Saint Louis Marie de Montfort
Slave of Mary
Prophet of the Last Days
A few years ago, we wanted to write a book entitled Mary’s Heroes. There are many brothers and sisters who have had a love story with Our Lady. They are so powerful! They are so filled with the Holy Spirit! They have such a great love for Mary, a devotion, a willingness to live or die for her, we really didn’t know where to begin. Which brother or sister would we write about who had such a burning love for Our Lady? All the people that you will meet in this book had a deep, special love for Mary. The Mystics did; she spoke to them and through them to the Church. The Visionaries did; she appeared to them, shared her Son with them, and their lives were changed forever. The Stigmatists did; she stood by them as she stood by her Son during His Passion. They all had a close, personal relationship with Mary. But who has brought devotion to Mary to the forefront of our Church? What form of Marian Devotion did our Pope John Paul II memorize while a youth working in a factory in Krakow, Poland? The answer rang loud and clear, St. Louis Marie de Montfort, Hero of Mary, prophet of these Last Days.
The writings of St. Louis Marie de Montfort have left such a mighty impact on those who follow, that in these, the Last Days of the Twentieth century of the Second Millennium, thousands upon thousands of the Faithful have been making a “Total Consecration to Mary” through his “True Devotion to Mary.” Come with us now, as we share the life of one of Mary’s heroes, one of our Powerful men in the Church.
Mary’s sends a light to shine in the Darkness
We can just envision the blustery night of January 31, 1673, when the midwife scurried around the little cottage of Jeanne de la Vizeule1 and Jean-Baptiste Grignion, making ready for the coming of the new child. It had been a tempestuous day, with gusts of harsh cold winds blowing off the Atlantic Ocean, sweeping east towards the little village of Montfort, some twenty four kilometers from the nearest big city of Rennes. Did St. Michael leave his perch atop the abbey at his most commanding shrine, Mont St. Michel, to the north off the English Channel? Did our Lady give him instructions to take a legion of Angels to this little hamlet of no account, deep in the province of Brittany, to surround the house of this future Saint, this prophet of a time that St. Paul speaks about in Romans 8:28?2 Did Jeanne or her dear husband, or any of the people gathered around, have the slightest idea what God had predestined this child to be, and the works He would do for the Kingdom?
Do we know, do we have a tiny clue as to how important that child we may be bearing, is in the great scheme of God? If the people of the world had even a minute inkling of the mammoth effect their opposing the plan of the Creator would have on the history of the world, Abortion would be wiped off the face of the earth.
Jean-Baptiste Grignion was particularly concerned about his wife Jeanne. Their first child had caused her much suffering and had died in infancy. Was this one also going to cause her great distress? Would the child or the mother survive the hard winter of Montfort and radiate the sun’s bright rays in the warmth of the Spring, or would the child waste away to nothing and blow away as so much dust? Jean-Baptiste prayed, as did all in the household that evening.
We can see with the eyes of faith, the Angels standing guard as the curtain opened in Heaven, and a great light emerged. It formed a solid ray to the little cottage on the street of the Lawyers, Rue de la Saulnerie in Montfort, where the residents of the house were breathlessly waiting with their Guardian Angels for the miracle of birth to take place. Envision Our Lady descending on that beam from Heaven to earth, to a baby, the child who would be christened the following day, Louis Grignion. Is Our Lady entering the cottage and placing her precious hands on the baby inside the womb of the expectant mother? Within a moment, is the child fighting his way past all obstacles, and out of the womb of the mother into the world, screaming and yelling for all he is worth? St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort was born. The Angels rejoiced; all Heaven sang praises to God. An era was beginning, the era of Our Lady. [Did it happen this way, or is this just the musing of another “slave” of Mary (Bob Lord), another man helplessly in love with Mary? What do you think?]
The following day, the baby was wrapped securely in woolen blankets and brought to the Parish Church of St. Jean where he was formally baptized and welcomed into the Church. Then he was brought back to his home, that solid building where he would spend the next few years of his life. We visited that house in 1977. We stood among the solid beams which held up the structure, strong as the man who was brought forth from there, he who would make this town famous throughout all the world with his love for Our Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary. We could feel the presence of the Saint in that house, as much as we could in St. Laurent-sur-Sèvre, where he took his last breath in 1716.
Although he made the village of Montfort renowned by taking its name, Louis only spent two years there. His father bought a farm outside the town in a hamlet called Bois-Marquer, in the town of Iffendic. His father had good reason to buy the farmhouse. He was to sire eighteen children, although not many of them survived to adulthood. But Bois-Marquer was a place where the young Louis could spend time in the church as an enfant du coeur,3 his first opportunity of being close to Our Lord Jesus in the Tabernacle and on the great and wonderful Altar of the Church.
Louis came from a very pious, very Catholic family. He acquired some of his father’s traits which would be considered shortcomings in his ministry. The father had an explosive temper; which Louis had also. He inherited his father’s big build. Louis was a big man, solid, strong. He never backed down from a brawl, and there are those who say he may even have started one or two when his adversaries were saying or doing something which offended God, or His beautiful Mother Mary. It is believed his piety came from his very devout mother, and thanks be to God, more piety was given to him than billowing temper. Our Lady worked with his piety; our Lord Jesus turned his anger to zeal for his Mother and the Church.
From the time he was a youth, Louis had a great devotion to Our Lady. He was fascinated by pictures and statues of her. He would spend hours on his knees in church, praying to her, his eyes fixed on images of her. All his life she was his ideal. He prayed for her intercession before every major move in his life. We have to believe that she was very instrumental in his bold move to enroll in the Jesuit College in Rennes at 11 years old! That time was excellent training for Louis, especially for the work ahead of him. It was at this college that he was enrolled in the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin. We’re sure he was not aware of the importance of it at the time, but Our Lady was. Because of his membership in the Sodality, he was given access to all the services in the Sodality - such as lectures, sermons and instructions which were prepared especially for its members. We very often think these are coincidences, but they are not, unless they are holy coincidences. Our Lady is here; she’s with us. She guides us through life and helps us when we need her. She also orchestrates our lives, if we allow her to, so that we are directed to areas where she can influence our walk towards the Kingdom.
