JESUS LIVING IN MARY:
HANDBOOK OF THE SPIRITUALITY OF ST. LOUIS DE MONTFORT
I. Montforts Apostolic Journey: 1. The birth and blossoming of an apostolic vocation; 2. The apostolate, a dynamic reality in Montforts life; 3. The development of an apostolic spirituality. II. The Apostolic Mission according to Montfort: 1. A link with the beginning: in the footsteps of the Apostles; 2. A way of acting apostolically; 3. A lifestyle: the vagabond apostolate; a. Breaking away, b. The journey, c. The end; 4. Unity: missionary/spiritual leader; 5. Paul of Tarsus and Louis Marie de Montfort.
I. MONTFORTS APOSTOLIC JOURNEY
The distinguishing feature of Father de Montforts life was its apostolic character. He was called to be a missionary. His vision was neither static nor worldly, despite innumerable influences to the contrary. His vocation to the apostolic life was not a fixed thing, a gift received in its entirety at birth. Rather, it was a dynamic reality, flourishing, ripening, knowing its moments of crisis, but constantly being reborn throughout his life journey.
1. The birth and blossoming of an apostolic vocation
Strangely, none of his biographers seemed interested in pinpointing the moment when Father de Montfort first heard his call to the apostolic life. Probably, it came quite early, certainly before he arrived in Paris. Blain states, "Once he had finished his philosophical studies, his only thought was to study theology in depth, so as to prepare himself for the apostolic life; that was his aim."1
A more important testimony is Louis Maries own explicit confession to Fr. Leschassier in 1702, when he wrote about his personal inclinations, "which have always been and still are for mission work" (L 11).
It appears that the parish missions in Brittany had strongly influenced the birth of Montforts missionary vocation, particularly those of Fr. Leuduger. Most likely he had heard about these from Fr. Bellier as early as 1687. In fact, when he began to look seriously at the idea of an apostolate, it was precisely this parish mission model that he recalls most naturally: "I still harbor the desire I had in Paris to join Fr. Leuduger, a student of Fr. de St. Brieuc. He is a great missionary and a man of wide experience" (L 5).
It is well known that Father de Montforts vocation suffered many trials in the Sulpician milieu of Paris. Montforts contact with Oliers writings as well as the example of Bayün, confirmed his choosing of an apostolic ministry that had a rich contemplative dimension, a ministry centered on the home missions, but open to the foreign missions.2
The teachings of his Sulpician masters, Brenier and Leschassier, followers of Tronson, recommended a life of fidelity to the Rule, which avoided all novelty, and demanded the practice of the "science of the saints." Forty years after its foundation (1643), Saint-Sulpice (with the exception of Bayün) seemed to have forgotten the mystical and missionary dimensions so beloved by Olier. In contrast to the Sulpician ideal, they presented a hidden and withdrawn life, so much so that, according to Leschassier, "when one is outside, cut off from the seminary community, one experiences being in a violent place, outside ones center."3
This heavily influenced Montforts vocation, and he found himself in the belly of a paradoxfaced with the opposites of contemplation and action. This he expressed in his famous letter of December 6, 1700 to Leschassier: "I find myself, as time goes on, torn by two apparently contradictory feelings. On one hand, I feel a secret attraction for a hidden life in which I can efface myself and combat my natural tendency to show off. On the other hand, I feel a tremendous urge to make our Lord and his holy Mother loved, to go in a humble and simple way to teach catechism to the poor in country places and to arouse in sinners a devotion to our Blessed Lady" (L 5).
These opposites within himself became complementary, mutual, and interdependent. There was a coincidence of them, a oneness in Love. He experienced a graced union of such opposites without their being dissolved, without their natural polarity being removed. He chose the itinerant life of an apostle, becoming a contemplative in action. Montfort gave expression to this in Hymn 22. It was inspired by Surin, yet remained missionary in nature: "The die is cast, I will travel the world; / I have taken it into my head to wander / So as to save my poor neighbor. . . ." 4
We can see five factors that inclined Louis de Montfort to choose a missionary vocation:
(a.) He saw clearly that his strongest and deepest inclination was to preaching and to catechetics for the poor. Exercising the discernment of spirits, he concluded that since the desires were "good and persistent," they were of God (L 5, 16) and were to be followed.
