Author: St. Louis de Montfort




I. The Bible in Montfort’s time: 1. The Council of Trent: a. Authority of the Vulgate, b. Vernacular languages, c. Preaching of Scripture; 2. Exegesis after the Council of Trent: a. The debates, b. Spiritual writers and the Bible. II. Montfort and the Bible 1. In his life; 2. In his writings: a. The Love of Eternal Wisdom, b. The Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin and The Secret of Mary, c. The trilogy: Prayer for Missionaries, Rule of the Missionary Priests of the Company of Mary, Letter to the Members of the Company, d. Letter to the Friends of the Cross, e. The Secret of the Rosary for renewal and salvation, f. The Book of Sermons. III. Conclusion

The Bible is, first of all, the text that Christians call the Old Testament and the New Testament. How did the text stand in Montfort’s day? How much did it influence not only theologians and exegetes, pastors and preachers, but also the people of God? The answers to these questions necessarily involve a study of the history of the period in question. For the believer, however, the text of the Bible is more than just a text. It was given by Another and is received as the Word of God; it offers a dialogue and calls for a response. This is indeed its most important feature. Are the many Scripture quotations in Montfort’s writings conducive to maintaining this dialogue? We will attempt to answer this question by analyzing his writings.


In order to understand Montfort’s attitude to the Bible as a preacher and spiritual writer, it is necessary to examine briefly the situation of contemporary French Catholicism with reference to the Bible.

1. The Council of Trent

The influence of the Council of Trent (1545-1563)—or, rather, the influence of the Counter-Reformation (from 1550 to the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648)—was still very much alive in France. A dominant concern of Church authorities was their opposition to the practices of the Reformed Church. The Protestant doctrines were often interpreted as a misreading of the Bible. Consequently, reading the Bible was seen as a mark of the "heretics." Nicolas Boileau (1636-1711), who was practically a contemporary of Montfort’s, sums up the general sentiment in his "Satire XII sur l’Equivoque":

Then, rejecting all visible authority, each person was supposed to be an infallible judge of the faith, and, though not approved by the Rome authorities, each Protestant set himself up as a Pope with a Bible in his hand. The expression "with a Bible in his hand reflects the passionate debate that took place. We will now look at some of its characteristics and try to ascertain Montfort’s position.

a. Authority of the Vulgate.

It was mainly in the first period of the council (1545-1547) that the Fathers dealt with the theme of the Bible. They had focused their attention on four issues: the transmission of the Word of God through both Scripture and Tradition, the canonicity of Scripture, the status of the Vulgate, and the teaching and preaching of Scripture. All the discussions were colored by the diffuse but permanent background of the Protestant insistence on Scriptura sola. Many of the misuses, however, that had been made of Scripture seemed to be due to the fact that there was no official version of it. Several editions claiming to correct the mistakes made in the version of the Vulgate attributed to Saint Jerome were then in circulation, and this only added to the confusion. The Council Fathers decided to take action. While calling for a more accurate version of the "received" texts translated from the Latin, the Greek, and the Hebrew, they declared that the Vulgate, which had been used for centuries with the approbation of the Church, was to be regarded as "authentic in public lessons, discussions, sermons, and explanations." Authentic did not mean inspired or without faults but, rather, that no heresies had been found in it, as was the case for some recent versions. By itself the word authentic as used in the 1546 decree had a limited meaning. The meaning would be extended later on and become synonymous with "subject to absolute monopoly."1 This was to be the authoritative version in the Roman Catholic Church. Obviously, it was the one frequently quoted by Montfort in his writings, sometimes in Latin, even though his readers had no knowledge of the language.

b. Vernacular languages.

According to the Catholic authorities, not all versions of the Bible were suitable for reading, nor was everybody qualified to read it. If it was not read properly, it gave rise to all sorts of disorders. As a result, some bishops declared that it should not be made available to everyone. Others, who were in charge of areas coming under Protestant influence, opposed such bans on the basis that in his own time Christ spoke to the people in their own tongue and never used a scholarly language. The debate got bogged down, and the Council Fathers were unable to work out a common policy on the reading of the Bible in the vernacular.

They did, however, take a stand on another issue. At that time Indexes, or systematic lists of prohibited books, began to appear. The first of them was that published by the Sorbonne in 1544. The lists contained many translations of the Bible into the vernacular. The Roman Index, which was decided upon at the Council, was published by Paul IV in 1564. It was, however, prefaced by a series of rules, the fourth of which stated that the possession and reading of a book of the Bible was subject to prior approval by the bishop or inquisitor after consultation with the parish priest or confessor. Rule IV was made stricter under Sixtus V in 1590, then under Clement VIII in 1596, who made permission obtainable from the Holy See only. Rule IV was relaxed later, but it still prefaced every updated list of the books that Catholics were prohibited from reading, and it certainly acted as a deterrent.2 But certain events promoted the reading of the Bible by laypeople in France. Port-Royal claimed not only that laypeople had the right to read the Bible but that it was a moral obligation, a duty of state for them to do so. Reading the New Testament and other sacred books was regarded as an obligation inherent in the very status of Christians. In the very fine preface to the Nouveau Testament "of Mons" published in 1667, Le Maistre de Sacy says that one should prepare for reception of the Eucharist by reading Scripture, in imitation of Jesus who prepared the disciples for the meal at Emmaus "by setting them aflame with love of his Word." It is in this perspective that the huge efforts made by Port-Royal to translate the sacred texts should be seen. From 1672 to 1693, Port-Royal worked on and published the Bible of the "Messieurs de Port-Royal," as Richard Simon called it. It became known mainly as the Bible "of Sacy." This was the version read by ordinary people and the one which Montfort used.

Finally, we would like to draw attention to a little-known event that had a strong impact on the French Church a few years before Montfort began his apostolic ministry. After the Edict of Nantes had been revoked in 1685, over a million books were distributed to "newly converted" laypeople on the initiative of the Church authorities (Harlay, P. de la Chaise, Pellisson). Half these books were copies of the New Testament by P. Amelote, the Psalms, and the Imitation of Jesus Christ.3 No copies of the Old Testament were distributed. The Catholic Church had no official translation of the Bible in French, and the de Sacy version was not completed until 1693. This initiative, which was running more or less contrary to the Tridentine prescriptions and to the rules laid down by Rome in the Index, was more fraught with consequences than was suspected at the time. The distribution of books was designed to restore the balance between clerics, who alone had access to the sacred and inspired texts in Latin, and laypeople, who were only able to receive oral instruction in the truths of the faith through sermons, spiritual direction, and confession and were therefore dependent on clerics. In contrast to the traditional Church, which fostered more emotional "popular" devotions, as more suitable for laypeople, this pastoral initiative promoting the written word heralded a new Church, more intellectual, more individual, which, as a natural consequence, was to become more critical. Be that as it may, the distribution of books was a fait accompli, and from then on French laypeople had free access to the texts distributed to the "newly converted." It does appear that the Christians whom Montfort was dealing with in his missions had access to Scripture, directly if they could read, or indirectly through the medium of close relatives who read and explained it to them if they could not read. We know that Montfort always fostered popular devotions. In one of the hymns sung in his missions, however, he gives us a hint of his way of thinking concerning the reading of Scripture: "Besides Scripture / I read devotional books / Propounding pure doctrine / Inspired by love" (H 139:56). Le Maistre de Sacy and the Messieurs of Port-Royal would have been at ease in his company. Though he mentions devotional books, Scripture does come first.

c. Preaching of Scripture.

The Council of Trent also drew up a decree on the preaching and teaching of the Bible. The first draft of the decree was the object of long discussions, and the last chapter gave a description of the ideal preacher, who is to be guided by love of the truth and fidelity to Scripture. Was this text thought too spiritual for inclusion in a decree on discipline? As it was not included, was it widely known? Had Montfort heard about it? All that he says about "preaching with the inspiration of an apostle" in RM 60-65 might have been inspired by this text. Even the equivalent of what he says about gentleness (RM 65) can be found in it. And the passage about the servants of the Virgin Mary who "bay like your watchdogs" in PM 12 closely resembles the exhortation in the draft of the decree: "In order not to appear as if they were dumb dogs that cannot bark (Isa 56:10) and connive with the wolves, let them teach the truth and also refute the heresies."4 In the preface to his Introduction à l’Écriture Sainte (Lyon 1699), Bernard Lamy points out the close link between preaching and the study of Scripture: "As a result [of the ignorance of Scripture], we have numberless ranters in our pulpits who do not deserve to be called preachers of the Word of God, as they seldom quote Scripture. They begin their sermons with a promise to explain Scripture, but the purpose of what they say afterwards is to delight the ears and minds of their audience with elegant turns of phrase and lofty-sounding ideas. They thus deprive the people of solid nourishment and leave them in ignorance of the science of salvation. Such so-called preachers are all the more to blame for neglecting Scripture as, unlike any other source, its wealth is inexhaustible."5 A quick look at Father de Montfort’s Book of Sermons6 is enough to reveal that in him Scripture and preaching are bound up together. This thick manuscript contains a large number of plans of sermons and lectures, but it does not give the texts of the actual sermons; it is, however, revealing of the ideas and of the probable content of his preaching. Montfort worked out his plans and summaries on the basis of a collection of sermons commercially available in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. These sermons gave many quotations from Scripture and the Church Fathers. Clearly, they were not homilies and had no bearings on the texts used in the liturgy.7 They were talks on doctrine and of a very didactic nature; their purpose was to convince, and the quotations from Scripture or the Fathers, which were used out of context, were meant to prove the preacher’s assertions. This is what Montfort did. He did not read Scripture for its own sake but geared it to his apostolic activity. As shown by the "order of sermons" for missions and retreats, which also gives the sermon-matter (LS 330-333), his activity was governed by his concern for teaching, and this did not foster a desire to read Scripture for its own sake. Having said that, Scripture remained the basis of his preaching, and it runs through his Book of Sermons together with comments by the Church Fathers.

2. Exegesis after the Council of Trent

a. The debates:

(1.) Unanimous consent of the Fathers. Naturally enough, the council took the view opposite to that of the Reformation on the subject of interpreting Scripture. The Protestant view is that each Christian can and may read and interpret Holy Scripture freely without reference to the Church or her teaching. The council took the view that the faith community that is the Church has a part to play when it comes to the reading of Scripture by believers. In order to keep "certain rebellious minds" within limits, the council decided that no one was to "rely on his own judgment and interpret Scripture contrary to the view that our Holy Mother the Church has held in the past and is holding now, and no one is to interpret Holy Scripture against the unanimous consent of the Fathers.8

The latter point was to become a rule for Catholic exegetes. The title that Le Maistre de Sacy gave to his Bible, Sainte Bible traduite en français avec une explication tirée des SS. Pères et des Auteurs ecclésiastiques, conformed entirely to the rule. In the preface to Introduction à l’Ecriture Sainte, Bernard Lamy of the Oratory, while a confrère of Richard Simon’s and very keen to resort to the vernacular "to understand Scripture perfectly," cites the example of the Fathers, "who have handed on to us the books of Scripture as well as their true interpretation. They did not abandon the headspring to follow the course of the streams; they drew on Scripture for their devastating arguments that destroyed the heresies, and for the heavenly food that they gave to the Church for her nourishment."9

Did Montfort know about Lamy’s handbook? In any case, he shares the views it expresses. He, too, turns to Scripture frequently in order to defeat heresy and draws on it as on a storehouse of arguments. But he does not confine himself to Scripture. For him, as for the council, the Spirit promised to the Church also speaks through Tradition, "through the Fathers of the Church" (TD 262). Whenever he wants to establish some point of doctrine on a solid basis to refute the freethinkers, he resorts to Scripture and the Church Fathers (cf. TD 25, 26, 32, 40, 41, 75, 93, 94, 130, 131, 141, 184, 185, 262, 264). This means that he had carefully read the books themselves or collections of quotations; he may have done this at Saint-Sulpice after he had been given the job of "looking after the library."10 In any case, he knew them and was able to quote passages from them in Latin (TD 26)!

(2.) The "new critics".

Bossuet had the first edition of Richard Simon’s Histoire critique du Vieux Testament seized and withdrawn from circulation in April 1678. This triggered off a controversy between the "critics" and those in favor of traditional exegesis, who relied mainly on the Church Fathers. The controversy centered, however, around Richard Simon and Bossuet, and it turned out to be an uneven contest. Bossuet was then at the apex of his career and was very influential. Richard Simon had to fight him single-handedly, although a letter from Bossuet mentions "a cabal of false critics headed by him [Simon] whose purpose is to destroy the authority of the Church Fathers and of the decisions of the Church."11 What Simon says is "a strange historical exaggeration or the result of a singular mistake that we have to presume genuine."12 Simon was fighting on his own, with no followers, no backing, and no allies. Bossuet continued the fight unremittingly, even after his death in 1704, for his posthumous works appeared in 1753, and one of them was Défense de la Tradition et des Saints Pères. Right from the preface, Bossuet attacks Simon violently: "We must no longer allow the new critics to attack the doctrine of the Fathers and the tradition of the churches." He places him among the priests who "share their views [the heretics’] and raise within the Church the standard of revolt against the Church Fathers." He makes Simon out to be a man who "glories in being a critic, that is to say, in weighing words in the scales of grammar" and "believes he can impose his views and settle questions of faith and theology by referring to Greek and Hebrew, which he is proud to quote. . . . What he is learning very well is how to esteem the heretics and to run down all the Church Fathers without exception, even those he pretends to praise."13 This is a harsh judgment, which has been handed on down the ages until very recently; although Simon had faults, we must not forget that he worked out and pioneered textual criticism, and in his time he was the only one "who had envisaged the path along which the Church was to walk three centuries later."14

The controversy eventually spread to the general public. An ordinance dated September 29, 1702 condemned Richard Simon’s translation of Nouveau Testament de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ, published at Trévoux in 1701, and prohibited on pain of excommunication all the faithful, "clerics and others, from reading or possessing a copy of the book." The ordinance was to be read and distributed by preachers, parish priests, and curates and posted up "wherever appropriate, so that no one could plead ignorance." In this ordinance, Bossuet stressed the fact that Critique du Vieux Testament15 had been condemned previously. In Paris the ordinance of Cardinal de Noailles, which condemned Simon’s version, on sale everywhere even in Paris,16 was read out in the churches on Sunday, September 24, 1702. We can safely assume that the stir was still greater in theological circles. All who were interested in the Bible must have followed the controversy closely. Simon was censured by doctors in theology and professors from the Sorbonne. The controversy may have been kept out of the classes held there, but it must have had some effect on the teaching. As the theologians teaching at the Sorbonne did not deviate from scholastic theology, they must have given a cool reception to those whom Bossuet described as the "new critics."

When he was studying theology, or at any rate as a young priest, Montfort must have heard echoes of the controversy. In September 1702, when the ordinance of Cardinal de Noailles became public, he may have been in Paris looking after his sister Guyonne-Jeanne.17 He had attended lectures at the Sorbonne from 1692 to 1695. Later on, at the "Little Seminary" of Saint-Sulpice, he may have attended the evening tutorials bearing on the lectures given during the day. His director, Fr. Leschassier, was reportedly "dean of the doctors at the Sorbonne."18 Montfort defended a thesis on the question of grace, which was particularly delicate at that time, and he won the day by quoting "long passages from Saint Augustine and other Fathers of the Church in order to explain those which had been quoted at him."19 This shows that he knew about the controversy. Should we repeat what Le Crom said, "From his lonely retreat Montfort was following the debates"?20 What is undeniable, in any case, is that the term "critic," which was introduced into Catholic literary circles by Richard Simon,21 was used by Montfort with the negative connotation that Bossuet had attached to it. Montfort applied it to the proud and self-important adversaries of "the devotion" he was promoting (TD 162, 167, 180, 226, 245). He puts critics into the category of "evil men" (TD 162) and "worldlings" (TD 226). When he uses it the word is synonymous with "proud scholars" (TD 26, 65, 93) and "haughty" (TD 245), "people of independent and self-satisfied minds" (TD 26, 93, 245). Montfort appears to side with Bossuet, who wrote in 1703, "Nothing is so contrary to the spirit of the early Christians as the spirit of modern critics."22

(3.) Literal meaning and prophetic meaning.

Who was right? A small book, Règles pour l’intelligence des Stes. Ecritures, was published in 1716, the year of Montfort’s death. The author remained nameless, but it was attributed to Jacques-Joseph Duguet, and it may throw some light on the question. The book, obviously, did not influence Montfort, but it gives principles that may help to explain his use of Scripture. Duguet maintains that we "always begin by establishing the literal meaning" (p. 13), which he calls immediate and which is "the meaning in history" (p. 14). But he strongly recommends looking for a second meaning, which he calls prophetic, that is to say, Christological, which gives unity and consistence to the whole of Scripture. Right from the first page, the principle, for its understanding is clearly set out: "Jesus Christ is the end of the law . . . and we cannot understand Scripture . . . unless we see him present in all of it." In contrast to those interpreting Scripture by means of allegories and to those, like Richard Simon, who interpret it literally, Duguet suggests a middle-of-the-road approach. He illustrates it with a comparison of a lute or zither, which he borrowed from Saint Augustine and which de Sacy23 had used, and a comparison of the parable. "Although the whole of Scripture is centered around Jesus Christ, each of its parts does not tell us all about him; just like the whole of a parable is designed for a purpose, or main object, though not every detail is immediately relevant to the end. . . . Not every part of a lute produces harmonious sounds, but each of them is necessary for their production. According to Saint Augustine, it is the same for Scripture. The whole of it resounds with the name and mysteries of Jesus Christ, though not each individual part does. . . . We cannot expect each part to resound, but they all play a part in the overall effect"24 (pp. 24-26). After all, this was an intelligent way to repeat the basic principle of the exegesis of the Church Fathers.

In the Middle Ages the traditional doctrine of the Church Fathers had been set out in the theory of the four meanings: Littera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria, Moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia.25 In the literal sense, the biblical account reports the "facts" of history. The other three senses are derived from it and help to understand the spiritual meaning. The allegorical sense reveals the hidden mystery of history, its saving dimension. The moral sense is the sense that Scripture has with reference to the spiritual life of Christians. In 1 Cor 10:6 Saint Paul speaks of the time that Israel spent in the desert and says, "These events happened as warnings to us not to set our desires on evil things as they did." Here Paul is referring to the historical events and not to the text of the Bible as such. But the biblical passage giving an account of the events takes on a paraenetic meaning26 for us. The term used nowadays would be hermeneutics, or the meaning of the text as applied to us, in contrast to exegesis, which is concerned with the meaning of the text at the time of writing. It was on this typological sense that spiritual writers, including Montfort, preferred to concentrate. Finally, anagogy opens vistas on the future through hope. This typological interpretation flows directly from the Christ-centeredness of Revelation. Christ makes it possible to interpret the whole of Scripture in that way.

b. Spiritual writers and the Bible.

In the late seventeenth century, exegesis was already largely concerned with the spiritual meaning of Scripture. In order, however, to understand Montfort’s use of Scripture, we have to move from the tradition of the exegetes to that of the mystics and spiritual writers. For the mystics link their experience to the Word of God, by which they do not necessarily mean the biblical word. According to Saint John of the Cross, "The Father has uttered only one word, and this word was his Son; he still utters it in eternal silence, and it is in silence that the soul should listen to it."27 In this silence, communication between God and the soul can be established, and the soul is given understanding of the mysteries of Christ. For this access to God is equivalent to an access to the Wisdom of God, Wisdom that ruled over the mysteries of salvation and their account in the Bible. For John of the Cross, the Cross of Jesus is where all the Wisdom of God is hidden, and Montfort would have agreed with him when he wrote: "The soul really desirous of Wisdom should first of all desire to enter more deeply into the mystery of the Cross, which is the way to life."28 And the Cross, from which all mystical experiences originate, is also the key to the understanding of Scripture. "When Christ said on the Cross, ‘All is accomplished,’ and died, all the modes [of Revelation of the Old Covenant] ceased to exist, and along with them the ceremonies and rites of the Old Law."29 It has been justly said, "Only the cry of Jesus on the Cross is univocal and admits of no allegory; the rest of the Bible and of authentic tradition is to be interpreted spiritually as the echo of that cry throughout the history of Revelation."30 The mystics therefore do not confine themselves to the literal meaning of the Bible. They interpret it spiritually and find in it the Spirit whom they experience in their loving encounter with God. Their hermeneutics are spiritual and inspired by love. They realize that Scripture is meant for them personally, and they read it to increase their love of God. Montfort was one of them. He was not an exegete but a spiritual writer. Though his knowledge of Scripture was extensive, his reading of it was not scholarly but spiritual. This reading was part of his ardent quest for Wisdom. What mattered to him were not only the literal meaning of Scripture but the history of salvation that the text reveals and that is to be repeated today in terms of the discovery of Wisdom. . . . It is Wisdom, whom he identifies with Christ, that he discerns, senses, and recognizes in mere hints throughout Scripture. His reading is therefore not only prophetic and Christological but fully mystical. He did not question that Esau, Jacob, and Rebecca really lived in the days of old or that Jacob foreshadows Christ, and Rebecca, Mary, but he also believed that the story was handed down to us only to help our progress in the spiritual life. This is illustrated again by his reading of the Psalms in PM and by his reading of the Wisdom texts, which he construes as referring to Jesus and Mary throughout.

We will therefore leave critical reason behind—the exegete Richard Simon would probably not have gone along with Montfort and his "mystical fantasies"—and move into the higher sphere of prayer. It must be fairly obvious that the spiritual interpretation of Scripture is rooted in lectio divina, which belongs to the patristic and monastic tradition. Lectio divina is essentially reading in the Spirit, which is different from exegesis and from hermeneutics proper; nor does it consist in using Scripture for theological or homiletic purposes. It is "reading Scripture peacefully for its own sake, making the necessary efforts to reflect on it, meditatio, and being thus led as if naturally to prayer, oratio."31 In this sort of reading, the Holy Spirit is at work and presides over the inner confrontation between the Word and the heart that turns the reading into a real prayer.

Let us not dismiss mystical reading too hastily. It might tie in with the recent concern generated by the advances of the linguistic sciences, which have implications even for exegesis. Reading has now come under close investigation. What happens in the act of reading? How does the reader relate to the text and secretly connive with it? The text is not unconnected with the reader’s subjective commitment. In its very essence, it contains propositions, injunctions, and requires to be read in a particular way. This is particularly true of the biblical text, which can be called Scripture, insofar as it is a life-giving text that therefore requires to be read in faith in order to lead to a personal commitment and an increase in life. "Those written [signs] have been recorded in order that you may believe . . . and that through this faith you may have life" (Jn 20:31).

In other words, the Bible is not just a text. Through it we hear the voice of Another. It is a living Word, an offer of dialogue. If I read it properly, I cannot but be challenged by the Word. If the dialogue part of it is left out, then the explanation of the Bible is incomplete. Should not the metalanguage of the believing exegete aim at preserving the dialogic role of the biblical text so that what is said about a biblical text makes it possible to hear the Word of the Spouse, the living word of a loving God? In this sense, should not the literal meaning, the meaning as expressed at the time of writing, take on a spiritual, mystical meaning relevant to our present-day relationship with God? This is, at any rate, the way spiritual writers read Scripture, and it is also on this basis that Montfort’s scriptural interpretations should be considered.


1. In his life

In order to determine how largely the Bible figured in Montfort’s life, we could call to mind the picture, now traditional in Montfort circles, of the wayfarer described by Grandet: "completely confident in divine Providence, carrying around with him a copy of the Holy Bible, his breviary, a crucifix, his rosary, a small statue of the Blessed Virgin, and with a staff in his hand" (p. 96, 478). We could also use Besnard’s description of Montfort’s furniture when he was staying on rue du Pot de Fer in Paris: "A shabby bed, an earthenware pot, a breviary, a book of the Bible, a crucifix, a picture of the Blessed Virgin, a rosary, his instruments of penitence, constituted all his furniture" (IV, p. 62). To his friend, who was reproaching him for his conduct and his ways, Montfort "showed his New Testament" (Blain, p. 185). Did he always carry it around with him, as Fr. Tronson, whom he had known at Saint-Sulpice, had recommended?32 He made a point of copying in his "Notebook" (p.310) a passage from Vie de Mr. de Renty in which Saint-Jure says that towards the end of his life this holy man "only read the New Testament, which he always carried around with him." If Montfort did the same, it would give an extra outward indication of the importance that he attached to the Bible in his personal life.

In his apostolate, the Bible as a book was part of the apparatus he used during his missions. Besnard says that at Villiers-en-Plaine, in February 1716, "he took the book of the Holy Bible, which was very well bound, and had it carried under the canopy to the local church where the mission began that day" (V, 138). It was a bold way to emphasize the "real presence" of the Word of God, which would be the subject of his preaching during the mission. During the procession, which took place on the occasion of the "renewal of the Baptismal promises" during the mission, he gave pride of place to the book of the Gospel, which was carried in solemnity by a deacon, then venerated by the faithful; he "knelt down before taking it, then rising held it against his chest and preached so eloquently that all his audience burst into tears" (Grandet, 411). The whole performance was designed to highlight the Word of God at the expense of the one preaching it.

It is, however, his spiritual writings that best reveal to what extent Montfort turned to the Word of God for his nourishment.

2. In his writings

a. The Love of Eternal Wisdom.

Of all his books, this is the most biblical and the most faithful to the biblical text. He did not use Scripture just to support a doctrine he had put forward previously. His starting point is the Book of Wisdom itself, which inspires the theological views he propounds and almost suggests the plan of his book. In this respect, Montfort is unique, as there are no other spiritual writers "who have based their teaching, as Montfort did, on this small Old Testament book written in Greek."33

(1.) The Book of Wisdom.

Montfort keeps very close to the biblical text of the Book of Wisdom. He does not refrain from quoting whole chapters34 from it; most importantly, he closely adheres to its internal development. The Book of Wisdom is generally divided into the main parts: chapters 1 to 6, chapters 7 to 9, and chapters 10 to 19, in accordance with the literary genre of the book. The Book of Wisdom belongs to the Greek genre called eulogy or encomium, which is designed to "arouse admiration for a person and a desire to imitate him or to practice one of his particular virtues or qualities."35 After the introduction, or exordium, Wis 6:24 [22]36 gives the plan of the rest of the book: "I will tell you what wisdom is and how she came to be, and I will hide no secrets from you, but I will trace her course from the beginning of creation." The eulogy is to be about the nature of Wisdom, her origin, and her works. Montfort follows this plan fairly closely and examines each of these points. He tells us about the origin and nature of Wisdom (ch. 2, 5-7), then he considers her works in creation (ch. 3) and throughout the Old Testament (ch. 4 and 8). Although Montfort goes beyond the scope of the Book of Wisdom by dealing at length with the Incarnation, he is still on the same track in considering the last chapter in the long history of salvation. He returns to the subject when dealing with the first two means to acquire Wisdom (desire and prayer), which are crowned with the Prayer of Solomon (ch. 15). But "to be then in some way wiser than Solomon" (LEW 221), he adds two further means: mortification, which is linked to the Cross of Christ, and devotion to Mary, who in the Incarnation had become "mistress of divine Wisdom" (LEW 205). It is clear that Montfort not only drew his inspiration from the Book of Wisdom but, by going beyond its scope and applying it to Christian living, also showed that he had fully grasped its implications.

Although the Book of Wisdom was Montfort’s main source of inspiration and the general framework, as it were, of the rest of his writings, he drew on other sources as well. In this small book he seems to have tapped the current of Wisdom, and he quotes and comments on the main passages. He lays special emphasis on the well-known passages in which Wisdom is personified: he paraphrases chapter 8 of the Book of Wisdom (LEW 18, 32, 47, 66-68) and quotes the whole of chapter 24 of Sirach (LEW 20-28) . Besides, all the quotations and allusions referring to the Old Testament (more than 250 of them) bear on the theme of Wisdom. Even the passages from the New Testament are given a Wisdom tint and become Utterances of Wisdom Incarnate. The 72 utterances in chapter 12, which Montfort quotes without any comments or additions of any sort, sound as if they were spoken by Jesus, the teacher of Wisdom.37 Montfort vanishes, as he does on several occasions, because he does not wish, as he puts it, "to mingle my poor words with the inspired words of the Holy Spirit" (LEW 5) or with the words of Wisdom (LEW 20). He thus allows the Gospel message to come through with its full force, as he did when summing it up in The Wisdom Cross of Poitiers.38 He acted in the same way when he held up the book of the Gospel in front of the congregation during the ceremony of the renewal of the Baptismal promises and when the book lay wide open while those renewing their Baptismal vows and promises39 were signing their covenant with God.

Although he drew largely on the Bible, Montfort’s LEW remains his own work. He has woven scriptural quotations into it, but he is responsible for the arrangement of the warp and woof. He is a real writer, an author whose work is coherent and consistent throughout.

2. His interpretation.

Montfort read the Book of Wisdom in the light of its becoming a reality in Jesus Christ. He read it with Christ in mind and in terms of the economy of the salvation history, which ends with the Cross, summit of the Love of Eternal Wisdom. In all Wisdom texts, Montfort saw Christ, Incarnate Wisdom, as a backdrop. He was fully aware that the word "wisdom" has several meanings. At the beginning of the book and somewhat in the manner of a teacher, he sets out the subject matter and defines the terms and the plan he is going to follow. He distinguishes true wisdom from false wisdom, natural wisdom from supernatural wisdom; then he divides supernatural wisdom into created wisdom, which is the gift of wisdom, "the communication that uncreated Wisdom makes of himself to humankind," and substantial or uncreated Wisdom, i.e. "the Son of God, the second person of the most Blessed Trinity. In other words, it is Eternal Wisdom in eternity or Jesus Christ in time." To make his subject matter perfectly clear, he adds, "It is precisely about this Eternal Wisdom that we are going to speak" (LEW 13). Nothing could be clearer than this.

Montfort is able to reread the Wisdom texts of the Old Testament in this light because he has fully realized that salvation history cannot be split up. The New Testament helps him to understand the Old, and the Old enables him to better understand the spiritual realities of the New. He does not discuss the unity of the two Testaments, nor does he attempt to establish it. It is obvious to him. The identification of Wisdom with Jesus Christ, which is confirmed in the New Testament (cf. 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:15-20; Heb 1:3; Jn 1:3),40 sheds light after the event on the Wisdom texts of the Old Testament, especially on those in which Wisdom is personified. Montfort does not, however, level everything. He respects the stages in salvation history: the divine origin of Eternal Wisdom (ch. 2), the creation of the world and of man, followed by sin (ch. 3), Wisdom in the Old Covenant (ch. 4-6), the Incarnation and the life of Jesus (ch. 9-12), finally the Cross, which the "laws" of love make inevitable (LEW 168; ch. 13-14).

He acknowledges, however, that the same Spirit inspired both the New and the Old Testaments.41 It can therefore be said that his exegesis of the Wisdom texts is a spiritual one. Some might say that his is an allegorical exegesis in the manner of the Church Fathers and in the strict etymological sense of the word "allegory, i.e., to say something more. It has indeed been pointed out that ‘something more’ is said of Wisdom when it is another name for Jesus Christ; and something more is said of Christ when looked at under the appearance of Wisdom."42 But Montfort was not a professional exegete. His purpose was not to explain or comment on the original ancient texts. What he was seeking in them was the Word and what the Word was now saying to the believer. Montfort was a spiritual writer who lived and wanted others to live a spiritual, mystical experience, enabling them to "have experiential knowledge of the depths of God"43 and making possible "the communication that uncreated Wisdom makes to humankind" (LEW 13). His listeners were those who "loved perfection and sought to realize their divine destiny" (LEW 14 ).The word "spiritual," as used in the present context, does not refer to the description of a technical scriptural meaning corresponding to a literal meaning, although this is the case where Wisdom is identified with Jesus Christ, but to an interpretation that may be useful in the spiritual life.

By reading Scripture in this way, Montfort respects the meaning that the Holy Spirit wanted it to convey. However, can it be maintained that he interprets it faithfully when he identifies Wisdom with the Cross and applies certain Wisdom passages to the Virgin Mary?

Everything that Montfort says about the Cross and universal mortification as a means to acquire Wisdom would be meaningless if no reference were made to Christ. It is because God, in his desire to save humankind, rejected the way of power and chose instead the way of love that the Cross, which is folly to men, has become the Wisdom of God. Montfort can therefore boldly assert: "In all truth . . . Wisdom is the Cross and the Cross is Wisdom" (LEW 180). When he applies to the Cross "Hanc amavi a juventute mea" ("I loved her from my youth") (Wis 8:2) (LEW 169), he admittedly44 adapts, reading the passage from the Book of Wisdom out of context. Basically, however, he takes the biblical and spiritual logic to its conclusion for the overall Christological interpretation that is sanctioned by the New Testament. We notice something similar with the Blessed Virgin. It is by virtue of the mystery of the Incarnation and of her being the Mother of Christ that Mary, "miracle of Eternal Wisdom" (LEW 106), became "mistress of divine Wisdom" (LEW 205). This mystery enables Montfort to recognize Mary as the dwelling place Wisdom built for herself (Prov 9:1; cf. LEW 105), and he is justified in calling her the "throne of Eternal Wisdom" (LEW 208). Here again, the boldness of Montfort the spiritual writer is tempered by Montfort the theologian: "Not that she is above him who is truly God, or even equal to him. To think or say such a thing would be blasphemous" (LEW 205). He does say that Mary is wise (LEW 22), but it is Jesus and not his mother who is Wisdom.

Having thus established a solid foundation, we must admit that following in this the liturgical tradition,45 Montfort does assimilate Mary with Wisdom, and Wisdom with Mary. In LEW 206, the pronoun "she" used in one sentence does not clearly refer to either Mary or to Wisdom. If it is indeed Wisdom who "loves those who love her" (Prov 8:17) and who, possibly, "shares her blessings with them," in "Jesus, the fruit of her womb," the adjective "her" can only refer to Mary. What is more, in TD 175, 201, Montfort applies to Mary the quotation from Prov 8:17, but in SR 5246 he quotes the same passage and refers it to Jesus and Mary. In LEW 207 Mary is distinct from Wisdom, since "she has given us incarnate Wisdom, Jesus her Son," but it is Mary that "is ever on the look-out for those who are worthy of Wisdom," just as Wisdom is (Wis 6:16). Most importantly, it is to Mary that Montfort applies the well-known passage from Sirach 24:13: "God has decreed that Mary should dwell in Jacob, make Israel her inheritance and place her roots in his elect and predestinate" (LEW 213), but the same passage in LEW 23 retains its literal meaning.47 Similarly, the ways to keep (Prov 8:32) refer to those of Wisdom in LEW 68 but to those of Mary in LEW 212. Mary is not to be identified with Wisdom for all that, for in adding that then "we shall . . . easily and in a short time possess divine Wisdom," the distinction is being made perfectly clear. Nevertheless, when referring to Wisdom and Mary, Montfort shifts from one to the other easily, and he uses such subtle changes of meaning that they are sometimes imperceptible. Let us note, however, that whatever he says about Mary is only included because of its relevance to Jesus Wisdom. Montfort’s interpretation becomes clear when considered within the overall context of the economy of salvation, in which Mary is the mother and mistress of Divine Wisdom because "the Son God, Eternal Wisdom" (LEW 205) chose to make himself subject to her.

This type of reading, called mystical, has been used by the saints down the ages. It follows from their spiritual experience. When Saint John of the Cross describes the Cross as the starting point of all spiritual experience and the key to the understanding of Scripture, what he says fits in perfectly with The Love of Eternal Wisdom. Without revealing any personal secrets, Montfort, who frequently uses the first person singular,48 shares his personal experience. LEW reflects his own life, sufferings, prayer, and encounter with God. We only need to read his letters to realize this. In Letters 15 and 16, which were probably written in 1703, he shows that he is sighing "night and day" for Wisdom, whom he is hoping to obtain through the Cross and prayer. In Letter 20, addressed to his mother in 1704, he uses the mystical theme of spiritual marriage to describe his bond with Wisdom: "In my new family—the one I belong to now—I have chosen to be wedded to Wisdom and the Cross for in these I find every good." This makes the parallel clear.

In the same Letter 20, Montfort said, "No one knows the secrets I am talking about, or at least very few people do." He has written his book to reveal these secrets and inspire others with love for Wisdom. Unless we regard as a mere literary device the way in which he involves the reader in the book (cf. LEW 5: "my dear reader"; LEW 7: "in your kindness"; LEW 14: "Let us now speak to chosen souls seeking perfection"; the use of "we," which throughout the book creates a bond between writer and reader; the two Latin quotations "Qui potest capere capiat." and "Quis sapiens et intelliget haec?", with which he ends the book and which are obviously meant for the reader), Montfort cannot be accused of writing for his own sake or of indulging in narcissism. He writes for the sake of other people.49 His writing is an apostolic undertaking, as shown by the prayer with which he dedicates the book: "Bestow your blessings and your enlightenment on what I mean to say about you, so that those who read it may be filled with a fresh desire to love you and possess you, on earth as well as in heaven" (LEW 2). Commenting on Sir 24:30-31, "Whoever obeys me will not be put to shame, and those who work with me will not sin. Whoever makes me known will have eternal life," Montfort interprets the passage as suggesting three degrees of devotion, the highest one being perfection: "Finally, seek to acquire the light and unction you need to inspire others with that love for Wisdom which will lead them to eternal life" (LEW 30; see in LEW 95 how the Word and Wisdom are linked). Finally, he ends chapter 12, in which he has gathered together the great truths "which Eternal Wisdom came on earth to teach us, having first put them into practice," by commenting on the three degrees mentioned in LEW 30: "More blessed are those who believe them. Most blessed of all are those who believe them, put them into practice and teach them to others; for they will shine in heaven like stars for all eternity" (LEW 153, which includes a quotation from Dan 12:3). This tells us the principles on which his vocation as a spiritual writer was based and his motives for writing books. Although Montfort wrote the book when he was a young man, probably about 1703- 1704, The Love of Eternal Wisdom firmly lays down the main principles of what may be called the Montfort spirituality50 by basing them on Scripture itself. Montfort looks at everything from the angle of Wisdom, that is, God’s loving design as set out in the Bible. This angle is that of the economy of salvation. In that vast perspective, each theme finds its place in relation to others. It is clear, for example, that the Cross and Mary are ordained to the acquisition and preservation of Wisdom, that is, to mystical union with Christ, who remains the goal of all efforts in the spiritual life.

The language of Wisdom seems to tail off in Montfort’s later writings. Was this because of the demands of the missionary life and the needs to be supplied? The span between 1703-1704 and 1716, the year of his death, is a short one, and the spiritual man did not really change over that period. Actually he never grew old . . . He expressed his inmost thoughts in the letters he wrote at the end of his life, and we can find in them the accents of the LEW and the same desires. Letters 24 and 26, written in 1713, are all about the Cross. And in the last letter of those which came down to us, Letter 34, which he wrote about Easter 1716, he intermingled Wisdom and the Cross in every line. Together with The Love of Eternal Wisdom, his last letter encompasses the whole of Montfort’s spiritual life and reveals its secret.

b. The Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin and The Secret of Mary.

These two works appear to have been written at about the same time, probably towards 1713. The latter followed close on the former and gives a summary or abridgment of it: "I will be brief" (SM 2).51 Actually, the important Scripture quotations in the Secret of Mary are condensed versions of those in TD; for example, Sir 24:13, on which he elaborates in TD 29-36, is commented on in just a few lines in SM 15. The same holds good for Ps 118:56 and Jn 19:27, which are given more development in TD 179 than in SM 66, and for Gal 4:19, which is quoted in Latin and translated in TD 33, but just given in Latin in SM 56. Consequently, what we will say about the Bible in TD holds true for SM as well.

(1.) Overall view.

Montfort used a large number of Scripture texts in TD, but he uses them in different ways in TD and in LEW. TD contains about 140 explicit quotations, more than half of them from the Old Testament, and over 300 allusions, mostly to the New Testament. The explicit quotations are usually given in Latin and are very accurate. Only very occasionally does Montfort change or add to or adapt the text to make it fit his own idea (cf. TD 272, in which he adds "Mariae" to the words of Ps 16:2, and the adaptations of Jn 19:27 in TD 144, 179, 216, 266). Most of the allusions are incorporated into his thoughts and enter naturally into the stream of the sentences, shaping his language and turning his style into a real biblical style. Some passages, like TD 61, 68, 214, read virtually like fragments of Scripture.

The most striking feature of TD and SM is that most of the biblical passages they contain are interpreted in terms of the Virgin Mary in order to define her role in God’s design in the mystery of the Incarnation, and also in the economy leading to this saving event and continuing it in the spiritual life of the faithful. Montfort’s starting point in LEW was the Bible. And in TD everything hinges on the fact of the Incarnation as the fundamental biblical event par excellence, on which all the rest hangs, and this was how Montfort saw it. Now, whether we like it or not, Mary was involved in this event, and Montfort emphasizes this right from the start: "It was through the blessed Virgin Mary that Jesus Christ came into the world" (TD 1). This undeniable fact allows him to read the biblical texts with Mary in mind. Because the Incarnation took place in this way and because it was the means chosen by God to prove his love for us, it follows that Mary was necessary (TD 39). In the light of the will of God and of the Incarnation, the whole of the Old Testament, seen as heralding the New, takes on a different complexion for Montfort. All that seemed obscure or mysterious in it springs to life and is seen as prophetic, rather as if the secret code of the hieroglyphs had been cracked. Everything becomes a type announcing the mystery of Christ and the mystery of Mary, who cannot be separated from him: "The types and texts of the Old and New Testaments prove the truth of this" (TD 41).

It comes as no surprise to find in TD and SM the passages in which Saint Luke speaks of the Virgin Mary interpreted literally. Montfort quotes quite a few of them. He repeats that Mary is the only human being that "has found favor with God" (Lk 1:30; cf. TD 16, 44, 164); she was filled with the Holy Spirit and conceived God himself in her most pure womb (Lk 1:35; cf. TD 6, 16, 35, 44); she was proclaimed the servant and slave of the Lord (Lk 1:38; TD 72, 216, 267). He repeats Elizabeth’s blessings (Lk 1:42-45; TD 33, 95, 225), the words of the Magnificat (Lk 1:48-55; TD 6, 148, 225, 255), and dwells particularly on the fact that Jesus chose to obey Mary (Lk 2:51; TD 18, 27, 37, 139, 156, 157, 196, 198). Montfort gives, however, a spiritual meaning to the biblical texts more freely and boldly in TD than he did in LEW. He hardly refers to the Book of Wisdom at all but quotes and gives a Marian interpretation to a few passages from the Book of Proverbs (8:17; TD 175, 201; cf. LEW 206; Prov 8:32; TD 200, cf. LEW 212). He applies to Mary the text of Prov 31:21 about the "capable" wife who clothes her servants in double garments, her Son’s and her own: "Omnes domestici ejus vestiti sunt duplicibus" (TD 206, 208; SM 38). He dwells especially on Sir 24:13. In LEW he applied to Mary the words in which God ordered Wisdom to "make your dwelling in Jacob, in Israel receive your inheritance and place your roots in his elect and predestinate." In TD he comments on the quotation and allots parts of it to each of the Persons of the Trinity (cf. TD 29, 31, 34; SM 15). He also borrows from the Song of Songs to explain the mystery of Mary: a garden locked, a fountain sealed (Song 4:12; TD 5, 263; SM 20), tower of David (Song 4:4; SM 47), terrible as an army drawn up in lines of battle (Song 6:3; TD 50, 210). And in the invitation to God’s banquet, he mixes the words of Wisdom with those of the Bride (Sir 24:26; Song 5:1; TD 208; cf. LEW 10).

Whereas LEW contains no reference to the Psalms, Montfort refers to this book about twenty times in TD. "Sicut saggitae in manu potentis" in Ps 126:4 is translated by "in Mary’s powerful hands, like sharp arrows" (TD 56). He sometimes puts forward arguments in the manner of the Church Fathers. He uses "Homo et homo natus est in ea" from Ps 86:5 to show that Sion/Mary is mother not only of the first man, who is Jesus, but also of the second, who stands for all the elect. While cleverly claiming that Daniel is rather bold, he applies "Haec facta est mihi" from Ps 118:56 not to the Law but to Mary and dares to translate it as "She was created for me"! (TD 179).

(2.) A few significant texts.

