While the Marian teachings of some saints may have been virtually unknown during their own life, they have influenced the Church centuries later. An example is Saint Louis de Montfort who was a priest for only 16 years and had but a handful of followers upon his death at the beginning of the 18th century, yet influenced four popes, namely Leo XIII, Pius X, Pius XII and John Paul II who chose his personal motto Totus Tuus based on Montfort's influence.
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During the priesthood of Saint Louis de Montfort, which was only 16 years, he was mostly a missionary preacher who travelled from village to village on foot to deliver sermons, often risking everything along the way. His fervent style of preaching and views were often the subject of serious criticism during his life. He was persecuted by the Holy Office, poisoned by critical locals and when he died in 1716 at age 43, each of the three congregations he left behind had but a handful of followers. When Blessed Marie Louise Trichet decided to join his religious institute, the Daughters of Wisdom, in 1700, her mother reportedly told her: "You will become as mad as that priest". Yet, over the centuries, de Montfort's Marian theological books, such as True Devotion to Mary and Secret of the Rosary, gathered a strong following among Catholics and in time influenced millions of people. The growth of his popularity and the spread of his approach of "total consecration to the Virgin Mary" was not driven from Rome but nevertheless gathered momentum. He was eventually declared a saint in 1947.
In recent years, one young seminarian who was affected by one of de Montfort's books said that he had "read and reread many times and with great spiritual profit" a work of de Montfort and it "had been a decisive turning point in his life". That young seminarian eventually became Pope John Paul II, based his personal motto "Totus Tuus" on de Montfort's influence, beatified Marie Louise Trichet and made a papal visit to pray at the tombs of Saint Louis and Blessed Marie Louise Trichet. Saint Louis is now a candidate to become a Doctor of the Church and his founder's statue was recently placed in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.
Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (circa 140–202) is perhaps the earliest of the Church Fathers to develop a thorough Mariology. In his youth he had met Polycarp and other Christians who had been in direct contact with the Apostles. Irenaeus sets out a forthright account of Mary's role in the economy of salvation.
According to Irenaeus, Christ, being born out of the Virgin Mary, created a totally new historical situation. This view influences later Ambrose of Milan and Tertullian, who wrote about the virginal conception by the Mother of God. The giver of new birth had to be born in a totally new way. The new birth being that, what was lost through a woman, is now saved by a woman.
Saint Ambrose of Milan (339–397) is an early Church Father whose powerful Mariology influenced contemporary Popes like Pope Damasus and Siricius and later, Pope Leo the Great. His student Augustine and the Council of Ephesus were equally under his influence. Central to Ambrose is the virginity of Mary and her role as Mother of God.
Saint Augustine (354–430) did not develop an independent Mariology, but his statements on Mary surpass in number and depths those of other early writers. The Virgin Mary “conceived as virgin, gave birth as virgin and stayed virgin forever  Even before the Council of Ephesus, he defended the ever Virgin Mary as the mother of God, who, because of her virginity, is full of grace  She was free of any temporal sin, Because of a woman, the whole human race was saved.
Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria (412–444) became famous in Church history, because of his spirited fight for the title “Mother of God” during the Council of Ephesus (431). His writings include the homily given in Ephesus and several other sermons. Some of his alleged homilies are in dispute as to his authorship. In several writings, Cyril focuses on the love of Jesus to his mother. On the Cross, he overcomes his pain and thinks of his mother. At the Marriage at Cana, he bows to her wishes. The overwhelming merit of Cyril of Alexandria is the cementation of the centre of dogmatic Mariology for all times. He established the foundation for all other Mariological developments through his teaching of the blessed Virgin Mary, as the Mother of God.
Many early mariological concepts developed in the Eastern Church. From the West, Pope Damasus I and others defended Mary, against Monophysitism, the teaching that Christ had only a divine nature and accordingly to which Mary is only the Mother of God, not the mother of the human Jesus. The most significant papal teaching opposing this view begin with Pope Martin I and continues with Pope Leo the Great (ca. 400– 461). To define this issue, an ecumenical council was convoked first at Nicaea but later transferred to Chalcedon in the year 451. Leo the Great defended the teaching that Christ has two natures, one divine and one human.
For Leo the Great, Mariology is determined by Christology. If Christ were divine only, everything in him would be divine. His eating would be only symbolism. Only his divinity would have been crucified, buried and resurrected. Mary would only be the mother of God, and Christians would have no hope for their own resurrection. The nucleus of Christianity would be destroyed. He asks for the veneration of the Virgin Mary both at the manger and at the throne of the heavenly father. The most unusual beginning of a truly human life through her was to give birth to Jesus, the Lord and Son of King David.
In his encyclical Doctor Mellifluus on Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153), Pope Pius XII quotes three central elements of Bernard’s Mariology: How he explained the virginity of Mary, the “Star of the Sea", how the faithful should pray to the Virgin Mary, and, how Bernard relied on the Virgin Mary as Mediatrix.
Theologically, Bernard, a Doctor of the Church, is a fervent supporter of the Mediatrix interpretation of Mary. God and World meet in her. Divine life flows through her to the whole creation. She is one with Jesus, who wants to save all and who passes all graces through her. She is the mediatrix to God, the ladder on which sinners may climb up to him, the royal road to him, because she is full of grace
The many sermons of Saint Anthony of Padua (1195–1231) on the Virgin Mary reflect his belief in various Marian doctrines that were declared as dogmas centuries after his death. He reflected on the Assumption of Mary and referring to Psalm 132 argued that, just as Jesus had risen up to Heaven, so did Mary.
He also supported Mary's freedom from sin and her Immaculate Conception. Given that Anthony was one of the best educated and articulate of the early Franciscans, he was treated as a Doctor of the Church by his order, even before the title was granted to him in 1946. His views thus shaped the Mariological approach of a large number of Franciscans who followed his approach for centuries after his death.
Saint Petrus Canisius (1521–1597) taught that while there are many roads leading to real Jesus Christ, Marian veneration is the best way to him. Canisius tried to show practical and pragmatic rationale for Marian devotion and defended it against opposing Protestant arguments. His sermons and letters document a clear preoccupation with Marian veneration. His lasting contribution to this "applied mariology" are his three catechisms, which he published in Latin and German, and which became widespread and popular in Catholic regions. Under the heading "prayer" he explains the Ave Maria, Hail Mary, as the basis for Catholic Marian piety. Less known are his Marian books, in which he published prayers and contemplative texts.
Canisius published an applied Mariology for preachers, in which Mary is described in tender and warm words. He actively promoted the sodalities of our Lady and the rosary associations. He is credited with adding to the Hail Mary the sentence
Theologically, Canisius defended Catholic Mariology, in his 1577 book, De Maria Virgine Incomparabili et Dei Genitrice Sacrosancta Libri Quinque. The book was ordered by Pope Pius V to present a factual presentation of the Catholic Marian teachings in the Bible, the early Christians, the Church Fathers and contemporary theology. Canisius explains and documents Church teachings through the ages regarding the person and character of Mary, her virtues and youth. He traces historical documents about the perpetual virginity of Mary, and her freedom from sin. He explains the dogma of "Mother of God" with numerous quotations from the fathers after the Council of Ephesus. He shows that Church teaching has not changed. He answers the sola Scriptura arguments of Protestants by analyzing the biblical basis for mariology. Book five explains the Catholic view of the assumption as living faith for centuries, supported by most proment Church writers. In addition he justifies the cult of Mary within the Catholic Church.
Petrus Canisius provided a classical defence of the whole Catholic mariology against Protestantism, as judged three hundred years later by a leading Catholic theologian. From today's perspective, Canisius clearly erred in some of his sources, but, because of his factual analysis of original sources, he represents one of the best theological achievements in the 16th century.
