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Saint Louis de Montfort: 1673-1716 

By Ben Broussard

Feast Day:  April 28 

Saint Louis de Montfort and Our Fight for Mary’s Triumph

 

The sick old priest arrived at Roussay to preach a mission. He mounted the pulpit in the parish church, and after a brief prayer, began to speak. This tiny town in the west of France consisted of several dilapidated buildings, most prominent of which was this church with a rowdy bar right next door. As the preacher raised his voice, the drunkards could hear the sermon, and the parishioners could hear the raucous noise coming from the bar.

Knowing this, the denizens of the bar tried to disturb his sermon by screaming insults at the congregation and mocking them for their cleaner habits.
The priest very calmly finished the sermon, gave the people his blessing and exited the church. As he left, though empty handed and alone, he walked directly into the bar. An eyewitness describes what happened next:

“Father said nothing, except with his fists. For the first time since he came to Roussay, men had a chance to see how big, and to feel how hard, those fists were. He struck them down and let them lie. He overturned tables and chairs. He smashed glasses. He walked over the bodies of stunned and sobered hoodlums, and went slowly back up the street.”

 

 

Perfect Self-Control

Saint Louis de Montfort was only forty years old at the time of the incident mentioned above. Due to a life of sacrifice and penance, his body was worn out by many labors. But this “sick old priest” had developed a well-deserved reputation as a fiery preacher filled with zeal for souls.

Statue of St. Louis de Montfort kneeling before Our Lady holding the Child JesusHis time at Roussay illustrates the total balance he manifested throughout his life. On the second day of his mission in Roussay, a drunk man burst into the church and stood in the aisle screaming insults at Saint Louis. Saint Louis calmly left the pulpit and approached the man. Everyone was expecting him to react as he had the day before, giving the man a beating he would not soon forget. To their great amazement, Father de Montfort knelt before the man and begged pardon for anything he had done to offend him.

The man was stunned and nearly collapsed before running out of the church in sadness. Saint Louis calmly returned to the pulpit and finished his sermon as though nothing had happened.
In 1700, when Saint Louis was ordained, great crises plagued France. The heretical movement known as Jansenism had taken root in all corners of the kingdom. Working to change the Church from within, the Jansenists preached false notions of piety. Where their influence prevailed, people stayed away from the Sacraments. This heresy infected laymen, priests and bishops alike.

Once-vibrant Catholic devotions like the rosary and marian processions were condemned as idolatrous practices. At the same time, decadence dominated all social classes, marked by a craving for crass pleasures and entertainments of all kinds. These libertines seeking lives of comfort and luxury contrasted greatly with the Jansenists, though the two never condemned each other.

Saint Louis de Montfort’s perfect balance inspired great multitudes while making many enemies. As he foretold on numerous occasions, the devil would toil unceasingly to erase his influence from history. However, though forgotten for many years, Divine Providence raised up this Apostle of Mary to have his greatest impact in our times. Three hundred years after his death in 1716, his undying influence and constant intercession give great strength for our many battles. As he prophesied, today’s struggles will culminate with the great victory of the Reign of Mary.

 

Finding His Way

Saint Louis de Montfort was born in 1673 and was the oldest of eighteen children, ten of whom died in infancy. From the youngest age, he exhibited great piety, spending long hours in prayer before a statue of the Blessed Virgin in the church at Rennes. Even as a child his zeal could be seen in the hours he would devote to teaching other children catechism. Inspired by the stories of Abbé Julien Bellier who had traveled as a missionary, young Louis began seminary studies aiming to spread devotion to Mary, his “Good Mother.”

Blessed Marie-Louis Trichet takes the habit from St. Louis de Montfort as the first of the Daughters of WisdomLouis gave himself entirely to his vocation, consecrating himself to Jesus through Mary and vowing to never keep any personal possessions. He walked the 190 miles from Rennes to Paris to begin his studies, and he quickly earned the admiration of his fellow students by his zeal and seriousness. His piety earned the ire of many of his superiors, many of who were infected with the Jansenist spirit. They did all they could to delay his ordination, though he was a brilliant student and model seminarian. After ordination, it was more than a year before he was given a first assignment.

