The founding of SMM
St. Montfort had coveted the establishment of the Society of Mary from the very beginning of his work as a priest. The Society of Mary Montfortan (SMM) is the name currently used, but previously used by Saint Montfort to name the Group he founded was the union of Mary.
Driven by the desire to become a priest, Louis-Marie de Montfort walked the 300 km from Rennes to Paris (1692). He received his priestly education at the Saint Sulpice Higher Seminary in Paris and attended academic studies at Sorbonne University. At that time, Saint Sulpice was the center of education for prospective priests in France. The seminary is divided into the Great Saint Sulpice (Grand Séminaire de Saint Sulpice) and the Lesser Saint Sulpice (Grand Séminaire de Saint Sulpice) and the Lesser Saint Sulpice (Petit Séminaire de Saint Sulpice). The Great Saint Sulpice housed the children of the nobility and the rich, and the Lesser Saint Sulpice housed the seminarians of the small and poor. Louis de Montfort certainly fell into this small group. To help support the life of the community, they are asked to work, including taking care of the bodies in funeral homes. After studying for 8 years at Saint Sulpice, Montfort was ordained a priest on 5 June 1700 by Mgr. de Flamenville in Paris in the palace chapel of the Diocese of Paris
The first years of the Montfort priesthood were filled with uncertainty. He moved from one place to another and alternated from one pastoral work to another. Many people admire him and not a few also hate and even reject him.
After being ordained a priest, Montfort left for Nantes and joined the community of St. Clement, a community of clergy led by Father Lévêque which organizes people's mission works. After several months in Nantes, Montfort felt that the community's mission work was not quite what he had hoped it would be. In his despair he wrote to Fr Leschassier: “In this situation, ever since I've been here, I feel like I'm being tossed between two seemingly contradictory feelings. From one side, I feel a longing for loneliness and hidden life to eradicate and fight the rotten nature that likes to arise in me. On the other hand, I feel a great urge to make the Lord Jesus and His Mother loved, to go as poor and humble, to teach catechisms to the poor in the countryside and to invite sinners to be devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Bearing in mind the needs of the Church, I cannot help but ask continuously and lamentably for a small and poor collection of good priests who carry out this task under the banner and protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary” (KS #5). It is in this letter that we learn of his longing for the founding of the Marian Society.
Because he did not feel at home in the community of St. Clement in Nantes, he accepted an offer to work in the hospital in Poitiers. This hospital is not a place to treat the sick, but a shelter for the homeless and beggars. Because of his uneasy relationship with the administrators at the hospital, Montfort left and then wandered like a tramp in Paris, without a clear place to live and work. Then Montfort returned to Poitiers and worked in the same hospital. In addition to working in the hospital, Montfort also provides pastoral and sacramental services in the vicinity of Poitiers.
In uncertainty about his work and mission, Montfort decided to make a pilgrimage to Rome, wanting to meet the Pope and seek direct instructions from the Holy Father. In 1706 he walked from western France to Rome with a stick and a rosary in his hand. After a long and tiring journey, Montfort finally arrived in Rome in early June 1706 and had the opportunity to meet Pope Clement XI. Montfort recounts his journey of the priesthood over a period of 6 uncertain and uncertain times and expresses his longing to be a missionary in the eastern world. But the Pope advised staying in France: “In France, you have a large enough field, enough to develop your activities. Don't go anywhere else; you should always work in complete obedience to the bishops wherever you work.” Then the Pope gave him the title "Apostolic Missionary".
With this title, Montfort got the right to carry out missionary work but still had to ask the local bishop for permission. After meeting with the Holy Father, Montfort returned to France on foot. As a form of gratitude, upon arrival in France, he immediately held a private retreat at the hermitage of Mount Saint Michelle and made a pilgrimage to Notre Dame de Ardillies in Saumur. From 1706 to 1710 Montfort carried out missionary work in the region of Brittany, namely in the dioceses of Saint-Malo, Saint Brieuc, and Nantes. They lived in a house in Saint Lazare, near Montfort Sur Meu. This house did not belong to his father but was managed by his father, and Montfort and his followers were allowed to use it. The mission in this region ended after the calvary that Montfort had founded in Pontchateau was destroyed by the order of King Louis XIV..
