Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort
1673 - 1716
Feast Day: April 28th
Grignion was born in the village of Montfort in Brittany on 31st January 1673, but spent most of his childhood at Iffendic, a small town a few miles away. At the age of twelve he was sent to the Jesuit College of St. Thomas Becket at Rennes, where he remained for eight years.
The assurance that he was called to the priesthood came to him when he was praying before the statue of our Lady in the Carmelite church at Rennes, and unexpectedly an opportunity was offered to him to study in Paris. So at the age of twenty he set off for the capital, walking the whole 200 miles as an expression of the poverty he had joyfully embraced. He gave away all the money he had to beggars, as well as the new suit he had received. Then, kneeling down in the road, he resolved never to possess anything of his own but to rely entirely on the loving providence of his heavenly Father.
He began his studies at St. Sulpice and attended the University of Paris. Among many gifted and devout students, he was outstanding both for his intellectual abilities and for the holiness of his life.
After his ordination in 1700 his great desire was to go to the foreign missions, preferably to the new French colony of Canada, but his spiritual director advised against it, and he chose a life of missionary work in France.
All was not well with the French Church of his day. What especially troubled Fr. de Montfort was the lack of priests to minister to the people's needs, and the widespread ignorance of the faith. A short experience in the parishes caused him to write to his director, "Seeing the needs of the Church, I cannot help praying continually for a small society of poor priests who, under the protection of the Virgin Mary, will go from parish to parish, instructing the poor in the faith, relying solely on divine providence".
That aim and desire remained with him throughout the years of his unceasing missionary work, as he walked from diocese to diocese. Because of his unconventional way of life, his outspoken condemnation of what was wrong, and his firm opposition to the erroneous doctrines of his day, he made many enemies. In fact, due to the intrigues of influential people, he was requested to leave more than one diocese and to carry on his ministry elsewhere.
On account of the disapproval he met in various places, he began to wonder whether he was following the path God wanted. For him there was only one way to find out. He would go to Rome and put the matter to the Holy Father himself.
As always, he travelled the thousand miles or so on foot, and on reaching Rome was able to have a private audience with the Pope. Clement Xl, having heard his difficulties, assured him his vocation lay in evangelising France, and commissioned him to continue his missionary work - to catechise the children, to instruct the poor in the knowledge of their faith, and to encourage people to renew their baptismal promises, but always to work under the guidance of the diocesan authorities.
He left the Holy Father, his mind at rest, and endowed with the title of Missionary Apostolic to give authority to his teaching. There were only sixteen years between his ordination to the priesthood and his death, but they were full years. He went from parish to parish renewing the Catholic life of the West of France, preaching and instructing, providing for the poor, teaching catechism, organizing the building of shrines, renovating broken-down churches, and establishing schools.
All this strenuous apostolic work, added to his long journeys always on foot, his unceasing penances, and an attempt on his life by poisoning - all took their toll of his sturdy constitution. In 1716, while preaching a mission in the village of St-Laurent-sur-Sevre, he became gravely ill. He struggled into the pulpit to give his last sermon, which was significantly on the kindness of Jesus.
In the afternoon of April 28th it became evident that death was near. He kissed the crucifix and the little statue of our Lady which he held in his hands. Then he exclaimed, "In vain do you attack me, I am between Jesus and Mary. I have finished my course: all is over. I shall sin no more". Then he died peacefully.
Thousands came to pay him their respects before he was buried in St-Laurent, and ever since his tomb in the parish church has been a place of pilgrimage. He was canonized by Pope Pius XII on July 20th 1947, and his feast is kept on the anniversary of his death, April 28th.
From Saint Louis de Montfort's book: TRUE DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
"144. The Blessed Virgin, mother of gentleness and mercy, never allows herself to be surpassed in love and generosity. When she sees someone giving himself entirely to her in order to honour and serve her, and depriving himself of what he prizes most in order to adorn her, she gives herself completely in a wondrous manner to him. She engulfs him in the ocean of her graces, adorns him with her merits, supports him with her power, enlightens him with her light, and fills him with her love. She shares her virtues with him - her humility, faith, purity, etc. She makes up for his failings and becomes his representative with Jesus. Just as one who is consecrated belongs entirely to Mary, so Mary belongs entirely to him. We can truthfully say of this perfect servant and child of Mary what St. John in his gospel says of himself, "He took her for his own."
145. This produces in his soul, if he is persevering, a great distrust, contempt, and hatred of self, and a great confidence in Mary with complete self-abandonment to her. He no longer relies on his own dispositions, intentions, merits, virtues and good works, since he has sacrificed them completely to Jesus through his loving Mother. He has now only one treasury, where all his wealth is stored. That treasury is not within himself: it is Mary. That is why he can now go to our Lord without any servile or scrupulous fear and pray to him with great confidence. He can also share the sentiments of the devout and learned Abbot Rupert, who, referring to the victory which Jacob won over an angel, addressed our Lady in these words, "O Mary, my Queen, Immaculate Mother of the God-man, Jesus Christ, I desire to wrestle with this man, the Divine Word, armed with your merits and not my own." How much stronger and more powerful are we in approaching our Lord when we are armed with the merits and prayers of the worthy Mother of God, who, as St. Augustine says, has conquered the Almighty by her love!
146. Since by this devotion we give to our Lord, through the hands of his holy Mother, all our good works, she purifies them, making them beautiful and acceptable to her Son. (1) She purifies them of every taint of self-love and of that unconscious attachment to creatures which slips unnoticed into our best actions. Her hands have never been known to be idle or uncreative. They purify everything they touch. As soon as the Blessed Virgin receives our good works, she removes any blemish or imperfection she may find in them.
147. (2) She enriches our good works by adorning them with her own merits and virtues. It is as if a poor peasant, wishing to win the friendship and favour of the king, were to go the queen and give her an apple - his only possession - for her to offer it to the king. The queen, accepting the peasant's humble gift, puts it on a beautiful golden dish and presents it to the king on behalf of the peasant. The apple in itself would not be a gift worthy of a king, but presented by the queen in person on a dish of gold, it becomes fit for any king.
148. (3) Mary presents our good works to Jesus. She does not keep anything we offer for herself, as if she were our last end, but unfailingly gives everything to Jesus. So by the very fact we give anything to her, we are giving it to Jesus. Whenever we praise and glorify her, she sings today as she did on the day Elizabeth praised her, "My soul glorifies the Lord."
149. At Mary's request, Jesus accepts the gift of our good works, no matter how poor and insignificant they may be for one who is the King of kings, the Holiest of the holy. When we present anything to Jesus by ourselves, relying on our own dispositions and efforts, he examines our gift and often rejects it because it is stained with self-love, just as he once rejected the sacrifices of the Jews because they were imbued with selfish motives. But when we present something to him by the pure, virginal hands of his beloved Mother, we take him by his weak side, in a manner of speaking. He does not consider so much the present itself as the person who offers it. Thus Mary, who is never slighted by her Son but is always well received, prevails upon him to accept with pleasure everything she offers him, regardless of its value. Mary has only to present the gift for Jesus graciously to accept it. This is what St. Bernard strongly recommended to all those he was guiding along the pathway to perfection. "When you want to offer something to God, to be welcomed by him be sure to offer it through the worthy Mother of God, if you do not wish to see it rejected."
150. Does not human nature itself, as we have seen, suggest this mode of procedure to the less important people of this world with regard to the great? Why should grace not inspire us to do likewise with regard to God? He is infinitely exalted above us. We are less than atoms in his sight. But we have an advocate so powerful that she is never refused anything. She is so resourceful that she knows every secret way to win the heart of God. She is so good and kind that she never passes over anyone no matter how lonely and sinful. Further on, I shall relate the story of Jacob and Rebecca which exemplifies the truths I have been setting before you. "
FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE: TrueDevotion.htm