Parish Missions

Author: St. Louis de Montfort




I. Parish Missions in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: 1. "Home missions" in relation to "foreign missions"; 2. The evolution of "home missions": a. First generation; b. Second generation; c. Third generation. II. Theological and Ecclesiological Presuppositions of Mission: 1. The Trinitarian source; 2. The influence of Scholasticism and the Bérulle school; 3. Synthesis. III. Targets of Mission: The Poor: 1. Who are the poor?; 2. Mission and social instances of the poor. IV. The Proclamation of God’s Word in Mission: 1. Preaching in the seventeenth century; 2. The proclamation of the Word in Montfort: a. The word of God is for everyone; b. The Word used for conversion: "touch the heart." 3. Methods of proclaiming salvation: a. The Sermons and the order of preaching; b. The Catechism of the parish mission. V. The Aim of Mission: 1. The pastoral of conversion; 2. Faithfulness to the promises of Baptism; 3. Consecration and Baptism; 4. The Covenant with God. VI. Relevance Today.


"Towards the end of the Seventeenth century and the beginning of the Eighteenth . . . the spirit of mission . . . is embodied vigorously by one man: Saint Louis Marie de Montfort,"1 Montfort is both the heir and the custodian of a great missionary tradition begun in the early seventeenth century by a number of eminent figures: St. Vincent de Paul (1581–1660), Michel Le Nobletz (1577–1652), St. John Eudes (1601–1680) and Blessed Julien Maunoir (1606–1683). Montfort brought such creative dynamism and such apostolic ardor to the preaching of missions that he can be considered the last of the great French missionaries. However, in order better to understand Montfort’s concern for mission, we must briefly recall the genesis and evolution of "home missions" throughout the seventeenth century.

1. "Home missions" in relation to "foreign missions."

As home missions sprung up in France in the first half of the seventeenth century, they displayed certain points of similarity with foreign missions. Reconstructing the beginnings of the home missionary movement in France is a complex task, for subsequent historiography often gives the name "mission" to any kind of preaching. The term "mission" is an umbrella term covering a great number of fairly diverse pastoral forms of missionary activity, which came into existence and developed over a long period of time. The topic can be clarified by reconstructing the history of the first mentions of the term "mission" as it was applied to apostolic activities within France.

In 1609–1610 the Jesuits set up a post which they described as a "mission" at Béarn, a Protestant region. In 1613 the Oratory, created two years earlier, accepted a four-year preaching foundation which in the relevant contract is designated by the word "missions." In 1617 the Capuchins went ahead with a plan of three years’ standing, initially aimed at Protestant regions, officially known as the "mission of Poitou." This mission is closely linked to the activity of Father Joseph of Paris (1577–1638) who, as early as 1616, was able to give a strong impetus to the Order’s missions.

The Capuchins saw France’s religious situation as scarcely different from that of India, perhaps because they found in missionary work that fundamental unity which springs from any religious vocation. It is therefore completely understandable that all the missions would be entrusted to the same authority and organized in the same fashion. Documents of the time present the home missionary as one who is restoring or even initiating a Christian environment, as though he were a religious arriving in a region with no clergy or place of worship at all. The sending of relationes to Rome and the granting of faculties by the Holy Office helped to reinforce the assimilation of the home to the foreign missions.2

The missionary activity organized in France by the Sacred Congregation Propaganda Fide was successful. The study of the archives of the Sacred Congregation would, according to B. Jacqueline, yield useful documentation on the number of Protestants embracing Catholicism in the course of the seventeenth century. No one can doubt the weakening of Protestantism in France during that period. Cardinal Ludovisi, in his letter to the Nuncios which announced the erection of the Sacred Congregation Propaganda Fide (Inscrutabili Divinae, June 22, 1622) already presented the dangers of the "dechristianization of the West," and recommended that the missionary activity of the Sacred Congregation Propaganda Fide should be developed among the faithful.3

All the evidence shows that the enthusiasm for missions ad gentes that the young Montfort felt during his seminary training never waned and found clear expression in the Prayer for Missionaries: a constant concern for the salvation of believers and infidels whom the Church’s mission has not yet reached. It is this conviction which inspired the great missionary enterprises of the era and impressed strongly on Montfort the universality of the call to salvation, the fundamental value of the missionary spirit.

2. The evolution of "home missions."

The first half of the seventeenth century saw the birth of what can be called the generation of "pioneers." The concept of "home missions"— which is linked to the ideal of the "foreign missions"—is most dynamic at this time because it is rooted in a realization of the misery and needs of the population. The missions aimed above all to catechize the rural parishes whose priests did not truly carry out the ministry of the Word.

If, after the Council of Trent, so many missionaries were active in Catholic Europe, it is also because the parish clergy failed to break away from the past and to rise to the task of the care of souls.4 The missions thus inaugurated a great period of "Christianization," particularly in France. There, the missionaries tried to penetrate into the rural world and modify it radically, while the preachers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries had preferred to speak to the population of the towns. And while all France’s social classes in the seventeenth century were affected by the missionaries’ apostolate, the preachers concentrated on the common people, for the lower levels of the population, whether in town or country, were considered the least Christianized. Methods varied, for in the absence of precedents the main concern was to respond to the situation the missionaries found. St. Vincent de Paul probably had the clearest vision at the time. He created the first "missionary" congregation to be consecrated specifically to the "poor people of the country."5

a. First generation.

During the first half of the century, the missionary who went out into the countryside did not differ radically from his counterparts leaving for the New World. The image of the "interior Indies," which referred not only to France but also to the religious situation of southern Italy, met with great success among the clergy who were interested in pastoral renewal. It illustrates the state of mind in which the Catholic campaign of reconquest was undertaken.6 To embark on a mission to regions of mixed faith was to grapple with the excesses of both religions. "It is therefore quite arbitrary," asserts Dompnier, "to try to distinguish between missions aiming at the conversion of the Protestants from other missions whose aim was the education and strengthening of the Catholics."7

In the light of all this, the mission appears as an enterprise that aims to re-appropriate a given region by the Church. The vocabulary employed by the missionaries supports this conclusion, including military terms and metaphors borrowed from the Gospel parables, e.g. seeds and sowing. These images imply that the faithful are passive. The missionary is the man who takes the initiative: he sows and he harvests, or he fights. People are the hearers of the word that is sown, or they are the territory that is fought over. It is the priest who comes, in God’s name, to tear souls away from the devil. Moreover, these images imply that the missionaries place particular emphasis on religious practice, the external sign of internal adherence to the true religion. "In coming to bring people back to the fold or to win people over, perhaps they were often more concerned to be able to display tangible results—the number of confessions, of communions, of conversions, etc. than to ensure a deep transformation in behavior. This latter concern probably only set in during the last decades of the century."8

b. Second generation.

A second generation of missionaries can be located in the years 1650– 1690. This is the era when the reform begun with the Council of Trent reached the clergy, and when the parish priests progressively attached more importance to the liturgy and to the administration of the sacraments, along with the teaching of the catechism. One might therefore believe that the missions would become rarer or even disappear, given that their need to act as substitutes for the local clergy had been reduced. On the contrary, the missions multiplied, for two reasons. First: between 1660 and 1680 there was the introduction of new approaches: retreats, the renewal of the promises of Baptism, and a variety of prayer groups. Second: the missionaries’ role as substitute had decreased, and they devoted themselves to a periodic revival, an extraordinary pastoral, in which the "great truths" and imposing ceremonies intended to move souls were emphasized more than before. The spectacular side of the missions is to be explained by the intention to impress the public, whose mentality was still unpolished and in need of a simple and forceful religious teaching. This was manifest in the bonfires of books and useless things, the imposing constructions of crosses, the allegorical writings, and the "living tableaux" organized to recall the principal scenes of the Bible or the works of the most popular saints.

c. Third generation.

