"Vincent Ferrer, or, as he was called, the Angel of the Judgment, comes to us proclaiming the near approach of the Judge of the living and the dead. During his life time, he traversed almost every country of Europe, preaching this terrible truth; and the people of those times went from his sermons striking their breasts, crying out to God to have mercy upon them,—in a word, converted." -Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B. – The Liturgical Year, April 5th
"I said that this will happen especially towards the end of the world, and indeed soon, because Almighty God and his holy Mother are to raise up great saints who will surpass in holiness most other saints as much as the cedars of Lebanon tower above little shrubs. This has been revealed to a holy soul whose life has been written by M. de Renty. 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 food, guided by her spirit, supported by her arm, 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, who is called by the Fathers of the Church the Temple of Solomon and the City of God . By word and example they will draw all men to a true devotion to her and though this will make many enemies, it will also bring about many victories and much glory to God alone. This is what God revealed to St. Vincent Ferrer, that outstanding apostle of his day, as he has amply shown in one of his works." -Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, #47-48
These striking words were penned by this great Saint in 1712 in La Rochelle on the West Coast of France as part of the greatest book ever written about our Lady. Just four years later on this day in 1716 our Saint would pass to his eternal reward, he was just 43. He had been poisoned by Jansenists a few years earlier and never one to worry about his own health (for he was an incredibly strong and tough man) he never took a break and he continued his work preaching to the faithful throughout the countryside of southern France. He was one of those great Saints who burned themselves out early in life by their intense love for God.
Just 23 years before Montfort wrote True Devotion the King of France had refused the request of our Lord, given to him by Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, to consecrate that great nation, the Eldest Daughter of the Church, to His Most Sacred Heart. One hundred years exactly from this refusal God would scourge France for this refusal by allowing it to be racked with the bloody and terrible French Revolution, from which France has never recovered.
The only part of France that did not succumb to the errors of the Revolution, and from which began the Catholic Counter-Revolution, was that very part of France preached to by today's Saint. We know this part of France as the Vendee.
The most intense period of persecution of Catholics, which was what the French Revolution principally was: a persecution of the Catholic Church, was the "Terror" (1793-94). And this was only ended when on July 17th 1794 sixteen Carmelite nuns offered their lives to end the slaughter. They were put to death simply for wearing their habits and professing the Catholic faith. Within two weeks the terror ended.
From the blood of these Blessed Martyrs it seems that an incredible flourishing of great Saints came about in France, and even elsewhere we began to see great Saints being raised up unlike anything that had been seen for many centuries and even back to the days of the apostles.
In 1830 in the Convent Chapel of the Daughters of Charity (founded by Saint Vincent de Paul) at Rue de Bac in Paris the ever Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a young nun named Catherine. She would give to her the Medal of the Immaculate Conception. This medal proved to be so powerful and produced so many miracles we known it today only as the "Miraculous Medal" and that young nun as Saint Catherine Laboure.
Even while this was going on incredible things were happening in the Diocese of Lyon in a little parish called Ars. It's pastor has become the most famous parish priest in the history of the Church: Saint Jean-Baptist Marie Vianney, the Cure of Ars.
In 1842, in a small trunk locked away and forgotten for 127 years, Montforts True Devotion manuscript was found. Almost immediately after being discovered it came before the reigning Pope at the time: Pope Gregory XVI, who just 4 years earlier on September 7th 1838 had declared Montfort Venerable, and he called for its immediate publication and promoted it without qualification. This was just as Montfort himself had prophesied in the very text itself:
“I clearly foresee that raging beasts will come in fury to tear to pieces with their diabolical teeth this little book and the one the Holy Spirit made use of to write it, or they will cause it at least to lie hidden in the darkness and silence of a chest and so prevent it from seeing the light of day. They will even attack and persecute those who read it and put into practice what it contains. But no matter! So much the better! It even gives me encouragement to hope for great success at the prospect of a mighty legion of brave and valiant soldiers of Jesus and Mary, both men and women, who will fight the devil, the world, and corrupt nature in the perilous times that are sure to come.” (True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, #114)
Every Pope since it's discovery has promoted and practiced this devotion.
In 1846 our Lady appeared again. This time it was to two poor shepherd children in the mountains at La Salette France (just south-west of Lyon). She appeared weeping because of blasphemy, and told the children that the people of France must stop offending her Son, because His hand of judgement was becoming so heavy she was unable to hold it back much longer.
In 1854 Blessed Pope Pius IX proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother Saint Anne. And how fitting for this Pope who was practicing and promoting the True Devotion to Mary of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort.
Just four years later in 1858 our Lady appeared yet again to a young French girl in the very south of France. She said of herself there that: "I am the Immaculate Conception", and her message was simply: "Penance! Penance! Penance!". The site of the apparition has become one of the largest sites of pilgrimage in the world and the spring that began to flow during the apparitions has produced more documented miracles than any other single site in human history.
That young girl too is noteworthy even apart from everything that happened and has happened since at Lourdes. She would retreat from the world to a convent in Nevers (in central France) and there would become, in my opinion, one of the greatest Saints in the history of the Church. Heaven too seems to have highlighted her sanctity in a special way because little Saint Bernadette Soubirous body to this day remains entirely incorrupt.
Meanwhile three great Saints (two from neighboring countries) were spreading the gospel in missionary lands.
From France there was Saint Theophane Venard (the favorite Saint of Saint Therese of Lisieux) who labored in South-East Asia and would eventually suffer martyrdom in present day Vietnam. He was exemplary not because he produced many miracles or wrote any amazing works but because he was simply an eminently holy soul whose life is one we can all imitate. This is why Saint Therese loved him. And of course a deep devotion to Mary was part of his life, and it is very possible that he read True Devotion before he died at just 31.
From Belgium there was Saint Joseph de Vuester, who was just canonized in 2009, and who is better known as Father Damien of Molokai. He too had an intense devotion to Mary and knew French so it is not impossible that he came into contact with Montfort's work, though it is less likely. He, while still in minor orders, took the place of his older brother (then already a priest for the religious order they belonged to) on a mission to the Sandwich Islands (modern day Hawaii). There he would eventually offer himself for the incredibly difficult assignment of ministering to the leper colony on the island of Molokai. There he would labor without tiring until he had converted most of the island; inspired a lay Brother, several priests, and a community of nuns to join him there; and at last becoming a leper himself would die surrounded by his many spiritual children. Few Saints in the history of the Church have so perfectly imitated our Lord as the Saint Damien's Missionary Bishop put it:
“So far my children, you have been left alone and uncared for. But you shall be so no longer. I have brought you one who will be a father to you, and who loves you so much that for your welfare and for the sake of your immortal souls, he does not hesitate to become one of you; to live and to die with you.”
The third and final Saint is without a doubt one of the Saints prophesied by Saint Louis Marie de Montfort. He hailed from Spain and was so incredible he was called a "second Saint Vincent Ferrer", who himself was called a "second Saint Paul". We known him as Saint Anthony Mary Claret. He would eventually be sent as a missionary Bishop to the beleaguered missionary diocese of Cuba. In just six years he would clean up that diocese which was rife with corruption and sin. All during this time he performed miracle after miracle. There were no less than 17 attempts on his life by the Freemasons, all of which failed. Our Lady protected him. Most incredible to me, however, is the fact that for the last few years of his life the Blessed Sacrament remained present in him between communions so that he was literally a living tabernacle. This meant that for all that time he did not even commit an indeliberate venial sin. Apart from our Lady herself for those nine months of her pregnancy and maybe one or two other Saints this abiding presence of the actual Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord is a most singular occurrence. Whether or not he read Montforts book is not clear, but most assuredly he lived the devotion contained within it.
And what can be said that has not already been said here of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face who practiced the true devotion to Mary so perfectly.
And this is but a sampling of the fruit of Montfort in his own country and the surrounding lands in the early to mid-19th century.
The late 19th and into the 20th century would bring even more amazing things: Saint John Bosco, Saint Maria Goretti, Saint Gabriel of our Lady of Sorrows, Saint Gemma Galgani, Pope Saint Pius X, Blessed Jactina and Franciso Marto of Fatima, Saint Faustina, Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, and the great Saint Padre Pio. All of these and many other great saints were raised up and who were all emenently devoted to Mary and who loved a total consecration to Mary. Kolbe of course was the great promoter of a total consecration to Mary since Montfort himself and is another striking example of what Montfort prophesied.
Of course the 20th century was also the time of the greatest Marian apparition in history of our Lady at Fatima in 1917. This subject has been dealt with to some extent here. She would again appear in the 1970s at Akita, Japan with the same dire warnings.
Who knows then where we are left today. Men have not stopped sinning, but have rather seem to have turned toward sin and are running headlong into hell with astonishing vigor. And the saints that Montfort spoke of for these days are around us. We have possibly met a few of these, and any contact with them must give us some comfort that in these dark and terrible days all is not lost, but we too may be lead to salvation along with these great saints.
Let us endeavor to become one of these great Saints ourselves by following this devotion whole heatedly. We will certainly be in good company if we do as Montfort explains:
“It is true that on our way we have hard battles to fight and serious obstacles to overcome, but Mary, our Mother and Queen, stays close to her faithful servants. She is always at hand to brighten their darkness, clear away their doubts, strengthen them in their fears, sustain them in their combats and trials. Truly, in comparison with other ways, this virgin road to Jesus is a path of roses and sweet delights. There have been some saints, not very many, such as St. Ephrem, St. John Damascene, St. Bernard, St. Bernardine, St. Bonaventure, and St. Francis de Sales, who have taken this smooth path to Jesus Christ, because the Holy Spirit, the faithful Spouse of Mary, made it known to them by a special grace. The other saints, who are the greater number, while having a devotion to Mary, either did not enter or did not go very far along this path. That is why they had to undergo harder and more dangerous trials.” (True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, #152)
And let us read then what these great Saints of the end times will look like:
But what will they be like, these servants, these slaves, these children of Mary?
They will be ministers of the Lord who, like a flaming fire, will enkindle everywhere the fires of divine love. They will become, in Mary's powerful hands, like sharp arrows, with which she will transfix her enemies.
They will be as the children of Levi, thoroughly purified by the fire of great tribulations and closely joined to God. They will carry the gold of love in their heart, the frankincense of prayer in their mind and the myrrh of mortification in their body. They will bring to the poor and lowly everywhere the sweet fragrance of Jesus, but they will bring the odour of death to the great, the rich and the proud of this world.
They will be like thunder-clouds flying through the air at the slightest breath of the Holy Spirit. Attached to nothing, surprised at nothing, troubled 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.
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.
Lastly, we know they will be true disciples of Jesus Christ, imitating his poverty, his humility, his contempt of the world and his love. They will point out the narrow way to God in pure truth according to the holy Gospel, and not according to the maxims of the world. Their hearts will not be troubled, nor will they show favour to anyone; they will not spare or heed or fear any man, however powerful he may be. They will have the two-edged sword of the word of God in their mouths and the blood-stained 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. The simplicity and self-sacrifice of Jesus will be reflected in their whole behaviour.
Such are the great men who are to come. By the will of God Mary is to prepare them to extend his rule over the impious and unbelievers. But when and how will this come about? Only God knows. For our part we must yearn and wait for it in silence and in prayer: "I have waited and waited." (True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, #56-59)
Let us become these great saints. Let us love Jesus and Mary with all our hearts.