This sermon was delivered on September 24, 2020. The oral style has been retained throughout.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Dear Excellencies, dear Fr. Superior General, dear confreres in the priesthood, dear seminarians, dear brothers, dear sisters, very dear faithful,
Why Are We Here?
If we are gathered here today, it is first of all - one could say as the next reason - an anniversary: this month we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Ecône seminary. This is the first reason for this ceremony: thanksgiving. We want to say thank you to the good Lord for all the fruits brought through this seminary.
There is a second which is similar to the first. This year, on November 1, we will have another jubilee: it is that of the foundation, this time, of the Fraternity itself, erected by Monsignor Charrière, Bishop of Friborg on November 1, 1970. A beautiful ceremony in Lourdes is planned for this occasion, but there is a certain virus which is passing through there and which upsets our human plans a little, so much so that this great pilgrimage is being reduced a little to a national pilgrimage, to the extent that today we are gathering up part of this jubilee. We also want to say thank you to God, of course, even a month or so in advance, for this work, this work of the Society of Saint Pius X, which is miraculous.
And then, and this is perhaps the reason why many, many of you are coming here today: it concerns the translation of the mortal remains of Archbishop Lefebvre from the vault to the crypt of this church. Some people see this, I do not really know how. They try to invent all kinds of things about this subject. In fact, when we were developing this church, in the mid-1990s, several years, right after the death of the Archbishop, it was already been planned that we would be venerating our dear founder in the crypt, here. So it is not something new, it is not about a new direction or God knows what; it is quite simply the fulfillment, within a certain time, of the filial homage that we owe to our founder, and also, obviously, it will make access to the Archbishop’s tomb easier for the faithful.
There are evidently many, many thoughts going through our heads on this day.
Of course, first and foremost, it is the giving of thanks. We must thank God for this work and for its founder. If Archbishop Lefebvre had not, with truly heroic courage, taken some amazing steps that surprised the whole Church at the time, well quite simply, we would not be here. This Society is indeed that of Archbishop Lefebvre.
And the Archbishop very much insisted in saying that in fact, he was not innovating: his only concern was to transmit what he had received, that is all. And when we look at the history of the last century, especially, say, since the 1950s and after, of course, with the Council, now, with a little hindsight, we can perhaps even better understand what that means.
And allow me to share with you some of Archbishop Lefebvre’s thoughts. We have the joy, I think, if God wants, this year, to give our dear members of the Society this book that Archbishop Lefebvre himself wanted for us, called the Spiritual Directory. Finally, it is now coming to an end, and the idea which led this work—I find it quite brilliant—it is simply and only the words of the Archbishop, quite simply; and I would like to read you a few excerpts from it, which summarize the whole Society—what it really is—and explain everything else.
“The spirit of the Society is above all that of the Church.”
So nothing special, just the spirit of the Church. And what is the spirit of the Church?
Recognized by the Church as a society of common life without vows and as a priestly fraternity, our Society is grafted onto the trunk of the Church and draws its sap of sanctification from the most authentic tradition of the Church and from living and pure sources of her sanctity, in the way in which so many societies recognized by the Church over the centuries have made new branches grow and blossom and bear the fruits of holiness which are the honor of the Church militant and triumphant.
All Scripture is turned towards the cross, towards the redemptive victim radiant in glory, and the whole life of the Church is turned toward the altar of sacrifice and, therefore, her main concern is the holiness of the priesthood.
We must have this deep conviction that the Church will be holy insofar as her priests are holy.
For seminarians, the ever-expanding discovery of the great mystery for which they are destined must give a very special character to their life; captivated by Our Lord and His sacrifice, they must thereby renounce the world, its vanities, its futilities, and they must manifest this detachment by their clothing, by their attitude, by the love of silence and retreat, even if the apostolate will ask them later to go to souls.
The Church forms the one who gives sacred things: ‘sacerdos,’ that is ‘sacra in,’ the one who performs holy and sacred actions; ‘Sacrificium,’ that is ‘sacrum faciens.’ She places in his ‘consecrated’ hands the divine and sacred gifts ‘sacramenta,’ the sacraments.
The Value of the Mass
The spirit of the Society of Saint Pius X being above all that of the Church, its members: priests, brothers, sisters, oblates, tertiaries, will strive to know ever better the mystery of Christ, as St. Paul describes it in his epistles. and especially in the epistles to the Ephesians and to the Hebrews.
“Then we will find out what has guided the Church for 20 centuries; we will understand the importance that she gives to the sacrifice of Our Lord, and consequently to the priesthood. To deepen this great mystery of our faith which is the Holy Mass, to have boundless devotion to this mystery, to place it at the center of our thoughts, of our hearts, of all our interior life, that will be to live in the spirit of the Church.”
