mardi, décembre 30, 2008

Sermon for Sunday in the Octave of Christmas

This Child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted!

Let us continue our meditation of the mystery of the Nativity of Our Lord with the great Bossuet. Religion, he says, is a sentiment composed of fear and joy. It inspires fear in man because he is a sinner; it inspires joy in him, because he hopes in the remission of his sins. It inspires fear, because God is just; it inspires joy because God is good. This is the reason why the Psalmist invites us to serve the Lord with fear and to rejoice into Him with trembling. (Ps 2,11)

It is true that Our Lord is an object of consolation for many who, in spite of their condition of sinners, truly hate their sins and amend their lives. They are those who serve the Lord with fear every day of their life and do not content themselves of a mere ritual participation in the exercises of public worships, which is certainly a most excellent thing in itself but can be quite insufficient or even pharisaic if it is not preceded and followed by other acts of virtue. There are not a few, these Christian whom piety vanish right after Mass. There are not a few, these penitents who claim that they will amend their life in the confessional, but as soon as they have left it, return exactly to their same earthly and mundane life. For such Christians who do not have the fear of God, Christ can hardly be an object of consolation.

He rather is an object of contradiction. He is such a sign for the proud people who do not recognize and accept the Incarnation of the Word. He also is such a sign for many Christians, who, while they believe in this mystery, do not understand the great lesson of humility given by Christ. They have forgotten the baseness of their own birth, Bossuet comments. Christians by name, they prefer to be served rather than be servant. The true nobility is first the one of the heart not the one received by birth and the true servant of God is recognizable by his magnanimity, the greatness of his soul. There is no magnanimity without humility.

And what does offend the world is precisely the humility of Our Lord, Bossuet says again. It is such a scandal for those who seek only the earthly good and their own satisfaction. They were many among the Jews; they are still many among the Christians. Then, since Christ disturbs their own conception of their life, they charge Him and accuse Him:
Doth the Christ come out of Galilee? - But we know this man, whence he is. -thou being a man, makest thyself God. - Thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil. - Behold a man that is a glutton and a wine drinker, a friend of publicans and sinners.

The humility of the Son of God is unbearable for them as it reminds them that they should imitate Him and renounce to their life of sin. The Savior tells them: You seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. (Jn 8,37) And Bossuet puts these words in the mouth of Our Lord: The lights of your conscience and its persecution that it creates in your heart do not move you. For this reason you want to switch them off. The truths of the Gospel scandalize you. You begin to fight them, not with reason; you do not have a reason. You fight them out of laziness, blindness or fury.

You might think that those words are not for you. You do not attend to kill Our Lord and you do not judge Him! Are you so sure? You certainly do not act this way toward Our Lord in person, but have you forgotten what He told you many times? Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me (Mt 25,40)
Can you say with the same certitude that you never judge your neighbor or that you are never angry with him, which would make you a murder: You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Mt 5, 21-22)

Be sure that if you do not amend your life, Christ will be a sign of contradiction to you. Is He destined to be for your fall or for your rise? This depends on how you receive Him in your life and how you conform yours to his life. The humility of the crèche shows us what our life should be. It anticipates the sufferings of the Passion, but then, we know that it is for our rise.

May Our Blessed Mother help us understand this truth for the good of our souls.

lundi, décembre 08, 2008

Padre Pio Miracle Man

I have seen different movies on Saint Padre Pio, but I was disappointed by all of them... until tonight when I watched this one:

Padre Pio Miracle Man
by Carlo Carlei
with Sergio Castellito as Padre Pio

In one word : Beautiful!

Movie available at Ignatius press:

vendredi, décembre 05, 2008

A Catholic Monarch stands against euthanasia

LUXEMBOURG, December 4, 2008 ( -

The Grand Duke of Luxembourg is set to lose his power to veto laws after he threatened to prevent the passage of a law permitting euthanasia in the tiny European country.
As the head of state, Grand Duke Henri has the power to prevent the passage of a law by refusing to sign it, according to the existing constitution. He stated recently that for "reasons of conscience" he would not be able to sign the proposed law, which would allow doctors to kill their patients under certain circumstances.
After his statement provoked what the press described as a "constitutional crisis," the Grand Duke agreed to an amendment to the constitution that would make his signature a mere formality, rather than a promulgation of a law. Under the new system, he says he will be willing to sign the law, because he believes that it will no longer signify his approval.
Although the Luxembourg Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Junker, also opposes the law, Junker claims that the vote of the nation's representatives must override the conscientious objection of the Grand Duke.
“I understand the Grand Duke's problems of conscience," he reportedly told the press. "But I believe that if the parliament votes in a law, it must be brought into force."
The duke's threatened non-cooperation in the promulgation of the law would have been the second time in the last one hundred years that the veto power was used by the nation's sovereign. The last time was in 1919, when the Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide refused to sign a law that would have reduced religious instruction in the nation's educational system.
In a similar case, the King of Belgium refused to sign his country's pro-abortion law in 1990, and the law was promulgated without his signature.
However, Luxembourg's Grand Duke has been unwilling to imitate his Belgian counterpart and resist the new law using his constitutional power. Instead, he has voluntarily given it up so that the nation's legislators can pass the law without his approval.
The law will allow doctors to kill patients diagnosed as "terminally ill" upon the patient's request, after review by two doctors and a panel of experts.
Luxembourg, which is nestled between Germany, Belgium, and France and has a population of slightly less than half a million people, is the wealthiest nation per-capita in the world, and the vast majority call themselves Catholic. However, despite a large percentage of the population that continues to cherish family values, the nation's democratically elected officials have largely rejected Catholic moral teaching in the last 30 years. Abortion, for example, has been legal since 1977.

His Royal Highness Henri, by the Grace of God, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Duke of Nassau, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Count of Sayn, Königstein, Katzenelnbogen and Diez, Burgrave of Hammerstein, Lord of Mahlberg, Wiesbaden, Idstein, Merenberg, Limburg and Eppstein.

Crown Prince Henri was sworn in as Luxembourg's new monarch October, 7 when his father, Grand Duke Jean, stepped down after 36 years at an abdication ceremony. Henri, 45, became Luxembourg's sixth grand duke since 1890, when the modern monarchy was established. His father, 79, resigned in order to hand responsibility to his son. Henri pledged allegiance in the parliament, located next door to the grand ducal palace. Afterward, he and his Cuban-born wife, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, strolled from the parliament, around the block - waving to spectators and shaking outstretched hands - and back to the palace, a Disneyesque building of turrets and wrought iron that rises above the city's narrow cobblestone streets. In a proclamation, Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker's government said Henri will be ``a most worthy grand duke,'' due to his ``fine character and in-depth knowledge of his people.''

From a balcony at the palace, the new grand ducal couple, their five children and the outgoing monarch waved to hundreds of people packing the narrow Rue du Marche aux Herbes below them. The nation of 429,000, wedged between Belgium, France and Germany, measures only 52 by 36 miles. The capital city straddles a deep, craggy ravine that was first settled in the 10th century. It is lined by 14 miles of centuries-old fortifications.
The country's national motto is 'We Want To Stay What We Are' and continuity is what the new monarch promised his overwhelmingly Roman Catholic subjects. In his first address after taking office, he urged them to retain family values, to ensure equal rights for men and women and to not be blinded by their own prosperity that comes from relaxed banking rules that have brought hundreds of financial institutions to gleaming offices ringing the old city center. ``We have received a great deal. Yet are we giving enough in return? Are we not too selfish? Do we still notice people less fortunate than ourselves here in Luxembourg and abroad?'' he asked, speaking in Luxembourgish, which is a blend of French and German.
The Grand Duke Henri was married on the 14 February, 1981, to Miss Maria Teresa Mestre, born in Havana (Cuba) on the 22 March, 1956. Their children are Prince Guillaume, (11-11-1981), Prince Félix (3-6-1984), Prince Louis (3-8-1986), Princess Alexandra (16-2-1991) and Prince Sébastian (16-4-1992).

lundi, décembre 01, 2008

Sermon for the first Sunday of Advent

The first Sunday of Advent begins the new liturgical year and the church already presents to our minds a meditation on the end of times. From her foundation by Our Lord and her public manifestation on the day of Pentecost to the end of times, the Church continues her pilgrimage until the achievement of everything. The old regimes, namely the Law of nature and the Mosaic Law, have been abolished and we are now in the fullness of time according to Saint Paul or already in the last times according to Saint Peter, since the mystery of the Incarnation has been revealed.
Everything has been set by God before the foundation of the world but the manifestation of God’s plan to the creatures finds its fulfillment in history. God is not in the time: He is eternal, He is The Eternal. It is hard for us to realize what eternity means because we have no experience of it. We certainly have an intellectual concept of eternity, which is the absence of time, but since we are in the time, we hardly understand the notion of eternity. And the problem with us, poor and frail creatures, is that we often prefer to feel and to experiment rather than to comprehend with our intellect. This is a temptation of our fallen nature, but when it’s become a principle, it has some terrible consequences very harmful to souls. Saint Pius X have well explained the error of modernism that is founded upon a wrong principle: vital immanence. Religion is not any more something revealed by God but comes from a need or an impulsion. Therefore, Saint Pius X, says, as God is the object of religion, we must conclude that faith, which is the basis and foundation of all religion, must consist in a certain interior sense, originating in a need of the divine. This need of the divine, which is experienced only in special and favorable circumstances cannot of itself appertain to the domain of consciousness, but is first latent beneath consciousness, or, to borrow a term from modern philosophy, in the subconsciousness, where also its root lies hidden and undetected.
In other words, Religion, Faith, Revelation don’t have any more a supernatural and superior principle, but come from ourselves as a result of a need that has to be expressed in a way or another. Unfortunately, we can see the result of this error almost in all the churches where the liturgy became an occasion to express this need. Since modernism has changed the faith of the Church, it is not really surprising that it has changed her liturgy that is, by its very nature, the expression of her faith, and especially faith in the mysteries of the Incarnation and of the Redemption. The liturgy became a place and a time of experimentation, a laboratory. You know that in chemistry when you put together different compounds you may obtain a new one. So, when you introduce in churches different things that don’t pertain to the liturgy, you may obtain a new thing that is not any more a liturgy according to the mind of the Church, but a kind of celebration in the meaning of a party. The Holy Mysteries are no longer meditated and people end by losing faith. The sacred liturgy loses its character of objectivity – the objectivity of faith – and is submitted to the personal interpretation of each one. Then, you judge and appreciate a Mass according to some subjective principles that can be the personal piety of the priest or the talent of the singers and musicians or the dress of the lady that reads the epistle or whatever you want. And if you are pleased by what you see and hear, you declare that it is a beautiful Mass.
But Mass is beautiful in itself, by its nature, because it is first true and good. It is the Sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ and along with all others Sacraments and Offices and prayers that constitute the Liturgy of the Church, it is a visible sign of the mysteries hidden from the beginning and now revealed to men. The liturgical year is a kind of unwinding in a period of time of the eternal mysteries of God and it leads us toward the consummation of centuries when finally times will end.

The liturgy introduces us into the Divines mysteries and leads us toward eternity

Now Charles Cardinal Journet wonders why the Church goes on and lasts in the time. The first answer is obvious, he says. The mission of the Church is to dispense until the end of times the mystery of the Redemption of Christ. Our Lord saves us by, and only by His Church. This is why He sends the Church in mission in all the Nations to preach the Gospel and to sanctify people through the reception of the Sacraments of the New Law. Here is the true progress of the Church. The Church progresses when the Gospel is taught and when the Sacraments are performed and offered to the people. This is the continuation, the development and the manifestation throughout the centuries and all over the world of the gift of Pentecost. The Church continues her mission and her pilgrimage between the persecution of men and the consolations of God according to Saint Augustine. This is the time of the Church that takes place between the first and the second coming of Christ and we have nothing else to expect.
But this mission can be fulfilled only with Charity, which is the love of God and of the truth, which is finally the same thing. God is the Truth. So we cannot pretend to have charity if we do not have the courage of proclaiming the truth. And as the time when we live now is more difficult because of the rejection of God and of the revelation, we certainly need more courage than our elders, and we certainly need more charity. We certainly live in a time when God asks us more. You know, in difficult times for the Church, especially in times of persecution, we can see two things. We can see the renunciation of certain Christians who give up their faith and embrace the ideas of the world. But we can see also the heroism of others who are ready to give up anything, even their own life, for God, and who display a beautiful example of charity.
As we come near the end of times – obviously we are nearer year after year – we expect more persecution of men. But we are waiting for a great consolation of God when things that are still hidden will be unveiled with the second coming of Christ. Until this day, let us continue to meditate on the mysteries of our faith by living them, especially through the Divine Liturgy that the Church offers.

vendredi, novembre 28, 2008

La maxime du jour

Toujours par La Rochefoucauld.

La passion fait souvent un fou du plus habile homme, et rend souvent les plus sots habiles.

Passion often renders the most clever man a fool, and even sometimes renders the most foolish man clever.

jeudi, novembre 27, 2008

Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

In 1830, one of the apparitions sanctioned by Holy Mother Church occurred in the chapel of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, the Rue de Bac, Paris. There were three visions given to Saint Catherine Labouré who, at the time of the first one, was a novice in the order. She was awakened at 11:30 PM on the eve of the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul, by a "shining child" who led her to the chapel where she saw Our Lady, who spoke to her for two hours about the difficult task that lay ahead.

Four months later, on November 27 Catherine had the second vision wherein she saw a three-dimensional scene of the Blessed Virgin standing on a white globe with dazzling rays of light streaming from her fingers and she heard a voice say:"These are the symbols of grace I shed upon those who ask for them." A frame formed around the Mother of God and within it was written in gold letters, O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

The voice then told her to have a medal struck after this model. Then the vision turned and on the reverse side was a large M with a bar through it and a cross over it. Beneath this M were the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, one crowned with thorns and the other pierced by a sword.

This second vision occurred periodically until 1831. Because she wanted to remain unknown, Catherine told them only to her confessor. Msgr. Aladel, who received permission from the Archbishop of Paris to have the medal struck. The first 1500 were issued in June of 1832, and almost at once there were reported healings, conversions and miraculous events. The Saint could not be convinced to appear at any of the canonical hearings, but eventually the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary was sanctioned on the overwhelming evidence of the miracles obtained by those wearing the medal. Saint Catherine Laboure only revealed herself as the visionary eight months before her death, in 1876. Like St. Therese of Lisieux, this came as a surprise to the other nuns as they considered her quite ordinary. She was canonized in 1947 by Ven. Pope Pius XII. Her Feast is November 27 as is the Feast of the Miraculous Medal, although in some places it is celebrated on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception because of its relation to it.

Communion of the Mass
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

Give new signs and sho forth the splendor of Your right hand and arm; hasten the day, bring on the time; that they may declare Your wonderful works. (Eccl. 36,6)

mercredi, novembre 26, 2008

La maxime du jour

By François de La Rochefoucauld ( the writer, not the Cardinal )

Ce que nous prenons pour des vertus n'est souvent qu'un assemblage de diverses actions et de divers intérêts, que la fortune ou notre industrie savent arranger; et ce n'est pas toujours par valeur et par chasteté que les hommes sont vaillants, et que les femmes sont chastes.

What we term virtues are often but a mass of various actions and divers interests, which fortune or our own industry manage to arrange; and it is not always from valour or from chastity that men are brave, and women chaste.

dimanche, novembre 23, 2008

Is Antichrist near?