A hospital in Poitiers was Father de Montfort’s first vineyard. Having walked there from Paris to take up his new assignment, even the poor were moved at the pitiful sight he made upon his arrival in the chapel. Not realizing he was their new chaplain, they took up a collection for him, needy as they were. Their charity was well repaid, as Father de Montfort would personally see to each patient, often dressing open wounds and spending long hours comforting the dying. His missions met with great success, inspiring the poor to call for a more permanent assignment for “kind Father de Montfort.” The bishop made him chaplain of a local hospital.

It was during this providential assignment that Blessed Marie-Louise Trichet came to Father de Montfort for Confession. He demanded, “Who sent you to me?” When Marie-Louise replied that her sister suggested that she confess to him, he replied: “No, it was the Blessed Virgin who sent you to me.” She later became the first of his “Daughters of Wisdom” and was also named the convent’s first mother superior.

As would happen throughout his life, trouble followed in the wake of his good deeds. False rumors were spread by those who resented his serious example, especially from the outraged family of Marie-Louise who had become his follower. The bishop forbade him from offering Mass, which forced him to move on. He walked on to Paris, but a brief ministry at a hospital there was also short lived.

 

Pilgrimage to Rome

Father de Montfort, seeing few prospects in France, walked over 1,000 miles to Rome for an audience with Clement XI. He begged the Holy Father to send him to Canada as a missionary. Pope Clement, struck by this beggar priest of extraordinary sanctity, appointed him Missionary Apostolic and sent him back to France.

Filled with gratitude for knowing the Divine Will, Father de Montfort walked back to France and spent several weeks at Mont Saint-Michel. As he later wrote, “I used my time to pray to this archangel to obtain from him the grace to win souls for God, to confirm those already in God’s grace, and to fight Satan and sin.”

Marching on to the northwest, Father de Montfort began his rigorous mission. In every town it was the same: he would arrive and preach missions in the parish church. The people, moved with compunction, would flock to the sacraments and engage in public processions to confront human respect. To show their seriousness, bad books would be piled in front of the parish church. Father de Montfort would set the piles ablaze, leading the crowd in joyous hymns to show their delight in embracing virtue.

 

Soldier of the Queen

With the serious demeanor of a hardened soldier, Father de Montfort was never seen without his greatest weapon: the rosary. He often emphasized his confidence in the power of the rosary: “Never will anyone who says his rosary every day be led astray. This is a statement that I would gladly sign with my blood.”

Because of his great influence in the Vendée region, the descendants of those St. Louis de Montfort instructed would rise up to resist the horrors of the French Revolution. While preaching a mission at Rennes, a certain Monsieur D’Orville complained to him about the noise coming from the immoral people of the town square, which was on the other side of the wall from where his family would meet every evening to pray the rosary. The pious priest offered a solution: “Place a niche in the wall with a statue of Our Lady facing the square, and meet in front of it to pray in the public square.” Uneasy about the idea, Monsieur D’Orville nonetheless placed the statue in the niche and met the next evening in the square to pray the rosary with his family. His wife led the mysteries while he stood guard with a whip to keep the aggressions of young hoodlums at bay. After praying in this way for some time, the public square rosary became a curious attraction. People came in crowds to pray, as if some great church ceremonies were taking place, and soon, the disorders in the square ceased.

 

Building a Calvary

Taking Our Lord’s example very seriously, the great missionary never missed an opportunity for taking on physical suffering. Frequent fasting, wearing hair shirts and chains beneath his clothing, and being tortured by devils who would rob him of his sleep were his constant lot. But these paled in comparison to the spiritual sufferings he endured.

After having given a very effective mission, the people were enthusiastic and had constructed one of the famous pyramids of immoral and heretical material to burn. Just as Father de Montfort was finishing the last sermon of the mission and preparing to go out and burn the pile, the vicar of the diocese arrived and forbade him from continuing.