We break here for a moment to give you two solid examples of how this has happened that we know of: Once in the life of St. Louis Marie de Montfort, and once in the life of our Pope John Paul II.
As we said above, St. Louis Marie was given exposure to Our Lady in, what would have appeared, a very innocent gesture on the part of the priest. He was enrolled in the Sodality. When he arrived in Paris, at the Seminary of the Sulpicians some eight years later, he had to work to support himself. He was given the job of librarian, which gave him access to all the books ever printed on Mary. So when Louis began to write his books on Our Lady, he already had all the resource background given to him by guess who? Our Lady!
Pope John Paul II has stated on numerous occasions that the reading of St. Louis de Montfort’s book, True Devotion to Mary had a profound effect on him. He stated,
“...the reading of the treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin was a turning point in my life (at a time when he was secretly studying for the priesthood). Whereas I had initially been afraid lest devotion to Mary might detract from that due to Jesus instead of giving Him His rightful place, I realized, when reading the treatise of Grignion de Montfort, that such was not the case. Our interior relationship with the Mother of God is a result of our association with the mystery of Christ.”4
In the Marian Year 1987, in his Encyclical, “Mother of the Redeemer” Pope John Paul II recommended to the faithful, the writings of Louis Marie de Montfort.5
Louis Marie desires to become a martyr
Louis Marie became very close during his college years with Claude Poullart des Places, founder of the Holy Ghost Fathers, and an intimate friend of St. John Baptist de la Salle, founder of the Christian Brothers. Louis spent more time among the Jesuit priests at the college than he did with the students. He cared more for their company.
Through these priests, Louis was given the great desire to become a Missionary and a Martyr. Remember, these were Jesuits who taught in this college. Stories floated back from the Missions in Canada, from the Blackrobes (Jesuits) who fought and ultimately won the battle for Jesus against the false gods of the pagans in North America. While he was in college, Louis probably read in “Relations”6 how conversions were coming about in the missions in Canada. Kateri Tekakwitha, who died during the time Louis was in the Jesuit college at Rennes, was one of the most inspiring of the native converts. Louis wanted to go to Canada and evangelize to the Natives. But Our Lady had other work for him to do. She would give him his heart’s desire, to become a Martyr, but not in the way that he thought.
Louis was always a very bold person. He truly believed he was being guided by Divine Providence. He cared not whether he had money in his pockets, clothes on his back, or a roof over his head. He just walked the road on which he believed the Lord had sent him. An example of this happened when he was at the Jesuit College in Rennes. His family moved there, most likely to be close to him, although they all went back to Iffendic in the summers. But Louis felt the call to the priesthood. He prayed for hours in front of the statue of our Lady of Mount Carmel in the Carmelite church in Rennes. What discussions he and Our Lady must have had throughout his life! At any rate, when the decision was made to become a priest, a young woman from Paris, Mlle. de Montigny, who had come to meet Louis' father on business, offered to be his benefactor; she would pay his way to study at the Seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris. She told him how it was the model of all seminaries in the world, founded by the friend of many Saints, who had as a teacher St. Francis de Sales.7 Louis was so excited, he could taste it! He advised his parents he was leaving Rennes to study theology in St. Sulpice in Paris. He had been at the Jesuit College in Rennes for eight years, and it was time to move on. He was being called.
He felt the need to be completely free of any earthly burden, as he walked his way from Rennes to Paris, 348 kilometers (or 226 miles). It was a bold stroke and took a great deal of courage for a young man of nineteen to make his way on his own. As he traveled by foot, it took him ten days to get there. To be sure that he was dependent only on the Lord, after he left the confines of Rennes, he gave his money and his possessions to a beggar. He even exchanged his clothes with the beggar; so that when he arrived in Paris, he looked like a beggar himself. The ten days journey had been atrocious. He looked terrible! His huge looming stature, coupled with his unkempt appearance, caused people to be frightened of him, or at least desirous to keep him at a safe distance from them. He begged for food and lodging. Whatever help he did get was given to him begrudgingly. But he didn’t care. These things meant nothing to him. Only the Lord. He created a battle cry, “God alone.”
Young Louis embraced the poor in Paris. It was not difficult because he was one of them. For the first six months, his benefactor Mlle. de Montigny paid for his board (the room was free) in a poor seminary run by a saint of a priest, who had no skills in the kitchen. But after a time her reserves diminished, and he was on his own. He lived in communities with starving seminarians, all of whom were studying for the priesthood. For the first two years, he went to the University of Sorbonne, and the last six were spent under the priests at St. Sulpice.
Louis experiences many crosses in Paris
Louis was exposed to the best of Paris and the worst. St. Sulpice was located on the Rive Gauche, the Left Bank, the Bohemian section, most likely even at that time. But he concentrated his time and efforts on the courses afforded him in these halls of learning. As he progressed in his studies, using Sacred Scripture as his basis, his mission manifested itself to him. He was to be an itinerant preacher, going from village to village proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. He wanted in effect to do as Jesus had done before him. Where he would carry on his ministry would be up to the Lord to decide.
Louis was a challenge to the Sulpicians. They were a spiritual-enough group of religious, but they were no match for Louis. Perhaps they were more sophisticated, being from the area of Paris, or having been brought up under more genteel circumstances than he, or they might not have been given the same mandate from Our Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary, to go out and save souls. Did they see in Louis something that they had seen in themselves, a long time before? Was there a holiness in his eyes and in his demeanor that forced them to look away, because the brightness showed them the imperfections in themselves? Did they feel that by joking about his piety and reverence, accusing him of being a charlatan or a country bumpkin, they could soothe their own consciences? One Sulpician priest in speaking about Louis said, “Monsieur Grignion’s pious air was only affectation, his conversation was beneath contempt; his silence, stupidity; his meditation, illusion; his zeal, the result of his temperament; his acts of gentleness and humility but means to attract the esteem of others.” And this, of a man whose book, True Devotion to Mary, has been memorized by our Pope John Paul II.
