The Archbishop Speaks
Excerpts from a Sermon preached by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
4 July 1976
on the occasion of the First Solemn High Mass of Father Denis Roch
(The full text of this sermon can be found in Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre.)
My Dear Monsieur l'Abbé,
My Dear Friends,
My Dear Brothers,
It is not in this Exhibition Hall that your first Mass should have taken place, you being a child of this city. It is in a large and beautiful church of the City of Geneva that you should have celebrated this ceremony so dear to the hearts of all the Catholics of Geneva. But, as Providence has decided otherwise, here you are before the crowd of your friends, or your relatives, of those who want to share your joy and the honor which God has done you of being His priest, a priest for ever.
The history of your vocation is the implementation of a plan. And I shall say what our plan is.
You were born of Protestant parents in this City of Geneva, and in childhood and youth you followed the teaching of the Protestant religion. You were well educated, and you had a profession which gave you all the world can hope for here below. Then, all of a sudden, touched by the grace of God through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin May, you abruptly decided, under the influence of that grace, to direct yourself to the true Church, the Catholic Church; and you desired not only to become a Catholic but also to become a priest. I can still see you arriving for the first time at Ecône; and I confess that it was not without a certain apprehension that I received you, asking myself if so rapid a passage from Protestantism to the desire of becoming a Catholic priest was not an inspiration with no future. That is the reason why you stayed some time at Ecône reflecting more deeply on the desire within you, your aspiration to the priesthood. We all admired your perseverance, your will to reach that goal, despite your age, despite a certain weariness of ecclesiastical studies, of the study of philosophy, theology, Scripture, Canon Law for you were a scientist. And now, by God's grace, after those years of study at Ecône you have received the grace of sacerdotal ordination. It seems to me to be difficult for anyone who has not received that grace to realize what the grace of priesthood is. As I said to you a few days ago at the time of the ordination: You can no longer say that you are a man like other men; that is not true. You are no longer a man like other men, henceforward you are marked with the sacerdotal character which is something ontological, which marks your soul and puts it above the faithful. Yes, whether you are a saint, or, which God forbid, whether you are like priests who are, perhaps, alas, in hell: they still have the sacerdotal character. This sacerdotal character unites you to Our Lord Jesus Christ, to the priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in a very special way, a participation which the faithful cannot have; and that is what permits you to pronounce the words of consecration of Holy Mass and in a way make God obey your order, your words. At your words, Jesus Christ will come personally, physically, substantially under the species of bread and wine; He will be present on the altar and you will adore Him; you will kneel to adore Him, to adore the presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ. What an extraordinary reality! We need to be in heavenâ€”and even in heaven shall we understand what the priest is? Is it not St. Augustine who says "Were I to find myself before a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest first, before the angel''? So, then, here you are, become a priest. I said that the history of your vocation is a whole plan, it is our plan. That is profoundly true, because we have the Catholic Faith and are not afraid to affirm our faith; and I know that our Protestant friends, who are perhaps here in this assembly, approve of us. They approve of us: they need to feel the presence amongst them of Catholics who are Catholics who are Catholics, and not Catholics who appear to be in full accord with them on points of faith. One does not deceive one's friends; we cannot deceive our Protestant friends. We are Catholics; we affirm our faith in the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we affirm our faith in divinity of the Holy Catholic Church, we think that Jesus Christ is the sole way, the sole truth, the sole life, and that one cannot be saved outside Our Lord Jesus Christ and consequently outside His Mystical Spouse, the Holy Catholic Church. No doubt, the graces of God are distributed outside the Catholic Church; but those who are saved, even outside the Catholic Church, are saved by the Catholic Church, by Our Lord Jesus Christ, even if they do not know it, even if they are not aware of it, for it is Our Lord Himself Who has said it: "You can do nothing without Me—nihil potestis facere sine me." You cannot come to the Father without going by Me. "When I shall be lifted up from the earth," says Our Lord Jesus Christ, meaning He will be on His cross, "I shall draw all souls to Me.'' Only Our Lord Jesus Christ, being God, could say such things: no man here below can speak as Our Lord has spoken, because He alone is the Son of God, He is our God….Tu solus altissimus, tu