LETTER OF JOHN PAUL II TO THE MONTFORT RELIGIOUS FAMILY

1. A work destined to become a classic of Marian spirituality was published 160 years ago. St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort wrote the Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin at the beginning of the 1700s, but the manuscript remained practically unknown for more than a century. When, almost by chance, it was at last discovered in 1842 and published in 1843, the work was an instant success, proving extraordinarily effective in spreading the “true devotion” to the Most Holy Virgin. I myself, in the years of my youth, found reading this book a great help. “There I found the answers to my questions”, for 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” (Dono e Mistero, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1996; English edition: Gift and Mystery, Paulines Publications Africa, p. 42). Under the wise guidance of St Louis Marie, I realized that if one lives the mystery of Mary in Christ this risk does not exist. In fact, this Saint’s Mariological thought “is rooted in the mystery of the Trinity and in the truth of the Incarnation of the Word of God” (ibid.).

Since she came into being, and especially in her most difficult moments, the Church has contemplated with special intensity an event of the Passion of Jesus Christ that St John mentions: “Standing by the Cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!’. Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!’. And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (Jn 19: 25-27). Throughout its history, the People of God has experienced this gift of the crucified Jesus: the gift of his Mother. Mary Most Holy is truly our Mother who accompanies us on our pilgrimage of faith, hope and charity towards an ever more intense union with Christ, the one Saviour and Mediator of salvation (cf. Constitution Lumen Gentiumnn. 60, 62).

As is well known, my episcopal coat of arms symbolically illustrates the Gospel text quoted above; the motto Totus tuus is inspired by the teaching of St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort (cf. Gift and Mystery, pp. 42-43; Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 15). These two words express total belonging to Jesus through Mary: “Tuus totus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt”, St Louis Marie wrote, and he translates his words: “I am all yours, and all that I have is yours, O most loving Jesus, through Mary, your most holy Mother” (Treatise on True Devotion, n. 233). This Saint’s teaching has had a profound influence on the Marian devotion of many of the faithful and on my own life. It is a lived teaching of outstanding ascetic and mystical depth, expressed in a lively and passionate style that makes frequent use of images and symbols. However, the considerable development of Marian theology since St Louis Marie’s time is largely due to the crucial contribution made by the Second Vatican Council. The Montfort teaching, therefore, which has retained its essential validity should be reread and reinterpreted today in the light of the Council.

In this Letter I would like to share with you, Men and Women Religious of the Montfort Families, a meditation on certain passages from the writings of St Louis Marie that may help us in these difficult times to nourish our faith in the maternal mediation of the Mother of the Lord.

“Ad Iesum per Mariam’ To Jesus through Mary

2. St Louis Marie proposes the loving contemplation of the mystery of the Incarnation with unusual effectiveness. Authentic Marian devotion is Christocentric. Indeed, as the Second Vatican Council recalled, “Devoutly meditating on her [Mary] and contemplating her in the light of the Word made man, the Church reverently penetrates more deeply into the great mystery of the Incarnation” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentiumn. 65).

The love of God through union with Jesus Christ is the purpose of every genuine devotion, since Christ, as St Louis Marie wrote, “is our only Master who has to teach us; our only Lord on whom we ought to depend; our only Head to whom we must be united; our only Model to whom we should conform ourselves; our only Physician who can heal us; our only Shepherd who can feed us; our only Way who can lead us; our only Truth whom we must believe; our only Life who can animate us; and our only All in all things who can satisfy us” (Treatise on True Devotion, n. 61).

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