Saint Louis de Montfort, His Life and Work – Louise Trichet

cover of the ebook 'Saint Louis de Montfort: His Life and Work', by Georges RigaultHe was playing for high stakes, but in a game of losing to win. We might even add that there was a certain amount of innocent “fouling.” And then our saint set about awaiting in patience the result of his play.

One day in 1702 a girl, Louise Trichet, came to his confessional. He was already known outside the hospital of Poitiers. He had preached in the town, organised weekly gatherings for young men, conferences in which he taught them to meditate. He who on leaving the seminary could not get the faculties for confession, had become in a day the director of a large number of consciences.

Mile Trichet was the daughter of a Crown lawyer. The family was a thoroughly Christian one. The girl’s brother, who regularly attended the chaplain’s conferences, realised his vocation to the priesthood through them. Louise’s eldest sister, delighted with a sermon preached by Father Grignion at the church of Saint Austregesilde, spoke of the preacher to her younger sister.

“Who sent you to me?” This was the rather unusual question put by the confessor to his new penitent. “My sister, Father.”

“No, my child, not your sister, but the Blessed Virgin.” Louis-Marie had recognised his fellow-worker, Marie- Louise of Jesus, the first of the “Daughters of Wisdom.”

She was then in her eighteenth year, and aspired to the perfect life. Her director was only too anxious to help her to reach it. But he did not urge her to leave the world, he did not guide her to any of the monasteries of which Poitou has so many. Impetuous as he was, enthusiastic and eager, he was able to control himself if in this way an obstacle could best be overcome. His prophetic eye saw how long the road was, and he held the reins loosely, and left things to time.

Louise Trichet was astonished at his delays: “Be comforted, my daughter, you will be a nun one day!” Grignion declared.

Several months passed. In the summer of 1702 Louis- Marie had to go to Paris on account of the precarious position of his sister Guyonne, whom the community of Saint Joseph had sent away and who was finally taken in by the community of the Blessed Sacrament. When he had assured the future of this favorite sister, Louis-Marie returned to his dear spiritual daughter. As she pressed him for a decision, he said to her one day: “Come to the hospital!” There was no room for her among the staff. She begged to be admitted as one of the poor. The chaplain received her into the little group of “Wisdom.”

“You go to confession to that priest at the hospital; you will become as mad as he is,” Mme Trichet had predicted, for if her faith was generous, she had a good dose of common sense. Louise shared the food and the work of the poor. She obeyed the blind superior. Father Grignion was delighted. He had grafted successfully and the tree was to bear splendid fruit.

In January, 1703, the resolution of her director was taken. Louise would be the first to wear the dress of a community, destined, like the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, to serve the poor. With the alms of ten crowns given by some pious person, coarse gray material was bought. And on February 2, the Feast of the Purification, Mile Trichet, blessed by the priests, became Marie- Louise of Jesus with the white cap and full dress of our dear Sisters of Wisdom.

After such a fair beginning we might expect a fair story. But not at once. This biography is full of pauses. Hardly had Marie-Louise of Jesus settled down at the General Hospital, than her guide was obliged to leave it. In the eyes of the Poitevins he had made himself impossible. He had lost in Bishop Girard, who died in March, 1702, his most reliable patron, one who had always wished him well from the day his doubts as to Grignion’s sanctity had been removed. The local clergy did not like his ways and reported him to the new bishop, the Most Rev. Claude de la Poype de Vertrieu. The townsfolk were scandalised at the entrance of Louise Trichet at the hospital. And when this daughter of a leading townsman appeared in gray serge, without veil or vow, like those peasant women whom Father Vincent had once recruited for the menial tasks of Christian charity, the scandal grew. Why was she not a nun at Fontevrault or with the Benedictines of the Calvary? She was lowering herself and humiliating her family. All the blame belonged to this nobody from the backwoods of Brittany whom his former masters at Saint Sulpice disowned, an extremist who broke windows and hustled honest folk. Holy if you like! But why not be holy in accordance with custom, position, social order? Thus down through the centuries Christians, who fear the Gospel, have spoken.

Many a time Louis-Marie had had to resort to violent measures. He heard an officer blaspheming in the public square; he ran up to him, and forced him, before his mute and petrified comrades, to kneel and kiss the ground; the officer, Gantiere by name, was proud, fiery, brutal, a libertine who feared neither God nor man. Some supernatural force had for a moment forced him to his knees; but when he rose, shame, amazement, the fury of revenge, came over him.

One day some boys who were going to bathe in the Clain were behaving badly before the washer-women who beat their linen on the bank. Just then Father Grignion passed. In his pocket was the discipline with which he scourged himself so diligently. He brandished it, and rushing upon the good-for-nothing group whipped the first back he could reach. The victim had an anxious mother, who hastened to the bishop’s palace to denounce the executioner. There was no enquiry; the mother’s complaint was sufficient. The bishop forbade Father Grignion to celebrate Mass. To sentence an accused person without giving him a hearing is equivalent to showing that one does not approve of him, would believe anything of him. If Grignion was hasty, so was the prelate. Then our hero’s confessor, a Jesuit, Father de la Tour, intervened. He pleaded for his penitent and the prohibition was removed.

But the ill-feeling remained. The hospital chaplain was evidently not approved of at headquarters. The former Vicar-General of Bishop de la Roche Posay, Father de Saint-Cyran, had been an influential Jansenist, and the aftermath of this influence militated against a sanctity, in its boldness and spontaneity, half childlike, half mediaeval, so little in agreement with the theology of Port Royal. And one morning, Louis-Marie Grignion found himself turned out of the General Hospital, the town and the diocese.