(b.) His pastoral contacts convinced him of the missionary need. He saw that the local Church should become more responsive to the need for preaching the Word to sinners and to the marginalized. As a result, he decided to dedicate himself to parish missions.
(c.) He first preached parish missions in the areas surrounding Nantes and Poitiers, and this experience confirmed Montfort in his apostolic vocation.
(d.) Montfort made a discovery of considerable importance in the first few years of his priestly life. It was that of Wisdom. He entered into a spiritual marriage with her (cf. L 20 of August 28, 1704). Wisdom was apostolic, he claimed in his famous conversation with Blain in 1714. It was a conversation that illumined his whole life up to that point. Wisdom inspired one "to undertake great things for the glory of God and the salvation of souls" (LEW 100).
(e.) Lastly, he considered the words of the Pope to be crucial. The Holy Father confirmed him in his call to preach parish missions in France. He approved of his methods and gave him the ad honorem title "Missionary Apostolic."5 From then on, Father de Montfort did not doubt his apostolic mission, despite the inactive or difficult periods that were to beset him. In 1710, however, after the Calvary at Pontchâteau was demolished, he questioned whether he was called to the home or the foreign missions. He persuaded Des Bastières to come with him to Rome and to ask the Pope to send him to the East. Similarly, according to a 1714 letter, Montfort seemed ready to stay on at La Chèze (1712). There he even chose the spot where he wished to be buried, at Notre Dame de Pitié, provided his superiors did not decide otherwise.6
2. The apostolate, a dynamic reality in Montforts life
To say that the missionary life consumed Montforts life is to state the obvious. To the eyes of the world, he was first and last a missionary. It cannot be denied that he preached almost 200 missions between 1700 and 1716. Nor can there be any doubt that he saw himself as a missionary. This is evident not only from his missions and writings but also from incidents such as that at Sallertaine in 1712. Upon entering the house of a man hostile to the mission, he said to him, "Well, Sir, you think I came here of my own volition. No, it is Jesus and Mary who have sent me; I am their ambassador."7
We might say with Daniel-Rops, when speaking of the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries, that Montfort was the vigorous "incarnation" of the "missionary spirit."8
Based on the biographical evidence, apostolic mission was at the heart of Montforts life journey. Reflection on the structure and contents of his parish missions discloses the type of missionary that he was.
It is naive to think that all of the saints time, from ordination to death, was devoted to giving parish missions. They were certainly the thread that ran through his life. But it was not an unbroken thread. Father Eijckeler notes three interruptions in Montforts missionary activity: in Paris, between 1703 and 1704, after his expulsion from the Hospital in Poitiers; during his pilgrimage to Rome in 1706, which took six months; and in September 1710, after the interdict by the bishop of Nantes, which kept him idle until March 1711.9
Yet we must add also several other pauses: his stay at Saint-Lazare, from September 1707 to the summer of 1708; the time he spent in the hermitage of Saint-Éloi, in the summer/autumn of 1712; and at the cave in Mervent for more than a month in 1715. Also we should include some other journeys (to Paris in 1713 and to Rouen in 1714), pilgrimages (to Mont-Saint-Michel in 1706, and to Saumur in 1715), and retreats, as well as his times of sickness, especially his illness in 1711, which lasted nearly two months.10
These interruptions of his missionary calling only serve to underscore Montforts perseverance in it. In fact, his vocation suffered no real crises, save only what followed the destruction of the Calvary at Pontchâteau (1711). Indeed, these interruptions were very consistent with his mission, especially his journeys to Rome (1706), Paris (1713), and Rouen (1714) and his pilgrimage to Saumur (1716), all of which were directly concerned with either his own apostolate or that of the Company of Mary.
Over his life, the parish missions that Montfort preached varied both in number and in frequency. Approximately ten missions were spread over three months in the neighborhood of Nantes in 1701, roughly the same number in Poitiers and its suburbs in 1705, then not even ten between September 1706 and 1708 in Brittany around Rennes, where missions were rare. A renewed vigor followed in the Nantes area, between September 1708 and September 1710, with about twenty missions; finally, we come to the most intense period of his apostolate, in the dioceses of Luçon and La Rochelle (1711-1716), with a series of forty missions, which unfortunately were cut short by the death of the saint.
It is interesting to look beyond their general structure, to observe how the missions evolved.
L. Pérouas notes that in 1701 Montfort speaks of "short missions" (L 9), describing a brief ministry of catechetical teaching, preaching, and confessions that he carried on in the Nantes area. The following year, he described a seven-month stay in Poitiers as "a continual mission," during which he heard confessions from morning till night almost every day, preached, visited the sick, and taught hymns (L 11). At that time, he speaks of his missions as being four or five weeks, with sermons, conferences, catechetical teaching, general confessions, communions, hymns, and processions. Finally, between 1711 and 1715, he speaks of more or less specialized gatherings, missions to women or to soldiers, which he described more as spiritual retreats.11
There were other variations during the different periods of Montforts missionary life, as new insights shaped his ministry:
(a.) From being an independent missionary during the first period he became a member of a team led by Fathers Leuduger and Jobart in 1707- 1708; then he was made director of missions that were given collaboratively with diocesan priests, religious, or lay brothers.
(b.) His missionary method acquired a new richness with the Covenant with God (GA, 501-503) after 1709. His missions were longer, had greater diocesan acceptance, and found new institutional approaches through schools, confraternities, etc., as well as follow-up parish missions, new ways of feeding the poor (first in Providence House, then in homes beginning in 1711), the construction of calvaries, etc.
In short, when Montfort defines the concept of mission in RM, it is a reflection of both his pastoral experience and his personal spirituality.
3. The development of an apostolic spirituality
The profound nature of Louis Maries missionary vocation could not but help shape his spirituality. The apostolate became neither an ancillary nor an obstacle to the achievement of perfection. In fact, as early as his stay in Poitiers, Montfort noticed, with a certain sense of amazement, that his incessant activity was branching out into new forms of pastoral care that benefited the humblest classes of society. Far from weakening his life of ascetic virtue and union with God, he saw that the apostolate permitted immense spiritual progress. He received new insights, an increase of ease in speaking, and a greater opening of his heart to all (L 11). Later while meditating on apostolic zeal, he came to see it not only as salvific but as producing grace in abundance, leading to an incomparable glory. He prayed that his preaching would bring him not to a lesser but to a greater sanctity (H 21:11-15). In this way he was led to see the apostolic as the most divine of all works (H 21:12), as embodying the highest degree of perfection (LEW 30). In his writings intended for the Company of Mary, this idea is institutionalized, so to speak. Missionaries who followed in the footsteps of the Apostles were to have no fixed abode and were to be constantly occupied with giving missions (RM 2-6). PM ends with a call to priests who had fled to the desert or to places of solitude. He asks them to understand the apostolate, its pressing needs, and the priority it deserves (PM 29).
Pursuing this line of thought, Montfort not only shifted the emphasis from the contemplative life to the missionary life. He also discovered the apostolic purpose of crosses and purifications. They were not directly aimed at making one a friend of God. Rather, they sought to free an apostle from inordinate pride in a grace received or good accomplished. They prevented him from exalting himself in the presence of God (PM 46). The Cross was the lot of the missionary. It was intimately conjoined to apostolic wisdom (L 15; H 91:13, 31-32).
Montfort continued to live with the creative tension of contemplation and action. This can be seen in TD 196, where he gives priority to the contemplative life. He saw action (likened to a childs game) as the exception, with contemplation the rule.
Montfort spoke of the "apostles of the end times." He outlined an apostolic spirituality, with zeal as the virtue that raises one to sanctity before God (TD 47-59). Montfort might have overcome this ambivalence if his life had not been shortened by an early death. His mission apostolate had reached a high point when he died at the age of 43. A famous conversation with Blain in 1714 indicates two possible solutions. The first was experiential and mystical in nature. It was a spiritual integration through the graced presence of Jesus and Mary. This would have permitted Montfort to remain a contemplative, to live in intimate union with God in the midst of activity. The second was based on the principle of following Christ as Wisdom; by adopting his way of life, as reflected in his example and counsels. Montfort accepted the diverse vocations in the Church, including the Sulpician calling. But he chose the path of apostolic wisdom, for himself and his disciples. He saw in it a unique missionary charism, one capable of unifying the whole spiritual life.12
S. De Fiores
II. THE APOSTOLIC MISSION ACCORDING TO MONTFORT
Montforts first biographer tells us that during his pilgrimage to Rome in 1706, "Pope Clement XI gave him the title of Missionary Apostolic."13 The term "apostolic" was a key word for Montfort. It properly described his "missionary path." Linked with the word "missionary," and having the etymological meaning of being "sent," it expressed something essential for St. Louis Marie. It pointed to a relationship with the Apostles of the early Church, and it gave a name to his dream for the Company of Mary and for himself.
1. A link with the beginning: in the footsteps of the Apostles
Montfort dreamed of missionaries "called by God to preach missions in the steps of the Apostles, who were poor" (RM 2), ready to suffer everything "just as the Apostles were" (PM 10), trained in "the apostolic spirit" (RM 12), never allowing themselves to be distracted from "their apostolic work" (RM 12), "followers of the Apostles" (PM 22), and following in all things the example "which Jesus Christ, the apostles and apostolic men have handed down to us" (RM 50). Montfort was himself such an "apostolic missionary" (RM 62), whose primary mandate came from the Pope himself. Finally, in the tradition of Saint-Sulpice and Olier, he sent his "White Penitents" on pilgrimage to Notre Dame des Ardilliers at Saumur "to obtain from God through Marys intercession good missionaries, who will follow the example of the apostles" (PS 1). The emphasis in all this is too strong for us not to recognize something central for Montfort. What, then, was the significance of a "missionary vocation" (RM 2) for Montfort? What was this link to the Apostles? Why was it so important, if not indispensable, for him? Beginning with his earliest letters as a young priest to Leschassier, one can see his need to have his missionary orientation affirmed. And it was not by chance that he walked to Rome to seek this confirmation in 1706. Montfort needed to identify his apostolate, to feel himself in line with a movement within the Church, for fear "that I did not run my race in vain, or work in vain" (Phil 2:16). He felt led to drink directly from the spring of the Churchs mission. So he turned to the Pope himself, and through him to the Apostles. In this way he discovered his true apostolic calling.
The origin of the Churchs mission lies in this: Christ was sent by the Father "to announce good news to the poor" (Lk 4:18). In fact, just as the Father sent him, so Christ sent his Apostles. They walked in his footsteps and proclaimed the Good News to every nation. Founded by Christ through the Apostles and their successors, the Church in turn sent Montfort as Missionary Apostolic. And he sent his Company.14 In recalling these lines from the RM, we trace Montfort to the Apostles, from them to Jesus Christ, and from Jesus Christ to the Father and the Spirit. Through the Apostles, Montfort wanted to reach the one who was sent, the archetype, Jesus himself; to place himself in the main stream which takes its origin in the Trinity and is there at the birth of the Church. This is the first and most basic meaning behind his insistence on the Apostles. For Montfort, to be "apostolic" was to be an integral and vital part of the very movement that gave birth to the Church, a missionary movement that began with the Father, was realized in the Son, and was completed in the Spirit through the sending of the Apostles. Montfort claimed this vital link both for himself and for his Company of Mary. It was his whole life. He clearly demonstrated it in the hundred or so missions that he preached. During the final ten years of his life he went from parish to parish. But beyond this he offers us a belief in the Second Coming of Christ, in the end times when the reign of God will be established, thanks to the "Apostles of the end times" (TD 58; PE 22). He wanted to be the first. The whole PM foresees the coming of such apostles: "O Lord. . . It is indeed time to fulfill your promise" (PM 5). Montfort, the Missionary Apostolic, thus sees himself as linked with both the beginning and the end of Church history. Thus reassured, he did not hesitate to pursue his proper mission: "The die is cast. / I will travel the world . . ." (H 22:1).
