Author: St. Louis de Montfort




I. Introduction: Some Problems in Approaching the Trinity. II. Historical Background on Spiritual Meaning. III. The Trinity in Saint Louis de Montfort: General Overview. IV. The Trinity in Montfort as a Mystery of Love: 1. The Father; 2. The Son; 3. The Holy Spirit; V. Relevance of Saint Louis de Montfort’s Trinitarian Doctrine: 1. Insistence on the Trinity; 2. Experience of the Trinity; 3. The missionary dimension; 4. The Marian dimension; 5. Understanding of community.

The Trinity is the most basic and at the same time the loftiest of Christian mysteries. It is most basic because it underlies and encompasses all other Christian mysteries: Creation, Incarnation, Redemption, sanctification, and the Beatific Vision. It is loftiest because it is the ultimate revelation of the inner life of God. It reveals God’s inner life as divinely interpersonal: a life of mutual giving and receiving of love, a love that simultaneously overflows itself and is yet contained in its deepest intimacy. It is a life of boundless creativity, producing within itself sublime expressions of artistic beauty, a life so abundant that it overflows even the realms of divinity and shares its fecundity with creatures, imparting to each and every creature its Trinitarian reflection of love and creativity.

Saint Louis de Montfort experienced and preached the loftiness and intimacy of the mystery of the Trinity. As in the case of many great theologians and preachers before him, his own spiritual life and mystical experience were focused on the Trinity, and the Trinity provided the energy and the content of his preaching. For him the Trinity was not primarily a formula showing God as distant from us and beyond our comprehension. Rather, the doctrine of the Trinity reveals the deepest dimension of the God of love and at the same time the deepest dimension of human beings as Trinitarian images, and of all the panorama of creatures as vestiges of the Trinity.

This article will (I) address some problems in approaching the Trinity; (II) sketch some highlights in the history of Christian theology and spirituality that form a background to Montfort’s own theology and spirituality of the Trinity; (III) provide an over-view of his teaching on the Trinity; (IV) study the Trinity in his writings as a mystery of love; and (V) explore the relevance his Trinitarian teaching for ministry and the spiritual life.


Throughout history Christians have approached the Trinity from two major perspectives: the formulation of the doctrine and its spiritual meaning. Both are of paramount importance, for they mutually support and presuppose each other. In teaching and preaching, however, often the formulation of the doctrine has overshadowed its meaning for the spiritual life of the faithful. In fact, teaching and preaching often stop at the level of formulation without even opening the door to spiritual meaning.

Awareness of the mystery of the Trinity emerged in the early Christian communities through their contact with the person of Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ. His very person as well as his teaching and preaching revealed his relation to the Father and to the Holy Spirit. In the early Church the names of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit appeared in prayers and in the liturgy, for example, in the baptismal formula. The Gospel of John, with its prologue and Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper, became a basic text for both a doctrine and a spirituality of the Trinity. In this emerging awareness, Christians began to perceive in the OT the symbolic foreshadowing of the Trinity, which led to later Trinitarian theologies of history.

In a struggle against the Arian heresy, the foundational Trinitarian creed was formulated at the Council of Nicea in 325. Christ as eternal Logos was declared to be of the same substance as the Father. In 381 the First Council of Constantinople added to the Nicene Creed a similar affirmation about the Holy Spirit, thus solemnly establishing the classical credal formula for belief in the mystery of the Trinity. Its importance is attested to by the fact that to this day this Creed is said at Mass.

The impact of the Nicene- Constantinople creed, as well as many other creeds, has led to an almost exclusive focus on the Trinity from the perspective of doctrinal formulas. Derivatives of this are visible in the emphasis placed on Trinitarian formulas in catechisms and in teaching and preaching the Trinity. This trend has also had an enormous influence on both historical and speculative theology, especially in the recent past. For an entire century before Vatican II, neo-scholasticism focused on establishing Trinitarian formulas, either against various heresies or in refining concepts within Christian belief. Whole generations of priests were trained almost exclusively in this perspective. Although the affirmation of belief, formulated with verbal and conceptual precision, will always remain an essential element of Christianity, it needs to be supplemented, especially at the present time, by the perspective of the spiritual meaning of the doctrine of the Trinity.


