THE LOVE OF ETERNAL WISDOM
St. Louis de Montfort
ONE: TO LOVE AND SEEK DIVINE WISDOM WE NEED TO KNOW HIM
1. Our need to acquire knowledge of divine Wisdom
2. Definition and division of the subject
TWO: ORIGIN AND EXCELLENCE OF ETERNAL WISDOM
1. Wisdom in reference to the Father
2. The activity of eternal Wisdom in souls
THREE: THE MARVELLOUS POWER OF DIVINE WISDOM SHOWN IN THE CREATION OF THE WORLD AND MAN
1. In the creation of the world
2. In the creation of man
FOUR: MARVELS OF WISDOM'S GOODNESS AND MERCY BEFORE HIS INCARNATION
1. The Incarnation is decreed
2. The time before the Incarnation
FIVE: MARVELLOUS EXCELLENCE OF ETERNAL WISDOM
SIX: EARNEST DESIRE OF DIVINE WISDOM TO GIVE HIMSELF TO MEN
1. Eternal Wisdom's letter of love
2. Incarnation, Death and the Eucharist
3. The ingratitude of those who refuse
SEVEN: CHOICE OF TRUE WISDOM
1. Wisdom of the world
2. Natural wisdom
EIGHT: MARVELLOUS EFFECTS OF WISDOM IN THE SOULS OF THOSE WHO POSSESS HIM
NINE: THE INCARNATION AND LIFE OF ETERNAL WISDOM
1. The Incarnation
2. Life of Wisdom Incarnate
TEN: THE CAPTIVATING BEAUTY AND THE INEXPRESSIBLE GENTLENESS OF INCARNATE WISDOM
1. Wisdom is gentle in his origin
2. He is declared gentle by the Prophets
3. He is gentle in his name
4. He is gentle in his looks
5. He is gentle in his words
ELEVEN: THE GENTLENESS OF THE INCARNATE WISDOM IN HIS ACTIONS
6. He is gentle in his actions
7. He continues to be gentle in heaven
TWELVE: THE PRINCIPAL UTTERANCES OF WISDOM INCARNATE WHICH WE MUST BELIEVE AND PRACTISE IF WE ARE TO BE SAVED
THIRTEEN: SUMMARY OF THE UNBELIEVABLE SORROWS THE INCARNATE WISDOM CHOSE TO ENDURE OUT OF LOVE FOR US
1. The most convincing reason for loving Wisdom
2. The circumstances of his Passion
3. The great love with which he suffered
FOURTEEN: THE TRIUMPH OF ETERNAL WISDOM IN AND BY THE CROSS
1. Wisdom and the Cross
2. The Cross and ourselves
3. Practical conclusion
FIFTEEN: MEANS TO ACQUIRE DIVINE WISDOM
The First Means: An Ardent Desire
The Second Means: Continuous Prayer
SIXTEEN: THE THIRD MEANS: UNIVERSAL MORTIFICATION
1. Necessity of Mortification
2. Qualities required for mortification
SEVENTEEN: FOURTH MEANS: A LOVING AND GENUINE DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN
1. Necessity of genuine devotion to Mary
2. What genuine devotion to Mary consists in
CONSECRATION OF ONESELF TO JESUS CHRIST, WISDOM INCARNATE, THROUGH THE HANDS OF MARY
1. Prayer to eternal Wisdom
1. Divine Wisdom, Lord of heaven and earth, I humbly beg pardon for my audacity in attempting to speak of your perfections, ignorant and sinful as I am. I beg you not to consider the darkness of my mind or the uncleanness of my lips unless it be to take them away with a glance of your eyes and a breath of your mouth. There is in you so much beauty and delight; you have shielded me from so many evils and showered on me so many favours, and you are moreover so little known and so much slighted. How can I remain silent? Not only justice and gratitude, but my own interests urge me to speak about you, even though it be so imperfectly. It is true, I can only lisp like a child, but then I am only a child, anxious to learn how to speak properly through my lisping, once I have attained the fullness of your age (cf. Eph. 4:13).
2. I know there seems to be neither order nor sense in what I write, but because I long so dearly to possess you, I am looking for you everywhere, like Solomon, wandering in all directions (Wisd. 8:18). If I am striving to make you known in this world, it is because you yourself have promised that all who explain you and make you known will have eternal life (cf. Sir. 8:18). Accept, then, my loving Lord, these humble words of mine as though they were a masterly discourse. Look upon the strokes of my pen as so many steps to find you and from your throne above bestow your blessings and your enlightenment on what I mean to say about you, so that those who read it may be filled with a fresh desire to love you and possess you, on earth as well as in heaven.
2. Admonitions of divine Wisdom to the rulers of this world given in the sixth chapter of the "Book of Wisdom"
3. (1.) Wisdom is better than strength and prudence is better than courage.
(2.) Listen, therefore, kings, and understand. Learn, you judges of the nations.
(3.) Hear this, you who rule the people and boast of the large number of nations subject to you.
(4.) Remember you have received your power from the Lord and your authority from the Most High, who will examine your works and scrutinise your thoughts.
(5.) For, though ministers of his kingdom, you have not judged fairly, nor observed the law of justice, nor walked according to his will.
(6.) He will appear to you terribly and swiftly, because those who rule others will be judged severely.
(7.) For God has more compassion for the lowly and they are forgiven more easily, but the mighty will be punished mightily.
(8.) God shows no partiality; he does not stand in awe of anyone's greatness, because he himself made both the lowly and the great and he is concerned for all alike.
(9.) But the great are threatened with greater punishment.
(10.) To you then, rulers, my words are directed so that you may learn wisdom and may not go astray.
(11.) For they who perform just deeds will be considered just and those who have understood what I teach will have a valid defence.
(12.) Therefore, desire ardently to know my words, love them and you will find instruction in them. 4.
(13.) Wisdom is resplendent and her beauty never fades. Those who love her will have no trouble in recognising her; and those who seek her will find her.
(14.) She anticipates those who desire her and makes herself known first to them.
(15.) He who rises early to look for her will not be disappointed, for she will be found sitting at his gate.
(16.) To reflect on Wisdom is the highest prudence and he who foregoes sleep to possess her will soon be given repose.
(17.) For she goes around seeking those worthy of her, graciously shows her ways to them, guides them and provides for them with loving care.
(18.) The first step, then, towards acquiring Wisdom is a sincere desire for instruction; the desire for instruction is love; and love is the keeping of her laws.
(19.) Assiduous obedience to her laws assures a perfect purity of soul.
(20.) And perfect purity brings one close to God.
(21.) Thus the desire for Wisdom leads to the everlasting kingdom.
(22.) If then, rulers of nations, you delight in thrones and sceptres, love Wisdom and you will reign eternally.
(23.) All you who rule over the peoples of the world, love the insight given by Wisdom.
(24.) I will tell you now what Wisdom is and how she came to be. I will not hide the secrets of God from you but I will trace her right from the beginning. I will throw light upon her and make her known and not hide the truth.
(25.) I will not imitate the man consumed with envy, for the envious have nothing in common with Wisdom.
(26.) Multitudes of wise men will bring salvation to the world, and a prudent king is a strong support for his people.
(27.) Accept, then, instruction from my words and you will draw profit from them.
[3. Preliminary observations]
5. I did not want, my dear reader, to mingle my poor words with the inspired words of the Holy Spirit. Yet I make bold to offer a few comments:
1. How gentle, attractive and approachable is eternal Wisdom who possesses such splendour, excellence and grandeur. He invites men to come to him because he wants to teach them the way to happiness. He is for ever searching for them and always greets them with a smile. He bestows blessings on them many times over and forestalls their needs in a thousand different ways, and even goes as far as to wait at their very doorstep to give them proofs of his friendship. Who could be so heartless as to refuse to love this gentle conqueror?
6. 2. How unfortunate are the rich and powerful if they do not love eternal Wisdom. How terrifying are the warnings he gives them, so terrifying that they cannot be expressed in human terms: "He will appear to you terribly and swiftly ... those who rule will be judged severely ... the mighty will be punished mightily ... the great are threatened with greater punishment" (Wisd. 6:6,7,9). To these words can be added those he uttered after he became man: "Woe to you who are rich (Lk. 6:24) ... it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mat. 19; Mk. 10; Lk. 18). So often were these last words repeated by divine Wisdom while on earth that the three evangelists handed them down without the least variation. They ought to make the rich weep and lament: "And now, you rich people, weep and wail over the miseries that are coming upon you" (Jas. 5:1). But alas! they find their consolation (Lk. 6:24) here on earth; they are as though captivated by the riches and pleasures they enjoy and are blind to the evils that hang over their heads.
7. 3. Solomon promises that he will give a faithful and exact description of divine Wisdom and that neither envy nor pride - both contrary to love - can prevent him from making known this heaven-sent knowledge, and he has not the least fear that anyone will surpass him or equal him in knowledge (cf. Wisd. 6:24-26). Following the example of this great man, I am going, in my simple way, to portray eternal Wisdom before, during and after his incarnation and show by what means we can possess and keep him. But as I do not have Solomon's profound learning or his insights I have less to fear from pride and envy than from my incompetence and ignorance, which I trust, in your kindness, you will overlook.
Childhood, Youth and Studies
Louis was born on January 31, 1673 at Montfort-sur-Meu (25 km from Rennes) and baptized the next day. His father, Jean-Baptiste Grignion, was a lawyer and his mother, daughter of a magistrate in Rennes. Louis would later add the name of Mary to his because of his great love for the Virgin. The addition “of Montfort” is not a title of nobility, but just the name of the place of his baptism.
From his early years he exhibited great qualities: keen intelligence, deep piety, facility to share what he learned in Sunday school with his brothers, sisters and comrades.
At 12, he was a student at the Jesuit College in Rennes. He proved to be a brilliant student of philosophy, very conscientious in his work. He liked to take time to help his brothers and sisters in their studies.
His Life in Rennes opened to him a world he did not know: the poor. Guided by a priest, he visited the poor in hospitals. Following the example of his mother, he helped those who dared not show themselves up.
One incident, among others: A schoolboy was badly dressed and everyone made fun of him. Louis-Marie felt bad about this and made a collection among his companions. He brought him to a tailor and said: “Sir, this is my brother and yours. I collected this amount in the class in order to get him a proper dress. If this amount is not enough, you please add the rest!” The latter carried out the job.
On the advice of his teachers, he joined the Congregation of the Blessed Virgin, which was an opportunity for him to enlighten his faith and his Marian devotion.
In these times of prayer and reflection, a thought struck his mind: to become a priest. He shared about this inner call to his parents, who were very happy about it.
In September 1693 he left his native place, on foot, to join the Seminary of St Sulpice in Paris.
The Apostolic Missionary
On June 5, 1700, Louis-Marie was ordained a priest. His desire was “to teach catechism to the poor of the countryside and to encourage youth to the devotion of the Blessed Virgin Mary”.
He was Chaplain of the General Hospital of Poitiers for 6 years. There he met Marie–Louise Trichet who took the religious habit on February 2, 1703 and became the first Daughter of Wisdom. He began to give some happiness to the 400 poor there, by going begging for food for them and by looking after the sick.
But in 1706, to put an end to the quarrels and jealousies, he left the hospital and went to Rome to visit Pope Clement XI, who said: “In France you have a large field for apostolate; teach with strength the Christian doctrine to the people and the children, make the renewal of the vows of baptism, and always work in perfect submission to the Bishops”. He received from the Pope a crucifix and the title of “Apostolic Missionary”.
Father de Montfort went about preaching missions and retreats for 10 years in western France: Brittany, Pays de la Loire, Vendee, Aunis and Charente.
Throughout his missionary life, he lived intensely united to Jesus and Mary, and his missions were a great success. He had an easy way with words, and the art of making his preaching practical and adapted to the people, the gift of touching hearts. He closed his missions by building a big Calvary in memory of the Lord’s love. The most famous is Pontchâteau, in Loire-Atlantic, which is even today a place of pilgrimage.
Montfort ensured the desire to perpetuate the results of the missions, through the establishment of confraternities, charitable schools…
From the beginning of his priestly ministry in December 1700, Louis-Marie envisioned a Congregation ready to go anywhere to teach catechism to the peasants, the poor, and the children. During his 15 years of missionary life, Montfort had priest collaborators like Mr. des Bastières or Gabriel Ollivier who accompanied him for several years, but were not so steady. Around 1712, in La Rochelle, he wrote a Rule for the Missionary Priests of the Company of Mary, a rule where teaching of catechism to the children has an important place. It was not until February 1715 that this Company had the first priest: Adrien Vatel (1680-1748), a young Norman priest, a former student of the Seminary of the Holy Spirit of Claude Poullart des Places, but he did not commit himself with vows until 1722. In September 1715, a young priest of the diocese of La Rochelle, René Mulot (1683-1749), despite his poor health, agreed to join Father de Montfort. He became the first Superior General of the Company of Mary in 1722.
In December 1701, Montfort met in a church at Poitiers, a young 17-year-old girl, Marie–Louise Trichet (1684-1759), who came to confession to him. Montfort had the intuition that God could do great things through her. He asked her in January 1703, to come and work at the General Hospital of Poitiers, as a servant of the poorest, and to join the Association of Wisdom led by a blind woman. On February 2, 1703, the daughter of the bourgeoisie received from Montfort a humble peasant’s gray coat and the name of Marie–Louise of Jesus. For 12 years, as a novice, she devoted herself in this general hospital which collected all those disinherited of life. In 1713, a companion joined her: Catherine Brunet. In 1715, Montfort asked Marie-Louise and Catherine to leave Poitiers for La Rochelle, to run a charitable school and to take care of the Saint-Louis Hospital. On August 1, 1715, Bishop Champflour approved the Rule of the Daughters of Wisdom written by Louis-Marie and reviewed by Marie-Louise. On August 22, 1715, Marie–Louise Trichet, Catherine Brunet, Marie Valleau and Mary Regnier made their first profession. Marie-Louise was appointed superior.
In 1705, in a church of Poitiers, Louis Marie asked a young man of 18, Mathurin Rangeard (1687-1760), to follow him. Mathurin became his constant companion in the missions and he continued this ministry until his death in 1760. Other brothers such as John, Peter, Nicolas, Jacques, Philippe, Gabriel, Louis, also joined Montfort to help him. At the Pentecost 1715, according to tradition, four of them, Louis, Philippe, Gabriel and Nicolas, pronounced their vows of obedience and poverty forming the nucleus of the Brothers of the Holy Spirit. Mathurin and Jacques, did not dare take that step, even though they were devout followers of Montfort. In 1715, Montfort, concerned with the pastoral plan of Mgr. Champflour, Bishop of La Rochelle, asked some brothers to work in the “charitable school” at La Rochelle (1715) and at Nantes. In his testament of 27 April 1716, Montfort gave a considerable place to the brothers and envisaged that some of them work in the charitable schools.
Death & Sainthood
The Death of a Saint: April 28, 1716
In mid-March 1716, Father de Montfort left on foot to the shrine of Our Lady of Ardilliers in Saumur, with some brothers, to entrust to Mary the future of his Congregations and to pray for missionaries.
Long walks, inadequate food, the physical and moral suffering, the little rest he took eventually got the better of his health, and though it was robust.
Immediately after the pilgrimage, Montfort left for Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre, to give a mission that was to begin on Palm Sunday, on April 5, 1716, assisted by Father René Mulot and his brother John, pastor of St. Pompain. He organized a special reception for Bishop Champflour. But after the welcome procession, Louis-Marie, who was exhausted, was forced to go to bed: he was suffering from acute pleurisy. In the afternoon, he was to preach at the Church. Montfort wanted to go. Father Mulot wanted to dissuade him, but the missionary insisted and got up to preach on the sweetness of Jesus: a sermon touching the faithful who were moved to tears.
On April 27, being fully aware of the state of his health, Montfort asked for making his confession and to receive the sacrament of the sick. He called Father Mulot and dictated his will. He entrusted to him to continue his apostolic mission and to take care of the brothers. Father Mulot felt too weak, in physical strength and in talent, but Montfort reassured him and said, squeezing his hand: “Have faith my son … I will pray for you.”