lundi, septembre 25, 2006

Secularism versus Religion

In 2005 the French Republic has celebrated the centennial of the law of separation between the State and the Churches.
What was this law? What are the stakes today for France, for Europe and for the World with the growth of Islam?
The French philosopher and politician, André MALRAUX said: “ The twenty-first century will be religious or it will not be.” Was he right?

A lecture by
Father Laurent DEMETS, FSSP

Thursday October 26th 2006
At 7:30 pm

Saint Francis de Sales Catholic Church
587 Landers Drive
Mableton GA 30126

dimanche, septembre 24, 2006

Sermon for the 16th Sunday post Pentecost

Hotel-Dieu de Beaune
Healing of the man with dropsy

Once again, Our Lord silences the Pharisees by asking a simple question: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?” Always quick to tell us what we must do and what we must not do, now the Pharisees remain silent. What? The doctors of the law, the wise men who are supposed to teach the people of God don’t know the answer to this easy question? “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?” They are too embarrassed to answer. It has to be said that it is not the first time that Our Lord asks this question. Those of you who came to Mass yesterday or who read their missal remember the gospel from Saint Luke, chapter 13. Jesus had healed a woman and the chief of the synagogue had become indignant. Jesus’ retort was cutting: “Hypocrites!” Saint Luke relates that “the people rejoiced for all the things that were gloriously done by him” while the Pharisees “were ashamed.”

Now Jesus asks them again if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath day. This episode takes place in Chapter 14 of Saint Luke, so, probably a short time after having been admonished. It is reasonable to think that they are not very comfortable in this situation.

Our Lord is a good master and a good teacher. His purpose is certainly not to belittle them, but rather to help them understand what the true law is supposed to be. The Pharisees knew the Law of Moses perfectly, but they have forgotten its true spirit. Year by year, they had changed the religion of their ancestors into a set of rules and obligations so restricting that very few, almost none, could fulfill them. By coming among us, the Incarnate Word didn’t abolish the law but He fulfilled it. For this, he gave a new commandment, the precept of charity.

Dear Brethren, we have to recognize that there is a tendency among many traditionalists to forget this precept of charity under the pretext of keeping the Tradition. This is obviously wrong, because Tradition teaches us to be charitable, as the Church reminds us regularly throughout Her Sunday readings. Today, for example, we are told by Saint Paul to be “rooted and founded in charity.”

It must be well understood that attending the Latin Mass or wearing a veil or knowing your Baltimore catechism well will not save you, but the grace of God. In fact, grace doesn’t exist without charity. Even if they are formally different according to the theologians, they are practically inseparable. I am not saying that Latin, veils and catechesis are not important. Indeed, they are, but I am saying that we must not forget what is essential because it is the essence of our divine religion: charity! There is more glory in healing a dropsy on a Sabbath day, than in, hypocritically, keeping this day holy. We are not sanctified by the simple physical accomplishment of the precepts of God but by the quality we bring to the accomplishment of these precepts. In all our actions, we first need humility, which is signified by the parable of Jesus: “sit not down in the first place!”

Humility gives value to our actions while pride removes their merits. The book of the Imitation of Christ encourages us to humble ourselves: “Oh, what a lowly and humble opinion I ought to have of myself, and how little I ought to regard whatever good I may seem to have! How deeply I ought to submit myself to Thy profound judgments, where I find myself to be nothing else but nothing, altogether nothing.”

Contemplating the greatness of God helps us to realize our smallness. It is for this reason that Saint Paul pushes us “to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth and to know also the charity of Christ.” Then the observation of our smallness is not an occasion of despair, but on the contrary, a motive of joy, because we are open to God Himself who can dwell and work in our souls. Knowing God’s love allows us to be filled unto all the fullness of God as Saint Paul asserts.

Dear Brethren, loving God is not so difficult, but we have to know Him first, which supposes from our part a certain mortification. None of us has an innate or infused knowledge of God, and we need to work and study, but first, to pray so that we can know Him and then love Him.

May Our Lady give us the courage and the strength to do it. May she teach us the way of humility, which supposes necessarily some humiliations. They are precious crosses we should accept gratefully. Then, let’s do everything with a true charity. This is the high road which leads to heaven.

dimanche, septembre 17, 2006

In doing good, let us not fail !

15th Sunday
Once again, Saint Paul shows his nobility of soul in today’s epistle. We can only appreciate his words and praise him for his magnanimity and his good counsel. Nevertheless, let us keep in our minds that an epistle of Saint Paul is not only a beautiful painting that we can admire, but, most importantly, the word of God to which we should listen and apply. God Himself testifies of the value and the strength of his word. Psalm 118 says: “the beginning of thy word is truth.” It also says : “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my paths.