In addition to formulating the doctrine of the Trinity, the Christian community since ancient times has explored its spiritual significance. In fact, the Trinitarian formulation in the Nicene Creed was explicitly conceived as a technical expression of a spiritual experience. Athanasius, the leading theologian at the council, began with the fact that the Christian community had an experience of being divinized. Since this experience of divinization was brought about through Christ, he argued, Christ as Logos must possess the same substance as the Father.1

Having arisen, then, out of a spiritual experience, the credal formula can be seen as an expression of this experience, and the creed can serve as a point of departure to evoke this experience. The problem of the Trinitarian formulas and the abstract theologies derived from them has not been due to the formulas themselves but to the split between these formulas and the spiritual experience they have expressed in the past and can continue to express today.

In the West, Augustine responded to an Arian objection that Christians, by affirming the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, really believed in three divine substances and therefore three Gods. He answered by using the distinction between substance and relation. There was only one divine substance and the Persons were constituted by mutual relation, each sharing in the single divine substance.2 This approach, which focused on the problem of three and one, led to the formulation of a major Trinitarian creed3 and laid the foundation for the very abstract Trinitarian theology that flourished in the thirteenth and again in the twentieth century.

At the same time that Augustine was developing this abstract formula, he was meditating on the human soul as image of the Trinity.4 He himself had mystically experienced the Trinity in the depths of his soul. As a consequence, for him the Trinitarian God was more intimate to him than he was to himself. It was this Trinitarian image that constituted the dignity of each human person and provided the basis for the spiritual journey that reaches its culmination in union with the Trinity.

In the twelfth century, theologians focused on the Trinity as the perfection of love. Chief among these was Richard of St. Victor, who in his treatise On the Trinity stated that there must be a plurality of Persons in God in order for God to share in the highest form of love. For we do not say that one possesses the perfection of love if one has love only for oneself. The perfection of love requires that love flow out of itself and into another who responds with mutual love. Finally, love reaches another level of perfection in mutual love for a third. In this perspective, human interpersonal love is a mirror of the Trinity.5

Bernard of Clairvaux applied to the Trinity the passionate language of the Song of Songs. Like many other interpreters, he saw in this marriage hymn from the OT a symbol of God’s passionate love for the human soul and the soul’s passionate love for God. In eighty-six sermons, Bernard plumbed this mystery of divine and human love, seeing the bridegroom as the Logos, the Beloved of the soul, and perceiving the bride as the symbol of the soul that has fallen deeply in love with the divine Beloved.

Bernard begins with the image of the kiss found in the first verse of the Song: “Let him kiss me with the kiss of the mouth.” As Bernard proceeds, he describes a spiritual journey that begins with love, proceeds through love, and culminates in the loving union of the soul with the Beloved. It is not surprising, then, that Bernard sees the inner life of the Trinity as a life of love. “The Father,” Bernard says, “loves the Son and embraces him with a special love.” This love between the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit. Therefore the bride “asks boldly to be given the kiss, that is, the Spirit in Whom the Father and the Son will reveal themselves to her.”6

This love tradition flowed into the thirteenth century through the early Franciscan school, especially through Bonaventure, its chief theologian and spiritual writer. Inspired by Francis of Assisi, he developed the metaphysics of love into a comprehensive system based on the Trinity. In fact, in treating the Logos as the offspring of the Father, he claimed: “This is our entire metaphysics, that is, emanation, exemplarity, consummation: to be illumined by spiritual rays and led back to the Highest Reality.”7 It is important to underscore the fact that Bonaventure and others in this tradition did not abandon intellect for affectivity nor treat love merely as the practical expression of a purely speculative system. Quite the contrary: with their intellects they penetrated into the depths and dynamism of divine and human love and there found the principles for understanding all of reality.