Father de Montfort immediately came down from the pulpit and knelt to receive a rebuke from the vicar. When word spread that the pile of immoral books was not going to be burned, gangs of evil boys converged upon the pile and ran off with the bad material.

When Father de Montfort heard what had happened, he remarked: “Why have they not taken away my life rather than poison so many of these little ones? If I could buy back those evil books and pictures by shedding my blood, I would shed every last drop of it.”

Another custom of Father de Montfort consisted in building a Calvary scene on the highest point overlooking a town once a mission was completed. At Pontchateau, when he announced his determination of building a monumental Calvary on a neighboring hill, the idea was enthusiastically received by the inhabitants. For fifteen months between 200 and 400 peasants worked daily without recompense. The finished Cross was over fifty feet tall! On the day of dedication, the order came from the king that the whole scene should be demolished, and the land restored to its former condition. The Jansenists had convinced the king that a base for a British invasion was being erected, and for several months 500 peasants, watched by a company of soldiers, were compelled to carry out the work of destruction. Father de Montfort was not disturbed on receiving this humiliating news, exclaiming only: “We had hoped to build a Calvary here. Let us build it in our hearts. Blessed be God!”

 

 

Great Friend of the Cross

From the start of his missions, Father de Montfort gathered together the sick and suffering into what would come to be called the Friends of the Cross. In his first assignment at Poitiers, the sick and suffering would meet under his direction, led in prayer by a blind woman. At their first meeting, he took a rough cross made of two simple pieces of wood and placed it on the wall of the chapel, stating for all to hear, “Behold, your one and only rule.”

badge - Red heart and cross, with the sacred heart surrounded by a crown of thorns in the center In his Circular Letter to the Friends of the Cross, he captures in words his superb imitation of Our Savior that he spread throughout France:

“Friends of the Cross, you are like Crusaders united to fight against the world… Be brave and fight courageously… Evil spirits are united to destroy you; you must be united to crush them. The avaricious are united to make money and amass gold and silver; you must combine your efforts to acquire the eternal treasures hidden in the Cross. Pleasure-seekers unite to enjoy themselves; you must be united to suffer. You call yourselves ‘Friends of the Cross.’ What a glorious title! I must confess that I am charmed and captivated by it. It is brighter than the sun, higher than the heavens, more magnificent and resplendent than all the titles given to kings and emperors. It is the glorious title of Jesus Christ, true God and true man. It is the genuine title of a Christian.”

 

Slave of Mary

One year before his death, he was so consumed with love and the presence of Our Lady, that he experienced a type of Transfiguration before a congregation in La Rochelle to whom he was speaking. This is how one of his first biographers describes the scene:

“It came to pass that as he was speaking, there shone down upon him, as of old on the face of St. Stephen, a reflection of the glory of his transfigured Lord. All of a sudden, his worn and wasted face…became luminous. Rays of glory seemed to go forth from it…so that even they who were used to looking at him knew him only by his voice.  He stood there before them all, this true-hearted herald of Mary’s name, and they saw his glory, the glory given by the ‘Father of lights’ to them who love and serve the Mother of His Son.”

With Father de Montfort’s passing, he was given a humble tomb beside his parents at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre. By the time of his death he had been kicked out of all but two dioceses, France having more than 170 at the time. As he predicted during his life, the devil did all in his power to keep the prolific writings of this great priest from spreading.

 

True Devotion

Over a hundred years later, someone rummaging through a box of old books happened upon a manuscript titled Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. True Devotion to Mary soon spread far and wide, translated into dozens of languages and inspiring countless Catholics to follow the sublime path outlined by this humble priest.

Table used by St. Louis de Montfort to write True Devotion to Mary.Renewed interest and deep spiritual renewal would eventually propel Father de Montfort to be recognized as a great saint and Doctor of the Church, canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1947.
In this spiritual masterpiece, Saint Louis de Montfort shows the idea of spiritual slavery through the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary as the means for bringing about the kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ on earth.

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira gives a moving summary of this most important aspect of Saint Louis de Montfort’s spirituality:

“Saint Louis de Montfort proposes that the faithful consecrate themselves freely to the Blessed Virgin as ‘slaves of love,’ giving her their bodies and souls, their goods, both interior and exterior, and even the value of all their good actions, past, present, and future, so that Our Lady might dispose of them for the greater glory of God, in time and in eternity. In exchange, as a sublime mother, Our Lady obtains for her ‘slaves of love’ the graces of God that elevate their intellects to the most lucid understanding of the highest themes of the Faith, that grant their wills an angelic strength to rise freely to those ideals and to conquer all the interior and exterior obstacles that unduly oppose themselves to them.

“The ‘slavery of love’ is, then, for all the faithful that angelic and supreme liberty with which Our Lady awaits us at the threshold of the twenty-first century, smiling and attractive, inviting us to her reign, according to her promise at Fatima: ‘Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.’”

Speaking to our days, Saint Louis reassures us of the certainty of this triumph: “I feel more than ever inspired to believe and expect the complete fulfillment of the desire that is deeply engraved on my heart and what I have prayed to God for over many years, namely, that in the near or distant future the Blessed Virgin will have more children, servants and slaves of love than ever before, and that through them Jesus, my dear Lord, will reign more than ever in the hearts of men.”

Tomb of St. Louis de Montfort, where his remains were moved after his canonization and an image of the interior of the Basilica of St. Louis de Montfort in Saint-Laurent-sur-SevreThree hundred years after his death, the great Saint Louis de Montfort continues his fight for Mary’s reign by interceding for us in our daily struggles. Keeping our eyes on the prize, may his words echo in our souls as we pray daily that Our Lord hasten the victory for His Mother’s triumphant reign:

“The Holy Spirit, finding His dear Spouse present again in souls, will come down into them with great power. He will fill them with His gifts, especially wisdom, by which they will produce wonders of grace. My dear friend, when will that happy time come, that age of Mary, when many souls, chosen by Mary and given her by the most High God, will hide themselves completely in the depths of her soul, becoming living copies of her, loving and glorifying Jesus? That day will dawn only when the devotion I teach is understood and put into practice. Ut adveniat regnum tuum, adveniat regnum Mariae: ‘Lord, that your kingdom may come, may the reign of Mary come!’”

 


 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 20, 2019

The devotion to the Eucharist is the most noble, because it...

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November 20

 

The devotion to the Eucharist is the most noble, because
it has God as its object; it is the most profitable for salvation,
because It gives us the Author of Grace;
it is the sweetest, because the Lord is Sweetness Itself.

Pope St. Pius X


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Edmund the Martyr

The barbarian leader, Ingvar, offered to let the King live o...

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St. Edmund the Martyr

Though only about fifteen years old when crowned in 855, Edmund showed himself a model ruler from the first, anxious to treat all with equal justice, and closing his ears to flatterers and untrustworthy informers. In his eagerness for prayer he retired for a year to his royal tower at Hunstanton and learned the whole Psalter by heart, in order that he might afterwards recite it regularly.

In 870 Edmund bravely repulsed the two Danish chiefs, Hinguar and Hubba, who had invaded his dominions. However, they soon returned with overwhelming numbers, and pressed terms upon him which as a Christian he felt bound to refuse. In his desire to avert a fruitless massacre, he disbanded his troops and himself retired towards Framlingham; on the way he fell into the hands of the invaders. Having loaded the king with chains, his captors conducted him to Hinguar, whose impious demands he again rejected, declaring his religion dearer to him than his very life.

His martyrdom took place in 870 at Hoxne in Suffolk. After beating him with cudgels, the Danes tied him to a tree, and cruelly tore his flesh with whips. Throughout these tortures Edmund continued to call upon the name of Jesus, until at last, exasperated by his constancy, his enemies began to discharge arrows at him. This cruel sport was continued until his body had the appearance of a porcupine, when Hinguar commanded his head to be struck off.

From his first burial-place at Hoxne his relics were removed in the tenth century to Beodricsworth, since called Bury St. Edmunds, where arose the famous abbey of that name. His feast is observed November 20, and he is represented in Christian art with sword and arrow, the instruments of his torture.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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