THE POPES AND SAINT LOUIS MARIE GRIGNION DE MONTFORT
In the last two hundred years, Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort’s teachings
through the “Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin” have been converted
into a common reference and eloquent testimony of the Supreme Pontiffs. This small
and simple work, which is rich in doctrine, has implicitly influenced the writings and
documents of the Holy Fathers, who have expressed their gratitude to the saint by
encouraging the Church to deepen Her Marian spirituality.
Pope Leo XIII
known as the “Pope of the Rosary,” beatified
the Venerable Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort in 1888. Profoundly influenced by the
Treatise, he decreed a plenary indulgence for those who practice the Monfortian Marian
consecration. His profound Marian love brought the Pontiff to write a total of eleven
encyclical letters 1 to spread the devotion to the Holy Rosary and this preeminent work of
After his beatification, the doctrine of Saint Louis Marie turned into an object of
study and inspiration for the Church, and above all, for the numerous missionary
congregations born between the end of the 19 th century and the beginning of the 20 th
1 Supremi apostolatus officio, on devotion to the Holy Rosary (September 1, 1883). Superiore anno, on the recitation of the Rosary (August 30,
1884). Vi è ben noto, on the inclusion of the Holy Rosary in daily life (September 20, 1887). Octobrimense, on devotion to the Holy Rosary,
especially in the month of October (September 22, 1891). Magnae Dei Matris, on devotion to the Holy Rosary (September 8, 1892). Laetitiae
sanctae, commending devotion to the Holy Rosary (September 8, 1893). Iucunda semper expectatione, on the recitation of the Rosary
(September 8, 1894). Adiutricem, on the devotion to the Virgin Mary (September 5, 1895). Fidentem pium que animum, on the recitation of the
Rosary (September 20, 1896). Augustissimae Virginis Mariae, on the devotion to the Virgin Mary (September 12, 1897). Diuturni temporis, on
the recitation of the Rosary (September 5, 1898).
Saint Pius X
adopted a great part of Montfort’s Marian
language in his encyclical about the Immaculate Conception, “Ad diem illum laetissimum,” writing how it is through Mary that we obtain knowledge of Christ, and it is always through Her that we easily obtain life of which Christ is the source and origin. And so, he passionately animated the faithful to follow the way of Marian devotion because he
himself had experienced its power. In fact, he guaranteed an apostolic blessing to whoever read the Treatise and granted a plenary indulgence in perpetuum (perpetually) to whoever prayed the Montfortian formula of consecration.
Venerable Pius XII
canonized then Blessed Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort on July 20, 1947. Praising the new saint, the Pope said: “His [de Montfort’s] great secret for drawing souls and giving them over to Jesus, is devotion to Mary. This devotion is the source of all his activity; the reason for all his confidence. And it would have been impossible for him to find a more telling weapon for the times in which he lived. To Jansenism with its joyless austerity, its sombre apprehensions, its proud depressions, he opposes the filial love of the devout servant of Mary; a love which is at once confident, ardent, expansive and effective for Mary.”
In the Montfortian spirit of “total consecration” and in response to Our Lady of Fatima, Pius XII wrote an apostolic letter on how to consecrate the whole world, and in particular the whole people of Russia, to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mother of God. 2
2 Sacro Vergente Anno. The Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary (July 7, 1952).
Saint John XXIII
1958 - 1963
the “good Pope”, for whom nothing was
more important after the Holy Mass than the Rosary. Each day he prayed it entirely
meditating over each mystery. He once said: “I’m an adherent of this devotion, above all when it’s understood and learned well. The true Rosary is the meditated Rosary. How much sweetness and strength is there in this prayer!” His constant desire was to promote the recitation of the Rosary, and so during his pontificate, he wrote an encyclical 3 and two apostolic letters 4 about this devotion. He chose the feast of Mary Mother of God, October 11, 1962 5 to inaugurate the Second Vatican Council.
3 Grata Recordatio. September 26, 1959. Saint John XXIII promoted the recitation of the Rosary to ask for peace and to pray for the
missions, as well as for the development of the Second Vatican Council.
4 “L’ottobre che ci sta innanzi!” September 28, 1960. The letter of Saint Pope John XXIII in which he asked for the recitation of this prayer;
and “Il Religioso Convengo,” September 29, 1961.
5 Before the feast was celebrated on this date. The Church translated it to January 1 with the title of “Mary, Mother of God.”
Saint Paul VI
was a great devotee to the Virgin Mary, so
much so that he participated in Marian congresses and Mariological meetings, visited
various sanctuaries of Our Lady, and published three Marian encyclicals. 6 In addition, he expressed the Virgin Mary’s privileged place by naming her as Mary Most Holy Mother of the Church during the closing of the Second Vatican Council.
He affirmed that Mary’s divine maternity is the foundation of her special relation with Christ and her presence in the economy of salvation. This maternity also constitutes the principle foundation of Mary’s relation with the Church, because she is the Mother of the One, who from the first instant of the Incarnation in her virginal womb became head of His Mystical Body, the Church. Mary, then, as Mother of Christ, is also Mother of the faithful and all priests; that is, of the Church. 7
6 Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, August 6, 1964. Refers to the “devotion to the Mother of God as of paramount importance in living the life of
7 Ref. Treatise on the True Devotion of the Blessed Virgin, n. 31, 32.
Saint John Paul II
1978 - 2005
Had an unlimited love for the Blessed Virgin, as he himself recounted: “I was already convinced that Mary brings us to Christ, but in that period I began to understand that Christ also brings us to His Mother. At one point I had feared that if my devotion to Mary 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 on the 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... 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… in this way, thanks to Saint Louis, I began to discover all the riches of Marian devotion.” 8
Resulting from his life of Marian devotion, from the beginning of his pontificate, John Paul II would pray the Rosary each first Saturday of the month together with the faithful in the Vatican. Furthermore, with his inexhaustible creativity, he enriched the Rosary with the luminous mysteries. Near the end of his life, he celebrated the Year of the
Rosary which obtained spiritual renewal and many devotional fruits. In every trip or pilgrimage made, he also scheduled a visit to the most important Marian sanctuaries. He
wanted an image of the Virgin to be shown in the apostolic palace above Saint Peter’s Square and the Pope never let a moment pass by without speaking of Mary, and thus dedicated to her the encyclical Redemptoris Mater.
As is well known, the motto which he chose before his episcopal ordination was Totus tuus. The future Pope took these words from the prayer of the great Marian saint, Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, who in turn took it from Saint Bonaventure (or from the pseudo-Bonaventure). The Pope not only said that prayer each day, but also wrote a passage about it on each page of the autograph texts of his homilies, discourses, and encyclicals in the upper right part of the page. On the first page he put the beginning of the prayer:
Totus tuus ego sum,
“I am all yours;”
on the second page, Et omnia mea tua sunt,
“and all I have is yours;”
on the third, Accipio Te in mea omnia,
“I take you for my all;”
on the fourth, Praebe mihi cor tuum,
“give me your heart.”
Like so, it continued on each page, repeating each invocation, if it was necessary, until the end of the text. In the Secretary of State’s archives there are thousands of these pages where John Paul II so intimately and touchingly manifested his love for the Blessed Virgin Mary. This unlimited love for Mary was born of the love which he had for Christ. As we can see in the example of the holy fathers, Saint Louis Marie Grignion de
Montfort’s Marian spirituality has increased its vigor over the years and continues being
a sure path for us to reach a deeper union with Christ.
8 John Paul II, Gift and Mystery, Paulines Publications Africa, p. 42.