Feast of St Louis De Montfort: 28 April
'Totus Tuus' meets in a Saint and a Pope
Almost 11 years ago, on 21 June 1997, the Servant of God John Paul II addressed a Message to the Superiors General of the Montfort Religious Families for the 50th anniversary of the canonization of St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort.
"I am happy", he wrote, "to offer thanks to the Lord for the growing influence of this missionary Saint, whose apostolate was nourished by a life of intense prayer, an unshakeable faith in the Triune God and a deep devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Redeemer" (Message, L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 30 July 1997, p. 3).
Thus, after describing de Montfort's Christocentric tone of Marian spirituality, John Paul II said: "In order to know the Eternal Wisdom, uncreated and incarnate, Grignion de Montfort constantly invited people to put their trust in the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is so inseparable from Jesus 'that it would be easier to separate light from the sun'. He remains an incomparable bard and disciple of the Mother of the Saviour, whom he honours as the one who so assuredly leads towards Christ" (ibid.).
For a fuller account of the value of de Montfort's Marian doctrine and spirituality recognized by John Paul II, readers should refer to the Fragmenta monfortana 3 (Edizioni monfortana, Rome, 1999, pp. 107-142), which begins on this very note: "Almost immediately after Cardinal Karol Wojtyła's election as Supreme Pontiff (16 October 1978), in an article in L'Osservatore Romano [Italian edition], Virgilio Levi expressed his wonder at the provenance of 'all his resilience, all his zeal, all his perseverance', and proceeded to explain:
"'The secret lies in his motto: Totus tuus... everything written in books on spirituality, in the treatise on True Devotion to Mary, in the knowledge of the People of God has been made manifest in this man [Karol Wojtyła], called to lead the Church in our difficult time. Our Lady is all powerful through grace and those who entrust themselves entirely to her become giants in the works of God.
"Choosing", as it were, "between one flower and another" (cf. Dante, Purgatory 28, 41) from John Paul II's abundant Writings and Addresses, let us limit ourselves to juxtaposing three texts. In these, by means of widely disseminated publications, the Servant of God firmly recounted the experience he lived at the school of de Montfort — the Saint of the Totus tuus —, which was so intense that he himself became a witness and teacher of authentic Marian spirituality and the Pope of the "Totus tuus".
The Saint of the Totus Tuus
In a long conversation with Pope Wojtyła, published under the title: "André Frossard dialoga con Giovanni Paolo II: Non abbiate paura!" [André Frossard talks with John Paul II: "Do not be afraid"] (Rusconi, 1983), the French journalist asked the Holy Father about his personal devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The great Pope's answer can be found on pages 157-159: "Reading that book (True Devotion to Mary)", he said, "has marked a decisive turning point in my life. I said 'turning point', although this is a long inner journey.... At that very moment this unique treatise came into my hands, one of those books which it is not enough 'to have read'. I reread it constantly and certain passages in succession.
"I soon realized that the book contained something fundamental over and above its baroque style. The result was that the devotion to the Mother of Christ of my childhood and my adolescence gave way to a new attitude, a devotion that welled up from the depths of my faith, as at the very heart of the Trinitarian and Christological reality".
In the book Crossing the Threshold of Hope by John Paul II (in which the Pope is interviewed by Vittorio Messori who wrote the introduction [English edition, Jonathan Cape, 1994]), the Holy Father responded to a precise question from the interviewer.
"Totus tuus. This phrase is not only an expression of piety, or simply an expression of devotion. It is more. During the Second World War, while I was employed as a factory worker, I came to be attracted to Marian devotion.
"At first, it had seemed to me that I should distance myself a bit from the Marian devotion of my childhood in order to focus more on Christ. Thanks to St Louis de Montfort, I came to understand that true devotion to the Mother of God is actually Christocentric, indeed, it is very profoundly rooted in the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, and the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption" (pp. 212-213).
In the book Gift and Mystery. On the 50th anniversary of my priestly ordination (Vatican Publishing House, 1996) John Paul II made this confession: "At one point I began to question my devotion to Mary, believing that, if it became too great, it might end up compromising the supremacy of the worship owed to Christ....
"I was greatly helped by a book by St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort entitled Treatise of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. There I found the answers to my questions. Yes, Mary does bring us closer to Christ; she does lead us to him, provided that we live her mystery in Christ....
"This treatise by St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort can be a bit disconcerting, given its rather florid and baroque style, but the essential theological truths which it contains are undeniable. The author was an outstanding theologian. His Mariological thought is rooted in the Mystery of the Trinity and in the truth of the Incarnation of the Word of God" (pp. 42-43).
The Pope of the Totus tuus
John Paul II's words in his first note after undergoing surgery, written on 24 February 2005 at the Gemelli Polyclinic, were: "But I am always 'Totus tuus'".
Thus, at the school of St Louis Marie de Montfort, Karol Wojtyla — labourer, priest, Bishop and Pope — gradually developed his true devotion to Mary.
This is synonymous with that "consecration to Christ through the hands of Mary" which de Montfort proposed to Christians as an effective way to live faithfully their holy baptismal commitments (cf. Redemptoris Mater, n. 48). It was "a secure means of finding Jesus Christ perfectly, of loving him tenderly, of serving him faithfully" (True Devotion to Mary, n. 62, pp. 38, 39). And Pope John Paul II was to become an admirable teacher and apostle of this devotion.
With his Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Mater (25 March 1987), John Paul II gave the Church some of the richest passages of his Marian magisterium. We recall here a few of the most outstanding.
"In Christ's testament on Golgotha... the Redeemer entrusts his Mother to the disciple, and at the same time he gives her to him as his mother. Mary's motherhood which becomes man's inheritance is a gift: a gift which Christ himself makes personally to every individual. The Redeemer entrusts Mary to John because he entrusts John to Mary.
"At the foot of the Cross there begins that special entrusting of humanity to the Mother of Christ.... Such entrusting is the response to a person's love, and in particular to the love of a mother.... Entrusting himself to Mary in a filial manner, the Christian, like the Apostle John, 'welcomes' the Mother of Christ 'into his own home' and brings her into everything that makes up his inner life, that is to say, into his human and Christian 'I'....
"Thus, the Christian seeks to be taken into that 'maternal charity' with which the Redeemer's Mother 'cares for the brethren of her Son', 'in whose birth and development she cooperates' in the measure of the gift proper to each one through the power of Christ's Spirit" (n. 45).
To conclude, our two witnesses and teachers of Marian spirituality seem to be portrayed in the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation: "These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands which stand before the Lord" (Rv 11:4). Standing before the glorious Mother of the Lord, St Louis Grignion de Montfort and the Servant of God John Paul II invite us to follow them on the immaculate path of Mary.
"May the Totus tuus of the beloved Pontiff [and may we add, also of St Louis), encourage us to follow him on the path of the gift of ourselves to Christ through the intercession of Mary, and may she herself, the Virgin Mary, obtain it for us" (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at the Memorial Mass for the Second Anniversary of the Death of John Paul 2 April 2007; ORE, 11 April, p. 9).
Weekly Edition in English
16 April, page 2008
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