Louis experienced many crosses during that time with the Sulpicians in Paris. But had he known in advance, he would have welcomed them anyway. He had learned to embrace the Cross passionately. And to accommodate him, God sent him heavy crosses, because He loved Louis so much.
A very scary thing, we’ve found out since we began this book on the Visionaries, Mystics and Stigmatists, is that they all loved the Cross, and they were all given heavy crosses, to the point that we would think they couldn’t have survived under the weight of them. When they were at their spiritual peak, the crosses became heavier and heavier. But the Saints accepted them as a sign of God’s love. The more He loved them, the heavier the crosses. In our society, we have a tendency to cry out, “Lord, what did I do? Don’t You love me anymore?” when we are given heavy crosses. They cried out these words when they were not given crosses.
After eight years in Paris, under extreme conditions, Louis Marie de Montfort was ordained on June 5, 1700, in the Church of St. Sulpice on the left bank of Paris. He celebrated his first Mass at the Chapel of Our Lady which had been such a special haven for him during his time at the Seminary. She had given him inspiration, wisdom, courage. He was finally ready to go out on his mission, whatever that was. Just because he was ordained, didn’t mean his crosses at the hands of the Sulpicians were over. Although they ordained him, they did not give him his faculties as Preacher and Confessor, two extremely important duties of a priest. He accepted this as another cross from the Lord. Louis believed and lived the Gospel where Jesus addresses Pilate with the words: “You would have no authority over Me, if My heavenly Father had not given it to you.”8
We would have thought it was more like the evil one, doing anything and everything possible to stop Louis from beginning, for he knew that once Louis started, nothing would stop him. Souls would be saved en masse, and the evil one didn’t want that.
Louis Marie was like a race horse at the starting gate. He was so primed, so ready to get out there and do the work the Lord and his beautiful Mother Mary had planned for him. He really envisioned himself walking through the forests of Canada, looking for Hurons or Iroquois whom he could convert. He even asked his Superior, who made no bones about how he felt about Louis, if he could be sent to Canada. The Sulpicians had been there for a time and had been fairly successful in the missions. The priest, Father Leschassier, laughed contemptuously, and answered with a wave of the hand, “You in Canada? No. No. Looking for the Indians, you’d get lost among the trees.” And so Louis waited.
An old priest came to St. Sulpice who took a liking to Louis. He asked him to come to his Community in Nantes, which was about 85 kilometers from Rennes, near Louis' hometown and a long way from Paris. The priest wanted Louis to be a missionary for his Community. Louis jumped at the chance; his Superior jumped at the chance of getting rid of Louis. So he began his walk to Nantes. When Louis arrived, much to his dismay, he found the Community was more worldly than the Sulpicians in Paris. They wore silks and gold buttons and lace. He couldn’t wait to get out.
Providence came to him in the form of his sister being clothed in the habit at a convent some distance from Nantes. The convent was run by the King’s former mistress, Madame de Montespan, who had converted after the king dropped her, but who wielded much power in all circles, church and otherwise. She was taken with Louis and his strange appearance, but it was his sincerity and piety which overwhelmed her. She asked him what he wanted to do. He said he wanted to work with the poor in the missions. She suggested he speak to the Bishop of Poitiers, which was quite a distance (considering that Louis always walked). But he accepted her invitation, and set out for Poitier. However, before he did so, he celebrated Mass for the nuns. After finishing Mass, Louis spied a blind beggar at the door of the chapel. He asked if the man would like to see. The response was an excited Yes. Louis moistened his fingers with his saliva, put them on the man’s eyes, and prayed to Our Lord Jesus and Our Mother Mary. The man opened his eyes and saw! This is the first recorded miracle attributed to St. Louis Marie de Montfort. But there’s a cute twist to this. Madame de Montespan, whose convent it was, and who owned the chapel, claimed the miracle was not to be attributed to Louis Marie, but to her, because she had invited him in to celebrate Mass at her chapel. Louis could not have cared less who got credit.
When he arrived in Poitiers, the bishop was out of town, so Louis Marie asked permission to spend the four days waiting for him in the hospital chapel. He went there and prayed for four hours on his knees. When the hospital personnel saw him, they took him for a beggar and took up a collection. When Father Louis came out of the chapel, he began ministering to them - first the personnel, then the patients, then the people in the streets and in the prison. By the time the bishop arrived, Louis had won the hearts of all the people in the area. The bishop didn’t know what to do with him. He wanted Fr. Louis to take charge of the spiritual direction of the old hospital, but he wanted to know a little more about him first. He wrote letters to Louis' previous Superiors. Meanwhile, the bishop asked him to remain in Poitiers until he received answers from his inquiries.
The bishop had to leave town for a month or so, and so he told his vicar to let Louis do whatever he thought best to bring the souls of Poitiers to the Lord. That was possibly the greatest thing he could have said, as far as Louis was concerned, but not as far as the priests and religious of Poitiers were concerned. Louis took the bishop at his word. He went all over the town, ministering to everyone in sight. He went to the hospital, to the schools, to the prisons, to the market place. He started lay organizations; he gave alms to the poor. He virtually took over Poitiers, and the people loved him. By this time he received word from his Superior in Paris, criticizing him for not having given more time to the old priest in the mission in Nantes, where the priests had been more decadent than in Paris. But Fr. Louis was obedient, and so he walked all the way back to Nantes, about 180 kilometers (97.5 miles). The great gift he was given by making this sacrifice was that as soon as he arrived, he was given all his faculties, to hear confessions, as well as to preach.
He was sent on his first mission to a small country parish outside Nantes. It was small, and the people were poor, but he loved it. He didn’t change his lifestyle at all. He remained poor, begging for everything and anything he received. He begged for alms, and then gave whatever he received to the poor. He dressed like a pauper, which he was in the eyes of the world. But in the eyes of God and of his Lady, he was their Prince; he was rich beyond compare. He taught the school children in the daytime, as well as spoke to the adults in the parish three times a day. He baptized, heard confessions, administered first Holy Communions, consoled the sick and dying.
