Today is the feast day of Saint Louis de Montfort. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Louis was born at Montfort, 31 January, 1673. He was born poor, in the village of Montfort in Brittany, France. He was the oldest of eight children.
Louis exhibited a desire for the Lord from an early age, often times spending hours in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Rather than take his family name, Saint Louis opted for “Grignion,” the place in which he was baptized. (4)
From his childhood, he was indefatigably devoted to prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and, when from his twelfth year he was sent as a day pupil to the Jesuit college at Rennes, he never failed to visit the church before and after class. He joined a society of young men who during holidays ministered to the poor and to the incurables in the hospitals, and read for them edifying books during their meals. At the age of nineteen, he went on foot to Paris to follow the course in theology, gave away on the journey all his money to the poor, exchanged clothing with them, and made a vow to subsist thenceforth only on alms. (3)
He was ordained priest at the age of twenty-seven, and for some time fulfilled the duties of chaplain in a hospital. In 1705, when he was thirty-two, he found his true vocation, and thereafter devoted himself to preaching to the people. During seventeen years he preached the Gospel in countless towns and villages. As an orator he was highly gifted, his language being simple but replete with fire and divine love. His whole life was conspicuous for virtues difficult for modern degeneracy to comprehend: constant prayer, love of the poor, poverty carried to an unheard-of degree, joy in humiliations and persecutions.
Destined to be the target of a siege of crosses, he began to experience the first ones when he went to Nantes to aid a good priest of that diocese and found a serious infestation of Jansenism there. He returned to Paris afterwards to assist one of his sisters to enter religion there, then went to Poitiers, where he became chaplain of a hospital for the poor. His zeal transformed the sick of that hospital into a community of saints; and there he established the kernel of his future Congregation of the Daughters of Wisdom. He found many other channels also open to his fervor. (2)
In 1705, when he was thirty-two, he found his true vocation, and thereafter devoted himself to preaching to the people. During seventeen years he preached the Gospel in countless towns and villages. As an orator he was highly gifted, his language being simple but replete with fire and divine love. His whole life was conspicuous for virtues difficult for modern degeneracy to comprehend: constant prayer, love of the poor, poverty carried to an unheard-of degree, joy in humiliations and persecutions.
At La Rochelle some wretches put poison into his cup of broth, and, despite the antidote which he swallowed, his health was always impaired. On another occasion, some malefactors hid in a narrow street with the intention of assassinating him, but he had a presentiment of danger and escaped by going by another street. A year before his death, Father de Montfort founded two congregations — the Sisters of Wisdom, who were to devote themselves to hospital work and the instruction of poor girls, and the Company of Mary, composed of missionaries. He had long cherished these projects but circumstances had hindered their execution, and, humanly speaking, the work appeared to have failed at his death, since these congregations numbered respectively only four sisters and two priests with a few brothers. But the blessed founder, who had on several occasions shown himself possessed of the gift of prophecy, knew that the tree would grow. (3)
Having fulfilled his mission, Saint Louis de Montfort died peacefully. Saint Louis was buried in the church at Saint Laurent, where thousands visit on pilgrimage each year.
At the beginning of the twentieth century the Sisters of Wisdom numbered five thousand, and were spread throughout every country; they possessed forty-four houses, and gave instruction to 60,000 children. After the death of its founder, the Company of Mary was governed for 39 years by Father Mulot. He had at first refused to join de Montfort in his missionary labours. “I cannot become a missionary”, said he, “for I have been paralysed on one side for years; I have an affection of the lungs which scarcely allows me to breathe, and am indeed so ill that I have no rest day or night.” But the holy man, impelled by a sudden inspiration, replied, “As soon as you begin to preach you will be completely cured.” And the event justified the prediction. Saint Louis de Montfort was beatified by Leo XIII in 1888.(3)
Image: Statue in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Saint Louis de Montfort. Founder Statue by Giacomo Parisini, 1948 (7)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff