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Three hundred years ago, there lived in France a great Saint. His name was Louise Marie. He was born on January 31, 1673, in a town called Montfort, in Western France. Today he is popularly known as ST.MONTFORT
His father, Mr.John Baptist, was a lawyer. His mother’s name was Jeanne. His parents were his first Teachers. His mother was a very pious person and she taught him to pray. As the eldest child in the family, he organized prayers for his younger brothers and sisters.
He invited his brothers and sisters to join him in pious activities. He once told his younger sister, ”you will be very beautiful and everyone will love you if you love the Good God very much.”
Louis did his High School and Pre University Studies in Rennes. He was good in his academic studies. He had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. He often prayed to her.
He had great love for the poor. One day he got a very sick old woman admitted in a hospital. When his mother came to visit the hospital, that woman told her, “It is your son who admitted me here.”
One day, some students made fun of a poor student because of his worn out clothes. Louis took a collection from them for the sake of that poor student. He took him to a tailor and said, ”Sir, here is your brother and mine. I made a collection in my class for him. If it is not enough for a new set, you must make up the balance and get one for him.” The tailor was moved by his action and got a new set of clothes for the poor student.
Through out his life, he fought the evil. One day when Montfort happened to see a bad book in his father’s library, he had the courage to throw it into fire, obtaining the wrath of his father.
Louis felt God’s call to become a priest. A benevolent lady helped him to get admission in a seminary in Paris. At the age of twenty, he bade good bye to his parents and dear ones. His parents wanted to give him a horse for the journey. He did not accept it; but decided to walk the 360kms from Rennes to Paris.
His father gave him about Rs100 in French Currency. His mother presented him with new clothes. He gave away the money to one beggar and the new set of clothes to another. Then he knelt down and prayed asking God for the virtue of not wanting to possess anything in his life.
He felt that God alone was his father and the Blessed Virgin Mary, his mother. Under their protection he walked the whole distance saying the Rosary. He begged for food and spent the night in church porticos.
In Paris, Louis was admitted into a hostel for poor seminarians. After some time, the lady who had helped him stopped paying the hostel fees. He was forced to earn money by keeping watch over dead bodies at night before their burial.
As a result of suffering and overwork, he became dangerously ill: but was miraculously cured. A rich lady got him admitted into the famous St.Sulpice Seminary. She also paid the hostel fees.
In the seminary, Louis spent much time in prayer. His devotion to Mary grew day by day. He read a number of books especially those on God and Mary.
He prepared himself to become a preacher. He composed a number of hymns on popular tunes. He was also good at Painting and Carving Statues.
As he was very reserved and prayerful, his superiors had some doubts about his spiritual life. Hence they tested him in different ways. They used to humiliate him in front of others. They even asked him to reduce his penance. He accepted all humiliations and obeyed his superiors in everything. While in the Seminary, he loved to teach religion to children of a nearby Parish. Finally in 1700, he was ordained as a Priest.
At that time, Louis XIV was the king of France. Under him, France prospered a lot. But during the second half of his reign, he fought many wars. For a long time the yield of crops were very low. The number of poor went on increasing and there were many beggars in the country. These beggars were forcefully housed in a Poorhouse at Poitiers.
Fr.Louis was appointed Chaplain in the Poorhouse of Poitiers. There were 400 poor people. He helped them physically and spiritually. Daily he used to go out to the town to beg for food. Three times a day he distributed food to the inmates of the Poorhouse.
He washed and dressed the wounds of the poor. He ate with them and lived like them. Really he was as one among them.
A young woman joined him in the Poorhouse in order to serve God and people. She wanted to become a religious sister. He gave her a grey religious habit and she was called Sr.Marie Louise Trichet. Then, Fr.Louis left for Paris.
At Paris he could not get a place to stay. Finally with great difficulty he found a cell under a staircase. Here he lived without any facility. He spent much time in prayer and contemplation. He meditated upon God’s love for mankind. While he was here in Paris, he wrote his first book. “
While Montfort was in Paris, the poor people of Poitiers begged him to come back. He came back and was appointed Director at the Poorhouse. He introduced many useful reforms. But a few ladies who were in charge of various sections did not like him.
He recruitedBro.Mathurin as a disciple to help him in his mission. Montfort was very successful with the poor people. But some priests did not like his ways as he led a very poor life.
Finally the Bishop asked him to leave the diocese. He then thought of going to foreign mission. But before doing so, he wanted to meet the Pope. Hence, he walked one thousand kms to reach Rome. He had an audience with Pope Clement XI in June 1706. The Pope conferred on him the title “MISSIONARY APOSTOLIC” and asked him to preach in France itself.
On his return from Rome to France, Montfort preached some missions. He along with Bro.Mathurin spent a few months in the Hermitage of St.Lazar. Then he started to preach in the diocese of Nantes. He became the leader of a missionary group and his missions proved to be a success. He was invited to a number of parishes to preach mission.
He was able to appeal to the conscience of people. He spoke to them with emotion and in their own language. His creative imagination and artistic gifts made him a very successful preacher. With his poor clothes and heroic charity, he himself became a message.
During the missions, he visited families and settled their disputes. Processions were organized and the Rosary was recited publicly. Everywhere, he managed to feed the poor daily.
Christ died on the cross in order to save mankind. To remind the people of the love of Christ, Montfort erected Crosses in many parishes. He also built Calvarias in many places. In a place called Pontchateau he planned to construct a big Calvary. People in large numbers came forward to give free service for the construction. Montfort gave them a meal a day. The project was gigantic but some officials did not like Montfort.
The people complained to the king saying that the Calvary could be made use of by enemies. When the work was completely over, the king ordered it to be demolished. This was a great tragedy in Montfort’s life. He withdrew to a house given to him by a lady and started in it a House for the Incurables.
In 1711, Montfort left Nantes and came to the diocese of La Rochelle. He preached three missions in the city and they ended with a magnificent procession. The procession was so beautiful that even the Governor invited Montfort for a dinner party. Montfort preached in a large number of parishes and he was very successful.
While crossing the sea to go to the Island of YEU, two pirate ships tried to capture his boat. The seamen were very much frightened. Montfort asked them to pray and have confidence in God. As foretold by Montfort, the direction of the wind changed and his boat was saved.
Once his enemies managed to give him some porridge mixed with poison. After taking it, he noticed the error and immediately took an antidote. His life was saved but his health deteriorated. He had to face many obstacles from his enemies. To one who threatened to kill him, he said, ”I AGREE THAT YOU MAY TAKE AWAY MY LIFE AND I WILL PARDON YOU WILLNGLY FOR MY DEATH ON CONDITION THAT YOU PROMISE ME THAT YOU WILL BE CONVERTED. I WOULD PREFER A THOUSAND TIMES THE SALVATION OF YOUR SOUL TO TEN THOUSAND LIVES LIKE MINE.”
Montfort could read people like an open book. He told a woman who hid three of her mistakes to go and wash a handkerchief and bring it back to him. She did so, but 3 stains remained! She understood her mistake and acknowledged the same to Montfort. This time, the handkerchief became as white as snow.
One winter evening he was hungry. He approached a house and asked for something to eat. The lady of the house had no food for him. He told her to collect some cherries from the garden. Though it was not the season, she was surprised to see ripe cherries in the garden. She picked the fruit for his meal.
In the suburb of La Rochelle, a rich lady gave Montfort a small house with a garden. There, in 1712, Montfort wrote the book “THE TREATISE ON THE TRUE DEVOTION TO MARY.” He also wrote the Rules for his two societies:The company of Mary and the Daughters of Wisdom. He also wrote “THE SECRET OF MARY” and “THE SECRET OF THE MOST HOLY ROSARY.” He wrote a circular to the Friends of the Cross, an association that he had founded.
He composed nearly 200 hymns. He also carved statues:
1.Our Lady of Wisdom.
2.Our Lady of the way. (a small statue of Our Lady, which Montfort attached to his Walking stick and carried wherever he went)
3.Two large Crucifixes.
He composed hymns and poem – as he walked the roads. ”LET MY SOUL SING AND PUBLISH THE GLORY OF MY SAVIOUR AND THE GREAT GOODNESS OF MARY TO HER POOR SERVANTS.”
Montfort was interested in starting free schools for the sake of poor children. The rich had schools as they could pay the fees; but the poor had no schools. Montfort got a building repaired in La Rochelle and started in it a Charitable School. He appointed three lady teachers and a priest director for this school. He looked into all the organizational details.
He knew how to talk to children and loved teaching religion to them.
Boys were eager to join his school. The classroom had the appearance of an amphitheatre with nine rows of benches. The students learned in a play-way method, Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Catechism. Montfort started other schools also.
Some of the Brothers, who joined him, taught in these schools. Thus Bro.Philp became the Head of the school in Nantes. Montfort then started a free school for girls in La Rochelle. Sister Marie Louise and Catherine Brunet took charge of the Charitable School for Girls.
Montfort spent the last part of his life in the Province of Vendee. His untiring labours and the poisoning incident affected his health. Yet he preached a number of missions in the Vendean Woodlands. He organized a pilgrimage to the shrine of Mother Mary to ask for disciples.
His final preaching was at St. Laurent-sur Sevre. He started preaching his mission during the first week of April 1716. He organized a big reception for the Bishop on 22nd April. Then he fell ill and was bedridden.
Montfort had an attack of pleurisy. His condition became worse. On 27th, he dictated his final will to Fr. Mulot and signed it. He gave most of his things for the use of the Brothers who took their vows along with him. He wanted his Brothers to conduct Charitable Schools. Many people came to see him and to get his blessings. He agreed to bless them with the Crucifix blessed by the Pope.
Many were weeping and to show them the true meaning of death, he sang the following.“On, on, my friends, to Paradise,God’s Paradise on high!However high earth’s gains may rise,It is surer gain to die!”
Montfort held in his one hand the Crucifix blessed by the Pope and in the other the statue of our Lady of the Way and kissed them in turn. After a few moments in silence, he said.“I am between Jesus and Mary.Thanks be to God and to Mary.I am at the end of my life.Henceforth, I will not sin.”And then, in peace he slowly breathed his last. It was on 28th April 1716, at about 8 o’clock in the evening.
The funeral took place the following afternoon attended by over ten thousand people. His body was buried in the Parish Church of St. Laurent, in front of Our Lady’s altar.
During the year following his death, a new epitaph was engraved on the tombstone.“What do you see here, traveler?An extinguished torch,A man consumed by the fire of charity,Who made himself all things to men?Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort.”
If you enquire about his life, none was purer. About his penance, none was more burning. About his devotion to Mary, none resembled Saint Bernard so closely. Priest of Christ, his life retraced Christ’s life. His words preached Christ everywhere. Indefatigable, he rested only in the tomb.
He was the Father of the poor, the defender of the orphans, His glorious death was the echo of his life. As he had lived, so he ended his life. Ripe for God, he took his flight to Heaven
He died in the year of the Lord 1716, on 28th April, 43 years of age. Montfort was beatified in 1888 and canonized in 1947. God continues to work signs and miracles through his ever faithful child, St. Montfort.YOU TOO CAN FOLLOW HISEXAMPLE – WILL YOU?Followers of St. MontfortFOUNDER OF RELIGIOUS SOCIETIES –COMPANY OF MARYMontfort wanted to start a society of Priests and Brothers to carry on his work. He called this society, The Company of Mary. He wrote a Rule for it. Brothers were the first ones to join him. He and four Brothers took their religious vows in 1715. Later, Father Mulot and Father Vatel joined him. After Montfort’s death, Fr. Mulot headed this Society. -day Montfort Fathers are busy with missions in some 30 countries.
Every nation owns a leaderHonoured more than all the rest!Every household has a father.Loved of men the first and best.Thou our father, thou our leader,Bless our studies, bless our play,Glorious Montfort, dearest FounderLead us upward day by day.2. On to God, lead us through MarySafest path, our whole life long:Gentle to the old and weary,Clean of heart and kind and strongShield us when the tempter whispers.Guide us home, from all stain free,Keep us true to our sweet Saviour,True to Mary and to Thee.3. Thou dost see the Saviour’s bountyHear the Mother, fair and sweet.Pleading at the throne of mercy,Moon and stars beneath her feet.Youth flies from us life goes over,Morning slips to noon and night:Lead us upward, lead us on ward,