28 April 2016

S Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort

I gather that the 1962 Missal contains this Saint in its Appendix pro aliquibus locis; and the SSPX ORDO lists him for April 28 "en certes lieux". Today is the 300th Anniversary of his natale, his Heavenly Birthday; somebody assures me that the CTS has published a pamphlet in honour of the occasion. I have high regard for this Breton priest; hence he is gummed into my (1955) Altar Missal, available always when the rubrics allow me a Votive. This regard was shared by S John Paul II, who took his motto, totus tuus, from the Saint's writings. I first met S Louis when I was a little boy, in the Catholic Church in Clacton-on-Sea, where, most suitably, a fine statue, very movimento as the Saint strides forward, stands right beside the very Breton shrine of our Lady of Light. There's not much else that's Breton about Clacton! I wonder if the Confraternity of our Lady of Light still survives in that parish; if the Rosary is still said daily at that Shrine.

De Montfort comes from a Baroque devotional milieu which has been an object of criticism. Particularly out of favour has been the wholehearted style of his devotion to our Lady, which involves a consecration of servitus [slavery] to Mary. In fact, it wasn't too popular in his own time: there were unwholesome people around called Jansenists who sniffed at such things. Run a mile if you meet one!

Grounds for disdain are obvious: granted that the word doulos [slave] occurs frequently in Scripture, surely, so the condescending will remark, it is Jesus whose doulos, slave, S Paul so often proclaims himself to be. So is the douleia of Mary just another example of popery putting the Mother of God into the place reserved for her divine Son?

But remember the biblical verb hypotassesthai: to submit oneself, to order, to arrange, to subject oneself hypo, beneath, another, be that other a master, a spouse, a ruler, or whatever. New Testament religion is a million miles from the Protestantism which sees only a relationship between the one and the One. S Paul in fact calls upon us to submit ourselves in this way one to another: not just to Jesus (although all must be en Christoi). And since Mary alone is unflawed by Original Sin, she is the one to whom a Christian can be in hypotaxis without that relationship being flawed (as all other hypotaxeis except that to her Divine Son can run the risk of being) by unchristlike traits in the other.

S Louis is far from being the first Christian to have practised this Slavery of Mary. In his True Devotion to Mary he lists many predecessors in both East and West; to whom I would add my own favourite Bishop of Exeter, John de Grandisson. He concluded a life of servitus to Mary by having himself described on his lead coffin as Matris Misericordiae miserrimus servus. So clearly this devotion is Patrimony! Since the terms kyrios(a) and doulos(e) are correlative, the terms domina and kuria [Lady], common in Catholic and Orthodox Christianity (not to mention the more archaic Greek despoina), and the English term our Lady (BCP), imply the Montfortian attitude.

1 comment:

Ben Whitworth said...

Cf. the early medieval Irish personal name Maelmuire (=slave of Mary).