As pilgrims moving toward our celestial homeland, we need the word of God in order to head in the right direction. The word of God is always available for us. We only have to open our Bible, to read it and meditate on it. Many non-Catholics do it every day. I hope you do too.
In fact, the word of God is also “living and effectual and more piercing than any two edged sword; and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb 4,12) So, woe are those who hear the word of God but yield no fruit because they don’t follow it. Remember and heed the parable of the seed we hear every year on Sexagesima Sunday!

Today, the word of God given by Saint Paul reminds us of our duties as disciples of Jesus Christ. The epistle chosen by the Church for today is a perfect continuation of last Sunday’s epistle, taken from the Epistle to the Galatians in which the Apostle reminds us of the works of the flesh and the works of the spirit. We learn that the works of the flesh lead to perdition. Today Saint Paul urges us to “walk in the Spirit.” He invites us to change our behavior toward our neighbors.

Indeed, we like to criticize and to judge our neighbors. We like to show them that we are better than they. It even happens sometimes that we take pleasure from their misfortune. This is not exactly the mark of greatly noble soul. Saint Paul knows our bad inclinations and as a good master, he pushes us to act against them. Instead of being a burden to our neighbors, he asks us to lighten theirs: “Bear ye one another’s burden!”

But, it is not about helping a friend. Anybody can do this. No, we have to bear the burden of our neighbor, whomever he may be, even though we don’t have a natural liking for him. Saint Paul is very clear about this: by doing this, we fulfill the law of Christ.

It is not easy. It is a gloomy prospect. We like our own little comforts so much that we think we are enough of our own burdens. A short prayer for the others will be enough to keep our conscience clear. But that’s not walking in the Spirit. That’s not being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. That’s not the ideal of a Christian life proposed by the great Apostle who says again: “And in doing good, let us not fail.”

Too often we are tempted to say: “ It’s enough! I have already done so much.” Dear brethren, that is not true. We could never do enough good in comparison of the evil we have done. Just think, we can’t even make a perfect and just reparation for one mortal sin. Fortunately, Christ did it for us, but it is not a reason to give up our efforts and sacrifices.
No, dear Brethren, it is never enough. We must continue to do good until our last breath. We have to be brave. We have to be generous. We have to be strong. Be sure that God gives his grace for this.

May Our Lady help us to fulfill the law of Christ. May she inspire us the good things to do for the love and the glory of God.

mardi, septembre 12, 2006

Saint Nom de Marie
Saint Alphonse de Liguori
Les gloires de Marie, chap X

- Combien le nom de Marie est doux pendant la vie et à la mort.

L'auguste nom de la Mère de Dieu, le nom de Marie, n'est pas d'origine terrestre ; il ne fut pas, comme les autres noms, inventé par l'esprit des hommes ; il ne lui fut pas donné par livre choix : descendu du ciel, il lui fut imposé par un décret divin ; ainsi l'attestent saint Jérôme, saint Épiphane, saint Antonin et d'autres auteurs.

" Le nom de Marie, dit saint Pierre Damien, fut tiré du trésor de la Divinité ". Oui, ô Marie, ajoute Richard de Saint-Laurent, votre nom sublime et admirable est sorti du trésor de la Divinité ; les trois personnes de la Trinité sainte vous l'ont donné d'un commun accord, ce nom qui éclipse tous les noms après celui de votre Fils ; elles l'ont rempli de tant de majesté et de puissance que, quand il est prononcé, il faut que tout se prosterne pour le vénérer, au ciel, sur la terre et dans les enfers ". Mais, sans parler des autres prérogatives que le Seigneur a voulu attacher au nom de Marie, considérons ici combien il l'a rendu doux aux serviteurs de cette céleste Reine, soit pendant la vie, soit à l'heure de la mort.
Premièrement, le nom de Marie est doux à ses serviteurs pendant leur vie. Le saint anachorète Honorius le trouvait plein de tout ce qu'il y a de douceur et de suavité en Dieu ; et, pour le glorieux saint Antoine de Padoue, ce nom avait les mêmes charmes que saint Bernard trouvait dans celui de Jésus. " Le nom de Jésus, avait dit Bernard, le nom de Marie, reprenait Antoine, est une joie au coeur de ses pieux serviteurs, un miel sur les lèvres, une mélodie pour leurs oreilles ". Le vénérable Juvénal Ancina, évêque de Saluces, goûtait, en prononçant le nom de Marie, une douceur sensible telle, dit son historien, qu'il s'en léchait les lèvres. On lit la même chose d'une femme de Cologne : " Je ne prononce jamais le nom de Marie, assurait-elle à l'évêque Massilius sans que mon palais soit flatté d'une saveur supérieure à celle du miel ". Massilius adopta sa pratique la même douceur.

