Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Feast Day! St. Louis de Montfort

Today is the memorial day of St. Louis de Montfort, a Brittany-born seventeenth century French priest whom we know around here as "St. Louey" because we are Hoosiers and funny things happen to furrin* words when you intone each and every syllable through your nose.

Anyway, St. Louis (Lou-WEE, please) is one of my favorite new saints because of this most amazing book I've been reading. I've had it forever, knowing that it was an important book, but had never yet managed to crack it open because, well, Survivor was on. Now you know the truth, but let me just point out that you can't say anything to me that I haven't already said to myself. Twice.

The book is The Secret of the Rosary and I think it is probably one of the best books of Christian philosophy and prayer I have ever read. Not that I'm any kind of scholar or anything, but I did read my way into the Catholic Church, so I do have some experience in this area. I read books that talked about the rosary in glowing terms of how it can lead to a greater depth of relationship with Jesus and advancement in the spiritual life and I read books that dismissed it as nothing short of the blasphemous, scandalous, idolatrous vain repetitions of godless heathens.

As I contemplated these two opinions, I couldn't help but notice that the authors who disparaged the rosary sounded like they wouldn't recognize one if you pressed it into their sweaty paws and murmured, "Prayer beads." And they certainly didn't seem willing at all to recognize that the rosary is a means of meditating on the great events of the life of Jesus as experienced by the Holy Mother.

If there's anything I can't stand, it's the injust spouting of misinformation and half-truths by the ignorant, so the rosary won another devoted follower.

My family's sixth anniversary of becoming Catholic happened at Easter Vigil, so in all these years, I don't know what has taken me so long to get around to St. Louis de Montfort's famous book, but now that I've started reading it, I gobble it up section by section, ponder what I've read, and then go back to read it again. The Secret of the Rosary is a very slim little book, but it is so rich, so full of life, that you can't just sit down with some popcorn and treat it as you would something by John Grisham.

The thing I like best about it is that it's both practical and mystical, just like the Catholic Church. St. Louis writes in the flowery style common to his era, and while that seemed a bit quaint and sweetly funny at first, it didn't take me long to perceive the fervent personality of this great saint and scholar shining through -- you almost feel that St. Louis could be sitting across the table from you at Starbucks, personally encouraging you to dig deeper in your prayer life. It is an informative, inspiring and completely lovely little book written by a beautiful priest, teacher and theologian.

St. Louis de Montfort died two hundred ninety-three years ago today of natural causes in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sovre, France. One of the huge parishes in Fishers is dedicated to him. Here's a really nice article about him from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Happy feast day, St. Louis de Montfort. Please pray for us all.

*Hoosier pronunciation of the word "foreign."

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