Extract from a Sermon pronounced by
His Excellency Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
on the Pardon1 at Lanvallay (Brittany), France
27 July 1980
My dear friends,
It was with great joy and great satisfaction that a few minutes ago we blessed this chapel dedicated to Saint Anne. We thank God that we are able to provide these places for Catholic worship, and to place this chapel under the protection of St. Anne, heavenly patroness of Brittany. We thank all who have had a part in the establishment of this chapel, in making such places as this truly worthy of the Holy Sacrifice and of the Holy Mysteries which are to be celebrated here, making them worthy of St. Anne.
Since we are honoring St. Anne, Patroness of Brittany, let me say a few words which the occasion calls to mind. It seems to me that St. Anne, by her example, gives us three great lessons: she asks those who are joined in the bonds of matrimony to live as Christians and to have Christian families. St. Anne has set us an example, as we are told in the Gospel. She lived with St. Joachim sine querela (without quarreling) for many years in peaceful marriage. St. Anne and St. Joachim lived in the faith. Where Christian marriage is concerned, they are models for Christian spouses. This is the first important lesson that St. Anne gives us by her example.
And by her example she also shows how Providence blesses Christian homes. Although she was barren, look how God gave her a child in her old age: Mary, who would be the mother of Jesus. This is why St. Anne is often represented, as you see her in this statue here, pointing out in a Bible the passages referring to Mary. She was no doubt inspired by the Holy Ghost to do this: a virgin will have a son. So Mary herself received a profoundly Christian education.
The second lesson that St. Anne gives us is Christian education of children – Christian homes, Christian education.
And finally, a third point: St. Anne gives true priests. For let us not forget that Mary was born and chosen by God to give birth to the Eternal High Priest. St. Anne also had the great privilege, at an advanced age, of having a child who would become the mother of the great High Priest. She was therefore the grandmother of Jesus – Jesus the Eternal High Priest. So St. Anne’s message for us is that, in Christian homes, there are vocations – holy vocations, vocations to the priesthood, to the religious life. This, I think, is the great thing St. Anne teaches us and spreads her blessings over Brittany.
There have been many good and saintly homes in this Catholic land of Brittany, where education has been given – a little rough sometimes, but a Christian education. The women of this area, especially on the coast, whose husbands went down to the sea in ships – these women remained at home with their children and taught them. In their faith, in their Christian families, they found a spiritual strength and courage to raise their children – sometimes all alone – at home and to give these children a Christian education.
Thousands and thousands of priests came from such homes, thousands of religious.2A historian of this area told me that, from 1850 to 1900, there was an average of thirty-five priests ordained per year in every diocese ! Thirty-five priests ordained every year in every diocese: this shows what Christian families could produce, not counting men and women who entered the religious life – their number is legion! There is no mistake about it. In the Holy Ghost Fathers alone, while I was Superior General, in 1962, there were listed in the directory for the Diocese of Vannes, 120 missionary Holy Fathers, 120 missionaries in the Holy Ghost Fathers alone, from the Diocese of Vannes ! Not to mention the Diocese of Quimper and the Diocese of Brieuc, where we also had many missionaries. God has given innumerable missionaries and innumerable religious coming from Christian homes. This is what devotion to St. Anne has brought to this area: Christian homes, Christian education, innumerable vocations.
Even after the Revolution, when members of religious orders were persecuted and priests were killed, there came a renewal. After that there was the law of separation, and more persecution of religious orders, the exile. Wonderful stories are told of whole families who prevented the police from going into monasteries and convents to drive out the monks and nuns. The persecution was so harsh and painful that many religious had to leave Brittany, and they took the Faith to South America, and to North America and elsewhere. But this had the result of lessening, to certain extent, the number of vocations at the beginning of this century. Then, during the First World War, there was another upsurge of vocations, when the numbers in the seminaries and the numbers ordained were greater than in the preceding fifty years.
And now we find ourselves face-to-face with a persecution much more insidious, much more serious. The public persecution by the enemies of the Church was better. It was better for the revolutionary mobs to destroy the convents, for the priests and religious to be martyred. It was better than the persecution that is taking place today. Today the priests and souls consecrated to God are not pouring out their blood, but they are being perverted. They are being perverted by ideas – for example, the idea of the state school, which is replacing the Catholic school everywhere, and by all the false modern ideas which have penetrated the seminaries, the convents, the Catholic schools, and, as you will have noticed, my dear friends, they have penetrated even truly Catholic homes. Thanks be to God that your homes are truly Christian, you who are here today, but how many others are still? How many are still Catholic? How many observe the laws of God? By all the standards which are given, by all the ways the devil gets into homes, families no longer have the Christian faith, so they have no more children, and there are no more priests, no more religious.
