In a society which is barely conscious of the ills which assail it, which conceals its miseries and injustices beneath a prosperous, glittering, and trouble-free exterior, the Immaculate Virgin, whom sin has never touched, manifests herself to an innocent child. With a mother's compassion she looks upon this world redeemed by her Son's blood, where sin accomplishes so much ruin daily, and three times makes her urgent appeal: "Penance, penance, penance!" She even appeals for outward expressions: "Go kiss the earth in penance for sinners." And to this gesture must be added a prayer: "Pray to God for sinners."
As in the days of John the Baptist, as at the start of Jesus' ministry, this command, strong and rigorous, shows men the way which leads back to God: "Repent!" Who would dare to say that this appeal for the conversion of hearts is untimely today?
July 2, 1957
Penance for ourselves. Penance for the others. Penance for the Holy Church of God. Considering that Lent, the most solemn of seasons, begins tomorrow, we invite our dear readers, under the permission or guidance of your pastors, confessors, or spiritual directors, to choose a special and additional penance for the government of the Church and the heavy responsibility that will be placed upon the College of Cardinals in the upcoming weeks, joining in some measure our Holy Father -- "bene conscius sum hoc munus secundum suam essentiam spiritualem non solum agendo et loquendo exsequi debere, sed non minus patiendo et orando" -- and all those faithful burdened by advanced age or infirmity: Domine, non secundum peccata nostra, quæ fecimus nos: neque secundum iniquitates nostras retribuas nobis. (Ps. 102, from the Tract for Ash Wednesday)
Dear faithful, it falls upon us to live the upcoming days with hope. What if we trusted the Holy Spirit? True, it will be necessary that we wait, for some weeks, to view it in all its tones: as in 2005, we will hear the assembly of "experts" explain to us one more time that the Church must change, that the faith must change, that morals must change. Some will expect the election of a "modern" pope, "living according to his time", wearing a white suit and dark glasses and proposing the marriage of priests, opening the priesthood to women, favoring the remarriage of divorcees, and blessing the sacrosanct condom. We will hear, as usual, on television sets, before excited and obliging journalists, the priest who is outside the system, the defrocked one who wants to go back into service, the parishioner who is allergic to all things that recall the Church of the past, and, why not, some trendy exegetes or theologians who explain to us that everyone has been mistaken for two thousand years.
What matters, my dear friends, is to think that, after some inevitable disturbances, the Church will have a new leader, and that he will have the graces that are needed to accomplish his mission, just as his predecessor did.
He will know, as those who were before him on the chair of Peter, that nobody cares about an adulterated truth, and that the "evolutions" desired by some will fill neither our churches, nor our seminaries.
May the Lent that will begin this week move us to offer our prayers and our sacrifices for our Church, so that her future head will impart to us the love of truth and will guide us to heaven! (Fr. Philippe Jouachim, Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, Nantes, France)