18 July 1982
For the visit of His Grace Archbishop Lefebvre on Sunday, July 18, the chapel of the priory of St. Irenaeus in Lyons was full to overflowing with faithful of all ages and types, united in fidelity to the immemorial Church. The chapel was tastefully decorated with flowers and sparkled with a divine radiance and a Mary like freshness. Such peace and Christian joy!
Devotion and peace to a degree no longer discernible in Modernist ceremonies stripped of all sense of the sacred. This sense of the sacred was manifest throughout the blessing of the chapel, which included the Litany of the Saints, and a sung Mass in honor of St. Irenaeus.
The Archbishop's homily was full of truth and charity. It went right to the heart and soul of everyone present and seemed to breathe into them the power of the Holy Ghost. We were struck by the immediacy of the Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy, which spoke to celebrant and faithful across the centuries: "Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, exhort, with all patience and teaching, because a time is coming when men will not endure sound doctrine... as for you, fulfill your ministry."
St. Irenaus was a disciple of St. Polycarp and second bishop of Lyons, apostle of eastern Gaul, defender of the Truth against the Gnostic heresy. St. Irenaeus died a martyr's death, and his spirit inspired all at these ceremonies with a strong and profound confidence that Catholic Tradition would return.
The beacons of hope represented by the priories of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X are witnesses of the timelessness of the Faith. The souls they reach will be more and more numerous. The Blessed Virgin Mary, whom we honored by singing the Magnificat at the close of the services, will carry these beacons to the Heart of her Divine Son. Deo gratias!
Father Michael Bourdon introduced and welcomed His Grace, Archbishop Lefebvre, who then gave the following homily:
Dear Father, dear faithful,
Thank you for the warm reception that you were kind enough to give me. Indeed I have long wanted to make the acquaintance of this center of prayer and faith in Lyons, but with so many other commitments and travels, I have not been able to come until now.
I would like to join Father Bourdon in thanking those who, through their own generosity and dedication, made it possible for us to acquire and to transform this building into such a beautiful chapel. I shall not mention any names, but I think you know all those of whom I am thinking.
This house is being blessed in the name of and under the patronage of St. Irenaeus and is, as the Scripture puts it, a house of prayer. "My house is a house of prayer," says God Himself. "This is the house of the Lord." Today, alas, as you well know, they are changing the house of the Lord into a house of the People of God.
Now we need houses of prayer. For that very reason Our Lord encouraged the Jewish people to build the Temple of Jerusalem, because there was no house of prayer.
Permit me to describe briefly for you what a house of prayer should be. To make a comparison, we may call prayer the breath of the soul. Our catechism says that prayer is the lifting up of the soul to God. It is something like the flower which opens up and in opening gives off a pleasant fragrance. So with us as we open up and become souls fully conscious of ourselves, of what we are and what we owe to our Creator, to our Redeemner, our souls should give off a fragrance pleasing to God, which is prayer.
A soul which does not pray is no longer human. It is no longer worthy of being called a creature; it no longer knows what it is or why it exists.
What does Scripture tell us about prayer? The purposes of prayer are four in number:
First of all, adoration of our Creator, Almighty, Infinite, of limitless goodness, Who has placed us here below. This spirit of adoration, of interior humility before Him Who is everything, while we are nothing, should be a spirit of profound, complete and total reverence, a bowing down of our entire being before God. It should be the most natural impulse of our souls. A child from the moment he is aware of himself, should have this spirit of adoration of God his Creator, Who has given him everything: his parents, his family, the world around him.
After adoration comes thanksgiving: to thank God. We do not thank Hint enough for His blessings, especially when we realize the truths of the Faith. We know that this Faith revolves around the love of God for us, His mercy, His goodness. He sent us His own Son Who died on the Cross to redeem us. So how can we not thank Him? Sic nos amantem quis non redamaret: How could we not love Him in return, Who loved us so much?
As St. Paul says, we should always be singing hymns of thanksgiving to God, even in tribulation, even in misfortune, because everything comes from God, everything is for God, everything is for the glory of God.
The third purpose of prayer is propitiation, that is to say, to ask forgiveness. Forgive us for forgetting You. Forgive us for not praying enough. Forgive us for adoring You too little. Forgive us for not thanking You. You have done so much far us, and we sometimes go for days an end without thinking of You, without lifting our thoughts to You.
Forgive us all our sins this too. This is why we ask for penance, before receiving absolution from the priest, who represents Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and who gives us the grace to regain the friendship of God.
The final purpose of prayer is petition. We have much to ask for from God and the first thing we ask for is our eternal salvation. "Lord, give me the grace of final perseverance. The day I breathe my last, when I am completely Yours, may I continue to love You forever in eternity. May I never be separated from You, may I not die separated from You. That would be the most horrible, the most dreadful thing that could happen, as You have loved me so much."
These are the reasons for praying, in Scripture, in the Psalms, which give them a wonderfully lyric and varied expression. This is why the Psalms form the basis of the prayer of priests and of those consecrated to God. The Breviary is the Psalter. Scripture is the word of God.
