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

FREEDOM


Summary
I.	The meaning of Freedom: 
	1.	Freedom "from"; 
	2.	Freedom "to." 
II.	The Paradox: Holy Slavery and Freedom: 
	1.	Freedom in the life of Montfort: 
		a.	Freedom through obedience, 
		b.	Freedom through poverty, 
		c.	Freedom through chosen apostolate, 
		d.	Freedom through Consecration as slave of Jesus through 
			Mary; 
	2.	Freedom in the writings of Montfort: 
		a.	Scriptural basis of freedom through slavery, 
		b.	Freedom through baptismal promises, 
		c.	Freedom in TD, 
		d.	Freedom in PM and RM. 
III.	Relevance of Montfort Freedom Today.

I. THE MEANING OF FREEDOM

Freedom entails both a negative and a positive relationship. Negatively, freedom means "being free from"; positively, freedom means "being free to." Both are essential to a balanced understanding of freedom.1

1. Freedom "from"

To declare that someone is free from everything and everyone—from human relationships, from all relation to the world, food, air, etc.—and still is a being in the world is an evident contradiction. Although discussion may take place on the necessary breadth and depth of these relationships, nonetheless human freedom demands being in dependence. Only God is, in the absolute sense, free "from."

By the very fact that man is a creature, his very being is a dynamic relationship to the Creator, from whom he is receiving existence. To divorce oneself—to "free" oneself—from God would mean not to turn into dust but to be resolved into nothingness. Even if someone may wish to sever this relationship, there is no possibility of doing so. Creation is an ongoing event; every speck of existence, including human beings, is being created. One’s existence itself, therefore, stipulates this relationship to God. There is no metaphysical possibility of being "free from" God the Creator; dependence upon Him is the required condition of freedom itself.

In and through the Eternal Wisdom, God has not only created all things but re-created them in the redemptive Incarnation. Redemption is an ontological fact that, independent of man’s acceptance or rejection, penetrates this universe. In the present order of things—and there is no other—God in and through the Incarnate Wisdom creates and sanctifies all things. Freedom, therefore, means dependence on Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And this to such a point that all other openings towards the infinite, all relationships enhancing the fundamental relationship to the Father, however powerful and beautiful they may be— whether persons or events—must indispensably (although not necessarily consciously) be through the opening to the infinite, the God-man, Jesus the Christ. In the present order of things, all gifts, all graces, existence itself—and therefore all freedom—entails dependence on Jesus who enjoys the primacy over all.

Down through the centuries, this truth has been expressed by saying that God Alone is "aseity," which is to say that He alone is "of Himself" (a se), only He is absolute freedom. Creatures by definition are ab alio, i.e., from the Other Who comes to us in Christ Jesus.

Presuming this ontological dependence and the interdependence on others, each person enjoys a certain independence from other creatures inasmuch as each individual is a distinct "I." This "I," with its freedom of choice, can only be enhanced by a free and loving acceptance of the root source of human freedom, God. Freedom is in direct proportion to dependence on God. The saint, then, is truly free. Our Lady is the liberated woman. Lovingly and totally dependent on God, she is the model of independence. She is Our Lady of Freedom precisely because from the depths of her being she declares: "Behold the slave girl of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38).

2. Freedom "to"

Freedom is also "freedom to." If we understand the nature of freedom, it is apparent that freedom is a dynamic gift of God, the Father of all, not so that we may willingly turn from Him and from others. Rather, freedom is to serve God and neighbor. To be in loving harmony with God and with His creation is to be in harmony with ourselves. "To possess oneself" is not to turn within in a narcissistic distortion but to turn without, to be ever more in harmony with freedom itself, God, and with all others who flow from His free choice to be "for us." The gift of freedom is the call to the human race to serve God and one another.

Saint Louis Marie de Montfort is not an abstract theologian. His doctrine may well presume the above, but it is not, as such, the object of his writing or preaching. His interests are existential or, better still, incarnational. In order to assure the freedom of his hearers, he preaches Holy Slavery of love. All the abstract theory is contained in a practical, understandable fashion in his preaching of the total Consecration to Wisdom Incarnate through Mary. The Gospel paradox of slave-freedom, dependent-free, is at the core of his apostolate to reform the Church and renew the face of the earth.

P. Gaffney


II. THE PARADOX: HOLY SLAVERY AND FREEDOM

It is by no means an original insight of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort that makes him proclaim that to be a slave of Jesus in Mary is to be truly free. What is original is his development of this truth into a spirituality that governs the whole of life.

The clearest development of freedom is found in the writings, rather than the life, of Montfort. Not, of course, because he did not live what he preached and wrote but because it is not always easy to interpret his actions specifically in relation to the writings. In other words, we must trust what is written by Montfort more than what is written by his biographers, and certainly more than is written by his hagiographers.

1. Freedom in the Life of Montfort

a. Freedom Through Obedience.

Not only was Saint Louis Marie intent on doing the will of God, he was equally determined to see this divine will mediated through human instruments of ecclesiastical authority and spiritual directors, even when these were palpably misguided, humanly speaking, and where they caused him deep humiliation and frustration and ran counter to what he saw and desired as his true apostolate. The greatest sign of Montfort’s sanctity, sanity, and balance is that not once did he claim some charismatic enlightenment that superseded all ecclesiastical authority. Eccentric his behavior certainly was in human reckoning, and at times he seemed to lack a certain political prudence in his approach to authority; but never did he defy it. Yet we can say that the Montfort who always sought spiritual direction always needed it. And this, far from detracting from his character, enhanced it. It must also be pointed out that Montfort’s dependence on spiritual advice and his seeking for authoritative recognition were not symptoms of pusillanimity; on the contrary, he was a man of strong will, energy, initiative, and decision. Those devoid of confidence and ideas do not perform the heroic work Montfort did, nor do they found religious orders. Nor do they become canonized saints. Yet, by being obedient, Montfort was becoming free by divesting himself of self-will and placing himself at the disposal of God through God’s appointed earthly authorities. Psychologically and spiritually, Montfort, by obeying, was freeing himself of the need to agonize over what was indeed God’s will. This is the opposite of indecisiveness, and it is not the "soft option." Three examples from the life of Montfort illustrate his freedom through obedience.

• In PM 7, Montfort asks for "priests who are free . . . without worldly goods, without even a will of their own." The freedom through obedience is akin to that through poverty; obedience is a radical poverty. The first great test of obedience was also, in a not too pleasant way, freedom. When Montfort was ordained in 1700, he found himself a priest with no diocese (that of his birth was St-Malo) and no faculties for preaching or hearing confessions. This must have been a humiliating situation, and an angering one. Three months after ordination, when Father Lévêque came to the rescue by asking Montfort to join his team of missionaries at Nantes, Louis Marie went immediately to his spiritual director, Father Leschassier, to ask permission. This was given with ominous alacrity. Leschassier was not merely glad to be rid of Louis Marie but suspected that the Nantes appointment would test him to the limit, which it did. But Louis Marie, instead of leaving for Nantes in anger and without a permission he did not canonically need, asked leave from one of those who left him lingering without work around Paris for three months, at a time when a young priest is on the threshold of his priestly life, full of faith, energy, and enthusiasm. When Montfort discovered the impossible situation at Nantes, instead of departing not from cowardice but from the best of motives, he wrote to Leschassier and waited a long time for him to reply. While waiting for an answer, Montfort was without any priestly ministry. He had done scarcely any priestly work in his first year as a priest. Spiritually, it was perhaps his most fruitful year. In this sensitive part of any priest’s life, Montfort left himself free, not to do but to be "done to"—by God, through the strange behavior of those who should have provided for him. This year of "idleness" was, to this dynamic man, a great act of detachment. At this point, Louis Marie was treated with virtual contempt; not only was he dispensable but, to the authorities, disposable.

