Sunday, April 29, 2007

St. Louis de Montfort: The "Charlie Brown" of Saints

"I've killed it. Everything I touch I ruin."
–Charlie Brown from "A Charlie Brown Christmas"
"I spoil everything I ever get mixed up in."
–St. Louis de Montfort

Saturday, April 28th's saint, Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort (1673-1716), was pretty much a failure wherever he went—yet ended up writing some of the most profound volumes on Our Lady the Church has ever known. The eldest of eight children, Louis decided early on he had a vocation to the priesthood but unable to afford the Saint-Sulpice Seminary, he instead boarded in run-down student hostels, fell ill and nearly died.

After recovery, Louis was finally ordained in 1700, but in his first six years, he was literally kicked out of three parishes, and ended up working as a hospital chaplain. Montfort always had a goal to form a Congregation dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, but when he tried to organize the nurses there, they refused. Undeterred, Louis took twenty hospital patients who were either sick, handicapped or deficient in mind, and organized them instead! Although the group actually started to accomplish some good, his "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" confraternity was eventually disbanded by authorities and after Montfort was told to leave the hospital, he went on a pilgrimage to Rome—to appeal directly to the Holy Father to make him a missionary to Canada.

As you might have guessed, although Pope Clement XI was impressed by Louis' sincerity, he refused his request. Montfort returned to France and served out the rest of his earthly existence as more or less an itinerant preacher. Although many of his open-air sermons met with great enthusiasm among the Catholic (as well as Calvinist) population, local bishops generally had little patience for Louis' over-the-top delivery and beggar-like appearance, and after a time in one location, he was always told to "move along." When Louis died in 1716 only a few men and women had joined his Brothers (or Sisters) of Christian Instruction of the Holy Spirit, and few knew of his alluded-to Marian writings.

And yet today, the Montfort Missionaries (the Company of Mary) are alive and well in over thirty countries. His booklet The Secret of the Rosary is the premier instructional manual on this prayer, and his volume True Devotion to Mary is a popular spiritual classic. Often accused of being too "Marian," Louis' motto "God Alone" is his definitive answer to this subject—as well as perhaps the reason this "all pray, no play" preacher was not all that popular while on this earth. Like Charlie Brown, St. Louis de Montfort had few friends—but those who accepted his singular ways, he was extremely loyal to. And just as Charlie Brown thought he killed his Christmas tree, only to find the little sapling had given the whole Peanuts gang new life, Louis thought he had killed men's hope in the Lord—only to find, through his one true human friend, Mary, he had actually brought Our Savior to the ends of the earth.

Fighting Irish Thomas: Catholicism, Politics, Saints, and Notre Dame

No comments :