St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort (1673 – 1716)
Loving Slave of Jesus in Mary
On April 28, the Church remembers the life of this extraordinary saint: a missionary and a founder, a great master of the interior life and a preeminent son of the Virgin Mary.
St. Louis de Montfort’s example and spirituality has deeply marked our Religious Family as seen in our Fourth Vow of Marian Slavery according to his method, and in the numerous citations of his writings and explicit reference to his teaching found throughout our Constitutions and Directory of Spirituality.
“We want to manifest our love and gratitude to the Blessed Virgin by making a fourth vow of slavery to Mary according to Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort – so as to obtain her indispensable help to prolong the Incarnation in all things.”
Constitutions of the Institute Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, #17
“We want to form virtuous women, (from vir and from vis: that have the strength of a man) according to the doctrine of the great teachers of the spiritual life, especially Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Jesus, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and from the example of all the saints of all times that the Church proposes as examples of virtue for us to imitate.”
This influence of St. Louis de Montfort is also noted in the church of Our Lady of Sorrows at the IVE Seminary in San Rafael, Argentina where our Religious Family began. The central stained glass window depicts St. Louis de Montfort, flanked by the two archangels Rafael and Gabriel.
Elsewhere in Argentina, a large bas-relief medallion of the saint was given by Fr. Buela to the Basilica of Our Lady of Lujan and is currently mounted on marble with the inscription “Totus Tuus” below. This image of Montfort is found to the right of the camarin of Our Lady, in a side alcove beside the Basilica’s high altar, and recalls the Total Consecration made by both seminarians and sisters of our Religious Family around the world according to the method of St. Louis de Montfort before the image of Our Lady of Lujan, Mother of our Vocations.
Spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort
In his homily on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the canonization of St. Louis de Montfort in 1997, Blessed Pope John Paul II outlined the main elements of his spirituality:
- God Alone: “St Louis-Marie adopted as his motto these simple words: ‘God Alone.’ He sang: ‘God alone is my tenderness, God alone is my support, God alone is my every good, my life and my wealth’ (Canticle 55, 11). His love for God was total. It was with God and for God that he went towards other people and walked the roads of the mission.”
- The Incarnation: “The Incarnation of the Word is for him the absolute central reality: ‘Eternal and incarnate Wisdom … I adore you … dwelling in the splendor of your Father from all eternity and in the virginal womb of Mary, your most worthy Mother, at the time of your Incarnation’ (Love of Eternal Wisdom, n. 223).”
- Love of the Blessed Virgin Mary: “[St. Louis] remains an incomparable bard and disciple of the Mother of the Savior whom he honors as the one who so assuredly leads towards Christ: “If then we are establishing sound devotion to Our Blessed Lady, it is only in order to establish devotion to Our Lord more perfectly, by providing a smooth but certain way of reaching Jesus Christ” (True Devotion to Mary, n. 62).
- Fidelity to the Cross: “Contemplation of the grandeur of the mystery of Jesus goes hand in hand with the contemplation of the Cross, which Montfort made the principal sign of his missions…Day after day, he practiced the imitation of Christ through what he would call the foolish love of the Cross in which he saw ‘the triumph of Eternal Wisdom’ (Love of Eternal Wisdom, ch. XIV). Louis-Marie, who followed his Lord and ‘fixed his abode in the Cross’ (ibid., n. 180), gives a witness to holiness…so as to reveal to this world the truth of saving love.”
- Missionary Zeal: “[St. Louis] was a missionary of extraordinary range and influence. Just after his ordination he wrote: ‘I feel a tremendous urge to make Our Lord and his Holy Mother loved, to go in a humble and simple way to teach catechism to the poor.’ He lived in complete fidelity to this vocation…”
Blessed Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Redemptoris Mater, exalts the devotion widespread by St. Louis de Montfort – the total consecration to Jesus through the hands of Mary – “as an effective means for Christians to live faithfully their baptismal commitments.” However, the late Holy Father’s devotion to Mary and his debt to Montfort’s legacy are even more clearly understood in his coat of arms and papal motto, as he explained in his letter to the Montfort religious family in 2003:
“As is well known, my episcopal coat of arms symbolically illustrates the Gospel text quoted above [Jn 19: 25-27]; the motto Totus tuus is inspired by the teaching of St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort (cf. Gift and Mystery, pp. 42-43; Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 15). These two words express total belonging to Jesus through Mary: “Tuus totus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt”, St Louis Marie wrote, and he translates his words: “I am all yours, and all that I have is yours, O most loving Jesus, through Mary, your most holy Mother” (Treatise on True Devotion, n. 233). This Saint’s teaching has had a profound influence on the Marian devotion of many of the faithful and on my own life.”