Between 1690 and 1700, with the disappearance of the great religious figures of the century, the generation of development came to an end. Henceforth the principal concern was to remain broadly faithful to approaches inherited from the past, while attempting to improve them in certain respects. An "institutional" vision of the missions had been adopted; the new generation aimed at the conservation of tradition. During the course of the century, then, the term "mission" underwent a profound transformation in terms of aims much more than methods.9

Nevertheless, the evangelical effort was not to weaken during Montfort’s time, even if someone had already noticed "that the Missions are beginning to become less useful than formerly."10 The Church had again felt the need to re-launch this type of apostolic effort. Thus, after a period of relative calm and satisfaction between 1685 and 1690, came a second wave of Catholic reform. The first quarter of the eighteenth century saw the missions of the Doctrinarians in the southwest of the reign,11 and those of the Oratorians in the region of Avignon.12 The priests of the Community of St. Clément of Nantes worked in their own region, often in collaboration with Montfort’s missionaries,13 whom F. Lebrun defines as "the great specialists of the home missions of eighteenth-century France."14 The Vincentians worked in Upper Brittany,15 the Capuchins in the whole kingdom.16

Montfort’s apostolic life (1700–1716) must be placed in the context of the third generation of missionaries of Christendom in order that his personal choices and pastoral preferences might be understood.


1. The Trinitarian Source

PM teaches a Trinitarian theology of mission organized according to a three-part plan: mission—renewal—reign. On the basis of this teaching, Montfort adopted in RM 56 the formula "to renew the spirit of Christianity among the faithful" by the means of the mission to the people. The theological and ecclesial perspective and the subsequent missionary methodology go hand in hand. Montfort adopts the criterion of the Ecclesia semper reformanda, which had become rooted in the Church’s consciousness after the Council of Trent (even if around 1700 the Church’s situation was better than in previous centuries). He resorts to missions to the people as the preferred though not exclusive means of guaranteeing this renewal at the level of the local church.17

Even if Montfort adopted the only form of mission present in the France of his time—which was the only possible form in a Christian country—nevertheless, his work was inspired by a personal vision of the Church’s mission. There is no other way to explain the dynamics of the mission seen as the "renewal of the spirit of Christianity in Christians." This formula, probably derived from Olier,18 is taken up by St. John Eudes in his Constitutions19 and is proposed afresh by Montfort in RM 56. In order to arrive at the correct interpretation of this formula, we must place it in the theological context of mission expressed in PM.

The theological and ecclesial perspective of PM opens up a broader horizon than that implied by the method Montfort chose to follow in the missions to the people. In concrete terms, Montfort expresses the pastoral implication of the ecclesial mission of the institute: that the mission to the people is a prolongation and an historical realization of the mission of the Company which is called upon to "renew the spirit of Christianity in Christians" (RM 56).

2. The Influence of Scholasticism and the Bérulle School

The theological outline of mission in PM is rooted in the thinkers of Scholasticism, and more immediately in the spiritual doctrine of Cardinal de Bérulle and his school. The spiritual thinkers of the period, enamored with the mystery of the Triune God (cf. ST I, q. 43), attempted to express by the term missio/missiones—sending or mission— first, the dynamism within the Divinity (missio interior; missio ad intra; processiones aeternae)20 and second, the creative power of God manifested especially in the redemptive Incarnation of the Word of God (the new creation), and in the sending of the Spirit of God at Pentecost (missio exterior, missio ad extra: processiones temporales).21

This theological outline of PM is also to be found in TD and provides us with one of the key elements we need to interpret the Marian masterpiece: "The plan adopted by the three persons of the Blessed Trinity in the Incarnation, the first coming of Jesus Christ, is adhered to each day in an invisible manner throughout the Church and they will pursue it to the end of time until the last coming of Jesus Christ."22 This outline can also be applied analogically to the mission of Montfort’s Company of Mary. It would be more correct to say that this plan of God "animates" the mission of the Company. Montfort does not adopt it extrinsically, as if the mission of the Company were to be superimposed on a Trinitarian mission, but rather he resorts to the concept of participation, by which the mission of the Company is born of the dynamism within the Trinity and emanates from this dynamism according to the model of missiones ad extra.

Quite clearly it is within the context of salvation that the terms "renew" and "renewal" take on their fullest meaning. In PM in particular is to be found the full doctrinal expression of "mission": it is presented as an event of Salvation in the life of a Christian community. The "Directives to be Followed during their Missions" drawn up by Montfort in RM require that one or two missionaries should go ahead to announce the mission two weeks before it begins (RM 52). This is so that the missionaries, as Montfort asserts, "prepare the way for Jesus Christ." The announcement of the mission is not merely a means of pastoral pedagogy, but aims rather to make the parish community understand this event of grace. The community, once it has been prepared for the mission, is to pray, "in order to be worthy of the grace of the mission."

The mission is therefore announced to the Christian community as an event of Salvation: "The mission of the apostolic men is a continuation and an imitation of that of the Son of God who said to His disciples: ‘I send you as my Father sent me’. Now, just as our Lord came to save us, we are sent to you for this same reason. This will be the aim of our sermons and catechism lessons," (LS 778). Montfort confirms that the consciousness of being sent is at the root of the missionary mandate: "Finally, let them remember that it is Jesus Christ who is sending them just as He sent the apostles" (RM 65).

3. Synthesis

A few conclusions can now be drawn:

a. "To renew the spirit of Christianity," means to reawaken the consciousness of the Ecclesia semper reformanda. It is the consciousness of the "already" and the "not yet" that must safeguard the Church, the sign and preparation of the coming of the reign of Christ, by means of a "reform" in the heart of the Christian community.

b. Montfort places the mission of his Company (RM 56) within the historical/salvific dynamism of Trinitarian mission and in the context of the preparation and coming of Christ’s reign. Consequently, the "consecration to Jesus Christ through the hands of Mary" as the spiritual path to a renewal of Christian identity is the methodological missionary option Montfort prefers for the preparation of the Church for the Second Coming of Christ. Mary collaborates with the Trinity in the "work of all times," i.e. the Incarnation of the Word in the life and the history of men.

c. Consequently the eschatological perspective of the Company’s own mission (RM 56), prefigured by the apostles of the end times, can be correctly interpreted according to its original sitz-im-leben: the coming of the reign of Christ by the coming of the reign of Mary.


1. Who Are the Poor?

While mission must embrace all humanity, it must favor the poorest, according to the words of Isaiah, which were repeated by Jesus and adopted by Montfort in his life and in RM 2: "The Lord has sent me to preach good news to the poor." The missionaries always made this phrase their motto.

The theme of the poor is complex: within it the problem of Montfort’s personal attitude towards the poor is intertwined with the values of evangelical poverty. Saint Vincent de Paul realized that at the heart of Christendom in France and in all of Europe various groups were "religiously marginalized." In the society of the ancien régime there were many homeless individuals, vagrants wandering from town to town. For all practical purposes, they had no parish life and lived outside the religious system. Hence Montfort’s emphasis on the poor, his desire to bring back to the practice of the faith a group living so radically on the periphery of society.

"In our minds, the image of St. Louis-Marie Grignion Montfort is inseparable from those to whom he felt called"23 writes V. L. Tapié. The discovery of the poor marked Montfort’s adolescence, and it is to the poor that he dedicated the first years of his ministry. This precise social and religious orientation of Montfort rests in part on a personal theological vision: the poor are the close friends of Jesus Christ and, much more, they are Jesus Christ himself.24

Indeed, in the ancien régime the poor continued to benefit from the Franciscan idealization which they had undergone in the Middle Ages. Begging remained more or less sacred. To stop a poor man from begging meant attacking all these values. The idea that the poor keep their aura of Godliness is suggested by too many documents for it not to have been true. The custom of choosing a godfather and godmother from the poor, or even among vagrants, is very significant. The concept of the poor man as representative of Christ finds expression in these and many other customs. Such behavior is not fundamentally different from that of Montfort who, one evening, carrying a poor man on his shoulders, shouted before the door of the house at Dinan where he was staying: "Open up to Jesus Christ." Interpreting this spiritual orientation of Montfort, Besnard was to write: "He saw only Him [Christ] in the poor; he venerated Him in them, he saw them as a sacrament which contained Jesus Christ hidden beneath their exterior. ‘A poor man,’ he used to say, ‘is a great mystery; one must know how to penetrate this mystery.’"25

But there is also a world of the poor of which society disapproved and which it clearly marginalized. J. P. Gutton asserts: "To write the social history of the poor also means writing the history of a ‘separation,’ of an ‘expulsion’ from society."26 Often it is precisely with a connotation of the asocial that the poor appear in Montfort’s texts, in particular in his Hymns where he acknowledges that the "demon" calls them "poor dog" (H 46:11); "wretch, utter rabble" (H 46: 21; cf. H 107); "barefaced idlers, evil breed," (H 18:5) and so on. Montfort reiterates a well-known fact; however, the manner he presents it is quite original. It suffices to quote, for instance, the famous hymn, "The Cries of the Poor" (H 18), in which social marginalization is a curse, and alms for the poor is the remedy for the deep wound of pauperism.27 As a result the poor man is, simultaneously and alternately, a blessing and a disgrace, holy or a moral deviant.

