Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Lefebvre
Faced with the horrible events taking place in Hungary, Rumania, Siberia and China, and with the impiety and the hatred of God's Holy Name, which are their root cause, how can we, as Christians, fail to be deeply dismayed? Never a day goes by without news of massacres and deportations of all those good people who by word or action have shown their dedication to God and their fellow man.
However, the recent imprisonment of Cardinal Mindszenty, his trial and the outrageous treatment to which he has been subjected, and now his sentence, provide a particularly terrifying illustration of what thousands of human beings have suffered and continue to suffer for having openly defended civilization. No decent man can possibly remain indifferent when faced with such crimes against humanity.
Through the Prophet Isaias, God says to us: 的s this such a fast as I have chosen: for a man to afflict his soul for a day? Is this it, to wind his head about like a circle and to spread sackcloth and ashes? Wilt thou call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this rather the fast that I have chosen? Loose the bands of wickedness, undo the bundles that oppress, let them that are broken go free, and break asunder every burden. Deal thy bread to the hungry, and bring the needy and harborless into they house: when thou shalt see one naked, cover him and despise not thy own flesh."
Would we not be lacking the most elementary charity towards our neighbor if we turned away from his sufferings and did nothing about them? Because these evils seem so far away, can we pretend to know nothing about them?
For my part, my dear brethren, on behalf of all the clergy, and on your behalf as well, I have informed our Holy Father the Pope of our sorrow, and have assured him of our filial and respectful affection in the midst of the tragic events which have befallen the Church in Hungary, and which are bringing such grief to the whole Church and to its revered head.
What are we to do in the face of this impious explosion of hatred for God and contempt for all that is most sacred in the human person?
First, we must avenge the honor of God by leading a more. intensely Christian life. Next, we must make reparations for the sins of the godless by a life of penance. Finally, we must strive with all our might to establish the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ in civil society and in family life, so that similar catastrophes may not befall ourselves and our homes.
Avenge God's Honor by Leading a More Fervent Christian Life
Our Holy Father the Pope says:
For you, therefore, for your priests, and for the faithful entrusted to your care, let one thing take precedence over all else: that every man should try to excel his neighbor in zeal for the defense of the Name of God which the angel hosts themselves revere with trembling. Raising high the standard of the Archangel Michael, and taking up the battle cry "who is like unto God?" combat those who insult the Divine Majesty with a most vigorous determination to proclaim, to love, and to preach the Name of God.
By your worship render to God the praises that the godless should be offering, for worship is the most perfect act of religion that man can offer his sovereign Lord. And it must not be a merely external act. It is simple justice that every man, every family, every society should honor the Divine Creator in this way, but we who so willingly perform the outward acts of worship must add to them our inward adoration. As Our Lord said to the Samaritan woman: "the hour cometh and now is when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeketh such to adore Him."
This inward adoration, more properly called devotion, must keep our souls in a continuous state of prayer, which St. Thomas calls "an attitude of subjection before God in order to confess to Him our nothingness before Him, the Author of all goodness." Let your Christian life be not superficial but something which goes deep, involving your whole being and offering it, with all its activities and occupations, to God. "O how good and sweet is Thy Spirit, O Lord, in all things!"
On a practical level, my dear brethren, I urge you most strongly to visit your churches and to spend a few moments there whenever you have the opportunity. The saintly Cardinal Mercier used to say that anyone who managed to spend just five minutes each day in sincere and confident prayer for the guidance and comfort of the Holy Ghost, and to be filled with His gifts, was virtually assured of salvation. How much easier it is to pray thus, from the bottom of our hearts, before the Blessed Sacrament in those oases of recollection and silence which are our churches!
To Prayer and Praise We Must Add Penance
Our Holy Father the Pope has asked us, beginning this Lent, to resume Friday abstinence throughout the year. Let us accept this light penance in a spirit of faith, and to it let us add almsgiving and the sacrifice of all superfluous things. Along with peace, however relative that peace may be, a certain prosperity has returned. This prosperity, which is more apparent than real, has made pleasures and amusements more readily accessible, together, alas, with the gratification of the passions. From there it is only a short step, easily taken, to becoming forgetful of God and to the neglect of one's duties towards Him. Material wealth in the hands of the virtuous and the charitable is a source of great merits, but a soul enslaved by the senses is led by such wealth to licentiousness and spiritual blindness. Do we not see proof of this all around us in the world and those who follow its pernicious counsels?
My dear brethren, during this penitential season, let us take care to observe moderation and discretion at all celebrations and social gatherings. In the words of St. Peter: "Be sober and watch: because your adversary, the Devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour." Let us not forget that temperance is a necessary prerequisite for attaining the other virtues, and that neglect of this virtue means attachment to worldly goods and the obscuring of the mind's perception of the things of God.
By performing acts of penance we prepare ourselves to taste the joys, which God bestows abundantly in these days leading up to the feast of Easter. We shall also be better disposed to profit from the Lenten sermons we shall hear.
Finally, by our penance we shall be invoking God's mercy upon the godless and the blasphemers who display so great a loathing for His Holy Name.
To Establish the Kingship of Christ
To prayer and penance, drawing upon the love of Our Lord, we will add an indefatigable zeal for the establishment of His Kingship in civil society and in the family. No man of common sense and good will, seeing the ills which afflict us, and which are particularly prevalent in certain countries, will take long to realize that the source of these calamities lies in neglect and official denial of God by whole societies, and often even at the family level.
Our Holy Father the Pope said only recently that:
...once God has been abolished, disdain for the things of God turns man, stripped of his spiritual dignity into the base slave of things material, suppressing and even uprooting all the beauty shown forth in virtue, love, hope and the interior life.
No civil society will ever be able to survive by banishing God, for the sacred principles of religion alone can justly balance the rights and duties of citizens, consolidate the foundations of the State, and regulate the actions of men by salutary laws, directing them in an orderly fashion towards virtue. The greatest of Roman orators wrote: "You, O Pontiffs. ..defend the city more surely by the strength of religion than its ramparts defend it," and this becomes infinitely more true and more certain when the religion referred to is Christian faith and doctrine. Let all those who hold the reins of government then recognize these truths, and let the Church be everywhere afforded the freedom which is her due, so that free from all impediments she may enlighten with her doctrine the minds of men, give to youth a sound education and formation in virtue, reaffirm the sacred character of the family, and penetrate all human life with her influence. Civil society will have nothing to fear from this salutary course; on the contrary, it win reap the greatest benefits, for with social relations being governed by justice and equity, with the conditions of the needy being improved as necessary and amended to meet the requirements of human dignity, with discord finally quieted and spirits pacified in fraternal charity, better times may happily begin for all peoples and nations. Such is Our ardent hope, and the object of Our fervent prayers.
The will of Our Holy Father the Pope must be the most ardent desire of all Christians, and all must earnestly seek its fulfillment, convinced that in striving for the extension of Our Lord's Kingdom they are contributing to the greatness of the State and the family, and proportionately lessening the danger of the appalling evils which befall peoples whose leaders have rejected Christ and suppressed all religion.
So, my dear brethren, I beg of you to pray. Pray with your children as families, and be regular at public prayer in our churches. I entreat you to live a life of penance, and I count upon your zeal for the coming of God's Kingdom, that His Will may be done " on earth as it is in Heaven."
I will close by passing on to you a special request from the Holy Father, which is as follows:
Although atheism and the hatred of God constitute a monstrous sin which defiles our century and rightly causes it to fear terrible punishments, yet the Blood of Christ in the Chalice of the New Covenant, is a fount of purification, thanks to which we can wash away this loathsome crime and, having besought pardon for the guilty, can obliterate its consequences and prepare for the Church a magnificent triumph.
While meditating upon these thoughts, it seems to Us opportune that on Passion Sunday this year you and all priests should be permitted, and indeed encouraged, to celebrate a second Mass, which will be the votive mass for the Remission of Sins...Because of the ties that bind together the members of the Mystical Body of Christ, the faithful must always share in the sorrows and joys of the Church. Let them therefore heed your call, and let as many of them as possible gather around the altar. May they rightly understand the importance and the gravity of the cause, which has brought them together, and so offer their prayers and supplications to God with greater fervor.
We do not doubt that you will do what We ask of you with the greatest ardor, and that you will also offer your prayers and supplications to God so that, with all misfortunes averted, the spirit of celestial charity may come and renew all things in Christ, and so happily fulfill the desire of all who seek peace.