On the 28th of April each year, those who know of him (for he is all too little known in these days) celebrate the feast of the great Saint Louis Marie de Montfort. And of those who do know of Montfort their knowledge of him is limited to his great masterpiece: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which is contained “the most perfect of all devotions”. Its perfection is most clearly demonstrated by the ferocious attack upon it by the devil, which Montfort in his great wisdom even foresaw for in the very work itself he writes:
“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)
Just four years after penning these words, on the 28th of April 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 not worrying about himself but rather burning himself out for the love of God (he was an incredibly strong and tough man both naturally and supernaturally) he continued his work preaching to the faithful throughout the countryside of southern France without pause until his death.
After 127 years, in 1842 in a small trunk locked away and forgotten, 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.
Every Pope since it’s discovery has promoted and practiced this devotion.
“The is the best and most acceptable form of devotion to our Blessed Lady.” -Blessed Pope Pius IX
“I heartily recommend True Devotion to Mary, and to all who read it I grant the apostolic Benediction.” -Pope Saint Pius X
“Small in size but of what great authority and what great sweetness. May it be spread every more and still more, and rekindle the Christian spirit in souls in ever growing numbers.” -Pope Benedict XV
“I have practiced this devotion every since my youth.” -Pope Pius XI
“The force and unction of the words of Mary’s servants have no only touched but captivated and converted many souls.” -Venerable Pope Pius XII
“Reading this book was a deceive turning point in my life. This perfect devotion is indispensable to anyone who means to give himself without reserve to Christ and to the work of redemption.” -Pope Saint John Paul II
And the very “Pope of the Rosary”, Leo XIII (between Pius IX and Pius X), gave a great evidence of his approval of this devotion when he renewed his consecration to Mary according to this method as one of his last acts on his death bed.
But who really was Montfort? Who was this incredibly holy man who was with us for such a short time? Indeed, how few really know the man except the depths of his love for Jesus and Mary in his great work discussed above.
In fact Montfort was one of the greatest missionaries of all time, and he was a missionary to his own people, the poor and rustic people of Southern France. In fact his preaching and teaching were so effective that the only part of France that did not succumb to the errors of the French 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.
How did Montfort have such great success? How was he able to instil such deep faith in the people, which they were able to pass on to their children and future generations so that more than 100 years after his death that area remained incredibly devout? The answer is not well known, but in fact Montfort wrote a large series of Catechetical hymns, which he set to popular folk tunes that were already well known by the people. This enabled the illiterate to easily learn, remember, and pass on the Faith. And there have been a number of them translated into English which you can read here.
Montfort was the perfect embodiment of the awesome fruits of the Council of Trent which did so much to reform the clergy and in particular the way in which young men were trained for the priesthood.
Montfort was also the founder of two religious communities. First, an order of priests: The Company of Mary (the Montfort Missionaries), and secondly a community of women religious: the Daughters of Wisdom, which he founded with the help of Blessed Marie Louise Trichet.
Montfort is truly one of the greatest Saints in the whole history of the Church, and yet sadly it is very difficult to find an authentic life of this great saint, but one does exist in English: The Man Called Montfort, by E. C. Bolger, S.M.M.
Other writings of Montfort which can be found on the internet in English are:
The Secret of the Rosary
The Secret of Mary
Letter to the Friends of the Cross
You can buy the collected works in two volumes here.
So then let us follow his True Devotion to Mary, which you can learn all about here. If we do this we will most certainly be in the best of company 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 all endeavor to become a great Saint like the ones Saint Louis Marie de Montfort tells us will come during the end times:
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. Let us burn ourselves up with love for God and for neighbor just as did Saint Louis Marie de Montfort.