1673 – 1716
Optional Memorial: Liturgical Color: White
The English writer Graham Greene grew up Anglican with the typical anti —Catholic biases of his twentieth century generation. One of those biases firmly held that Catholics worshiped the Virgin Mary, and thus deflected towards Christ’s mother the glory due to Him alone. But when Greene started dating an educated Catholic girl she explained to him that Catholics rendered latria, or worship, to God, dulia, or praise, to the saints, and hyper dulia, or an abundance of praise, to Mary. It made sense. Worship is given to God alone. Praise is given to the saints. And Mary is rendered a unique intensity of praise in recognition of her unique role in salvation history. Graham was convinced. For these and other reasons he entered the Church. He went on to become a well known novelist on Catholic themes, in part because a teenage girl he once dated knew some basic theology.
Throughout the centuries since the Reformation, Catholics have been accused of granting to Mary what is due only to God. This false accusation is more apparent than real. But its appearance sometimes even bothers Catholics. As a young man, the future Pope St. John Paul II wondered whether he gave Mary too central a role in his devotions, prayer, and reading. But the writings of today’s saint, Louis de Montfort, helped the young Pole place Marian devotion in its wider theological context. Pope St. John Paul II routinely gave thanks to St. Louis de Montfort’s book, True Devotion to Mary, for helping him develop a more mature Marian spirituality. The Pope even borrowed from de Montfort the motto on his episcopal, and later papal, coat of arms, Totus Tuus. De Montfort had written to the Virgin “I am all yours, and all that is mine belongs to you.” When we honor Mary, Mary honors God along with us.
Louis Grignon de Montfort was never not in love with God. He was one of eighteen children born to his parents. Eleven of them are saints, Louis and ten of his siblings who died as babies shortly after their baptisms. Even as a child, Louis was devoted to prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He studied under the Jesuits as a teen and then attended theology courses at St. Sulpice in Paris. He was ordained a priest at the age of 27. He at first wanted to become a missionary, like so many adent French priests of his time. But a spiritual director advised against it and he became a hospital chaplain. He later fulfilled his priestly vocation by preaching missions and serving as a confessor. St. Louis practiced such extreme physical penances that his body was well prepared for the grave when he died. He also lived radical poverty, owning nothing, carrying no money, and even abandoning his family name, Grignon, to be known only by his town, Montfort.
Louis de Montfort’s intense devotional life, moral uprightness, and visions of Mary, the angels, and satan, was interpreted as holy foolishness by many in the Church who wished him ill. The Jansenists, an ultra rigorist branch of the French Church, particularly despised his preaching on God’s love and mercy. St. Louis’ itinerant life as a preacher ended due to physical exhaustion at the young age of 43. He was a priest only 16 years. It is possible that his life and writings have done more good for future ages than they did for his own. His writings on Mary, in particular, were rediscovered and published in the nineteenth century, leading to his canonization in 1947 and his wide fame in the Church. Our saint died with a statue of the Virgin Mary in one arm and a crucifix given him by the Pope in the other arm. He felt attacked by the devil in his last agony and yelled at him: “You attack me in vain. I stand between Jesus and Mary. I have finished my course. I shall sin no more.” He was buried, per his request, under an altar dedicated to his Lady… Our Lady.
St. Louis de Montfort, we ask your intercession before God in Heaven to inflame in all hearts a fire that burns like yours with love for the Holy Trinity. Help all who read your works to profit from their wisdom, and so grow closer to God’s mother.
Read about St. Louis: