Last Years - SMM

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Last Years

Our Founder

The next five years, until his death in 1716, were extraordinarily busy ones for Louis Marie. He was constantly occupied in preaching missions, always travelling on foot between one and another. Yet he found time also to write - his True Devotion to Mary and The Secret of Mary, rules for the Company of Mary and the Daughters of Wisdom, and many Hymns which he used in his missions, often set to contemporary dance tunes. He made two major journeys, to Paris and to Rouen, to try to find recruits for his Company of Mary, of which he dreamt more and more as he drew towards the end of his life. And from time to time, he felt it necessary to withdraw to a place of quiet and isolation, in the Forest of Mervent or in his little "hermitage" at Saint-Eloi near La Rochelle.

His missions made a great impact, especially in the Vendée. It has been said that one of the reasons for the vigourous resistance of the people of this region to the anti-religious and anti-Catholic tendencies of the French Revolution 80 years or so later, was the strengthening of their faith by the preaching of St. Louis Marie. Yet he found it very difficult to persuade other priests to join him in his work as members of his Company of Mary. Finally, in the last year, two priests, Fr René Mulot and Fr Adrien Vatel, did join him, and he also gathered a certain number of lay-brothers to help him in his work.

The Bishop of La Rochelle, Mgr Stephen de Champflour, proved a great friend to him, although others continued to oppose him, and there was even an attempt made on his life. Together with the Bishop, he established free schools for the poor boys and girls of La Rochelle, and called Marie Louise Trichet and Catherine Brunet, who had waited patiently in Poitiers for 10 years, to come to help him. At last, they made their religious profession and the congregation of the Daughters of Wisdom was born. Soon there were others too who joined them.

Worn out by hard work and sickness, Louis Marie finally came in April 1716 to Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre to begin the mission which was to be his last. During it, he fell ill and died on 28 April. Thousands gathered for his burial in the parish church, and very quickly there were stories of miracles performed at his tomb. The two priests of the Company of Mary, Fathers Mulot and Vatel, retired to Saint-Pompain, with the handful of Brothers, where they waited for two years before taking up again the mission preaching so beloved of Louis Marie.

In 1888, Louis Marie was beatified, and in 1947, Pope Pius XII declared him a Saint. The congregations he left behind, the Company of Mary, the Daughters of Wisdom, and the Brothers of Saint Gabriel (whose congregation developed from the group of lay-brothers gathered round him), grew and spread, first in France, then throughout the world. They continue to witness to the charism of St Louis Marie, and to carry out his mission to establish the Kingdom of God, the Reign of Jesus through Mary.



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