Saint Louis de Montfort, His Life and Work – Louise-Guyonne and Her Brother

cover of the ebook 'Saint Louis de Montfort: His Life and Work', by Georges RigaultBut reading between the lines, there is affection. He had never failed in good example and kind services and he knew it. While he defends himself against his mother’s reproaches, he is probably thinking of the journey to Paris from Poitiers in 1702 on behalf of his sister Louise-Guyonne and also of his childhood love for her, when he had taken her to church, and tempted her to pray by giving her little presents, and quaintly lectured her: “My dear sister, you will be so beautiful and every one will love you if you will only do your best to love God.”

His correspondence with this sister Louise, who became a nun of the Blessed Sacrament at Rambervillers, is marked by a tenderness and intimacy which quite reassure us. When she was still in Paris, in the community of Saint Joseph, he wrote to her:

“My dear Sister in Jesus Christ . . . though my body is far from you, my heart is not, because your heart is near Jesus Christ and His holy Mother and you are the daughter of that divine Providence whose child I also am. . . . God would have you detached from everything that is not Himself, perhaps utterly abandoned by all. But do not grieve, rejoice, Handmaid and Spouse of Jesus Christ, if only you are like your Master and your Spouse. Jesus was poor, Jesus was abandoned, Jesus was despised and rejected like an outcast. Happy, a thousand times happy should Louise Grignion be, if she is poor in spirit, if she is abandoned, despised, rejected, as the meanest thing in the House of Saint Joseph. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all the rest will be added to you. If you do your part, God Who is faithful will do His; that is, if you serve God and His Blessed Mother faithfully, you will never lack for anything in this world or the next; you will not even lack your priest-brother, who has been, is and will be, all yours in his sacrifices, that you may be all Christ’s in yours. I greet your good Guardian Angel.”

Two years afterwards, when Louise belonged to that contemplative Order whose special purpose is prayer and expiation in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, we find Louis hoping “that the altar would see her more often than her bed or the table.” And with the desire to share in his sister’s merits he calls her with theological correctness and subtlety: “My dear supplement!”

He insists on this thought in 1704, when she was about to take her vows. “After having congratulated you, am I not right in congratulating myself, if not as your brother, at least as your priest? For what a joy, what a boon for me to have my other half repairing for me, by loving sacrifices, the outrages which I, alas! have so often committed against the good Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament!”

In this way he opens his heart to this nun in his excessive and sincere humility. In a letter of August 15, 1713, the brother lets himself go and paints a touching and faithful picture of his life. “An ant-heap of sins and sinners whom I am attacking leaves me no rest. I am always on the watch, always on thorns and flints. I am like a ball in a game of tennis. No sooner has it been thrown to one side, than it is thrown to the other by means of a hard blow. This is the lot of a poor sinner: it has been mine, without pause or rest, since I left Saint Sulpice thirteen years ago.”

Louise-Guyonne wears the reflection of her brother’s halo. She was to survive Father De Montfort until 1750, practising the same virtues of renunciation, of penance, of joy, in the midst of crosses. That the Grignion family should have simultaneously produced two such wonderful souls speaks volumes for their Christianity. Two other sons and two other daughters devoted themselves to God. Louis-Marie was to visit his Benedictine sister at Fontevrault, and to “mystify” one day in his characteristic fashion the brother who had become a Dominican. This monk was, in 1706, in charge of the sacristy at the Dinan convent. Father De Montfort came to the town at that time to catechise the people and the garrison. One morning he decided to say his Mass at the convent. On entering the sacristy he recognised his brother, who did not recognise him. Louis had been away from home for fifteen years; he wore a shabby cassock, clumsy shoes, looked poor and was not expected. They only knew two things about him at the convent: he was one of the priests of the mission and he had permission to say Mass. He applied to the Father sacristan without any preliminary compliment: “Dear Brother, please give me vestments for Holy Mass.” To address an imposing Dominican, with several years of priesthood to his credit and the head of the sacristy, as merely “Brother” was a mortal offence. With a supercilious air, he was handed the shabbiest vestments “and two bits of candle as long as your finger.” Montfort was accustomed to such humiliations and they delighted him. An hour later he went to give a cordial greeting to his offended junior.

This is the saint’s family setting as furnished to us by the anecdotes and papers which his first biographers collected. The name of Grignion was carried on by Jean Baptiste, the brother and godson of Louis-Marie. By the nineteenth century it had disappeared. But their blood and their tradition were perpetuated in several Breton families whose members have belonged to the law, the magistrature, to literature and to the army.