Author: St. Louis de Montfort




I. Typology of the Priest in the Time of Montfort: 1. The characteristics of the priest in the post-Tridentine Church: a. "New priests for new faithful"; b. Situation of the clergy before the tridentine renewal. 2. The reformers of the French clergy; a. The Oratorian School; b. Saint Sulpice; c. Other artisans. 3. Identity and mission of the priest; 4. The Dimensions of priestly spirituality; a. Theocentrism; b. Christ the mediator; c. Mary; d. Mystical orientation; e. Separation from the world. II. Montfort, a Priest Both Mystic And Missionary: 1. As seminarian and young priest: a. At Rennes; b. At Saint Sulpice in Paris. 2. Priestly life: a. Priest, both mystic and missionary; b. Christ Wisdom and devotion to Mary; c. Poverty; d. Pastoral sense. 3. Relations with the clergy of his day. III. The Priest in the Thought of Montfort: 1. Jesus, priest and victim; 2. The type of priest desired by Montfort; 3. The offering of the Eucharist in union with Mary; 4. The universal priesthood. IV. The Priestly Dimension in Montfort Spirituality: 1. Vows of Baptism and priestly promises; 2. Baptismal life and sacerdotal commitment; 3. Mary, bearer of the priestly spirit of the risen Christ; 4. The heavenly priesthood.


Without any doubt, Montfort is "a man of his century" said [H. Daniel- Rops]. He is also one of the best witnesses of his century’s Sulpician and Berullian spirituality, which he modified and enriched by his life and writings.1 Montfort was a priest both mystic and missionary, a combination not well known and in need of additional study.

1. The Characteristics of the Priest in the Post-Tridentine Church

a. "New priests for new faithful".

Fifty years after the closing of the Council of Trent (1545–1563), France appeared to be "a mission country without missionaries."2 With the assembly of the clergy of 1615, a pastoral ideal was put in place which demanded "new priests for new faithful."3 By 1640 the Tridentine reform was underway in France and seminaries were opened.

If the first half of the seventeenth century was the generation of pioneer priests, the second was the time of holy priests who possessed the grace to touch hearts both in preaching and in the celebration of the liturgy.4 As a consequence, pastoral work improved: catechizing insisted upon the sacraments and preaching on the pedagogy of prayer and the renewal of the vows of baptism.

b. Situation of the clergy before the Tridentine renewal.

Around 1600, the clergy was extremely numerous in France, but its lifestyle was decadent, its moral sense deficient, and its cultural preparation limited. Pastorally, the priest was underemployed. He was attentive to benefices but lacking in zeal and piety. In addition to being a notable person and a leader within his own jurisdiction, a priest was "a man apart," more feared than loved, more endured than accepted. In 1659, Vincent de Paul told the priests of his community: "The church has no worse enemies than its priests."5 And, taking into account the overabundance of priests and the lack of priestly service to the faithful, he concluded: "There are too many bad priests."6 The situation clearly got better under Louis XV (d. 1774) and his successor, Louis XVI (d. 1793). Little by little the corrupt and over-privileged clergy, typical of the epoch of the Council of Trent, was reduced to such a few that at the beginning of the French revolution in 1789, the priest was a man fully trusted by his parishioners.7

2. The Reformers of the French Clergy

"The formation of good priests is really a masterpiece of this world," affirmed Vincent de Paul.8 The principal artisans of this masterpiece were Bérulle and the Oratory, and Saint Sulpice Seminary, which lived within the halo of the Berullian school.9

a. The Oratorian School.

The goal of the Oratory was "to raise up the state of the priesthood" with a program not so much of reform as of sanctification. Its founder, Cardinal de Bérulle (1575–1629), desired to rehabilitate the priesthood in the eyes of the faithful, who feared or faulted priests. Charles de Condren (1588–1641), who succeed Bérulle as superior of the Oratory, was very attentive to the spiritual discipline needed for a minister of God. Saint John Eudes (1601–1680), an authentic Bérullian, was a man of action and of recognized holiness, a true missionary and the founder of several religious institutes. He dedicated himself to the formation of the clergy. In his mind, the seminary was "a school of piety and an academy of holiness" more than a school of theology.10 He promoted the annual clergy retreats of eight to ten days.

b. Saint Sulpice.

The "Land of Saints," Saint Sulpice is the matrix and the nursery of the French clergy. The seminary was founded by J. J. Olier (1608–1657), a priest and mystic, a missionary and reformer. With its four communities of seminarians, Saint Sulpice’s purpose was the spiritual and theological formation of candidates for the priesthood. The second director of this work was A. de Bretonvilliers (1621–1671), a guardian and faithful interpreter of the apostolic ideal of the founder. However, the pedagogical orientation changed with L. Tronson (1622–1700), who bent Sulpician spirituality towards a spiritual and moral psychologism. He attributed the primacy of all priestly virtues to obedience and insisted on the observance of the slightest details of the rules. With the collaboration of Brenier and Baüyn, he founded, around 1684, the "Minor Seminary" for the less fortunate aspirants to the priesthood.11 He was the superior general when Montfort entered the seminary at Paris. With A. Brenier (1641–1714)—the same priest who tested the vocation of Louis Marie—the psychologism of Tronson attained its greatest development. A true champion of mortification, Brenier enjoyed a reputation of sanctity among the seminarians. J. J. Baüyn (1641–1696), a convert from Calvinsism, displayed another orientation: that of a man "so full of God and so empty of everything else."12 He had a great esteem for the priesthood which he considered as an angelic dignity and a source of responsibility towards the Church. He renewed in the seminary of Saint Sulpice the examples and the ideals of Olier. Montfort received from Baüyn, his spiritual director from 1692 to 1696, a clear mystical and missionary orientation. Father Leschassier (1641–1725), the successor of Tronson in the direction of Saint Sulpice, was a person of extraordinary virtue enjoying a reputation of prudence and wisdom. Chosen by the seminarian Montfort as spiritual director, he took great interest in Montfort for some time, guiding him along a spiritual and apostolic path.

c. Other artisans.

