Dear Father Rector, dear Colleagues, dear Friends,
It certainly is a pleasure for me to be once more in the United States. On a personal note, if a number of you wonder how I like it in the Argentine, I like it very much, but there's nowhere quite like the United States.
Four new priests today: four deacons who will become priests; three subdeacons who will become deacons, to join the priests we are always happy to see with us today, the priests of the Society out on the ground working for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. A number of them are here year by year, and I think I may, on behalf of all of you, thank each of them for their perseverance and for their devotion to the good of your souls because the devil is prowling around like a lion seeking someone to devour, and our Lady said in 1973, today he is especially implacable–it was, I think our Lady's word–implacable against consecrated souls to get them away from and out of the service of God. And each year that the priests are here again to take part in the priestly ordination it's clear that they are persevering; and if they are here today, it's because they love their priesthood, and they are welcoming the occasion to greet a few more members of their happy band.
Amidst the terrible situation surrounding us, one sign of hope amongst others is the apparently increasing number of vocations, both in the seminary and in the monasteries and convents, the sisters as well as the monks and the seminarians. The numbers are again beginning to climb. It's not surprising in this sense, that Catholic Tradition, as we may call it, has been at work now for tens of years in the United States in the wake of the Council, and slowly, slowly but I think surely, the true Church is rebuilding.
None of us says that there is nothing of the true Church in what we call the Novus Ordo Church, none of us says that no laity or no priests or no bishops outside of the SSPX keep the Catholic Faith. That's ridiculous. The Catholic Church cannot be in the hands of the enemy because the Catholic Church is the Immaculate Bride of Christ, but the churchmen and the system can fall into the hands of the enemy. God by a just punishment has allowed the enemy to penetrate deep into the entrails of the Church, and so the great falling away or apostasy continues, and it continues to be worse inside the Catholic Church, or, inside the system. And there is still little to no sign of the leaders of the Church, of the system let's say, backtracking or realizing their errors. Some of them are realizing the consequences of their errors, they don't like the effects, but they are apparently unable to go back to the causes, and so they continue to lay down the causes even though they don't like the effects. Of course, the result is, the effects keep coming, and they don't seem to be able to understand or they don't want to understand, or they cannot understand, what the real problem at the level of the causes is, what the real causes are.
And so, the problem being worse in the Church, many of you know the quotation of Archbishop Lefebvre. There were in the 20th century three world wars: 1914-18, 1939-45, and, thirdly, 1962-65, the dates of the Second Vatican Council. And of these three, as he called them, world wars, the Archbishop used to say the worst of them was the Second Vatican Council, because the first two wars were a terrible physical devastation involving the deaths of millions of bodies, but Vatican II was a terrible spiritual devastation and cause or occasion of the loss of millions and millions of souls.
The problem being deep inside the Church, it flows, of course, out into society. The situation is graver by the day. It is something you subdeacons and deacons have listened to your colleagues in the priesthood telling you just how difficult it is for souls even if they have some grip upon their Catholic Faith. The world still has a grip upon many of them. Ideas which have brought about this devastation of the world and of society don't come out of the bloodstream overnight. They are in our bloodstream, they are in the bloodstream of all of us, they fragilize all of us, they make all of us more or less fragile. But, as St. Paul says, where sin did abound, there did grace the more abound, and so the Lord God has obviously not abandoned His Church and He continues.
Having been ordained priests already, each of the priests attending the Ordination Mass is invited to lay hands on the ordinandi. It would seem as though each priest is meant to impress upon the soul of his new confreres whatever gifts he can offer to empower them for their future ministries.
But amongst the families today, the way things are going, it simply cannot continue for long. The exact dates we don't know, but the families are disintegrating, the homes are disintegrating, the people are disintegrating. If there is no home and no family, how can there be children who are human? The children are, on a huge scale–more than most of us realize, and more than many of us want to realize–the children are being brutalized and violated and beaten in their own homes. Between husband and wife, too, the sanity is disintegrating, the sane way, sane nature, a natural idea of how relations between husband and wife and between parents and children, the sound lines that need there to be followed, are widely lost.
Man is in revolt against everything natural, he is revolting against the natural relations between man and woman, between parents and children, and the result is a situation which the police and the State courts cannot handle. The police will be called to intervene in a deadly fight between husband and wife, let's say, or the State is called upon to create foster homes for the children who have in effect lost their home because of what happens there, but there's a limit. The supply of sane foster parents is drying up. As this devastation of home and family continues, there are fewer and fewer remaining of that generation which still understood what can work and should work, and that being so, where can the children be sent, even if the law intervenes to pull them out of the "home" that was destroying them: where can they be sent, where can they be put? But the State attempts to intervene between husband and wife. It attempts to arrange things with divorce laws and then with easy divorce or no-fault divorce laws. You and I know that that is against the law of God. In fairness, in some cases at least, the State is trying to do its best.
The answer, of course, is that the State is not equipped to come between husband and wife or to come between parents and children. The State is effectively powerless; it may try to pick up the pieces, but it certainly can't put Humpty-Dumpty together again. That's not its function. It hasn't got the means. And so as home and family disintegrate, and as people disintegrate, society turns into a dissociety.
I happened to be passing very briefly through the south of Manhattan the other night and there were police cars all the time. I exaggerate slightly to say there were police cars on every corner, that's an exaggeration, but the police were very clearly present. When men follow these modern ideas of revolt against nature, then society turns into dissociety, and the police and the State may do their best, but they can't deal with the situation. That's why when President Truman, president from 1945-52, had on his desk, I believe, a stand or a piece of wood which said, "the buck stops here," the dear president was not quite right. The politicians are powerless to deal with the situation as it is. The best of politicians is only a molder of a consensus, the molder of the best possible consensus, but the state of minds and hearts which he has to deal with are for him a given which he can't change, as even a Napoleon realized. Napoleon was envious of the power of the priest to get into the hearts and minds of men. It was a power he recognized he didn't have. And he molded a consensus, he molded a revolutionary Europe, but of course he bequeathed a mass of problems to his successors.
Of course, in politics, the buck stops on the president's desk, yes, but in a very real sense, the real buck is beyond the president. It is not something that he can handle. The political problems are always secondary; it is the religious problems which are primary. If the politics today are virtually insoluble as the most intelligent of politicians will realize, they will admit–it's against their pride, but if they're clear-minded, they will have to admit–that they're dealing with a situation that they can't deal with. Then where does the buck stop? But, of course, the answer is, the real buck stops with the Catholic priesthood. That's very, very clear.
And therefore, my dear young friends being ordained today, dear colleagues, it is mysterious that the Lord God should send us out like sheep amongst wolves, and then, especially today, that he should seem to be sending out so few sheep amongst so many wolves. The Lord God is mysterious; He goes way above our little, little minds. It's not for us to attempt to plumb the depths of the will of God. It is most certainly for us to do our best, to do what we can, and that, as Catholic priests, is a great deal in the situation in which God allows us to be.
One sign of hope in the dear United States is the momentary rise of vocations. There aren't many vocations at this moment in South America as I know, there aren't that many in Europe at present; if there is an upswing in the United States, then in this respect, for the moment, with the grace of God, the United States seems to be in the lead. Let's see if it lasts; and let's see if it's not picked up and imitated elsewhere. But in any case, it is a sign of hope.
Another sign of hope, most certainly, is the number of priests in the system, in other words, priests within the hierarchy of the official Church, who have responded to the book published by the Angelus Press and sent to every single priest in the United States on the official mailing list, 45,000 priests: Priest, Where Is Thy Mass? Mass, Where Is Thy Priest? As of the last few days, no fewer than 350 priests have sent back the card which was in the back of that book inviting the priests to apply for a kit to help them to start celebrating the Tridentine Mass. Three hundred and fifty out of 45,000: that's still 44,650 that we must pray for, but 350 is a significant number because, of course, each single Tridentine Mass, each single real Mass is a triumph. The New Mass can be valid, that has always been the position of the SSPX, it's not automatically invalid, but even when it is valid, the context surrounding the rite is such as to put the skids under the Mass and put the skids, as one might say, under the graces of the Mass, and under the faith of the celebrant, and under the Catholic faith of those attending that Mass. So, when the Mass is celebrated not only validly but also in a fashion anchored in the ages, anchored in the Tridentine rite, so that the Mass is secure and solid and the graces are sure to be there, given the minimum subjective dispositions, then each time that Mass is celebrated it's a great triumph.
The Angelus Press just received an interesting testimony. It must be one of these 350. I don't know what part of the US he's from, but he must have picked up the Mass using the video tape, perhaps, using the English-Latin old Canon, I don't know, maybe he found an old missal, who knows? In any case, he did several rehearsal Masses that weren't valid, that he didn't intend to be valid, but nevertheless running through the rite so that he would be practiced in the rubrics. He says, the opposition, the difficulties and the obstacles which he incurred at that time were extraordinary. And he says, during the last rehearsal, the dress rehearsal for when he would celebrate the Mass validly, there was a gigantic storm and the lights flickered on and off inside the Church when he rehearsed the words Hoc est enim Corpus Meum. It sure looks like the devil. And it would be normal, absolutely normal, if the devil hates it every single time the true Mass is celebrated.
We priests get used to celebrating the Mass; it's liable to become a routine. We don't always grasp the damage that each of our Masses does to the devil. In this case the Lord God seems to have allowed the priest to see it, to experience it in this way, so that he would grasp just what is at stake in the celebration of each Mass. Because even if there isn't an electrical storm to bring the tents down each time that the true Mass is said, nevertheless, each time the true Mass is said, the devil takes a hard blow.
The same priest describes that when he finally said the true Mass intending it to be valid, in other words, properly, fully, he says he felt–he's speaking of his feelings, and the dear man, it looks for the moment as though he is a little too much, perhaps, a man of feelings, but that he says the Mass is already enormous and it is obvious that he has the faith–but my dear friends, let us never more make the mistake of substituting feelings for the Faith or thinking that the Faith is a question of feelings. These feelings can be very misleading, and the devil can use feelings. The devil cannot handle the Catholic Faith; he can handle feelings.
In any case, with this good priest, his priesthood must be reviving–remember what the French say, a convert is worth two apostles. These Novus Ordo priests who've been dragged through a thorn hedge backwards don't want to go through the experience again. And when many of them realize just how they've been deceived, how they've been lied to, how they've been sold a dummy with this new religion and its plastic rite of Mass, when they realize that, they have no intention of going back. It's very possible that there will be a number more of these. For every book that went out, there may be so far 350 that have actually written back, but in many, many, many more of those 45,000 priests, just reading that book will be another seed, another grace pushing them in the right direction. They may have had already several graces, the Lord God is master of His graces and can give many graces more. That book, if it is not yet bearing open fruit, can be helping things to mature slowly; the good matures slowly. It takes a while to plant a bush, to grow a tree. It takes a while, it takes time, to grow something solid. There's another proverb in French: "time does not respect anything done without it." In other words, time will not respect anything done in a rush; in other words, with things done in a rush, easy come, easy go. But if it takes time and if it's difficult, then hard come, hard go. These priests who've taken years and years to slowly work it over, to work over the difference between the new religion and the old, will not easily let go again, once they fasten once more onto the old and the true religion.
In any case, the day when this priest finally celebrated the real Mass after having rehearsed it with electric storms as accompaniment, this priest says that he felt as though there was a bubble of protection around the altar. That's his expression, a bubble of protection around the altar. He also comments–a little observation, let's not make more of it than it is–he says children who were normally noisy during the Novus Ordo Mass, made no sound for an hour and a quarter, intently followed the true Mass. That kind of experience must encourage this particular priest.
Let us always bear in mind that today and always, the Lord God, and this is part of the answer to the question why apparently there are so few sheep being sent out amongst the wolves, that the Lord God works in quality and not in quantity. Upon quality will eventually follow, can follow quantity, if it's God's will. That'll be the time of the harvesting. There is a time for sowing and a time for harvesting, says Scripture. For many years in the US it's been for the truth a time of sowing. And now, maybe, maybe, some harvesting is coming. We'll see; time will tell.
But today we have the joy of four new priests and three deacons who, please God, next year will be priests. Four new priests, it's not quantitatively a great advance, but if they are four priests who humbly know what they are about, then a great blow will be struck today as always at ordinations for true liberty, liberty from Satan, which is the only real liberty, liberty from sin and liberty from Satan, because slavery to sin and slavery to Satan is the most real of all the slaveries.
What will these priests need? Just two thoughts, three perhaps. I think I usually say it, but I think it is indispensable: humility. God gives His grace to the humble; He resists the proud. Pride is a killer; it is a killer of the spiritual life, and it makes blind even in the natural life. If I fall victim to pride, then I see everything through falsifying spectacles of my own excellence. I interpret and want to understand everything to make me look more good. That's terrible. And if priests are really into pride, it's very difficult for them to see their way out. It takes a great grace.
Dear young priests, future priests, future deacons, be very real about who you are and how little we are. Nothings. It took St. Peter a great crash to become a fitting Vicar of Christ. As long as St. Peter thought he could do it on his own, as long as he thought he could handle it, as long as he thought he was the tough guy on the block and he would deal with whatever came, he was not fit to be the Vicar of Christ. Once he had crashed, denying his Master three times, he wept bitterly, and they say he wept to the end of his days. That weeping and the memory of his humiliation kept him humble. He always, from then on, knew that he couldn't do it on his own, he wasn't the tough guy on the block. The tough guy on the block is the Lord God, and He alone. When Peter realized that, then he became the foundation Pope of the Catholic Church.
Another thought would be: "Unless the grain falling into the ground die..." The priest, the servant of God, the Sister, must die. It's a marvelous image. I think one of the Church Fathers or one of the spiritual writers explains it. A grain of wheat is nice and smart, it's yellow and tough when it's on its own. And when you throw it into the ground, it goes into the mud, and in the mud it's got to disintegrate. It falls apart and the mud gets into it, but the falling apart and the mud getting into it, so to speak, is what is necessary for the grain to bear fruit. The priest must, if necessary, be trampled upon. He's going to have to suffer. He's going to not always be able to do what he likes or what he wants to do, but he's got to allow Providence, the will of God, to do what God wants. And then when God finds the piece of ground that God wants him to be trampled into, he's got to be trampled into that ground; he's then got to be disintegrated. He's got to renounce himself, take up his cross, the cross which many of you have now graphically seen from the film of Mel Gibson. The cross was pretty heavy, and the priest's cross can be very heavy, but that's the trampling into the ground and that's the price of the priesthood. And that's where the salvation of souls is, and that's where the bearing of fruit is, and that's where the glory of God is.
So, dear deacons, dear priests, expect the cross. It may come in an unexpected form. If we had the cross that we chose, it wouldn't be a cross, but it's because it's one that we don't choose, that it is the cross, that it is the cross. So, expect to suffer, and when you suffer and when you are trampled upon, despised of men, rejected, then is when you can serve God. For we can talk about the world around us and the terrible state the poor world is in, and how the priest is the end stop for the salvation of society, we can evoke the problems inside the official Church and how the true Mass is the only hope for the future of the Church, but in the end, it's not even about the salvation of society or the salvation of the Church. The priesthood is about the glory of God.
So, dear young men about to be ordained, you are going to give glory to God. And if your priesthood ground to a halt for whatever reason or in whatever way, after however short a time or after however long a time, as long as you had been faithful to the priesthood, as long as we are faithful to the priesthood, we are, irrespective of the results amongst human beings, giving glory to God. There it is in the Canon of the Mass: Abel, Melchisedech, Abraham offering sacrifice for the glory of God, Abraham offering his own son, Melchisedech and Abel offering at least apparently less demanding sacrifice, but nevertheless the sacrifice that God wanted, the offering of sacrifice. It is, of course, an instinct in men, even in our poor society of today when men refuse to offer any sacrifice to God, they're liable to finish up in Satanism, still offering sacrifice of chickens or even, alas, human sacrifice to the Devil or the devils. Ask the police. The instinct is too deep, even in a completely irreligious age; the religious instinct is still there. It's too deep in man's nature. Because man is created by God, he's created for God, the deepest thing in him is his relation to God, be it a relation of grace or a relation of sin. It's the deepest thing in him.