Bonaventure focused on the fecundity of love, its inner dynamic to share with the beloved its own richness and at the same time its desire to be united with the beloved. This fecundity of love is found primarily in the Father, who is the fountain-fullness of divinity (fontalis plenitudo). In focusing on the Father in this way, Bonaventure situates himself in the mainstream of the Greek Fathers’ approach to the Trinity. This fountain-fullness wells up in the Person of the Father and expresses itself in the generation of the Son, His perfect Image and Word, the Art of the Father, as Bonaventure calls him, following Augustine. The Son turns back to the Father in the love of union that is the Holy Spirit. This inner circle of love, as Bonaventure calls it, overflows in the outer circle of love, which is Creation. Since Creation flows from the inner life of the Trinity, it manifests the Trinity and leads back to the Trinity.8

In the growing awareness of divine and human love, there emerged in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries a heightened awareness of the meaning of person, both human and divine. Since the late patristic period, the person had been seen through Boethius’ definition as “an individual substance of a rational nature.”9 This formulation can lead to a radical individualism. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, theologians balanced this perspective with that of mutual relation with another person. Developed eloquently in Richard of St. Victor, this approach reached a high point in Thomas Aquinas’ definition of a divine Person as “a subsisting relation.”10

In the twelfth century and reaching a high point in the thirteenth, there developed another aspect of love—the love of compassion—which flourished in devotion to the humanity of Christ. The self-communicating love of the Trinitarian life responded in compassion for the plight of the human race. This divine compassion expressed itself concretely in a Trinitarian way: in the Incarnation of the Son, with his suffering, death, and resurrection, along with the sending of the Holy Spirit.11


It is in the light of the tradition outlined above that one must understand Montfort’s Trinitarian teaching. This does not imply that he explicitly quoted these authors or made reference to them. Rather, they are the classical writers who have given expression to the Trinitarian tradition of which Montfort himself is a part. This tradition, which sees the Trinity as the mystery of the fullness of divine love, flows as a great river throughout Christian history, integrating into an organic whole doctrinal formulations, speculative theology, and mystical experience. It is in the context of this tradition, then, that we can best appreciate Montfort and the contribution that he can make to our own times.

The mystery of the Trinity is pervasive in Montfort’s writings. Although love is at the center, he also presents the mystery in formulas of faith that reflect the great Trinitarian creeds. Like many classical authors before him, he often divides his work according to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and, further, into many patterns of three, in a way reminiscent of Bonaventure and Dante.

A summary of Trinitarian faith is found in his canticle on “The Principal Mysteries of the Faith” (H 109:1-2). It represents his basic teaching on the Trinity, which reflects the Trinitarian creeds and which he put into hymn format so that it could be easily sung and remembered by his people:

“Listen, Christian soul / What the faith teaches you; / In order that you retain it, / Sing devoutly: / I believe in one only God, Father exceedingly good, / The infinite Being, everywhere present, / And the all powerful Creator / Of heaven and earth. “In God there are three persons / Father, Son, Holy Spirit/ Three infinitely Good, / I believe it, God has said it. / Three make only one God for three have only one essence: / The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, / All equal in substance.”

In SR the same thought is repeated: “Father . . . who dost beget a Son like Thee, eternal, consubstantial with Thee, who is of the very same essence as Thee; . . . the Holy Spirit who is God like Thee, three persons adorable but one only God.” MR Montfort suggests that when we pray the Rosary, the first Our Father should honor “the Eternal Word, equal to his Father and who with him produces the Holy Spirit by their mutual love,” and the third Hail Mary, “the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son by way of love.”

The major works of Montfort are divided according to a Trinitarian pattern. In addition to the approximately forty times that the term “Trinity” occurs in his writings (e.g., LEW 13, 42, 208; SR 4, 11, 22; TD 5, 22, 50, 262; H 40; H 90; H 109), the centrality of the Trinitarian mystery in the life and teachings of Montfort is evident in his custom of often dividing his material into the role of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. In the most theological section of TD (1- 37), there are seven sets of “threes” explaining the role of each Person of the Trinity in relation to Mary: 4, 5, 6, 16, 17-21, 23-25, 29-36. In this part of TD, the saint over and over again describes Mary’s union to each Person of the Trinity to illustrate her greatness: “God the Father gave his only Son to the world only through Mary. . . . The Son of God became man for our salvation but only in Mary and through Mary. God the Holy Spirit formed Jesus Christ in Mary but only after having asked her consent; . . . God the Father gathered all the waters together and called them seas. He gathered all his graces together and called them Mary. . . . God the Son imparted to his mother all that he gained by his life and death, namely his infinite merits and his eminent virtues. . . . God the Holy Spirit entrusted his wondrous gifts to Mary, his faithful Spouse.”


That the Trinity is a mystery of love can be seen in Montfort’s teaching on each of the divine Persons:

1. The Father

Echoing the Greek Fathers in the East and Anselm and Bonaventure in the West, Montfort focuses on the Father as the fecund source of self- communicating love. The very term “Father” “honors his fecundity . . . for he engenders a Son from all eternity” (SR 41). It is “in his womb” that the “only Son” rests from all eternity (LEW 14, 19), and it is from the infinite Love who is Father that the Spirit flows (MR 16). It is clear that the Father, the First Person of the Trinity, is, then, for Montfort the “fons totius Trinitatis.” The Father is infinitely good (H 27:1), “loving to excess,” as Montfort so often repeats not only of the Father but of Eternal Wisdom as well (LEW 45, 64, 108; SR 67; HD 8; H 128:6, H 158:5). It is this originating Love, this love source who is Father, that clearly distinguishes the First Person of the triune God (LEW 14, 31, 104, 107, 169, 223).

The Father is the loving source not only in the inner life of the Trinity but in the economy of salvation as well. The Father is “the essential source” from whom “all perfect gifts and all graces flow” (SM 9). He is the Father of lights from which every good gift originates” (HD 49). The most striking insistence of Montfort about the First Person of the Most Blessed Trinity in the economy of salvation is the term “Father,” found extensively throughout his writings. In his commentary on the Our Father, Saint Louis Marie writes: “We captivate the heart of God by invoking him by the sweet name of Father” (SR 39). He is, first of all, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has come to us from the Father’s bosom (LEW 14, 104, 107, 223; SR 72; H 81:2). In Jesus Christ, the mighty God is also our Father, for “when we pronounce the name Father, we remember that we receive our existence from God . . . who has sent his only Son to be our Savior” (SR 43, 46).

The primary characteristic of God the Father, Who engenders the Son from all Eternity and Who is our “ABBA, Father” (H 7:31), is his goodness (H 27:1), tenderness (H 13:20; H 28:24; H 52:11). As seen above, He is Love itself, and even His chastisements are proof of His infinite love for us (H 98:1). His loving care for us “never fails” (L 2). Since we all have the same loving Father, we are all brothers and sisters (H 148:5), and we are therefore to be apostles to each other, to love the God hidden in our neighbor, especially the poor (H 148:16; H 149:1). The expressions “loving Father,” “good Father” are found on almost every page of his writings.

Montfort boldly declares that the Father, Love itself, the source and goal of all, shares with Mary His fruitfulness, inasmuch as a pure creature is capable of it, so that she may generate the eternal Son in time (TD 17). In an analogous way, Montfort sees the Father sharing life with all His children who like Mary totally open themselves to His yearning to love us.

God the Father, source and goal of all people, lovingly draws everything to Himself in Christ Jesus. Montfort’s path of perfection, found in the effects of Consecration (TD 213-225), is fulfilled in the blazing light of the Father, God Alone (TD 151).

In this teaching, Montfort is giving expression to his own mystical experience of the Father, an experience that radiated through his life and writings. Although called a “fiery preacher”—for he would not hesitate to call sin by its name and to describe its horrendous repercussions—he nonetheless attracted hundreds to the confessional where he was the loving Father welcoming home the strayed. The very name given to him by the people, “the good Father from Montfort,” demonstrates how intimately he “tasted” the goodness of the Father and shared it with others.

2. The Son

Out of the Father’s fecundity, the Son is born. He is begotten of the Father, united in being with the Father: “Father, thou who throughout eternity dost beget a Son like Thee, eternal, consubstantial with thee, who is of the very same essence as thee; and is of like power and goodness and wisdom as thou art” (SR 41). “He was given out of love and fashioned by love. He is therefore all love, or rather the very love of the Father and the Holy Spirit” (LEW 118; cf. LEW 9, 117-132). He is within the womb of Love itself, the Father (LEW 14, 31, 104, 107, 169, 223; SR 72; TD 6); he is the Beloved (LEW 19; FC 6; PM 23; H 65:16).