Among those who gave themselves to the formation of the clergy, the figure of Vincent de Paul (1581–1660) stands out. He believed it necessary to give Christian instruction to the poor and therefore, first of all, to reform clerics in order to be able to reach the people through them.13 Montfort wanted his missionary priests to model themselves on those of Vincent de Paul (RM 7, 66). Claude Poullart des Places (1679–1709), founder of Holy Spirit seminary, dedicated his resources to the support of poor candidates looking for the possibility of studying for the priesthood. Louis Marie de Montfort asked his missionaries of the Company of Mary to prepare themselves both in knowledge and virtue in des Places’s seminary in Paris (RM 1). Along with the founders of seminaries are the Jesuits (instituted in 1543) who also collaborated in priestly formation as spiritual directors and in various other ways. They were always the friends of Montfort (TD 161; RM 15, 19).

3. Identity and Mission of the Priest

In the context of the French school, there developed a profound understanding of the nature of the priesthood and its functions. "To govern a soul is to govern the world,"14 and the sacerdotal mission is to form Christ in souls. The priest is the sacrament of Jesus, the one High Priest. It is in the name of Christ that the priest acts and works, having been clothed with salvific divine authority. In the celebration of the Eucharist, the priest cooperates with God the Father in the Father’s glorious generation of the Son in time. The source of the incomprehensible dignity of the priesthood is in its function: priests are called "with reason, not only angels but also gods since they represent, near to us, the immortal power and sublimity of God."15

Therefore, a holiness greater than that of a religious is demanded of a priest; his life must be a total immolation. The young aspirant to the priesthood must prepare himself in the house of formation at least like a novice in the cloister pursuing religious life.

At Saint Sulpice the priestly spiritual formation was carried out with vigor. Brenier partially lost the intuition of Olier since he gave so much attention to the smallest practices, to blind obedience, to total disdain of the world; but Baüyn accentuated the responsibility the priest takes on in relation to the mystical Body. The Treatise on the Duties of a Good Parish Priest (F. V. Hersé, 1660) exhorts priests in charge of souls to cultivate "the heart of a mother," while Olier himself yearns that the heart of a priest be as large as the Church in the world.

4. The Dimensions of Priestly Spirituality

a. Theocentrism.

For Bérulle and his school, priestly spirituality is theocentric: "In the first place, it is absolutely necessary to consider God and not oneself . . . and to act only for the pure honor of God."16 To be a priest signifies, before all else, to put first in one’s own life the love of God and service to one’s neighbor. Olier accepted to be a parish priest at the end of a spiritual retreat, during which he consecrated himself to God by a special vow of service towards every member of the Church.

b. Christ the mediator.

Bérulle made a vow of perpetual service to Christ-mediator—Son, servant and adorer of the Father—since Jesus himself is "in the service of the Father." Following their founder, the priests of the Oratory pronounced a vow of perpetual service to the Lord. In like manner, Charles de Condren and Olier consecrated themselves to Christ by the formula: "I offer myself in the person of Jesus, perfect victim and faithful servant, to live and to die in following his example, in the continual dispositions of victim and of service."17 The consecration of oneself in union with Jesus flows from the "consummatum est" of the passion and from two sacraments of the covenant: Baptism and Eucharist.

c. Mary.

Devotion to the Blessed Mother is one of the great theological themes of the seventeenth century (TD 161). Bérulle’s vow of servitude to Mary follows on the vow of service to Jesus Christ, which is theologically founded on the vows of Baptism. Montfort better unites the perspective of Bérulle and identifies consecration to Mary as the perfect renewal of the baptismal promises (TD 120, 162).

Olier, who calls himself a slave of Mary (TD 170), affirms that Our Lady carried in her womb all creatures; in her God forms the Son in all of his extension—Christ the Head and his entire ecclesial body.18 He decided that the patronal feast of the Sulpician seminary be the Presentation of Mary in the temple, November 21. This is a feast day of the clergy (as is February 2, the Presentation of Jesus in the temple) on which the clergy present at the seminary renewed their priestly promises through the hands of Mary, a practice which Eudes successfully adopted.

Tronson suggested to Montfort that he modify the formula "slave of Mary to slave of Jesus in Mary" (TD 244).19 Brenier taught dependence on Our Lady and Baüyn adhered personally to the practice of holy slavery; Leschassier, although not fully adhering to the slavery of love, did profess devotion to Our Blessed Mother. This clear Marian dimension explains the innovation of Charles de Condren and of Olier concerning the celebration of the Eucharist for the intentions of Mary.

d. Mystical orientation.

While Olier insisted simultaneously on the mystical and apostolic aspect, the seminary of Saint Sulpice stressed the profound piety required of the minister of God, even if this meant placing limits on preaching and pastoral work. Tronson accentuated the dignity of the priest and his sanctification by means of eucharistic devotion and separation from the world. For him, the observance of the rule is preferable to any personal charisms.20 Even Bérulle and de Condren, although with different nuances, chose obedience and total oblation to the will of God as the principle of holiness, fed by eucharistic devotion and the Mass, the center of all devotion. Boudon and J. B. Saint-Jure recommended the love of the cross which is the masterpiece of the Wisdom of God.21 The priest, therefore, must suffer with Christ in order to make reparation with him for sin. Brenier preferred little practices, blind obedience, disdain for the world, and finally, Baüyn enclosed spiritual direction around the Mass, confession, fidelity to the little rules. In conclusion, the new type of priest had to be modest, obedient, charitable, zealous, and pious.

e. Separation from the world.

Olier wanted priests to live separated from the world in order to busy themselves only with heavenly realities. Not without reason he requested "the profession of death to the world, and the profession of the folly of the gospel."22 Leschassier echoes his sentiments in recommending to the priest trained at St. Sulpice seminary the love of a life withdrawn from the world, consumed in eucharistic adoration, and in the service of the liturgy: outside of his own community, the priest is in a frightful state and far from his own center. He taught that "suffering is worth more than acting."23 The perfection of the priesthood consisted above all in abnegation: he will be attentive to the rule and, if necessary, keep in check pastoral work.