However, a new concept of the poor had begun to take root as early as the beginning of the seventeenth century, which during Montfort’s time began to gain acceptance: poverty is still represented by marginal and asocial people, but at the same time it affected most of the population, and especially the farming world, the vital strength of the country. In other words, the poor become a people. The result is an image of a fragile society with no security, with more than half of the population living at subsistence level.28

Montfort’s preference for the poor is therefore a preference for those levels of society at the very edge of subsistence and more generally for the "poor people" of the countryside. Montfort requires of his missionaries that "the poor are to be the special objects of their care. They must never refuse to help them, materially when possible, and spiritually, even if they say only one Hail Mary" (RM 47). Moreover Montfort’s personal habit of always inviting a poor person to his table becomes an instruction for his missionaries: "After each catechetical instruction, they will provide a meal for all the poor of the parish who have attended the instruction and every morning and evening they will bring one of them to eat at their table" (RM 48).29

The "poor of the parish" apparently are to be assisted by the local Christian community. A passage of Besnard alludes to the participation of lay persons in the pastoral of charity organized at the time of the mission: "This is the plan which he had proposed and which he followed precisely. He would invite the women and young ladies of the Parish, giving a little speech on the merit of good works and especially of giving alms. He told them that his custom was that the poor should be fed during the mission, in order to be able to gather them all together and instruct them in the ways of Christianity, of which most of the poor were ignorant. He exhorted them to lend a hand in this good work. Then he would find a house in the vicinity, where every day a pot of food would be boiled up for the poor. Everyone was invited to contribute to this, each according to his means. The meal was prepared by those pious persons who had taken on this responsibility."30

2. Mission and Social Instances of the Poor

In the seventeenth century debates on pauperism were often suspected of being an attempt to justify social inequalities and to show the mass of the poor as an obstacle to the affluent society. In this context, poverty was seen, quite categorically, either as punishment for a moral shortcoming or as the negative byproduct of a fundamentally just and beneficial social process (as though it were nothing more than a fact of nature which could not be eliminated), which public and Christian charity had a duty to alleviate.31

The spiritual and apostolic perspective adopted by Montfort in his missions had to reckon with the social reality of the poverty created by the system of fiscal injustice imposed on France by Louis XIV’s economically disastrous reign. The minutes of a parish meeting of November, 1715—drawn up during the mission Montfort gave at Vouvant— inform us of a legal dispute between the people and a certain tax collector. The locals named the Mayor, Louis Guéry, as their representative who called a meeting during which he announced that, if necessary, the taxpayers were ready to go to court. Montfort agreed to side with the poor of the parish of Vouvant to help them claim their rights by law.32 Montfort’s name does not figure in the document drawn up by the lawyer Bernier. The missionary had not attended the meeting, but that does not mean that he was not involved in the affair. We know that in the missions he often went to great lengths to resolve disagreements between individuals and families. In the Vouvant affair there is formal proof of his intervention. That he did not hesitate to take part openly in favor of the people emerges from several lines of a hymn he composed during this mission. Here we read: "Pray, poor people, eaten up, / By excessive cuts [into your earnings] / You will be relieved of them / without court proceedings. / Come, poor laborers, / you will have in abundance" (H 159: 6). It is possible that these words were less a promise to the poor than an invitation to abandon a lawsuit, but there is no doubt that the first words contain a condemnation of arbitrary and unjust taxes. The tax collectors were certainly aware of Montfort’s sympathies, and in all probability it was they who gave the chief tax collector Philippeau the idea of accusing Father de Montfort of breaching the peace and of having his mission notes seized.33 This episode is extremely revealing, showing a Montfort who is not at all a stranger to the social justice concerns of his time, such as those which had already begun to develop in the second half of the seventeenth century around representative figures such as Fénelon, La Bruyère, and the Abbot Fleury.34


1. Preaching in the Seventeenth Century

The preachers of the beginning of the seventeenth century tended—as Montfort complained several times—to preach sermons which were "popular . . . [and] which very often produce admiration but not instruction" (SR 114). In Montfort’s estimation, these preachers think above all about impressing the public with constant quotations in Latin and references to extraordinary events of profane or sacred history. Each preacher plays the role of the erudite: interminable, confused sermons, perhaps barely suitable for an educated urban audience but meaningless for most of the Christian people. If one really wants to convert people one must deliberately end this practice and begin to make oneself understood. Therefore missionaries must not let themselves be carried away by their "eloquence," for the task is not to speak well, but to instruct.35

St. Vincent de Paul recommends to his members "the little method" he himself had perfected. This consisted, first and foremost, in organizing the content of the sermon according to a rational outline which could be changed according to the requirements of the argument in question. It was a whole style and a language. It was the return to evangelical preaching, the use of familiar examples, and a direct and natural tone. This meant avoiding pedantic quotations and profane authors. It meant a certain caution in using allusions; it meant respecting heretics, who were not to be attacked but before whom the truths of Catholicism were to be simply set out; it meant concern for the effective conversion of souls and an absolute absence of vanity. The "little method" could be summarized, according to Vincent, in a single phrase: simplicity in preaching.36

Montfort shares in this same tradition and he reflects its requirements. In RM he portrays in caricature the figure of the "fashionable preacher" (RM 60) and contrasts it with that of the "apostolic missionary" who "preaches the simple truth, avoiding all pretentiousness and discarding all fables, false statements and dissembling. He must be bold and speak with authority, showing neither fear nor human respect. He must preach with all charity and give offense to none. His intention must be holy and centered on God alone. God’s glory must be his sole preoccupation and he must first practice what he preaches: coepit Jesus facere et docere" (RM 62).37 Paragraphs 60–65 of RM all deal with the qualities of the apostolic preacher. The qualities listed and the type of preaching recommended reflect themes common at the time.38

Another typical aspect of the preaching of the period is the cultivation of drama, which reached its peak in the eighteenth century with Father Bridaine, and which probably was also expressed in the seventeenth century. Emotional reactions, such as shedding tears at the most pathetic moments of the sermon, were so widespread at the time that they even touched the most hardened and reserved among the faithful: the missionary thus allocated a role to the audience in the cause of converting individuals.

The main aim of the "pathetic" sermons (generally given in the evening) was apparently to create an atmosphere that might favor the reception of the (often terrifying) content of the sermon. The church was lighted by candles, and the shadows that their weak, trembling light threw into the half-light was a sight that increased the terror aroused by the missionary’s tone and his words. J. Delumeau spoke of the "pastoral of fear." It was believed that the fear inculcated in this way was salutary and that it led the faithful to make a general confession, which was the fundamental justification of the mission.39

Drama is therefore not merely a scenic expedient, but an integral and essential element of missionary preaching. "Drama is not only the expression of the taste for demonstration," asserts B. Dompnier, "but was thought to be fundamental in provoking an emotional reaction, which was important."40 Moreover, the preachers, "with the help of an appropriate pedagogy, solicited a reaction from those assembled whom they led . . . into making a show of themselves for themselves."41 This is an aspect which is of foremost importance as we seek to understand the range of technique of preaching of the "home missions" of the ancien régime.