In a striking image reminiscent of the Greek Fathers, Saint Louis de Montfort describes the Son as the “mamilla Patris,” “the breast of the Father” (LEW 10; SR 144; LCM 3): “If only we knew the pleasure a soul tastes who knows the beauty of Wisdom, who sucks the milk of this breast of the Father, we would cry out with the Spouse: ‘meliora sunt ubera tua vino: the milk of your breasts is sweeter than delicious wine and all the sweetness of creatures’” (LEW 10).

It is not surprising that Montfort should develop the theme of Divine Wisdom as the beautiful expression of the Father, for love does not remain silent but expresses itself in beautiful words and images. This expressive aspect of love is developed in the classical Trinitarian love traditions of Augustine, Anselm, and Bonaventure. In this tradition, theologians speak of the Son as the Art of the Father, the unsurpassably beautiful expression of the Father. Montfort echoes this tradition when he writes that the Son as Eternal Wisdom is “the substantial and eternal idea of divine beauty” (LEW 17). “God the Father was well pleased with the sovereign beauty of Eternal Wisdom, his Son, throughout time and eternity” (LEW 19). Montfort’s own life can be seen as a reflection of this aspect of the Trinitarian mystery. He was indeed inspired and inflamed by the creativity of the Father’s artistic expressiveness, and he produced his own expression of this in preaching, composing poetry and songs, and staging productions to dramatize the message of love that was at the heart of both his preaching and his mystical experience.

The Son is the Eternal Wisdom of the Most Blessed Trinity: “Substantial or uncreated Wisdom is the Son of God, the second person of the most Blessed Trinity. In other words, it is Eternal Wisdom in eternity or Jesus Christ in time” (LEW 13). Again, as LEW forcefully teaches, it is love, gentleness, that characterizes Eternal Wisdom: “[Incarnate Wisdom] is a gift sent by the love of the Eternal Father and a product of the love of the Holy Spirit (LEW 118). Montfort considers the Eternal Wisdom the personification of Wisdom as found in the Sapiential books of the OT— “a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty . . . the reflection of eternal light, the spotless mirror of God’s majesty, the image of His goodness” (Wis 7:25-26; LEW 16)—and repeats the beginning of the Gospel of John, adding a short commentary: “In the beginning was the Word—the Son of God, or Eternal Wisdom—and the Word was in God and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1-2; LEW 17).

It is out of love that the Son as Wisdom becomes incarnate for us. Since the Incarnation is the central and “compendium” mystery (TD 243- 248), the references to the Son of God are understandably found throughout the writings of the missionary. It is at the Annunciation that God the Son forever enters the human family, that redemption becomes a reality—by becoming truly Mary’s child through virginal conception—thanks to her active and responsible consent. Jesus and Mary become “one heart” (H 40:37; TD 263, 47; H 87:9). It is in her that he continues his “dependence” on the Father—without any hint of subordinationism—inasmuch as he is constantly “being generated” by the Father (cf. H 81:2; TD 157). Moreover, this “dependence” is expressed in an analogous way in his “dependence” on Mary (TD 27). Finally, the Son shares his divine life with Our Lady, thereby “divinizing” her, making her “his inseparable companion” (TD 74; cf. H 87:6; TD 247, 63). He communicates to her his total surrender to the Father so that she, too, may be “the slave of the Lord” (Lk 1:38, TD 72). Jesus is “for Mary” so that she may fully be “for Jesus” (TD 225) and thereby, in the power of the Spirit, totally for the Father.

The Incarnate Son is the Son of God who reposes in the bosom of the Father from all eternity (LEW 14, 31) and in the bosom of Mary from the time of the Incarnation (LEW 233). Sent by the God of love, the Incarnate Wisdom is “all love” (LEW 118), so approachable and yet our awesome God. He is the highest point in the cosmos, for he is the God- man (SR 82; TD 68), the Savior of all (H 10:5), the Beloved of the Father (FC 6), the only Way, Truth, and Life (LEW 89; FC 6). The evident conclusion is that our entire life must be centered on Jesus, for it is only through the Incarnate Second Person of the Trinity that we enter the glory of the Father (TD 63, where the Christocentrism of Montfort is so strongly expressed). To turn away from the Incarnate Wisdom is to fall into the foolishness of sin, which brings about eternal damnation. Centering our life on Christ through total surrender is, then, to be “divinized,” to become inheritors of eternal life. In this sense, Jesus becomes “incarnate” within us, since our entire being is molded into him (TD 219).