Gen 3:15 is the first of the significant passages that establish the role of Mary in the economy of salvation. After the Fall, God condemns the serpent, but he introduces in his verdict a word of hope for humanity. Montfort refers several times to the prophecy, which is the only one that he comments on in TD. He quotes it in full with its cross- reference in the text of the Vulgate: "Inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem, et semen tuum et semen illius; ipse conteret caput tuum, et tu insidiaberis calcano ejus" (Gen 3:15 (TD 51). The Hebrew text announced enmity between the serpent’s offspring and the woman’s and hinted that humanity would eventually triumph over the devil. This first glimmer of salvation has been called the Protevangelium. Later on, in the Greek text the second part of the sentence began with a masculine pronoun instead of a neuter as required by the generic "He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel"; consequently. victory over the devil was attributed to one of the woman’s sons, and this gave rise to the messianic interpretation that the Church Fathers explained in detail. This interpretation which involves the Messiah necessarily brought Mary into play, and the Marian interpretation of the Latin translation ipsa conteret became fixed in the tradition, at least in the Roman Catholic Church. Obviously, Montfort had read the Vulgate, and in his view the woman is the first to be directly involved, and she will strike the serpent’s head: "ipsa conteret" (TD 52-53), as will her offspring and her servants. The heel that the serpent strikes stands for the humble slaves and poor children of Mary. And it is with this humble heel that she will crush the serpent’s head (TD 54). In PM the "heel of this mysterious woman" stands for the "little company of her children who will come towards the end of time" (PM 13), and RM states that in their preaching the missionaries are continuing the thousand-year-old battle (RM 61). Among other texts dear to Montfort are Gal 4:19 and Eph 4:13, which illustrate and help to understand the maternal role of Mary in the economy in which we become children of God. Montfort applies to Mary what Saint Paul says of himself: "We can attribute more truly to her what Saint Paul said of himself, Quos iterum parturio, donec in vobis formetur Christus: I am in labor again with all the children of God until Jesus Christ, my Son is formed in them to the fullness of his age" (TD 33; cf. SM 56, LEW 214, and the allusions referring to "form" in TD 37, 219, 269). Montfort himself expresses clearly and distinguishes very well the literal meaning (what Paul says of himself) from the other meaning, which might be called allegorical, when applying the passage "more truthfully" to Mary (cf. LEW 214). On the basis of Eph 4:13, Montfort establishes a link particularly dear to him between the spiritual motherhood of Mary and the fullness of the age of Jesus Christ. He understands this to refer to the full spiritual growth, the mystical union with Christ. In his opinion, however, "it is in the bosom of Mary that people . . . in a short time reach the fullness of the age of Christ" (TD 156). He firmly believes that "so few souls come to the fullness of the age of Jesus [because] . . . Mary is not formed well enough in their hearts" (TD 164) and because they do not take the quick. direct, perfect way that leads to him (TD 168; cf. also SM 67, LEW 214). In this connection, it is worth noting that the Pauline expression, which epitomizes the whole spiritual journey, concludes both the first and the last numbers of LEW (LEW 1, 227).

On the subject of Mary’s motherhood, we will now say a few words about a passage in Saint John’s Gospel that Montfort seems to have deliberately left aside. In a book in which he frequently speaks of spiritual motherhood,52 Montfort says nothing about the beginning of Jn 19:27, in which Christ on the Cross says to his mother and Saint John, "Here is your son. Here is your mother." Montfort knew Saint John’s Gospel very well, as he quotes several times the second part of the verse referring to Saint John. Why did he choose to leave out53 the first part, which Mariologists rightly regard as fundamental to establish Mary as Mother of the Church?54 When addressing God the Father at the beginning of PM, he alludes to it, and this may help to justify the omission. He asks the Father to remember his Congregation, which "you made . . . your own when you took it to your heart while your dear Son, dying on the Cross, bedewed it with his blood, consecrated it by his death and entrusted it to his holy Mother’s keeping." The words refer to the disciple whom Jesus loved. Similarly, the Company is entrusted to Jesus’ Mother, and its members in their turn should regard Mary as all their good. Perhaps this is the right perspective in which to consider "Da Matri tuae liberos" in PM 6, which probably refers to Gen 30:1 and also calls to mind the words "Here is your son" spoken on Calvary.

Why is there no trace of the passage in Montfort’s writings, apart from this allusion? Montfort gives no answer to the question. In TD 18 he evokes the scene on Calvary. In TD 5 he explains the word "woman," but his explanation has since been discarded. He quotes the second part of Jn 19:27 at least four times, adapting it in a number of ways, as some writers do when dealing with a favorite quotation to which they have given much thought: "accepit eam discipulus in sua" (TD 144), "accepi eam in mea" (accommodation to the first person, TD 179), "accepi te in mea" (accommodation to "I" and "you" TD 216), "accepio te in mea omnia" (adaptation to the present, to "I" and "you" with the addition of "omnia" TD 266); elsewhere he simply paraphrases the text: "Like St. John the Evangelist at the foot of the Cross, I have taken her times without number as my total good" (SM 66). But he never quotes "Here is your son" or "Here is your mother" [except for quoting these words from J. Nouet in HD 3b]. The reasons for this are probably to be found in the theological basis for the spiritual motherhood of Mary that Montfort no doubt borrowed from the Bérullian tradition. According to this tradition, it was at the Incarnation that Mary became Mother of Jesus and of "all the members of his mystical body" (TD 17, 20, 32, 140; SM 12; LEW 213, 214). Montfort, of course, could not know what recent Johannine exegesis has emphasized: the straining towards the "hour," which runs through Saint John’s Gospel; the link between the mother of Jesus and this fateful "hour," which at Cana had not yet come (Jn 2:4) but had come on Calvary (cf. Jn 13:1; 17:1); consequently, the significance of Christ’s going to the Father (Jn 13:1), of the mystery of his glorification (Jn 17:1), and of the fulfillment of Scripture (Jn 19:28,30). This fulfillment took place on Calvary, but Scripture was not fulfilled when the Word became flesh (Jn 1:14). Montfort could not be aware either of the ecclesiological significance of Mary’s motherhood,55 which was also proclaimed on Calvary but not earlier. In Montfort’s way of thinking, it seems that the only, or almost only, purpose of the Cross is to testify to the love of Christ: "the suffering he chose to endure to prove his love for us" (LEW 154 and the whole of ch. 13). The impression we are left with is that, apart from Christ’s final proof of his love for humanity, everything was accomplished, as it were, at the Incarnation, as far as Jesus, Mary, and her mystical motherhood were concerned. This was the view taken by Montfort and some theologians in former days. On the other hand, Montfort’s reading of the second part of the verse, "Accepit eam is sua," appears to tie in exactly with present- day exegesis. In TD 179 he writes, "I have taken her for my own." The beloved disciple has no other good but her, as if taking the mother of Jesus into his home was enough for him to be made a disciple. De la Potterie suggests that the Johannine expression (Jn 19:27) be taken literally, meaning "what belongs to the disciple ‘as his own,’"56 that is to say, what constitutes him a disciple, his relation to Christ. It is indeed by virtue of his relation to Christ that the disciple receives Mary in his life as a believer. Though Montfort might have argued the case differently, we must admit that his interpretation tallies well enough with the one suggested. What is being emphasized is not the fact that Mary lived in Saint John’s house but that from then on Mary was his only good.

One last passage should help us to grasp not only Montfort’s allegorical way of interpreting Scripture but also the use he made of Scripture texts in TD. We are referring to "the story of Jacob who received the blessing of his father Isaac through the care and ingenuity of his mother Rebecca" (TD 183).

Montfort deals at length (TD 183-200) with this type that "the Holy Spirit gives us in Sacred Scripture." He goes on to say, "Here is the story as the Holy Spirit tells it. I shall expound it further later on." He draws our attention to the fact that he, not the Holy Spirit, will expound it, though he does make the point that "according to the early Fathers and the interpreters of Holy Scripture, Jacob is the type of Our Lord and of souls who are saved, and Esau is the type of souls who are condemned" (TD 185).57

What we will concentrate on here is the use that Montfort makes of the biblical narrative. In TD 150 he tells his readers that he will relate "the story of Jacob and Rebecca which exemplifies the truths I have been setting before you." So he had already set out the "truths" before mentioning the "type." It has been pointed out that Montfort applies to the reprobate, symbolized by Esau, the marks of false devotions (TD 92- 104), to the predestinate, symbolized by Jacob, the marks of true devotion (TD 105-110), and to Mary, prefigured by Rebecca, the motherly care shown to her slaves of love (TD 144-149). He had already expanded on all this. In other words, the "truths" are well established before he illustrates them by means of biblical texts. This was the method used at the Council of Trent; it consisted in turning to Scripture, the Church Fathers, and the Doctors of the Church to support theses that had been put forward and formulated previously. Montfort shows here that he was a man of his time, and he uses the same method in other places in TD.58 The method, however, need not be chronological. It is not unlikely that Montfort was already convinced of the Scripture-based role of Mary in the economy of salvation before he reread Genesis and that he then found in this book some passages that could help him to explain or illustrate Mary’s role in a way suited to ordinary people, and also possibly other details casting light on some particular aspects. He did not read Scripture as an exegete but as a spiritual writer.

This comes through clearly in TD and SM. In these works, he gives the spiritual meaning of Scripture and adapts it so as to go beyond the literal meaning without leaving the vast Christological framework in which Mary has her place. If we compare the whole of Scripture to a melody played on the harp, with the name and mystery of Jesus as its main theme, we can say that the short passages having Mary for their theme did not escape Montfort’s practiced ear. And he has pointed them out to other people. But as he has said repeatedly, his aim is always to direct their attention to the main theme.

c. The trilogy:

Prayer for Missionaries, Rule of the Missionary Priests of the Company of Mary, Letter to the Members of the Company. The three works form a trilogy, and they should be considered together.59 We will, however, concentrate mainly on PM.

(1.) The Prayer for Missionaries.

Overall view. The text takes up only eight pages in OC and is wholly Scripture-inspired. It contains 31 explicit quotations, 25 of which are taken from the Old Testament, and about 15 allusions to precise passages, mainly from the New Testament. On the whole, however, quotations from the Psalms predominate. They run through the texts, and Montfort uses them as naturally and as aptly as he does his mother tongue.

He addresses his prayer to each of the Persons of the Holy Trinity in turn, to the Father (1-5), to the Son (6-14), and to the Holy Spirit (15-25), and at the end comes back to "great God" (PM 26-28) and concludes with "God alone." Three biblical quotations give the prayer its rhythm and inspire it, so to speak; they correspond roughly to the three divisions60 just mentioned. The first quotation is from Ps 73:2, and Montfort gives it in Latin: "Memento"—the Vulgate says Memor esto— "Domine, Congregationis tuae. quam possedisti ab initio". He elaborates on this in the first six numbers, but he emphasizes "Memento" again in PM 15, 18, and 26. This first quotation serves as a framework for the whole prayer and is therefore fundamental. It sums up the prayer and would make a fitting name for it. Two other texts describe the congregation that Montfort is praying for: Gen 30:1, which he adapted and applied to Mary and is the subject of PM 6-14, and the mysterious Psalm 67 (PM 10-17), which he quotes in Latin and does not translate and is the subject of PM 19-25. Among the other quotations, we must highlight Gen 3:15, which prophesies "great enmity between the blessed posterity of Mary"—the small company— "and the accursed issue of Satan" (PM 13). Montfort quotes the passage in Latin without translating it in PM 12 and comments on it in the following number. This text is fundamental, because it accounts for the warlike tone of the prayer, justified by the "only enmity which you have instigated" (PM 13). The reference to the prophecy about Mary also accounts for the military- sounding name by which Montfort calls his Congregation: Company of Mary.61 "Ab initio," which he uses in the context of Psalm 73, probably refers to the community in the wilderness and is linked with Gen 3:15, in which the humble Mary is commissioned "from the beginning of time . . . to crush this proud spirit under her heel." The other biblical texts may take up more space, but Gen 3:15 seems to have been the basic inspiration of Montfort’s prayer. For it is to hasten the fulfillment of the prophecy that Montfort, using Ps 73:2, beseeches God to remember His promise, applies to Mary the petition in Gen 30:1, and outlines the characteristics of "this noble company . . . under the cloak of obscure but divinely inspired words" (PM 19) used in Psalm 67.

Exegesis and interpretation. Psalm 73 is a national lament. The first few verses tell us straight-away about the great misfortune that has brought Israel so low. The people of YHWH has been heavily defeated. The Covenant community has been ransacked. The foes have set the sanctuary on fire, there is no longer any prophet (v. 9). The situation is desperate. In its literal sense, the psalm describes the distress of the people under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. Montfort applies the psalm to his time: "The whole land is desolate, ungodliness reigns supreme, your sanctuary is desecrated and the abomination of desolation has even contaminated the holy place. . . . Will you never break your silence?" (PM 5). As in former days, misfortune stirs memories of the past, of God’s promises, and of the Covenant. Hope is restored. Now, as formerly, what happens belongs to salvation history. As in the psalm, "Memento," which keeps hope alive throughout the Bible, runs through Montfort’s prayer and strengthens it.

The reference to Gen 30:1 is more in the style of an adaptation. Montfort refers to the prayer of Rachel, who had borne no children to Jacob, but he changes the perspective completely. Rachel’s prayer was on her own behalf: "Da mihi liberos"; Montfort prays to Jesus on Mary’s behalf: "Da Matri tuae liberos." Bearing in mind what happened to Rachel later, however, Montfort’s hope revives in spite of Mary having no children yet. And he may also have been thinking of the gift that the crucified Christ gave to his Mother on Calvary (Jn 19:26).

As for Psalm 67, on which Montfort draws to describe his missionaries, its state of preservation is the worst of all psalms and its meaning most obscure. Any translation can only be conjectural, as is any interpretation. Montfort, who speaks of "the cloak of obscure words," is fully aware of this. The psalm is usually regarded as a hymn of thanksgiving referring to the great stages in the history of God’s people, a sort of triumphal procession in honor of YHWH. The verses quoted by Montfort describe the wonders that God worked when he brought his people out of Egypt, and sings of the conquest of Canaan (vv. 12-15 appear to have been inspired by the story of Deborah in Judg 5), an epic relating how God was preparing a "habitation" for himself and his people. Epic inspiration, warlike songs, fighting, and enemy spoils—all this was suited to the huge battle that Montfort could feel was about to start. It is in the context of mirabilia Dei (cf. innova signa, immuta mirabilia from Sir 36:6 in PM 3) that Montfort envisages his Congregation. Here again, the words of the psalm are given a spiritual and allegorical meaning: the "rain that you have stored up" stands for his missionaries, children of Mary, who will have to restore the Church’s heritage. The "creatures and poor folk" who will dwell in the "heritage" and the "silver wings of the dove" are also allegories. God’s "mountain," where the Lord delights to dwell, stands for Mary, in whom the missionaries should dwell.

But is the final battle really about to be waged? The atmosphere of PM is, without any doubt, eschatological. The missionaries envisaged by Montfort are identified with the "apostles of the latter times" whom he mentioned in TD 55-59. So the coming of the end raises the temperature of the "burning prayer." Like many others before him, Montfort reads the signs of the times: "It is indeed time to fulfill your promise. . . . Torrents of iniquity flood the whole earth carrying away even your servants. . . . All creatures . . . lie groaning under the burden of Babylon’s countless sins and plead with you to come and renew all things" (PM 5). He urges God to act. He puts forward one reason after another, brings together the apocalyptic signs that he has collected from the Bible and from spiritual books. He himself, at least vicariously through his Company, wants to take part in the great final battle. But when will it be fought? He has no idea. Obviously he is eager for the fray, but his very eagerness betrays his ignorance.

Although he mentions three reigns, those of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, he sees himself in the third, which is that of the Gospel. Even though he speaks of the "Spirit of the Father and the Son" (the Spirit sent by the Father in Jn 14:16 and by the Son in Jn 15:26), he shows that he is not deceived by the division into three reigns. He writes: "Your reign, Spirit of the Father and the Son, is still unended and will come to a close with a deluge of fire, love and justice" (PM 16). The reign of the Spirit, which is still unended, is therefore the reign of the Church, in accordance with the Johannine tradition, in which the coming of the Holy Spirit follows the glorious death of Jesus (cf. Jn 7:39). It is during that reign that his Company is to fight for love and justice (cf. "Be mindful, Lord, of your Congregation, when you come to dispense your justice" PM 5). This language is biblical; it belongs to the Last Judgement and is reminiscent of Mat 25:31-46, which also is about fire, love, and justice. But is the end near at hand? It is permissible to hope it is, to pray for its coming, and to try to read the signs of the times; we have no choice, however, but to say with Jesus, "About that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Mk 13:32). Montfort echoes these words at the end of the passage about the apostles of the latter times: "But when and how will this come about? Only God knows. For our part we must yearn and wait for it in silence and in prayer" (TD 59).

Anyone reading Montfort’s text carefully will notice that he always reads the Bible, particularly the Psalms, with Christ in mind. For him these texts are prophetic:62 they are about Christ. Montfort’s text traces the whole history of salvation, beginning with "ab initio," continuing with the history of the chosen people at the time of Moses and throughout the history of Israel, and on to Montfort’s time and beyond until the end of the "era of grace" (PM 6; cf. Lk 4:19).

All the events in that history happen because of God’s loving wisdom and fulfill the promises. As the New Testament writers read and interpreted Scripture in the light of the mystery of Christ, so Montfort, like all spiritual writers, read Scripture in order to find in it his own history and to apply the deeds of God in the past to his own time. Bringing the hermeneutic cycle into play, he enters into the words of Scripture, and the words of Scripture enter into him. His reading of Scripture as a spiritual writer might be disputed by some, but it is the result of his faith. He is not naive and does not claim to say what the text meant at "the time of writing" or to have insights into the thought process of the ancient writers. Relying on God’s faithfulness, he says what Scripture means now: "Today Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4:21).

(2.) Rule of the Missionary Priests of the Company of Mary.

The Rule is the concrete expression in ordinary life of the ideal set out in PM. The biblical texts contained in it are comparatively few. However, some favorite texts recur there as well, for example, the reference to the mouth and wisdom that no opponent will be able to withstand in Lk 21:15 is mentioned in RM 60, though already quoted in PM 22 and LEW 97, and especially the reference to Gen 3:15. In RM 61 he quotes again "evangelizantibus virtute multa" from the famous Psalm 67, quoted also in PM 19. As Montfort is dealing with more practical details in the Rule, he draws more on texts by Saint Paul, particularly 1 Corinthians, and the gospel writers; he fleshes these out with quotations from the Old Testament but always with preaching in mind, as if drawing on a repertoire of biblical texts designed for preachers. He is mindful, however, of the overall framework within which the preaching is to be done, and in a passage referring especially to preachers, he underscores again the enmity between the Blessed Virgin’s offspring and the accursed offspring of the serpent (RM 61).

The contrast between RM and RW is striking. Obviously, the two works do not develop along the same lines. In the 320 numbers making up RW, against 91 in RM, there are only three scriptural quotations and about ten allusions. The quotations (Sir 19:1 in RW 56, Rom 12:2 in RW 87, 1 Cor 9:22 in RW 129) are given in French, whereas the same quotations are given in Latin in RM 39, 38, 49. Of course, the two sets were designed for different people. Most important, however, a comparison between RM and RW reveals that the main biblical texts quoted in the former refer to the apostolic life, the ministry of the Word, whereas the few texts quoted in the latter refer to the interior life of the Sisters, their personal journey to holiness. Obviously, Montfort does not mean to make the mission the preserve of men; although the "interior aim of the Congregation of the Daughters of Wisdom is the acquisition of Divine Wisdom" (RW 1), the exterior aim is certainly apostolic, including as it does teaching children, caring for poor people in hospitals, running retreat houses, etc. It is noteworthy, however, that the distinction between interior and exterior aims is not made in RM, which throughout deals with the life of the Company only from the angle of the mission. The difference is certainly striking.

(3.) Letter to the Members of the Company of Mary.

The last work of the trilogy is short and incomplete and is made up of only eleven numbers. It opens with a quotation of Lk 12:32: "Nolite timere pusillus grex quia complacuit patri vestro dare vobis regnum." The rest of the book is a paraphrase of the text and is concerned with complete confidence in Divine Providence and particularly with poverty. The first four numbers contain about fifteen quotations, but they give prominence to some important texts like Psalm 90 (LCM 3) and Mat 6:26-34 (LCM 4). But even in the following numbers, which are said to have been borrowed from Nouet,63 the accent is strongly biblical, and Montfort once again repeats his favorite quotations from Psalm 67, for example in LCM 7 (cf. PM 19) and from Lk 9:62 in LCM 9 (cf. LEW 144). The work is a fine example of what might be called Montfort’s biblical style.

d. Letter to the Friends of the Cross.

The letter, which was probably addressed to a pious association called the Friends of the Cross, is said to be contemporary with TD, SM, and the trilogy.64 It was mainly inspired by Scripture, even though Montfort drew on some spiritual writers65 and on his own experience. Some parts of FC are nothing but a series of allusions to scriptural texts (cf. 6, 9, 10, 27, 29, 30, 33, 58). Montfort was a past master at arranging them. They inspire his thoughts, carry them along, and mold them to such a degree that it is sometimes difficult to tell Montfort and Scripture apart. However, the key quotation on which the whole work hinges is Mt 16: 24: "Si quis vult venire post me, abneget semetipsum, et tollat crucem suam, et sequatur me. Montfort takes up again, comments on, and paraphrases virtually each individual word: "Si quis" (FC 14), "Si quis vult" (FC 15), "Si quis vult post me venire" (FC 16), "tollat crucem suam": "suam" (FC 18), "tollat" (FC 19), "crucem" (FC 20-40), "sequatur me" (FC 41-62). There are a few quotations, already commented on in LEW, that establish the link between Wisdom and the Cross. In FC 16 Montfort repeats the adaptation of Wis 8:2: "hanc amavi a juventute mea" (cf. LEW 169, 183); and FC 45, about praying for "the wisdom of the cross, that knowledge of the truth which we experience within ourselves," evokes once again the infinite treasure of Wisdom referred to in Wis 7:14 (cf. LEW 62, 64). This short work gives convincing proof that Montfort’s spiritual way of thinking is bound up with his constant pondering of Scripture.

e. The Secret of the Rosary.

The composition of this work is not as original as that of his other books, and it contains fewer Scripture quotations. He uses them as a basis for assertions or in an allusive way. No one particular passage, however, is specially commented on or highlighted. Biblical references are notably more numerous when he considers the fifth decade, which is said to be "his own composition." His reflections on this decade contain 26 quotations out of a total of about 35 in the whole book, and he repeats the quotations referring to Wisdom that he has used frequently in other works: Jas 1:6 (SR 142; LEW 185; FC 45) and Wis 7:14 (SR 146; LEW 62, 64; FC 45).

f. The Book of Sermons.

What we have just said about the composition of SR does not apply to LS. The book does not report what Montfort definitely preached, but it is an important document all the same. It gives us an idea of the environment in which Montfort developed his talents as a preacher. It tells us what sort of preaching was given in his days, what subjects were dealt with, what doctrine was taught, what points were emphasized, what theology was in current use (the small number of the elect, etc.), the content of the moral exhortations (reasons for which absolution could be delayed or refused, LS 656), how good the devotion or devotions that were then fostered. LS is like a cross section revealing Christian living and pastoral activity in those days.

