Saint Louis de Montfort, His Life and Work – Love of the Divine Wisdom

cover of the ebook 'Saint Louis de Montfort: His Life and Work', by Georges RigaultIn the beginning was the Word. The Divine Wisdom is the other name of the Logos, of the Word proclaimed by Saint John. Wisdom eternal and incarnate. All the mystics of the French school contemplate it, and while placing souls in its light, would fain let it invade them completely, until its light shall have done away with the darkness of self-love, of sensuality, of earthly attachments. In the place of the poor miserable Ego there is Jesus.

Now Grignion was one of these mystics. He is closely allied to Berulle, says Bremond. He was to spread the ideas of his masters among many and in out-of-the-way places. Even in our day, it is through him that they are most accessible. His writings carried on what his preaching had begun. They were only published in the nineteenth century, but their success was immense and immediate. In England Father Faber, who devoted much study to them, predicted towards 1860 that their influence would last. While only a chosen few read Berulle, Condren, Olier and Father Eudes, Bremond points out that Grignion De Montfort is for all.

We have spoken of the basis of his teaching. Each truly religious life is a contemplation and an imitation of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Father De Montfort’s little work, Love of the Divine Wisdom, is full of this. “The eternal Wisdom is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, or eternal Wisdom in eternity, or Jesus Christ in time.”

The “gift of Wisdom” is “that communication of itself which the eternal Wisdom makes to men.”

Through this wisdom alone man receives “a knowledge extraordinary, holy and profound, by grace and by nature.” Without it, the most learned are nothing before God. Between our human souls and the divine Wisdom there has been placed by the Creator a link, “such a great link of affection that it passes our understanding.” Wisdom was meant for man and man for Wisdom – “an infinite treasure for man,” (Wisdom vii, 14), and this is not said of the angels or any other creatures.

“This love of Wisdom for man is because man is, as he was created, the miniature of His marvels, His living image and His agent upon earth. But since through the great love which He bore to men, He resolved to take their likeness and die to save them, He loves them as His Brothers, friends, disciples, the price of the divine blood and the fellow-heirs of the kingdom. If we refuse His love, we do Him infinite violence, for we wrench from Him a human heart.”

The eloquence of Montfort has full play here. We almost hear his voice. “Sometimes that He may find man, the eternal Wisdom follows the high road, is found in the public square, in the midst of gatherings ever crying: ‘0 men, to you I call, and My voice is to the sons of men,’ (Prov. viii, 4). O children of men, it is to you that I stretch forth My hands. You it is whom I long for, whom I seek, whom I claim. Hearken, come to Me, I will make you happy.”

A little further on the tone changes; even in a theological treatise, psychology has its place. And beside the man wise in God, we have the portrait of a man wise in his own generation. Such a one is ever seeking his own interest and pleasure, to satisfy his ambition without risks to his reputation. He makes “everything turn to his advantage without seeming to do so.” He knows “the subtlest arts of disguise and dissimulation,” he “says and does one thing and thinks another;” “he knows all the airs and graces of the world.” His conduct “is based on a point of honor, on ‘what will the world say?’ on custom.” His particular virtues are “physical courage, cunning, policy, tact, gallantry, politeness, wit.” He realises “a secret and fatal compromise between truth and deceit, the Gospel and the world, virtue and sin, Jesus Christ and Belial.” Here we have a carefully shaded sketch, with the observer and the witty satirist as the artist. When we listen to Montfort’s description of “the marvellous effects of the eternal Wisdom in the souls of those who possess Him,” we are listening to an analysis of himself. In the first place, the knowledge which God gives is the power to discern. We can then try the spirits, even the spirits of nature. But such a knowledge is not merely intellectual; “luminous, full of grace, active, and pious, it touches and contents the heart,” while guiding the intelligence. All the faculties are plunged into the Ocean of Truth, and man, rejuvenated, restrengthened, is aware of his unity.

This being, with energies a hundredfold increased, with its clear conscience, has a miraculous influence upon his surroundings. Wisdom “makes of his mouth a treasure- house of words for time and eternity.” “But there are few preachers who can say with Saint Paul: ‘We preach the Wisdom of God.’ Most of them speak from the natural knowledge of their mind or from what they have found in books … it is the reason why preaching does not convert many.” But if a priest has his gift of speech from the divine Wisdom, “his hearers will find him irresistible” as “those who listened to Saint Stephen of old could not resist the Spirit.” “Such a one would never speak in vain.”

But there are trials. Wisdom, to make His friends more worthy of Him, “sends them great struggles and opposition and difficulty in all that they undertake. . . . The Cross is the share and the reward of those who desire or possess eternal Wisdom.” Let them have no fear. Their Queen does not suffer them to be tried beyond what they are able, “and she gives such grace to their crosses that they become joys.”

Thus Jesus, incarnate Wisdom, is seen as the Lamb of God, the model of gentleness and victimised innocence. “Gentle alike in name, in speech, in action,” the Saviour comes to charm the human heart. Montfort in a few exquisite pages recalls all the marks of tenderness, compassion, indulgence, infinite mercy, on the part of Him who bade the children come to Him, who did not break the bruised reed or quench the smoking flax.

The greatest proof of love is to lay down one’s life for the loved one. Love leads to the Cross. Rather than anything of what is great and splendid upon earth, divine Wisdom claims an instrument of torture, an object of horror and scorn, henceforth to be the adoration of men.

The Cross triumphs with the Christ. Wisdom willed it so. “Wisdom is so united and incorporated with the Cross, that neither angel nor man nor spirit in Heaven or earth can part them. Their bond is indissoluble, their alliance eternal. Never the Cross without Jesus nor Jesus without the Cross. The death of Wisdom has made the ignominious Cross glorious, its poverty wealth, its pangs pleasure and its hardships gracious things; the Cross has become divine. All the honor of adoration is reserved and owed to His beloved Cross.”

Since the Incarnation of the Word “Wisdom is the Cross, the Cross is Wisdom.” To have the latter we must accept the former. Mortification, sacrifice, sorrow suffered or sought – such are the preliminary conditions, the earnest of true joy, of heavenly bliss.