Then Montfort moved to the La Rochelle area. During the period 1710-1716 Montfort was able to carry out his mission in a planned manner in the Dioceses of La Rochelle and Luçon. The bishops of this region received Montfort very well and allowed him to work in peace. It was in this area that he could think about the future of the group he had started, draft his regulations and write books. He also summoned the Sisters of the Princess of Wisdom from Poitiers to La Rochelle to build schools for children and minister to the sick in hospitals. Physical and psychological exhaustion brought Montfort to the end of his life. He died in Saint Laurent Sur Sévre on 28 April 1716 at the age of 43 and only 16 years of serving the priesthood.
Montfort's death was not the end of his work. From the beginning he had dreamed of a group that evangelizes under the protection of Our Lady, as in his letter to Fr Leschassier: “Considering the needs of the Church, I cannot avoid asking constantly and lamenting a small and poor assembly of good priests who carries out this task under the banner and protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary” (KS #5) This longing is emphasized in her prayer, which is called the Passionate Prayer, “Remember, O God, of Your congregation. From eternity You have conceived it in Your own mind.” "Send good workers into your harvest and accomplished missionaries into your church." In the reflections of Louis-Marie Girgnion de Montfort, the congregation he aspires to is a collection of children of Our Lady who carry out their work through Mary, with Mary, and in Mary. This is expressed in her prayer, "Do not forget to give to Your Mother a new Society, so that all things may be renewed through her, and the end of the age of grace through Mary, as You began through her."
This longing has begun to show signs of its realization from the start. While working at Poitiers he managed to convince a girl, namely Marie-Louise Trichet (1684-1759) to become his follower. On February 2, 1703, Marie-Louise Trichet received a gray robe from Montfort in the chapel of the homeless treasure in Poitiers. The first male follower was Mathurin Rangeard (1687-1760), a young man whom he met in a chapel in Poitiers in 1705. Mathurin was actually on his way to a Capuchin monastery because he wanted to join a Capuchin brotherhood. But Montfort managed to convince him so that Mathurin did not enter the Capuchins and became a follower of Montfort.
Although history records that Br. Mathurin never made a monastic vow, but he is recognized as the first member of the Society of Mary Montfortian and the year he met Montfort (1705) is considered the year the SMM was founded. During his missionary work, Montfort was accompanied by his followers, both priests, and laymen. Yet they came and went without being permanently associated with this group of missionaries. When Montfort died in 1716, only two priests were officially considered followers of Montfort, namely Adrien Vatel (1680- ) and René Mulot (1683-1749). With Br. Mathurin these two priests continued Montfort's work in France. But slowly but surely, this missionary group increased in number and expanded its mission area, and became a recognized union of the Catholic Church.
The name of this group changes from time to time. Montfort wanted the name Company of Mary but people often called them Montfortian. After the death of Montfort, the leadership was continued by René Mulot and they were called Mulotians with the name of their union being the Union of the Holy Spirit. In 1853 Pope Pius IX recognized this Society as a Papal Society and the Pope wanted priests to return to the basic rules and to the name Montfort wanted, namely the Missionary priests of the Society of Mary. For the beatification of Montfort in 1888, Pope Leo XIII changed the name of the Society to the Company of Mary of Blessed Montfort. This change was deemed necessary because at that time there was already another congregation called the Union of Mary. However, since 1919 until now its name has been the Company of Mary
The Dream of the Founding of the Company of Mary has been realized and the Marian Society continues to grow. Remembering Pope Clement XI's message that Montfort channeled his missionary energy in France, the Montfortans felt that the SMM was specifically for France. But the SMM Constitution of 1853 says that the Priests of the Society of Mary are always ready to carry the torch of the Gospel wherever they are sent, whether in France or to other countries, as far as the Vicar of Christ wants it. The first mission outside France is Haiti. This change paved the way for the next change. The basic regulation states that missionaries may not be attached to formation work (not to open a seminary). Thus, additional members only expect priests who are willing to join Montfortan. But in 1874, in the interest of missionary work for Haiti, the Montfortans opened an Apostolic School in France.
The French political situation, anti-clerical fervor and persecution of the hierarchy forced the Montfortans to seek a safe haven for the formation of their candidates. In 1881 the Montfortian Novitiate was moved to the Netherlands. The new mission area targeted by SMM is Canada. In 1883 a priest and 5 brothers arrived in Canada and became pioneers of Montfortian's work there. In 1899 they began to open an Apostolic School in Huberdeau which for decades produced missionaries. After 10 years in Canada, in 1903 SMM Canada spread its wings to America. Thus SMM spread throughout Europe and the world including Latin America, Africa, and Asia including Indonesia.
The founding of the Society of Mary has come true and the Montfortians continue this dream by developing the Society of Mary Montfortan under the banner and protection of Our Lady.