The very announcement of mission must take the form "of an appeal to the people’s feelings" (RM 52), in order to find souls inclined to receive the word. Like many preachers of his time, Montfort aimed to move people’s hearts through his sermons. The biographical sources emphasize the "pathetic" aspect of Montfort’s sermons. Besnard writes: "He never preached without moving his listeners to tears."42 During the mission of Moncontour (in the diocese of St.-Brieuc), he passed his ivory crucifix along the rows of pews to be kissed: "Having listened to the words full of unction which the missionary spoke while he had his crucifix pass from row to row to be kissed, they could not hold back their tears and they shed them abundantly with the rest of the congregation."43 A similar scene occurred in the mission of St. John’s Parish in Montfort’s home village.44 The kissing of the crucifix prepares the grace for the reception of absolution in the mission of Valette (diocese of Nantes). A sudden storm and the "noise of thunder and the lightening threw everyone into consternation. The feeling of fear helped to bring the people to contrition.45

2. The Proclamation of the Word in Montfort

In this way one can briefly schematize Montfort’s position on the pastoral currents of his time. Far from being favorable to an anti- Jansenist system, as has often been asserted, he was able to draw on the Augustinians, who were supporters of Jansenism, and also their opponents, who were motivated by a commitment to orthodoxy. He was as sensitive to the pedagogical concerns of the opponents to Jansenism as to the influence of the Augustinians, who had helped complete his vision of Christianity. Nothing expresses this balance of Montfort better than his concern for the Rosary, in which he combines a taste for external practices and popular images with the spirit of communion in the mysteries of Christ, distinctly reminiscent of Bérulle. In the domain of pastoral action he collaborated with the Augustinians, who were later to die in schism, as much as with the self-declared anti-Augustinians, such as Monsignor E. de Champflour, bishop of La Rochelle. Far from being a man of the traditional party, as people have wished to see him, Montfort seems today to be a man of mediation who was able to reconcile the best of conflicting tendencies.

a. The word of God is for everyone.

In parish missions, the word of God undeniably occupies a central place in Montfort’s missionary practice: "The preaching of God’s word" is "the most far-reaching, the most effective and also the most difficult ministry of all" (RM 60). The effectiveness of the mission would be compromised if the missionaries, through their sermons, "only beat the air and titillate the ears" (RM 60). Montfort is convinced that people go to the mission "to hear only God Himself / In each preacher" (H 141:5) and to "fill themselves with God / And His words of life" (H 157:33). Montfort places the announcement of the word and the conversion of the faithful in close relation: "I received your light, / Your grace and my pardon, / In the last mission / When listening to the sermon" (H 139:3).

Around 1700 the announcement of the word by preaching the catechism and, especially in Montfort’s case, by the missionary hymns, remains of the highest priority for all missionaries. Montfort believes too deeply in the need for knowledge in conversion not to place this ministry at the forefront of this pastoral, without neglecting the validity of its content.46 For Montfort, "the church and the word of God are for everybody" (RM 53).

b. The Word used for conversion: "touch the heart."

The preacher of the seventeenth century must "pierce, move, and convert the most hardened hearts" (SR 51) with "powerful, touching, piercing words [. . .] which go from the heart of the one through whom he speaks straight to the heart of the listener" (LEW 96).

The metaphor of the heart is current in the seventeenth century and implies a heavy emphasis on a connection with the will and with feelings; indeed, the image of the heart recalls the apex mentis of the spiritual writers.47 A recent study by A. Sauvy refocused attention on the fact that the form of the heart admirably suits baroque art, so much so that it became a universal symbol. It is found everywhere, in religious and profane works and even in alchemy, and very often it is at the center of the symbolism of the "mission tableaux," a tradition dear to the Breton missions.48 The return to an "abandoned" God really meant "a new heart and a new spirit" (Ezk 18, 30–32). The announcement of the word of God in mission was also destined to uproot "the lies which originate in hell" from a heart which is "the citadel where the tyrant has locked himself in" (RM 60). If the Word does not enter the heart to transform it, "[the tyrant] is not unduly alarmed by all the hubbub going on outside" (RM 60).

3. Methods of proclaiming salvation

In addition to the composition and singing of hymns (cf. the article "Hymns" in this work), there are two other means of proclamation Montfort adopted and modified.

a. The Sermons and the order of preaching.

LS49 does not contain the actual preaching of Montfort, nor does it provide us with summaries, for Montfort composed the manuscript to have at his disposal a collection of notes to serve as a stock of basic material for the missions to the people. The great number of sermon outlines and the quantity of themes dealt with attest not only to the interests connected with Montfort’s long-term planning, but, more immediately, to the general content of the announcement. The content perfectly reflects the traditional needs of the mission of Christendom.

The manuscript is divided into three parts, and the order of the parts is not chronological. The second part is the oldest and includes an alphabetical collection of sermon themes, of which the greatest number must be attributed to Montfort’s time in Paris at Saint-Sulpice (1695– 1700). The first and the third part date from the last years of Montfort’s missionary experience.

It is the first part which is of interest here. This part develops one of the mission’s programs, "Order of Sermons for a Lenten Mission" (LS 530–31). The mission began with the first Sunday of Lent and ended on the Tuesday after Easter, for a total of thirty-eight days. The opening of the four-week mission invited the faithful to reflect on the greatness of God and on His service; the two following weeks centered on the theme of penance/confession, while the conclusion, the fourth Sunday of Lent, was related to the theme of reconciliation and the forgiveness of sins. In parallel, the themes of the "Last Things" were approached: death, particular judgment, Hell, and Heaven.

The Monday of the third week opened a cycle of sermons on the theme of the love of Jesus Christ which ended on the Thursday of the fourth week on the love of God. The missionary proposed different thoughts, spread across a period of eleven days, on habitual sins—like lying, slander, anger, impurity—and on the corresponding positive attitudes inspired by Christian virtues—like humility, gentleness, obedience, purity, and patience—to conclude with the theme of prayer and of the qualities of devotion to Mary.

The "reparation to the Blessed Sacrament" was set for the Friday of the fourth week. The following Sunday, Passion Sunday, the preacher spoke to his congregation on the occasions of sin, in particular lawsuits and dancing. The following day was for the themes of faith and almsgiving; the devil and his temptations, the guardian angel and devotion to him; contempt of the world and its maxims; the above- mentioned sermon on the love of God; and finally, the name of Jesus and the crucifix. On the Saturday preceding Palm Sunday there was the sermon on the renewal of the promises of Baptism, which precedes the sermon on Fervent Communion and Unworthy Communion. A sermon on the Holy Rosary concluded the celebration of the Palms.

The fifth week, Holy Week, was to include a series of sermons on good works and the familial duties of parents and children. On Good Friday it was indispensable to speak on the theme of the Passion, while on Saturday the subject was the Passion of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Easter Sunday was obviously dedicated to the same theme: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and, to finish, the resurrection of the body and general judgment. On Easter Monday the missionaries spoke of priests and the closing of the mission, and could not fail to recall the theme of perseverance. The address known as the "Farewell Discourse" sealed the end of the Lenten mission.

The first part of the Book of Sermons also includes a "Sermon-matter for a Mission, or a Retreat, or the Renewal of Baptismal Promises." This is probably the program of mission which is most typical of Montfort. It comprises twenty-four sermons divided into four different thematic groups having as their common factor the central formula of the Covenant with God: "I renounce the devil, his pomps and his works and I unite myself with you, my Jesus." The subject-matter is divided as follows: five days consecrated to the opening section; two to "I renounce his pomps"; nine to "I renounce his works"; and eight to "I unite with Jesus my Savior."

In the first five days (on "I renounce the devil") the mission starts off on the theme "On God’s side. On the devil’s side." The congregation is made to feel it is standing before two options, a situation that can only be resolved by freely choosing salvation. Into this process of liberation from the negative forces which prevent men from belonging to God, Montfort introduces the theme of the innocence of Baptism in relation to the "excellence of the soul" (fifth sermon). The key to reading this first series is in its conclusion: the importance of salvation, one of the fundamental aims of the missions of the time. From this perspective the mission was even seen as a kind of urgent intervention for the salvation of the faithful who were threatened by damnation.50 However, Montfort already opens in this first section an itinerary of Baptismal spirituality, which leads to the fourth section concerning the renewal of the promises of Baptism.

The second series of sermons, on renunciation of the devil’s pomps, proposes afresh an indispensable theme: contempt of the world and its vanities, for the world is "the enemy of truth."

There follows the third section (on the renunciation of the "works of the devil") which presents mortal sin—preceded by a sermon on devotion to Mary "for a true and prudent repentance"—and in which the traditional theme of interior and exterior penance is taken up again as a way of approaching fervent communion, which is the basis of a witness to the believer’s faith through good works. This third cycle of preaching concludes with the theme of Heaven, already broached in the "Last Things": death, particular and general judgment, and eternal suffering. The section concerning the last realities is normally linked to the theme of penance and confession.

The fourth section ("I unite with Jesus my Savior") opens with the theme of loving union with Jesus Christ, made explicit in what follows by the theme of charity towards our neighbor. The last four sermons of this cycle are dedicated to Baptism and the renewal of the promises of Baptism, with Montfort’s typical emphasis on the "necessity of renewing them [. . .] through the Blessed Virgin Mary." The liturgy of the renewal of baptismal promises precedes the last sermon of the mission on perseverance.

b. The Catechism of mission.

It is only in 1670 that the institution of the parish catechism began to spread through France but by the end of the century it had been established almost universally. The turning point is between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when each bishop, in the context of the reform of his diocese, intended to publish his own manual of catechism, "the only to be taught in his diocese." This is how the diocesan manuals came to multiply. Not a year went by without a new text appearing: the newly-appointed bishop would have his predecessor’s manual reprinted, or he reworked it, resumed or expanded it, and he borrowed from the catechisms of other dioceses more or less explicitly, unless he wished to compose a new one or entrusted its preparation to the director of his seminary. The aim was always the formation of the "good Christian" who would live a life in the service of God. Of course, the catechisms do not escape the influence of the doctrinal currents of the period. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1682) brought about a renewal in Catholic manuals of apologetic passages directed towards the "newly converted." The Jansenist and anti-Jansenist polemic easily led to the replacement of any bishop’s manual by his successor’s, where the two showed different tendencies.51

Montfort drew up "Rules for Catechetical Instruction"—appended to RM— around 1713, during his time at La Rochelle. The catechetical tradition of the mission to the people was henceforth a given, and Montfort himself does not fail to recognize its importance: "The catechist has the most important function of the whole mission, and the one who is appointed catechist by obedience must do all he can to fulfill his function worthily. It is more difficult to find an accomplished catechist than it is to find a perfect preacher" (RM 79). The catechist is reminded of an "abridged catechism for the use of missionaries from which the children can learn in seven short lessons all that is necessary for salvation. I say ‘in general’ because, in the case where the parish priest of the locality has given the children a sound instruction based on another catechism with a different wording, the missionary must use this catechism. He thus avoids confusing the minds of the children who learn more by rote than by reasoning" (RM 91).

It seems that Montfort’s experience convinced him of the usefulness of a catechism adapted to his mission to the people. The text of RM would seem to afford proof of this: there existed an "Abridged Catechism for the Use of Missionaries,"52 a small manual whose length took into account the average duration of a mission (three to four weeks). Hymn 109, which is presented as a summary of the mysteries of the faith, seems to have been composed during Montfort’s stay at Saint-Sulpice, when he was designated the catechist of the young and of the "lackeys" of the Saint-Germain district of Paris (where the Parish of Saint- Sulpice was located).53

The essential elements of the Sulpician catechetical school were subsequently to be reflected in RM. These included learning by rote, repetition, rewards, amusing little stories, and a designated seat during the lessons (RM 80–91). However, the aim of the instruction is subordinate to the goal of the moral transformation of the children: prayer, the hymns, and especially moving exhortation on the great truths are to transform knowledge into an attraction to a true conversion to God (RM 83). The Sulpician catechisms led Montfort to explore the relationship between the renewal of the promises of Baptism and the consecration to Christ through Mary, which are the mainsprings of his missionary preaching.


1. The Pastoral of Conversion

In the language of the seventeenth century, by "conversion" is meant moral conversion, experienced and understood within the Christian faith. The pastoral of conversion was not only linked to the sacrament of penance (confession was an exercise of the greatest importance in the missions) but also took its place in a pastoral of Christian instruction. Conversion, moreover, was not considered merely "personal" but was linked to the needs of the parish community. It certainly involved the inner life of personal conscience, but it also involved day-by-day behavior, including the fact of living together in a social context. In other words, confession serves as an intermediary stage on the way to the true aim of mission pursued by all the missionaries of the time: conversion.54

In his missions, Montfort like other missionaries of his time not only required a "moral" conversion, but one reaching beyond mere morality into the domain of faith. Conversion, like preaching, must transform the heart. Drawing inspiration from a sermon of Lejeune, Montfort was to say that "penance is a change: Be converted! It changes our heart,. . . our whole heart . . . Be assured that conversion has been as nothing if this change has not taken place in the heart."55 The confessors and preachers of the time all say as much. Confession during a parish mission is understood to be a general confession. It was quite common to use a written memory-aid that could be read in the confessional before the confessor. Besnard recalls that "the paper which they held to help them remember what to say was often quite wet with their tears."56

2. Faithfulness to the Promises of Baptism

Montfort includes two plans for sermons on Baptism. The first (drawn up immediately after a lecture by Leschassier)80 mainly sets out the truths of the promises of Baptism; the layout is the same as in the programs of mission. The body of the sermon explains first the excellence of the grace of Baptism, then the renunciation of Satan, and third, faithfulness to the promises of Baptism to emphasize adherence to Christ. The text suggested is borrowed from St. Paul: "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Ga 3:27). And in perfect parallel to this he develops the theme of the "Receive this garment" of the liturgy of Baptism. Finally the practical part follows: "1. Contrition for the past; 2. Proposal for the future; 3. Renewal of the promises of Baptism." In this sermon, as in the programs of mission, the plan is always the same: the ascetic aspects of the renunciation of Satan, and the positive aspect: adherence to Christ. Renunciation is a preliminary condition (penance): the aim is total adherence to Jesus Christ (reconciliation).

The subject of the second sermon (which might perhaps also be attributed to Leschassier58) is the promises of Baptism. The first item of para. 161 parallels TD 128. The outline focuses on the theme of the renunciation of Satan and his works: "Men make a point of honor of keeping their promises and not breaking their contracts: people say ‘he is a man of his word’. What, then, of God?" The second point of the outline relates to the "necessity of fulfilling them to avoid damnation." The practices suggested are resumed as follows: "1. Contrition for all past failures. 2. Renewal. 3 Meditation on these obligations."

3. Consecration and Baptism

Every consecration is an awakening to the "new life" which follows on Baptism.59 The first allusion to the relation between Baptism and consecration is to be found, apparently, in the Narré of Cardinal de Bérulle. The true contribution of Bérulle’s thought is the discovery of the potentialities contained in the sacrament of Baptism. The Sulpicians M. de Lantages and M. de la Chétardie, disciples of Bérulle, clearly expressed this relation in their catechisms. It is Father Julien Maunoir (1606–1683) who introduced into parish missions the solemn renewal of the promises of Baptism. His disciple, Dom Leuduger (1649–1722), with whom Montfort collaborated for less than a year, continued the tradition. In his book Bouquet de la Mission, in which he presents a "formula of renewal," Leuduger associates the commitment of renewal of the promises of Baptism with the religious vows: "Christianity is the religion of Jesus Christ: all Christians are religious, they have all taken the vow to keep this religion; they must therefore, following the example of those who bear the name of religious, renew, as the Fathers say, their Baptismal vows." The influence of Bérulle, in the form of the "spirit of religion" dear to the Oratorian missions, seems clear. His formula presents "an act which contains the Covenant which we have made with God."60 He therefore asks people to prepare themselves for renewal through confession, then through communion.