Similarly, our devotion to Mary, particularly our fourth vow of consecration to Mary, is based primarily on the spirituality of and devotion promulgated by St. Louis de Montfort and by Blessed Pope John Paul II.
Of the components of St. Louis’ spirituality, the star which shines beyond them all was his devotion to Our Lady. After the ceremony of canonization for St. Louis de Montfort in 1947, Pope Pius XII captured the centrality of the saint’s Marian devotion: “The mainspring of his apostolic ministry, his great secret of attracting and giving souls to Jesus, was his devotion to Mary. All his activity was founded upon her, all his confidence rested in her.”
The best known writings of St. Louis de Montfort are compiled in the book, God Alone: The Collected Writings of St. Louis Marie de Montfort (Montfort Publications, Bay Shore, 1987), which are available to read online and include:
- Circular Letter to the Friends of the Cross (English PDF)
- Love of Eternal Wisdom (English PDF)
- Prayer for Missionaries (English PDF)
- True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin (English PDF / Spanish PDF)
- Preparation for Total Consecration to the Virgin Mary (English / Spanish from “Rosary Army”)
- The Secret of Mary (English PDF / Spanish PDF)
- The Secret of the Rosary (English PDF / Spanish PDF)
Complete Writings and Prayers of St. Louis de Montfort with texts available in English, Italian, French and Spanish on the official Montfort site.
A collection of articles about the spirituality and history of the Montfortian religious family called Jesus Living in Mary: Handbook of the Spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort (Litchfield, CT: Montfort Publications, 1994) is availble on the EWTN website (Electronic Copyright © 1998 EWTN, All Rights Reserved) Provided courtesy of the Montfort Fathers © All Rights Reserved.
- Article on the 1947 canonization of St. Louis de Montfort (from Jesus Living in Mary, cited above)
- Todo Tuyo: Esclavo de Maria, (IVE Press, 2009), by Fr. Arturo Ruiz Frietes, IVE, prologue by Fr. Carlos Buela. This book in Spanish covers the life, works, and spirituality of St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, as well as explanations about his influence on the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word.
The Life of St. Louis de Montfort
On January 13, 1673, St. Louis was born into a pious Catholic family in a region of France known for its dynamic Christian life. The day of his confirmation, he added the name “Marie” to his first name. Educated by Jesuits, he was considered intelligent, studious, deeply religious, artistic and somewhat shy by most of his teachers.
At the age of 19, he set off for Paris to begin his priestly studies. His trust in Divine Providence was so great that, having received financial assistance to pay for his education, he gave all his possessions to the first beggar he met and continued the rest of his journey (of more than 200 miles!) to Paris on foot, begging for what he needed along the way.
St. Louis’ seminary years shaped the goal of his priestly life: to be a missionary to the poor, either in France or abroad. He would later write to his spiritual director: “I had wished…to form myself for the missions and in particular for teaching catechism to the poor…I feel a great desire to make Our Lord and His Holy Mother loved, and to go about in a poor and simple way, catechizing poor country people.”
Ordained a priest at the age of 27, on June 5, 1700, Louis-Marie celebrated his first Mass in the Church of Saint-Sulpice, at the altar of the Blessed Virgin. Though St. Louis’ priestly ministry would last only 16 years, he sanctified that time by traveling alone and with different groups of missionaries around France to minister to the poor and to preach the love of God to them.
After a few years, restless and unsure about the manner in which he should fulfill God’s call to serve the poor, St. Louis traveled by foot to Rome to seek the counsel of Pope Clement XI. When he finally was received in an audience with the Holy Father in the spring of 1706, Louis-Marie set out his difficulties and his desire for distant missions. “In France you have a field for apostolate that is broad enough to exert your zeal,” replied the Pope. “In your missions, forcefully teach the doctrine to the people and to children. Have them renew their Baptismal vows.” The Holy Father then conferred upon him the title of “Apostolic Missionary.” Louis-Marie placed a crucifix blessed by the Pope on the top of his walking stick and left to return to France where he spent the remaining 10 years of his life preaching about 200 missions in the villages and towns of Western France.
St. Louis lived a life of strict poverty and preached with zeal to all. He was misunderstood and many attempts were made on his life. He was also forbidden to preach in some areas of France by the local bishops. None of these difficult crosses deterred the holy preacher, but rather affected a deepening of his spiritual life. In 1716, having been weakened by all of these factors, he collapsed from exhaustion after preaching a mission in the village of St. Laurent-sur-Sevre, where he died on April 28.
Summarized from the Introduction to God Alone: The Collected Writings of St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Montfort Publications (Bay Shore, NY: 1999) and from “Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort: Founder and Missionary” by Dom Antoine Marie, OSB, featured on the Congregation for the Clergy “Year for Priests” website. Complete text in English. Complete text in Spanish.