It's beyond the reach of the politician; it's not beyond the reach of the priest. But of course, and this is the last thought, the priest must be faithful and he must be empty of himself. The priest doesn't do it by his own strength, by his own intelligence, by his own force, by his own whatever. The priest does it by acting purely and simply as a channel of God, especially of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the stand-in chosen by Our Lord to stand in for our Lord. And when he operates as a priest, it is our Lord who is operating through him. "I absolve you," says the priest in the confessional, but obviously the human being who is himself a sinner can't absolve, but as priest it is Our Lord through him. "This is my body," he says at the altar; it is obviously not the priest's own body, but the priest as Christ, it is his body. Our Lord asks the priest not to say, This is Your body, speaking to Our Lord, or, This is His body, referring to our Lord; Our Lord asks the priest to say, "This is My body," when it isn't the priest's body, his physical body. But that's how closely Our Lord ties the priest into Himself.
And it's on condition of being tied into Our Lord that the priest has this power to save society, to save the Church, and to save the world–Our Lord's own power. Our Lord did it, Our Lord Himself did it, by a complete emptying of Himself and filling Himself with the will of His Father, as you see from the Gospel of St. John. And there is the beginning of Catholic Tradition. Our Lord Himself says, I'm not setting up anything of My own, I'm not choosing My own words, I'm not choosing what I do, it's My heavenly Father who is telling me what I do and what I say. If Our Lord Himself is empty of Himself in order to act as a channel of the will of God, how much more the Catholic priest. When the Catholic priest is empty of himself and faithful, then all power in heaven and on earth is entrusted to him as it was by the Father to the Son. When the priest is filled with himself, with his own prestige, with his own glory, with his own ideas, with his own vanity, he can't serve God.
So lastly, my dear young friends, the prayers of all of us go with you today, and for the rest of your diaconate and priesthood. Empty yourselves of yourselves and be trampled into the ground, and keep very clearly in mind the objective truth above all of your subjective dispositions, your subjective frailties, your subjective miseries, your subjective desires. There it is, it's out there: God is out there, the will of God is out there, our Lord Jesus Christ is out there. It's not something that you or I determine. We submit.
And, of course, in all of these needs, in all of these intentions of the priesthood and of the new priests, let us never fail to turn to the Mother of God, Mother of priests and Mother of the priesthood. Surely a number of us watching the Mel Gibson movie have realized again what as Catholics we knew in theory, but there it is in front of our eyes in a particular way. Of course, not perfectly, who could possibly perfectly represent the original scene? Nevertheless, it's a representation of which many people say much good. It presented the Mother of God and how much the Mother of God had to suffer at the foot of the cross. She suffered so much at the foot of the cross, that she's merited the title of Co-Redeemer. She is, of course, Co-Redeemer only in complete dependence upon her Son, the Redeemer. Nevertheless, the part that she played carrying humanly part of the weight that crushed down upon the humanity of Our Lord as He suffered and died on the cross: could Our Lord have carried that weight humanly? – He had to carry it humanly, it wasn't coming down on His divine nature which with a flick of His little finger could have stopped all the suffering. The weight crashed down on His humanity: could our Lord have endured that without His Mother by Him?
Again, with her, it was the will of God. She was selfless, she was the grain being trodden into the earth like Her Son, crushed by the weight of suffering as she saw her innocent Son undergoing such torture. But the great fruit, and the fruit for the Mother of God, is that she is the Mother spiritually of all of us. In a special way, of course–"Son, behold thy mother, mother behold thy son," John the Evangelist, the Catholic priest–she is in a special way the Mother of the priesthood.
So during today's Mass, we will remember to pray to the Mother of God in a particular way for the future priests and for all of the dear priests presently serving you, all of the priests of the Society serving souls in the US and in the world, and for all of the 45,000 priests in the US, each and all of them, and for the how many hundreds of thousands of priests perhaps in the whole wide world–they are all there very much in need of our prayers. Our Lady, in the 1960's, asked for prayers for priests. She, of course, knew what was coming, and she knew how much priests would need prayers to protect them from what was going to be and from what we have seen, an unprecedented onslaught of the devil. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Photographs taken by St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary.