It is truly two princes that we honor today in the persons of the Apostles Peter and Paul. They are, by God’s grace, two columns of the Church, on which Christ wanted to found His Church. They show us that in spite of human weakness, Christ truly rules His Church and uses everything and everyone for the establishment of her supremacy in the world.
Before being chosen by Jesus, Cephas was a simple man, a tough fisherman from Galilee, full of good will but still so human, which makes him very likable to us, because we might recognize ourselves in him. But a good will is not enough to follow the Master, especially if you have been called to a higher destiny within the Church. Jesus would have to change Cephas into Peter, the rock upon which the Church would be established. We can see the work of divine grace that can really change a man. We can see that God’s choices are not necessarily conformed to the spirit of the world. Who would have chosen a fisherman to be the first Pope and to lead the newly emerging Church? What matters when God calls, is not the qualities of the one who is called, but the fact that he is called by God. Can we judge God’s decision?
And who would have chosen a zealous Israelite of the seed of Abraham (Rm 11,1), a persecutor of Christians, the one who was consenting to the death of Stephen Ac 7,59), in order to be the Apostle of the Gentiles? The churches of Judea would hear soon: He, who persecuted us in times past doth now preach the faith which once he impugned.(Gal.1:23) Saul has been called by grace and by grace he became Paul, the great Apostle that we know.
After 2000 years, these Apostles are still living among us and the Church likes to invoke them often. Peter has always continued his ministry through the different Popes, and today through Benedict XVI, visible head of the Catholic Church. Paul continues to teach us through his letters inspired by the Holy Ghost.
Today, we would like to give thanks to God for such a gift to His Church. In my prayer of thanksgiving I want to include a great expression of gratitude for our Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, and I am sure that many of you will join me in this prayer. I think it is not presumptuous to recognize the work of God’s grace through the Fraternity, in spite of its weak and human members. But it is precisely what God wants to use: weak human instruments. Every priest in the world can say with Saint Paul: By the grace of God, I am what I am.(I Cor.15:10) Every priest has been chosen by Christ, for a very particular mission which is the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the distribution of the Sacraments that give the grace. The priests of the Fraternity of Saint Peter have received this mission as any other priests, through the Church under the authority of Saint Peter.
The short history of our Fraternity – we are about to celebrate our 20th anniversary – is a testimony of confidence and shows how much God takes care of His Church. Created in a time of trouble, right after the Ordination of four Bishops by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, our founders went to Rome and begged the Holy Father, John Paul II, to let them continue to serve God and the Church according to the disciplinary and liturgical Tradition of the Church. Nothing was certain for this little group of priests but their hope has not been deceived. It was not a betrayal of Archbishop Lefebvre, for who we owe a debt of gratitude for his work of preservation of the authentic Catholic priesthood. But it was an act of faith in the Church established by God’s will upon Peter.
Some have predicted the failure of the Fraternity and other Ecclesia Dei institutes and orders. Certainly, we have known many difficulties and we still have some today, but 20 years after the Motu Proprio of John Paul II and now one year after the Motu Proprio of Benedict XVI, we can recognize the good fruits of the traditional communities that have chosen the way of obedience. It is certainly not the easiest way, but it is the necessary one. There is still a lot of work to do, which means continued effort and pain, but it is the usual way for the spreading of the gospel. The work of restoration of the liturgy and of the faith is not yet achieved. The task is huge. But we have the example of the Apostles and the encouragement of Saint Paul in his letters. Yesterday the Holy Father officially inaugurated the Jubilee Year of Saint Paul. It is an opportunity for us to be inspired by the spirit of the great Apostle and to acquire a true missionary zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
May Our blessed Mother help us to obtain this zeal.