• The second incident that shows Montfort’s attitude to obedience was his trek to Rome in 1706 after being summarily dismissed by the bishop of Poitiers from his diocese. The action may seem to be the opposite of obedience, in that Louis Marie was going over the bishop’s head. Yet it shows that he had the presence of mind to see no conflict between his desire to minister and his desire to obey. What surer font of authority than the Pope? When he saw St. Peter’s Basilica, he fell to the earth, shedding tears of joy, not because of its grandeur (he has some harsh things to say about that sort of thing); unlike the Apostles, who marveled at the beauty of the Temple because of its splendor (Lk 21:5), Montfort revered St. Peter’s be-cause it was the seat of the supreme spiritual authority on earth. The saint accepted the Pope’s refusal to let him go to Canada and accepted his mission to evangelize France and to be obedient to the bishops there. Yet Montfort needed this papal directive and afterwards felt the freedom that comes from doing not his own will but God’s. Yet his decisiveness in going to the fount shows that obedience is freedom; that meekness is the opposite of weakness.

• The third incident is classical—the building and demolition of the Calvary at Pontchâteau. When the huge construction was due to be blessed and opened on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Montfort suffered the very opposite of exaltation at the episcopal order to dismantle what was the joy not only of Montfort but of the peasants who toiled for him and trusted him. "Let us plant the cross in our hearts," he said.

This obedience is not the freedom of refusing responsibility but the freedom that comes from detachment from one’s own will. Not exactly the freedom of humility but the freedom of relaxing because of knowing that one is on the right course. But the freedom came at a high price, as all freedom does. Ironically, Montfort’s treatment by authority gave him that other freedom he demanded from his missionary priests—freedom from fixed and secure appointments.

b. Freedom through poverty.

It is a scriptural truism that possessions enslave; we cannot be the slave of God and mammon. If we choose God, then money serves us, not we money. PM 7 makes explicit the equation between voluntary poverty and freedom: "Priests who are free from everything . . . without worldly possessions to encumber them." Montfort’s freedom through poverty and through detachment from the "world" (in the Johannine sense of forces hostile to spiritual growth) was expressed in a dramatic and clean-cut way in his departure from Rennes for Paris and Saint-Sulpice. "The event [saying goodbye to family] takes on deep symbolism at the bridge of Cesson on the outskirts of Rennes. Having left all, he crossed the Cesson bridge to a new life of total dependence upon Divine Providence."2 This evangelical detachment, also found in PM ("without father, mother, brothers, sisters"), did not blind Montfort to his fraternal duties to his sister Louise, whose rescuer and guardian he was on at least two occasions, at considerable suffering and inconvenience. Detachment, in this sense, is a sacrifice, not an excuse. This event was a crossing of the Rubicon, and it marked not merely a decisive moment to become a priest but to become a certain kind of priest—utterly detached. The incident was saturated in irony: Louis Marie was going to the sophisticated metropolis, to the famed Saint-Sulpice with its mixed aura of sanctity and learning, not unmixed with an aristocratic flavor and gentility. Yet this lad from the provinces, far from being nervous and from dressing for the encounter, became deliberately less presentable than he had been in Rennes; he gave his father’s hard-earned money to a beggar, parted with his spare tunic, and went even further, exchanging his garb with that of the next beggar: "Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals" (Lk 10:4). For he had, in a different sense, "wiped off from his feet the dust" (Lk 10:11) of Rennes, of security. He had also changed from a boy to a man. Theatrical perhaps—nothing wrong in that, provided it is not an empty gesture—but radical. Montfort was free—to serve. Such poverty distanced him not only from money but from friendship, respect, and acceptance. Another irony: his father gave him money, thinking it a wise investment if his son gained a lucrative benefice. If only he had known not merely the future but the past; if only he had known his son.

