Saint Louis de Montfort, His Life and Work – Jesuits and Sulpicians; The Childhood of Louis

cover of the ebook 'Saint Louis de Montfort: His Life and Work', by Georges RigaultOf course we would not claim to explain the whole soul of Louis Grignion by his setting and his century. Saints, of all men, cannot be dealt with in this way. And in our saint, from the very first, we find something that cannot be analysed, a splendor of soul, a mark of divine election, a clear link between man and God, outside all earthly ties. Young Grignion fitted easily into the frame of the earliest conceptions of sainthood. Even in the cradle he seemed perfect. Innocence, kindness, piety, zeal, unselfishness, all these virtues which later on he was to practise to a heroic degree and to preach tirelessly, those who knew him agree in granting to his first years. His maternal uncle, Alain Robert des Viseulles, his friend Canon Blain, declare it. “He showed,” says Father Robert, “such a horror of vice and such an inclination to virtue, that you would have thought him immune from Adam’s sin; he did not feel the corrupt side of our nature. None of those things which amuse the young and charm the mature, seemed able to touch his heart; all his tastes were supernatural; those words god alone, which since have become so familiar, seemed even then written upon his heart; his actions, his words, breathed nothing else. For him, there was no sweeter pleasure than prayer. Never did he find the time spent in church too long. You could see him there for hours on his knees.”

“His whole childhood,” says Father Blain, “was spent in the most wonderful innocence; he knew so little of what may tarnish purity that when I was speaking to him one day of temptations against that virtue, he told me that he did not know what they were. With him to realise perfection was to conceive the most ardent desire for it. Virtue, at its most heroic and sublime, seemed natural to him, so much did grace prevail.”

We cannot set aside these witnesses. They had the confidence of Louis Grignion. They lived in his company. They were enlightened, alert, full of theological and moral knowledge.

The old chroniclers of the saints were not always wrong – there are saints who from their baptism have been such. This does not prevent them from growing in wisdom as did the sacred Humanity. Divinity alone is sainthood, definite and unchangeable. To be sure, these privileged ones, these predestinate in a visible manner, these spotless robes, these penitents who need not penance, frighten us and are beyond imitation. But we must not think them unreal and unnatural. They are tire salt of the earth. God reserves them for times when corruption is invading even the Church and its springs are in danger of poison.

In them, original sin has lost its power, the laws of heredity are suspended. Virginal in body and soul, desire and thought, they come to us from on high and from a great way off, like copies saved, as by a miracle, of a first edition of the world. They are the reflections, the pictures – very imperfect but very like – of her who was born from the first according to the plan of the Creator, around whom and for whom creation lives and moves, who may be called the link between God and everything that lives by him. They are the ambassadors, the apostles, the sons of the Immaculate.

Such names cannot be refused to Father De Montfort. He was born to announce the reign of Mary. Wherever he passed, his name was always connected with that of the Queen. He himself, very early, wished it to be so. It was at his confirmation, to stress his new character of “a perfect Christian,” that he chose his virginal Christian name. He used it all his life, generally signing: “Louis- Marie De Montfort, the unworthy slave of Jesus and Mary.”

This is how our hero has come down to us. But let us return to his story and place this mysterious boy among the facts of life. On his way through the streets of his native town he would greet the statues of the Virgin, everywhere on the walls. His first lessons were at the parish school of Saint Nicholas. He was very intelligent, with a good memory, quick imagination and easy speech. He was no trouble to his teachers and delighted them with his punctual and ready obedience. He was not without initiative; his undertakings were always decided by God and his conscience. Between his resolve and the carrying out of that resolve, there was no room for “What will people say?” But Louis’s originality never shocked those who knew him well. And he was very far from wishing to be singular. He thought it quite simple to keep to the letter of the Gospels. As he was amusing and obliging, his companions would listen good-naturedly to his little sermons and pious readings.

In that humble school of Saint Nicholas, in that church of Saint John (sad to say, not a trace of it remains), where he had been baptised and had made his first communion, the sanctity of Louis-Marie found a safe enclosure, a favorable atmosphere.

But its substantial food and definite form were to be found elsewhere. For seven years Grignion was to be the pupil of the Jesuits at Rennes, and for seven years after that the disciple of the Sulpicians in Paris.