A Dominican to the end, Monsignor Albert-Marie de Monleon, 82, “entered into life,” according to Saint Therese of Lisieux’s expression, on Monday, April 29, 2019, in Paris, on the feast of Saint Catherine of Siena, a Doctor of the Church of his Order, whom he loved so much and whose “Dialogue” nourished his mystical and apostolic spirituality, prophetic for the renewal of the Church. His funeral will take place in the Cathedral of Meaux on Saturday, May 4, at 10:30 am, first Saturday of the month of Mary whose name he bore.
“Let us pray to her for the Church, that she may aid the unity of the Church,” said Pope Francis of Catherine of Siena this April 29. Monsignor de Monleon himself worked for this unity, in particular with the Dominicans’ Istina Center (1966-1988).
There was already an intellectual and spiritual affinity between his family and the Dominican charism of love of the truth: his father, Jacques de Monleon, was Professor of Philosophy at the Catholic Institute of Paris and at the University of Laval (Quebec).
Ordained priest in 1964, during difficult years for the Church, Monsignor de Monleon drew from Saint Dominic’s spirituality the resources to work for priestly renewal: he would be the founder and animator of the “Weeks of Prayer for Priests” at Cluny (1983-1990) — thanks to the hospitality of the Sisters of Saint Joseph — especially with Father Kevin Scallon, Lazarist (All Hallows, Dublin) and Sister Briege McKenna, and also founder and animator of the priestly branch of the Emmanuel Community, of which he is considered co-founder by many. It was he who went then — courage of the Mendicant Orders! — as beggar to the Bishops for the incardination of his seminarians.
And when lay people asked him what they should request for priests in prayer, he answered something like: “ask that they be present at what they do when they celebrate.” He himself was plunged in God, drawing the assembly in his prayer: the living Christ was the center of the celebration. “Omnia a Deo,” states his episcopal motto.
Great grand nephew of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne (1769-1852), Religious of the Sacred Heart, missionary in the United States, canonized by John Paul II in 1988, he was certainly also inspired by her charism anchored in the Heart of Christ and without borders, as he studied at the Boston University and was appointed to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Spiritual Adviser of the Catholic Fraternity (1990-2007), in the Charismatic Renewal of which he was one of the great architects.
Accompanier of many charisms, he preached in French or in English retreats for young people, for priests, for families in the United States, in Europe, in Africa where he was chosen one day as chief of the village by his enthusiastic retreatants!
However, his charism of compassion of Saint Dominic — who cried in the night “what will poor sinners become?” — would be expanded again notably beginning with the retreat for priests and their pastoral teams in the Shrine of Divine Mercy of Lagiewniki-Krakow, in July 2005.
Henceforth he would lead to the merciful Heart of Jesus, as one of the Founders of the world congresses of Mercy, and as Bishop-Coordinator for France of the congresses of Mercy (2008-2019); was he not, after all, appointed Bishop of Pamiers in 1988 and Bishop of Meaux in 1999, by an apostle of Divine Mercy, Saint John Paul II? A Marian Pope, he also was — “Totus Tuus.”
With beautiful pages on the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, he dedicated several books to a spiritual, theological and pastoral reflection on Mercy, “happiness for man” (Lethielleux, 2011), “At the Heart of Mercy” (Parole et Silence, 2015), he, who was able to work at the heart of the Conference of Bishops of France as well as at the Commission for Migrants and the Liturgical Commission, and Doctrinal Commission, was happy that in the Magnificat, song of the Daughter of Sion, the word “love” was henceforth translated with greater precision as “mercy.”
He took part in the Episcopate Documents on John Paul II and on mercy, and in the Acts of congresses of mercy: he left this reflection as precious heritage to reflect further on the message of the Jubilee of Mercy desired by Pope Francis to water the life of the Church.
This love of mercy was not a simple “devotion” among others: Monsignor Monleon witnesses that Mercy is the Gospel, which Catherine of Siena sang when she wrote in her “Dialogue of Divine Providence” (chapter 30): “By mercy, You have washed us in the Blood, by mercy You willed to converse with creatures. O mad with love! It was not enough for you to incarnate Yourself, but you also willed to die! (. . .) O mercy! My heart is suffocated thinking of You: because wherever I turn, I only find mercy.”
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester