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  Saint louis-marie de montfort (1673 - 1716)
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A fine square tower is the centre and truly the soul of a harmonious set of buildings known as “St. Gabriel’s Boarding School”. There some 1,500 boys prepare for life, taught and guided by teachers who understand them and whom they love: the Brothers of St. Gabriel.

Those religious are known and loved in many a parish, in Boarding Schools and in Institutes for Deaf and Blind children, some of whom are both deaf and blind at the same time.

On a neighbouring hill, can be seen still another bell tower and a large house belonging to the Fathers of the Company of Mary, also called Montfortian Fathers. It is all those churches that account for what is so special about St Laurent-sur- Serve.

This is where an extraordinary, although very simple man died while preaching a Mission over 250 years ago, a man who had devoted his whole life to Jesus and Mary, a man who by his words and examples had converted thousands of people, Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort.

It was a matter of time before he acquired that great love for the Blessed Virgin which ranks him among the greatest devotees of Our Lady. It was from his earliest years that his heart turned towards Mary, as if naturally. Whatever reminded him of her: stories, statues at street corners, pilgrimages. delighted him.

Already, when still quite young, he used to call her “his Mother”. ‘His Good Mother”. And he meant it really.

     
He prayed to Mary not only a fixed times, but he associated her with his whole life, with
whatever he thought and did. He appealed to her with childlike trust and asked her for all his needs both spiritual and temporal.

Still more, he spoke of the constantly to his brothers and sisters and to all his small companions. To all of them he was a leader both by word and example, bringing them to Jesus through Mary.
Louis Marie conquered his father by meekness. He was to be a Priest. A good lady from Paris who had come to Rennes on legal business boarded in Sir Grignion;s house and promised him a Scholarship at St. Sulpice Seminary in Paris. So he determined to go there.

He was 20 years old. His good mother gave him a bundle containing a new dress and some spare linen. His father gave him ten crowns. Then he set out on foot for Paris, not knowing that he was starting a series of journeys on foot that would last till the end of his life.
It is hard to part from our dear ones for years and Louis Marie felt the wrench very keenly. It
was the end of life at home for him. Wrestling with his grief, he held his Rosary more tightly and began a popular hymn.

Soon after parting from his dear ones who had come to set him on his way. he met a wretch in rags. He gave him his precious bundle and resumed his journey with lighter steps. A little further, behold another pauper, beggng for alms. He gave him his ten crowns and joy filled his heart.
     
Still further, he met another beggar. Now his hands were empty... He thought: What about his own good clothes? He swapped them for the tramp’s rags.

Now, after giving everything, his heart over flowed with joy. He fell down on his knees and made to God the vow of never possessing anything of his own. Now, he could follow Jesus. since according to the Gospel, he had given all that he had.
Now it was rain that drenched him, a cold wind that froze him. Still he sang. And while
his body toiled and hunt, the Blessed Virgin be came so gentle and motherly with him that his soul overflowed with joy.

All the same, he looked rather pitiful when he approached the capital city. It was ten days since he had left Rennes. Drenched, covered with mud, grown leaner, shivering in his rags. he sought shelter in a stable.
Starvation raged in Paris in 1693. Louis Marie's small Boarding fees could not be paid regularly. The seminarians were hungry and the Superior did not know how to feed them.

Plate in hand. Louis Marie queued up with other beggars to whom an allowance of food was doled out at some corners. He even managed to share his meagre fare with those who were still poorer or less successful than he in getting help.
     
So our Seminarian went out 3 or 4 nignts every week, to watch corpses. The wake
lasted 8 hours. He divided his time thus: first four hours on his knees. prayinq for the departed soul. Next two hours of spiritual reading and lastly two hours to read his study notes Then, just as if he had slept the whole night, he went back o the Seminary to begin a new day.

From those wakes. he learned the shortness and emptiness of human joys and fame the ravages of death and the wisdom of clinging to God alone and working for eternity.
Already at Rennes, he had shown real gifts for drawing. painting and sculpture. With
practice, those gifts developed. And at St. Laurent-sur-Sevre and elsewhere, his Daughters of Wisdom are keeping statues of Our Lady carved by him.

Day after day. Mary showed herself his Mother more and more and the object of his tenderest love. So it was a great joy to him when he was asked to represent his Seminary on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Chartres.
He was always fond of children. Entrusted with a Catechism class in St. Sulpice Parish made up of very unruly elements, he charmed his pupils by his lively methods of teaching and kept perfect control. Several fellow Seminarians having gone to listen to him one day, in order to make fun of him afterwards, were so moved by his teaching and especially by his deep earnestness that they soon had to come out with tears in their eyes. All his life, Montfort taught Catechism, both to children and to adults.
     
He was ordained a Priest on 5th June 1700. He was 27 years old. He said his First Mass at the Altar of the Blessed Virgin in St. Sulpice Parish, an altar which he had been looking after and decorating for several years.

His way of saying Mass made a strong impression. One of the attendants described what he saw in a way that was repeated many times afterwards. Louis Marie de Montfort looked like an angel at the altar.
Now finally, he was a Priest of the Lord, burning with zeal to make Him known and loved by
everyone. He thought of going on the Foreign Missions, especially to Canada which was being evangelized then and where the Sulpicians were working. He asked his Superiors of St. Sulpice to send him there, but they did not agree. So what was he to do?

He made the acquaintance of an old Priest from Nantes who had founded a Society of Priests to preach Missions in that Diocese.
There he stayed four hours on his knees in the Chapel to the great wonder of the paupers
who saw him. We should know that hospitals then housed vagrants as often as they looked after the sick.

Seeing that holy young Priest dressed so poorly. the paupers made a collection among themselves to provide him with better clothes. Then they petitioned the Bishop to give him to them as their Chaplain. They felt that he would be a true father to them.
     
So he went to make a weeks Retreat in the Jesuit House where he was “filled with great
trust in God and in His Holy Mother”.

God has His own ways to answer our prayers. He allowed two of the Chaplain’s main opponents to die at short intervals, Illness also struck many paupers in the hospital. Now, since there was need of someone to nurse and comfort the sick and the dying, all were happy to see the return of the devoted Chaplain. Still the fire kept smouldering under the embers and many bided their time to create further trouble for him.
Only Gods grace obtained through prayer and a true Christian life seemed to him to be the cure to that sad situation.

So behold the Chaplain dreaming of a Society of pious women in order to oppose the havoc caused by selfishness and disorder. But where to find them? Among the paupers of the hospital itself, And this is how he chose some poor women, crippled. sickly. wanting in strength and talents. but rich in virtue. And as their Superior, he selected a blind girl.

Soon, he vested her with a religious habit that grey robe of the Daughters of Wisdom, which for many years, she was alone to wear, under the jeers of everyone. When Montfort left Poitiers, Marie Louise stayed back in the hospital, awaiting God’s hour for the planned Congregation. Always patient and devoted, without ever giving up, she remained in painful isolation, although not far away from her father’s comfortable house. And that lasted ten yearsl
     
So much moral strength, so much holiness, we may say, force our admiration and no
doubt, explain the wonderful expansion of the Daughters of Wisdom who nowadays are over 3.500, scattered all over the world. They carry on, devoting themselves to the poor, to the sick and to children, with the spirit of her who first received and then steadily wore, alone for ten years, the ash grey robe with which Saint Louis Marie de Montfort has vested her.
So he left Poitiers Hospital once more. Morever, he felt more and more that his vocation was to preach and instruct people here and there, without settling down anywhere.

He went to Paris to seek the advice of his former guides at St. Sulpice. Through several letters which he wrote to Marie Louise Trichet to encourage her to persevere in her vocation, we learn that he met Claude PoulIartdes Places, an old friend who had just started a “Seminary for poor clerics.”

Driven away by those who should have advised and helped him, Louis Marie turned
to God entirely. He realized that those oppositions were a call for closer union with the Lord, with “God Alone”. It was not by chance that he adopted that motto. All his life long, men and events seemed to combine against him, to force him to live his motto in its fullness. He realized that and intensified his prayer and his penances.
     
In a small and miserable lodging under a staircase in Pot-de-Fer Street in Paris, where he took refuge, he multiplied his prayers and penances.

He let his fervour overflow in the burning pages of a book that he probably wrote there, “The Love of the Eternal Wisdom’, the first book that came out from his pen. Although this book is not widely known, it is a good summary of his spiritual teaching.

But while most people criticized and despised
him, there were still some who had faith in him.
Enthusiasm ran so high in the Hospital when he came back that bonfires were lighted to
celebrate the event.

In what sad condition he found his apostolic field! Disorder reigned supreme and the Chaplain who had become Director, had to see to everything. Fortunately nothing rebuked him and when a poor wretch covered with ulcers, was refused admission for fear of contagion, Louis Marie took charge of him. He had him taken to a separate building. There he nursed, cleaned and comforted him all alone, till the man died a peaceful and holy death.

In order to adorn the bare walls and to be carried in procession, he had fifteen banners embroidered, representing the fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary. His burning words dealt with the mystery of the Cross and devotion to the Rosary. He captivated his audience. Besides, he made everyone sing hymns composed by himself on well known popular tunes. Those hymns repeated and explained the teaching he had given in his sermons. Every day people came in ever greater numbers and the preacher’s fame grew and grew.
     
That grotto soon became the refuge of a poor cripple without a home whom Montfori
brought there on his own shoulders. Others also were brought there by “the good Father He found charitable ladies to take care of them.

That grotto where the Saint prayed and suffered so much. was the start of a hospital for incurable patients entrusted to the Daughters of Wisdom They are most happy to carry on there their Fathers mission of love.
Those were the very words which Christ used to call His Apostles And The result was the same: Mathurin gave up his oroject at once and followed the holy Missionary.

He helped him in most of his missions, singing hymns, leading the recitation of tne Rosary etc... and chiefly by teaching Catechism and the 3 R’s. He was to die at St Laurent ri 1760, after ovet 50 years of total faithfulness. He was called " Brother Mathurin", the Saint’s first Brother.

Our Saint was very happy. He felt sure that God had spoken to him through the Pope’s
lips. His soul was at rest and he thought only of the vast field awaiting him. France.

On top his walking stick, he fixed a crucifix which the Pope had blessed. He never parted from it: It was truly a working tool for him, Like Saint Paul. now more than ever, he wanted to know only Jesus crucified: to know and love Him and to make Him known and loved.
     
Behold Montfort at St. Brieuc, preaching. confessing, praying. looking after the poor It is reported that he used to feed some 200 paupers, in order to teach them Catechism and say the Rosary with them. So there was bread both for the body and for the soul. He well knew that it is not enough to relieve material needs without caring for the soul. He knew just as well that starving people are deaf to the most eloquent sermons. Louis Marie remembered that man is made up of a body and a soul and that the needs of both must be met.

In their little Chapel, in front of Our Lady’s altar, they placed a large Rosary with beads as large as walnuts, so that several persons could say it at the same time.

However, there were days when they had nothing to eat. One day. the Brothers were rather sad. There was no food at all. At Noon. they said their prayer before meal, read from a book, said another prayer and left for the afternoon chores. Truly. that was rather too meagre!
Louis Marie’s parents had come back to Monifort and he agreed to have a meal with
them, but on one condition: He requested to be allowed to bring in ‘his friends’.

So a sumptuous meal was prepared. A large table was laid and his parents and relatives waited in curious expectations. At last, Louis Marie arrived, accompanied by a number of paupers, lame or blind and wretches of all sorts. Fortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Grignion were true Christians and welcomed their sons strange friends to their table. They were really proud of him.
     
However, he was forced to leave his hermitage. He left for Nantes where he was called, along with his two Brothers, after entrusting his hermitage to a good woman’s care.

On the Royal Square at Nantes, a group of officers were arguing hotly. Now one of them began to swear and blaspheme. Montfort could not bear that. He reproved the officer firmly and forced him to kneel down and kiss the ground before everyone. How persuasive the Saint must have been to obtain such submission!
He mentioned his project to the local priests and to the people and all were enthusiastic. As their ancestors in the days of the Crusades and the Cathedrals, they offered their labour and their goods. Montfort selected La Madeleine Heath that overlooked a wide horizon and the earthworks began. They had to raise up a real hill on which three crosses would be planted. A Rosary of live trees, a way of the Cross and some chapels would be added. Even moats had to be dug to protect the holy hill from cattle. One day, Montfort saw soldiers and workmen swearing and fighting. He joined the fray to stop it. Soon after, seeing the cause of the quarrel, a gaming board. he broke it with kicks. The soldiers to whom it belonged were furious and asked him to pay for if. His answer infuriated them so much that they threatened to kill him. Finally, they took him to prison. He was radiant, walked ahead, saying his Rosary aloud. A friend delivered him to his deep regret. He had wished so much to be imprisoned for Jesus Christ!
     
   
Yet it was only in 1888 that he was beautified and on 20th July 1947 that he was declared a Saint solemnly by Pope Pius XH. Probably was it proper that this Canonization should take place in our Modern times which are in such need of this Saint’s message and to be made by the Pope who consecrated the world to Mary’s Immaculate Heart.

Thus are we led, in the wake of this great Saint, to beseech the Blessed Virgin with greater fervour than ever to obtain for us. along with the return of the souls to her Son, Peace all over the world.