Sermon by Bishop Bernard Fellay for the ordination of Fr. Gaud

Source: FSSPX News

 

What is the priest? In order to come close to this verity, my dear brethren, we need nothing less than that same faith with which we approach the sacred Host. The priest is priest for the Mass. In the words of consecration, the words “mysterium fidei” are used, the mystery of faith, since what we see, the Eucharistic species, is certainly the reality, but which before the reality of the Host, is no more than an appearance. Thus it is with the priest. He is a man chosen by God from amongst men, a human being with all his human qualities and faults. This man will act, but if we consider his acts through human eyes alone, we miss the essential, just as we miss the essential if we regard the Host with human eyes. But the reality is Jesus.

 There is a moment when this is clearly revealed to us, it is when the priest is at the altar during the consecration; he says: “This is my body”. He says MY with all his strength, with all his intelligence, with all his will, and he knows well that this MY is not his, because at that instant, he is entirely taken hold of by Jesus, the Sovereign Priest, who continues – through this privileged instrument – His priesthood, His redemptive action. Yet the priest is there with all his freedom, all his consciousness, and he is one with Jesus; he is not separate – on the contrary, he is associated, in an indescribable and extraordinary way, with Our Lord Jesus Christ.

 This character, theology tells us, is a participation in the hypostatic union, the extraordinary union which is in Jesus Christ, the union of a human nature with the Divine Person. The Pontifical warns the candidate for the priesthood to approach this splendor with fear and trembling. There are obviously consequences, demands; Saint Pius X, our patron, in his letter to priests, sums up this demand in one word: holiness. He goes as far as saying that his words will perhaps seem too exacting to many people, but, referring to the great Doctor of the Church, he says that between a priest and an honest man, there ought to be the same difference as between heaven and earth. It is a requirement of perfection in following Our Lord - “Tu solus sanctus”- a requirement for sanctity which is due, first and foremost, precisely to the priestly office, to the Sacrifice which, every day, you will offer to God, to honor Him, to adore Him, to thank Him, and especially for the remission of sins, in order to obtain from God – who has established you as mediator between God and man – forgiveness and mercy for men. Padre Pio used to say that the earth could exist more easily without the sun than without the Mass, and it is true. This Mass which is great and powerful enough to obtain from God leniency, patience and mercy for a world which seems to be losing its mind.

 A holiness which is nourished first and foremost by contact with God, that intimate contact which is called prayer. “Pray always,” Our Lord says, and how much more true for the priest, of whom the Church asks this continual prayer of the breviary which marks out his day, and which is there to constantly renew his union with God. We read how Saint Pius X lamented the fact that this prayer, so beautiful, so sublime, had become for many a millstone, a burden which had to be dealt with as quickly as possible. That is not what the breviary is, it is an exquisite moment when the priest, through all his pastoral activities, finds himself once more with God, lends his voice to Our Lord, to the Word of God, in order to honor God in the name of the whole Church. Inevitably, this time must be given to God, above all when your apostolate demands much of you. Our founder was fond of saying – in these words he has transmitted to us, concerning the spirit of the Society – that prayer is the essential apostolate. Prayer, for the priest is already his apostolate, and even the essence of his apostolate. For what is our apostolate if it is not bringing the grace of God and God Himself to souls? And how could a man bring, or even be the cause of, the grace of God in a soul, or bring God to souls, if he himself were not carrying God? If he is empty – and unfortunately we see many today who have allowed themselves to be deceived by these appearances – emptied by activism and no longer having this bond with God, his efficiency will be poor. Certainly, God has given to the priest an efficiency which goes beyond his own action: the sacraments operate “ex opere operato” – through the very fact that the sacramental action is performed – nevertheless, it is also absolutely certain that He has deposed in the striving for perfection of the priest, the fate of hundreds of thousands of souls.

 It belongs to the priest to offer, bless “offere, benedicere”, to give the gifts of the Good Lord, and indeed God Himself, to souls. “Praeesse”, to preside. This is one of the functions of the priest, and we might ask why. It is enough to look at Our Lord, and then we can understand: Our Lord is priest, Sovereign Priest and at the same time he is King. Why? Why did Our Lord desire this Royalty, if it is not in view of the exercise of his priesthood? A priest needs a certain authority, this can be seen when it concerns teaching, transmitting the Faith, it is the “praedicare”, the fourth function, the fifth being to baptize and to preach.