Sermon for the 24th Sunday after Pentecost

For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets and shall show great signs and wonders

The end of the liturgical year makes us anticipate the end of times as the whole liturgical year is a recapitulation and a summary of the history of salvation. The first coming of Christ has inaugurated a new era. His second coming will conclude it. It will be the crowning of the victory of Christ and of His Church. Our Lord and Master will come and this thought gives us a great joy.
We know that the return of Christ will be preceded by signs. Saint Paul, in the second letter to the Thessalonians tells us what are these signs: Let no man deceive you by any means: for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition who opposes and is lifted up above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God.

How interesting is this sentence from Saint Paul! Yet, many Christians ignore it or do not pay attention to it. But Cardinal Newman reminds us that it is our duty, as Christians, to be watching for the advent of the Lord and to search for the signs of it in all that happens around them; and above all to keep in mind this great and awful sign which the text speaks of. At this season of the year, then, when we turn our thoughts to the coming of Christ, it is not out of place to review the intimations given us in Scripture concerning His precursor.

Now, with the precious help of Cardinal Newman, let us consider how the precursor of the Lord, also known as Antichrist will come. The Scriptures mention Antichrist just a few times and always under the pen of Saint John. In his first letter, he presents him: This is Antichrist, of whom you have heard that he comes. This shows that the first Christians have heard about him, probably from Our Lord Himself. According to Saint John, Antichrist is already in the world. Antichrist is every spirit that dissolves Jesus. (1Jn 4,3). They are the heretics that deny the two natures of Christ. In fact everyone who does not confess Our Lord Jesus Christ true God and true man is an Antichrist and as Saint John says again: There are become many Antichrists. But those are the forerunners of the great Antichrist who has still to come and John specifies that it will be at the last hour.

Saint Paul speaks about the revelation of the man of sin and son of perdition. The Thessalonians thought that the end of time was near. I guess we find Christians in all generations that believe that it is near. And they are right in a certain way because time is short. But Saint Paul explained to the Thessalonians and to the Christians of all generations that something has to come first: the revelation of the man of sin and son of perdition. And there will be a revolt first. What is this revolt, or falling away?
Cardinal Newman, who follows the teaching of the Fathers of the Church, says it is a certain frightful apostasy. We have more precision from Our Lord who speaks about false prophets and false Christs. And because of iniquity, charity will grow cold. Jesus gives another sign: the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations: and then shall the consummation come. (Mt 24)

The commentary of Cardinal Newman on this last statement is particularly interesting: Now it may be objected to this conclusion, that St. Paul says, in the passage before us, that "the mystery of iniquity doth already work," i.e. even in his day, as if Antichrist had in fact come even then. But he would seem to mean merely this, that in his day there were shadows and forebodings, earnests and operating elements of that which was one day to come in its fullness. Just as the types of Christ went before Christ, so the shadows of Antichrist precede him. In truth, every event in this world is a type of those that follow, history proceeding forward as a circle ever enlarging. The days of the Apostles typified the last days: there were false Christs, and troubles, and the true Christ came in judgment to destroy the Jewish Church.

We know that Antichrist will come at the last hour, but his figures or shadows are already in the world and we can recognize them throughout History. Cardinal Newman mentions Antiochus, Julian the Apostate and Mohammed. Now, what about the context? Saint Paul mentions a restraining power that impedes the manifestation of Antichrist: only that he who now holdeth do hold, until he be taken out of the way. (2 Thes. 2,7) The Fathers thought that it was the Roman Empire. For example Saint Cyril of Jerusalem says that Antichrist will come when the time of the Roman Empire will be concluded.

Cardinal Newman believes that the Roman Empire is not yet gone and that it is still with us, at least in the XIX century. Let us listen to his explanation: I do not grant that the Roman empire is gone. Far from it: the Roman empire remains even to this day. It had a very different fate from the other three monsters mentioned by the Prophet Daniel; as will be seen by his description of it. "Behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns." These ten horns, an Angel informed him, "are ten kings that shall arise out of this kingdom" of Rome. As, then, the ten horns belonged to the beast, and were not separate from it, so are the kingdoms into which the Roman empire has been divided, part of that empire itself,-a continuation of that empire in the view of prophecy, however we decide the historical question. And as the horns, or kingdoms, still exist, as a matter of fact, consequently we have not yet seen the end of the Roman empire.

The old Roman Empire was extended in time through the different Kingdoms. But the Revolution, which is not achieved, has attacked them and now we see the emergence of a new order of the world. Cardinal Newman explains again: that this will be when revolutions prevail, and the present framework of Society breaks to pieces; that at present the Spirit which he will embody and represent, is kept under by "the powers that be," but that on their dissolution, he will rise out of the bosom of them, and knit them together again in his own evil way, under his own rule, to the exclusion of the Church. Cardinal Newman said that in 1835. Things are worst today and Satan more than ever continues to deceive people.
Cardinal Newman warns us again:
Far be it from any of us to be of those simple ones, who are taken in that snare which is circling around us! Far be it from us to be seduced with the fair promises in which Satan is sure to hide his poison! Do you think he is so unskillful in his craft, as to ask you openly and plainly to join him in his warfare against the Truth? No; he offers you baits to tempt you. He promises you civil liberty; he promises you equality; he promises you trade and wealth; he promises you a remission of taxes; he promises you reform. This is the way in which he conceals from you the kind of work to which he is putting you; he tempts you to rail against your rulers and superiors; he does so himself, and induces you to imitate him; or he promises you illumination,-he offers you knowledge, science, philosophy, enlargement of mind. He scoffs at times gone by; he scoffs at every institution which reveres them. He prompts you what to say, and then listens to you, and praises you, and encourages you. He bids you mount aloft. He shows you how to become as gods. Then he laughs and jokes with you, and gets intimate with you; he takes your hand, and gets his fingers between yours, and grasps them, and then you are his.

Is the manifestation of the man of sin and the son of perdition near? I do not know, but what is sure is that if it is not near, we know now a great shadow of Antichrist. We expect him to be a man, but he can be manifested through ideologies that prepare his coming. The French Revolution has certainly been the first step of the final battle. Today the new religion of human rights has replaced the true worship of God. Let us not be deceived, dear brethren. Let us not be mistaken. Our battle is for the victory of Christ, the exaltation of the Holy Catholic Church and the salvation of souls. As the soldiers of the Catholic army used to sing during the Revolution, we have only one honor in the world, this is the honor of Our Lord. We have only one hope in the world, this is the Heart of Our Lord.

samedi, novembre 22, 2008

Next stop....the Twilight Zone

Yesterday evening during a conversation with some parishioners I was suggesting that Barack Obama might be an instrument of Antechrist. It seems that I was pretty close to the truth!

"You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone!"

Hail! bright Cecilia

Orazio Gentileschi and Giovanni Lanfranco:
Saint Cecilia and an Angel, c. 1617/1618 and c. 1621/1627
The story of S. Cecilia is not without beauty and merit. There was in the city of Rome a virgin named Cecilia, who was given in marriage to a youth named Valerian. She wore sackcloth next to her skin, and fasted, and invoked the saints and angels and virgins, beseeching them to guard her virginity. And she said to her husband, "I will tell you a secret if you will swear not to reveal it to anyone." And when he swore, she added, "There is an angel who watches me, and wards off from me any who would touch me." He said, "Dearest, if this be true, show me the angel." "That can only be if you will believe in one God, and be baptized."
She sent him to Pope S. Urban (223-230), who baptized him; and when he returned, he saw Cecilia praying in her chamber, and an angel by her with flaming wings, holding two crowns of roses and lilies, which he placed on their heads, and then vanished. Shortly after, Tibertius, the brother of Valerian, entered, and wondered at the fragrance and beauty of the flowers at that season of the year
When he heard the story of how they had obtained these crowns, he also consented to be baptized. After their baptism the two brothers devoted themselves to burying the martyrs slain daily by the prefect of the city, Turcius Almachius. [There was no prefect of that name.] They were arrested and brought before the prefect, and when they refused to sacrifice to the gods were executed with the sword.
In the meantime, S. Cecilia, by preaching had converted four hundred persons, whom Pope Urban forthwith baptized. Then Cecilia was arrested, and condemned to be suffocated in the baths. She was shut in for a night and a day, and the fires were heaped up, and made to glow and roar their utmost, but Cecilia did not even break out into perspiration through the heat. When Almachius heard this he sent an executioner to cut off her head in the bath. The man struck thrice without being able to sever the head from the trunk. He left her bleeding, and she lived three days. Crowds came to her, and collected her blood with napkins and sponges, whilst she preached to them or prayed. At the end of that period she died, and was buried by Pope Urban and his deacons.
Alexander Severus, who was emperor when Urban was Pope, did not persecute the Church, though it is possible some Christians may have suffered in his reign. Herodian says that no person was condemned during the reign of Alexander, except according to the usual course of the law and by judges of the strictest integrity. A few Christians may have suffered, but there can have been no furious persecutions, such as is described in the Acts as waged by the apocryphal prefect, Turcius Almachius.
Urbanus was the prefect of the city, and Ulpian, who had much influence at the beginning of Alexander's reign as principal secretary of the emperor and commander of the Pretorian Guards, is thought to have encouraged persecution. Usuardus makes Cecilia suffer under Commodus. Molanus transfers the martyrdom to the reign of Marcus Aurelius. But it is idle to expect to extract history from romance.
In 1599 Cardinal Paul Emilius Sfondrati, nephew of Pope Gregory XIV, rebuilt the church of S. Cecilia.
St. Cecilia is regarded as the patroness of music [because of the story that she heard heavenly music in her heart when she was married], and is represented in art with an organ or organ-pipes in her hand.

Source: From The Lives of the Saints by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, M.A., published in 1914 in Edinburgh

Odes for Saint Cecilia's Day
By Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
In vain the Am'rous Flute and soft Guitar
Jointly labour to inspire
Wanton Heat and loose Desire;
Whilst thy chaste Airs (organ's) do gently move
Seraphic Flame and Heav'nly Love.

jeudi, novembre 20, 2008

Charity is not kindness (part II)

We said with Cardinal Newman that Charity is not kindness and that kindness can even be a lack of charity. Many people simply want to please others and display a great kindness for that. They may have a good intention – or maybe not – but that is not the question, because a good intention does not excuse an evil act.

Cardinal Newman continues: In the sacred province of religion, men are led on, - without any bad principle, without that utter dislike or ignorance of the Truth, or that self-conceit, which are the chief instruments of Satan at this day, nor again from mere cowardice or worldliness, but from thoughtlessness, a sanguine temper, the excitement of the moment, the love of making others happy, susceptibility of flattery, and the habit of looking only one way, - led on to give up Gospel Truths, to consent to open the Church to the various denominations of error which abound among us, or to alter our Services so as to please the scoffer, the lukewarm, or the vicious. To be kind is their one principle of action.

These words were written in the XIX century, but they are more than ever current. If pleasing leads us to open the Church to error and to alter our liturgy, then pleasing is a sin and kindness is a betrayal of faith and of charity. In many parishes, there are some Liturgical committees that spend hours to discuss how to welcome people who come to Mass. And they rearrange the Liturgy according to their own thoughts about charity. The idea is that everybody should feel the warm welcome given during Mass. But if you try to explain to them that they might be wrong and that it is certainly not what the Church desires for her children, I bet that their kindness would disappear very quickly.

I do believe that the need of many Christian communities to find some ideas, for not saying tricks, in order to adjust the liturgy, is precisely a consequence of the loss of charity, the true charity that is one of the three theological virtues infused by God. The book of the Acts of the Apostles shows us the connection between the liturgy and the virtue of charity. (Ac II, 42-47) Fide, spe, caritate colendum Deum, Saint Augustine says. God is to be worshipped by faith, hope and charity. We believe with the Church that the entire liturgy has the Catholic faith for its content (Pius XII)¸ which is expressed by the epigram ‘lex orandi, lex credendi’ – the law for prayer is the law for belief. But we can expand this epigram to include ‘lex amandi’ and even ‘lex cantanti’ (but this is another topic, for later if God wills) – the law for love and the law for singing. In the sacred liturgy we profess the Catholic faith explicitly and openly, Pius XII says again. The liturgy is also a continuous exercise of hope and charity. (Encyclical Letter Mediator Dei).

A liturgy that would not be based on the theological virtues would not be truly meet and just, nor right and helpful to salvation. It would be a work more human than divine and its consequence would be a diminution of faith, hope and charity among the Christian people, which would bring a greater desecration of the liturgy. In fact, it is a kind of vicious circle that finally leads to the abandon of the supernatural virtues. Satan’s strikes on the liturgy are wrenching and we have not finished seeing their effects after decades of liturgical abuses. And because the law of prayer is intrinsically linked to the law of belief, it is really not surprising that we unfortunately see today apostasy within the Church. The Catholic recent vote in favor of Obama is just one sign among many others. This is what happens when charity is replaced with kindness. The Christian principles simply vanish… and during this time, souls dash for hell.

More than ever, it is necessary for those who have kept the true faith to love more. The charity of the first Christians was so burning that we could recognize them by it. Look at how much they love each other!
To be continued...

lundi, novembre 17, 2008

Sermon for the 6th Sunday after Epiphany

The readings of today show us the efficiency of God’s power. Our Lord tells us about the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven. It is something that we should like to hear about. It is our kingdom for which we live, we fight, and we die if necessary. This is the kingdom that we desire and that we call with our whole heart: Adveniat regnum tuum – Thy kingdom come!
Now it is good to pray for the coming of the kingdom of Christ, but it is not enough. God expects from you more than prayers. He wants you to be an artisan of His kingdom. This is the great work of your life.
Look at this kingdom. First, it is like a grain of mustard. It is nothing else but a little grain, so fragile and ephemeral. You sow it in your field but you have no guarantee that it will grow and become a big tree. Its future is submitted to many contingencies. We know for sure that the kingdom of God in its completeness grows until its perfect achievement at the end of the time. For that that reason the end of time is something that we should desire, as the first Christians did, and not something to fear. It will be the manifestation of Christ in all His glory and the restoration of the perfect justice among men. From the poverty of the crèche to the second coming of Christ, the kingdom grows and it still continues growing today even in a time of apostasy. It is true that the Militant Church is under heavy attack and that she knows now trials and tribulations – and yet they are nothing in comparison to those which are to come! But the kingdom of God does not come down only to the visible Church on earth.
The kingdom comprises the Suffering Church too that we should not forget, especially in this month of November specially dedicated to the souls in purgatory. The kingdom comprises the Triumphant Church in all its majesty and glory that we have tried to contemplate on All Saints day. The kingdom is composed of all the invisible things that we do not see but are well real. Since we do not see them, it might be useful to meditate on them. If you want a tip, you can meditate on a single word of a prayer or any inspired text: for example the word invisibilium from the Creed can be a subject for you daily meditation. The kingdom of God is composed of all the mysteries of the kingdom of the Divine Grace so well explained by Father Calmel.
And for each one of us, it is the mystery of this grace that works in our souls. Does the little seed that God sowed in us the day of our Baptism grow? Again, we know for sure that the kingdom as a whole will grow until the end, but is it true for each single soul that is a kind of kingdom in miniature? My soul is a beautiful garden like the Garden of Eden where God has planted such a delicate little seed. Now He waters it with His celestial grace but the seed will grow only if a gardener takes care of it. And I am the gardener of my soul. I must keep it and work in it like Adam who had to keep the Garden of Eden and to work in it. But he failed, and I can fail too.
There are some gardens that are well kept and maintained. There, the grace develops and increases and the seed becomes a magnificent tree. This is the effect of God’s power that can turn a waste land into a beautiful garden. But God’s grace has to be assisted and accompanied by the work of the gardener. And remember that it is a long-drawn-out job that is never achieved in this life.
Saint Paul, speaking to the Thessalonians, praises the work of their faith, the labor of their charity and their enduring hope. The three theological virtues, infused with the grace of Baptism, have to be practiced. They are the frame of our spiritual edifice. Virtue! The Latin word virtus comes from vir – man as a human male. They suppose manliness and strength of character. The virtues of faith, hope and charity are reinforced and sustained by the Cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude which are the buttress of the theological virtues. They prevent our spiritual edifice of collapsing.

Establishing and increasing the kingdom of God in our souls is like building a church. You have to find the proper site and to adjust it toward East. East, where the sun rises, points out Christ who is the Sun of Justice. The soil on which we build our spiritual life is humility. It comes from humus in Latin, which means the soil. Then you have to figure out the design and to draw it and to think about the means that you need, as you have to plan and organize your life with order. That is the work of wisdom. Then you can start the work, which is a long work that requires the participation of many, each one working in his own field according to his own abilities. They are the necessary means for the achievement of the material edifice that is a church, a little representation of the kingdom of God and an embassy of heaven on earth. It is the same thing for your spiritual edifice. You have to work by practicing the virtues. And since you are by nature and according to God’s will a social creature, you have to work with your neighbors in order to achieve your own sanctification, according to your own state of life. There are some virtues that specially apply to the neighbor such as charity or justice. Then the power of God can be manifested through your work and be visible among men as a church, that rises from the ground and whose bell towers points toward heaven and shows us the way, is visible.

mardi, novembre 11, 2008

11 novembre 1918 - 11 novembre 2008

Ce fut la onzième heure du onzième jour du onzième mois de l’an 1918: le clairon sonnait la fin des hostilités sur la terre de France meurtrie par 4 années d’une guerre comme le monde n’en avait encore jamais connue!

Cérémonie du 11 novembre 2008 à Douaumont

Le Te Deum de l'Armistice

par Georges Lecomte

(L'Illustration, 30 novembre 1918)

Ce fut l'une des émotions les plus fortes et aussi le plus magnifique spectacle de cette quinzaine d'allégresse où la France victorieuse fêta sa délivrance.
Pour les hommes de notre génération, la grandeur et la beauté d'une si éclatante cérémonie religieuse ne pouvaient s'imaginer que d'après les récits lointains. Depuis soixante ans, hélas! les occasions glorieuses de la renouveler ne nous avaient pas été offertes. Et seuls les vieillards, témoins du Te Deum chanté à Notre-Dame en 1859 pour célébrer les victoires de l'armée d'Italie, pouvaient nous dire la pompe d'une telle fête dans la vieille basilique et la splendeur de l'hymne triomphal sous ses voûtes où, de siècle en siècle, retentirent tant de chants de bonheur et de reconnaissance.
Encore, après Solférino et Magenta, si brillante que fût notre victoire et si vive que fût la joie de la nation, ne s'agissait-il pas d'une fête pour célébrer la délivrance, puisque, à aucun moment de cette lutte, l'avenir du pays n'avait été en jeu. Mais, en ce radieux dimanche, c'était le cri de gratitude et de libération d'un peuple, tout entier debout depuis quatre ans et demi pour sa défense et qui, ensanglanté, piétiné, martyrisé, avait, deux fois au moins durant cette longue angoisse, failli mourir.
Aussi est-ce avec une âme beaucoup plus joyeuse et comme dans le bonheur d'une résurrection que Paris, soulagé du plus douloureux cauchemar, participa fervemment à cette nouvelle manifestation de l'allégresse nationale, qui fut, pour les hommes de toutes croyances, de toutes doctrines, une noble fête de l'Idéal et de la Patrie.
Si vaste que soit la cathédrale, dont les moindres recoins dans toute sa hauteur ne tardèrent pas à être envahis, elle ne pouvait abriter qu'une bien faible part de la fourmilière humaine qui s'empressait devant son porche. Mais, fleurie d'un magnifique pavois d'oriflammes et de drapeaux qui, le long de ses vieilles pierres, du ras de la terre jusqu'au sommet des tours, frissonnaient dans le soleil, elle se dressait étonnamment vivante au milieu de cette foule qui l'animait de sa rumeur. S'il y a des jours où l'on peut regretter que sa majesté soit un peu solitaire, dans un froid décor de bâtisses administratives sans beauté et sans vie près duquel la foule ne passe guère, quelle revanche en cette matinée de lumière, d'émotion et de joie où Notre-Dame, toute rajeunie par sa claire parure aux couleurs de la France, entourée par un peuple immense, apparaissait vraiment dans son rôle de Temple où se réfugie l'âme d'une nation!
Du dehors, avant même que le bourdon ait ébranlé l'antique dentelle de pierre et jeté sur la Cité les grandes ondes de son allégresse, rien que par tous les drapeaux dont elle est revêtue et par l'humanité frémissante qui l'assaille, la cathédrale donne une expression de fête.
Mais, dès que, les portes franchies, on se trouve dans la pénombre de la nef et les quasi-ténèbres des bas-côtés, cette sensation de triomphe et de joie s'avive.
Partout, sur les piliers, près des chapelles, le long du triforium, au départ des voûtes, dans les recoins les plus obscurs, à toutes hauteurs et dans toutes directions, accrochées à la tribune du grand orgue et s'éployant en faisceaux selon les lignes de la sublime architecture, nos trois couleurs resplendissent. Le bleu, le blanc, le rouge illuminent la sévère grisaille des vieilles pierres, chantent gaiement dans les profondeurs d'ombre. Quel frais rejeunissement de cette auguste vieillesse! La fête de la ville a pénétré là, en se purifiant, en s'ennoblissant. Mais l'église est en communion ardente avec la foule.

Dans le chœur, même radieux décor. Parmi l'éclatant pavois des piliers, le maître-autel se dessine sur un immense et glorieux trophée de drapeaux sur les plis desquels joue la lumière. La messe est célébrée devant les couleurs de la patrie. Tout le drapé rouge, qui retombe harmonieusement de part et d'autre du tabernacle, vibre sous le flamboiement des cierges et sous la clarté des rosaces encore dépourvues de leurs vitraux, se reflète sur la blancheur de l'autel. C'est comme si les flots de sang versés par la France étaient symbolisés là en cette glorification solennelle des héros, des martyrs et de notre pays triomphant. Pendant toute la cérémonie cet écarlate frissonnant dans la lumière, en ce cadre de vieille pierre sombre, rappellera douloureusement et glorieusement les sacrifices qui nous auront valu la victoire.
La foule est immense. On la devine tout à la fois grouillante et recueillie dans les profondeurs d'ombre où le regard se perd. Des soldats et des officiers. Quelques mutilés. Des blessés avec des bandeaux blancs au-dessus de leurs yeux de fièvre. Des généraux français, britanniques, américains. Les portes se sont librement ouvertes à qui porte l'un des uniformes de la grande bataille pour le Droit et la Justice. Beaucoup de femmes en grands voiles noirs: mères, veuves, filles, sœurs, qui, fidèles au vœu des morts, viennent en les pleurant se réjouir du salut de la patrie et chercher dans cette apothéose un apaisement à leur douleur. J'en vois debout, toutes drapées de deuil, contre les murs gris et contre certains piliers. Si beaux que soient leurs ornements de pierre, combien plus poignantes encore les pauvres figures douloureuses dont ils sont momentanément parés!
Mais voici que, au-dessus de nos têtes, tout en haut de la basilique offensée en août 1914 par la première bombe criminelle des avions allemands, les cloches font entendre leur grande voix. Toute la fine et sonore architecture en frémit. Au grand orgue une marche solennelle retentit. Les chuchotements et la rumeur de la foule s'éteignent. Il y a parmi elle des croyants et des incroyants. Mais tous indistinctement sont saisis d'un émoi religieux. Car c'est la grande fête de la spiritualité française. Et la cérémonie pour la glorification de la patrie et des morts commence.
Précédée d'un nombreux clergé, d'un archevêque, de plusieurs évêques, d'un archimandrite à la haute coiffure drapée de noir, Son Eminence le cardinal Amette, vêtu de pourpre, lentement.s'avance. Sa crosse, qu'un prêtre porte devant lui et dont l'or rayonne sous la lumière, émerge majestueusement au-dessus de l'assistance.
Les silhouettes violettes des évêques s'agenouillent dans le chœur tandis que le cardinal, sa barrette rouge à la main, vient asseoir sa robe rouge sur le trône écarlate où deux chanoines lui font cortège. Le divin office s'accomplit. Les dorures des chasubles et des objets cultuels resplendissent au milieu de ce rouge éclatant, de ces violets délicats et parmi ces drapeaux dont les couleurs crues vibrent.

Après que le Kyrie a résonné sous les voûtes, le Choral de Widor, magnifiquement joué au grand orgue et sur celui de l'abside, avec ses parties alternées qui se répondent, avec ses chants de trompette se mêlant à l'ample voix dès orgues, courbe l'auditoire sous ses rythmes émouvants. Puis, voici que, la minute de l'Elévation venue, clairons et tambours font retentir la guerrière et impressionnante sonnerie aux champs. Et lorsque l'Agnus Dei a fini d'accompagner la communion du prêtre à l'autel, la plainte douloureusement monotone du De Profundis, aux modulations qui sont comme des sanglons, s'étend, grave et obsédante, sur l'assistance. C'est l'hommage liturgique aux morts.
A ce moment le cardinal-archevêque de Paris, dont le patriotisme bien inspiré eut toujours durant cette guerre de si justes accents, s'avança vers la grille du chœur et, tourné vers la foule, évoqua pieusement, douloureusement, le souvenir des héros qui tombèrent pour nous sauver. Avec une infinie délicatesse ses paroles se firent consolatrices pour les êtres déchirés qui les pleurent. Puis il célébra allègrement la victoire de la France, qui est la victoire de toutes les plus nobles idées, et glorifia les hommes d'énergie, soldats et chefs, qui en furent les heureux artisans.
Remonté sous son dais pourpre, le cardinal en manteau rouge à longue traîne, entonne, selon le rite, avec une sérénité joyeuse, la première phrase du Te Deum. Alors les voix puissantes des orgues grondent et le chant d'allégresse s'élève. D'un bout à l'autre de la basilique les chœurs alternés se répondent. La sonorité triomphale des cuivres éclate parmi les amples et graves modulations de l'orgue et des fraîches voix enfantines qui, soutenues par l'harmonieuse basse de timbres plus mâles, s'élèvent comme un concert d'anges dans l'azur d'une Ascension.
C'est vraiment la Victoire qui, soudaine, tumultueuse, rayonnante, vient de s'engouffrer sous les nefs de Notre-Dame. A grands coups d'ailes joyeux, elle vole au-dessus des assistants. L'ardente vieille musique liturgique, avec ses essors et ses balancements, nous fait sentir son vol enivré. Elle est là. Elle est radieuse. Sa libre joie s'épand sous les voûtes qui retentissent de son frémissement. Et la foule est si impressionnée par l'invisible mais exaltante présence, que, tout entière, avec une humble ferveur, elle accompagne le noble chant de triomphe et de gratitude.

L'âme de la cathédrale, que cinq siècles de prières lui ont faite, participe à cette fête de l'idéal. Comment, à cette heure où la glorieuse France, faite du labeur, de la pensée et du sacrifice de tant de générations, vient d'être à nouveau sauvée, les survivants de la terrible épreuve n'associeraient-ils pas à leur joie et à leur espérance d'aujourd'hui les ancêtres qui, à toutes les époques de notre histoire, sont venus sous ces mêmes pierres, dans cette pénombre mystérieuse, pleurer leurs angoisses et leurs douleurs, et se réjouir, comme en ce clair matin, en s'unissant pour glorifier par ce même chant de triomphe la résurrection de la patrie?

Du haut de son siège pourpre, dans le flamboiement des cierges, le cardinal bénit la vaste foule dont il devine le recueillement jusque dans les plus lointains recoins d'ombre. Et la voix de cette foule, qui maintenant accompagne le beau chant du Magnificat, continue de révéler sa profondeur compacte.
Avec la même majestueuse lenteur que pour la procession de l'arrivée, le cardinal, précédé d'un archevêque - un Alsacien, Mgr Herscher, dont le cœur doit bondir de joie sous l'impassible masque de prière - des évêques, du prêtre portant la haute crosse archiépiscopale, se retire aux accents d'une marche solennelle.
Puis, sous ces voûtes qui jamais encore n'entendirent pareille musique, cérémonieusement chantée avec le consentement unanime, voici que le grand orgue joue la Marseillaise, l'hymne de la patrie, l'hymne des combattants pour la liberté, la justice, la fraternité humaine et notre généreux idéal français.
D'un même élan, d'une égale ferveur, la foule tout entière accompagne le beau chant de la France en armes, de la France victorieuse, de la France libératrice et respectueuse de la vie profonde des âmes, de la grande et chère France, restaurée dans toute sa puissance et dans tout son prestige, et qui a si noblement conquis, avec les indispensables sécurités d'avenir, le droit d'être demain glorieusement pacifique.

Charity is not kindness

It is not rare to find Christians with wrong notions of charity. They mix up Charity and kindness. I used to be one of them for a while until I realized that even Our Lord was not always kind. He was sometimes severe and even strong against certain persons. Many people, soaked by sentimental and romantic ideas about Charity would tell that He did not have a real pastoral sense. If having a pastoral sense is pleasing everybody, then I must agree with them. But I cannot. I cannot because I know from God Himself what Charity is. God is Charity; He is not kindness. He is a Father, and as such, He is sometimes kind and sometimes severe according to the state of our souls. But He is always Charity. And if I want to learn how to act out of Charity, I must look at His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Charity is first the love of God and for God. Therefore it is the love for truth. The liberals and modernist Christians do not like the Truth. They would ask with Pilate: Quid est veritas? They build their religion on subjectivism and emotions and turn the virtue of Charity into kindness. John Henry Cardinal Newman, with his usual height of view portrays them. The following is from a sermon given for the feast of the Apostle St. Barnabas.

"I ask, then, by way of reply, does not our kindness too often degenerate into weakness, and thus become not Christian Charity, but lack of Charity, as regards the objects of it? Are we sufficiently careful to do what is right and just, rather than what is pleasant? Do we clearly understand our professed principles, and do we keep them under temptation?
The history of St. Barnabas will help us to answer this question honestly. Now I fear we lack altogether, what he lacked in certain occurrences in it, firmness, manliness, godly severity. I fear it must be confessed, that our kindness, instead of being directed and braced by principle, too often becomes languid and unmeaning; that is exerted on improper object, and out of season, and thereby is uncharitable in two ways, indulging those who should be chastised, and preferring their comfort to those who are really deserving. We are over-tender in dealing with sin and sinners. We are deficient in jealous custody of the revealed Truths which Christ has left us."

As a supernatural virtue, Charity has an objective character that does not depend on my perception of things but that is based upon the revealed truths. This virtue supposes for example submission to the authority of the Church or of the sacred Scripture. Certainly, obedience is a distinct virtue that is derived from the cardinal virtue of justice. But I cannot pretend to have the virtue of Charity while I deliberately break other virtues. Now, it happens that some people try to justify their disobedience for the sake of Charity. Cardinal Newman exposes them:

"We allow men to speak against the Church, its ordinances, or its teaching, without remonstrating with them. We do not separate from heretics, nay we object to the word as if uncharitable; and when such texts are brought against us as St. John’s command, not to show hospitality towards them, we are not slow to answer that they do not apply to us. Now I scarcely can suppose any one really means to say for certain, that these commands are superseded in the present day, and is quite satisfied upon the point; it will rather be found that men who so speak, merely wish to put the subject from them. For a long while they have forgotten that there were any such commands in Scripture; they have lived as though there were not, and not being in circumstances which immediately called for the consideration of them, they have familiarized their minds to a contrary view of the matter, and built their opinion on it."

They are no longer in the field of objectivity and truth but in the field of subjectivity and opinion. They have built their own religious system centered not on Christ but rather on themselves and their own understanding of the Gospel.

"When reminded of the fact, they are sorry to have to consider it, as they perhaps avow. They perceive that it interferes with the line of conduct to which they are accustomed. They are vexed, not as if allowing themselves to be wrong, but as feeling conscious that a plausible argument (to say the least) may be maintained against them. And instead of daring to give this argument fair play, as in honesty they ought, they hastily satisfy themselves that objections may be taken against it, use some vague terms of disapprobation against those who use it, recur to, and dwell upon, their own habitual view of the benevolent and indulgent spirit of the Gospel, and then dismiss the subject altogether, as if it had never been brought before them."

To be continued....

lundi, novembre 10, 2008

Sermon for the Dedication of the Archbasilica of Our Holy Savior

The accession of Flavius Valerius Constantinus to the dignity of Roman Emperor and his victory over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge allowed the Church of Rome to leave the darkness of the catacombs and to worship God at the light of the sun. The edict of Milan in 313 recognized her liberty of worshiping in the entire Empire. Its Capital, Rome, would become soon, the Capital of a new Empire: the Capital of the Faith. After his conversion, Constantine gave the Pope the house of the Laterani, his wife’s family. It became the residence of the Bishop of Rome who ordered to build a church. It is only 11 years after the edict of Milan, that Pope Saint Sylvester dedicated the Cathedral of Rome. It was on November 9th 324.

Today we celebrate the anniversary of the Dedication of the mother church of the diocese of Rome that happens to be the Mother Church of all the Churches – omnium Urbis et Orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput. It shelters the Chair (Cathedra) of the successor of Saint Peter, the Seat of truth from where the Vicar of Christ teaches ex-cathedra the dogmas of the Holy Catholic Church. It is for this very special reason that the faithful like to honor the Archbasilica of the Lateran, and, when they have a chance to go to Rome, to visit this venerable church and to pray in it. Today, the Basilica of Saint Peter is certainly more famous in the world, but it is something new, due principally to the fact that the Popes live now in the Vatican since Pius IX. But for centuries, the Lateran was considered as the center of Christendom and even today, it is still the Cathedral of the Pope.
Historically, the Lateran has been the place of many important events. The Palace has been the residence of the Popes from 313 to 1304. Many synods took place there, but also and mainly, 5 ecumenical Councils.
The first Lateran Council that was the 9th ecumenical Council was in 1123. Its purpose was mainly to ratify the Concordat of Worms, which put to an end the investiture quarrel. Many other disciplinary canons concerning the life of the clergy were also issued.
The second Lateran Council took place just a few years later in 1139. Its purpose was to resolve the problems created by the schism of Antipope Anaclet II who passed away in 1138. Then, 30 canons carried on the reforms began with the first Council of Lateran. Usury is especially condemned. In a time of exacerbated Capitalism, it might be something good to remember.
You just have to wait for 40 years before the Third Council of the Lateran. This Council promulgated 27 decrees on the discipline of the Church for the clergy and other issues like the mode of election of the Pope and the Albigensian Crusade. Let us also mention the 24th canon that prohibited supplying weapons to the Saracens. In a time of exacerbated Islamism, it might be something good to remember.

The fourth Lateran Council, which is the 12th ecumenical Council is probably the most famous because more dogmatic. It came to a time that was certainly the height of medieval Christendom. The XIII century is the century of the great Cathedrals and of the scholastic theology with its Saints and lights: Saint Albert the Great, Saint Bonaventure and of course, Saint Thomas Aquinas. In order to fight the Albigensian heresy and the errors of Joachim of Flora, the Council has polished the expression of her doctrine regarding the Blessed Trinity or the Eucharist. The first chapter on the Catholic Faith reminds for example that there is no salvation outside the Church. The teaching of the Council on the Sacrament of the Eucharist is particularly important. It speaks about the transubstantiation, which is a change made by the power of God of the substances of the bread and the wine into the body and the blood of Christ. Many pastorals directives were also given concerning the reception of the Sacraments, especially the obligation of confessing at least once a year and receiving Holy Communion during Easter time. In a time of exacerbated Second Vatican “Councilism”, it might be good to remember that the Church did not wait until 1962 in order to take care of her children.
And finally, the 5th Lateran Council took place 3 centuries later from 1512 to 1517 in a very different context. Pope Jules II della Rovere – the founder of the Swiss Guard – called in for the Council in order to end the Gallican controversy. The Council continued after the death of Jules II with Pope Leo the X who condemned Martin Luther. The Council issued dogmatic and disciplinary documents on different matters such as an approbation of the Concordat of Bologne, the approbation of printing provided that it is done under the authority of the Church, and the declaration that the Pope is above a Council. In a time of exacerbated collegialism, it might be something good to remember.
Let us also mention the Lateran Accords in 1929 between the Holy See and the State of Italy that ended the Roman Question and recognized the sovereignty of the State of Vatican. So, many important events took place in the Lateran Palace as well as in the Archbasilica. Today, the anniversary of the Dedication of this venerable church gives us an occasion to give thanks to God for His Providence that always leads His Church. It is an occasion to give thanks for the Magisterium of the Church that infallibly offers us the true doctrine of Christ. It is an occasion to pray for the present successor of Peter who sits today in the Chair of the Prince of the Apostles so that he can continue to illuminate the world with the divine light that always shines in the Capital of the Faith.

mardi, novembre 04, 2008

J'ai accepté de tout perdre... et j'ai tout perdu

Témoignage du Commandant Hélie Denoix de Saint Marc
1e partie

2e partie

3e partie

4e partie

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lundi, novembre 03, 2008

Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?

Sermon for the 4th resumed Sunday after Epiphany

We may be tempted to think that after years of religious practice, we are well settled into spiritual life. We have followed Christ for a while and now we navigate on the calm waters of a peaceful ocean under a beautiful shiny sun. Like Candide of Voltaire, we imagine that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. At least everything is all right in our own interior world: We are good Catholics, we attend Mass every Sunday and even often during the week, we are faithful to certain good devotions. There is no reason to fear: all is for the best!
But one day comes what we have not foreseen. The weather changes and we have now to go through a storm. We are in the middle of the sea and there is no way to find a secured place. Then comes the panic: Lord save us, we are perishing! But it happens sometimes that we do not hear God because of the storm and because of our emotions. Our heart is agitated and we panic more and more. What a great opportunity we give to Satan to shake our spiritual edifice! And everything wavers and may collapse. Our spiritual life falls apart and here and there we give up something: devotion, Holy Communion, Confession or whatever. We change our habits and we display inconstancy.
And yet, a good sailor knows that he has to hold his course when he is in the middle of a storm, otherwise he is in great danger of running aground some reefs. Why don’t you follow this wise rule of prudence?
Saint John Mary Vianney asks you: How can this be, unless the religion you have is unreal, a religion of habit, a religion of long-standing custom, and not a religion rooted in the heart? And then he urges you: carry on, my friend, you are only a waverer. Carry on my poor man; in everything you do, you are just a hypocrite and nothing else! God has not the first place in your heart.
The storms have a certain utility. They reveal what is in our hearts and test our virtues. They are a good occasion of refining our fortitude, this beautiful virtue that makes the martyrs. But we have to hold our course and to change nothing in our spiritual life. Otherwise we might sink.
Listen again the advice of the Curé d’Ars: listen well and you will understand if you have religion as God wants you to have it in order to lead you to heaven. If a person has true virtue, nothing whatever can change him; he is like a rock in the midst of a tempestuous sea. If anyone scorns you, or calumniates you, if someone mocks at you or calls you a hypocrite or a sanctimonious fraud, none of this will have the least effect upon your peace of soul. You will love him just as much as you loved him when he was saying good things about you. You will not fail to do him a good turn and to help him, even if he speaks badly of your assistance. You will say your prayers, go to Confession, to Holy Communion, you will go to Mass, all according to your general custom.

The advices of Saint Ignatius of Loyola are very helpful too. He tells us what to do when a storm comes into our soul, things that he calls spiritual desolation. Listen to him: I call desolation tings such as darkness of soul, disturbance in it, movement to things low and earthly, the unquiet of different agitations and temptations. And then he gives us this precious rule: In time of desolation never to make a change; but to be firm and constant in the resolutions and determination in which one was the day preceding such desolation.

Now why do we have desolations? Why do we have to go through a storm? Saint Ignatius gives the answer:

There are three principal reasons why we find ourselves desolate.
The first is, because of our being tepid, lazy or negligent in our spiritual exercises; and so through our faults, spiritual consolation withdraws from us.
The second, to try us and see how much we are and how much we let ourselves out in His service and praise without such great pay of consolation and great graces.
The third, to give us true acquaintance and knowledge, that we may interiorly feel that it is not ours to get or keep great devotion, intense love, tears, or any other spiritual consolation, but that all is the gift and grace of God our Lord, and that we may not build a nest in a thing not ours, raising our intellect into some pride or vainglory, attributing to us devotion or the other things of the spiritual consolation.

This third explanation is very enlightening. It makes us remember that our spiritual life must be founded on Christ and not on ourselves. Once we will truly believe this, once our faith will be strong enough, then we will understand that there is nothing to fear. Let our spiritual life be rooted on the ground of the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and not on the quicksand of our passions and feeling!

jeudi, octobre 30, 2008

Humour of the saints

From the Life of Blessed Father Daniel Brottier

His confrere would have more difficulties a few weeks later to digest (both literally and figuratively) another joke that Daniel (Father Brottier) would prepare to Father Tranquili. Annoyed to hear his confrere always claim to have an infallible sense of gastronomy, Daniel decided to confound him.
Therefore a stray cat ended on the table of the rectory, under the appearance of a tasty rabbit. The guests painfully accepted the revelation of their disgrace, made during the time of digestion. The diary of the community remains silent on the story (Father Brottier himself told Father Pichon the story in Auteuil). The fact is that the writer would have been one of Father Brottier’s victims!
Bon appétit !

Individualism in Democratic Countries

There was a time when Religon could influence the social, cultural and political order. Today it seems to be the opposite way: Religion is influenced by the ideas of the century. In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out the fact that democracy influences our behavior – as it is true for any political regime. The practice of Christian virtues can counterbalance the bad effects of a system. But when Christians follow the thoughts of the world instead of the Word of Christ, there is no more barriers to evil. Democracy has generated individualism that has finally merged with egoism.

Democracy in America
Alexis de Tocqueville

(Volume II; Part 2, chapter 2)

I have indicated how, in ages of equality, every man sougth his beliefs within himself; I wish to show how, in these same periods, he directs all his feelings on to himself alone.
Individualism is a recent coined expression prompted by a new idea, for our forefathers knew only egoism.

Individualism is a new concept based upon two principles:

-individual liberty: putting individual liberty above society
-moral autonomy: I can appreciate by myself what is good and what is evil without rules given by the society.

Egoism is an ardent and excessive love of oneself which leads man to relate everything back to himself and to prefer himself above everything.

This is not the fruit of an ideology but a mark of our fallen nature. Every man knows egoism that dwells in himself. Some fight against, others content themselves with it.

Individualism is a calm and considered feeling which persuades each citizen to cut himself off from his fellows and to withdraw into the circle of family and friends in such a way that he thus creates a small group of his own and willingly abandons society at large to its own devices. Egoism springs from a blind instinct; individualism from wrong-headed thinking rather than from depraved feelings. Its originates as much from defects of intelligence as from the mistakes of heart.
Egoism blights the seeds of every virtue, individualism at first dries up only the source of public virtue. In the longer term it attacks and destroys all the others and will finally merge with egoism.

Egoism is a perversity as old as the world and is scarcely peculiar to one form of society more than another.
Individualism is democratic in origin and threatens to grow as conditions become equal.

Among aristocratic nations, families remain in the same situation for centuries and often in the same location. This turns all the generations into contemporaries, as it were. A man practically always knows his ancestors and has respect for them; he thinks he can already see his great-grandchildren and he loves them. He willingly assumes duties toward his ancestors and descendants, frequently sacrificing his personal pleasures for the sake of those beings who have gone before and who have yet to come.
In addition, aristocratic institution achieve the effect of binding each man closely to several of his fellow citizens. Since the class structure is distinct and static in an aristocratic nation, each class becomes a kind of homeland for the participant because it is more obvious and more cherished than the country at large.

Corporations and Compagnonnage have been abolished in France by the Law Le Chapelier during the French Revolution (June 17th 1791). It brought to an end an old tradition. A consequence would be the separation and then the rivalry between bosses and workers. The Class war is a fruit of the Revolution.

All the citizens of aristocratic societies have fixed positions one above another; consequently each man perceives above him someone whose protection is necessary to him and below him someone else whose cooperation he may claim.
Men living in aristocratic times are, therefore, almost always closely bound to an external object and they are often inclined to forget about themselves. It is true that in these periods the general concept of human fellowship is dimly felt and men seldom think of sacrificing themselves for mankind, whereas they often sacrifice themselves for other men.

In democratic times, on the other hand, when the obligations of every person toward the race are much clearer, devotion to one man in particular becomes much rarer. The bond of human affection is wide and relaxed.

Remember the teaching of the Gospel. We have to love God first, and then, our neighbor. Charity is very practical. I have to love a single person: the one who stands in front of me, someone that I can see and hear, someone that I can interact with, not the entire mankind. What would be philantropy without charity? Even natural love expresses itself to individual persons as Tocqueville seems to admitt: Only those nearest to us are any concern to us.

Among democratic nations, new families constantly emerge from oblivion, while others fall away; all remaining families shift with time. The thread of time is ever ruptured and the track of generations is blotted out. Those who have gone before are easily forgotten and those who follow are still unknown. Only those nearest to us are any concern to us.
As each class closes up to the others and merges with them, its members become indiffirent to each other and treat each other as strangers. Aristocracy had created a long chain of citizens from the peasant to the King; democracy breaks down this chain and separates all the links.

Remember the sermon of last Sunday and the Meditation of the Two Standards: How Lucifer encourages men to break chains (true for individual and society)!

A social equality spreads, a greater number of individuals are no longer rich or powerful enough to exercice great influence upon the fate of their fellows, but have acquired or have preserved sufficient understanding and wealth to be able to satisfy their own needs. Such people owe nothing to anyone and, as it were, expect nothing from anyone. They are used to considering themselves in isolation and quite willingly imagine their destiny as entirely in their own hands.

Thus, not only does democracy make men forget their ancestors but also hides their descendants and keeps them apart from their fellows. It constantly brings them back to themselves and threatens in the end to imprison them in the isolation of their own hearts.

I think we, Christians of the XXI, should meditate on this last sentence. Individualism threatens us too. If my heart is not open to my brother, how can I fulfill the most basic duty of charity? Sadly, I have to say that it is not rare to see Traditional faithfull Catholics with an individualist mentality. I cannot stop myself from thinking that the lack of participation to the Liturgy (public prayer, thus public virtue: see above) regarding the chant is a visible (I should say a non-audible) sign of individualism.

mardi, octobre 28, 2008