Sunday, April 02, 2017

St. Louis de Montfort and the Drunkards of Roussay



The following incidents from the life of St. Louis de Montfort is an apt illustration of the biblical precept, "there is a time for war and a time for peace" (Ecc. 3:8). It also exemplifies the great balance that a saint has in his disposition - excelling in prudence, St. Louis knew exactly when to use gentleness, and when to come with a rod (cf. 1 Cor. 4:21). The story begins when St. Louis arrived in the French village of Roussay, in the vicinity of Tours, on a preaching tour.


The sick old priest arrived at Roussay to preach a mission. He mounted the pulpit in the parish church, and after a brief prayer, began to speak. This tiny town in the west of France consisted of several dilapidated buildings, most prominent of which was this church with a rowdy bar right next door. As the preacher raised his voice, the drunkards could hear the sermon, and the parishioners could hear the raucous noise coming from the bar.

Knowing this, the denizens of the bar tried to disturb his sermon by screaming insults at the congregation and mocking them for their cleaner habits.

The priest very calmly finished the sermon, gave the people his blessing and exited the church. As he left, though empty handed and alone, he walked directly into the bar. An eyewitness describes what happened next:

"Father said nothing, except with his fists. For the first time since he came to Roussay, men had a chance to see how big, and to feel how hard, those fists were. He struck them down and let them lie. He overturned tables and chairs. He smashed glasses. He walked over the bodies of stunned and sobered hoodlums, and went slowly back up the street."

The men of Roussay were stunned. They now knew better than to so crudely interfere with the mission of the saint.

On the second day of his mission in Roussay, a drunk man burst into the church and stood in the aisle screaming insults at St. Louis. St. Louis calmly left the pulpit and approached the man. Everyone was expecting him to react as he had the day before, giving the man a beating he would not soon forget. To their great amazement, Father de Montfort knelt before the man and begged pardon for anything he had done to offend him.

The man was stunned and nearly collapsed before running out of the church in sadness. Saint Louis calmly returned to the pulpit and finished his sermon as though nothing had happened.

This story, and more about the  life and spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort, can be found here.

5 comments:

Konstantin said...

I'm sure he received a special interior light to act that way. This is not ordinary prudence.

Olaus Ouisconsinensis said...

I second what Konstantin says above.

Also, the article calls St. Louis a "sick old priest." He died at the age of 43. He may have been sick, but he was not old.

Thomas Carney said...

In those days health conditions and sanitation were horrendous. 43 was OLD at that time.

Olaus Ouisconsinensis said...

In response to Thomas Carney:

1.) The text doesn't say that he was 43 at the time of the event. I was saying, he couldn't have been any older than that. He could have been younger.

2.) You just assert that. Care to back it up? There were many Popes at the time, and bishops, who lived into their 60s and 70s. I don't believe that 43 was regarded as "old." Middle-aged, yes. Not old.

The reason why life expectancies before the Industrial Revolution are so low is because of infant and child mortality. People who lived to age 21 had a decent shot of making it to their 60s. See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy#Variation_over_time

When he died, St. Louis was *prematurely* aged on account of the rigors of his life, but that means that someone at age 43 was not usually considered old/elderly.

Boniface said...

Ugh. Who cares. I'll just edit the post to delete the word "old."

For the record I do recall when I was researching it that this was said to have happened at the end of St Louis' life.