Monday, April 28, 2008

Pope John Paul II, St. Louis de Montfort, and Matt Talbot

Not only were the writings of St. Louis de Montfort influential for Matt Talbot, Pope John Paul II noted their importance to him in his youth. This quote from Pope John Paul II may help those who are concerned that a devotion to Mary may compromise their worship of Christ.

As far as I am concerned, the reading of this book [True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin by de Montfort] was a great help to me in my youth: "I found the answer to my doubts," which were due to a fear that worship given to Mary "if developed too much, might end by compromising the primacy of the worship of Christ" (My Vocation, Gift and Mystery, pg. 42). Under the wise guidance of St. Louis Marie de Montfort, I understood that, if we live the mystery of Mary in Christ, there is no such risk. This saint's Mariological thought, in fact, "is rooted in the Mystery of the Trinity and in the truth of the Incarnation of the Word of God" (ibid.)." This quote is from the letter of Pope John Paul II referred to below ( text of this letter).

Commentary on the Letter of Pope John Paul II


On 8 December 2003, Pope John Paul II wrote to the Religious of the Montfortian Congregations, a letter to commemorate the 160th anniversary of the publication in 1843 of the "Traité de la Vraie Dévotion à la Sainte Vierge" (True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin). In the letter he reflects on certain aspects of the teaching of St. Louis Marie de Montfort concerning consecration of oneself to Jesus through Mary. See the text of this letter.

St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, all his life, practised and preached in his missions and retreats a form of devotion to Our Blessed Lady which he called "the most perfect devotion" to her, and which is often referred to as "the Holy Slavery". About Autumn 1712, he set down his teaching on this devotion in a book which has become, as Pope John Paul says in this letter, a classic of Marian spirituality: "True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin". After St Louis Marie's death in 1716, his followers in the Company of Mary continued to make this devotion a major part of their teaching and preaching, but, for some reason, they never thought to publish his book, although they possessed the manuscript. They did, however, value the manuscript sufficiently that, when the French Revolution brought chaos to the Vendée region where the Mother-house of the Company of Mary was, they hid it, along with other precious papers, in a field nearby. After the revolutionary fury had abated, they retrieved these papers and put them back in the library of the Mother-house, but then, it seems, forgot about them. It was only in 1842 that one of the members of the Company of Mary, doing some research in the library, came across the old manuscript and recognised the handwriting of St. Louis Marie. The manuscript was quickly authenticated, and in 1843 was published for the first time as "Traité de la Vraie Dévotion à la Sainte Vierge" (Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin).

Some 20 years later, in 1862, Fr. Frederick William Faber, of the London Oratory, made the first English translation of the book and had it published in London. There have been a number of English editions published since that time, in the United States as well as in Gt. Britain. In 1883, Bishop Herbert Vaughan, at that time the Bishop of Salford in England, and the founder of the Mill Hill Missionaries, wrote a letter recommending St. Louis Marie's book to all the clergy of the diocese. When he was transferred to Westminster Archdiocese in 1892, he did the same for his clergy of that diocese.

St. Louis Marie's book has been an inspiration to many thousands of people throughout the 160 years since its first publication. Our present Holy Father has several times acknowledged its influence on him, as he does again in this letter. It is well known that Frank Duff, the founder of the Legion of Mary in the 1920s, made the "Holy Slavery" the basis of the Legion's spirituality. Others in the English-speaking world who have been deeply influenced by it include Matt Talbot, Mother Mary Potter (foundress of the Little Company of Mary), Eddie Doherty and Catherine de Hueck Doherty (these two the founders of the Madonna House apostolate based in Combermere, Ontario).