2. A way of acting apostolically
Montfort was not content with linking himself to the Apostles; he wanted to imitate them closely (PE 22) and to follow their example (RM 50). They were his models for exercising his mission, "following their footsteps" (RM 2). He insisted on going "two by two" (MR 52), "on foot" (RM 43), "in complete dependence on Providence" (RM 50), "preferring . . . the poor to the rich" (RM 7). He set out, always ready "to be on the move and to suffer. . . just as the Apostles were" (PE 10). Sent "like lambs among wolves" (RM 65), to do battle with the world, "not like Religious who retreat from the world lest they be overcome, but like brave and valiant warriors on the battle-field, who refuse to retreat or even yield an inch" (LC 2). These "followers of the Apostles" (PM 22), "called by God to preach missions in the steps of the Apostles who were poor" (RM 2), must avoid becoming settled, for "the motto of the true missionary is one which enables him to say in all truth like St. Paul: instabiles sumus (we have no permanent home of our own)" (RM 2). They should therefore be "free from every other occupation and unimpeded by the administration of any temporal possessions which might hold them back . . . ready, like St. Paul . . . and other apostles, to run wherever God may call them" (RM 6). In a word, they must be "liberos," (Latin for child/ free) a word on which Montfort gives a long commentary in PM 6-12.
Again, Montfort takes the Apostles as models for the specific ministry of the Word: "These followers of the Apostles will preach with great power and effect. So powerful will their impact be that they will stir the minds and hearts of all who hear them" (PM 22). Here it is good to recall two of Montforts very rich insights into the true preacher, which remain relevant today. Commenting on the Lords promise to his Apostles "I will give you a wisdom which your enemies will be unable to resist" (Lk 21:15), Montfort writes, "How few preachers there are today who possess this most wonderful gift of eloquence and who can say with St Paul, We preach the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 2:7). . . . They do not speak under the impulse of divine Wisdom or from a heart filled to overflowing with wisdom" (LEW 97). In RM 62 he takes up again this description of an "apostolic" preacher: "It is the easiest thing in the world to be a fashionable preacher. It is a difficult but sublime thing to be able to preach with the inspiration of an apostle." And he concludes, "The apostolic missionary should, therefore, preach . . . and he must first practice what he preaches" (RM 62). We see here that Montfort has a certain interior spirit in mind. Here we come close to the meaning of what he termed "apostolic wisdom." He spoke at length about this with his friend Blain, who tells us about it in these words: "He added that there were different sorts of wisdom, as well as different degrees of wisdom; that the wisdom by which a community person should guide his life was one thing, and the wisdom of a missionary or an apostolic person another thing; that the community person did not have to undertake anything new but only to let himself or herself be guided by the Rule and the customs of the community. The missionary or apostolic person had to seek the glory of God instead of personal glory and to carry out new undertakings. . . . Those I suggested to him as models of wisdom were people of the first kind. . . . It was not the same thing for missionaries and apostolic persons. For these people always had to undertake something new. Some good work had to be done or defended. Inevitably people will always be talking about them. . . . And finally, if wisdom consisted in doing nothing for God, in not undertaking something for His glory, out of fear of what people would say, then the Apostles were wrong to leave Jerusalem. They should have shut themselves away in the upper room. Saint Paul should never have made so many journeys, nor should Saint Peter have attempted to plant the Cross on the Capitol."15 Montfort drew his great evangelical inspiration from his models, the Apostles. He could sing joyfully of his life as a truly zealous missionary: "When I go on my way, / my staff in my hand, / barefoot and without any carriage, / but also without any worries, / I march along in great state, / like a King with his court, / to the sound of the trumpet" (H 144:1).
3. A lifestyle: the vagabond apostolate
The "vagabond apostolate" therefore became his life and the life he wanted for those who followed him. This imposed its own laws, to the point of becoming a lifestyle that Montfort passed on to his disciples. He said that the members of his apostolic band should be "ready . . . to run" (RM 6). He was, along with a few other founders of religious congregations, something of a pioneer, for he offered a style of religious life that was original.16 Montfort himself was never a religious in the strict sense. But he never wanted to be alone (L 5; L 6). He yearned for a group, a band, etc.: "Vis unita fit fortior" (In unity there is strength) (PM 29). And here again, he makes reference to the disciples of Jesus, sent out two by two (RM 52). For his apostles of the road, he wrote RM, in which he sketched out an original lifestyle. Here, we see that he used special phrases to describe it, such as "to set out on an adventure," "to be uprooted," "to leave Jerusalem," etc. An arrow could symbolize this lifestyle, one bearing the following inscriptions on its three main parts. On the feathered end "break away" (poverty), on the shaft "undertake" (obedience) and on the tip " love" (chastity).
a. Breaking away.
This was the law of the vagabond apostolate, understood as: "ready . . . to run" (RM 6). For, as the ancient Romans used to say, "unnecessary baggage slows the walk." Our concern is with more than material baggage. Montfort strongly opposes those who prevent others from setting out, especially the "habitatores quietis (lovers of the quiet life)" (RM 2); and he also condemns "what is being said daily, typically by all those worldly priests, those well-fed beneficed clerics, those pleasure- seeking ecclesiastics and those lovers of ease: I have bought a field . . . I have bought five yoke of oxen . . . have me excused. . . I cannot come" (RM 6). On the other hand, Montfort prays for "men who are free, priests who are free with the freedom that comes from you, detached from everything, without father, mother, brothers, sisters or relatives and friends as the world and the flesh understand them, without worldly possessions to encumber or distract them, and devoid of all self- interest" (PM 7). The idea of being a vagabond on the road gives a certain distinct color to the vow of poverty. What joy he found in living the freedom of the itinerant apostle. He sings of it enthusiastically: "I travel about the world, / like a lost child, / wanting, despite others objections, / neither goods nor money. / Having nothing, / I have everything" (H 91:1; cf. H 22:22).
b. The journey.
For Montfort this was "leaving Jerusalem"; it was boldness and enterprise. And here apostolic obedience found its place. It was not the facile obedience of either fleeing the world (FC 2) or hiding at home. He said that we had "only to follow in the footsteps and the practices of those who went before."17 Such apostolic obedience is a difficult thing because it arises from a wisdom that upsets people. It "causes them to talk." It is a wisdom that does not conform to popular taste. Pioneers cannot set out without meeting this challenge. It is then that obedience becomes important, even essential, said Montfort. It is then that religious obedience becomes apostolic obedience. In his own life Montfort gave witness to this by giving to the bishops the same unconditional submission he gave to the Pope. For him there was no appeal from this obedience. It was total. It was an incontrovertible sign of what was good, an authentication of every mission.18 Here, no less than in the case of poverty, Montfort is inflexible. The missionaries "will obey their superiors in a wholehearted and undiscriminating manner. . . . In this Company, as in the Society of Jesus, it is obedience as we have described it which is the foundation and unshakable support of all its holiness and of all the blessings which God confers or will confer through its ministry" (RM 19). He himself sings: "I declare before God himself: / I would rather die, / even die condemned, / than be disobedient" (H 91:28; cf. H 22:20).
c. The end.
One always makes a journey for a reason. For Montfort, the reason for his journeys was of a personal one. He traveled in order to care for the souls of his brothers and sisters, especially the poor. His trips were made in the humble service of his neighbor (cf. H 22:1). He was moved by love of the Lord, who sent him. For Montfort love of neighbor was fused with the love of God Alone to become one Love, one source of energy and life. This was the unique religious character of our consecrated apostle. His consecrated chastity allowed him to separate from the world while his ascetical and contemplative life allowed him to reunite with those in it in loving service. This unselfish love is at the very root of Consecration. In Montforts writings, it is expressed in a very forceful way: "What, could I possibly see my dear brothers soul / perishing everywhere because of sin, / and not let my heart be touched by it? / No, Lord, no; it is too dear for that" (H 22:1). He wanted to go off to India, then to North America; but the Pope sent him back to his own country.
But that is not enough: he continued to sing: "I am a hunter of souls / for my Savior Jesus . . ." (H 91:2). "O my God, for your Gospel, / I want to suffer in town after town, / thousands of insults and evils. / If, by my life and the blood in my veins, / I can only destroy a single sin, / if I can touch only a single heart, / all my pains will be worth it." (H 22:13). This completes the "apostolic" portrait of a consecrated person.
4. Unity: missionary/spiritual leader
Montfort being first of all a missionary, he drew primarily from this experience in giving the Church a unique spirituality, one centered on an apostolic Wisdom. He gave us the means to live this spirituality, centered on total Consecration through Mary to Jesus. Louis Marie did not live two separate lives. His spirituality was one. How can we discover such a vital unity? First we must recall that Montfort saw Jesus, the One sent by the Father, through the eyes of those he sent in the Spirit, his apostles. St. Louis Maries spiritual writings reveal the unique way in which he contemplated Jesus in this missionary sense. We shall find there what some have called the descent of Wisdoms love towards men (LEW 65-71). For it is Wisdom, Jesus, who, "in his pursuit of man . . . hastens along the highways, or scales the loftiest mountain peaks, or waits at the city gates, or goes into the public squares and among the gatherings of people, proclaiming at the top of his voice, You children of men, it is you I have been calling so persistently; it is you I am addressing; it is you I desire and seek; it is you I am claiming" (LEW 66). Montfort entered into communion with the wishes of Wisdom. He saw his path to perfection in the same way as he saw his mission. It came from the Father, and was realized in Jesus, Gods Wisdom and Love for us. This is the root of his spirituality. He expresses this at the beginning of his Consecration: "I thank you for having emptied yourself" (LEW 223).
