Sermon on the Occasion of ordination to the Holy Priesthood
29 June 1988, Econe, Switzerland
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
My very dear friends, my dear brethren,
Allow me, before addressing several words to you at this beautiful ceremony of the priesthood, to address some words to His Excellency Bishop de Castro Mayer.
It is a great honor and a great encouragement to have the presence of Bishop de Castro Mayer, former Bishop of Campos, Brazil (not far from Rio de Janeiro). On the other side of the ocean, he has also led the good fight for Tradition, surrounded by his good priests of whom several are here today at his side. He has fought the good fight of Faith. This has brought him the same persecutions as those, which we have suffered and are still suffering.
I read, in the leaflet printed by his priests on the occasion of his fortieth anniversary in the episcopacy, a few of his pastoral letters. The first of them dealt with Tradition. Indeed, it is for the sake of this Tradition, that is to say, in virtue of the Treasure that Our Lord Jesus Christ has left in the hands of His apostles in order that it be transmitted from generation to generation, that we carry on the good fight. Indeed, it is this, which makes us Christians, which makes us Catholics, participants in the treasure of the Divine Life, which Our Lord Jesus Christ came to give us. This is what Tradition is. It is the preparation for Eternal Life. It is not a small thing. It is not a mere word. It is a profound reality, a reality which leads us to Eternal Life. Without Tradition, that is to say, without the Magisterium of the Church of all time, and without these treasures of grace, which are the participation in the very life of Our Lord Who, is God, we cannot reach Eternal Life. It is therefore our everlasting life, which is at stake. Thus, in performing this ceremony, we do not make folklore; we are not attached to some vestiges of the past, which one could easily do without. Yes, this is why I profoundly thank His Excellency Bishop de Castro Mayer for having come amongst us.
He fought at the Council. We fought together to prevent the errors of Liberalism, which are a cancer in the doctrine of the Church, spreading themselves in the texts of the Council. Together we fought and we have found each other publicly maintaining the defense of Tradition. A good number of bishops fought with us during the Council there were almost 250 – but afterwards circumstances were such that they returned to their dioceses, or that they gave their resignation, or that they died. We found ourselves only two to resist all these lamentable consequences of this liberal Council, of which Pope Paul VI himself said was a work of “auto-demolition” of the Church and that “the smoke of Satan” had entered the Church: It is quite right that bishops should fight against the demolition of the Church and against the smoke of Satan!
My dear friends, it is to you that I address these few words before you receive the priestly grace and character, by the imposition of our hands, and by the words of the Sacrament of Orders, of the Holy Priesthood.
You came from your family, from your school, from your city, each one of you having lived in a particular atmosphere: some from very Christian families, some from less Christian families, and perhaps also, alas, some from families having lost the Faith. And you came with the help of grace, called by Our Lord; you came to Ecône. Why Ecône? At that time perhaps you did not perfectly realize the fight that Ecône leads. You came because of your desire to be formed in Tradition. Indeed, it seemed to you that to separate oneself from Tradition was to separate oneself from the Church and, therefore, to receive possibly doubtful sacraments and a formation which is certainly not according to the principles of the Magisterium of the Church of All Times. Thus you made this path to Ecône, which no doubt merited you some criticism, perhaps from certain priests in your area, perhaps from a part of your family. You suffered for it, but in the strength of your Faith, and with the grace of God, you came.
And you found, when you first arrived, the statue of St. Pius X. What does that statue of St. Pius X signify in the middle of this courtyard at Ecône? That St. Pius X, first of all, is the patron of our Society, and that he is the last canonized Pope. He was canonized for the vigor of his Faith, and the ardor he had put into fighting the errors, which were destroying the Faith. This is what the Collect for the Feast of St. Pius X says… yes, he was canonized for that by the holy Pius XII. And you found him, therefore, a model: model of theological science, model of the Faith, model of pastoral zeal. St. Pius conquered you, no doubt, straightaway by his example of moderation, of goodness, of holiness, of strength and of fortitude.
Then, you entered the house. You took several steps and you found the Virgin Mary, opening her arms to welcome you. This statue had been relegated to the attic of a church in Chambery – a magnificent seventeenth-century statue, in gilded wood – abandoned! Our Swiss friends bought it, and placed it here in order to welcome you. It is truly a magnificent statue of the “Tutela Domus – Guardian of the House.” And you knelt down and prayed to the Virgin Mary to make of you a good seminarian, to make of you a good priest.