Deeply convinced that the source of life is found in Christ crucified and therefore in the sacrifice He bequeathed to us, the members of the Society will discover with ever greater joy that the mystical Bride of Our Lord, born of the pierced Heart of Jesus, had nothing more than a heart to transmit, with a magnificence inspired by the Holy Ghost, this precious testament.
The spirit of the Society - there are repetitions, but I do it on purpose - the spirit of the Society is essentially a priestly spirit, illuminated by the radiance of the redemptive sacrifice of Calvary and of the Mass, “Mystery of the Faith.”
This great mystery, sun of our faith, is transmitted to us by the Church in the liturgy, where, like a Mother, she strives to reveal the infinite riches of this mystery in actions, words, chant, and liturgical ornaments, distributed according to the admirable liturgical cycle.
The Society, anxious to live this mystery, zealously attaches itself to the knowledge of the liturgy and strives to realize it in all its beauty and splendor: “Lord, I have loved the beauty of Thy house”(Ps. 25). The spirit of the Society is a liturgical spirit.
The priest being above all consecrated for the sacrifice, for the public prayer of the Church, the Society will strive to acquire this spirit of the liturgy in all its profundity in order to live the mystery of Christ offering Himself to His Father and offering all His Mystical Body.
The splendors of the liturgy sing about Jesus crucified and risen. The Church knows how to present to us and make us live these mysteries in a truly divine way, which captivates hearts and lifts souls. Everything was arranged with the love of a faithful spouse and a merciful mother. Everything is subject to edification in the sacred places, in the ceremonies, the ornamentations, the chant, the choice of prayers, the missal, the breviary, the pontifical, the ritual.
The members of the Society will nourish their spirituality at these sources of living water such as the Church offers them in the sacred liturgy, an incomparable source of wisdom, faith, graces, ascetic and mystical life.
Nothing is small, nothing is miserly in the service of such a Lord and King. Let us always be aware of this. It is a very effective means of the apostolate. If the liturgy is above all praise of the Holy Trinity, offering and sacrifice, source of divine life, it is also the most lively of catechesis, the most effective. Happy are the faithful who have priests who have a soul in love with the Church’s liturgy!
A Spirit of Contemplation of Jesus Christ Crucified and Glorified
The spirit of the Society is the spirit of the Church, the spirit of faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ and in His work of Redemption. The whole history of the Church, over the last 20 centuries, manifests the fundamental principles of the Church animated by the Holy Ghost, spirit of Our Lord.
The priest is at the heart of this divine work of the rebirth of souls, of their divinization for their future glorification. All his thoughts, his aspirations, his actions must be inspired by this spirit of faith. Now, this spirit of faith is essentially a spirit of contemplation of Jesus crucified and glorified.
How desirable it is that all the members of the Society thirst for the contemplative life, that is, for that simple and ardent gaze of Jesus from the cross, that all acquire the spirit of prayer, of the interior life in the image of Our Lord Himself who lived 30 years out of 33 in separation from the world.
The profoundly interior, spiritual, supernatural aspect of our life, of our piety, the contemplative aspect of our life, is the one that has justified all these contemplative foundations, hence the spirit of prayer of the Fraternity, the need for exercises in common, of prayer.
A Spirit of Oblation
The consequence of this approach to God in His redemptive sacrifice will produce in the souls of the members of the Society the same effects, relatively speaking, as those felt by the privileged souls who received the stigmata of Our Lord.
The effects are twofold: the first condition the second and are the source; these are the contemplative aspects:
- ardent desire for total oblation as a victim in union with the divine Victim,
- love of God, of Our Lord to the point of self-sacrifice,
- total surrender to the holy will of God,
- ardent union with the pierced Heart of Our Lord.
If contemplation is a look of love directed towards the crucified and glorified Jesus, it transfers the soul into the hands of God: “In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum” (Ps. 30:6). And this can only be achieved by a complete surrender of our will into the hands of God, that is, an obedience consummated to His holy will; the will signified by God and those who legitimately participate in His authority and rightfully use this participation; the will of good pleasure manifested by God Himself in the course of events that affect us during our existence: illnesses, trials ... Let us meditate on these great teachings of the Church and strive in the circumstances of our life to put them into practice.
This presupposes great humility from us; this is what explains the whole of Benedictine spirituality based on a progression in the virtue of humility.
Contemplation, obedience, humility, are the elements of the same reality: the imitation of Jesus Christ and the participation in His infinite love.
The effects of the Spirit of Love, which manifested itself on the cross and continues to manifest itself at the altar and in the Eucharist, tend to distance the soul from the world, to make it despise transitory things to attach itself to the eternal, material things to attach itself to the spiritual. The soul experiences a great horror of sin, a deep contrition for its faults and an immense desire to atone for itself and for others. We must give thanks to God for communicating to us His spirit of love and victim for the glory of His Father.
A Profoundly Supernatural Apostolate
The members of the Fraternity will put at the base of their missionary and apostolic zeal that they are only “unprofitable servants” (Lk. 17:10), whom Our Lord Jesus Christ could very well do without, but He wants to use them and that is an honor they don't deserve. They will always remain in this deep consciousness of their utter nothingness to God, trusting only in His grace, the apostolate being essentially a supernatural work of grace. Armed with these convictions, they will courageously go to the souls who await them, who are entrusted to them. They will preach “cum fiducia” (Eph. 6:19), invoking the help of Our Lord and of the Virgin Mary.
The preaching must be simple, convinced, which edifies and trains souls to be converted to God. If souls do not come, go out to meet them with a compassionate heart, humble, trusting in grace, without regard for persons.
They will avoid any form of domination, of contempt. They will do all things to all, taking care not to fall into the error of those who think that it is necessary to adopt the coarse language and the vulgar demeanors of certain circles. Even these people expect from us an attitude that is simple, good but always worthy of our priesthood.
Here in a few words—we could go on—but this is what the Archbishop expects, wants from his priests by founding the Society. Understand, it is true that when we say “Society,” when we look at this century, once again, we see an immense struggle, we see a revolution in the world and in the Church, and we see Archbishop Lefebvre who opposed this revolution, even as far as Rome, and who also, of course, made history these last 50 years, it is true; but that’s not the point. There will always be fighting in the Church militant: fighting in the Church, it did not start with Vatican II ... It began with the crucifixion of Our Lord, and it will last until the end of time. When this fight is over, there will be more, and we should have absolutely no illusions about that.
The Example of the Virgin Mary
But still, it seems to me - and this will be our last point, a look at the Blessed Virgin - the Blessed Virgin Mary can give us an idea, let us say, correct of this fight which, of course, marks these years. Look at the Blessed Virgin Mary: what do we think of when we say the Blessed Virgin Mary? Of course, we always think of the Virgin, but above all we think of the Mother, of the Mother of God, and when we say that, we think of mercy, we think of gentleness. And all of that is perfectly true. But it is her love, her total love of God, that makes her the one the Church hails as: “terrible as an army drawn up in battle.” She is the one who the Church hails as being the one who “crushes all heresies,” the one who is most terrible to the devil, and even God Himself says: “She will crush your head!” Yes, all that!
All these aspects, one could say combative, come from the most holy and gentle, and merciful Virgin Mary. And this is not at all contradictory: but that goes without saying. If we want to see how much we love the good Lord, truly, let us look at how we deal with sin, what promotes sin, how we deal with it. Do we put love for God first? Do we agree to understand that in this fight, which is a spiritual fight, we gain much more by receiving the blows than by giving them? Look at Our Lord: it is by being nailed to the cross that He brings about His Redemption. This is one aspect - of course, that is not okay with us naturally, let's say it doesn’t correspond to our human nature - and how true! Once again, we are nothing, as a little slip of a man; but united to Our Lord, uniting our humiliations, our contradictions, our sorrows, all that God allows ... by uniting them to His holy Passion, then all these acts, which are completely disparaged by the world, take on a powerful value against hell, and also an extraordinary value of redemption, which is recalled for us by the Blessed Virgin at Fatima: “If there are so many souls who fall in hell, it is because no one wants to sacrifice for them.”
And fittingly the Mass, which calls for our union to the sacrifice of Our Lord, reminds us of this truth. This church is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary: it was the will of Archbishop Lefebvre, it was he who asked for this, and we can see, it is he himself who said it, that the most Blessed Virgin Mary was the Star who was guiding and who led her whole life. So, it is for us an immense joy to be able to bring about today, or if you want to put it like that, to reunite the Archbishop to the crypt of this church dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; it is part of the heritage that the Archbishop wanted to give us.
If we are celebrating 50 years today, and if we see this work continuing to grow, we can attribute it, in addition of course to the graces of Our Lord, to fidelity. And if we hope to be able to celebrate 100 years and more of this work, it will be again and always in this fidelity to what the Archbishop transmitted to us that we will be able to find it. So let us confide, let us entrust all our intentions, all our worries, our sorrows! Do not be afraid, my very dear brothers, to ask them of God through the intercession of Archbishop Lefebvre: he is at work, and he is doing it! And if you don’t believe me, well just try it, you’ll see.
Yes, of course, let us ask the Blessed Virgin, the Immaculate Heart, and also Archbishop Lefebvre, to help us in this fidelity for the greater glory of God, for the salvation of souls. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.