Jean Eudes (1601–1680) introduced the joint devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. He established Society of the Heart of the Mother Most Admirable, which resembled the Third Order of Saint Francis. Although Jean Eudes always associated the two Sacred Hearts, he began his devotional teachings with the Heart of Mary, and then extended it to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Eudes was partly influenced by the writings of Saint Francis de Sales on the perfections of the Heart of Mary as the model of love for God.
Jean Eudes organized the scriptural, theological and liturgical sources relating to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and promoted them with the approbation of the Church. The feast of the Holy Heart of Mary was celebrated for the first time in 1648, and that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1670. The Mass and Office proper to these feasts were composed by Saint Jean Eudes in 1668, briefly preceding Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque in establishing the devotion to the Sacred Hearts. He composed various prayers and rosaries to the Sacred Hearts. His book "Le Cœur Admirable de la Très Sainte Mère de Dieu" is the first book ever written on the devotion to the Sacred Hearts.
Saint Louis de Montfort (1673–1716), was an effective defender of Mariology against Jansenism whose True Devotion to Mary synthesizes many of the earlier saints' writings and teachings on Mary. Saint Louis de Montfort's approach of "total consecration to Jesus Christ through Mary" had a strong impact on Marian devotion both in popular piety and in the spirituality of religious institutes. One of his well known followers was Pope John Paul II. According to his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, the pontiff's personal motto "Totus Tuus" was inspired by Saint Louis' doctrine on the excellence of Marian devotion and total consecration, which he quoted:
In an address to the Montfortian Fathers, the pontiff also said that his reading the saint's work The True Devotion to Mary was a "decisive turning point" in his life.
Saint Louis de Montfort impacted Mariology not only at the papal level, but the popular level. His book The Secret of the Rosary (which is a multi-perspective approach to the rosary) has been widely read by Catholics worldwide for over two centuries and is one of the earliest works to strengthen the devotional components of modern Mariology.
Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1696–1787) a Doctor of the Church, wrote The Glories of Mary, Marian Devotions, Prayers to the Divine Mother, Spiritual Songs, Visitations to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Virgin Mary, The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, and other writings. He was of great influence on Mariology during the Age of Enlightenment. His often ardent Marian enthusiasm contrasts with the cold rationalism of the Enlightenment. Liguori promoted a maximalist Mariology and expressed the belief in the general mediation of grace through Mary. This work was used by preachers. Mainly pastoral in nature, his Mariology rediscovers, integrates and defends the Mariology of Augustine and Ambrose and other fathers and represents an intellectual defence of Mariology in the eighteenth century.
Liguori also promoted the doctrine of the bodily Assumption of Mary into Heaven, arguing that Jesus would not have wanted his mother's body corrupted in flesh, for that would have been a dishonour, given that he had himself been born of the Virgin, and hence Mary must have been assumed into Heaven, with no mortal remains.
In 1915, while still in seminary, Saint Maximillian Kolbe (1894–1941) and six other students started the Militia Immaculatae to promote the Immaculate Conception, partly relying on the 1858 messages of Our Lady of Lourdes. Kolbe's theological basis for Marian consecration relied on his view of the Holy Spirit as the "Uncreated Immaculate Conception" that works in concert with the Virgin Mary as the Immaculate. He argued that since Mary is Immaculate, by her very nature she is the perfect instrument of the Holy Spirit in the mediation of all graces, given that "every grace is a gift of the Father through his Son by the Holy Spirit".
Like Louis de Montfort, Kolbe emphasized the renewal of the baptismal promises by making a total consecration to the Immaculata, which he considered the most perfect means of achieving unity with Jesus.
Kolbe later founded the monastery of Immaculate City and continued publishing Militia Immaculatae in multiple languages, which eventually reached a circulation of 750,000 copies a month, until it was stopped when Kolbe was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he volunteered to die in place of another prisoner. Kolbe's efforts in promoting consecration to the Immaculata made him known as the "Apostle of Consecration to Mary".
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