds as follows: the period of the Spirit, Great Tribulation, reign of the Antichrist, extraordinary saints, reign of Christ and the Spirit, Parousia and Last Judgment. (31) Ibid., 26. (32) Ibid., 30, 27-28. (33) Ibid., 30. (34) "The first coming . . . . the last coming" (TD 22); "in the first coming . . . . in the second coming" (TD 49); "the difference betwen his first and his second coming" (TD 158); "the first time . . . . the second time" (SM 58). (35) A. Piolanti, Millenarismo, in Enciclopedia cattolica, 8:1008-1009. This interpretation was spreading in the first centuries of the Church, on the reckoning of Rev, where there are six references to "a thousand years" ("He seized . . . Satan, and bound him for a thousand years," "they will reign with him a thousand years"). "Millenarianism must be counted among the systems that are erroneous, because it admits of not two but three comings of Christ" (A. Gelin, Millénarisme [Millenarianism], in Dictionnaire de la Bible, Suppl. 5 [1957], 1293), and he contrasts it with the conception of the Kingdom of God on earth, which includes suffering and persecution. (36) Cf. J. Pinkenzeller, Chiliasmo, in Lessico di teologia Sistematica, Queriniana, Brescia 1990, 95. (37) R. Laurentin agrees with this verdict; "On devra parler ici de millénarisme? Non, pour divers motifs." ("Is it a question of millenarianism? No, for several reasons.") In Dieu Seul est ma Tandress, O.E.I.L., Paris 1984.. (38) J. Séguy, Millénarisme, 36. (39) The states or kingdoms are not divided similarly; Montfort gives a different and greater, more decisive role to Mary in the reign of the Spirit than Joachim de Flore; the "spirituals" of Joachim de Flore are monks, whereas for Montfort they are missionaries, etc. Cf. S. De Fiores, Lo Spiritu santo e Maria, 19-20 (French edition, pp. 144-147). (40) La postérité spirituelle de Joachim de Flore (The Spiritual Posterity of Joachim de Flore), Lethielleux, Paris 1979, 232). H. de Lubac’s statement seems too categorical for us. (41) It is surprising to see J. Séguy, Millénarisme, 29, speak of the "Montfort system [sic]" after having made this statement. (42) Cf. H. Rondet, Fins de l’homme et fin du monde. Essai sur le sens de la formation de l’eschatologie chrétienne (The Ends of Man and the End of the World: An Essay on the Meaning of the Development of Christian Eschatology), Fayard, Paris 1966, 136; M. Schmaus, I Novissimi, in Dogmatica cattolica, IV/2, Marietti, Turin 1964, 157-185; Ruiz de la Peña, La Otra dimensión, in Escatología cristiana, EAPSA, Madrid 1980, 163. (43) Cf. S. Rituum Congreg., Lucion. Beatificationis et canonizationis, 4-5. The third censor draws the same conclusion in ID., II Positio super scriptis, Rome 1853, 4. (44) S. Rituum Congreg., Lucion. Beatificationis et canonizationis, 24. (45) Ibid., 24-25. Cf. the development of the same arguments in II Positio super scriptis, 4, 9-17. (46) Particularly celebrated is the prophecy that TD would "lie hidden in the darkness and silence of a chest" (TD 114) until its discovery in 1842. (47) T. Rast, L’escatologia, in Bilancio della teologia del XX secolo, Città nuova, Rome 1972, 3:327. (48) J. Daniélou, Essai sur le mystère de l’histoire (Essay on the Mystery of History), Seuil, Paris 1959, 18. (49) R. Laurentin, Marie dans la dernière économie selon les textes du Nouveau Testament (Mary in the Last Economy according to the Texts of the NT, in EtMar 41 (1984), 89. Cf. E. Touron del Pie, María en la escatología de Lucas, in EstMar 31 (1981), 260-261; X. Pikaza, El Espíritu santo y María en la obra de Lucas, in EstMar 28 (1978), 151-168.

 

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Taken from: Jesus Living in Mary: Handbook of the Spirituality of St.
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