Fr. Louis was on a roll. He went from the one town to another town, then to another and still another. By the time the Bishop of Poitiers caught up with him, he had been out in the countryside for three months. And the people loved him! But the people in Poitiers loved him as well. The bishop wanted him back. He was too overpowering for the priests at the mission in Nantes, so the good Superior was more than pleased to let Louis go back to Poitiers, with his blessings and a healthy stipend,9 for all his labors in the field of evangelization. Fr. Louis naturally gave the money to the poor on the way back to Poitiers.
It was here, on the second go round at the hospital at Poitiers that he met his first spiritual daughter, Marie Louise Trichet. She was to become the first sister in his religious order, Sisters of Wisdom. She came to him in 1702 to ask for counselling on her vocation. She was from a well-known family in Poitiers; she wanted to become a nun. Louis didn’t feel that she should be enclosed in the cloisters. He prayed. Maries Louise began to work in the hospital with him. She kept asking him about her vocation. He held her back. He knew there was something Our Lord Jesus and our Mother Mary wanted with Louise. Finally, a few months later, Fr. Louis had to go to Paris. On his return, Marie Louise pleaded with him for a decision. He brought her to the hospital with him. In February, 1703, on the Feast of the Purification of Our Lord Jesus, Marie Louise was dressed and capped in the Order of “Daughters of Wisdom,” the Order for women that she was instrumental in co-founding.
There were a lot of ramifications to this action, all of them against Fr. Louis Marie. He instructed Marie Louise to walk up and down the streets of Poitiers, in her new habit, and evangelize in the districts where she used to socialize. This was, at best, unusual in those days. Nuns were in cloister. This one was not. She became the brunt of many snubs, insults, attacks, and general estrangement. Marie Louise’s mother, who felt she had been publicly ridiculed, went after Fr. Louis Marie. She didn’t stop until she had most of the people in the town against him. Complaints found their way to the bishop’s office by the droves. Fr. Louis Marie was discredited, fired from his job as manager of the hospital, and asked to leave the diocese. The girl, Marie Louise Trichet went to a local convent and was guided by the sisters there. Fr. Louis Marie went back to Paris for a short time, and then found that the people of the hospital at Poitiers did indeed want him to return. He went back for a third time. Marie Louise joined him with another girl, Catherine Brunet, who was to become the second entrant into the order of Daughters of Wisdom. [Marie Louise Trichet was Beatified on May 16, 1993 by Pope John Paul II.] But again, things went bad for Fr. Louis Marie and he was to leave the hospital for the last time. He would never come back.
Poitiers was to be a place of valleys and high places for Fr. Louis. The Lord and our Lady blessed him in all the missions he gave. He experienced his greatest successes in towns where most would not have given him the slightest chance of reaching the people. He was able to get the most incorrigible citizens back to the Church; people who had never heard the name of Jesus now prayed the Rosary and marched in procession. He, the huge blustering oddball priest, was known as the gentle priest when it came to the confessional. The people loved him and wanted him to stay with them. The number of conversions were in great swells. They called Father Louis Marie “The Good Priest from Montfort.”
For this reason, the devil brought out all his guns to destroy Louis and hopefully, in the wake of that, destroy the souls of all those to whom he had ministered. You would think the pounding and beating Fr. Louis Marie was subjected to, at the hands of the demons at night in his little room, would have been enough. They were the least. The slings and arrows of ungrateful men were what wounded him the most. They went after him, no matter where his mission took him in the Diocese of Poitiers, to belittle him and discredit him. They couldn’t kill him; that would have created a “Wet Martyr.”10 Instead, they went about making him a “Dry Martyr.”11 They would make him look foolish, so that all he preached would appear foolish. The Bishop of Poitiers wanted him there; he could see very easily all the good that was being done through his work. But he bowed to the pressure of political powers, villainous powers, and Fr. Louis Marie de Montfort, Mary’s hero, found himself exiled from the diocese again.
Fr. Louis Marie walks to Rome!
Fr. Louis Marie knew what he wanted to do - preach missions. If he was not able to do that in Poitiers, he would ask the Pope where he should preach his missions, or what he should do. Louis was completely open, completely obedient. He just needed direction. He enjoyed the slurs and slings of outrageous men, because it brought him closer to the Kingdom, but he felt he may possibly have been spinning his wheels in Poitiers, or that his work was done there, and the Lord was trying to tell him in so many words that it was time to move on.
It’s very difficult to visualize anyone walking from Poitiers, France to Rome, Italy. Look on a map. You will see the great expanse, and somewhere, you have to cross the Alps mountains. But Louis began his journey. Now, in light of what we said above, we want you to again look at the map of Italy, and find Loreto, where the Holy House of Nazareth rests. If you can’t find Loreto, look for Ancona on the Adriatic sea. Loreto is about ten miles inland from Ancona.
On St. Louis Marie de Montfort’s way to Rome, he made a detour to the Holy House12 of Loreto. He spent time there with our Lady and the Angels, communicating with them. He may have gone to the Pope for his instructions, but we believe he got most of them right there in the Holy House of Loreto. Strengthened by the love of our Lady, his bloody feet bathed in the light of her love, Louis gathered enough strength to continue his journey to Rome. As he approached within view of St. Peter’s dome, he took off his shoes and walked the rest of the way barefoot.
The Lord put a priest in his path, who just happened to be the Pope’s confessor. Well, that took care of that. An audience was arranged without any difficulty, and in June, 1706, Fr. Louis Marie de Montfort found himself in a special audience with Pope Clement XI. Louis Marie was completely taken back. He was in the presence of a descendant of Peter the Apostle. But Louis had the courage of Our Lady and the Angels behind him, and so he shared about the work he had done in the diocese of Poitiers, probably leaving out the problems he encountered there, or at least minimizing their importance. He talked about his ongoing wish to go to Canada to the missions of Ontario or Quebec and minister to the natives of North America. We believe the interview ended with a commitment to submit himself to whatever the Prince of the Apostles felt he should do.
The Pope answered immediately, without hesitation: "Go back to France, and to work. It is a field big enough for your zeal. Work against Jansenism.13 Teach the children their catechism. Teach all Christians to renew the promises they made, by.themselves or through their godparents in Baptism. And always be obedient to the bishop of the diocese.”
Louis had always been obedient to his bishop, but it always created a problem. However, in the lives of the Visionaries, Mystics and Stigmatists we have shared with you in this book, the key thread which bound all of them together was obedience. Louis knew that and accepted it. Therefore it was no great surprise to him when he returned to the diocese of Poitiers, feet bleeding terribly, his condition badly run down from lack of food and water, and sleeping under the stars as often as not, that the bishop sent an emissary to the monastery where he was convalescing, to tell him in no uncertain terms that he was not allowed to celebrate Mass in the diocese of Poitiers. In obedience to the Bishop of Poitiers, Louis got up from his bed and walked eighteen miles until he was outside the boundaries of his diocese. He was provided shelter by the generosity of a friendly priest. He recuperated from his trip to Rome on the one hand, and prepared himself for the journey ahead on the other, the journey of Evangelization through the Missions.
He was not going to let anyone stop him in his mission; after all it had been given to him especially by His Holiness, Pope Clement XI. The Pope had given St. Louis Marie the title “Apostolic Missionary,” and Louis Marie was taking it seriously. The Pope had blessed Louis Marie’s Crucifix, at which time he placed it on top of his staff to carry with him everywhere he went. He also gave Louis Marie the power to grant a Plenary Indulgence to anyone who would kiss the Blessed Crucifix on his or her deathbed. The only condition was that they repent of their sins, and call out in reverence - the names of Jesus and Mary.
Father Louis headed in the direction of Rennes, where it had all begun for him twenty-one years before. But as in the case of his trip to Loreto, he made another out-of-the-way trip on his way back to Rennes. This time it was to the shrine of St. Michael the Archangel, Mont St. Michel, in Normandy. He arrived there for the Feast of the Archangels, September 29.
We know that St. Louis Marie had a very special relationship with Our Lady. She appeared to him many times, and you can be sure that they communicated with each other often, through apparitions and inner locutions. We also know that Our Lady’s champion in Heaven is St. Michael the Archangel. Wherever you see anything about Our Lady, you will see a statue, a painting or something relating to St. Michael the Archangel. We have to believe that with all the struggle St. Louis experienced in the years of his ministry, the dangers he was subjected to, he had to implore the Prince of the Heavenly Hosts for help. And there is no question in our mind that he was aided by Michael and all his Angels. Whether the Angel actually ever appeared to Louis or our Apostolic Missionary just felt his presence is not important.
In the case of Don Bosco, his enemies actually saw and felt the fangs of Il Grigio (the grey one), the ugly dog that defended Don Bosco, whom he later referred to as his Guardian Angel.14 In the case of Charles Garnier, in the missions of Canada the Indians saw a huge Angel walking beside him. In St. Louis Marie de Montfort’s case, it could have been any of the above. At any rate, St. Louis spent time there, honoring the Heavenly Army of Angels on this special feast.
Returning to Rennes was an interesting experience for him. He was asked to speak at many churches and seminaries, although he still looked like a vagrant. On his way to Dinan, he had to pass through his own village, Montfort, and the place where he had spent his youth, La Bachelleraie. He begged for food and shelter, not telling anyone who he was. Everyone turned him away. The poorest man in town took him in, and that was before he recognized him as the son of M. Grignion. Before long, everyone in the district was standing outside the beggar’s home, apologizing for not taking Louis Marie in. A statement Louis Marie made to his aunt Andrée, sums up what he meant to say to all of them:
“You have committed a great fault, not against me but against Jesus. You are making it up to me now, but not to Him. You are showing me your affections, not because He is in me, but because I am in me. Jesus abides in the poor, even the least of them. The next time a poor man asks anything of you, give what you can - for you give it to Jesus as well as to him.”
St. Louis continued on to Dinan where he gave retreats and missions, opened hospitals, worked with the poor and the sick, taught the children catechism because that was beneath the other priests who were giving missions. He worked wonders with the military men at the local garrison, because the local missionaries didn’t want to get involved with what they thought was an impossible situation. The soldiers were only interested in the things of the flesh, and nothing the good priest from Montfort could tell them would change them. However, the Lord worked through St. Louis here as He had in so many other places. By the time he was finished with them, they were praying the Rosary, they had put up a painting of Our Lady in their barracks, and lit a perpetual candle in honor of her. When Louis left them, they promised with all they were worth, to keep it lit forever.
Father Louis Marie was recruited by a very famous priest, a Father Leuduger, to join a group of secular missionaries in a diocese in Brittany, St. Brieuc. Louis thought this was exactly what he wanted, but it was not necessarily the Lord’s plan. As in every other place he went, he was well accepted by the people. But he was a very firm man when it came to Our Lord Jesus and Our Lady, and the teachings of the Church. Because of this, he always found himself an outsider with other missionaries in the group, with other priests. He was too stern, unbending, and altogether too overpowering for their tastes. So after he single-handedly gave powerful missions, the priests asked him to leave their group because he was not really of them.
No, he was not! He was an Apostolic Missionary. He was completely committed to his cause. Father Louis was not a compromiser. He didn’t give in, for the sake of peace within the group. He had given up his entire life; he had ill-treated his own body, for the sake of his soul. He couldn’t allow himself to settle for something other than his convictions, just because he ruffled some feathers. That was his calling card, ruffling feathers. But he was not popular with the other priests, and so he had to leave, and go his way on his own. “His preaching was a source of admiration for many, of resentment and anger for others.”15
The Shrine of Calvary in Pontchâteau
In 1709, St. Louis went to a little town called Pontchâteau, between Nantes and Redon, to give a mission. The people were on fire. Louis had always wanted to build a Calvary, in honor of Our Lord Jesus, Mother Mary and the others members of His Passion. After giving a mission in this town, he received an inspiration from the Holy Spirit. He shared his plan with the people at the mission who became very enthused. They chose a spot, a distance from the town and began to dig. In short order, it was determined this was not the right spot. So he brought everyone into the Chapel to pray for guidance from Our Lady.
When they went back outside, they saw two white doves come down out of the sky, and settle on the mound which had already been dug out. The doves took dirt into their mouths, and flew off. They did this quite a few times. Louis prayed all the while this was happening. Eventually he realized that the doves were trying to bring them to a place. Louis Marie and the workers followed the doves to where they landed, some distance from where they had been. There they found a “hive-shaped” mound, on the highest point of the area. From this vantage point, a Calvary could be built and the crosses seen from miles around. They began to work.
Little by little, old-timers from the town came to the site. They shared a story which had happened some thirty six years before, whose meaning they had never been able to figure out. The people testified that they had seen crosses coming down from the sky, during the daytime with banners flying from them. The crosses hovered over this spot and stayed there for a time. Then there were very loud noises which frightened animals for miles around. This was followed by singing, Angelic singing, as if floating down Heaven to earth. They said the date this happened was January 31, 1673, the day St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort was born.
At first, just the people of Pontchâteau took part in the project. But soon people from all over the district came with tools, ready to build Calvary. Statues of all the participants of the Passion, Our Lord Jesus, Our Lady of Sorrows, St. John the beloved, and St. Mary Magdalene were carved at the same time the mountain was being built. The statues were placed in the grotto which had been formed by the digging. Every evening, after the workers were finished digging, they went down to the grotto and prayed to Our Lord Jesus and the other members of the Passion.
The main tree for the Calvary was cut from a neighboring village. It took twenty-four oxen to bring it to the mountain. The trees of the two thieves were placed on either side of it, one on the right and one on the left. One hundred and fifty fir trees were planted for the Hail Marys, and fifteen cypresses for the Our Fathers. It was a most beautiful tribute to our Heavenly Family.
But as had plagued Louis all his life, the powers of evil were ready to destroy what had been built in honor of God. There was a war with England going on. Word got out that all this digging was going on. Those who hated the Church and especially St. Louis Marie de Montfort complained to the authorities: Le Calvaire (The Calvary) was in Brittany, which was right across the English Channel from England; if the English should attack, the Calvary would make a perfect fort to use against the French. The project had taken over a year. The solemn blessing was to take place on September 14, 1710, Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. A few days before the blessing, the bishop was pressured by a small group of very vocal, special interests with an agenda, and orders were given to Fr. Louis Marie and the people of Pontchâteau to tear down the monument built to Our Lord Jesus.
The words of Pope Clement XI came rushing back into the mind of this heartbroken priest, “And always be obedient to the bishop of the diocese.” The people of Pontchâteau and the surrounding villages tore down the mountain, Le Calvaire (the Calvary), the shrine to the Crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus. Louis Marie was to learn again, God Alone! Strangely enough, however, that’s not the end of the story. Le Calvaire was rebuilt again in 1747. Then the crosses had to be replaced again in 1774, after they had collapsed. And then again they were replaced in 1785. The Reign of Terror that spread throughout France tore down the crosses once again. But, the Church will never stay down, and after the French Revolution a new Calvary was built on the same site. Bronze crosses were erected in 1854, the same year that the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed. Pilgrimages began in 1873.
Today, it is a major shrine in Brittany. We visited it, this summer and it is a majestic tribute to Our Lord and His Passion. Le Calvaire cannot be wiped from this countryside, no more than His Death and Resurrection. The crosses loom high in the sky, a testimony of love and hope for the world.
Miracles and Conversions in St. Louis Marie’s life
The stories of Louis Marie de Montfort’s missions are classical. Here was a man who did not go out of his way to become attractive to those whom he encountered, and yet he captured their hearts. There are stories of many miracles attributed to St. Louis Marie de Montfort during his lifetime. There are reports of apparitions of Our Lady.
One time, in La Garnache Louis was in the rectory garden praying his office before dinner. A young man was sent to call him for dinner, but he returned, saying the priest “was having a conversation with a lady who was floating in the air.”
Another time, Louis was leaving a church when a woman came up to him with her child whose head was full of scales and sores. The mother prayed for a healing. He put his hands over the child and prayed for a healing to reward the mother’s faith. The scales dropped off the child’s head, and she clapped her hands and laughed. She was healed. There are many, many stories about miracles attributed to St. Louis Marie de Montfort, but the greatest miracles were the conversions of hardened sinners, Jansenists and Calvinists,16 who came to his missions to disrupt and destroy them.
In many instances, because of conversions of hardened Protestants, Calvinists and Jansenists, murderers were sent to kill de Montfort at these missions. In one instance, a man came into the room where Louis was praying and drew a sword, threatening to kill him if he didn’t leave the mission immediately. Louis stayed kneeling and told the man he would die in glory if the man would change his wicked ways. The hands of the man shook so much, he had to leave the place.
There was a report that Louis threw a bunch of well-dressed Protestants out of a mission because they were trying to disrupt it. They vowed to get even with him. That evening, he was to go to the home of a sculptor to look at his work. But as he was approaching the place, he was given a word from Heaven not to go any further, but to turn around and go back to his quarters. It was discovered later that there were seven men waiting to kill him, some of whom had been at the mission that night. They waited in different places to ambush him on subsequent nights but were never successful.
But one attempt on his life almost got him, and weakened him to the point of being the beginning of the end for St. Louis. After the Lord had successfully converted a high-ranking Protestant, an assassin sneaked into the dining room and put a strong poison into Louis’ wine. He drank some of it and immediately spit out the rest. Father Louis took an antidote, which prevented him from dying, but his strength gave way. He was never the same.
Louis Marie de Montfort preaches his last mission
Fr. Louis’ last mission was in St. Laurent-sur-Sèvre. It began on April 5, 1716. It was a strange mission, he commented, in that no one attacked him. There were no insults, no barbs, no bishops coming after him. There must be something wrong, he joked. But it was different for him also in the fact that his strength was leaving him rapidly. He never looked so bad. The poison had taken its toll on him. During this mission he tended to give his talk and then return to his room in the hovel where he was staying. One morning he was late for Mass. The little altar boy figured that he was probably sick and may have overslept. He went to fetch him at the boarding house. As the boy approached the house, he could see through the window the holy priest in conversation with a beautiful lady, whose shape radiated with a great light. He knew who she must be.