It is interesting to note that Our Lady is not mentioned in Eudes’ or Leuduger’s formula of Baptismal renewal. "Mary is practically absent from Bérulle’s doctrine of Baptism; Providence was to entrust the task of enriching and completing it to Montfort," says Poupon.61 Montfort’s most important contribution is probably the role he attributes to the Virgin Mary in his mission apostolate. In this he owes much to the spiritual thinkers of the seventeenth century, in particular the Sulpicians. Nevertheless his representation of Mary is decidedly more catechetical. And in relation to the doctrine of the other missionaries, Montfort presents the function of Mary as more closely linked to the Trinity’s plan of salvation.62

4. The Covenant with God

Grandet, the first biographer of Montfort, writes: "He had a formula for renewal of the Baptismal vows printed which he had signed by those who could write."63 This is the "Covenant with God." This document is of utmost importance. The missionary handed it out to all who had attended the mission, i.e., all those who had attended the different services and were inclined to accomplish the essential act of the mission, the renewal of the Baptismal vows. Each signed the document and carefully guarded it. Leuduger explained this recourse to signing a document by stating that, "if this practice of signing the contract appears new or extraordinary to anyone, let him read Chapters 9 and 10 of the second book of Esdras, where it is stated that the Jews, after their return from captivity in Babylon, signed in their own hand the covenant which they had made with God."64

The formula of May 4, 1709, made at Pontchâteau reads: "1) [Profession of faith:] I firmly believe all the truths of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ. 2) [Renunciation of Evil:] I renounce forever Satan, the world, sin and myself. 3) [Promise of faithfulness:] With the help of God’s grace, which will never be wanting to me, I promise to keep faithfully all the commandments of God and of the Church, and avoid mortal sin and its occasions, especially bad company. 4) [Consecration:]I give myself entirely to Jesus Christ by the hands of Mary, to carry my Cross after him all the days of my life. 5) [Clause concerning Salvation:] I believe that if I keep these promises faithfully until death, I shall be eternally saved, but that if I do not keep them, I will be eternally damned. [Signature:] In testimony of this I affix my signature. [Closing formula:] Signed in the presence of the Church in the parish of Pontchâteau, on this 4th day of May in the year 1709. L. M. de Montfort" (CG 1).

This text expresses in five brief paragraphs an exceptional summary of the Christian spirituality that Montfort offers to the faithful in his missions. It serves to explain to those who sign it the content of the mission seen as the announcement of salvation: the truths of the faith of the Gospel professed by the Christian; the commandments of God and the Church; the priority of grace in the believer’s response to the commitment of the Christian life; our conformity to Christ by a path of faith guided by Mary’s presence; the urgent problem of one’s own salvation represented as the alternative to breaking the promises of Baptism. The Parish community witnesses the Covenant with God, entered into by the faithful.

It is worth emphasizing that the name of the Virgin Mary is invoked in the very act of renewal of the promises of Baptism, or the gift of self to Christ.65 She is mentioned in the Covenant not only to pay honor to her, or to express a particular esteem towards the Mother of God, but because she must be present, given that we cannot consecrate ourselves perfectly to Jesus except through her. Montfort means to explain to Christians that perfect devotion to the Virgin, far from being a gesture with no actual impact, is a true realization of the commitments deriving from Baptism. Other missionaries also recommended devotion to the Virgin, but they did not do so with the same force, and, especially, they did not expressly establish any particular link with the renewal of promises of Baptism.66

The renewal of the promises of Baptism—the highest aim of Montfort’s missions—expressed a solemn commitment, sealed in the Covenant, to live as true Christians. There is no need to emphasize the similarity, of structure and content, between CG and the ceremony of renewal described by Grandet,67 with its extraordinary thematic and liturgical relevance. One could describe this ceremony as the liturgical version of the scriptural texts of the covenant renewal ceremonies.


Evangelization is an essential aspect of the Church’s mission. Montfort had a clear awareness of this: "Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel" (1 Co 1:17; cf. RM 2). Missionary evangelization aims to convert individuals and peoples and unite them around Christ to form in Him a community which is the sign and sacrament of salvation.68 This evangelization represents an earnest aspiration on Montfort’s part and forms the basis of his concept of the universal vocation to holiness.

The evangelizing Church must constantly be evangelized itself. Montfort is well aware of this. When he did criticize the Church of his time, it was for fear that evangelical zeal was weakening. This is why he writes: "Your divine commandments are broken, your Gospel is thrown aside" (PM 5). The Church, situated within the world and often tempted to yield to so many idols, needs continually to hear the great works of God proclaimed in order to uphold and deepen the faith of its members.

There exist several ways and means of evangelization, among which the explicit announcement of the Word occupies a special place. Montfort does not hesitate to write that "The preaching of God’s word is the most far-reaching, the most effective and also the most difficult ministry of all" (RM 60).

Everyone needs to be catechized and evangelized. We know that in the missions under the ancien régime, the catechesis of different social groups was the substructure of the mission. Montfort sets down "Rules for Catechetical Instruction" in the conviction that "the catechist has the most important function of the whole mission" (RM 79).

This evangelization is directed to individuals, groups, communities and associations, and also to the masses—to all those who profess themselves Christians and who belong to the Church in one way or another. Montfort’s formula, designed "to renew the spirit of Christianity among the faithful" (RM 56), reflects this wide pastoral horizon.

This is a comprehensive evangelization, aiming for the renewal and deep transformation of persons, communities, and cultures, but it is also a "new evangelization" because "in the countries which possess a long Christian tradition, as sometimes in the youngest churches . . . whole groups among the baptized have lost their acute sense of faith, they no longer even recognize that they are members of the Church, and they lead an existence far removed from Christ and his Gospel."69

In the perspective of this new evangelization, the parish mission in its variety of contemporary forms helps Christians discover the requirements of constant conversion to Christ begun in Baptism. This is the program Montfort adopted when he centered the whole mission on the perfect renewal of the Baptismal vows. The directive of Pope John Paul II, echoing the thought of Father de Montfort, must be heeded: "Traditional missions, which have often been too quickly abandoned and which are irreplaceable in renewing Christian life periodically and vigorously, must be resumed and renewed."70