1. As seminarian and young priest

a. At Rennes (1684–1692).

In 1684, Louis Marie entered the college of the Jesuits at Rennes and for eight consecutive years followed the complete course of the humanities. The college counted about two thousand students, all non- boarders, and from a variety of social backgrounds. The courses were free. The spiritual director, Father Descartes, opened up to the young Louis Marie the ideal of divine love which is to be found in abandonment of any human supports. The example and the conferences of J. Bellier oriented him towards the service of the poor,24 an apostolate made even more attractive by the example of his uncle priests, Gilles and Alain Robert. Contact with Father Provost and his friendship with his fellow student, Claude Poullart des Places, developed within him devotion to the Virgin Mary.

During this period, an ideal of piety and of apostolic commitment in the context of evangelical poverty and mortification begin to mature in Montfort. The priestly vocation appeared to him not like climbing the ladder to a higher social class that enjoys special privileges, but as a ministry lived in poverty and in abandonment to Providence. He had already left his family in order to seek virtue and to serve God freely.25

b. At Saint Sulpice in Paris.

In 1692, at the age of 19, Louis Grignion went to Paris in order to prepare for the priesthood. He was welcomed among "the poor students" of Claude Bottu de la Barmondière and then among those of Father Boucher, where the extreme poverty touched on misery. As if in compensation, their love for studies was intense. Finally, he was admitted to the Little Seminary of Saint Sulpice, which was reserved for students with little or no money. He began his theological studies at the Sorbonne, but chose to continue his education at the seminary itself: he intended to study exclusively because of his yearning for God.26 He never did doctoral work for he chose to remain among "the simple folk": he would be a preacher to the masses, while also being "a humanist and poet, . . . a master of classical language."27 At the seminary, he was given the task of librarian, a charge which gave him the opportunity of reading and transcribing into his notebook many citations concerning Christ and the Virgin Mary. It also was the occasion to begin composing hymns, which he would utilize in his future apostolate.

In the course of these eight years, during which he matured in his desire for missionary life, he intensified his prayer and mortification and deepened his devotion to Mary, who would guide his spiritual life and ministry. While assimilating the works of certain masters of spirituality, he was distancing himself—without even realizing it—from the orientation of Tronson, so measured, so filled with prudence and moderation.

2. Priestly Life

In June, 1700, Louis Marie was ordained a priest. His priestly life would unfold for a period of sixteen years. After a rather slow beginning, which lasted six years, and a pilgrimage to Rome (1706), where the Holy Father named him "missionary apostolic," he at last became the preacher of parish missions in the west of France.

a. Priest, both mystic and missionary.

After leaving Saint Sulpice, where he felt as though he were living "in a shell" (L 4), Montfort passed from contemplative spirituality—to be more precise, the spirituality of the hidden life of the seminary—to an apostolic spirituality. He refused all offers to be part of the formation team in charge of seminarians, so that he could fully dedicate himself to catechizing and preaching. In the eyes of Montfort, the apostolic life is not a danger, but a means of holiness and of growth in perfection (H 22:23). He began his apostolate in the midst of the rejects of Poitiers society at the city hospice. With the permission of the bishop he went to Paris, where he experienced absolute solitude and total abandonment to Providence. During the summer of 1703, in a closet under the stairway of Pot-du-fer Street in Paris, while he deepened his thought on Wisdom, he discovered again his vocation as an itinerant missionary and he balanced his yearning for a hidden life with his missionary calling. He liberated himself from scrupulous subjection to a multitude of little obligations in order to give priority to the interior movements of the spirit. He thereby restored the mystical and missionary value of the priesthood: he immersed himself in the midst of society even if it were at the price of an extremely poor life and subject to misunderstandings and persecutions.28

b. Christ Wisdom and devotion to Mary.

"I have espoused Wisdom and the cross where are all my treasures" (L 20), Father Louis Marie wrote to his mother on August 28, 1704. The mystical marriage with Christ, Wisdom crucified, constituted henceforth the foundation of his prayer; even his innate "singularity" was now defined as a "wisdom." In reality, the way or path of Jesus Wisdom was illuminated by a secret: the maternal presence of Mary permitted him to live the "slavery of love" as the offering of his own life to God. He thus conformed himself to the obedience of the Son of God continuing in his flesh the offering of Jesus, who wished to depend on his Mother. The art of living was based on an abandonment or forgetfulness of self. The soul, stripped of everything but regenerated in the womb of Mary, received the characteristics of the Lord, the crucified servant. Living with Jesus in Mary, Montfort the priest accepted the rigorous discipline of renouncing his own will in order to live as the humble sacrament of ecclesial service.

c. Poverty.

The discovery of Christ Wisdom led Montfort the priest to abandon himself to Providence in voluntary poverty, which he believed necessary both for the spiritual life and for the apostolate (H 22:1). The poor priest is a king who is filled with the possession of God (PM 25; ACM 5:7; TD 135) and enriched with spiritual goods. Poverty is a free choice in a social and ecclesiastical system which could strongly affect his priestly life.29 Following the example of J. B. de la Salle, he refused a canonry which Madame de Montespan offered him (L 6:9) and he affirmed that he would never exchange Providence for any benefice (L 6) because, so he wrote, "If God has risked his life, should not I risk mine?" (LPM 6; cf. H 91:6).

Love for poverty called him to the service of the outcasts. In March 1704, the poor of Poitiers welcomed him with a great festival. He was as poor as the poor; he dressed and ate like them and became a beggar for them. On their part, they never hesitated to proclaim him "their true priest." They defined him, so to speak, as "the one who so loves the poor."30 Gifted with the grace to touch hearts, "he possesses a heart so tender that it is found in none other." He took care of the poor and the rejects of society with the hands of a mother: he is "the good Father from Montfort."

d. Pastoral sense.