solus Dominus. He is Our Lord, He is the Most High, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is for that that Ecône remains in being, it is for that that Ecône exists, because we believe that what the Catholics have taught, what the Popes have taught, what the Councils have taught for twenty centuries, we cannot possibly abandon. We cannot possibly change our faith: we have our Credo, and we will keep it till we die. We cannot change our Credo, we cannot change the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we cannot change our Sacraments, changing them into human works, purely human, which no longer carry the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is because, in fact, we feel and are convinced that in the last fifteen years something has happened in the Church, something has happened in the Church which has introduced into the highest summits of the Church, and into those who ought to defend our faith, a poison, a virus, which makes them adore the golden calf of this age, adore, in some sense, the errors of this age. To adopt the world, they wish to adopt also the errors of the world; by opening on to the world, they wish also to open themselves to the errors of the world, those errors which say, for example, that all religions are of equal worth. We cannot accept that, those errors which say that the social reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ is now an impossibility and should no longer be sought. We do not accept that. Even if the reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ is difficult, we want it, we seek it, we say every day in the Our Father: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." If His will were done here below as it is done in heaven—imagine what it would be like if God's will were really done here below as it is done in heaven: it would be paradise on earth! That is the reign of Our Lord which we seek, which we desire with all our strength, even if we never achieve it; and, because God has asked that from us, even if we have to shed our blood for that kingdom we are ready. And this is what the priests are whom we form at Econe, priests who have the Catholic Faith, priests such as have always been formed.
* * *
So, something has happened in the Church: the Church since the Council, already some time before the Council, during the Council, and throughout the reforms, has chosen to take a new direction, to have Her new priests, Her new priesthood, a new type of priest as has been said, She has chosen to have a new Sacrifice of the Mass, or rather let us say a new Eucharist; She has chosen to have a new catechism, She has chosen to have new seminaries, She has chosen to reform Her religious congregations. And what have we now come to? A few days ago I read in a German paper that in the last few years there are three million fewer practicing Catholics in Germany. Cardinal Marty, himself, he who also condemns us. Cardinal Marty, Archbishop of Paris, has said that Mass attendance is down fifty per cent in his diocese since the Council.
Who will say that the fruits of that Council are marvelous fruits of holiness, fervor, and growth of the Catholic Church?
They have chosen to embrace the errors of the world, they have chosen to embrace the errors which come to us from Liberalism, and which come to usâ€”alas, it must be saidâ€”from those who lived here four centuries ago, from those reformers who have spread Liberal ideas throughout the world; and those ideas have at last penetrated to the interior of the Church. This monster which is at the interior of the Church must disappear, so that the Church may find Her own nature again, Her own authenticity, Her own identity. That is what we are trying to do, and it is why we continue: we do not want to be destroyers of the Church. If we stop, we shall be certain, convinced, that we are destroying the Church, as those are engaged in destroying Her who are steeped in that false idea. And so we wish to go on with the construction of the Church, and we cannot do better to get the Church built than to make these priests, these young priests—showing always the example of a deep Catholic faith, of an immense charity. I think I can say that it is we who have a true charity towards Protestants, towards all those who do not have our faith. If we "believe our Catholic faith, if we are convinced that God has really given His graces to the Catholic Church, we have the desire of sharing our riches with our friends, giving them to our friends. If we are convinced that we have the truth, we should exert ourselves to make it known that the truth can benefit our friends as well. It is a failure in charity to hide one's truth, to hide one's personal riches and not let those profit from them who do not have their own. Why have missions, why set off to distant countries to convert souls, if not because one is certain of having the truth and desirous of sharing the graces received with those who have not yet received them? It is indeed Our Saviour Who said: "Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. He that believeth shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be condemned." That is what Our Saviour said. Strengthened by these words, we continue our apostolate, trusting in Providence: it is not possible that this condition of the Church should remain indefinitely.