The spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort is the one of a preacher of parish missions ? for whom the spiritual life cannot be separated from the ministry.
A spirituality in the service of restoring the spirit of Christianity in the heart of the baptized and in human societies.
(References: LEW: Love of Eternal Wisdom; RM: Rules of the Missionary; SM: Secret of Mary; TD: Treatise of True Devotion)
The spirituality of St. Louis Marie de Montfort is nourished by the great spiritual masters of the 16-17th centuries. Following St. Ignatius of Loyola – “Ad majorem Dei gloriam” -, St. Teresa of Avila – “Solo Dios basta” -, St. John of the Cross, Louis Grignion gives the Church the famous “GOD ALONE” which was his motto.
Everything is measured according the absolute and the greatness of God. And for Montfort, it is not just words. It’s the only acceptable explanation for his lifestyle choices and behavior, what were confusing, even for his family, colleagues and friends.
To his friend Blain, who questions his conduct and manners, he replies: “An apostolic man has to provide the glory of God ” (Abridged Life … p 336). “The apostolic missionary must be centered on God Alone. God’s glory must be his sole preoccupation”. (RM 62)
God alone is the sole reason for his desire to go for distant missions and the unique motivation for ten years of parish missions. At the request of Pope Clement XI, the apostolic missionary will get exhausted in preaching popular missions for children and adults, to free the minds and hearts from the attractions of the world and direct them to God.
“Deceiving world, be gone. / You will not rule me. / God alone. “ (Hymn 30)
In his missions, Montfort experimented how, a thousand desires, deviate the ordinary parishioners out of the way that leads to GOD ALONE. Therefore, the challenge is of importance: the conversion from a merely human way of life to God’s way of life; a conversion to a new wisdom, God’s Wisdom.
Rereading the Bible in his own way, Montfort, sees God’s Wisdom friendly to men” (LEW 70) as incarnated in Jesus.
“Dwelling in his Father’s bosom and object of his Father’s love”. (LEW 14) “As the Divine Wisdom became man only to stir the hearts of men to love and imitate him.” (LEW 117) “Eternal Wisdom became incarnate. God became man, without ceasing to be God, this God-man is Jesus Christ, and his name means Saviour.” (LEW 108) “Eternal Wisdom itself came on earth to teach us, having first put them into practise. His aim was to get rid of us of the blindness and waywardness caused by our sins.” (LEW 153)
The work of personal conversion and change of behaviour in a parish that is performed during the time of the mission is an appropriation of the Wisdom of God. But the Divine Wisdom “is not found in the soul of those who live in comfort.” (LEW 180)
We should desire it and ask for it “day and night, without wearying tirelessly or becoming disheartened” (LEW 188). “When shall I possess that gentle and unknown Wisdom?”(Letter 1703)
Searching for the poor, having poor people all around him, serving the poor, for the son of Grignion, is not a psychological or social compensation for a boy born in a family of lower middle class.
To the disciples of John the Baptist who was asking about Him, Jesus replied: “. The poor have good news preached to them.” (Mat 11, 4) The Kingdom has arrived! Jesus makes of the care for the poor, the sign that the Kingdom is coming; that it is there, at the door. For Montfort, it is the touchstone of conversion.
Like Jesus, from his young age, Montfort makes the Kingdom of God happen by healing the sick, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, rescuing the distressed, opening the minds, reconciling people. Throughout his life, he makes real the situations found in chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel: the genuine poor is Jesus, and where Jesus is, there is the Kingdom. When, in the dark, he carries a bed-ridden on his shoulders, he shouts: “Open to Jesus Christ,” he also shouts: “Open your hearts to the Kingdom that is coming!”
During his missions, he prepared the parishes to such works of mercy by the catechism, small schools, preaching, but above all, by the establishment of shelters called “Providence”, where the parishioners were invited to provide the poor with food and clothing.
It has been said that the fruits of the mission could be measured by the commitment of the parishioners in the “Providence”… and many parishes still hold in reverence the house where their families devoted themselves at the call of the missionary.
“The Cross is a mystery / most secret here below / without abundant light / its meaning is not known “. (Hymn 102, 2)
St. Montfort’s desires the Cross. He kisses it as a sign of communion with the Crucified and Incarnate Wisdom. Thus he installed a large cross in the meeting room of the first Daughters of Wisdom at the hospital of Poitiers.
Throughout his life he witnessed the struggle of the worldly wisdom rejecting God’s wisdom.
The most symbolic day of this struggle was on September 13, 1710, when Montfort was forbidden to bless the monumental Calvary that he had built on the moor of Pontchateau, where thousands of people of all walks of life, worked for a whole year.
The Calvary blessed on the last day of each mission, showed the victory of the cross and also the continuity of the struggle between the two wisdoms: victory is there, but not complete.
When the cross was not present in the missionary’s life, it would be the sign that the kingdom of God was put on hold. Great pain for Montfort, and cause for anguish! “Never the Cross without Jesus or Jesus without the Cross.” (LEW 172) Hence his well-known phrase: “No Cross, what a Cross!” when the mission was going on too smoothly.
On June 6, 1706, during the audience granted by Pope Clement XI, Fr. de Montfort got a roadmap: “To renew the spirit of Christianity by the renewal of baptismal promises.” (Grandet, his first biographer, p 101).
To remind himself that his life, as a baptised person, should be a continuous conversion from worldly wisdom to the wisdom of God, Jesus, Louis Grignion calls himself “de Montfort” to recall the church where he was baptized on February 1, 1673.
Unaware that his vocabulary could be irritating to future generations, the missionary articulates his spirituality and his preaching around a strong word: slavery.
“At his baptism, the Christian has chosen Jesus as his Master and sovereign and undertaken to depend upon him as a slave of love”. (TD 126)
But this dependence, in freedom and love, must be renewed daily and in a permanent struggle.
The missions are a preparation to renew the baptismal promises. And those who can write sign “taking the Church a witness”, a covenant with God.
“I firmly believe all the truths of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ. I renounce forever Satan, the world, sin and myself. With the help of God’s grace, which will never be wanting to me, I promise to keep faithfully all the commandments of God and of the Church, and avoid mortal sin and its occasions.” (Covenant with God)
The covenant was then renewed “privately” every year.
St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort does not exclude the expressions of affection and trust in Mary, which his biographers like to report and were acknowledged by the crowds who called him “The Father with the huge rosary.” In this, he is not really a pioneer. “This devotion is not new. It is so ancient that we do not know when it began” (TD 131, 159, 163).
The Marian devotion is a spiritual path to bring about the Reign of Jesus-Wisdom.
The spirit of this devotion is to make a soul inwardly dependent of Mary “and of Jesus through her.” (SM 44)
The argument, all centered on God, is simple in its biblical and theological support.
The implementation is wonderful.
The Kingdom of God, that is Jesus-Wisdom, entered the history of humanity through Mary.
The Father’s will to give Jesus to the world by Mary does not change.
The Kingdom of Jesus – the conversion from the slavery of evil to the total belonging to Jesus, which is the perfect fulfilment of baptism – hence will come through Mary as well.
At this point, Montfort wants to reveal his secret as a missionary: The Secret of Mary, which “the most High God taught him”, according to his own words (SM 1): the Kingdom of Jesus in the hearts and in society, depends directly on the Reign of Mary. So there is no better way to bring the Kingdom of Jesus than the consecration of oneself to Mary.
“I surrender and consecrate myself to you, body and soul, with all that I possess, both spiritual and material, even including the value of all my good actions, past, present and to come…” (ASE 225)
This consecration of oneself to Mary is the privileged gateway to enter in relation with Jesus. “Virgin most faithful, make me in everything so committed a disciple, imitator of Jesus, your Son, Incarnate Wisdom.” (LEW 227) So there is correspondence between the consecration and the renewal of the baptismal promises. The rites and formulas are different but they say the same theological and spiritual reality.