The life of the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom is “for us,” thereby revealing that God-Trinity is for us. He is born for us (H 58:1), dies for us (LEW 54), rises for us (H 84:3) so that we may conquer in him and through him. He awaits our petitions so that he may answer. His gift is to reconcile us with the Father. “Wisdom is for man and man is for Wisdom” (LEW 64).

The Son of God, the New Adam, is, then, the source of eternal life (LEW 11). For through the victorious Cross he wins for us a share in his own divine life. Montfort appears to be stunned that this mighty God, the radiance of the Father (LEW 126), is also our brother and our spouse (H 87:12). It is by taking up our cross daily and following Jesus, as Mary did, which calls for a total surrender, a constant living of our baptismal vows, a Consecration to Jesus the Incarnate and Eternal Wisdom, that we arrive at the fullness of the glory of God Alone. We must be one with Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom, thereby becoming fools for Christ’s sake, so that we conquer the foolish sinfulness of the world.

This Trinitarian/Christocentricity of Montfort spirituality is highly pronounced. Mary, in herself a “nothing” (TD 14), is integral to salvation history because of the Trinity’s inscrutable will that she be hypothetically necessary (TD 39) in God’s plan of leading all through Christ Jesus to the Father.

3. The Holy Spirit

Montfort’s preaching on the Holy Spirit is so important and so pervasive in his writings that it is detailed elsewhere in this Handbook (cf. God, Holy Spirit, and Mary). A brief overview of the Spirit in the life of the Trinity will suffice.

Saint Louis Marie’s doctrine on the inner life of the Trinity includes two central statements on the Holy Spirit. First, God the Holy Spirit, one in being with the Father and Son (H 109:2), is the infinite relationship of divine love binding Father and Son: “The substantial love of the Father and the Son” (TD 36); “Father and Son, who from your mutual love produce the Holy Spirit who is God like unto you” (SR 42); “Glory to the Eternal Father, Glory to the Adorable Word! / The same glory to the Holy Spirit / Who by his love joins them with an ineffable bond” (H 85:6). The Holy Spirit is also depicted as the infinite “fire,” “flame” of love within the Trinity: “Come Holy Spirit, God of flame” (H 98:21); “Come, Father of Lights / Come, God of Charity, / . . . Let there descend into my soul / a coal of your fire / which penetrates it with flame / and fills it with God” (H 141:1).

Second, Montfort in a celebrated passage of TD 20-21 attempts to clarify the role of the Spirit within the Godhead: “God the Holy Spirit who does not produce any divine person, became fruitful through Mary whom he espoused. . . . This does not mean that the Blessed Virgin confers on the Holy Spirit a fruitfulness which he does not already possess. Being God, he has the ability to produce just like the Father and the Son, although he does not use this power and so does not produce another divine person. But it does mean that the Holy Spirit chose to make use of Our Lady, although he had no absolute need of her, in order to become actively fruitful in producing Jesus Christ.” Saint Louis Marie repeats this teaching in PM 15: “Holy Spirit . . . within the Trinity, none of the divine Persons is begotten by you. Outside the Trinity, you are the begetter of all the children of God. All the saints who have ever existed or will exist until the end of time, will be the outcome of your love working through Mary.”

This thought, borrowed and critically adapted from d’Argentan, makes two assertions about the Holy Spirit within the Godhead: the Spirit does have the same ability to produce like the Father and the Son, for the Spirit is of one substance with them. Here Montfort is repeating Saint Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae I, 41, 5). The missionary also declares that the Spirit does not produce another divine Person within the Trinity, for the relationship which constitutes the Spirit is pure reception, pure gift. The Father through the Son and with the Son is the giver, the Holy Spirit is pure recipient. Montfort is echoing and simplifying the rather awkward words of Cardinal de Bérulle: “The sterility of the Holy Spirit is a sterility that, because it flows from the fertility of God, ends in the fertility of God, i.e., in the fecundity of a Divine Person, operating outside itself. . . . It is unique to the Holy Spirit to be sterile and fertile at the same time. It is sterile in itself and fertile outside itself.” 12

Montfort has captured the mystery of the Trinity as community. This is called perichoresis, or, as the Latins term it, the circuminsessio, of the three Persons of the Trinity. Echoing Richard of St. Victor, Montfort perceived that one Person is inconceivable without the others, since they are love relationships. The Father, as pure loving self- giving, cannot exist without the Beloved and the Loving; the Spirit, the Loving uniting the Father and the Son—or the Love poured out from the Father through the Son—cannot exist without the other two Persons. We deduce, then, from Montfort’s teaching on the Incarnation that the one God is the Lover (Father) and the Beloved (Son) and the Loving (Spirit). For Montfort, God is not a solitary God; God is community.

Montfort’s mysticism appears to reach its most profound depth in his contemplation of the Holy Spirit’s union with Mary at the Incarnation. The Spirit communicates Himself to Mary precisely as the infinite Loving Who binds together the Father and the Son, Who then takes possession of Mary for the Father and the Son. The overshadowing Spirit draws Mary—who actively and responsibly lets herself be drawn—into the intimate life of the Trinity itself. Mary herself becomes then a “mirror of the Divinity” (H 90:40). Living the Trinitarian life in the Holy Spirit, she is the “paradise of the Trinity” (H 90:58; LEW 208), sharing as a creature in the holiness of God in a manner incomprehensible, which reaches its fulfillment in her final “fiat” as she is assumed into heaven. The term that would summarize Montfort’s profound understanding of the Spirit’s relationship with Mary is “faithful and indissoluble spouse” (TD 85).

Moreover, Mary, whom the Spirit has espoused in order to produce Jesus Christ (TD 36), shares in a unique manner in the formation of the saints, since she is called upon to share in the formation of the Saint in whom all the saints form one Body. Since the sanctification of the greatest saints, especially those of the end times, is the work of the Holy Spirit (TD 55-58), Mary, “the inseparable companion of the Holy Spirit in all the works of grace” (TD 90), is integral to the Spirit’s task of leading all to the fulfillment of the kingdom of God (TD 59). Therefore, the Spirit—“the deluge of fire” (PM 16)—renews the face of the earth together with His spouse, who is joined to him in all the works of grace by an inexplicable, eternal union.

In an analogous way, as the Spirit espouses Mary, so too with all the redeemed. In the light of Montfort’s theology of the Incarnation, the espousal takes place in Mary and through Mary. The wonders of the Holy Spirit, the vigor of the continual Pentecost, then, are intensified to the extent that the Holy Spirit sees his inseparable spouse, Mary, in a soul: “Rest assured that the more you turn to Mary in your prayers, meditations, actions and sufferings, seeing her, if not perhaps clearly and distinctly, at least in a general and indistinct way, the more surely will you discover Jesus. . . . Mary is far from being an obstacle to good people who are striving for union with him” (TD 165).

It is the Holy Spirit Who, then, draws the soul into the intimacy of the Trinity itself; it is the Spirit Who divinizes a soul by making it his “temple” and forming that person into the very image of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit Who pours forth dynamic Love into our hearts.

Because of the never-to-be-repealed law of the Incarnation, the great saints of the end times, called to bring about the ultimate fulfillment of God’s victory, are formed by the Spirit with Mary. It is the Spirit Who lures us out of the Cenacle into the proclamation of the glories of God, Who forms us into “true apostles” (TD 58). The apostolate, especially the final burst of God’s liberating, healing power culminating in the reign of Christ through the reign of Mary, is carried out by people—especially by the members of the Company of Mary—“filled with the Holy Spirit.” These apostles will be imbued with the spirit of Mary, for “when the Holy Spirit, her spouse, finds Mary in a soul, he hastens there and enters fully into it. He gives himself generously to that soul according to the place it has given to his spouse. One of the main reasons why the Holy Spirit does not now work striking wonders in souls is that he fails to find in them a sufficiently close union with his faithful and inseparable spouse” (TD 36).

It is evident, then, that in the order of redemption, the three Persons of the Trinity, having willed her consent to the Incarnation, also will her active presence in the full flowering of the Incarnation, culminating in the glorious Second Coming of the Savior. Mary is also the model of how the Trinity works with us—who, like Mary, actively and responsibly release ourselves into the infinite light of the Trinitarian God—for the greater glory of God Alone.


In his preaching and his life, Saint Louis de Montfort opened to others the mystery of Trinity as fullness and perfection of divine love. As a creative channel of this classical love tradition, he has much to offer to our times.