Lors de l'Assomption de la Vierge, les anges demandèrent à trois reprises quel était son nom ; on peut le conclure de ces trois passages des Cantiques : " Quelle est celle-ci qui mont du désert comme un nuage d'encens ? - Quelle est celle-ci qui s'avance comme une aurore naissante ? - Quelle est celle-ci qui s'élève du désert, nageant dans les délices ? " Pourquoi, se demande Richard, pourquoi les anges répètent-ils tant de fois leur question : Quelle est celle-ci ?. . . C'est sans doute, répond-il, afin d'entendre répéter le nom de Marie, tant ce nom résonne délicieusement à l'oreille des anges eux-mêmes.

Mais ce n'est pas de cette douceur sensible que j'entends parler ici : il n'est pas donné à tous de la sentir ; je veux parler d'une douceur spirituelle, d'un sentiment salutaire de consolation, d'amour, de joie, de confiance et de force, que le nom de Marie inspire communément à ceux qui le prononcent avec dévotion.

L'abbé Francon dit à ce sujet : " Après le saint nom de Jésus, le nom de Marie est si fécond en biens de tout genre, que, ni sur la terre, ni dans le ciel, on n'entend prononcer aucun nom qui remplisse les âmes dévotes d'autant de grâces, de consolation et d'espérance. En effet, continue le même auteur, le nom de Marie renferme je ne sais quoi d'admirable, de doux et de divin, qui fait qu'il ne peut retentir dans un coeur aimant sans l'embaumer d'une odeur de sainte suavité. Et voici, dit-il en finissant, la merveille de cet auguste nom : mille fois répété, il paraît toujours nouveau à ceux qui aiment Marie, aussi bien que le plaisir avec lequel ils l'entendent ".

lundi, septembre 11, 2006

Sermon for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost

Basilique Royale Saint Denis
Our Lord Jesus Christ asks us to have more confidence in God. After all, is He not our Father? God already takes care of His creation. He feeds the birds. Are not we of much more value than they? He clothes the lilies of the fields and he wouldn’t do it for us?

Dom Paul Delatte, who was the successor of Dom Gueranger in the Abbey of Solesmes, marveled every times he considered how much God cares and provides for His creation and most particularly for us. “ Man, this creature who is nothing and void is worth such immense consideration? Why such an amazing respect? Why do the hands of God become so tender? Is it because of the universal law of respect by which God treats all of His creatures, and especially the human creature, as the book of wisdom says: ‘ Thou disposest of us with great favor’ ?

We can wonder why God pays so much attention to us. The answer is certainly a mystery, but we can say that not only has God created us, but He has also adopted us. We had the opportunity, during the Sundays in summer, to hear Saint Paul speak of our filial adoption by God. He made us His children.

Today, with very simple words that everyone can understand, Jesus simply asks us to act as true children of God. A child knows that his parents are going to feed him. He knows that he has a house where he can live, eat and sleep. His parents supply his natural needs so a child can enjoy life without worries. Oh, the happy time of childhood!

Now, look at the Saints! Don’t they have the same carefreeness as children do regarding these earthly concerns of sustenance? They have heard and understood the words of Christ: “Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knows that you have need of all these things.” They followed this exhortation perfectly: “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

The search for the kingdom of God! This is what has motivated their life. This is what should motivate ours. What is the kingdom of God and its justice? It is the glory of God and salvation of souls as Saint Ignatius of Loyola recalls for us in his spiritual exercises which I strongly recommend that you to do. At the very beginning, Saint Ignatius tells us what “the principle and the foundation” is: “Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.”
This should be the rule of our life that we should keep in our minds 24 hours a day. Then, Saint Ignatius develops: “ And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created. From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it.

In other words, God has created us for a very precise end, and He gives us the means and help so that we can reach this end. Now, it is up to us. Do we want this end? If we do, then we have the things of creation in order to achieve it. If we don’t, that means we change God’s plan for us and make creature our end. Then Mammon – whatever it is – becomes our master. We prefer the creation to God Himself: this is sin! A sin is giving our preference to a creature rather than to God and to decide to make it an end rather than the means.

If you choose God as your end, then you can be sure without any doubt that He will take care of you and will give you everything you need in your life. Understand well: everything you need to reach your end, which is, first His Grace, and then means of support. In fact, He will give you even more, because He is a good Father.
What is also true is that the search for earthly things, when it is done for themselves and not for God, is a dangerous trap for souls. The world understands this very well and knows how to hypnotize us with commercials and advertising slogans. Don’t let it pollute your soul. Take a stand against it. God is your master. Don’t replace Him with another one.