And then, without doubt, accompanied by some older seminarian, you visited the Chapel. And there you found, yes, the traditional chapel such as you wanted it, such as you desired it. At the center of the Altar, the Eucharist, Jesus Christ, with the little lamp signifying at the same time that Jesus is the Light, that He is the warmth of our souls, signifying His continual presence, and signifying also the continual presence not only of those who are here below but of all the angels of heaven, gathered around Our Lord.
You have seen above the tabernacle, in which the Real Presence of Our Lord is contained, a beautiful crucifix. Indeed, the altar on which Our Lord Jesus Christ is present reminds us of Calvary, of the Sacrifice of Our Lord.
All this was already for you, a magnificent lesson. And I am sure that you were already in your heart conquered by this atmosphere, an atmosphere certainly austere for someone coming from the world. Coming from the atmosphere of today’s world with much liberty, into a house of silence, a house of recollection, a house of studies, you may have felt this discipline as a burden on your shoulders; yet it is a necessary discipline, indispensable. If one wants to study with seriousness, to pray, silence is needed, recollection is needed.
When you were given your cell I think you found this recollection and silence. “Lo, I will have to be in this cell for six years – one year of spirituality, two years of philosophy, and three of theology!” Oh, it may have seemed a long time for you: “Six years before becoming a priest! Shall I be able to bear with this trial?” But now, here you are today, ready to receive the priesthood. I am sure that you all agree that the years passed quite fast. “We have seen years passing without noticing them.”
Throughout these years you have deepened this treasure of Tradition which St. Pius X, and Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself have put in your hands: theological science, the Faith, the Light of God in our souls, the Divine Word in our intelligence teaching us the Creed, every article of the Creed upon which you have meditated throughout your studies of theology and philosophy: God is Creator of all things visible and invisible, and His Son is Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer. You have studied the de Verbo Incarnot, de Verbo Redemptore, de Deo Redemptore - all these magnificent chapters of theological science, which have penetrated your souls.
You have been more and more convinced that the center of all; the center of all your studies, the center of your piety, the center of your devotion, is Our Lord Jesus Christ. There is only one word in your hearts: Jesus! To Him you have consecrated your souls, and today His will give you the grace of the Priesthood. I am nothing but a little instrument in the hands of God to bestow upon you the grace of the Priesthood, which is an extraordinary grace, which will make you more than ever, conformed to Our Lord Jesus Christ. What a joy, my dear friends! What gratitude must be yours today towards Our Lord Jesus Christ and to the Most Holy Virgin Mary who give you the grace and the privilege to become priests.
What characterizes the whole of these studies, the whole of the Seminary, of this atmosphere? It is the spirit of adoration, the spirit of dependence. A true seminary places us a little in heaven, in the adoration in the presence of God; God Who is Our Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ Who is God. This dependence, this obedience of the mind, this obedience of the will, this submission of our hearts, this docility of our intelligence in receiving the truth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, what a beautiful thing.
My dear friends, this is what the faithful here present and all those whom they represent all over the world they have come here from all over the world, representing many others this is what they expect from you, that you bring to them the truths of Tradition, this dependence upon God.
This is what Christendom is. Christendom is a regime of dependence upon the Reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is our King, and we wish Him to be our King; and we submit ourselves to our King, through our good Mother in heaven who gives us the example of a perfect dependence upon Jesus.
And you have been taught also to put yourselves on your guard against what undermines and reduces to naught this spirit of dependence. Now you know it well, you have sufficiently studied, read and listened, and you know that the spirit of independence has always existed in many since original sin. It was the spirit of independence that pushed our first parents to sin, and the spirit of independence has remained all through the centuries. The Good Lord has punished it, pursued it, and has put under His dependence a special people in order to teach dependence on God and keep this dependence on God in the world.
Throughout the centuries, this independence manifested itself, but especially by Protestantism. “We want to be free! In the name of Liberty we want to be free from the Church; we no longer want the Catholic Church, the Roman-Church; we no longer want the Holy See; we want to be free, to do what we want, to interpret the Scriptures as we want! We want Liberty!” This was an uprising of independence. And this uprising of independence produced a terrible plague in Europe: revolutions happened everywhere in the name of Liberty, of independence of the people, in the name of the rights of people to do as they want; here you have the rights of people, rights of man, rights of societies… this was a cry of horror, a cry of hell, which really provoked an earthquake in the whole of Christendom, a revolution. This spirit of independence manifested itself in a violent way at the moment of the [French] Revolution, with the proclamation of the Rights of Man – independence of man before God.