Montfort’s poverty did not lead to the independence of not being sponsored. Not only did he accept the spasmodic charity of Madame de Montespan but, unlike the "unjust steward," he was not ashamed to beg. But he also slaved for a pittance, performing even the macabre task of "watching the dead." Poverty, in its physical deprivation, far from being liberating, makes for servility. It drives one to crime, to prostitution, to the slavery of addictions that act as a brief escape from a harsh world. Montfort’s poverty was voluntary and evangelical. It did not impoverish; it enriched. It enriched not only Montfort but others.

The depths of poverty came quickly after ordination in his post as chaplain to the poor house in Poitiers. Here he refused to accept the situation fatalistically, as the poor usually do; he set about putting order into chaos, demanding, almost with spiritual menaces, money from the wealthy in Poitiers. He could do all this, antagonizing so-called administrators of the hostel, because he himself was thoroughly detached from wealth and reputation but not at all detached from the poverty of others. His simplicity, his literal acceptance of the Gospel, is an effect, as well as a cause, of this freedom. The one affects the other—a virtuous, not vicious, circle. W includes, most naturally and without any affectation, the casual statement "I have no private money belonging to me." Yet he makes a plea for the prudent provision of some who cannot live up to his ideals and who may leave the religious life, for example, Brothers John, James, and Mathurin. And there is nothing at all judgmental in this bequest. The emotional heart that beat for Mary bequeaths the physical heart to be buried "under the step of the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary." It will be stepped on, as was its earthly owner, who owned little else.

c. Freedom through chosen apostolate.

The word "chosen" seems at odds with Montfort’s freedom through detachment. But Montfort "chose" his apostolate in the sense that he chose deliberately to accept any apostolate he was given. In fact, Providence ordained that his ministry would prevent him ever anchoring himself or casting roots in any one place.3 His description as a "vagabond" is ironic and paradoxical. For although Montfort was pushed here and there, he knew exactly where he was going. And his destination had nothing to do with geography nor with planning a specialized destiny. His PM gives more detail on this matter; but the wandering of Montfort was within the confines of northwest France, not in the endless plains and forests of Canada, where he felt a strong urge to go. He was "rootless" but never "restless" and must never be regarded as a patron for the religious who drifts from dream to dream unimpeded by reality. Montfort, though incredibly energetic and active in his ministry and in temperament, was responsibly passive in the way he allowed God to bounce him, through ecclesiastical superiors, from pillar to post. Therein lay his freedom. Geographically and specifically varied as his ministry was, from a decaying mission house in Nantes to a poor house in Poitiers and a poorer poor house in Paris to, at last, a vigorous arduous tour on foot around the poorest parishes of Brittany, Montfort was integrated. His energy was dispersed; his motivation was always concentrated on bringing people to God and on doing God’s will. His only possessions on his missionary journeys were a Bible, breviary, sermon book, and, of course, the Rosary. He was as free as a vagrant, but it was a freedom to work harder, to live poorer, to act more responsibly than the beneficed cleric. By being free of work that tied him to one place, by being thus able to make himself available for any pastoral work, Montfort was spiritually vagrant in this sense: he knew precisely that he was obeying God’s will, he was inflexibly pointed in one direction, like Christ "setting his face towards Jerusalem" and death (Lk 9:51). He was "supple clay in the Potter’s hands. An active and responsible living ‘Yes’—like Mary—to the Holy Spirit."4 Like Jesus, he had nowhere to lay his head, no social, geographical stability. This can be called insecurity or loneliness, or it can be called freedom. If it is imposed, the life of the vagrant is as confining as a prison; if freely chosen and properly motivated, it is a liberty that allows growth to maturity. All the parishes in which Montfort toiled, with virtually no clerical recognition, were the outcome of that choice to be free to do God’s work.

d. Freedom through Consecration as a slave of Jesus through Mary.

This most individual paradox of becoming truly free through becoming a slave of Jesus through Mary, though abundantly evident in Montfort’s writing, has to be assumed in his life. We can say only that Montfort first dedicated himself to Jesus through Mary sometime during his seminary days and that it was influenced by many contemporary or near- contemporary writers, in particular by Boudon in Holy Slavery of the Admirable Mother of God.

2. Freedom in the writings of Montfort

a. Scriptural basis of freedom through slavery.

Montfort uses Scripture, liberally but scriptural quotations are used as illustrations, after the manner of his age, rather than as the framework.5 Nevertheless, Scripture not only abounds in examples of the paradox of freedom through slavery but is based on it. Our fulfillment can come about only by being the "slave of one Master" (Mt 6:24). The keeping of this ethic is the only way to avoid radical conflict and becoming enslaved to addictive evil.

Since Montfort’s Consecration is nothing but a perfect renewal of baptismal vows, which free us from the slavery of sin, it may be said to be based on the scriptural emphasis on Baptism. This theology is most clearly worked out in the middle chapters of Romans: "When you were the slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. . . . But now that you have been set free from sin, and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life" (Rom 6:20, 22).

Later in the same letter, the Holy Spirit teaches that Baptism gives "freedom of spirit, the glorious liberty of the children of God," "set free from the bondage to decay" (Rom 8:21). The Galatians, who were once slaves of "the weak and beggarly elemental spirits" (Gal 4:8-9), are no longer slaves but sons (Gal 4:7). The paradox of freedom-slavery is more explicitly brought out in ethical duties of mutual love: "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity of the flesh, but through love be servants of one another" (Gal 5:13).

The whole of Psalm 119 could be quoted, with many other psalms, to illustrate the paradox of obedience-freedom.6 The paradox is not, therefore, original to Montfort, but its emphasis, admittedly nurtured by contemporary Sulpician spirituality, is peculiarly his.

b. Freedom through Baptismal promises.

Montfort gives a comprehensive argument for Consecration to Incarnate Wisdom by showing how it is simply a perfect renewal of the radical Consecration that takes place at our Baptism. The emphasis is on the perfection of this Consecration: "As all perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus, it follows that the most perfect of all devotions is that which conforms, unites, and consecrates us most completely to Jesus. . . . It is the perfect and complete renewal of the vows and promises of holy baptism" (TD 120). "Perfection" here means totality of fulfillment, and therefore freedom. Montfort explains this by showing that before Baptism "every Christian was a slave of the devil" (TD 126) and that we, conversely, gain freedom from this slavery by Baptism, through which we become a "slave of love." Montfort is, of course, employing the theme pervasive in the Pauline letters, but he makes little, if any, direct reference to it, and he is clearly not immediately motivated by it. TD 127 quotes Thomas Aquinas and Augustine and, after them, Church councils—Sens and Trent. The point made by all sources cited is that Christians are exhorted to renew their baptismal promises. Montfort sees the Act of Consecration as being the same as those vows. In fact, it is "more than we do at baptism, when ordinarily our godparents speak for us and we are given to Jesus only by proxy. In this devotion, we give ourselves personally and freely, and we are fully aware of what we are doing" (TD 126). Montfort is only being realistic when he says that few baptized have a habitual awareness of the significance of their baptismal promises, described by Aquinas and Augustine as the most important vows ever made (TD 127). The point made, however, is that by the Act of Consecration, an adult renews his baptismal vows and goes beyond them by freely accepting what they stand for; that is not possible psychologically as infants. Apart from stressing the freedom of the essentially adult Act of Consecration, Montfort shows how fundamental it is. It is not a devotion but central to our baptismal redemption.

In the Act of Consecration, the baptismal connection is central: "But I must confess that I have not kept the vows and promises which I made to you so solemnly at my baptism" (LEW 223). The baptismal vows are at the heart of Montfort’s thinking when he defines his Holy Slavery: "Before baptism, we belonged to the devil as slaves, but baptism made us, in very truth, slaves of Jesus" (TD 68).

c. Freedom in TD.

The entire theme of Montfort’s spirituality is ultimately the Gospel paradox that we must lose our life in order to find it, that we "empty ourselves in taking the form of a slave," thereby "having that mind within us which was in Christ Jesus" (Phil 2:5-6). The paradox of freedom-slavery is scriptural and also typical of Montfort spirituality. We have already mentioned the freedom through poverty in Montfort’s life; it is equally evident in the only apparent impoverishment that comes from giving to Jesus through Mary the "value of our good acts, past, present and to come" (LEW 223). In an unacknowledged quotation from Paul, he speaks of giving everything, whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever else we do, to Jesus through Mary, and he talks of this as being "richer" than any monarch (TD 136). But the richness comes from not merely denuding ourselves of our will but from ensuring that Mary removes all residual self-centeredness. In quantitative language, we make a "good investment" when we place all in Mary’s hands. But this is not naive or crude. On the contrary, it is ruthlessly realistic, since motives that are selfish so easily intrude and diminish, if not spoil, the value of the good we do. The psychological wealth, which is the most important, is found in Montfort’s exclamation: "How consoling!" (TD 136). We are not creating a new fact but acknowledging what obtains anyway—total dependence on God. We are freed of the worry of wealth, which the moth, rust, and thief of selfish motives can damage or destroy.

The very heart of the slavery-freedom paradox is found in the profoundly psychological and spiritual treatment of TD 169. Here we are told that the "holy slavery" frees us "from servile scruple and fear, which might restrict, imprison or confuse us," and enables us to see God as our loving Father, not an implacable Judge. Jesus "inspires us with a generous and filial love." Love, not fear; filial (sons), not servile (slaves). It is a perfect echo of the Pauline clarion: "Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir" (Gal 4:6-7). Montfort’s reference to being freed from scruples echoes what Paul then says almost immediately: "How can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more?" (Gal 4:9). Far from binding us by superstition and primitive fear, the Montfort Consecration frees.

Freedom is not loneliness, nor is it disorientation and insecurity. Montfort unfolds another paradox by showing that we need stability in order to be free: "Blessed, indeed, are those Christians who bind themselves faithfully and completely to her as to a secure anchor! The violent storms of the world will not make them founder" (TD 175). This security-freedom is found in Psalm 1, as is the instability of the sinner: the just man is like a "tree planted beside running waters"; the wicked are "like chaff, scattered before the wind." Montfort refers to this psalm, without naming it, in TD 68: "The Holy spirit compares us i) to trees that are planted along the waters of grace, and which bear their fruit when the time comes."

When Montfort defines "slavery" (TD 68-77), he refers, without giving precise location, to "St. Paul [who] says that we belong not to ourselves but entirely to him as his members and his slaves, for he bought us at an infinite price—the shedding of his Precious Blood" (1 Cor 6 and 12). Montfort distinguishes (TD 69) "servant" and "slave", although this distinction is made to stress the "binding" nature of slavery, it also serves to increase the love and freedom that causes such a bond. The paradox is heightened: the more total the slavery, which is of its essence total, the greater the love that inspires it. The paradox now becomes an oxymoron: "Voluntary slavery," an apparent contradiction in terms, two words challenging each other. "Voluntary slavery" is "the most perfect of all three states" (TD 70).

d. Freedom in PM and RM.

In TD, freedom is spiritual and psychological; in PM, it is apostolic. At the same time, we cannot too rigorously separate the two freedoms, since the motivation of the apostolate is clearly a total trust in Providence. So, detachment, besides being essential for Montfort’s idea of apostolate, is likewise a chastening reminder of the detachment of the end times. It is this eschatological note that makes it an "ardent" prayer, as it is called in most languages.

"Disponsibilité" is a key word of PM, often translated as "availability." "Rootlessness" does not convey the full meaning, and it is even doubtful as an English word in this context. "Disponsibilité" means "being totally open to any call made on us in the apostolate." Montfort himself usually describes it in negatives, which makes the meaning clearer.