P. L. Nava

Notes: (1) H. Daniel-Rops, Histoire de l’Église du Christ (History of the Christian Church), vol. V/1: L’Église des temps classiques. Le grand siècle des âmes (The Church in the Age of Classicism. The Great Century of Souls), A. Fayard, Paris 1958, 330. (2) Cf. B. Dompnier, Mission lointaine et mission de l’intérieur chiz les capucins francais de la premiére moitié du XVIIe siécle (The French Capuchin Foreign and Home Missions in the First Half of the XVI Century) in Les réveils missionnaires en France du Moyen Age á nos jours (XIIe-XXe siécles) (The Missionary Awakenings in France from the Middle Ages to Our Day [XII-XX Centuries], Acts of the Colloquium at Lyons, May29-31 1980, organized by the Society of Ecclesiastical History of France together with the Society of the History of French Protestantism, Paris 1984, 95. (3) Cf. B. Jacqueline, La sacrée Congrégation de Propaganda Fide et le réveil de la conscience missionnaire de France au XVIIe siècle (The Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide and the Awakening of Missionary Conscience in Seventeenth-Century France), in Les réveils, 116–17. (4) Cf. J. Delumeau, Cristianità et cristianizzazione. Un itinerario storico, (Christianity and Christianizing: An Historical Itinerary), Marietti, Torino 1984, 182–223. (5) Cf. L. Mezzadri, San Vincenzo de Paul, Edizioni paoline, Cinisello B. 1986, 113–124. (6) Cf. B. Dompnier, Le vin de l’hérésie. Image du protestantisme et combat catholique au XVIIe (The Wine of Heresy. The Image of Protestantism and the Catholic Struggle in the seventeenth century), Le Centurion, Paris 1985, 203. (7) Ibid., 204. (8) Ibid., 205. (9) On the development of popular missions, cf. L. Pérouas, "Missions intérieures et missions extérieures françaises durant les premières décennies du XVIIe siècle" (Home and Foreign Missions during the First Decades of the seventeenth century), in Parole et Missions (Word and Missions) 27 (1964) 644–58. The rigorous historical synthesis of B. Peyrous is indispensable: "Missions paroissiales" (Parish Missions), Catholicisme 9 (1980) 401–31. (10) The influence of this crisis in popular missions towards the end of the seventeenth century is explored in Le parfait missionaire ou instructions très-utiles à tous les prêtres, pour travailler avec fruit à la vigne du Seigneur, (The Perfect Missionary or Very Useful Instructions for All Priests to Work Fruitfully in the Vineyard of the Lord),G. Buitingh, Quimper 1696, 35. (11) Cf. J. Viguerie, "Les missions intérieures des Doctrinaires toulousains au début du XVIIIe: un missionnaire, le père Jean-Baptiste Badou" (The Home Missions of the Doctrinaires of Toulouse at the Beginning of the eighteenth century: A Missionary, Father Jean-Baptiste Badou), in Revue historique (Historical Review), 93 (1986) 41–64. (12) Cf. M. Vénard, "Les missions des oratoriens d’Avignon aux XVIIe–XVIIIe siècles" (The Missions of the Oratorians of Avignon in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries), Revue d’histoire de l’Église de France (Review of the History of the Church in France) 47 (1961) 16–39. (13) Cf. M. Faugeras, "La communauté missionnaire de Saint-Clément de Nantes. Mission et cathéchèse au temps de Grignion Montfort" (The Missionary Community of St. Clément of Nantes: Mission and Catechesis in the Time of Grignion Montfort), Annales de Bretagne et des Pays de l’Ouest (Annals of Brittany and the Western Regions of France) 81 (1974) 553–76. (14) F. Lebrun, La predicazione nel XVIII secolo, (Preaching in the XVIII Century) in J. Delumeau, ed., Storia vissuta del popolo cristiano, SEI, Turin 1985, 570. (15) Cf. F. Lebrun, "Les missions des Lazaristes en Haute-Bretagne au XVIIe" (The Missions of the Vincentians in Upper Brittany in the seventeenth century), Annales de Bretagne et des Pays de l’Ouest, 89 (1982) 15–37; Id., "La pastorale de la conversion et les missions intérieures: l’exemple des Lazaristes en Haute-Bretagne au XVIIe" (The Pastoral of Conversion and Home Missions: The Example of the Vincentians in Upper Brittany in the seventeenth century), in La conversion au XVIIe. Actes du XIIe colloque de Marseille (Conversion in the seventeenth century. Acts of the Twelfth Colloquium of Marseilles) (January 1982), Marseille 1983, 247–55. (16) Cf. B. Dompnier, "Les missions des capucins et leur empreinte sur la Réforme catholique en France" (The Missions of the Capuchins and their Influence on the Catholic Reform in France), Revue d’histoire de l’Église de France (Review of the History of the Church in France), 70 (1984) 127–47; Id., "La pastorale de la peur et la pastorale de la séduction. La méthode des missionnaires capucins" (The Pastoral of Fear and the Pastoral of Attraction: The Method of the Capuchin Missionaries), in La conversion au XVIIe, 157–73. (17) For the ecclesiology of the French school, cf. E. Mersch, Le corps mystique du Christ. Études de théologie historique (The Mystic Body of Christ: Studies in Historical Theology), Paris-Brussels 1951, vol. 2, 301–44. (18) In connection with the historical and ecclesiastical context of the time, one of M. Olier’s constant concerns was that of working towards the "renewal of Christianity in order to show that it is conformed to its institution" (Mémoires XXX 2, 247). During the summer of 1642, M. Olier became parish priest of Saint- Sulpice with responsibility for running the Seminary, and he was to become increasingly aware of his own vocation. Certainly he felt called to work "to renew Christianity [. . .] first by the way of the peoples, by showing them what they must do as Christians." This perspective goes beyond the previous pastoral practice of the missions in which M. Olier had participated. Cf. G. Chaillot, "La pédagogie spirituelle de M. Olier d’après ses ‘Mémoires’" (The Spiritual Pedagogy of M. Olier according to his "Memoirs"), in BSS 2 (1976) 27–64; the text of the memoirs is on p. 49. Cf. also the synthesis of Olier’s thought by G. Gaillot, "Critères pour la formation spirituelle des pasteurs. La tradition pédagogique héritée de M. Olier" (Criteria for the Spiritual Education of Pastors: The Pedagogical Tradition Inherited from M. Olier), BSS 4 (1978) 15–23. (19) J. Eudes, Les Statuts et Constitutions de la Congrégation de Jésus et Marie (The Statutes and Constitutions of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary), in Oeuvres Complètes (Complete Works), Beauchesne, Paris 1909, t. 9, 145: "The second particular aim of the Congregation is that its sons by their example, by their prayers, by their instructions, by the practice of the priestly functions, and especially by the exercises of the Missions, dedicate their efforts to renew the spirit of Christianity in Christians, and to make Jesus Christ our Lord live and reign in them." A study on the missions of Eudes that is already a classic is that of Ch. Berthelot du Chesnay, Les missions de Saint-Jean Eudes. Contribution à l’histoire des missions en France au XVIIe (The Missions of St. John Eudes: Contribution to the History of the Missions in Seventeenth-Century France), Paris 1967. Cf. also the recent monograph of P. Milcent, Un artisan du renouveau chrétien au XVIIe siècle. Saint-Jean Eudes (A Craftsman of Christian Renewal in the seventeenth century), Cerf, Paris 1985. (20) "The same God, contemplating the origins of the divine persons existing in the unity of his essence, did not want there to be any other source and origin of His divinity in the state of the Church than that of the mission . . . and He wants the mission to occupy the same rank among men as procession to divine persons, which according to St. Augustine, these two terms ‘mission’ and ‘procession’ say one and the same thing": P. Bérulle, la mission des pasteurs en l’Église, sur l’article 31 de la Confession de foi (On the Mission of the Pastors of the Church, on Article 31 of the Confession of Faith), in Oeuvres Complètes du cardinal de Bérulle (Complete Works of Cardinal de Bérulle), Reproduction of the Princeps edition (1644), Maison d’institution de l’Oratoire, Montsoult 1960, t. I, 65. (21) "The Holy Spirit, Spirit, I say, Sovereign, existing eternally and not created, only comes and only works in God’s Church through mission": Ibid., 72. (22) On the theological principle of the Incarnation as an essentially Trinitarian event in relation to TD, cf. the rich essay of M. Quéméneur, "La maternité de grâce de Marie chez les spirituels français du XVIIe de François de Sales à Grignion Montfort" (Mary’s Maternity of Grace among the French Spiritual Thinkers of the seventeenth century, from François de Sales to Grignion Montfort), ÉtMar 17 (1960) 69–118, especially 112–14. (23) V.