Of course we need books to help us in saying our morning and evening prayers, in saying our Rosary to the Blessed Virgin Mary, for whom we should have a profound devotion, because these prayers help us to express this spirit which I have been describing. But mental prayer, the prayer of our souls, is much more important still. Vocal prayer is only for the purpose of interior prayer. We must lift our souls up to God, not just move our lips in thanking Him.
Now this silent prayer takes place here in the presence of God. When you come into this chapel, you come in alone to pray, and you give yourself up to God, you look at Jesus, and you see Him, you think of Him, you think of Him Who will transform you when you have the joy of seeing Him in His glory in heaven. This is the mental prayer which our souls should exhale. You may say, "Oh, but when I pray, I have so many distractions." Well now, St. Thomas has a very good answer for that. St. Thomas says, yes, we are in fact very often distracted, but what counts in prayer is not so much the attention as the intention. Of course we should make the effort to be more attentive, but what really counts in prayer is the intention. My real intention is to pray, to give glory to God, to give myself, to offer myself to Him.
When all has been said, the great prayer, which sums everything up, which is the great synthesis, is sacrifice. St. Thomas describes sacrifice beautifully when he says it is the oblation of Our Lord. So you understand that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the great prayer of Our Lord on the Cross: Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit." I give You my soul, all that I am, all my goods, all that I have, all that You have given me, I want it to be for Your service, I want nothing which is not pleasing to You.
This oblation is truly a sacrifice, and it is the reason we hold to our Holy Mass, the Sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ, because in the Sacrifice, without this oblation of Our Lord to His Father and of Our Lord for us, without the Blood poured out from His Divine Heart, flowing forever on our altars, there is no more prayer.
This is why, unfortunately, if we have perhaps attended the new services in our churches, we have the impression of emptiness, of routine, of an outwardness which is no longer the true prayer of Our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no longer this grace which lifts us up, the Holy Ghost which guides our souls and our hearts in the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our houses of prayer are houses where Jesus lives. As I told you, in each of our churches Jesus dwells, Jesus is present and it is through Him that we pray. It is precisely because we are members of the Mystical Body of Our Lord that our prayer is pleasing to God. If we want our prayer to rise like incense to God, we must pray with Christ: Christ should pray by means of us. This is our true prayer, this is what this house is for, this is its importance, even if it is modest, it is still beautiful, because Jesus is powerful, because our souls are lifted up to God. There it is, my dear friends, that is what it is and always shall be, this chapel dedicated to St. Irenxus, who should be our model of faith, faith in Tradition, the Faith which the Church has always taught.
Next Tuesday I am to meet Cardinal Ratzinger, who is without a doubtone of the cardinals closest to the Pope. Why am I going to Rome? Why am I going to see Cardinal Ratzinger?
The Pope has appointed him as successor to the late Cardinal Seper. Cardinal Ratzinger's duties include liaising with me, with the Society, not as Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith, but as personal delegate of the Holy Father. When someone says to us, "You're against the Pope. You don't want to be in union with the Pope," they are wrong. We are working only to re establish Tradition in Rome. All my activities have only one purpose : that the Church may go on, that there may be no division in the Church.
But how can we be certain that we are the ones to help the Church carry on? As Our Lord says, "A tree is judged by its fruit." What are the fruits of prayer? The most beautiful fruit of prayer is religious vocations. These souls who come to pray in our chapels are so drawn to Our Lord Jesus Christ that they think, "I've had enough of the world, I no longer want to live in the world, I want to live with Our Lord Jesus Christ, I want to give myself to Jesus forever. I will shut myself up in a convent and give my soul to God."
Where are the real vocations? Where do they come from? Well now, these souls have found their vocation in traditional places of prayer, that is, in the Catholic Church. On the other hand, in the beautiful churches, in the grand cathedrals, there is now a sterility where vocations cannot take root. Or if there are some that take root, they are badly formed, they do not grow as Jesus wishes, as the Church has always wished. Consequently, where the fruits are, there is also the Church, the fruits of sanctity in the Church. For this reason we are sure that the day will corne (God alone knows when) when the Church will see that we are right and congratulate us for maintaining Tradition.
This is why I am going to Rome next Tuesday. After so many visits, will this one be more fruitful than the others? I do not know. But I am doing it as a duty of conscience, so that, when the Good Lord calls me, He will not say that I have done nothing to help re establish Tradition. I am doing all that I can toward this goal. If it is the Good Lord's will that our leaders should in a sense desert us, well, that will be a great tribulation of the Church. But we do not have the right to be discouraged and say, "Since they are not listening to us, let us break with the bishops; there is no longer a Church, it is finished." No, the Church is still with us. If those in positions of leadership are not doing their duty, if they are bad shepherds, that is no reason for us to abandon them. We must trust in Providence. The Good Lord is with His Church; we have no right to abandon the Roman Catholic Church. And in doing everything we have a duty to do, we can be at peace.
Let us continue to pray, to sanctify ourselves and to entrust ourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary: she is our Mother in heaven who has already overcome all heresies. She will overcome this one too. Let us be confident!