Saint Louis de Montfort, His Life and Work – Death of Louis-Marie Grignion

cover of the ebook 'Saint Louis de Montfort: His Life and Work', by Georges RigaultHis health had never recovered from the attempt to poison him in 1711 at La Rochelle. In 1713 he fell very ill at La Seguiniere. When barely convalescent he risked the fatigue of a journey to Paris in order to complete arrangements with the Seminary of the Holy Ghost. The successor of Poullart des Places received him warmly, but elsewhere he had met with many rebuffs. He had shared “the fragments of his cross” with his friends. And in spite of all his physical and moral suffering he went on preaching; there was a retreat to the nuns of the Ave Maria whilst he was still in the capital; and a mission at Mauze when he returned to Poitou. September found him ill again. He was taken to the hospital of La Rochelle where he spent two dreadful months with painful bladder trouble. When the pain was worst he would sing: “Vive Jesus, vive sa croix!”

He got well, to the amazement of the doctors. But it was only the shadow of himself. And it was this wraith, this skeleton, which in 1714 went through Brittany and Normandy to see Canon Blain at Rouen. He was not long for this world.

In April, 1716, he arrived at Saint Laurent-sur-Sevre for a mission. The two Mulot brothers joined him there. Father Vatel was taking a rest at Saint Pompain. Saint Louis did not think death so near, to judge from a letter which he wrote at this time to the superior of his Home for Incurables at Nantes.

“If His Lordship the Bishop of Nantes thinks well, for I shall await his permission, I will come to Nantes on May 5. I enclose a note for him, and request Father Barin to have it handed to him by M. de Vertamon. Should His Lordship refuse me a fortnight’s rest at Nantes in which I should not be deprived of the infinite treasure of the Mass, it will be a clear proof that it is not God’s will that I should go to Nantes: and that being so it would be an article of faith with me to believe that it would be best so. . .

Even after so many proofs of obedience and humility, Father De Montfort was not yet sure of having overcome the prejudice of the bishop. Meanwhile the Bishop of La Rochelle had decided to honor the mission of Saint Laurent with his presence, and it was while arranging for his reception that the missioner caught cold. Pleurisy followed, and this, in his feeble health, was very grave. Ill as he was, he wished to preach once more. He chose a theme which he had admirably treated in his Love of Divine Wisdom: the gentleness of Jesus. “When,” says Picot de la Cloriviere, “he came to the traitor’s kiss which the Saviour of the world received from Judas, he depicted the gentleness of Jesus towards this unfortunate disciple in terms so tender, so natural and so full of unction, that everyone was in tears.”

He then went to lie down on a mattress which Father Mulot had substituted for the bundle of straw in his room. According to the tradition of the Daughters of Wisdom, the room where he died is part of their Motherhouse and they have set up a little oratory there; on the wall an old picture represents Louis-Marie just after his death. And over the altar his effigy in wax, clothed in cassock and surplice, seems to wait for the Resurrection. We can picture the peasants of the place as it was, kneeling to receive the dying man’s blessing as he raises his indulgenced crucifix. Now as always he insists upon his own unworthiness; he has been but the poor instrument of the divine power and goodness.

Up to this time the Company of Mary had only very general rules and the limits of these were vague. The principles of their apostolate were to be: entire devotion to mission work; the avoidance of all property whether in money or preferment; to travel on foot; to have all things in common; to prefer the country to the town; the poor to the rich; to choose their superior from among the missioners; to have lay brothers as a link with the outside world; to spread a devotion to the Rosary and the pious practice of renewing the baptismal vow; to be everywhere and always models of obedience. Even their name does not seem to have been definitely fixed; their founder speaks of them as “Fathers of the Holy Ghost,” the name which belonged to the Seminary of Poullart des Places. He evidently thought of the two as one.

On his death-bed he was content to leave everything to the zeal and wisdom of Rene Mulot: “Have confidence, my son. I will pray for you.” He dictated his will to him; it is paternal in tone and very detailed.

“I, the undersigned, the chief of sinners, wish my body to be laid in the cemetery and my heart beneath the steps of the altar of the Blessed Virgin.

“I leave what little furniture I have and my mission books to the Bishop of La Rochelle and to Father Mulot to be kept for the use of the four brothers who joined me in obedience and poverty. These are: Brother Nicolas of Poitiers; Brother Philippe of Nantes; Brother Louis of La Rochelle; and Brother Gabriel who is with me (as long as they shall persevere in renewing their vows every year); for the use too of those whom divine Providence shall call to this same Community of the Holy Ghost. I give all my statues and the Cross to the Sisters of the Home for Incurables at Nantes. I have no money of my own; but there are one hundred and thirty-five pounds which belong to Nicolas of Poitiers.

“Father Mulot will give ten crowns of the money from the sale of religious articles to Jacques, ten others to Jean, and also to Mathurin, if they should wish to leave and not take the vows of poverty and obedience. If then there is any of this money left, Father Mulot will dispose of it as a good father for the use of the Brothers and himself.

“As the house in La Rochelle will go back to its owner, the only house I shall have for the Community of the Holy Ghost will be the one at Vouvant which is held on an agreement with M. de la Brulierie, to which Father Mulot will attend; there will be also the two plots of ground given by Mme la Lieutenante de Vouvant and a little house, left to me by a good soul, in case I might not be able to build a poor school for the Brothers of the Community.

“I give three of my banners to Notre Dame de Sainte Patience at La Seguiniere; the four others to Notre Dame de la Victoire at La Garnache; and to each parish of Aunis, where they shall persevere with the Rosary, one of the Holy Rosary banners.

“To Father Bonny I give the six volumes of sermons by La Volpiliere, and to Father Clisson the four volumes of catechism instructions for country folk. If anything is owing to the printers, the religious articles will pay for it; and if there is anything over, Father Vatel must have what belongs to him, if the bishop thinks well. This is my last will, of which Father Mulot is my executor with the right to dispose as he thinks best of chasubles, chalices, and church and mission vestments on behalf of the Community.

“Given at the Mission of Saint Laurent-sur-Sevre, April 27, 1716. Signed: Louis-Marie Grignion.”

When he had attended to all earthly matters, Father De Montfort could give himself up to the anticipation of Heaven. He sang the first verse of one of his hymns:

On, on, dear friends, to Paradise,
God’s Paradise on high!
Whatever be our gain on earth,
‘Tis surer gain to die!

He kissed his crucifix and his little statue of the Virgin while he repeated the names of Jesus and Mary. He asked that these two treasures might be placed in his coffin and that the little chains which he wore as the symbols of his “slavery” might be left upon his neck, arms and feet.

Some hours before death he fell into a coma. Then suddenly consciousness returned, and he cried: “Your attacks are quite useless; Jesus and Mary are with me; I have finished my course, I shall never sin again!” Thus the devil, the persecutor, was dismissed. Then in the room all was calm, until soul and body bade each other a gentle farewell in the evening of April 28.

In September, 1838, Pope Gregory XVI bestowed upon Louis-Marie Grignion De Montfort the title of Venerable, and on September 29, 1869, Pius IX proclaimed his virtues heroic. He was beatified by Leo XIII on January 22, 1888, and was canonized by Pius XII on July 20, 1947.