The late Pope John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla), now declared Blessed, several times acknowledged his indebtedness to St. Louis Marie and his spirituality. The papal motto he chose on his election as Pope in 1978, Totus Tuus, was, he acknowledged, inspired by the teaching of St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. He says as much in a letter he wrote to the Montfortian Congregations on 8 December 2003 on the occasion of the 160th anniversary of the publication of St. Louis Marie's book, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
'One hundred and sixty years ago a work was published which was destined to become a classic of Marian spirituality. Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort had written True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin at the beginning of the eighteenth century, but the manuscript had remained practically unknown for more than a century. When at length, almost by chance, it was discovered in 1842 and then published in 1843, it had an immediate success, proving to be a work of extraordinary efficaciousness in spreading "true devotion" to the Blessed Virgin. As far as I am concerned, the reading of this book 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.). ...
As is well-known, in my episcopal arms, which are a symbolic illustration of the gospel text we have just quoted, the motto Totus tuus takes its inspiration from the teaching of St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort (cf. My Vocation, Gift and Mystery, pg 28; Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 15). These two words express total belonging to Jesus through Mary: "Tuus totus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt," writes St. Louis Marie, and he translates: "I am all yours and all I have is yours, O dear Jesus, through Mary, your holy Mother" (True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, 233). The teaching of this saint has had a profound influence on the Marian devotion of many of the faithful, and on my own life.'
As can be seen, Pope John Paul had already said the same in his account of his own vocation: Gift and Mystery, (1996) pgs. 28-31:
'When I was in Cracow, in Debniki, I joined the "Living Rosary" group in the Salesian parish. There was a special devotion there to Mary, Help of Christians. In Debniki, at the time when my priestly vocation was developing, under the influence, as I mentioned, of Jan Tyranowski, a change took place in my understanding of devotion to the Mother of God. I was already convinced that Mary leads us to Christ, but at that time I began to realize also that Christ leads us to his Mother. At one point I began to question my devotion to Mary, believing that, if it became too great, it might end up compromising the supremacy of the worship owed to Christ. At that time, I was greatly helped by a book by Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort entitled Treatise of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. There I found the answers to my questions. Yes, Mary does bring us closer to Christ; she does lead us to him, provided that we live her mystery in Christ. This treatise by Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort can be a bit disconcerting, given its rather florid and baroque style, but the essential theological truths which it contains are undeniable. The author was an outstanding theologian. His Mariological thought is rooted in the mystery of the Trinity and in the truth of the Incarnation of the Word of God.
I then came to understand why the Church says the Angelus three times a day. I realized how important are the words of that prayer: "The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary and she conceived of the Holy Spirit. ... Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done unto me according to your word. ... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. ..." Such powerful words! They express the deepest reality of the greatest event ever to take place in human history.
This is the origin of the motto Totus Tuus. The phrase comes from Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. It is an abbreviation of a more complete form of entrustment to the Mother of God which runs like this: Totus Tuus ego sum et omnia mea Tua sunt. Accipio Te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor Tuum, Maria [I am all yours, and all I have is yours. I take you for my all. Lend me your heart, Mary].
And so, thanks to Saint Louis, I began to discover the immense riches of Marian devotion from new perspectives. As a child, for example, I would listen to the singing of the "Hours of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary" in the parish church, but only afterwards did I realize their rich theological and biblical content. So too with popular folksongs, such as the Polish Christmas carols and the Lenten Lamentations on the Passion of Jesus Christ, which highlight the soul's dialogue with the Sorrowful Mother.
These spiritual experiences were fundamental in shaping that journey of prayer and coutemplation which gradually brought me to the priesthood, and which would later continue to guide me in all the events of my life. Even as a child, and still more as a priest and Bishop, it would lead me to make frequent Marian pilgrimages to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. Kalwaria is the principal Marian shrine of the Archdiocese of Cracow. I would go there often, walking along its paths in solitude and presenting to the Lord in prayer the various problems of the Church, especially in the difficult times during the struggle against communism. As I look back, I see how all things are connected: today as yesterday, we find ourselves no less deeply caught up in the same mystery.
He made the same acknowledgement in Crossing the Threshold of Hope, (1994) pgs 212-13:
'TOTUS TUUS. This phrase is not only an expression of piety, or simply an expression of devotion. It is more. During the Second World War, while I was employed as a factory worker, I came to be attracted to Marian devotion. At first, it had seemed to me that I should distance myself a bit from the Marian devotion of my childhood, in order to focus more on Christ. Thanks to Saint Louis of Montfort, I came to understand that true devotion to the Mother of God is actually Christocentric, indeed, it is very profoundly rooted in the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity, and the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption.
And so, I rediscovered Marian piety, this time with a deeper understanding. This mature form of devotion to the Mother of God has stayed with me over the years, bearing fruit in the encyclicals Redemptoris Mater and Mulieris Dignitatem.'
And in 1996, on the occasion of his visit to France, Pope John Paul paid a special visit to the tomb of St. Louis Marie in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, where, in a homily addressed to all the various religious gathered to celebrate Vespers with him, he said:
'From age to age, the successors of the Apostles and countless disciples have worked to fulfil this mission entrusted to them by the Lord. In this region St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort was one of the Lord's most remarkable disciples. I am happy to begin my pilgrimage on French soil under the patronage of this outstanding saint. You know that I am very indebted to him and to his Treatise [on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin].'
Several other Popes of the XIXth and XXth centuries could be seen as deeply influenced by the teachings of St. Louis Marie:
Frank Duff was an Irishman, born in Dublin in 1889. Having been an active member of the Society of St Vincent de Paul for a number of years, and thus become very much aware of the appalling poverty in which many people in Dublin were forced to live, in 1917 (at the age of 28) he came to know St Louis Marie de Montfort and his True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, a work brought to his attention by the importance of Mary in the life of the laity. All these influences resulted in the founding, in 1921, aided by a group of Catholic women and Fr. Michael Toher of the Dublin Archdiocese, of the Legion of Mary, which became henceforth Frank Duff's life's work.
From the start, the spirituality of the Legion of Mary rested on that of St Louis Marie de Montfort, especially as set forth in True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Frank Duff himself said, in a talk to the Montfort Fathers in Bay Shore, USA, in 1956: "The Legion of Mary owes, you might say, everything to the Montfort devotion." And the official Handbook of the Legion (which governs all its organisation and practice) says, in no. 46: "It can be safely asserted that no Saint has played a greater part in the development of the Legion than he. The Handbook is full of his spirit. The prayers re-echo his very words. He is really the tutor of the Legion: thus invocation is due to him by the Legion almost as a matter of moral obligation." And in chapter 27, The Duty of Legionaries towards Mary, we read that "Legionaries should undertake Montfort's True Devotion to Mary," for the Legion of Mary strives to identify itself, so to speak, with the Montfort way of spiritual life. Cardinal Suenens (see below) has stated that "the Handbook of the Legion of Mary is a striking follow-up of the Treatise on True Devotion. It takes up the same doctrine and carries it over into the field of effective and concrete action, within the reach of all men of good will."
Frank Duff died in Dublin in 1980, at the age of 81. In July 1996, the Cause of his Beatification was introduced in Rome.
Edel Quinn was an Irish lay missionary, born in 1907. She wished to join the Poor Clares, but was prevented by tuberculosis from doing so. Despite her illness, she joined the Legion of Mary in Dublin around 1927. Thoroughly imbued with the Legion spirituality, she left in 1936 to become a 'Legion Envoy' in Africa, where she established the Legion of Mary in what are today Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Tanzania. She died in Nairobi, Kenya in 1944. The Cause for her Beatification was introduced in Rome in 1956. She was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II in 1994.
Veronica O'Brien was an Irish lay-woman, born in 1905, who became for a time a religious Sister of the Congregation of Saint Clotilde, but eventually realised that this was not her vocation. Then, in 1938, she came into contact with the Legion of Mary in London, where, through the good offices of Father (later Cardinal) Heenan, she met Frank Duff, the founder of the Legion. It became evident that Veronica and Frank Duff shared the same desires and aspirations, and a short time later, Frank asked Veronica to go to France to help establish the Legion of Mary in France, where she landed at the beginning of 1939. After a number of false starts, Veronica went to Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre to visit the tomb of St Louis Marie de Montfort, to place this new venture under his protection. After many difficulties (made more difficult by the outbreak of war and the invasion of France in 1940), she succeeded in establishing the first praesidium of the Legion in France in Nevers in 1940. She herself attributed this success to St Louis Marie de Montfort, with whom she had pleaded to establish the Legion there. When the war was over, Veronica went to Belgium to establish the Legion of Mary there, and the first praesidium was established in Liège in 1946. Not long after this, authorisation was sought for the establishment of the Legion in the diocese of Mechelen (Malines), where an Auxiliary Bishop was Leon-Joseph Suenens, later to be made Archbishop of Mechelen and a Cardinal. A short time later Bishop Suenens met Veronica O'Brien in Paris, and that was the beginning of a long association and collaboration between the two, which is described by Cardinal Suenens himself in his book The Hidden Hand of God. The Life of Veronica O'Brien and our Common Apostolate, Veritas, Dublin 1994.
Cardinal Leon-Joseph Suenens was born in 1904 in Ixelles, Belgium. Ordained to the priesthood in 1927, and consecrated as Auxiliary Bishop of Mechelen in 1945, he took as his episcopal motto: 'In the Holy Spirit, with Mary'. He always had a strong devotion to Mary, and several times spoke of his admiration for St. Louis Marie; for example, in his book A New Pentecost? (New York, 1975, pg. 206) he writes: "In his famous Treatise on True Devotion to Mary, St. Louis Marie de Montfort has written some outstanding pages about the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Mary. The saint's theological formulations may surprise us--his wording derived from the period in which he lived--but we are indebted to him for a spiritual experience that has been the source of much grace."
The collaboration between Cardinal Suenens and Veronica O'Brien was influenced by many factors, including his and her interest in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and it culminated in the FIAT Association, which grew from small beginnings in a group known as Family International Apostolic Team established around 1979 in Paray-le-Monial in France with the encouragement of both the Cardinal and Veronica. FIAT does not see itself, however, as another organisation, but rather as a whole range of "initiatives" that have as their aim to help Christians to live out their primary baptismal commitment in the spirit of Mary, whose "fiat" (Yes) enabled her to co-operate with her Son in the salvation of the world.
The FIAT Association is largely behind the International Meetings in Saint-Laurent (RISL - Rencontres Internationales à Saint-Laurent), which take place every three years and bring together groups and individuals who have been influenced deeply by the spirituality of St. Louis Marie de Montfort.
Cardinal Suenens died in 1996; Veronica in 1998.
Frederick William Faber (1814-1863) was a convert to Catholicism, having previously been an Anglican vicar, who wrote many popular hymns. He was the founder of the Oratory in London, with the encouragement of Blessed John Henry Newman. His own intense personal devotion to the Blessed Virgin led him to make the first translation into English of St. Louis Marie's True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, which appeared in 1863, the year of Faber's death, although he had first become acquainted with the life and spirit of its author in 1846 or 1847, as he says in his preface. Here also he says: "I cannot think of a higher work or a broader vocation for anyone than the simple spreading of this peculiar devotion of the Venerable Grignion de Montfort."
Cardinal Henry Vaughan, born 1832, came from an extraordinary Catholic family from Herefordshire in England. He was one of 13 siblings: of them, all five girls became nuns, while six of the eight boys became priests, and four of these became bishops. Henry himself was ordained to the priesthood in 1854 and, after several years as rector of St Edmund's College, Ware, he founded St. Joseph's Society for the Foreign Missions (commonly known as the Mill Hill Missionaries) in 1866. In 1872 he was appointed Bishop of Salford, and after twenty years there he was appointed to succeed Cardinal Manning as Archbishop of Westminster in 1892, being made a cardinal a year later.
Both as Bishop of Salford and as Archbishop of Westminster, Vaughan recommended all his priests to read St. Louis Marie's True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and to consecrate themselves to Jesus through Mary according to St. Louis Marie's teaching. Cardinal Vaughan died in 1903.
Mary Cecilia Potter (1847-1913) was the founder of the Little Company of Mary, a religious congregation of women, started in Nottingham, England, in 1877. Mary was engaged to be married to a young man, Godfrey King, in 1867, but the engagement was broken off by Mary when, after reading a number of books of devotion supplied to her by Godfrey himself, she felt that she was being called to the religious life. Some time later she began reading Father Faber's translation of St. Louis Marie's True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and although she did not at first like or appreciate it, she kept going back to it, and eventually made her total consecration to Jesus through Mary, and the daily living of this consecration would be the secret of her spiritual progress from that day forward.