St Louis de Montfort was ordained in Paris in 1700, then served God as a rural preacher in Nantes and then Poitiers, where he organised a hospital for the poor and founded the Daughters of Wisdom, a congregation dedicated to the care of the poor and the sick. In 1705 he founded the Montfort Fathers, an order devoted to Our Lady whose charism was to spread devotion to our Blessed Mother and to encourage the saying of the Rosary. His devotions are set out in his books, “True devotion to Mary” and “The Secret of the Rosary”. Pope Clement named him apostolic missionary for France in 1706 and he spent his life preaching parish missions in western France. In 1853 the Montfort Fathers were raised to the status of a pontifical congregation. St Louis was canonised in 1947 by Pope Pius XII.
He was the eldest surviving child of eighteen born to Jean-Baptist and Jeanne Robert Grignion. At the age of 12 he entered the Jesuit College of St Thomas a Becket in Rennes, where his uncle was a parish priest. At the end of his schooling he began studies in philosophy and theology at St Thomas in Rennes. He was inspired to his love of Our Lady by his local priest, Abbe Julian Bellier, who encouraged a lifelong consecration and entrustment to Mary. He studied at the Sorbonne philosophy and theology and then worked at St Sulpice in Paris in the library.
As a seminarian in Paris, he was “known for the veneration he had towards the angels – ‘he urged his confreres to show marks of respect and tenderness to their guardian angels’”.
He was ordained a priest in 1700, following which he joined the Third Order of Dominicans and sought permission to not only preach the Rosary but to form Rosary confraternities. This led to the formation of the Company of Mary.
He made a pilgrimage to Rome to ask the advice of Pope Clement XI who recognised his vocation and sent him back to France with the status of Apostolic Missionary. On his return from his pilgrimage he made a retreat at Mont Saint Michel ‘to pray to this archangel to obtain from him the grace to win souls to God, to confirm those already in God’s grace and to fight satan and sin.’”
He died after 16 years of priesthood on 28th April 1716 at 43 years old. His last sermon was on the tenderness of Jesus and the incarnate wisdom of the Father. Thousands gathered at his funeral and very quickly there were stories of miracles at his tomb.
His work, “True Devotion to Mary”, teaches that devotion to Our Lady is the most efficacious means of attaining union with Christ. In this regard, his regime of Total Consecration to Mary requires a recognition of our desire to share in her faith, which entails acknowledgment of our unworthiness and need of her assistance in attaining our spiritual growth.
It requires unlimited confidence in the love of God and Mary – to the extent that we give ourselves completely to her as her slaves, with the knowledge that slavery to her is not an abusive relationship, but rather, results in love and is the consequence of love. It is through Mary that we can be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. The consecration requires performance of all actions, “in Mary, through Mary and for Mary.”
“If Jesus Christ, the Head of men, is born in her, then the predestinate, who are the members of that Head, ought also be born in her, by a necessary consequence. One and the same mother does not bring forth into the world the head without the members, or the members without the head; for this would be a monster of nature. So, in like manner, in order of grace, the head and the members are born of one and the same Mother; and if a member of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ-that is to say, one of the predestinate-were born of any other mother than Mary, who has produced the Head, he would not be one of the predestinate, nor a member of Jesus Christ, but simply a monster in the order of grace.”
St Louis says to us: To Mary. His faithful spouse, God the Holy Ghost has communicated His unspeakable gifts; and He has chosen her to be the dispenser of all He possesses, in such wise that she distributes to whom she wills, as much as she wills, as she wills and when she wills, all His gifts and graces. The Holy Ghost gives no gift to men which does not pass through her virginal hands. Such has been the will of God, who has willed that we should have everything through Mary; so that she who, impoverished, humbled and who hid herself even unto the abyss of nothingness by her profound humility her whole life long, should now be enriched and exalted and honoured by the Most High.”
He encourages utter faith in Mary’s loves and protection over us:
“[I]t is certain that Mary will procure that good fortune for some of her children and servants, and will give them the grace to go through it faithfully: ‘She herself takes care of our interests’…She also gives them good counsels… she inspires them to do everything which Jesus Christ her son has taught by His words and examples. It is not by herself that she gives these counsels, it is by the ministry of the angels, who have no greater honour or pleasure than to descend to earth to obey any of her commands and to help any of her servants.”
To attain the worthiness to see God, it is necessary that we have the courage to address our innermost faults and vanities:
“When they have brought to her and consecrated to her their body and soul, and all that depends on them…what does that good mother do?… She kills them, makes them die to the old life of Adam. She flays and strips them of their natural skin, their natural inclinations, their self-love, their own will and all attachments to creatures. She cleanses them of their spots, their vileness and their sins. She dresses them to the taste of God, and for His greatest glory; and as it is Mary alone who knows perfectly what the divine taste is, and what the greatest glory of the Most High is, it is Mary alone who, without making any mistake, can adapt and dress our body and soul for that taste infinitely exalted and for that glory infinitely hidden.”
By these means “she cleanses us and makes us worthy to appear before our heavenly Father.”