-L. Tapié, "Spiritualité et action de St. Louis-Marie Montfort" (Spirituality and Action of St. Louis-Marie Montfort), in Quelques-unes des conférences prononcées à l’occasion du 250e anniversaire de la mort de saint Louis-Marie Montfort (Some of the Lectures Given on the Occasion of the 250th Anniversary of the Death of St. Louis-Marie Montfort), Édition montfortaine, Rome 1967, 64. (24) Montfort composed numerous canticles whose theme is the poor and poverty. The wonderful Canticle 108, "The Treasures of Poverty," is of great beauty; in it, Montfort addresses the poor through Jesus’ mouth in the following terms: "Those who appear the last / Are all the first in my sight. / The poor beggars and the humble / Are the closest friends. / For they have my appearance": H 108:3. (25) Besnard II, 216. (26) J. P. Gutton, La società e i poveri (Society and the Poor), Milan 1977, 10. (27) The date of composition of Canticle 18, "The Cries of the Poor," seems to correspond to Montfort’s stay in the Hôpital at Poitiers: cf. H. Frehen, Études sur les cantiques du Père Montfort (Studies on Montfort’s Canticles), Reykijavik ms., 212. (28) Cf. Ph. Sassier, Du bon usage des pauvres. Histoire d’un thème politique (XVIe– XXe) (Right Conduct towards the Poor: History of a Policitical Theme), Fayard, Paris 1990. (29) In RW a comparable arrangement is prescribed for the Daughters of Wisdom. Montfort had the opportunity of enjoying the famous "portion of the Blessed Virgin" among the Benedictine nuns of the Most Holy Sacrament on the occasion of his stay at Rouen in the course of the summer of 1714 (Blain, 191–92). This custom was begun by the founder of the Benedictine nuns, Catherine de Bar, the famous Mother Mectilde of the Blessed Sacrament (1614–1698) who introduced it in her institution: cf. (Anonymous), Catherine de Bar Fondatrice des Bénédictines du Saint Sacrement 1614–1698 (Catherine de Bar, Founder of the Benedictine Nuns of the Blessed Sacrament), Fondation de Rouen, Rouen 1977, 152, n. 8. (30) Ibid., 242–43. On the bread for the poor in the mission, cf. Besnard II, 184. (31) Cf. B. Geremek, La potence ou la pitié. L’Europe et les pauvres du Moyen Age à nos jours (Gallows or Pity: Europe and the Poor from the Middle Ages to the Present Day), Gallimard, Paris 1987, 187–262. (32) Cf. P. Eijckeler, Quelques points d’histoire montfortaine (Several Points of Montfort History), vol. 1: Des origines à M. Mulot exécuteur testamentaire (From the Origins to M. Mulot, Executor of the Will), Rome 1972, 108–27. (33) Besnard II, 134. (34) Cf. F.-Z. Cuche, Une pensée sociale catholique. Fleury, La Bruyère, Fénelon (Catholic Social Thought in Fleury, La Bruyère and Fénelon), Cerf, Paris 1991. (35) Cf. the collective work, "La prédication au XVIIe" (Preaching in the seventeenth century), in Journées Bossuet: Actes du colloque de Dijon (On Bossuet: Acts of the Colloquium of Dijon) (1977), Paris 1980. (36) Cf. J. M. Roman, S. Vincenzo de’Paoli, 305–307. (37) The paragraph quoted from RM clearly has its source in recollections of a sermon by Massillon, Sur la parole de Dieu (On God’s Word), resumed by Montfort in S I, 33–36, where he sets out the qualities of the good preacher. (38) As an example, cf. J. Eudes, Le prédicateur apostolique contenant les qualités et les dispositions extérieures et intérieures du Prédicateur évangélique (The Apostolic Preacher Containing the Qualities and the External and Internal Dispositions of the Evangelical Preacher) in Oeuvres complètes (Complete Works), Paris 1907, vol. 4. (39) The famous historian’s trilogy is well known: J. Delumeau, La peur en Occident (XIVe–XVIIIe) (Fear in the West), Fayard, Paris 1979; Id., Le péché et la peur. La culpabilisation en Occident (XIIIe–XVIIIe) (Sin and Fear: The Apportion of Blame [The Thirteenth to the Eighteenth Centuries]), Fayard, Paris 1983; Id., Rassurer et protéger. Le sentiment de sécurité dans l’Occident d’autrefois (Reassure and Protect: The Feeling of Security in the West of the Past), Fayard, Paris 1989. (40) B. Dompnier, Le missionnaire et son public. Contribution à l’étude de la prédication populaire (The Missionary and His Public: Contribution to the Study of Popular Preaching), in La prédiction au XVIIe (Preaching in the seventeenth century), 125 (section discussion, 123–128). (41) Ibid., 117. (42) Besnard I, 135. (43) Besnard I, 141. (44) Besnard I, 145–47. (45) Besnard I, 161. (46) Cf. L. Pérouas, Grignion Montfort, 89. (47) Cf. L. Cognet, "Cor et Cordis affectus, 4: Le coeur chez les spirituels du XVIIème" (The Heart in the Spiritual Thinkers of the seventeenth century), DSAM 2 (1953), 2300–2307. (48) A. Sauvy, Le miroir du coeur. Quatre siècles d’images savantes et populaires (The Mirror of the Heart. Four Centuries of Scholarly and Popular Imagery), Cerf, Paris 1989, 50– 52. (49) On the state of the L.S. manuscript and its problems, cf. H. Frehen, "Étude curieuse sur le manuscrit du Livre des sermons du P. Montfort" (Curious Study on the Manuscript of the Book of Sermons of Father Montfort), DMon 38 (1967) 1–8, continued in DMon 39 (1967) 1–8; P. Eijckeler, "Lettre sur la date du manuscrit du Livre des sermons" (Letter on the Date of the Manuscript of the Book of Sermons), DMon 41 (1967) 1–6; answer of H. Frehen, "Encore sur la date du Livre des sermons Montfort" (More on the Date of Montfort’s Book of Sermons) DMon 42 (1968) 1–12. (50) Cf. B. Dompnier, Le venin de l’hérésie (The Poison of Heresy) 198–200. (51) Cf. the collective work, Aux origines du catéchisme paraoissial et des manuels diocésains de catéchisme en France (1500–1660) (The Origins of the Parish Catechism and the Diocesan Manuals of Catechism in France, 1500–1660), Desclée, Tournai 1989, 304; E. Germain, Deux mille ans d’éducation de la foi (Two Thousand Years of Teaching of the Faith), Desclée, Tournai 1983, 94–109. (52) It has been supposed that Montfort was citing one of his texts. The original manuscript of RM does not support such a supposition. However, RM 91 alludes to a text that was used or at least known. P. Eijckeler, "Le cathéchisme des missions. Un problème difficile à resoudre" (The Catechism of the Missions: A Difficult Problem to Resolve), DMon n. 48 (1972) 1–8, puts forward the hypothesis that we might find this "abridged catechism" in Canticle 109, which is entitled "The Principal Mysteries of the Faith in Canticle Form" and which comprises forty couplets. Montfort had added the subtitle, "The Catechism of Mission." Moreover, from 1759 onwards in editions of Montfort’s Canticles there appears a text entitled Abrégé de ce que doit croire et savoir un chrétien (Summary of what a Christian must Believe and Know). This is a catechism which, according to Eijckeler, parallels Canticle 109. Perhaps the Abrégé to be a reproduction of the "Abridged Catechism of the Missionaries" indicated by Montfort in RM 91. The Montfort scholar A. Guéry seems to be of this opinion; in an unpublished study (Recherches sur le "Catéchisme abrégé des missionaires" (Study on the "Abridged Catechism of the Missionaries), Gouts-Rossignol 1974, typed text of 35 pages), he effects a careful analysis of H 109 and of the Abrégé published in 1759, identifying its probable source as a catechism of the Sulpician Joachim Trotti de la Chétardie (1636–1714), who in 1696 had taken possession of the parish of Saint-Sulpice. (53) For Montfort’s catechetical training at Saint-Sulpice, cf. De Fiores, Itinerario 198– 200. (54) Cf. P. Dumonceaux, "Conversion, convertir, étude comparative d’après les lexicographes du XVIIe" (Conversion, Converting: A Comparative Study Based on the Lexicographers of the seventeenth century), in La conversion au XVIIe, 5–15. (55) On the signs of true penitence: S II, 667. (56) Besnard I, 289. (57) Cf. LS II, 158–159. (58) Cf. LS II, 160–162. (59) Cf. J. Finance, Consécration, in DSAM 2 (1953), 1578–1579; R. Daeschler, "Baptême [Commémoration du]" (Baptism [Commemoration of]), DSAM 1 (1949), 1239. (60) J. Leuduger, Bouquet de la mission composé en faveur des peuples de la campagne (Mission Bouquet composed for the People of the Country), [14th ed.], L. Prud’homme, Saint-Brieuc 1853, 9–12. (61) M.-Th. Poupon, Le poème de la parfaite consécration à Marie suivant Saint Louis-Marie Montfort et les spirituels de son temps. Sources et doctrine (The Poem of Perfect Consecration to Mary according to St. Louis-Marie Montfort and the Spiritual Thinkers of His Time: Sources and Doctrines), Lyon 1947, 283. (62) Cf. J. Tranvouez, "La Vierge Marie dans la pastorale de Grignion Montfort" (The Virgin Mary in the Pastoral of Grignion Montfort), CM 10 (1966) 90–98. (63) Grandet, 395. (64) J. Leuduger, Bouquet de la mission, 12. (65) Cf. A. Bossard, "Le don total au Christ par Marie selon Montfort" (The Total Gift to Christ through Mary according to Montfort), CM 17 (1973), 31–32; Id., (Consecrating onself to Mary), CM 28 (1983), 95–106. (66) Cf. J. Tranvouez, "La Vierge Marie," 94–95. (67) Grandet, 409–10. (68) Paul VI, Apostologic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi (1975), 15:51–53; John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptoris missio (1990), 9–10:31. On this encyclical, cf. E. Dal Covolo—A. M. Triacca (ed.), La missione del Redentore. Studi sull’enciclica missionaria di Giovanni Paolo II, (The Mission of the Redeemer. Studies on The Missionary Encyclical of John Paul II), LDC, Turin-Leumann 1992. (69) Redemptoris missio, 33. (70) John-Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Cathechesi tradendae (1979), 47.

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

Provided courtesy of the Montfort Fathers © All Rights Reserved.

Electronic Copyright © 1998 EWTN
All Rights Reserved

Eternal Word Television Network
5817 Old Leeds Road
Irondale, AL 35210