Many people say that much of LS is not original. Yet he wrote most of the manuscript with his own hand, he arranged the plans of the sermons, he summarized them, added to them in various places, and supplemented them with his own ideas.66 He had made a mental note of the important points in Fr. Leschassier’s lectures. Reading through the book, one realizes what Montfort was exposed to in the way of theology and pastoral care during the hidden years at Saint-Sulpice, when he was preparing for the ministry that he was hoping to exercise,67 and also during the years of his hectic missionary life, as several of the summaries and plans were written after 1705 or 1708, and others in the last years of his life.68 In RM 60 Montfort writes: "The preaching of God’s word is the most far-reaching, the most effective and also the most difficult ministry of all." In RM 35, 78, he invites the missionaries to prepare for preaching by study and prayer. What he suggests to others he had practiced in an exemplary way.

LS tells us how his mind was shaped, what thoughts flashed through it that he thought necessary to put down in writing so as to ponder on them while doing the demanding work of summarizing. For want of space, we cannot analyze the book in detail, but it would be fascinating to compare the summaries with the originals69 and find out how Montfort’s mind was working, what caught his attention, what he left aside and included or added. This would give us an inkling of how far his theological knowledge and his spiritual and pastoral experience extended.

One thing about the sermons that is blatantly obvious is the large number of references to Scripture and the Church Fathers. The passages are quoted mostly in Latin. Does this mean that preachers in those days addressed their audience in Latin? They probably gave their text in Latin, as was the practice before Vatican II, which introduced the vernacular into the liturgy. The Latin passages, however, especially those borrowed from the Church Fathers, with which the faithful were less familiar, were designed for the preachers, rather than for their audience. At the time of the Counter-Reformation, controversy70 was prevalent, and preachers turned to Scripture and the Church Fathers to support their arguments. Montfort has drawn up long lists of loca varia Scripturae (N. 278, 318, 350, 407-408, 489, 612-618, 715-717) and of testimonia ex Sanctis Patribus (N. 34-40, 108-109, 149-152, 168, 192, etc.), all of them in Latin. The reason for this was that in order to give convincing proof, preachers needed to have the original text, or at least the Latin version, at hand. Besides, Montfort was aware that in controversies between him and the heretics, even "the oldest French versions or the Vulgate" were not authoritative enough, and he had "to turn to the Greek text, which is the most reliable" (N 366).

This, at any rate, shows that Montfort was aware of the theological debates taking place in his days. It also accounts for the natural ease with which he could use Scripture quotations in his works, as a man of his time during the Counter-Reformation, and as a preacher of parish missions, rather than as an exegete. Scripture had been familiar to him for a long time and he had assimilated it so thoroughly that by osmosis, as it were, it had become for him a natural means of expression.


Reading Montfort’s works carefully, one finds that they are biblical all through. He refers to Scripture constantly and in many different ways. Sometimes he studies a whole book, for example, the Book of Wisdom. Sometimes he makes systematic syntheses, on the theme of Wisdom, for example, or on the role of Mary in the economy of salvation; these syntheses belonged to biblical theology even before it was known by that name. Sometimes he comments on, or paraphrases at length, specific passages, for example, Mt 16:24 in FC, Gen 27 in TD, or Psalm 67 in PM. At other times he puts forward arguments that he supports with a series of quotations, or he simply lets his prayer flow with the words of Scripture, as he frequently does with the Psalms.

His many quotations are not ineffective. A quotation refers to somebody else for confirmation or support, or simply to insert the text into a larger tradition. Authority, auctoritates, was the word used in the Middle Ages. The force given by auctoritates was due to the holy teachers quoted: their arguments were authoritative. Their names enjoyed more prestige than their words. The author of a quotation was more important than the quotation itself. Whenever Montfort quoted Scripture, something similar happened. The Holy Spirit was speaking71 through the quotations. Montfort only needed to quote the first few words, and the Spirit took over, so much so that Montfort sometimes does not trouble to complete a quotation but leaves it unfinished and just adds "etc,"72 as if the actual words hardly mattered. It may have been the case when he quoted Latin texts—Latin being a sacred language—to people who had no knowledge of Latin.73

The essence of a quotation is that it refers to somebody else, or in the case of Scripture, to Another. It enables him to express himself. This is noticeable in Montfort’s work when, without adding any comment or anything else, he allows Scripture to speak for itself without mingling his poor word with those of the Spirit or of Wisdom (LEW 3-4; 20-28; 48- 49; 191-192, the whole of ch. 12). The secret work that takes place is a particular characteristic of theological Christian speech, which, in the last analysis, is only reference to Somebody else. It is based on Somebody and on texts expressing His mystery. This was the view taken by patristic exegesis. Montfort’s work, which is a long treatise on the Bible, belongs to the same tradition.

If he reads Scripture in a spiritual way, uses and adapts it, it is because he, too, firmly believes that "all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16). He rereads Scripture and rewrites it in order to live it out and bring others to do the same. This "editorial" work on the vast corpus of Scripture is theological in the full sense of the term. It belongs to the order of the understanding of the faith. The Jewish exegetes, for whom the text was a living reality, also reread and rewrote the texts. The practice has been a long-standing tradition among Christian exegetes, and the spiritual writers in particular gave it a new impetus. It is in this perspective that Montfort’s biblical style becomes perfectly clear.