The altar boy waited until the heavenly conversation was ended, and then brought the priest to the church. He mentioned seeing the Lady with Fr. Louis Marie. Father just smiled, and put his arm around the boy. “You are a happy boy. Only the pure of heart may see that Lady.”
He could feel himself slipping away. He took to his bed. He asked for the Last Rites of the Church. One of his priests from 28Visionaries, Mystics and Stigmatists
the Company of Mary, later to be called the Montfort Fathers, gave him the Last Rites. Then Fr. Louis Marie made out his will. Everybody became extremely nervous. After having been virtually invincible for years, it actually seemed like their beloved Father, Louis Marie might actually die. One priest in particular, the one who would be natural to carry on the ministry, Fr. Mulot, was a worker, but had none of the charismatic qualities of Fr. Louis Marie. On the day of his death, Fr. Louis Marie spoke softly and firmly to this young man. He would have to take over. The work could not die with Louis Marie. He told him, in no uncertain terms, Our Lady was giving him a mandate. He countered all the young priest’s arguments with “Don’t worry. I will pray for you. Have confidence in me.”
Father Louis Marie focused his attention on his Crucifix, that great Crucifix which had been blessed by the Pope when he had been given the mandate and the title Apostolic Missionary, and a statue of Our Lady. These had been his weapons as he went forth to conquer evil and do good. He kept saying, "Jesus and Mary." He weakly began to sing the first verse of a hymn he had composed:
On, on, dear friends, to Paradise,
God’s Paradise on high!
Whatever be our gain on earth,
’Tis surer gain to die!
His voice trailed off into a coma. He stayed that way for some time. Everyone assembled prayed for the soul of a man they knew to be a Saint, Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. After some time, he woke abruptly and cried out, “Your attacks are quite useless; Jesus and Mary are with me; I have finished my course, I shall never sin again!”
With that, the Slave of Mary left his withered and wasted body behind, as he went off to Heaven to continue fighting battles from a different vantage point.
Louis keeps fighting the good fight
Satan would have loved if the entire movement of the good priest from Montfort would have ended on that April 28, 1716. The enemy did everything in his power to make it so. The little Community that St. Louis left behind consisted of four Daughters of Wisdom, two priests and six lay brothers in the Company of Mary. They didn’t know what to do after his death. They hid out and prayed for almost two years. We believe that from Heaven the Founder was having a fit, because an almost impossible thing happened in Lent of 1718; they were sought out by the Curé of a local church to work in the Parish for that Lent.
They were not too shocked by it until they arrived at the Parish. They thought they would only have to teach Catechism, hear confessions, and say Mass. No! They were to give a full blown Parish Mission, with all the fire and spirit of their Founder, St. Louis Marie. They called themselves the Followers of Montfort. Their mission was a success. They didn’t speak the way Fr. Louis Marie spoke, but they allowed the Holy Spirit and Our Lady to speak through them. Fr. Mulot, who was very soft-spoken, was able to get the message of Fr. Louis Marie across without alienating anyone. They did so well that three other missions were set up for them during that same period.
The Daughters of Wisdom and the Company of Mary bought the property at St. Laurent-Sur-Sèvre which had been the inn where their founder had died. They were able, through donations, to buy enough property for a house to be built for the Sisters and another house for the Priests and Brothers. They set forth on their missions from that headquarters. The little Community grew beautifully. But Satan would have to have his way. Through some of the Jansenists, the book True Devotion to Mary was blocked from being published. No matter what the Community did, they couldn’t get it printed. Add to that the French Revolution at the end of the Eighteenth Century, where nine Priests and Brothers from Louis Marie de Montfort’s Order were guillotined, and you can see Satan was having a field day.
With all of that, the manuscript of Fr. Louis Marie’s works was misplaced, or lost, or hidden by the devil. Thank God that the Community never left St. Laurent-sur-Sèvre. The Revolution ended; Napoleon had his way and perished, and the little country began to mend itself from its ignoble ventures. On September 7, 1838, one hundred and twenty two years after the death of Fr. Louis, Pope Gregory XVI declared him Venerable, the first step towards canonization. The little Community was elated.
Then, possibly the greatest gift, Our Lord could give to the Church and to St. Louis took place in April 22, 1842, when a Priest of the Community was rummaging through old manuscripts which he found in a beat-up trunk. As he began reading one of them, his hands shook, his heart beat excitedly. This had to be the writings of their father in faith, Venerable Louis Marie de Montfort. The Lord had allowed the writings of St. Louis Marie to lay dormant for almost one hundred thirty years. Did He do that so we would never take this powerful Saint or his writings for granted?
This is an amazing Saint! He is possibly more popular now than he has ever been, even when he was alive. His collection of letters and books are not only brilliant, but so Scripture-solid that any Catholic can firmly stand on the teachings. Especially in our world today, the writings of St. Louis Marie de Montfort are having a greater influence on Catholics, not only on the role and importance of Mary in our Church, but on our obligation to Our Lord Jesus and His Vicar on earth, our Pope.
In this short biography, it’s not possible to give you even a sampling of the powerful writing of St. Louis Marie de Montfort. He has written extensively. His writing is not difficult to understand. You owe it to yourself to give yourself the gift of Louis Marie de Montfort. Read and practice True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Read The Secret of the Rosary and The Secret of Mary. These are powerful writings that are as needed today, as they were three hundred and fifty years ago, maybe more so.
Okay, those are his writings. But there’s more. There is his life! Unfortunately, more people know about the writings of this great Saint than about his life. He is a model of so many things, we don’t know what to focus on. The very first would have to be his battle cry, his motto, “God alone!” In his quest for his Lady, he brought people closer to Jesus. He never for a minute focused on Mary, at the cost of Jesus. It doesn’t happen that way with the Saints. When they bring you Mary, you know they’re bringing you Jesus.
Another example or virtue which we can imitate from this great Saint is Obedience. We know there had to be others in the history of our Church who practiced obedience as much as St. Louis Marie de Montfort, but no one ever practiced it more. His greatest struggles came in practicing obedience. His greatest crosses were given to him in the name of obedience. He embraced these crosses and carried them with joy.
Humility - While he was never given great plaudits in his life, Saint Louis Marie knew that the Lord was working powerfully through him. He personified an old proverb, “Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.” He could not help but know when conversions were coming about in areas where everyone had given up, or would not even venture. Louis Marie had courage, knowing that God was always with him, and so he had the freedom to be a fool for Christ. However, he never took credit for any of the successes of his missions. He never even gave himself credit for the strength he had to forge on against tremendous odds. He gave all credit to Our Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary.
We told you at the beginning of this chapter that Louis Marie de Montfort was a prophet of the Last Days. The reason we call St. Louis Marie de Montfort a prophet of the last days, even though he lived between the last half of the Seventeenth Century and the first part of the Eighteenth century is because of what we read in his prophecies which deal with these last days:
“....towards the end of the world, ....Almighty God and His holy Mother are to raise up saints who will surpass in holiness most other saints as much as the cedars of Lebanon tower above little shrubs.”17
“These great souls filled with grace and zeal will be chosen to oppose the enemies of God who are raging on all sides. They will be exceptionally devoted to the Blessed Virgin. Illumined by her light, strengthened by her spirit, supported by her arms, sheltered under her protection, they will fight with one hand and build with the other. With one hand they will give battle, overthrowing and crushing heretics and their heresies, schismatics and their schisms, idolaters and their idolatries, sinners and their wickedness. With the other hand they will build the temple of the true Solomon and the mystical city of God, namely, the Blessed Virgin... “18
“They will be like thunderclouds flying through the air at the slightest breath of the Holy Spirit. Attached to nothing, surprised at nothing, they will shower down the rain of God’s word and of eternal life. They will thunder against sin; they will storm against the world; they will strike down the devil and his followers and for life and for death, they will pierce through and through with the two-edged sword of God’s word all those against whom they are sent by Almighty God.”19
“They will be true apostles of the latter times to whom the Lord of Hosts will give eloquence and strength to work wonders and carry off glorious spoils from His enemies. They will sleep without gold or silver and, more important still, without concern in the midst of other priests, ecclesiastics and clerics. Yet they will have the silver wings of the dove enabling them to go wherever the Holy Spirit calls them, filled as they are, with the resolve to seek the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Wherever they preach, they will leave behind them nothing but the gold of love, which is the fulfillment of the whole law.”20
“They will have the two-edged sword of the Word of God in their mouths and the bloodstained standard of the Cross on their shoulders. They will carry the Crucifix in their right hand and the rosary in their left, and the holy names of Jesus and Mary on their heart.21
“Mary scarcely appeared in the first coming of Christ... But in the second coming of Jesus Christ, Mary must be known and openly revealed by the Holy Spirit so that Jesus may be known, loved and served through her.”22
Thank you Jesus and Mary for St. Louis Marie de Montfort.
Consecration to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom,
through the Blessed Virgin Mary
O Eternal and incarnate Wisdom! 0 sweetest and most adorable Jesus! True God and true man, only Son of the Eternal Father, and of Mary, always virgin! I adore Thee profoundly in the bosom and splendors of Thy Father during eternity; and I adore Thee also in the virginal bosom of Mary, Thy most worthy Mother, in the time of Thine incarnation.
I give Thee thanks for that Thou hast annihilated Thyself, taking the form of a slave in order to rescue me from the cruel slavery of the devil. I praise and glorify Thee for that Thou hast been pleased to submit Thyself to Mary, Thy holy Mother, in all things, in order to make me Thy faithful slave through her. But, alas! Ungrateful and faithless as I have been, I have not kept the promises which I made so solemnly to Thee in my Baptism; I have not fulfilled my obligations; I do not deserve to be called Thy child, nor yet Thy slave; and as there is nothing in me which does not merit Thine anger and Thy repulse, I dare not come by myself before Thy most holy and august Majesty. It is on this account that I have recourse to the intercession of Thy most holy Mother, whom Thou hast given me for a mediatrix with Thee. It is through her that I hope to obtain of Thee contrition, the pardon of my sins, and the acquisition and preservation of wisdom.
Hail, then, 0 immaculate Mary, living tabernacle of the Divinity, where the Eternal Wisdom willed to be hidden and to be adored by angels and by men! 34Visionaries, Mystics and Stigmatists
Hail, 0 Queen of Heaven and earth, to whose empire everything is subject which is under God. Hail, 0 sure refuge of sinners, whose mercy fails no one. Hear the desires which I have of the Divine Wisdom; and for that end receive the vows and offerings which in my lowliness I present to thee.
I; (Name), a faithless sinner, renew and ratify today in thy hands the vows of my Baptism; I renounce forever Satan, his pomps and works; and I give myself entirely to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, to carry my cross after Him all the days of my life, and to be more faithful to Him than I have ever been before. In the presence of all the heavenly court I choose thee this day for my Mother and Mistress. I deliver and consecrate to thee, as thy slave, my body and soul, my goods, both interior and exterior, and even the value of all my good actions, past, present and future; leaving to thee the entire and full right of disposing of me, and all that belongs to me, without exception, according to thy good pleasure, for the greater glory of God in time and in eternity.
Receive, 0 benignant Virgin, this little offering of my slavery, in honor of, and in union with, that subjection which the Eternal Wisdom deigned to have to thy maternity; in homage to the power which both of you have over this poor sinner, and in thanksgiving for the privileges with which the Holy Trinity has favored thee. I declare that I wish henceforth, as thy true slave, to seek thy honor and to obey thee in all things.
O admirable Mother, present me to thy dear Son as His eternal slave, so that as He has redeemed me by thee, by thee He may receive me! 0 Mother of mercy, grant me the grace to obtain the true Wisdom of God; and for that end receive me among those whom thou lovest and teachest, whom thou leadest, nourishest and protectest as thy children and thy slaves.
0 faithful Virgin, make me in all things so perfect a disciple, imitator and slave of the Incarnate Wisdom, Jesus Christ thy Son, that I may attain, by thine intercession and by thine example, to the fullness of His age on earth and of His glory in Heaven. Amen.
------------------------------------------------------------------------Sign your name here.
Note: You may wish to begin to wear a scapular now as a sign of your consecration. It is Our Lady’s “livery”, her uniform so to speak.