 If you are a priest, it is not for yourself. These requirements for holiness are great, and can seem in some respects overwhelming – nevertheless, you will never be permitted to pay all attention to yourself, to say to yourself: “I will attend to myself, my holiness.” No, this holiness – you will exercise it and grow in it, only by turning to other souls. What will sanctify you is sacramental grace, this grace which you will receive today, and which will guarantee you, that each time you perform a priestly act, you will receive a supplementary grace which will sanctify you. Yes, you are priests for souls, the Church is sending you, God is sending you, as He sent the prophets. When we look at these prophets of the Old Testament, sent by God to warn souls, to shake them, to wake them from their torpor, to threaten them, we can understand this image is appropriate for our own time.

 Humanly speaking, it is insane to send a priest into the world today; you might just as well command a man to oppose a gigantic wave caused by an earthquake, these waves which can be thirty or fifty meters high. Your task is something like that today: to oppose a world that is enraged, unleashed against God. And yet, here, once again, it is your faith which will tell you that God, when he sends you to these souls out in the world, will give you everything you need to be victorious, to save these souls.

 In making you a priest, the Church casts you into the midst of this awful war, which was declared from the moment of original sin: “I will put enmity between you and the Woman, between your seed and her seed.” It is into this great battle that you are sent, a veritable war which will decide the eternal destiny of a soul. This is the picture you must have in front of your eyes each time you approach a soul: what is at stake is its eternal destiny, and according to your human handling of it, you may lead this soul to God, or alas, lead it astray. The human side is not the whole story, but it has its role to play, hence the necessity to watch over your natural virtues; there is a link between the natural and the supernatural virtues, and it could even be said that the moment these two co-exist, sanctity is to be found, when the human is in harmony with these supernatural virtues placed in the soul by God.

 Saint Pius X tells us that the virtue on which the efficacy of our apostolate depends, is the virtue of temperance, in the sense of renunciation, abnegation. The priest is a man crucified, crucified to the world, crucified even to himself. You are going to be a priest and one thing I can guarantee for your future, is the Cross; you will have it because the priest is a man, but at the same time he is, as Jesus, the Host, - and God, who loves his priests, gives them this participation in the Cross. It is your destiny, it is your glory, it is your honor, do not refuse it. Having said that, do not imagine anything terrible, I am speaking of the little crosses which punctuate our days – some days they are heavier than others, they are life’s contradictions, those little acts of abnegation; others, you will take on yourself willingly, always remembering that in these self-denials, these sacrifices, the rule is the accomplishment of your duty of state. If one day, you are thinking of doing something extraordinary – before you do so, see first of all if you will still be able of fulfilling your duty of state; because it is your duty of state which is the most pleasing sacrifice you can make to Our Lord, the crosses which the Good Lord gives you every day. “If anyone wants to be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his Cross and follow me.”

 And again, another little word about the rule of the apostolate; it is, of course, charity – but a charity which must be directed towards God. The condition laid down by Our Lord to Saint Peter, when He entrusted him with His flock, His sheep and His lambs, was not: “Peter, lovest thou these sheep?” It was: “Peter, lovest thou Me?” Why? Because these sheep were Our Lord’s sheep, not ours, because this love which we must give to souls, is the love of Christ Who gives Himself for His Church, that is to say, a love ready for self-sacrifice, ready to give everything, to die for souls, and expect nothing in return. You will receive rewards of grace, of love, of charity from your faithful, this is only human; nevertheless, this should never be a condition for approaching souls. You approach them in order to give, not to receive. It is the distinctive feature of a priest, to give, it is his priestly character.

 May Our Blessed Lady, who has given us the Sovereign Priest, be at your side each time you ascend the steps of the altar! May She, the Mother of priests, be at your side in every one of your priestly actions, in other words at every moment of your life! May She teach you all the mysteries of Our Lord, She Who is the Mediatrix of all graces, and may She, in this intimacy, help you participate in this gift of grace, in the communication of graces for the salvation of souls today, to glorify God, today and always! Amen.

 In order to preserve the special character of this sermon, its oral style has been retained.