Under the Banner and Protection of Mary
by Alberto Rum
Within the context of the Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of our Christian faith, it is spiritually urgent for those with a devotion to Louis de Montfort to recall the Saint of the Totus Tuus.
On 5 June 1700, the Holy Year proclaimed by Innocent XII and concluded by Clement XI, Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort was ordained a priest. Those who saw him celebrating the Most Holy Eucharist at that time said they had seen "an angel at the altar".
Later, in April 1716, after 16 years of intense apostolic work, after he had fought the good fight and ended his race, the following praise was engraved in golden letters on his tombstone: "Sacerdos Christi, Christum moribus expressit, verbis ubique docuit" (A priest of Christ: his life reproduced Christ; his words preached Christ everywhere).
In fact, Louis Marie had joined the ranks of many priests who left behind them down the ages an outstanding example of holiness that was effectively described by the Second Vatican Council: "Rather than be held back by perils and hardships in their apostolic labours, they should rise to greater holiness, nourishing and fostering their action with an overflowing contemplation, for the delight of the entire Church of God" (Lumen Gentium, n. 41).
Deeply convinced of the lofty dignity and mission of priests, Fr Louis Marie did not hesitate to ask a Sister of his, a Benedictine Religious, to give him spiritual support: "Courage, my dear substitute! Persistently ask God, and Jesus the High Priest, to forgive the sins I have committed against his divine Majesty by profaning the Blessed Sacrament".
Constantly motivated by his resolution to make Christ come alive in his life, Montfort often addressed thoughts and brotherly exhortations to ministers of the Lord.
In some of the verses of his hymns, he says to them: "We follow a God who was poor and was crucified. Let us listen to his voice. Let us take to heart his concerns. We are called to be the 'watch-dogs' of the Lord, holy priests and full of zeal".
Motivated by his zeal for the Kingdom of God, young Louis Marie himself, almost immediately after his ordination to the priesthood, told his spiritual director on 6 December 1700 of a dream that he felt was urging him on and on: "Considering the needs of the Church, I cannot but pray ceaselessly, groaning, for a small, poor group of good priests to carry out this task [the evangelization of the poor], under the banner and the protection of the Virgin Most Holy".
And to make his dream come true in the best possible way, he invited "all good priests scattered throughout the Christian world", to live "on that holy mountain, verdant and fertile, solid and firm which is called Mary in whom God is wonderfully pleased and dwells for ever . . . On this mountain, Christ's dwelling place, they will learn the meaning of the eight Beatitudes from the very lips of Jesus Christ. On this mountain of God they will be transfigured with Christ as if on Mount Tabor, they will die with him as if on Calvary, they will ascend with him into Heaven from the Mount of Olives" (Preghiera infocata, n. 25).
To commemorate Grignion de Montfort's charism, we present the Hymn he composed in honour of the Blessed Eucharist.
First there is a "Canticle on the Blessed Sacrament for each of the days of the week": (70 strophes for an overall number of 540 verses). They deal respectively with Jesus' humbling of himself, with the treasures to be found in the Eucharist and the lessons that derive from them; and with the expectations and marvels of the Eucharistic Heart of Christ as well as with the oblivion and neglect that surrounds it.
In the Marian Hymn for Saturday, Fr Louis sheds light on the bond of union between Jesus and his Mother in the Eucharistic mystery.
There is then a Hymn on the "Longing for Communion" (11 strophes); another on "Honourable reparation to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar" (19 strophes), and a third on the Blessed Sacrament (14 strophes).
Finally, we point out the famous Hymn: "O, august Sacrament" (13 strophes), which has always found favour with popular piety in France and which a tradition, now more than 200 years old, attributes precisely to St Louis Marie de Montfort.
In Redemptoris Mater John Paul II writes: "The piety of the Christian people has always very rightly sensed a profound link between devotion to the Blessed Virgin and worship of the Eucharist: this is a fact that can be seen in the Liturgy of both the West and the East, in the traditions of the Religious Families, in the modern movements of spirituality, including those for youth, and in the pastoral practice of the Marian Shrines. Mary guides the faithful to the Eucharist" (n. 44).
St Louis de Montfort's Eucharist-Marian Hymn is wholly centred on three "motifs" and one prayer:
- Jesus institutes the Eucharist with special thoughts for his Mother.
- In the Eucharist, the Mother welcomes the Son with a holy disposition.
- The Christian learns from Mary to receive and to live Holy Communion.
First motif (strophes 1-5)
"Alone, Jesus cannot leave Mary, / so strong is the love that binds them. / Thus, about to die, / he instituted the Eucharist. / He wanted it to be a consolation to Mary, here on earth, / after the Ascension. / For nine months in her pure womb / he found such comfort that many other times / he desired to rest there in silence, and offer himself to the Eternal Father, / laid upon her Heart as upon an altar. / Rejected by the hearts of the wicked, / in his Mother's holy Heart / Jesus finds perfect honour: / he receives praise and glory / in the songs so sweet and so sublime / that she alone can sing. / Enfolded in Mary's chaste embrace / Jesus enjoys sweet repose; / and in the fire of her love, / tastes ineffable joy. / But it is her humility above all that most attracts him and wins his Greatness. / Overflowing with gratitude, Jesus / offers her the gift of all his treasures; / he nourishes her with his own Body / that once it was she who fed. / As a Child she reared him, / henceforth, he bathes her in his divine Blood".
Second motif (strophes 6-9)
"What enjoyment, / what caresses / Mary receives when / she receives the Son, her love / and her only tenderness. / Then her heart exults / in Jesus, her Saviour. / Her holy heart is afire, / a burning bush all aflame / that always and only in God / finds its existence and life. / It burns without being consumed, / for it can never love too much. / In the mystery of the Eucharist / two hearts form one, / all things are shared between them: / the Son is all in the Mother, / and in the Mother alone appears / Jesus, her Son and her Love. / Through our Saviour then / Mary intercedes / for forgiveness for the sinner. / Jesus is her Son, she is his Mother. / Her Mother's Heart / disarms the hand of the Lord".
Third motif (strophes 10-11)
"To Christians the Virgin Mary / shows the sacred dispositions / for Holy Communion. / Let us imitate this perfect model / to pay perfect honour / to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. / From you, O Virgin Mary, come / the Body and Blood of the Eucharist: / so sublime a mystery / that the angels in Heaven envy us. / May you be blessed in every place / for this your precious gift".
Prayer (strophes 12-13)
"Wonderful Mother! Instil / your virtues in our hearts, / so that sweet Jesus may find / there a pleasant abode. / Instil in us your love, / thus will we love Jesus with your own Heart. / Jesus! Your Holy Mother / is our perfect supplement. / Come, enter us swiftly / to unite us to the Father. Indeed, come to the heart of Mary: / she will compensate for our lack of fervour. Amen".
For this Eucharistic-Marian Canticle, Fr Louis Marie de Montfort had collected abundant material in a thick notebook [Cahier de notes] that has not yet been published.
Moreover, the Hymn presented here is perfectly in keeping with the last pages of the Treatise of "True Devotion to Mary" (VD, 266-273), in which the Saint suggests the way of "living consecration to Mary in Holy Communion".
The poet who sings the praises of Our Lady ends his pages with a warm exhortation addressed personally to each one of his readers:
"There are an infinity of other thoughts which the Holy Spirit furnishes, and will furnish you, if you are in complete recollection, mortified and faithful to this grand and sublime devotion that I have taught you.
"But always remember that the more you allow Mary to act in your Communion, the more Jesus will be glorified; and the more you allow Mary to act for Jesus and Jesus to act in Mary, the more profoundly humble you will be.
"You will listen to them in peace and in silence, without seeking to see, taste or feel; for the just man lives throughout by faith, and particularly by Holy Communion, which is an action of faith: 'My just man shall live by faith'" (Treatise of True Devotion to Mary, n. 273).
© L'Osservatore Romano
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