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Louis de Montfort

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Louis de Montfort

Saint Louis de Montfort
St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort
Author, Priest and Confessor
Born (1673-01-31)31 January 1673
Montfort-sur-Meu, France
Died 28 April 1716(1716-04-28) (aged 43)
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 1888 by Pope Leo XIII
Canonized 1947 by Pope Pius XII
Feast 28 April

Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (31 January 1673 – 28 April 1716) was a French Roman Catholic priest and Confessor. He was known in his time as a preacher and was made a missionary apostolic by Pope Clement XI.

As well as preaching, Montfort found time to write a number of books which went on to become classic Catholic titles and influenced several popes. Montfort is known for his particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the practice of praying the Rosary.

Montfort is considered as one of the early writers in the field of Mariology. His most notable works regarding Marian devotions are contained in The Secret of Mary and the True Devotion to Mary.

The Roman Catholic Church, under the pontificate of Pope Pius XII canonized Montfort on July 20, 1947.[1] A "founders statue" created by Giacomo Parisini is located in an upper niche of the south nave of Saint Peter's Basilica.

Early years

Montfort's birthplace in Montfort-sur-Meu

He was born in Montfort-sur-Meu, the eldest surviving child of eighteen born to Jean-Baptiste and Jeanne Robert Grignion. His father was a notary. Louis-Marie passed most of his infancy and early childhood in Iffendic, a few kilometers from Montfort, where his father had bought a farm. At the age of 12, he entered the Jesuit College of St Thomas Becket in Rennes, where his uncle was a parish priest.[2]

At the end of his ordinary schooling, he began his studies of philosophy and theology, still at St Thomas in Rennes. Listening to the stories of a local priest, the Abbé Julien Bellier, about his life as an itinerant missionary, he was inspired to preach missions among the very poor. And, under the guidance of some other priests he began to develop his strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He was then given the opportunity, through a benefactor, to go to Paris to study at the renowned Seminary of Saint-Sulpice[3] towards the end of 1693. When he arrived in Paris, it was to find that his benefactor had not provided enough money for him, so he lodged in a succession of boarding houses, living among the very poor, in the meantime attending the Sorbonne University for lectures in theology. After less than two years, he became very ill and had to be hospitalized, and survived his hospitalization and the blood letting that was part of his treatment at the time.

Upon his release from the hospital, to his surprise he found himself with a place reserved at the Little Saint-Sulpice, which he entered in July 1695. Saint-Sulpice had been founded by Jean-Jacques Olier, one of the leading exponents of what came to be known as the French school of spirituality. Given that he was appointed the librarian, his time at Saint-Sulpice gave him the opportunity to study most of the available works on spirituality and, in particular, on the Virgin Mary's place in the Christian life. This later led to his focus on the Holy Rosary and his acclaimed book the Secret of the Rosary.

Devotion to the angels

Even as a seminarian in Paris, Montfort was known for the veneration he had toward the angels: he "urged his confreres to show marks of respect and tenderness to their guardian angels." He often ended his letters with a salutation to the guardian angel of the person to whom he was writing: "I salute your guardian angel". He also saluted all the angels in the city of Nantes, a custom that, it appears, he repeated when he entered a new village or city.[4]

One of the reasons why Saint Louis Marie de Montfort had such devotion to the angels is that veneration of the pure spirits was an integral part of his training and also of his culture. His college teachers, the Jesuits, were known for their zeal in propagating devotion to the angels. Montfort's seminary training under the Sulpicians brought him into contact with the thought of Cardinal de Bérulle and Olier, both of whom had deep veneration for the angels. Furthermore, in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, manuals of piety and treatises on the pure spirits were numerous.[4]

From priest to preacher

19th century depiction of St Sulpice where Montfort had earlier studied for the priesthood

He was ordained a priest in June 1700,[3] and assigned to Nantes. His letters of this period show that he felt frustrated from the lack of opportunity to preach as he felt he was called to do. He considered various options, even that of becoming a hermit, but the conviction that he was called to "preach missions to the poor" increased.

In November 1700 he joined the Third Order of the Dominicans and asked permission not only to preach the rosary, but to also form rosary confraternities.[5] The same month he wrote: :"I am continually asking in my prayers for a poor and small company of good priests to preach missions and retreats under the standard and protection of the Blessed Virgin". This initial thought eventually led to the formation of the Company of Mary. At around this time, he first met Blessed Marie Louise Trichet when he was appointed the chaplain of the hospital of Poitiers. That meeting became the beginning of Blessed Marie Louise's thirty-four years of service to the poor.

Frustrated with the local bishops, he set off to make a pilgrimage to Rome, to ask Pope Clement XI, what he should do. The Pope recognised his real vocation and, telling him that there was plenty of scope for its exercise in France, sent him back with the title of Apostolic Missionary.[6]

For several years he preached in missions from Brittany to Nantes. As his reputation as a missioner grew, he became known as "the good Father from Montfort". At Pontchateau he attracted hundreds of people to help him in the construction of a huge Calvary. However, on the very eve of its blessing, the Bishop, having heard that it was to be destroyed on the orders of the King of France under the influence of members of the Jansenist school,[2] forbade its benediction. It is reported that upon receiving this news, he told the thousands awaiting the blessing: "We had hoped to build a Calvary here; let us build it in our hearts. Blessed be God."

Final years

Depiction of Montfort with Marie Louise Trichet, at the Daughter of the Wisdom congregation, 19th century

He left Nantes and the next several years were extraordinarily busy for him. He was constantly occupied in preaching missions, always traveling on foot between one and another. Yet he found time also to write - his True Devotion to Mary,[7][8] the Secret of Mary[9] and the Secret of the Rosary, rules for the Company of Mary and the Daughters of Wisdom, and many Hymns. Just before writing True Devotion he became a Dominican tertiary.[6] His missions made a great impact, especially in the Vendée.

The heated style of his preaching was regarded by some people as somewhat strange and he was poisoned once.[2] Although it did not prove fatal, it caused his health to deteriorate. Yet he continued, undeterred. He went on preaching and established free schools for the poor boys and girls.

Daughters of Wisdom

The bishop of La Rochelle had been impressed with Montfort for some time and invited him to open a school there. Montfort enlisted the help of his follower Marie Louise Trichet who was then running the General Hospital in Poitiers. In 1715 Marie Louise and Catherine Brunet left Poitiers for La Rochelle to open the school there and in a short time it had 400 students.

On August 22, 1715, Blessed Saint Peter's Basilica was based on that organization.

Death and burial

Worn out by hard work and sickness, he finally came in April 1716 to Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre to begin the mission which was to be his last. During it, he fell ill and died on 28 April of that year. He was 43 years old, and had been a priest for only 16 years. His last sermon was on the tenderness of Jesus and the Incarnate Wisdom of the Father. Thousands gathered for his burial in the parish church, and very quickly there were stories of miracles performed at his tomb.

Exactly 43 years later, on April 28, 1759, Marie Louise Trichet also died in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre and was buried next to Montfort.

On September 19, 1996, Pope John Paul II (who beatified Trichet) came to the same site to meditate and pray at their adjacent tombs.

A young priest who influenced the popes

Louis de Montfort influenced four popes (Pope Leo XIII, Pope Pius X, Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II), and is now being considered as a Doctor of the Church.[10][11] [12][13][14]

Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius X both relied on de Montfort in their writings and promulgated his Marian vision. It has been said, that the Marian encyclical of Pius X, Ad Diem Illum was not only influenced but penetrated by the Mariology of Montfort.[15] and, that both Leo XIII and Pius X applied the Marian analysis of Montfort to their analysis of the Church as a whole.[16]

Pope Leo XIII

Pope Leo XIII was concerned about secular attempts to destroy the faith in Christ, and, if possible, to ban him from the face of the earth.[17] In his analysis, the destruction of the ethical order would lead to disaster and war, so Leo XIII dedicated the human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But in his analysis any re-Christianisation was not possible without the Blessed Virgin Mary, so in ten encyclicals on the rosary he promulgated Marian devotion. In his encyclical on the fiftieth anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, he stressed her role in the redemption of humanity, mentioning Mary as Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix, in the spirit and words of Louis de Montfort.[16]

Pope Leo XIII then beatified him in 1888, and, as a special honour selected for Montfort's beatification the very day of his own Golden Jubilee as a priest.

Pope Pius X

The key Marian encyclical Ad Diem Illum was issued in 1904 in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It gave Pius X the opportunity to urge his intensified Marian devotion in his second encyclical, and relied heavily on the views expressed in Montfort's book True Devotion to Mary.

In fact the language of both writings is strikingly similar, which is not surprising, since Saint Pius highly esteemed True Devotion and granted an Apostolic Blessing to all who read it. Echoing Montfort, Pius X wrote: "There is no surer or easier way than Mary in uniting all men with Christ."[18]

Pope Pius XII

Pope Pius XII was often called the most Marian pope. He was impressed by Montfort's work God Alone and when he canonized Montfort on July 20, 1947,[1] he said:

God alone was everything to him. Remain faithful to the precious heritage, which this great saint left you. It is a glorious inheritance, worthy, that you continue to sacrifice your strength and your life, as you have done until today.[19]

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II once recalled how as a young seminarian he "read and reread many times and with great spiritual profit" a work of de Montfort and that: "Then I understood that I could not exclude the Lord's Mother from my life without neglecting the will of God-Trinity"[20]

According to his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, the pontif's personal motto "Totus Tuus" was inspired by St. Louis' doctrine on the excellence of Marian devotion and total consecration, which he quoted:

“Our entire perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ. Hence the most perfect of all devotions is undoubtedly that which conforms, unites and consecrates us most perfectly to Jesus Christ.
Now, since Mary is of all creatures the one most conformed to Jesus Christ, it follows that among all devotions that which most consecrates and conforms a soul to our Lord is devotion to Mary, his Holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to her the more will it be consecrated to Jesus Christ."

The thoughts, writings, and example of St. Louis de Montfort, an example of the French school of spirituality, were also singled out by Pope John Paul II's encyclical Redemptoris Mater as a distinctive witness of Marian spirituality in the Roman Catholic tradition. In an address to the Montfortian Fathers, the pontiff also said that his reading the saint's work True Devotion to Mary was a "decisive turning point" in his life.

Priest and poet

While the saint is best known for his spiritual writings, he was also a poet and during his missions managed to compose more than 20,000 verses of hymns.[21][22]

Saint Louis's life coincided with some of the great highlights of French literature and Molière, Pierre Corneille and Jean Racine dominated the literature of his day. Montfort believed that his battle-cry, "God Alone!" did not allow him to encourage his people to prefer classical works over sacred hymns. Montfort’s hymns and canticles were, for the most part, meant to be sung in village churches and in the homes of the poor. They were aimed at the masses and had a missionary motive above all. Some authors argue that a reading of Saint Louis’s hymns is essential for an understanding of him as a man and for appreciating his approach to spirituality.[23]

Montfort was a missionary at heart and many of his hymns were addressed to the people whom he was evangelizing. He went from one parish to another with his ever-growing collection of hymns to be sung during the parish mission. But he also wrote hymns to express his own personal feelings, e.g. his numerous hymns in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Based on the analysis of Bishop Hendrik Frehen of the Company of Mary, Montfortian hymns fall into two major categories: "inspired" and "didactic." The inspired canticles flow spontaneously, on the occasion of a pilgrimage to a Marian shrine, or on the occasion of a joyful celebration. The didactic hymns took more effort and time to compose, and focus on instructional and informative qualities: they teach the audience through the use of a moral and a theme.

After the Saint Louis's death, the Company of Mary (which continued his work of preaching parish renewals) made great use of his hymns and used them as instruments of evangelization.

Legacy and Impact on the Catholic Church

Louis de Montfort was a priest and a preacher for only 16 years, often having risked everything along the way. Some years before his death, he wrote to the Blessed Marie Louise Trichet, the first Daughter of Wisdom:

"If we do not risk anything for God we will never do anything great for Him."

But it is worth noting that based on his autobiography, his sixteen years of priesthood include many months of solitude, perhaps as many as a total of four years: at the cave of Mervent, amidst the beauty of the forest, at the hermitage of Saint Lazarus near the village of Montfort, and at the hermitage of Saint Eloi in La Rochelle. On his return from his long pilgrimage to Rome, Montfort made a retreat at Mont Saint Michel "to pray to this archangel to obtain from him the grace to win souls for God, to confirm those already in God's grace, and to fight Satan and sin.[4] These occasions gave him time to think, contemplate and write.

Congregations de Montfort

The saint's birthplace and tomb are now sites of "Montfortian pilgrimages" with about 25,000 visitors each year. The house in which he was born is at No 15, Rue de la Saulnerie in Montfort-sur-Meu. It is now jointly owned by the three Montfortian congregations he formed: the Montfort Missionaries, the Daughters of Wisdom and the Brothers of St Gabriel. The Basilica of Saint Louis de Montfort at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre is an impressive structure that attracts a good number of pilgrims each year.

The congregations de Montfort left behind, the Company of Mary, the Daughters of Wisdom, and the Brothers of Saint Gabriel (whose congregation developed from the group of lay-brothers gathered round him), grew and spread, first in France, then throughout the world.

God Alone: Montfortian spirituality

God Alone was the motto of Saint Louis and is repeated over 150 time in his writings. God Alone is also the title of his collected writings. Based on his writings, Montfortian spirituality can be summed up via the formula: "To God Alone, by Christ Wisdom, in the Spirit, in communion with Mary, for the reign of God."

Although St Louis is perhaps best known for his Mariology and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, his spirituality is founded on the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, and is centered on Christ.

Montfortian Mariology

Grignion de Montfort's approach of "total consecration to Jesus Christ through Mary" had a strong impact on Roman Catholic Mariology both in popular piety and in the spirituality of religious institutes. His book True Devotion to Mary has been considered one of the most influential Marian books.

St. Louis was a strong believer in the power of the rosary and his popular book The Secret of the Rosary provides specific methods for praying the rosary with more devotion. It has been read by Catholics worldwide for over two centuries and is one of the earliest works to establish modern Roman Catholic Mariology.


Statue of Montfort at the basilica of Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle, Rennes

There are more than a hundred biographies written of Montfort. They differ in how they reflect the ecclesial and cultural milieu within which each was written.

The first four biographies of Montfort, by Grandet, Blain, Besnard, and Picot de Clorivières, were all written in the eighteenth century. They reflect the hagiographical method current then—the devotional biography. Such an approach reflected little of the critical sensibility that had dominated most of the seventeenth century through the works of the Bollandists, the memorialists of Port-Royal, and Jean de Launoy. They sought to edify, praise, eulogize, and idealize. Such early biographies are filled with anachronism, incoherence, and over-generalization. Despite such limitations, Montfort’s early biographers provide valuable material. They have preserved eyewitness accounts and original documents, and they offer a solid historical foundation for reconstructing many of the truths of Montfort’s life. [24]

The nineteenth century’s "romanticized" conception of history influenced hagiography in two main ways. 1) Although a biography should relive the outer events of a saint’s past, it was more important to describe the interior drama of his soul. 2) The nineteenth-century biographies of Montfort reflect this historiographic orientation. Two biographies were prepared for the Montfort’s beatification, one by Fonteneau and the other by Persiani. The latter is almost a translation of the former (1887). They limited themselves to recounting the events that took place and did not go into Montfort’s psychology. On the other hand, Pauvert (1875) published a collection of Montfort’s unpublished letters and established a chronology of the first years of his priesthood. A. Crosnier’s biography (1927) was also influenced by nineteenth-century romanticism. Just before Montfort’s canonization appeared De Luca (1943). The author took into account the literary and spiritual milieu of seventeenth-century France and attempted to introduced his readers to Montfort’s spiritual life, pointing out "phases" in Montfort's growth and development.[24]

Of the different genres of biography that purport to describe the events of someone’s life, the "realistic" biography is much in favor. Such a method is apparent in the four works dedicated by L. Perouas to Grignion de Montfort (1966, 1973, 1989, 1990). The author separated himself from his predecessors by describing Montfort, his life, and his pastoral work using a historical-critical and psycho-sociological approach. Perouas held that the Breton saint’s path was a "tormented journey" because he had difficulty dealing with a strained relationship with his father, who was known for his violent temper. His long and arduous journey toward a balanced life came to a "certain maturation for Father de Montfort when he was in his forties." Generally more acceptable than Perouas’ Freudian psychological interpretation is his understanding of Montfort’s ministry in the context of the sociological and pastoral realities of his times.[24]

See also


  • Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, Admirable Secret of the Rosary, London, 2012. ISBN 978-1-78336-004-8
  • Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, London, 2012. ISBN 978-1-78336-006-2
  • Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, The Love of Eternal Wisdom, London, 2012. ISBN 978-1-78336-006-2
  • de Montfort, St. Louis. Preparation for Total Consecration according to the Method of St. Louis de Montfort. Bay Shore NY: Montfort Publications, 2001.
  • de Montfort, St. Louis-Marie Grignion. True Devotion to Mary. translated by Mark L. Jacobson, Aventine Press, 2007 (ISBN 1593304706).
  • de Montfort, St. Louis. Secret of the Rosary ISBN 978-0-89555-056-9.
  • de Montfort, St. Louis. God Alone: The Collected Writings of St. Louis Marie De Montfort Montfort Publications, 1995 ISBN 0-910984-55-7
  • Biography of Saint Louis de Montfort [1]
  • Biography of Saint Louis de Montfort [2]
  • Doherty, Eddie. Wisdom's Fool: A biography of St. Louis de Montfort. Bay Shore NY: Montfort Publications, 1993.
  • Fiores, Stefano Dictionnaire de Spiritualité Montfortaine. (1360 pag.)Novalis, 1994
  • Raja Rao, Joseph The Mystical Experience and Doctrine of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort Loyola Press, 2005, ISBN 978-88-7839-030-0
Vatican Documents


  1. ^ a b Pope John Paul II (21 June 1997). "Letter of Pope John Paul II to Mark the 50th Anniversary Of The Canonization of Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort".  
  2. ^ a b c Poulain, Augustin. "St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 21 Feb. 2013
  3. ^ a b c , (revised by Pat McCloskey O.F.M.), Franciscan MediaSaint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and FeastFoley O.F.M., Leonard.
  4. ^ a b c , Montfort Publications, Litchfield, CT, 1994Jesus Living in Mary: Handbook of the Spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort
  5. ^ Raymond Burke, 2008, Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons,seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, Queenship Publishing ISBN 1-57918-355-7 page 708
  6. ^ a b Heart of Catholicism: Essential Writings of the Church from St. Paul to John Paul II by Theodore E. James and Albert J. Nevins 1997 ISBN 0879738065 page 472
  7. ^ onlineTrue Devotion to Mary
  8. ^ "Original Translation of Fr. Faber"
  9. ^ onlineSecret of Mary
  10. ^ Antoine Nachef, 2000 Mary's Pope Rowman & Littlefield Press ISBN 978-1-58051-077-6 page 4
  11. ^ Joseph Jaja Rao, 2005, The Mystical Experience and Doctrine of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort Ignatius Press ISBN 978-88-7839-030-0 page 7
  12. ^ J. Augustine DiNoia, 1996, The love that never ends OSV Press ISBN 978-0-87973-852-5 page 136
  13. ^ Tim Parry 2007, The Legacy of John Paul II Intervarsity Press ISBN 978-0-8308-2595-0 page 109
  14. ^ Albert Nevins, Theodore James, 1997 The heart of Catholicism OSV Press ISBN 978-0-87973-806-8 page 472
  15. ^ Heinrich Maria Köster, die Magt des Herrn, 1947, 54
  16. ^ a b Köster 54
  17. ^ Annum sacrum 1899
  18. ^ Pope Pius X website
  19. ^ In Ancilla Gebsattel, Die vollkommene Hingabe an Maria St. Grigionhaus, Altötting 1956.
  20. ^ Pope Reveals Mary'S Role In His Life
  21. ^ Joseph Raja Rao, 2005, The Mystical Experience and Doctrine of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, Biblical Inst Press, ISBN 88-7839-030-5 page 9
  22. ^ Index of Montfort's hymns at EWTN [6]
  23. ^ Hymns of Saint Louis de Montfort at EWTN [7]
  24. ^ a b c , Montfort Publications, Litchfield, CT, 1994Jesus Living in Mary: Handbook of the Spirituality of St. Louis de MontfortDe Fiores, S., "Various Interpretations Of Montfort's Personality",

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