He not only esteemed catechizing, preaching, and the renewal of the vows of baptism by the means of slavery of love, but Montfort also revealed gifts of being a missionary organizer and an innovator in pastoral work. He restored churches, erected crosses and calvaries, painted banners, organized processions and pilgrimages, instituted or restored confraternities (L 11 and n. 1), founded religious communities, composed methods of popular prayer, and wrote hymns to be sung during the celebrations of the mission. In sum: he constructed a method of preaching and a style of pastoral work unique in their form and content.31

3. Relations with the Clergy of His Day

In general, Louis Marie was not accepted by the bourgeois and lay world. That should not surprise anyone; but what does cause surprise are the disputes and frequent refusals on the part of different bishops, of priests and even of his friends and collaborators who became hostile or even defiant. Some examples stand out: Leschassier, his director, who pushed him aside without listening to him; or Blain, who, when accusing him of wanting to canonize his own ideas, begged him to be more condescending to the common rules of social life.

Montfort was rebuffed by the well-settled clergy because of his "singularity,"32 misunderstood because of his evangelical radicalism. In reality, he was a priest who was upsetting and disturbing,33 for the very reason of his "originality" which followed him everywhere. Up to the end, he carried with him the hair shirt of his singularity. But to be singular is his wisdom, which makes him apt to preach "like the apostles" (RM 60–61).

He sought especially in his last years to converse and collaborate with everyone, even if for a poor priest like him there was no institutional mediation that could protect him. It is not without reason that he describes himself like a ball in a game of tennis: no sooner am I hurled to one side than I am whacked back to the other" (L 26).

By conscious choice, he tended to dissociate himself from priests who loved tranquillity and a sedentary life (RM 2, 12; L 5), from fashionable preachers who actually did no more than beat the breeze (RM 2, 60), from priests quite secure and worldly (RM 6). We can then understand more easily his reply to Blain: "Let me walk in my own way; more so because it is the road which Jesus Christ taught by his example and his counsels."34 He himself chose his own collaborators, priests, and lay people,35 and he invited good priests everywhere to unite with him in his missions (L 5; PM 29).

III. The Priest in the Thought of Montfort

1. Jesus, Priest and Victim

According to the French School, Jesus is the true and principal priest since he is the mediator and the victim, the offerer and the victim of God most high. For Louis de Montfort, Christ is the high priest who enters and leaves this world by the eastern gate who is Mary (TD 262). In the Wisdom of the Cross (LEW 159; FC 45; H 19:1), Jesus is the priest and victim who offers himself to the Father by the hands of Mary. In truth, God the Son wanted his Mother present at Calvary in order to be able "to make with him but one and the same sacrifice and in order to be immolated by her consent to the eternal Father as formerly Isaac was offered by the consent of Abraham to the will of God. It is Mary who fed him, nourished him, took care of him, raised him and sacrificed him for us" (TD 18; cf. LG 61).

2. The Type of Priest Desired by Montfort

Having assimilated Sulpician spirituality in the line of Olier, Montfort considered as central in the life of a priest the sacrament of the altar: the celebration of Mass (L 33), thanksgiving, preparation for the Eucharist, administration of Communion (S 338). He is conscious of the sacerdotal commitment required by the sacrament of Confession (RM 56, 58–59). Naturally, the sacramental life is accompanied and preceded by the preaching of the word of God (RM 2, 50, 60–65; H 22), to which Montfort gives priority in his pastoral method. He therefore asks God to raise up poor missionaries, courageous and disinterested (PM 21). The type of priest that Montfort yearned for had to be a missionary (L 5), a preacher according to divine Wisdom (LEW 97; H 4:12), one who gives to souls the Word Incarnate.

Six months after his ordination—December, 1700—he begged God to create "a little and poor company" of itinerant apostles who, free from the system of benefices, live abandoned to Providence (L5, 6; RM 7, 19; LS 320).36 They are to be priests filled with fire who, like the apostles (RM 2), dedicate themselves to preaching the word in order to renew the spirit of Christianity. He requests from them a style of life that corresponds to their commitments: they are to love the Eucharist (RM 30), to obey the bishops (RM 22), not to accept parishes (RM 2), to fly from a sedentary and quiet life in community (RM 7, 66). Above all, the members of the community must cultivate study and prayer in order to taste and to make others taste the divine word (RM 60). In conclusion, the missionary priest as seen by Montfort "leads a life so poor, so hard, so abandoned to Providence," that such a life is not possible except for "extraordinary men."37

Montfort also treats of "wicked" priests of his time: "ministers who are poor in the midst of the great divine treasures" (LS 296), who consider the priesthood a means of obtaining honors and fortune; fashionable preachers—false prophets—who trust in their own capabilities. The good priests—good preachers (RM 61–65) formed and inspired by Wisdom (LEW 47, 90, 119, 122), worthy ministers who uphold the Church by the holiness of their life (S 290)—should not mix in with them (H 32, 31, 34).

3. The Offering of the Eucharist in Union with Mary

The Marian dimension of priestly spirituality of the French School has already been touched upon. Against this background, Montfort does not speak of the priesthood of Mary; he does declare that she has immolated and sacrificed her Son by her loving surrender, by "her consent to the eternal Father" (TD 18). This thought is based upon F. Poiré and also Bernardine of Paris (N 285–92), authors who deepened the theme of communion with Mary at the moment when the priest at the Eucharist receives the body of her Son in sacramental communion.38 The innovation of founding masses to be applied to the intentions of Mary comes directly from Charles de Condren: only this godlike Mother is prepared to offer Christ in a continual, new, and perfect manner.39 Olier spread this practice, exhorting priests to offer Mass—especially on Saturdays— for the intentions of Mary. He disclosed that it was the Mother of the Lord herself who requested this service.40

Montfort says nothing explicitly concerning this, but he does write that because of Our Lady’s hypothetically necessary fiat, Christ immolates himself by means of Mary (H 49:3) from the beginning of redemption, since his sacrifice to the Father begins at the incarnation in the womb of his Mother. He teaches that by consecration to Jesus through Mary, one entrusts to Mary the liberty, the rights and the merits of one’s soul, since she is the depository of spiritual goods (SM 40; TD 176, 216) and the treasury of all divine grace (LEW 207; SM 19; TD 24, 28, 44, 206, 20).

He declares that the consecration to Jesus through Mary respects the obligations of a priest who has to celebrate Mass for a particular intention (TD 124; cf. H 139:18). Granted that the Eucharist of the priest continues the one and the same sacrifice of Christ, the Son of Mary, it could be held that it is according to the spirit of Montfort to celebrate the Eucharist, in the measure that is possible, for the intentions of Our Lady.

4. The Universal Priesthood

Montfort treats only in an indirect manner of baptismal priesthood. Moreover, this theme does not appear, at least in any explicit fashion, in the writings of the masters of the French School (although Bérulle, in his Rule of the Oratory makes allusion to the priesthood of the faithful41). In the thought of Olier, the priest is quite different from a lay person. And Montfort, following his masters on this point, copied a note in his Book of Sermons which declared that the minister of God is above the people (LS 295, 298).

However. there is another affirmation of Bérulle, upheld in part by Olier and even by Quesnel, which says, "Each Christian can and must offer his very self at the Mass."42 This assertion is, perhaps, a reaction to the Protestant critique which, basing itself on 1 Pt 2:5.9; 1 Cor 12:12–27, undervalues the hierarchical priesthood defining it as a "specialized caste."43 Catholics did not completely reject the Protestant affirmations, but they affirmed that the priest does not bear the title of "priest" (sacerdos) except in Christ and through Christ, the one priest of the NT; one theologian stressed the scriptural appellation "royal priesthood," applying it to all the faithful.44 Montfort does the same when he directly refers to the royal priesthood: "You are a chosen race, the royal priesthood" (FC 4) and "You are kings and priests of God . . . by your Christianity and your priesthood" (LCM 5). The Friends of the Cross, therefore, are within royal priesthood of the Lord.

The baptismal priesthood in Montfort is articulated in the context of the universal vocation to holiness (FC 28; SM 2–5; LS 169–80): the word of God, by the Incarnation, has come to divinize the human race, the masterpiece of His hands, and to take to himself a holy people (TD 68; LS 170).

The pastoral method of Montfort the priest must not be neglected. In his missions he had the simple people participate materially and economically and also in liturgical or devotional collaboration which he requests of the people (Mass and Communion, processions, hymns, Rosary, and especially the renewal of the vows of Baptism in the Covenant Contract). Nonetheless, the substantial difference remains between the hierarchical priesthood and the universal priesthood. But Montfort considers the dignity of the priest from a pastoral point of view, that is to say, in service to the people. He does not speculate on the priesthood in itself and never considers the priesthood as founding the specialized and privileged caste of ecclesiastics. The dignity Montfort attributes to the baptized heightens the worth of both the universal priesthood and of the ministerial priesthood. It should be remembered that as a priest, Montfort belonged to the first estate; he had contacts with the nobility, the second estate; his family was of the bourgeoisie; yet he freely opted to identify with the common people, and especially with the poorest of the poor.


Montfort did not develop the sacerdotal dimension of Christian spirituality, although he did indicate its substance in delineating the practical realties of living the consecration to Christ through Mary. Today, this dimension must be explicated not only for ordained priests (for the baptismal promises cannot be separated from priestly promises), but also for each Christian called through Baptism to participate in Christ’s prophetic and royal sacerdotal dignity. The exercise of this priestly function unites both ordained ministers and other faithful with the heavenly priesthood of Christ and with the glorious heavenly community, in the midst of which emerges the figure of the Mother of Jesus.

1. Vows of Baptism and Priestly Promises

Saint John Eudes taught that baptismal life prolongs in the faithful the Incarnation, or sacerdotal life of Christ. The Sulpician school affirmed that through Baptism all are inserted into Christ the priest. In order to make Christ the priest live in Christians—priests of God by Baptism (LCM 5)—Montfort prescribes the renewal of baptismal promises as the conclusion of the parish mission (CG; RM 56). The Sacrament of Orders (episcopacy, priesthood, diaconate) consecrates certain Christians as ministers of Christ-Priest so that the baptized, by the intermediary of the ordained ministry, may live their royal priesthood.

But what relation is there between the baptismal vows and the presbyterial promises? The renewal of the baptismal promises has for its goal to make Christians live as daughters and sons of God (H 109:8), to make them living members of the Body of Christ (TD 68; LS 158–68), to help them to become servants and collaborators of the Spirit (TD 73, 126). The priestly promises—Montfort does not speak precisely of them— require celibacy (in the Latin rite), obedience to and collaboration with the bishops, the ministry of the word, the celebration of the mysteries of Christ, particularly the Eucharist and sacramental reconciliation, the ministry of prayer and a more intense union with Christ, the supreme pastor and sovereign priest.45

The two types of promises are complementary precisely because they are functionally diverse. The ordained ministers are exhorted to live their priestly promises generously in order to announce and celebrate the Lord, so that the duties of sacramental life and the gift of prayer may be awakened in the faithful. In this manner, because they are baptized, the faithful are assured of their rights as daughters and sons of God, i.e., the right to the food of the word, of the Eucharist, of the sacrifice of praise, and of the gift of evangelical fraternity. These rights of the faithful are at times neglected by priests who lack a mystical and missionary spirit, and are perhaps little known by Christians, because the consecrated ministers do not always wholly realize their sacerdotal promises.

In other words, the renewal of the promises of Baptism recall to the baptized that they are daughters and sons of God and that because of this title they have taken on certain precise duties. The promises of the priesthood recall to the priest that he is minister for people: his rights as son of God have now become for him inescapable duties towards all the people of God.

2. Baptismal Life and Sacerdotal Commitment

Preaching, since the Council of Trent, stresses the vows of Baptism. The grace of Baptism and the sacraments connected with it must, as a consequence, be "renewed." During the parish missions, Montfort made certain that the faithful renew their baptismal promises after having confessed their sins and received communion (RM 56, 90). To live baptism—particularly after the renewal of Vatican II—signifies renewing the strength of the three sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist. These sacraments are distinct but inseparable and also inclusive of sacramental reconciliation.

The text of the consecratory prayer of priestly ordination says: "Innova in visceribus eorum spiritum sanctitatis"46 (Renew, Lord, in their hearts your spirit of holiness), an evident allusion to the sacerdotal spirit already received in the three sacraments of initiation. This happy theological rediscovery of the sacerdotal meaning of Christian initiation has again placed before the eyes of the Church its "ministerial" vocation, a ministry exercised in the sacrament of service: fruit, in its turn, of an precise option, the Church wants to be poor in order to serve people.

3. Mary, Bearer of the Priestly Spirit of the Risen Christ

Mary, Mother of Christ, chief and sovereign priest, also becomes, by the new Passover, Mother of the members of the Body of the Church (cf. Jn 19:26–27). Now into this line of thought, Olier, who called for the reform of priestly orders to renew the entire church, projected a Marian solution: in the Cenacle, Mary did not receive the sacrament of priesthood but the Spirit and apostolic grace.47 In the Cenacle, therefore, the Virgin Mary, as the queen of the apostles (PO 18), is the bearer of the priestly spirit of the risen Christ (AA 1:14).

In his historical Incarnation, the Lord received from his Mother the capacity to be a priest of the Father (TD 18, 63, 246–48, 261–64; H 49:3, 90:15);48 a priest who announces the gospel of grace, who offers his own body at the sacrifice of the cross and as supreme Shepherd, leads all back to divine life.

In the sacramental economy, the Lord exercises His eternal priesthood in the person of ordained ministers. Yet before there is ministerial priesthood, the Virgin Mary conceives the Christ, the first priest of the new covenant. Mary is the perfect type of God’s priestly people.49 Proclaimed by Paul VI "Mother of the faithful and of pastors,"50 she is the aid of priests (PO 18; OT 8) and the pure mirror who illumines the triple sacerdotal ministry.

a. Mary accepts the salvific word and responds by the self-offering and sacrificial fiat. During the public ministry of her Son, she follows him as a pilgrim of faith (LG 58; MC 17; RMat 2), up to her courageous presence near the cross and the sepulchre. In the Magnificat, she proclaims "the marvelous works," historical and salvific, realized in her (Lk 1:46–55). And after the Resurrection and Ascension of her Son, she listens to the teaching of the apostles51 and praises God in tongues for the mysteries accomplished in the world (AA 2:4).

b. Associated with her Son in the redemptive work (LG 55-62; MC 20), she offers herself together with Christ priest and victim, in the presentation in the temple, at the paschal supper and next to the cross. Prophetically, at the marriage feast of Cana, she anticipated the paschal mandate of her Son ("Do this in memory of me" [Lk 22:19]) when she says to the servants: "What ever he will say to you, do it" (Jn 2:5).

c. After Easter she does not return to Nazareth near the family clan, but remains in the Cenacle as a vigilant and attentive mother of the new family of the Savior here on earth (MC 18). And above all else, she, Spirit-bearer, directs all to the Spirit, source of filial life and of unity in the Church. Among the promises of Baptism, there should be included today the fidelity to the Spirit who is affirmed in the Pentecostal sacrament of confirmation.

4. The Heavenly Priesthood

Jesus, supreme and eternal priest (Heb 4:15–26, 9:11, 10:21), is the heavenly God-Man who offers himself as a perpetual oblation to the Father and prepares for his disciples a royal dwelling place (Jn 14:2- 4).

Glorious woman, clothed with the sun that never sets (Rev 12:1–6) and royal gate of heaven, the Holy Mother is the throne of Incarnate Wisdom. While from her virginal bosom she presents her Savior Son to all, she always addresses to them this pressing appeal: "Come and contemplate the Christ!," glorious icon of the Father; "come and listen to the Master!" word of life; "come, eat the body and drink the blood of Christ!" in the banquet of the eschatological wedding feast (Rev 19:7–9, 21:9, 22:17– 20).

Like an "angel at the altar,"52 Montfort, priest both mystic and missionary, emerges from the depths of three centuries as a prophetic voice that proclaims "the infinite treasure of the eucharist" (L 33), the salvific value of the preaching of the word, the love of the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom who is in his person, Kingdom of Heaven (cf. LEW 193).

Disciple of the Master of divine Wisdom (1 Cor 1:24) and at the school of Mary (MC 21), the priest is identified to the Lord who is superior to the angels (Heb 1:4). "Christian with Christians and priest for them,"53 he is the minister of the Eucharistic table in the assembly of the Lord, the pastor who increases the joy of the brethren (2 Cor 1:24), the guide of the elect towards the heavenly home.

The celebration of the supper of the Lord extends to infinity the sacrifice of earthly and heavenly salvation until the Savior has raised all men to himself in the bosom of the Father (Jn 12:32). The sacramental life, the liturgy of praise, the Marian dimension of Christian life (RM 45–46) prolong the incarnation of the Word, give the irresistible breath of the Spirit, and make the Father of mercies known. So the faithful—baptized, confirmed, and Eucharist-fed—with Jesus, supreme priest of their faith (Heb 3:1) and illuminated by Mary, the Woman clothed with the sun, call everyone to the house of the Lord so that all may eternally glorify the universal Father in the temple of His glory (PM 30).

S. Gaspari

Notes: (1) R. Deville, "L’École française de spiritualité" (The French School of Spirituality), Bibliothèque d’histoire du christianisme 11, Desclée, Paris 1987, 9, 139—citing H. Bremond—affirms that Louis de Montfort is the last of the greast Bérullians. (2) Cf. P. Lafue, Le prêtre ancien et les commencements du nouveau prêtre. De la contre- réforme à l’aggiornamento (The Priest of Former Days and the Beginnings of the Priest of Today. From the Counter-Reformation to the Aggiornamento), Plon, Toulouse 1967, 65–74. (3) R. Deville, L’École française, 15–27. (4) In relation to "the great century of french spirituality" or "the great century of souls", cf. J. Le Brun, France, VI: Le grand siècle et ses lendemains. (France, VI: The ‘grand siècle’ and its Tomorrows) DSAM 5 (1964) 917–53; R. Deville, L’École française, 7–13 (5) Cf. Vincent de Paul in R. Deville, L’École française, 18. (6) Citation in P. Pierrard, Le prêtre français (The French Priest), 26. On the "bad priests" and "clericalism, here is the enemy," cf. ibid., 5. (7) Concerning the improvement of the clergy during the reign of Louis XV and at the eve of the French revolution, cf. P. Pierrard, Le prêtre français, 49–54. For the situation of clerics before the Council of Trent, cf. P. Lafue, Le prêtre ancien, 15–32 et passim. On the subject of the deplorable state of priests in France around 1600, cf. M. Dupuy, "Bérulle et le sacerdoce. Étude historique et doctrinale. Textes inédits" (Bérulle and the priesthood. Historical and Doctrinal Study. Unpublished Texts), Bibliothèque d’histoire et d’archéologie chrétienne 7, Lethielleux, Paris 1969, 31–42;. (8) Cf. de Paul, dans P. Pierrard, Le prêtre français, 26–29. (9) For the reformers of the French clergy, see, Le prêtre français, 21–42; R. Deville, L’École française, 23–27;. (10) Text of J. Eudes in P. Pierrard, Le prêtre français, 37. (11) The price of room and board was the only difference between the two institutions. (12) Blain 48; cf. De Fiores, 191–203. (13) The precise text of Vincent de Paul as related by P. Perrard, Le prêtre français, 29: "If it is such a great undertaking to instruct the poor . . . it is still more important to instruct clerics since, if they are ignorant, the people they lead will also necessarily be ignorant." (14) R. Deville, L’École française, 120; cf. 101–23. (15) Catechismus ex decretis concilii tridentini ad parochos (Catechism from the Decrees of the Council of Trent for Pastors) Regensburg 1896, II, 7.2. Concerning the dignity of the priest, cf. M. Dupuy, Bérulle et le sacerdoce, 131– 38, 165–67, 176–77 et passim; concerning the identity and the mission of the priest according to the French School, cf. J. Galy, Le sacrifice, analytical index, 397–99; R. Deville, L’École française, 25–27, 113–17. (16) H. Bremond, Histoire littéraire du sentiment religieux, (Literary History of Religious Sentiment) 3. La conquête mystique: l’École française (The Mystical Conquest: The French School), Bloud et Gay, Paris 1923, 29. (17) E.-M. Faillon, Vie de Monsieur Olier, fondateur du Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice, (The Life of Monsieur Olier, Founder of the Seminary of Saint Sulpice) 3, Poussielgue-Wattelier, Paris 1873, 193; cf. I. Noye-M. Dupuy, Olier, DSAM 11 (1982) 744; cf. 740–45. (18) Cf. E. Théorêt, La médiation mariale dans l’École française (The Mediation of Mary According to the French School), Vrin, Paris 1940, 32. According to Olier, the Virgin Mary is both the one who inspired the seminary and its queen. Cf. E.-M. Faillon, Vie de Monsieur Olier, 3, 62–67. The Mariology of the French School takes its definitive form from the founder of Saint Sulpice. Cf. P. Pourrat, La dévotion à Marie dans la compagnie de Saint- Sulpice, in Maria (du Manoir) 3, 153–62; R. Laurentin, Maria. Ecclesia. Sacerdotium. Essai sur le développement d’une idée religieuse (Mary. Church. Priesthood. Essay on the development of a Religious Idea), Nouvelles Éditions Latines, Paris 1952, 341–84. On Marian devotion in seventeenth century France, cf. J. Le Brun, France, DSAM 5 (1964) 944– 45. (19) Cf. Blain, 50. The term "slaves of Jesus in Mary" is clearly an authentic Bérullian and Sulpician expression. (20) Cf. J. Gauthier, Ces messieurs de Saint-Sulpice (These Priests of Saint Sulpice), Fayard, Paris 1957, 48. For a rather complete idea of the lifestyle at the Seminary of Saint Sulpice during the time of Father L. Tronson, cf. De Fiores, 155–58, with particular attention to the notes, taken from the archives of Saint Sulpice. (21) Cf. H.-M. Boudon, Les saintes voies de la croix, (The Holy Roads of the Cross) in Oeuvres complètes, 2, Migne, Paris 1856, 109–12; J.-B. Saint-Jure, De la connaissance et de l’amour du Fils de Dieu Notre Seigneur Jésus Chris, (On the Knowledge and Love of the Son of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ), Mabre-Cramoisy, Paris 1688, 21, 33–35; G. Rossetto, La Sapienza è la Croce (Wisdom and the Cross), in Collectif, La missione monfortana ieri e oggi. Atti del 2° Convegno intermonfortano (The Montfort Mission Yesterday and Today. Acts of the Second Intermontfortian Reunion) (Rome, September 5-8, 1984), QM 2 (1985) 42–56. (22) Cf. De Fiores, 154, 189. Leschassier sought a life style that was death to the world and to its spirit: ibid., 232. (23) Ibid., 228, 232, 164–65. Terms like "self-emptying," "immolation," "mortification," and "death to human nature" reveal a pessimistic understanding of man. On this point, cf. R. Deville, L’École française, 173–75; De Fiores, 101–106, 271, 282. Montfort himself is well aware of human weakness and fragility (cf. L 12, 32; PE 26). But human nature is restored by God through the gift of creative Wisdom (cf. ASE 90–100). On the original beauty of nature, cf. H 157: "New Hymnn on Solitude." (24) Concerning Bellier, cf. R. Deville, L’École française, 140–141; De Fiores, Itinerario 78–80, 267, 277. On the poverty of Montfort, who even as a youth was totally abandoned to Divine Providence, cf. Grandet, 349– 50. (25) Cf. Blain, 16–17. (26) Blain, 46; Grandet, 13–14. (27) B. Papàsogli, L’homme venu du vent. Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, Bellarmin, Montréal 1984, 282. English Translation, Montfort, A Prophet for our Times, Edizioni Monfortane, Rome 1991. On Montfort the writer, cf. J. Fréneau, Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort écrivain (Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, Writer), DMon 47 (1972) 1–16. (28) Concerning Montfort’s understanding of the priesthood, cf. De Fiores, Itinerario 188–89; on his break with Saint Sulpice cf. 258–64. (29) Responding to a pastor who wanted to know who he was, Montfort replied: "I am a poor priest who goes up and down the highways of this world searching for souls" (Clorivière, 418). (30) J.-M. Quérard, Vie du bienheureux Louis- Marie Grignion de Montfort (Life of Blessed Louis Marie de Montfort) 2, Rennes-Paris-Nantes 1887, 278; cf. Letter of the Poor of the Poitiers Hospital to Father Leschassier, in De Fiores, Itinerario 281. (31) Cf. Grandet, 465; S. De Fiores, La «missione» nell’itinerario spirituale apostolico di s. Luigi-Maria da Montfort ("Mission" In the Apostolic Spiritual Itinerary of Saint Louis de Montfort), QM 2 (1985) 17–41; R. Mandrou, Montfort et l’évangélisation du peuple (Montfort and the Evangelization of People), RMon 11 (1974) 1–19. (32) When B. Papàsogli asks if the singularity of Montfort is a charism, she replies that in any case, grace did make up for certain deficiencies of nature. (L’homme venu du vent, 99; cf. also 93–107, 281; De Fiores, Itinerario 38, 189, 225–27, 275–77). On this subject, cf. the conversation of Montfort with Blain in September, 1714: Blain, 185–90. (33) Cf. P. L. Nava, Un prete scomodo (A Troubled Priest), Madre e Regina 42 (1989) 11, ii–iv; S. Gaspari, La scelta missionaria del Montfort (The Missionary Choice of Montfort), Madre e Regina 40 (1986) 2, 5–6. (34) Blain, 186. In N 306, Louis Marie wrote: "What makes a Christian is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit’s strength and life." (35) For example, he chose A. Vatel (d. 1748) the first priest of the Company of Mary: originally assigned to the foreign missions, he was called by Montfort to follow him; he also called Brother Nicholas who accompanied him on his missions until the saint’s death. (cf. L 11; T). (36) Clorivière, 310–11 declares that the Company of Mary is distinguished from other communities by "a truly apostolic perfection." (37) Blain, 185–86. (38) For F. Poiré, cf. R. Laurentin, Maria, Ecclesia, Sacerdotium, 259–61, 265, 355, 389, 633, 635. For Bernardine of Paris, 284–88, 221–22. (39) Charles de Condren’s explanatory text is: "I place her Son, Jesus Christ, into the hands (of Mary) by this foundation, inasmuch as I can, and I beg her with my whole heart to offer it herself to God in this daily sacrifice as she does offer it and has offered it, in time and in eternity, on earth as in heaven." Cf. J. Galy, Le sacrifice, 256n. 40. (40) Ibid., 256, 326. (41) The annotation on the priesthood of the faithful is the work of Bourgoing, cf. J. Galy, Le sacrifice, 90. (42) Ibid., 354. (43) Cf. P. Pierrard, Le prêtre français, 10–13; J. M. R. Tillard, Sacerdoce, DSAM 14 (1988) 27–31. (44) D. Soto, De iustitia et iure (On Justice and Right) VII, 5, 1, Lyon 1559, upholds that the laity are priests but in a lower way. (45) Cf. Pontificale Romanum, De ordinatione episcopi, presbyterorum et diaconorum, Editio typica altera, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis 1990: promises of the bishop, 40–42; of priests, 60–62; of the deacon, 108–110. (46) Ibid., 75. (47) On Olier, cf. S. De Fiores, Itinerario, 187. Concerning the theme of ‘Virgo Sacerdos’ in the spirituality of the French School, cf. R. Laurentin, Maria, Ecclesia, Sacerdotium, 375–82. (48) Cf. E. Campana, Maria nel culto cattolico, 2. Il culto di Maria nelle devozioni particolari, nei sodalizi e nei congressi mariani (Mary in Catholic Devotion, 2. Marian Devotion in Particular Devotions, in the Marian Sodalities and Congresses) Marietti, Torino-Roma 1933, 726; R. Laurentin, Maria, Ecclesia, Sacerdotium, 294– 304. (49) On Mary Typus Ecclesiae, cf. LG 63 (which cites Saint Ambrose); MC 16; RM 44; I. Biffi, Maria tipo della Chiesa popolo sacerdotale, (Mary, type of the Church, A Priestly People) in La Madonna 30 (1982) 70. (50) Paul VI, Discours au terme de la troisième session du concile Vatican II (Discourse at the Closing of the Third Session of Vatican Council II), (Novenber 21, 1964), AAS 56 (1964) 1015. (51) Saint Ambrose relates that Mary learned from the pastors of the Church and constantly paid attention to the apostolic directions: In Ev. Lucae Hom. 2, 54, in PL 15, 1572B; cf. S. Gaspari, Lettura mistagogica di testi biblici per la mariologia (Mystagogical Reading of Biblical Texts For Mariology), Regina mundi Institute , Rome 1986, 227–67 (manuscript) (52) Blain, 105–106. (53) The expression recalls the celebrated text of Saint Augustine: «Vobis enim sum episcopus, vobiscum sum christianus» ("For you I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian"), Disc. 340, 1: In die ordinationis suae, PL 38, 1483.

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

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