Remembering the author of "True Devotion to Mary" on the 300th anniversary of his death
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Today (April 28, 2016) marks the 300th anniversary of St. Louis de Montfort’s death, a saint who has been hailed by many as one of the most influential persons of recent history. His inspiration has remained constant over the past three centuries and has shaped the hearts of many holy men and women, including the beloved St. John Paul II.
Montfort is most well known for his book True Devotion to Mary and for the “total consecration to Jesus through Mary” that he proposed in it. John Paul II highlighted this “total consecration” in his papal motto, a phrase he used up until his death: “Totus Tuus.” The entire phrase from St. Louis de Montfort is expressed as “Totus tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt. Accipio te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor tuum, Maria” (“I belong entirely to you, and all that I have is yours. I take you for my all. O Mary, give me your heart”).
Yet, John Paul II was not the only saint or pope to bring attention to Montfort and his writings. Over the past 200 years, at least five popes have expressed their gratitude to Montfort and encouraged the Church to dive deeper into his Marian spirituality:
- Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) promoted it as one of the best forms of Marian devotion, and gave the decree, “the Venerable Servant of God, Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, practiced the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity toward God and neighbor, the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance, and the related moral virtues, to an heroic degree.” Pius IX was also the pope who solemnly defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
- Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903), known as the “Rosary Pope,” beatified Montfort in 1888, was highly influenced by True Devotion and decreed a plenary indulgence for those who practiced Montfort’s Marian consecration. Pope Leo also wrote a total of eleven encyclicals on the rosary during his pontificate.
- Pope St. Pius X (1903-1914) adopted much of Montfort’s Marian language in his encyclical on the Immaculate Conception, Ad diem illum, writing, “since it is through Mary that we attain to the knowledge of Christ, through Mary also we most easily obtain that life of which Christ is the source and origin.” He also granted an Apostolic Blessing for anyone who reads True Devotion.
- Pope Pius XII(1939-1958) canonized Louis de Montfort on July 20, 1947, where he highly praised the new saint, saying, “[Montfort’s] great secret of attracting and giving souls to Jesus was his devotion to Mary. All his activity was founded upon her, all his confidence rested in her. In opposition to the joyless austerity, melancholy fear and depressing pride of Jansenism, he promoted the filial, trustful, ardent and expansive love in action of a slave of Mary.” In the spirit of Montfort’s “total consecration” and in response to Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Pius XII wrote in an Apostolic Letter how he “consecrated the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mother of God, [and] in a most special way … we dedicate and consecrate all the peoples of Russia to that same Immaculate Heart.”
- Pope St. John Paul II(1978-2005) was highly influenced by Montfort, and recounted how he “read and reread many times and with great spiritual profit” Montfort’s writings. He also encouraged the faithful to follow the example of Montfort, saying, “In repeating every day ‘Totus tuus,’ and living in harmony with her, one can attain to the experience of the Father in limitless confidence and love, to docility to the Holy Spirit, and to the transformation of self according to the image of Christ.” He singled out Montfort’s writings again and again in the many documents he wrote on the Blessed Mother and even considered proclaiming him a “Doctor of the Church.”
As we can see through the example of these five popes, Montfort’s Marian spirituality has not lost its potency over the years and remains for us a pathway to a deeper union with Christ.