And at the center of this same movement, he discovered Mary. He then proclaimed this Credo: "It was through the Blessed Virgin Mary that Jesus came into the world, and it is also through her that he must reign in the world" (TD 1). Montfort consecrated himself to this apostolic life, and for it he took up his pen (cf. TD 110).
This corrects a too narrow view of his spirituality, one that ignores its missionary character by focusing on Montforts relationship to God and to Mary while excluding his basic bond to his brothers and sisters. How could one possibly enter into communion with Wisdom Incarnate without at the same time entering into His Love for human beings? How could Louis Marie consecrate himself to Jesus through Mary, without the Consecration being a fulfillment of his mission; one that conjoined total abandonment of all goods with missionary poverty; one that conjoined unconditional surrender and the slavery of love with apostolic obedience; one that conjoined sacrificial love with consecrated chastity; one that saw all of this as the crowning glory of Gods Kingdom? It is not surprising that all of Montforts spiritual writings lyrically echo the missionarys song: "God the Father wishes Mary to be the mother of his children until the end of time. . . . God the Son wishes to form himself, and, in a manner of speaking, become incarnate every day in his members through his dear Mother. . . . God the Holy Spirit wishes to fashion his chosen ones in and through Mary" (TD 29, 31, 34). It is indeed to this realization of Gods plan that the "apostles of the end times" are consecrated. For "they will be like thunder-clouds flying through the air at the slightest breath of the Holy Spirit. Attached to nothing . . . they will shower down the rain of Gods word and of eternal life. . . . They will be true apostles of the latter times to whom the Lord of Hosts will give eloquence and strength to work wonders and carry off glorious spoils from his enemies" (TD 57- 58). We discover "mission" to be at the very heart of Montforts spirituality.
5. PAUL OF TARSUS AND LOUIS MARIE DE MONTFORT
Finally, there is a personal affinity between Saint Paul and Montfort. They have many similarities.19 Both were itinerant missionaries, both had strong characters, and both had deep prayer lives. It would be easy to quote Saint Paul each time we speak of Montfort. It is clear that, of all the Apostles, Montfort calls Paul "the great Apostle" (LEW 12; RM 49), or "the great Saint Paul" (H 21:16). He is the apostle who had the greatest influence on him. Montfort quoted Saint Paul no less than 220 times in his writings. They most closely resemble each other in the great theological themes that were significant and common to them: their Christology (cf. TD 61); Wisdom (LEW 15); the Cross (LEW 168/1 Cor 1:18- 25); the renewal of baptismal vows (TD 126; RM 56/Eph 4:1; 23:4); the place of Mary at the very heart of the plan of salvation (TD 1/Gal 4:4- 5); total Consecration to God (TD 120-121/Rom 12:1); the world and its false wisdom (RM 38; LEW 198/Rom 12:2). But perhaps we should underline those similarities which are particularly "missionary" or "apostolic." Here are some traits in St. Pauls "self-portrait" of a missionary; in them we can easily recognize Montfort: ardor (Phil 3:12-14/PM 1-5; H 22:1, 31); faith (2 Tim 1:12; Rom 1:16/LCM 1-3; TD 59); strength and boldness (2 Tim 1:7-8/PM 22, 28, 29; TD 56-7); zeal for souls (1 Cor 9:19/H 91; H 21; L 5; H 115; LEW ch. 6; TD 112); the ministry of the Word (Col 1:25; 1 Cor 2, 4; 2 Tim 4:2; 1 Cor 9:16/RM 60-62; PE 22; LEW 95-7; H 2:42); struggle (Col 2:1/H 22:4, 4, 18, 32; H 32:31; L 24; L 26); trials (1 Cor 4:9; 2 Cor 4:8-11; 11:23-33/L 16; L 26; H 91:2; H 22:13); sufferings (Col 1:24/LEW 175); discipline (1 Cor 9:27/L 10; TD 80-81); attachment to Jesus Christ (Phil 1:21; Gal 2:20/H 103; H 126; H 135; TD 67); disinterestedness (1 Thess 2:4; 2:9; Phil 3:7-8/H 144; H 91; H 18); preference for the poor (1 Cor 1:26-27/L 6; H 91:22-23; H 144:20; RM 7); tenderness (Gal 4:19; 1 Cor 9:22; 1 Thess 2:7/H 22:1, 17; H 9:16, 18; H 14:1; LEW ch. 9); the humility of the servant (1 Cor 4:1; 1 Cor 15:9). These common traits suffice to illustrate how the term "Missionary Apostolic" was more than a title for Montfort. In the great tradition of Paul and the Apostles, this is what he really was. Montfort constantly leads us back to the wellsprings of the Church, to the great missionary themes that characterized the Church in world history. He takes us back so that we may recover some of the boldness and courage of the Churchs early years. He does this in order to assist us in recovering the true missionary spirit of our age. In pointing out our roots, he transcends the limitations of his time and remains forever present and relevant for all time.
Notes: (1) Blain, 12. (2) For what touches on the preceding period, cf. S. De Fiores, Itinerario. Concerning the relationship of Montfort to Olier-Bayün, cf. 145-151, 186-187, 198-200. (3) Ibid., 232. (4) Surins hymn (which finds an echo in H 91) begins thus: "I want to go and run about the world / where I shall live like a lost child. / I have a wanderers spirit / having given away my all. / It is all the same to me whether I live or die; / It is enough for me that Love stays with me." (5) It seems that this is the correct interpretation of the ad honorem title, according to the study made by E. Sastre Santos, Quaedam de «Missionarii Apostolici» titulo «ad honorem» noviter concessum, (Certain remarks on the title "Apostolic Missionary" a title "ad honrem" recently granted) in Commentarium pro religiosis et missionariis 63 (1982), 372- 386; 64 (1983), 170-185. (6) The letter of François Jagu, the rector of La Chèze, was published in H. Daniel, Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. Ce quil fut. Ce quil fit. (Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. Who he was. What he did.) Téqui, n.p. 1967, 148 and 437. (7) Besnard I, 248. (8) H. Daniel-Rops, Histoire de lÉglise du Christ, (History of the Church of Christ) A. Fayard, Paris 1958, 5/1:33O. (9) P. Eyckeler, Comment Montfort faisait-il faire la Consécration? (How did Montfort have the consecration made?) A qui Montfort faisait-il faire la Consécration? (Who did Montfort have make the Consecration?) Aides danimation montfortaine 4, duplicated. (10) Concerning his illnesses, Grandet says that the saint, on his return from Rome, had a face "full of spots" (124); that with his heart of iron where penances were concerned, he fainted one day (43); and that he often suffered from colic, pain in the side, and headaches that were so bad that he could not open his eyes (372). Grandet describes the major illness he suffered in La Rochelle (372) and lastly his mortal sickness at Saint-Laurent, which lasted seven days (259-260). (11) L. Pérouas, Grignion de Montfort, les pauvres, les missions, Cerf, Paris 1966, 84-85. (12) Blain, 185-190. Cf. S. De Fiores, Itinerario, 172-183, 268-275. (13) Grandet, 101. (14) The Montfortian Today, Rome 1984, nos. 46-48. (15) Blain, 187-189. (16) This religious lifestyle of Institutes "consecrated to the apostolate" was recognized as such by the Church in a text of the Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, Essential Elements of the Churchs Teaching on the Religious Life, Applied to Institutes Consecrated to the Apostolate, Vatican 1983. (17) Blain, 187- 189. (18) Pope Clement XI said to Montfort, "Always work with a perfect submission to the bishops of the dioceses where you are called, and God will bless your labors in this way" (Grandet, 100). (19) A. Valentini, Ma vie cest une course, (My life is a race) in DM 1 (1986), 1-20.
Taken from: Jesus Living in Mary: Handbook of the Spirituality of St.
Louis de Montfort (Litchfield, CT: Montfort Publications, 1994).
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