May Our Lady help us to choose the good Master and to follow Him everywhere, especially on the Cross. She is also a Mother; a very good Mother who loves us.

vendredi, septembre 08, 2006

To think with assent

Abbaye de Murbach ( Alsace )

Sermon for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost

Today’s liturgy obviously highlights the fact that we are saved by Faith. The corporeal healing of the lepers is an image of our spiritual healing performed by Our Lord Jesus Christ. Since Faith is necessary to be saved, it might be good to think about this supernatural virtue in order to invigorate it. Our eternal destiny is at stake.

According to the definition by Saint Augustine: “ to think with assent ”, Faith is the act of believing. From this definition, we can already say that Faith involves our highest human abilities, which are our intelligence and our will. Believing is an act of reason, even though its object exceeds reason. Our will, also, is involved. Only someone who wants to believe believes. A good understanding of what Faith is shows us that it is first a matter of intelligence, and not a matter of feeling. We can only deplore the modern error which consists in feeling God and which contradicts the teaching of the Masters of the spiritual life and a sound theology. Of course we would like to feel God and to enjoy His presence. It is perfectly legitimate, but the fact is that we are children of Adam and Eve and as such, we are born with the consequences of original sin. One of them is a certain deprivation of God. So, finding God is a difficult road and would be almost impossible without Revelation and His grace. Faith is precisely our answer to Revelation. By it, we believe in what God has revealed.

Now, many Christians, when speaking about their Faith, say that it is a personal encounter with Jesus or God. We don’t want to deny this “definition” which is not a definition, by the way, but rather a description. It is true that in the process which leads to Faith, there is a certain meeting with God, but it is important to further clarify what Faith is. Actually, many people seem to greatly exaggerate the sensible angle of this meeting with Jesus. Most certainly, there are some special cases such as Saint Paul’s conversion on his way to Damascus. Certainly almost all of us have felt Our Lord’s presence in one way or another, or perhaps have even seen Him. Very well, but all the spiritual writers warn us: if it happens, thanks be to God, but it is certainly not the most important thing in our spiritual life. We must believe in order to be saved, but nowhere it is said that we must feel God. Furthermore, the act of Faith, since it is subject to the free-will in relation to God, as Saint Thomas explains, is meritorious.

Jesus Himself teaches that Faith is the principle of supernatural life in a soul. Six times in the Gospel of Saint John, He says: “ He that believes in Me has life everlasting.” In the same Gospel ( 17,3) He says: “Now this is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

So eternal life is a knowledge. It is the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ. This knowledge will be the beatific vision in Heaven. For now it is Faith. Only those who have Faith now will see God in Heaven.

We certainly know this truth, but what about its impact in our daily life? The fact is that unfortunately, many souls are not very concerned about their Faith. They have been spiritually healed by Jesus, but they are like the nine lepers of the Gospel who went away and didn’t give glory to God. Their Faith is not the principle of their spiritual life as it should be and instead of being a developing mustard seed, it is only a kind of hazy option in their life. They cannot relish the spice of Faith and it is not very surprising when, in the end, they give it up alltogether.

Having Faith involves many things, and first of all, a conversion of our life. I said a conversion, but, rather, I should say some conversions. In fact, spiritual theology distinguishes in fact 3 conversions which have been well explained by Father Garrigou-Lagrange. The first one is justification, which is a change of state: the change from the state of sin to the state of grace. This change cannot be done without Faith. The second conversion, which is the entrance into the illuminative way, goes with a purification of senses. It is a necessary stage toward perfection. As Saint John of the Cross points out, at this time, the soul feels no consolation even for Divine things. It is hard and the soul feels a certain dryness, but a pure Faith keeps it faithful to God. Prayer become a contemplation inspired by a pure Faith.

The third conversion is the entrance into the unitive way, which is the way of the perfects. It goes with a purification of the spirit. God removes all imperfection from the soul. At this point, as Saint John of the Cross says, “ the soul walks blindly with a pure Faith, which is a dark night for natural faculties.” You feel darkness and aridity, but Faith strengthened by the gift of intelligence, illuminates your life. The fruit of this conversion is a great love of God.

So, as you can see, Faith is necessary for the three conversions. It is the principle of life which leads you from the state of a sinner to glorification. Then it will make way for the beatific vision. The danger of placing too much importance on feelings can result in the temptation to give up religious practices when the time of purification comes. Unfortunately, it happens sometimes to be the case.

Dear Brethren, you have the duty to protect your Faith and your means of doing this are prayers, the Sacraments and study. Remember this, especially during your examination of conscience before confession. Neglecting to nourish your Faith would be sinful and harmful to yourself.
One day, Jesus Christ told you: Arise, go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole. Now, don’t forget to give glory to God.

May Our Lady help us to keep our Faith pure and strong, so that it will remain in us the principle of our life until the day when we see God.