July 19 – MONTFORTIAN YEARS
During the course of history there were three great years in honour of Montfort: in 1966-1967, for the 250th anniversary of his death; in 1973, for the 300th anniversary of his birth; and in 1997-1998 for the 50th anniversary of his canonisation.
- The first year (1966-1967) started at Saint-Laurent with “walks” in very great numbers: 16 June 1966, 1000 deaf youth; 19 June, 4000 children; 23 June, 2000 nuns; 24 June, 5 new priests with lots of people; 25 June, 1700 sick; 26 June, 20,000 people. In India, a Triduum (11, 12 and 13 November) at Hyderabad concluded with a solemn Mass at the cathedral, but also in a very Montfortian way with meals served to 500 poor people. In Paris, on 26 January 1967, after the projection of La Route d’un homme in a near-by cinema theatre, St Sulpice church was the venue for a spiritual concert, readings of extracts from Montfort by famous actors, and a Mass presided over by the Archbishop of Paris. In Rome, the closing of the year took place from 24 to 28 April 1967, with several conferences and film projections held at the Angelicum and at the French St Louis church.
- The second year (1973) opened in Rome with three events: on 19 January a university professor of Paris, M. Tapie, gave a lecture on Montfort at the French St Louis church with 300 persons attending; on 31 January morning, Paul VI spoke at length to the Montfortians present at the general audience; in the afternoon of the same day concelebration by 100 priests at the St Louis-Marie de Montfort church. The year was observed all over with its climax at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre on 13 May.
- The third year (1997-98) had internationality as its dominant note. Its opening on 20 July 1997 was celebrated at the same time in the cathedrals of Bangkok, Thies (Senegal) and Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre, with a Mass in the open air presided over by bishop Gamier of Luc;on. And the 3500 persons at the superb closing ceremony on 19 July 1998 at Pontchateau came from about ten countries.
The celebrations and pilgrimages attracted great crowds: at Ottawa (Canada) on 9 August; at Rome on 24 and 25 September; at Our Lady of Vailankanni (Tamilnadu), on 15 November, with 2500 pilgrims including many Hindus; at Lourdes, from 27 to 30 April, with 8000 pilgrims including 500 from overseas; at lie d’Yeu on 14 June. In the footsteps of Montfort, young people as well as adults came in big numbers from Canada and Spain. There were also 30 catechists from Thailand, 28- Brothers from India, 12 – from Southeast Asia and about one hundred adults from Spain.
In our schools, the religious and civil celebrations came one after the other: on 25 and 26 July at Yercaud (India) a sports meet in which the winners received a medal and certificate of the golden year; on 29 August, at Thonburi (Thailand) 14 statues meant for our schools were blessed; on 30 January, at Chennai (India) a cultural festival; on 15 February, at Fatick (Senegal); on 28 April at Jeremie (Haiti), at Musoma (Tanzania), and at ·Nyanza near Butare (Rwanda). Other young people presented spectacular shows in drama, music and dance: at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre, Montfort-sur Meu, Paris, Barcelona (Spain) and Vasto (Italy).
To conclude this breathtaking enumeration we shall also recall the inter Montfortian retreats nearly everywhere, two Montfortian seminars at Kazipet (India), a study congress in Malawi in April and – last but not least – the congress at Bangalore from 28 December to 2 January with 215 participants including 144 Brothers.