In PM and RM, we see the basic psychological and temperamental need Montfort had for freedom, as well as the spiritual and apostolic need. The relevant numbers of PM are 7-10. Montfort states that the first and most essential qualification of his missionaries is that they be "free"— "liberos." "What, then, am I asking for? "Liberos, men who are free, free with the freedom that comes from you, detached from everything, without father . . . and without worldly possessions to encumber or distract them, and devoid of all self-interest" (PM 7). This is followed by the now familiar paradox: "Men who are free, but still in bondage to your love" (PM 8), "free as the clouds," with a half-reference to the "Spirit blowing [them] where he will" (Jn 3:8). But now another paradox, freedom-obedience: "Always ready to obey you [Christ] when authority speaks." Since "authority" means human instrumental authority, the freedom is not license to drift aimlessly and willfully. "For you were called to freedom, brethren, only do not use your freedom as opportunity for the flesh" (Gal 5:13). It is not an anarchic freedom but one that will "carry out your will to the full" (PM 8). We know from Montfort’s life that he was always most scrupulous in doing this: Leschassier, the visit to Clement XI, the Calvary at Pontchâteau. It is an enriching and liberating obedience, perfectly in conformity with the Act of Consecration, in which all motives of self-interests are ruthlessly eradicated by handing them over to Mary. The freedom is radical; no compromise is allowed with the will of God. In RM, practical ordinances are laid down to exteriorize this freedom into the apostolate: "The members of the Company avoid such work as being contrary to their missionary vocation so as to feel free at all times" to evangelize the poor (RM 2). "Such work" includes "curates, parish priests, teachers in colleges or seminaries, as so many other good priests are, God having called them to this work" (RM 2). This quote shows a sensitivity not always apparent in such prophetic types as Montfort. In RM, we have the qualification needed for missionaries: the Latin term "instabiles." Again, an irritating word to translate into English. "Total availability, ready to move on, whenever and wherever needed" seems to be the meaning. Montfort cites as exemplars St. Paul, Vincent Ferrer, and Francis Xavier (RM 6) as "free from any other occupation" than that of the missionary.

This impassioned plea for freedom must be seen in the context of eschatology. Otherwise it becomes more strident than vibrant.


III. RELEVANCE OF MONTFORT FREEDOM TODAY

Much has been said of paradox, of the striking confrontation of slavery- freedom. In today’s world, in a world where slavery has been officially abolished, there are many forms of servitude even more oppressive than the slavery of the ancient world and of the medieval feudal system. There is the slavery of poverty, especially, but by no means only, in the Third World and its concomitant debasement. There is the slavery of addiction: to drugs, alcohol, sexual deviation, phobias, anxiety states, and so on. There is, of course, an invincible desire for freedom from all this. There is also a growing desire for freedom—political, individual, religious, and economic. Yet we also see the desire to belong, to be part of a society. Life is a balancing act between preserving our sovereign individuality and not being isolated.

The total renunciation of self-centered motives, which Montfort’s Act of Consecration entails, calls on Mary’s maternal influence to correct wrong and selfish drives and to challenge us to grapple with self- indulgence, even at the level of the spiritual.

Saint Louis Marie de Montfort’s Holy Slavery encourages us to consider at a more profound level wherein true freedom lies. Like Dante, Montfort’s thought on freedom concludes: "Our peace, to do His will." That is the peace of the blessed in Paradiso; it is also the peace of the blessed, the happy on earth.

Gerard Mackrell


Notes: (1) For a concise study of freedom see J. De Finance, Freedom, in New Catholic Encyclopedia, McGraw-Hill, New York 1966, 95-100. (2) P. Gaffney, Introduction, in GA, ix. (3) Gaffney, five times in as many pages, refers to Saint Louis Marie as a "vagabond" or "itinerant" missionary. Cf. ibid, viii-xii. (4) Ibid., xii. (5) See the article Bible in this manual for a discussion of Saint Louis Marie’s use of Sacred Scripture. (6) Psalm 119 (118), the longest in the psalter, appears to be principally a wisdom psalm that extols the beauty, joy, and freedom experienced in obeying God’s law. Saint Louis Marie de Montfort quotes this psalm about ten times.

 

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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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