Pope Francis receives participants of 38th General Chapter of Monfort Missionaries in the Vatican. Pope Francis receives participants of 38th General Chapter of Monfort Missionaries in the Vatican.  (Vatican Media)

Be embraced by Mary's tender arms, Pope tells Monfort Missionaries

Pope Francis urges Monfort Missionaries to be embraced by the Blessed Mother's tender arms, and to witness this tenderness to others, as he welcomes them to the Vatican for their 38th General Chapter.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Be embraced by Mary's tender arms, and exemplify her loving witness, Pope Francis told Monfort Missionaries in the Vatican on Saturday on the occasion of their 38th General Chapter.

The Company of Mary, also known as the Montfort Missionaries, is an international Religious Congregation in the Church, dedicated to the establishment of the Kingdom of God under the patronage of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. It was founded at the beginning of the 18th Century by Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. Today, it numbers just under 1,000 priests and brothers, who carry out their mission in around 30 different countries.

The Pope expressed his joy to receive them on the occasion of their Chapter, which falls on the anniversaries of the birth and canonisation of their Founder, and has as its theme, "Daring to risk for God and humanity. Our creative fidelity'. 

"It is not a mummified fidelity, it is creative," the Pope insisted, noting these words that recall the values that animated St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort at the beginning of their history.

Pope Francis addresses Company of Mary
Pope Francis addresses Company of Mary

The Holy Father recalled the saint lived in a time marked by demanding challenges for the Church and society. Despite the challenges, he never gave up, continuing to preach and promote the love of true Wisdom, through devotion to Mary, until his death at only 43 years of age, in the Vendée, during a mission. "Of his courage, you bear witness to the fruits," the Pope said.

Even today there is no shortage of pastoral challenges, he observed, decrying widely-spread, individualism, relativism, consumerism and hedonism. In the face of all this, the Pope expressed gratitude to St Louis-Marie for having left the missionaries with a programme of life and action that is always relevant, to seek God's real Wisdom, denounce false 'wisdom,' and always walk accompanied by Mary.

Three values to witness

The Pope urged the missionaries to follow this model, and promote the values of welcome, internationality, and tenderness.

The Gospel, he highlighted, shows Mary as the one who, "in order to welcome Jesus, Wisdom of the Father, into herself, with courage, accepted to completely change her life, her habits, her dreams and her choices." 

“Welcoming was a fundamental dimension of Mary's existence and in her mission.”

The Pope stressed that our world is in great need of welcoming, and that urgent responses are required.

This value, the Pope observed, is enriched by internationality, multiculturalism and intergenerational dialogue, which, he emphasized, must be treasured, cultivated and spread. These virtues, the Holy Father said, flourish, at every level, when people feel loved and respected.

"Montfort taught us this by pointing us to the tender arms of Mary, who welcomes us all as her children," he said.

Be embraced by Mary's tenderness

“Let yourselves be embraced by her maternal embrace and with the same tenderness embrace one another.”

"This will help you and the people you meet to bring out and share the best in themselves and, in the light of that sharing, to discern what the Lord is asking of you for your future," he said, adding, "If you want to be courageous and creative, make Mary's tenderness your own and give it to everyone, always!"

"But, tenderness is not a sweet you buy there ... tenderness is sweet, but it is strong. Having a tender heart indicates strength in the heart to become tender. Do not forget that tenderness is one of the three traits of God. God is close, tender and compassionate."

The Pope exhorted the missionaries to bring forward these three traits of God.

Courage of Fr. Olivier Maire cost him his life

The Pope went on to praise the witness of Father Olivier Maire, a Montfort Missionary, who died "for having welcomed into the community a man who had made a mistake, a very problematic person, to whom, however, he wanted to give a roof and hope for the future."

“His generosity and courage cost him his life, for a crazy and inexplicable gesture, and while I embrace his parents and relatives, here present, I invite all of you to treasure his example: he took in a brother by forgiving his past and embracing him without making calculations, wanting only to give him love, with maternal tenderness. We need so much to learn to love like this...”

On 9 August 2021, Fr. Maire was killed by a Rwandan asylum seeker, whom he was assisting and hosting in his home.

Renew act of entrustment

"That is why last year," the Pope continued, "I wanted to consecrate the Church and the whole world, especially Ukraine and Russia, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary."

The Pope asked the Company of Mary to renew this act of entrustment and this supplication.

“May our Heavenly Mother help us all to seek with courage and creativity paths of forgiveness, dialogue, acceptance and peace for all humanity.”

Pope Francis concluded by imparting upon them his blessing and asking them to pray for him.

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20 May 2023, 11:20