On April 28th the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Louis-Marie de Montfort. A recent decree of the Congregation for the Divine Cult and the Discipline of the Sacraments has inserted this celebration in the General Calendar of the Church. Thus this year for the first time the veneration of the saint from Montfort is proposed to all the faithful.
1997 also marks 50 years since Pope Pius XII canonised St. Louis-Marie on July 20, 1947. The Superiors General of the Missionaries of the Company of Mary, the Daughters of Wisdom, and the Brothers of Saint Gabriel, have called for a Montfortian year , aimed at making the Founder’s spirituality better known. Various initiatives are being realised: celebrations, congresses, publications to highlight the current impact of the spiritual teaching of Grignion de Montfort.
These past years have evidenced the influence that Montfort continues to exercise in the life of the Church. Already in the Marian texts of Vatican Council II one found a particular consonance with the Montfortian doctrine, especially as contained in his True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin . Gerard Philips, who worked on the elaboration of Chapter VIII of Lumen Gentium , when asked about this topic, had no difficulty in acknowledging that Montfort’s True Devotionhad been present in his memory and his heart as he edited these texts.
A few years ago a petition was signed by Cardinals, Bishops, and Superiors General of Religious Orders and Congregations, asking that Montfort be proclaimed Doctor of the Church . An official recognition of the spiritual value of the doctrine of Grignion de Montfort is found at the highest level with the citation made by John Paul II in his Encyclical Redemptoris Mater (n.48), in which Montfort is pointed out as a “witness and guide” for those who desire to live Marian spirituality.
But perhaps even more significant is the fact that today so many of the faithful seek out Montfort in their renewed desire for spirituality. Don Giuseppe De Luca, in his Luigi Maria Grignion da Montfort. Saggio biografico (Roma, 1985), grasped well the fascination that this popular missionary has long exercised in the Church, pointing out a pathway of faith which is both simple and yet profound, and one which is capable of leading to true holiness. Benedetta Papàsogli, in an inspiring biography ( Montfort, a Prophet for our Times , Ed. Monfortane, Roma, 1991), presents him as a giant of holiness, capable of challenging today’s Christians. The various Montfortian Publications centres can testify how the writings of Montfort, spiritual author of three centuries past, are sought and read as if they had been written today. Many in the Church consider him to be a true Master of the spirit, able to bring contemporary believers to taste the beauty and the gentleness of the truth of the Gospel.
John Paul II is among them, as he himself has admitted on several occasions. His motto, Totus Tuus , is derived from Montfort. Last September the Pope was able to realise a long held desire: to visit the tomb of the saint from Montfort, in France. The Pope said on that occasion: “I am happy to begin my pilgrimage in France under the sign of this great figure. You know that I owe much to this saint, and to his True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin “.
Grignion de Montfort is known above all for the Marian spirituality which he proposes. But this is not simply a question of a devotion to our Lady. Rather, it is a real school of faith which leads us to rediscover our own baptismal consecration, to live in the Spirit the process of transformation in Jesus Christ, taking Mary as guide and model, in order to arrive at perfect communion with God. Besides the True Devotion , and perhaps even prior to it, one needs to know another of Montfort’s writings: The Love of Eternal Wisdom . In this work the context of Montfortian spiritual teaching appears more clearly, strongly characterised by its Trinitarian dimension and its Christological perspective.
The Montfortian school of spirituality places the accent on living in the Holy Spirit and in Mary, during the time of the Church. The mystery of the Incarnation is central, “compendium of all the mysteries” ( True Devotion , n.248) and paradigm of God’s way of acting (cf. ibid. , n.22): from this unfolds the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ and the mysteries which the believer lives and celebrates in the Church. Therefore the active presence of Mary in the mystery of the Incarnation involves – according to Montfort – her active presence in the time of the Church and even to the end of the ages. This mission of Mary, mother of Christ and mother of believers, must be recognised, welcomed, and imitated: “No one but Mary ever found favour with God for herself and for the whole human race. To no other person was given the power to conceive and give birth to Eternal Wisdom. No one else had the power to incarnate him, so to speak, in the predestinate by the operation of the Holy Spirit” ( Love of Eternal Wisdom , n. 203).
Montfort proposes the consecration to Jesus Christ through the hands of Mary as the renewal of the promises of Baptism, in order to rapidly progress on the path of being conformed to Jesus, the path of holiness to which every believer is called. From Mary to Jesus, and through Jesus Christ, in the Spirit, to the Father. Moreover the apostolic zeal which consumed the life of Louis-Marie the missionary in such a brief time will also characterise the “apostles of the latter times” ( True Devotion , n. 58), those great saints, educated and formed by the Holy Spirit together with Mary, whose deeds will “renew the face of the earth and reform the Church” ( Prayer for Missionaries , n. 17).
On the eve of the great Jubilee of the Year 2000, are not perhaps these the theological and spiritual themes that John Paul II gathers together in his Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente ? A more vibrant experience of the mysteries of the Incarnation and the Redemption will make the Church more aware of the saving presence of Christ throughout the passing of centuries and millennia. A new evangelisation ought to advance the Reign of God and make it more evident in the midst of humanity. The path marked out to prepare for the Great Jubilee moves from Jesus Christ (1997), in the Holy Spirit (1998), to the Father (1999). The presence of Mary accompanies the Church and the individual believer at every moment of this journey. Mother of Christ, woman docile to the voice of the Spirit, daughter chosen by the Father, Mary “constantly points to her Divine Son and she is proposed to all believers as the model of faith which is put into practice” ( TMA , n. 43).
One could not imagine a better context in which to appreciate the value of the spiritual teaching of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, and to find proof of what it has to say to the Church of the year 2000.