1. Insistence on the Trinity

Perhaps the most vital effect of Mont-fort on today’s work of evangelization is the saint’s clear insistence on the Trinity. In an age where it appears that the majority of Christians either ignore the Trinity or misunderstand it, Saint Louis de Montfort challenges us by permeating his doctrine with solid Trinitarian teaching.

2. Experience of the Trinity

Montfort proclaims solid Trinitarian thought, however, not for the sake of abstract intellectual learning. His purpose is to lead the people into a deeper understanding: into a profound, experiential, mystical experience of the Trinitarian life within them. It is impossible to enter Saint Louis de Montfort’s spirituality without being drawn to a life within the Trinity itself. Montfort recalls to us that this profound experience of the Trinity is the calling of every Christian.

3. The missionary dimension

His Trinitarian doctrine, however, is not turned in to itself. Just as the Incarnation—the masterpiece of the Trinity—is essentially “missionary,” so too the Trinitarian mystic, in the eyes of Montfort, is essentially missionary. Integral to the formation of the great apostles of the end times is their deepening knowledge and experience of the Trinity, the ultimate source and the ultimate goal of their proclamation of the kingdom. Christian missionary endeavor is essentially Trinitarian.

4. The Marian dimension

In many ways distinctive of Saint Louis de Montfort is his insistent teaching on the divinely willed role of Mary in the Trinity’s divinization of creation. He boldly tells us today that if faith is weak, if the indwelling of the Trinity is not truly alive and central in our experience, it is because Mary—the Trinity’s companion in all works of grace—is not sufficiently united to souls. With Gospel logic he proclaims to our age that forgetfulness of Mary can only lead to a weakening of the living of the Trinitarian mystery with all the consequences involved. Is it possible that this “secret of sanctity”—a life lived in Mary—is the fundamental reason for the weakness of Trinitarian awareness and experience in so many Christians? Montfort would never doubt it.

5. Understanding of community

Saint Louis de Montfort’s Trinitarian doctrine paves the way for a deeper understanding of community, for not only does he insist that the Trinity refers to love relationships but he also affirms that human beings are created to the image of the Trinity (LEW 35, 64; SM 3).

If God is community, if God is dialogue and we have been made to God’s image, then it follows that we are meant for community. In fact, since the Persons of the Trinity are pure relationality, then it could be said that relationship is, in the concrete order, essential to the full understanding of the human person: persons are made for community. Since, as Montfort asserts, the Trinity is the community of love relationships, human communities must mirror within and outside the core group not hatred but love. Dialogue, depth sharing—applied differently in diverse cultures—must characterize human community, for they are intrinsic to the community called God-Trinity. Moreover, since the triune God wills to be “for us,” as Father de Montfort repeats, so too should the human community not be turned within itself but reach out “for others.” Community “at a distance” through fax, phones, and computers is hardly the full imaging of the inter-relationality and inter-personality of the Trinity and can never, therefore, be considered the ideal of family or community life.

The important practical dimensions of a spirituality flowing from the knowledge and experience of the triune God are many. Montfort’s Trinitarian teaching in the classical love tradition can be as vital for us today as it was when he preached so dynamically and profoundly in his own time.

E. Cousins - P. Gaffney

Notes: (1) St. Athanasius, Against the Arians. (2) St. Augustine, On the Trinity, 5. (3) See the Athanasian Creed, which in fact is not derived from Athanasius but Augustine. (4) St. Augustine, On the Trinity, 5- 15. (5) Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, 3. (6) St. Bernard of Clairvaux, On the Song of Songs, 8, 1 and 2. (7) St. Bonaventure, Collations on the Six Days, 1, 17. (8) St. Bonaventure, Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity, q. 8. (9) Boethius, On the Person and Two Natures, 3; for a critical treatment of Boethius’ definition, see Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, 4. (10) Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I, q. 29, a. 4, corp. (11) See St. Bonaventure, The Tree of Life. (12) William M. Thompson (ed), Bérulle and the French School: Selected Writings, Paulist Press, Mahwah, N.J., 1989, 132 (Discourse on the State and Grandeurs of Jesus, Fourth Discourse on the Unity of God in this Mystery).

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

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