J.P. Michaud

Notes: (l) It was not until November 9, 1592, however, after all sorts of incidents in which Robert Bellarmine played a leading part, that Clement VIII finally promulgated the revised version, which was called the "Sixto-Clementine" Vulgate. (2) On this subject, see Guy Bedouelle and Bernard Roussel, L’Écriture et ses traductions. Eloge et réticences (Scripture and Its Translations: Praise and Reticence), in Le temps des Réformes et la Bible (The Era of the Reforms and the Bible), Bible de tous les temps 5, Beauchesne Paris 1989, 463-486, especially 468-476. For the history of the Index and of the versions in the vernacular, see Boudinhou, La nouvelle législation de l’Index (The New Legislation on the Index), Lethielleux, Paris 1925, 104-111. (3) On this subject, we strongly advise reading an important article by Bernard Chédozeau, Les distributions de livres aux nouveaux convertis (1685-1687) et leurs incidences sur le status du laïc catholique (The Distribution of Books to New Converts [1685-1687] and Their Influence on the Status of the Lay Catholic), in XVIIème siècle, 154 (1987), 39-51 (4) Cf. Concilium Tridentinum, Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1911, 5:75. See the commentary by Guy Redouelle in La Réforme catholique (The Catholic Reform), in Le temps des Réformes, 344-346. (5) Rev. Father Lamy, preface to Introduction a l’Écriture Sainte (Introduction to Holy Scripture), Jean Certe, Lyon 1699, 2-3. (6) Presentation by Mgr. Henri Frehen, Documents et recherches 5, Centre International Montfortain, 1983. (7) On some occasions, his biographers point out, he explained the Gospel of the day, cf. Besnard, IV, 213; V, 59. (8) "Contra unanimem consensum Patrum." Cf. DS 1507, or G. Dumeige, La foi catholique (The Catholic Faith), Publications de l’Orante 154, Paris 1969. (9) Lamy, preface to Introduction a l’Écriture Sainte, 2. (10) L. Le Crom, Un apôtre marial: Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (An Apostle of Mary), Les traditions françaises, Tourcoing 1946, 73. (11) Letter dated 28 May 1702 to Mr. Edge Pirot, doctor at the Sorbonne, who had been censor of Histoire critique. Cf. Ch. Urbain and E. Levesque, Correspondence de Bossuet (Correpondence of Bossuet), Hachette, Paris, reprinted by Kraus Reprint Ltd., 1965, 13:334. (12) Paul Auvray, Richard Simon (1638-1712). Étude bio-bibliographique (Richard Simon [1638-1712]: Bio-bibliographic Study), Presses universitaires de France, Paris 1974, 176. (13) Cf. Bossuet, Oeuvres completes, published by F. Lachat, Louis Vives, Paris 1862, 4:viii-xii passim. (14) Jean Steinman, Richard Simon et les origines de l’exégèse biblique (Richard Simon and the Origins of Biblical Exegesis), Desclee de Brouwer, Paris 1960, 417. P. Auvray, Richard Simon (1638-1712), 174-177, gives a more qualified though similar opinion. (15) Cf. Bossuet, Oeuvres completes, 1863, 3:379-381. (16) Les dernières années de Bossuet. Journal de Ledieu (The Last Years of Bossuet: Ledieu’s Journal), Desclee de Brouwer, Paris 1928, 1:310- 311, 322. (17) Letter 12, dated autumn 1702, appears to have been sent from Poitiers: Montfort mentions his recent journey to Paris. (18) Le Crom, Un apôtre marial, 66. (19) J. Grandet, La vie de Messire Louis- Marie Grignion de Montfort (The Life of M. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort), N. Verger, Nantes 1724, 14. (20) Le Crom, Un apôtre marial, 74. (21) Simon makes the meaning clear in the preface to Histoire critique du Texte du Nouveau Testament (Critical History of the Text of the New Testament), Rotterdam 1689 (Minerva, Frankfurt 1968): "This work, which requires an accurate knowledge of the [Sacred] Books and a thorough research into the manuscript copies, is called Critique because one has to determine the best lessons to be kept in the text." Simon constantly refers in the preface to this "artistic term," making it clear against his adversaries that "the purpose of those practicing this art is not to destroy but to establish." (22) Bossuet, Dissertation sur Grotius (Disseration on Grotius), in Oeuvres complètes, 1863, 3:492. (23) In the preface to Genèse (Genesis) (1682), in order to determine the right measure of the spiritual or prophetic meaning, Le Maistre de Sacy writes, "We can compare it to a harp. . . . Similarly, not everything in Sacred Scripture is a type or a prophecy; however, the most insignificant things serve to join or link the most significant, which are prophetic and mysterious," quoted by Herve Savon, Le figurisme et la "Tradition des Pères" (Figurism and the "Tradition of the Fathers"), in Le Grand Siècle et la Bible (The Great Century and the Bible), Bible de tous les temps 6, 767. Cf. Saint Augustine, Contra Faustum, 22, 94. (24) J.-J. Duguet (attributed), Règles pour l’intelligence des Stes Écritures (Rules for the Understanding of the Holy Scriptures), Jacques Estienne, Paris 1716. This small book had a far-reaching influence. It was practically repeated in Discours préliminaire, ou Introduction a l’intelligence des divines écritures (Preliminary Discourse, or Introduction to the Understanding of the Divine Scriptures), which is found at the beginning of the new edition of Sainte Bible contenant l’Ancien et le Nouveau Testament traduite en français sur la Vulgate par Monsieur Le Maistre de Saci, avec de courtes Notes pour l’intelligence du Sens littéral & prophétique (The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and the New Testament, Translated into French from the Vulgate by M. de Saci, with Brief Notes for the Understanding of the Literal and Prophetic Sense), Guillaume Desprez, Paris 1759. (25) For the study of the four meanings, it is necessary to refer to the four-volume fundamental work by Henri de Lubac, Exégèse médiévale (Medieval Exegesis), Aubier, Paris 1959-1964. (26) Cf. G. Martelet, Sacraments, figures et exhortation en 1 Cor 10:1-11 (Sacraments, Figures, and Exhoration in 1 Cor 10:1-11), in Recherches de Science Religieuse 49 (1956), 325-359; 515-559, which clearly brings out the paraenetic dimension, or the concern for "spiritual education," that belongs to the typological reading of Scripture. (27) Counsels of Light and Love of Saint John of the Cross, trans. E. Allison Peers, London, Burns and Oates, 1977; The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Trans. E. Allison Peers, Garden City, N.Y., Image Books, 1958, 2:22. (28) John of the Cross, Cantique spirituel (Spiritual Canticle), 36. (29) John of the Cross, Montée du Carmel, 2, 22. (30) Max Huot de Longchamp, Les mystiques catholiques et la Bible (Catholic Mystics and the Bible), in Le temps des Réformes et la Bible, 596. (31) Jacques Rousse, Lectio divina, in Dictionnaire de Spiritualité (Dictionary of Spirituality) vol. 9, Beauchesne, Paris 1976, col. 471. (32) Cf. L. Tronson, Examens particuliers (Particular Examens), LXVI, Paris 1887, 147. (33) M. Gilbert, L’exegese spirituelle de Montfort (Montfort’s Spiritual Exegesis), in NRT 104 (1982), 684. After investigating the spiritual tradition of Wisdom for a long time, E. Catta, likewise, states, "No one before Montfort has set up this system, which is, as it were, exclusive . . . on the theme of Wisdom," cf. Sedes sapientiae, in Maria. Études sur la Sainte Vierge (Maria: Studies on the Blessed Virgin), ed. Hubert du Manoir, Beauchesne, Paris 1961, 4:794. It must be said that Wisdom literature enjoyed some vogue at the end of the seventeenth century (cf. Dictionnaire de Spiritualité under Écriture Sainte et vie spirituelle, col. 229: Godeau, and 237: Bossuet; and France, col. 918), but the emphasis was moralizing rather than spiritual. (34) Montfort quotes four whole chapters from the Book of Wisdom—ch. 6 in the introduction or preliminary observations LEW 3-4; ch. 10 in LEW 48-49; ch. 8 in LEW 53- 61; and ch. 9 in LEW 191-192—and quotes the book about 150 times altogether. (35) Cf. M. Gilbert, La Sagesse de Salomon, (The Wisdom of Solomon) in Les Psaumes et les autres écrits (The Psalms and Other Writings), Ancien Testament 5, Desclee, Paris 1990, 331. (36) Montfort adopted the numbering used in the Vulgate. We give in brackets the number given in the Septuagint, in line with most modern editions of the Bible. (37) The term "utterance," which belongs to the prophetic tradition, sounds strange in a sapiential context. We note the suggestion put forward by M. Gilbert, L’exegese spirituelle de Montfort, 686, who found that "utterance" could mean "burden" and was used in this sense in several prophetic texts (cf. Isa 13:1; 15:1; 17:1; 19:1, and especially Jer 23:33-40, which hinges on the double meaning of the Hebrew term massa. Now, "burden" can also refer to the instruction the sages give to their followers (Sir 6:25; 51:26). This would make it permissible to interpret in a sapiential perspective the words of Jesus in Mt 11:28-30: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." Even though Montfort had not realized all the implications, it is permissible to interpret the word "utterance" in this sense. (38) OC carries a picture of it on p. 326. (39) Cf. GA, 501-503. (40) See Jean-Noel Aletti, Sagesse, Nouveau Testament (Wisdom, NT), in Dictionnaire de Spiritualité 14 (1990), col. 91-96. (41) It is the same Spirit that speaks in the Old Testament (LEW 5, 16, 48, 50, 52, 62, 63, 72, 88, 90, 190, 202) and in the New (LEW 13, 184, 194, 201). Similarly, it is Wisdom that expresses herself in one part of Scripture (LEW 6, 18, 20, 65, 66, 95, 179) as in the other (LEW 6, 70, 95, 153, 170, 173, 174, 184, 189, 195). (42) Olivier Maire, Bible et mystique. Une lecture de l’Amour de la Sagesse éternelle de Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (Bible and Mysticism: A Reading of the Love of Eternal Wisdom), unpublished dissertation submitted for a diploma of licentiate in theology at Centre Sèvres, Paris, March 1989, 54. (43) This is the definition of the mystical experience by J. Maritain in Les degrés du savoir, Desclée de Brouwer, Paris 1946, 489. The Degrees of Knowledge, New York, Scribner 1938 (44) M. Gilbert, L’exegese spirituelle de Montfort, 683, n. 13: "Wis 8:2 is quoted explicitly in LEW 169, but it is adapted, and this is a rare occurrence in the book; the same passage is quoted again in LEW 183, and an explanation of the literal meaning is then given." (45) On this subject, see the brief and accurate article by Dom B. Capelle, Les épîtres sapientiales des fêtes de la Vierge (The Sapiential Epistles of the Feasts of the Virgin), in Questions liturgiques et paroissiales 27 (1946), 42-49. (46) "‘I love those who love me.’ That is what Jesus and Mary say to us." (47) The Marian interpretation of Sir 24:13 is repeated and expanded on in TD 29, 31, 34, 201, and in SM 15. Modern exegesis retains this interpretation, as shown by an article by M. Gilbert, Lecture mariale et ecclesiale de Siracide 24:10 (15) (Marian and Ecclesial Reading of Siracide 24:10), in Marianum 47 (1985), 536-542. (48) Cf. the use of "I" in LEW 1-2, 5, 7, 14, 19, 42-44, 88, 128, 167, 193, 202, 207, 215, 216. (49) This is expressed clearly in TD 112 and 114. (50) In the sense that it is a particular application of the Gospel spirituality. Each authentic spirituality emphasizes one particular aspect of the Gospel spirituality. This emphasized aspect is only a reference point on the basis of which the whole of the Gospel is to be lived out. Cf. Spiritualité (Spirituality), Dictionnaire de Spiritualité 14 (1990), col. 1152. In this connection, Montfort raises an interesting point when he identifies the Kingdom of God with Eternal Wisdom: "For myself, I know of no better way of establishing the kingdom of God, Eternal Wisdom" (LEW 193). (51) Comparing the corresponding passages makes it evident that SM is a summary of TD. The large number of ellipses at the end of the numbers in SR (cf. 2, 3, 15, 19, 20, 36, 42, 46, 47, 48, 51, 53, 55, 57, 60, 62, 63, 64, 65) seems to confirm this. (52) In the book Dieu seul est ma tendresse (God Alone Is My Tenderness), O.E.I.L., Paris 1984, R. Laurentin speaks of "the small place that the spiritual motherhood holds in Montfort’s writings" and of his "extreme reticence" on the subject (165-166). Montfort’s reticence appears justified by the desire not to invite criticism from his adversaries. His many quotations in support of spiritual motherhood, which is essentially linked to giving birth to Christ, Head of the Mystical Body, seem to conflict with the idea of extreme reticence. (53) An explanation has been given recently by I. de la Potterie in Marie dans le Mystère de l’Alliance (Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant), Jésus et Jésus-Christ 34, Desclee, Paris 1985, 237-257. (54) In GA. it occurs only once and is not commented on in HD 36, 1781, p. 578. But the text was not written by Montfort. (55) Cf. I. de la Potterie, op. cit., p. 246-247. (56) I. de la Potterie, Marie dans le Mystère de l’Alliance, 250 (Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant), trans. Bertrand Buby, Staten Island, New York; Alba House, 1992. (57) Yet, further down, Esau’s clothes are transferred to Jesus Christ (TD 206)! And Esau’s good odor is that of Jesus Christ and his Blessed Mother (TD 207)! Are we entitled to assume that Montfort attributed unawares a double role to Esau? He was under no self-delusion, and his answer would probably be that a spiritual interpretation of the Bible allowed him to read into it more than a logical literal interpretation could provide. (58) Cf . TD 26, 40, 41: "The types and texts of the Old and New Testaments prove the truth of this . . . the many passages which I have collected from the Fathers and Doctors of the Church in support of this truth"; TD 130, 131, 141: "Here are a few passages from the Fathers of the Church which I have chosen to prove what I have just said." Thus the quotations from Scripture come afterwards and are used as proof. (59) Cf. P.L. Nava, Il trittico monfortano: natura ed ermeneutica (The Montfort Triptych: Nature and Hermeneutic), in QM 1 (1983) 110-111, 130. (60) PM 6, addressed to Jesus and acting as a link, is based on Ps 73:2 and serves to introduce Gen 30:1 (61) The "bodyguard of handpicked men" (PM 30), which with others is to make up the "army drawn up in lines of battle" mentioned in PM 29. What is more, all the vocabulary in PM 29 belongs to the military register: "fight," "standard," "army drawn up in lines of battle," "attack," "sounded the call to arms." (62) Cf. PM 14, in which he ascribes Ps 117:17 to "another of your prophets"; for Ps 67 cf. also "your prophet" in PM 19. (63) J. Nouet, L’homme d’oraison. Ses méditations pour tous les jours de l’année (The Man of Prayer: His Meditations for All the Days of the Year), Paris 1866, 7:60-67. (64) L. Perouas thinks it was written four years after the order, issued in September 1709, to destroy the Calvary at Pontchâteau. The text is marked by moderation and prudence, indicating maturity, and this would make 1713 a likely date. Cf. L. Perouas, Grignion de Montfort, Un aventurier de l’Évangile (Grignion de Montfort, An Adventurer of the Gospel), Les editions ouvrieres, Paris 1990, 75. (65) Particularly M. Boudon, Les saintes voies de la croix (The Holy Ways of the Cross), 1671. (66) Cf. the passages mentioned by Frehen into which Montfort introduced his own ideas: p. 9, 12, 24, 28, 118; and the themes dealt with in his works: p. 9, 16, 28, 112. (67) Blain, 106, tells us that Montfort spent the period between his ordination on 6 June 1700 and his departure for the mission directed by Fr. Leveque at Nantes towards September of the same year "compiling and preparing material for sermons and collecting enough to enable him to preach on all sorts of subjects at any time, as he did later on." (68) Several outlines of sermons contained in the second part of the manuscript, which lists the subjects in alphabetical order, were probably written after 1705 or 1708. In this part, Montfort summarized a sermon by Massillon that was not published until 1705 or 1708 (cf. Frehen, viii) and one by Bourdaloue that was published towards 1707 (cf. Frehen, viii and 9, note b). All the signs are that Montfort wrote part 1 towards the end of his life (cf. Frehen, ii: "The various parts of the manuscript were not arranged chronologically: the second part was written first, whereas parts 2 and 3, which show identical features, were written in the last years of the missionary’s life"). (69) The names of several authors whose works he summarized (J. Biroat, T. Cheminais de Montaigu, De la Volpilière, C. Joly, J. Lejeune, J. Loriot, C. Texier) are given in J.-P. Migne, Collection intégrale et universelle des Orateurs Sacrés (Complete and Universal Collection of the Holy Orators), Paris 1844-1866 . (70) Cf . LS 360-370, méthodes pour convertir les heretiques. Reference is made to the "four Church Fathers whom they (the heretics) recognize and whose confession of faith they profess to follow" (S 366), and also to "the holy Church Fathers whose teaching they accept" (S 367). (71) Cf. TD 18, 32, 34, 46, 68, 183; LEW 13, 16, 48, 50, 52, 62, 63, 88, 184, 190, 194, 201, . . . (72) Cf. LEW 173; TD 196, 248, 271, and, though this may look strange, in PM 5, 14. (73) Cf. LEW 6, 35, 99, 118, 173, 227; TD 70, 114, 173, 226; FC 4, SM 56.

Taken from: Jesus Living in Mary: Handbook of the Spirituality of St.
Louis de Montfort (Litchfield, CT: Montfort Publications, 1994).

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