And even in the Catholic schools, what kind of education is given? The books that are forced on them nowadays! We read recently a fine letter from the Mother Superior of the St. Pius X School in St. Cloud (Sisters of Pontcales), who refused the contract which the State wished to impose upon her, and explained her reasons. Well now! We must admit that something terrible is going on here. She explains very clearly that the books given them, which are required in schools under this contract of association with the State, these books undermine Christian morality. In natural history books these poor, helpless children are shown things that are truly pornographic. How do you think morality can survive this sort of thing, Catholic morality, the law of God? It is impossible! So our enemy the devil, rather than persecuting priests and religious and their families openly, and spilling their blood, prefers to corrupt minds and hearts in a more radical, far more serious manner.
Well then, what can we do about it? We can fight against those who would corrupt our souls and hearts. We must have Christian homes, we must have large families, we must have families where the Faith is alive. It is a great joy to see, among those who are called “traditionalist,” who are nothing more or less than truly faithful Catholics, a great number of children. This is where vocations will come from again.
Where do our seminarians get their vocations, for the most part? From homes that are faithful, faithful to the Catholic faith. It would be possible to find numerous vocations in other ages, but in any age it is absolutely necessary to keep the Faith, to keep the Catholic Faith and to keep the message which St. Anne came to bring to the world, and especially to Brittany.
Christian homes, Christian education, the sanctification of priests, and an increase in the number of priests. This is what we should learn at the hands of St. Anne. We shall pray for this, my dear friends, shall we not? We shall pray that there may be many Christian families, families which keep themselves from evil, which are not afraid to remove from their homes a television which brings things that children should not see, which corrupt the hearts of children, to keep out of their homes everything which may corrupt the hearts of their children, and make of their home truly a place where Christ dwells, where the children are uplifted by the statues and pictures all around them, by the words they hear, which support them and train them in the Catholic Faith.
Finally, you will see to it, I am sure, that there are Christian schools again. If we can no longer have confidence in the Catholic schools of today, we must have others, and this is what we shall try to do. No doubt we would need many more priests, many more Catholic teachers, but whatever it may be, we shall bend all our efforts, I am sure, and you will do the same, to refound Catholic schools, so that your children, after a careful upbringing at home, may not be corrupted in the schools and put you in a hopeless situation. How many parents tell us this – by letter and in person! Their children are fine until about the age of ten, or twelve or fifteen and then – all of a sudden – they fall away from the straight and narrow path of faith and morals.
Parents are grief-stricken at this terrible situation – the ruin of mind and heart.
So we must have good schools, and we are happy to say we have been able to open some. Do not hesitate to send your children, however far away it may be, to Catholic schools. Thank God there are now some orders of nuns – at Pontcalec, the nuns of Fanjeaux, and Brignoles, who are conducting schools where you can send your daughters. They also have schools for little boys.
On our side we are making efforts to open schools for boys. We hope to open a school near here, in the area of Nantes, and if we can, we shall not hesitate to do so. We are absolutely committed to helping you to raise your children in a Christian way. You know that we have opened a university in Paris, so that your older children may take several years of philosophy, to give them a solid foundation, a firm grounding, so that they may do some good in the world around them, and be able to communicate this truth to others, to share this Catholic Faith with their children and all those they come in contact with, and upon whom they can have an influence.
This is the plan – a vast project – and certainly we are in a situation such as our ancestors perhaps never knew, because, once again, it would have been better if we have been persecuted by force of arms rather than by this infiltration of false ideas and corruption of morals, because this is deeper, and we will have more trouble in swimming against the tide. But with the grace of God, the protection of St. Anne, with the protection of the Most Holy Virgin, I am sure we shall succeed at least in saving those souls that wish to be saved. So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church.
So we beg you to join your prayers to ours; let us pray together for the graces we need from God. Without God we can do nothing, without the graces of Christ we can do nothing. He it is Who saved us on the Cross and gives all graces possible to us.
Let us ask St. Anne, His grandmother, let us ask His Mother Mary to obtain these graces for us, so that we may remain faithful children of Our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin and St. Anne.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
1. The “Pardons” of Brittany, unique to that region of France, are the feasts of the patron saint of a church or a chapel at which an indulgence is given.
2. i.e., members of religious orders.
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