Tradition a Treasure Received to be Handed Down
The following is an extract from a sermon by Abbé François-Marie Chautard. In order to conserve its original character, the original oral style has been retained throughout.
Very dear brothers, we are heirs: heirs of God, heirs of the Cross of Jesus Christ, co-heirs of Heaven, heirs of a formerly glorious Christianity, heirs of a beautiful Catholic Tradition built by our ancestors. Let us be grateful, infinitely grateful, to God for this inheritance. But, after having thanked God, let us know how to receive this inheritance, let us know how to conserve it.
Do Not Renounce Your Inheritance
My very dear brothers, let us keep ourselves safe from a certain “complex” which has affected Catholics and which could affect us. Under the pretext of humility, of charity, of virtue, some today reproach their fellow Catholics and themselves for being fixated on doctrine, for holding to an intransigent morality, outdated piety, and a narrow conception of family and love. These accusers have soiled the memory of their forebears. They have nourished the shame of sons. They have buffeted their inheritance. Alas, numbers of Catholics let themselves be influenced, rattled by this repentance, this self-criticism, which has made them too often dhimmis, defeated men—men of compromise, ready to ridicule what they loved and love what they ridiculed.
Fr. Charles de Foucauld, who died a century ago, spoke these prophetic words: “I had believed in entering into the religious life that I had above all to counsel gentleness and humility; with time, I believe that what is lacking the most often is dignity and pride.” O christiane, agnosce dignitatem tuam, said St. Leo the Great. O Christian, remember your dignity. Yes, you are a son of God and not Abdallah, you are of the race of the children of God and not slaves of God.
Let us be, then, proud of the inheritance of our fathers, that is to say, let us admit its grandeur, let us venerate it, defend it; let us be enthusiastic witnesses. This is what it means to be proud. And let us be it all the more because this legacy has been bequeathed to us without any merit on our part. “It is time to be humble,” said St. Piux X, “because it is time to be proud.”
Let us have the spirit of the Magnificat, of this joy, of this enthusiasm, of this recognition, of this publication of the riches of God who dwelt in the heart of the Virgin Mary. Yes, let us thank God. Let us glorify God for all the riches that He has given to us.
The Treasures of the Faith
My brothers, we have received an immense treasure: the treasure of the Catholic faith, the treasure of the Mass of all time, the treasure of an authentic Catholic priesthood, the treasure of the doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas, the treasure—especially in our country of France—of an authentic counter-revolutionary thought forged in the battles of our ancestors, a treasure of a truly Marian piety, of the cult of the Sacred Heart, the treasure of the Spiritual Exercises. We have as well the treasure of the religious life: contemplative, missionary, and teaching. And I am not speaking of the myriad of works that have bloomed and re-bloomed, these primary and secondary schools and those of higher education, these youth movements, these third orders, these apostolic works, these study groups throughout the world, an evident sign of the love of God and the breath of the Holy Ghost, who acts suaviter ac fortiter, with gentleness but with force.
Yes, my brothers, let us be proud of this Catholic doctrine which has spanned the centuries because it speaks to us of the Eternal. Let us be proud of this Catholic morality of which the demands are nothing but the reflection of our elevation to the Divine Sonship. Be proud, dear parents, to transmit life and forge Christian souls of the children of God. Fathers of families, teach your children! Fathers of families, pass down to your sons! Fathers of families, make your own these words of St. Peter: Know how to “justify your hope” (I Pet. 3:15), your choices, your positions, your life.
Be proud, Catholic spouses, to be the living and faithful images of the love of Christ and His Church. Be proud, Christian women, to hold the place of the heart and not of the body.
Be proud, dear faithful, whoever you are, to be Catholic. And do not be frightened by this point used to scare us, by affirming that we would not be fully Catholic, that we do not have the spirit of the Church. Whether or not [the authorities in Rome] give us a document of Catholicity, we are, and we are fully, totally. And this diploma of Catholicity, it’s our attachment to the Catholic Faith, to the Roman liturgy, to the sacraments of the Church; it’s our unwavering fidelity to the See of Peter—fidelity founded on the faith and not on a voluntarist obedience; this diploma of Catholicity, it’s you, dear numerous families, it’s you, profoundly Christian families from which are born solid religious and priestly vocations.
You dear faithful, who—more than whoever—adhere to the doctrine of the Church. You who are attached to eternal Rome, to the liturgy of St. Gregory the Great, of St. Pius V and of St. Pius X. You who receive the valid sacraments and not adulterated ones: would we be less Catholic because we are rejected by those who have squandered the inheritance?
Certainly, we do not have a canonical structure, and literal legality is without doubt a very good thing. Yes, without doubt, but would we be less Catholic because we do not possess the proper papers? Is it because of that that we give less respect to the rights of the Church? I am going to say something crazy. The rights of the Church, we have them much more than those who, by their pernicious laws, distill the modern errors and separate what God has united.
In saying this, I do not intend to say that sanctity is in every corner of Tradition and that evil is unthinkable among our ranks. To this day, no man has yet discovered a way to be shielded from abuses. A different inheritance, a different heir. And if we are not worth more than the others, if we are not better than the others, we have received much more. Because “we have”—as says the Apostle—”this treasure in earthen vessels” (II Cor. 4:7). And if we ourselves are subject to weaknesses, to falls, we on the winning side: “Fear not, little flock, I have overcome the world” (Lk. 12:32; Jn. 16:33).
Transmit the Faith
My brothers, this faith, we have it; these moral rules, we know them; these means of salvation, we possess them. So, it is up to us who have this inheritance to pass it on to all souls of good faith.
And how do we transmit it? By genuineness. By clearly speaking, not hard and without appeal, but clear, caring, far from double talk, from the daily ocean of lies. Genuineness of a life conformed to our faith: “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:16). “We would like,” said Pius XII to the Italian youth, “that no one speak with you, deal with you, work with you, without receiving in their spirit a ray of Christian light.” “The first gage,” he said again, “of success of your apostolate will be to possess in abundance within yourselves this treasure of the love of God.”
It is in showing to our contemporaries a life more peaceful, more loving, more righteous, more pure, poorer, more nourished by the contemplation of God, a soul neither stiff nor bitter, that we will be apostles.
To use the words of Fr. Calmel: “May each Christian, may each one among us, go to the limit of his grace,” “may each be at his post, following the particular rules of his state of life, soldier or school teacher, farmer or lawyer or lowly clerk, or priest of the Lord, may each exhaust his potential and his power.”