Assumption of Our Lady
Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
(Fontgombault, August 15, 2014)
There is more happiness in giving than in taking (cf. Acts 20:35).God the very first has put into practice this fundamental rule of spiritual life: He gave us His Son, He gave us Mary.In monastic life, men give themselves to God through the practice of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They renounce riches, the legitimate joys of a human family, and the exercise of their own will, thus giving to the world the testimony that God only suffices. Today we remember the commitment that fifty years ago two of us have made. Throughout these years God has remained faithful. Man can rely on this faithfulness to enter into a path which might seem to go beyond human strength.Whereas current ideas incline us to zapping, to ceaseless changing, to the culture of the temporary which debars us from any long-term commitment, life’s true joy and fecundity spring from an irrevocable commitment which gives us time to grow, to ripen, to blossom. Monastic life thus emerges as a laboratory where in the contact with divine realities, in liturgical prayer, in lectio divina, in personal prayer, as well as in brotherly life, a sweet fragrance is evolved which goes up from earth towards heavens to the praise of the Maker’s glory.It is therefore not very hard to understand why monks like to choose Mary’s feasts to commit themselves before God by the links of profession or promise, and why they cultivate a great love for her. Mary is she who has entirely been God’s possession, to the extent that God has wanted to take flesh in her. To man’s gift, to his often so poor prayer, God Who is never niggardly of His grace answers with His abundance, He gives bountifully and lavishly. Mary is full of grace and she invites her children to follow the path of abandonment to Providence.We remember today the end of Mary’s earthly life. She has gone up to Heaven in her body and soul and she has been crowned by God as Queen of heaven and earth.
On June 28, near the Grotto of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens, Pope Francis addressed the young people of the diocese of Rome involved in vocational discernment. He told them:When a Christian tells me that it is not that he does not love Our Lady, it is just that he does not seek out Our Lady or pray to Our Lady, I feel sad. I remember one time, almost forty years ago, when I was at a conference in Belgium, there was a couple who were catechists, both university professors with children, a beautiful family. And they spoke about Jesus Christ so well. At one point I said, “And devotion to Our Lady?” — “But we have passed that stage. We know Jesus Christ so well, that we have no need of Our Lady.” And what came to mind and into my heart was “Oh… you poor orphans!” Am I not right? Because a Christian without Our Lady is an orphan. Even a Christian without the Church is an orphan. A Chris-tian needs these two women, two women who are mothers and virgins: the Church and Our Lady. And the “test” of a good Christian vocation is to ask yourself: “How is my relationship with these two mothers going?”, with Mother Church and with Mother Mary. This is not a question of “piety”, no, it is pure theology. This is theology. How is my relationship with the Church going, with my Mother the Church, with the Holy Mother the hierarchical Church? And how is my relationship going with Our Lady, who is my Mum, my Mother? This is good: never leave her, do not go off by yourself.These words of the Pope prompt us to discover anew the beauty of motherhood as a gift both offered and received. Whereas the death culture often considers motherhood as a depreciation of women, as a handicap for professional life, whereas laws no longer recognise the lawful right of a child to benefit from the resources of a father and a mother, of a man and a woman, whereas biological parents are sometimes deliberately hidden, we can perceive the sad face of today’s world: wars, hatred, death laying waste so many countries… Man has made himself an orphan.Would anyone dare publicly acknowledge that today’s world has fallen prey to the institutionalised contempt of motherhood, of children, of families? This contempt has been advocated for so many years now on account of alleged human rights and women’s rights.God has chosen weakness, man chooses strength. God has made Himself poor, man yearns for wealth. God has borne the weight of the Cross, man strives for pleasure. God has made Himself flesh and has thus veiled the glory of His Godhead to save man, man works at his own glory, at his own well-being, to the contempt of his family and of his brothers and sisters in humanity.On the opposite, the woman in her motherhood, the child because of its weakness, the family, love’s prime crucible, all stand on God’s side. Would not the role of States, of institu-tions, even lay ones, the duty of all men of good will, be to protect mothers’ wombs by rescuing women in distress, to shield children from heart and mind pollution, to promote unity in families? When she received the Nobel Peace Prize , Mother Teresa declared on December 10, 1979:I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing — direct murder by the mother herself. […] Because if a mother can kill her own child — what is left for me to kill you and you kill me? — there is nothing between.The woman in the Apocalypse, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head, this woman is pregnant. Her glory is her motherhood. As a conclusion to Mary’s Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth, the canticle Magnificat declares:My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour, because He hath regarded the humility of his handmaid. […] Because He that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is His name. (Lk 1:46-49)Every maternity represents a look from God upon mankind, a great thing.United to celebrate Mary’s triumph, are we willing to be children faithfully imitating their Mother? Are our lives truly Marian, lived in the school of Mary? The world needs a clear testimony sprung from the heart of families, be they according to the flesh or the spirit, so that it may rediscover the price of motherly love. The world has made itself an orphan, it needs to acknowledge anew that it has a Mother, that it is loved.Mary is always our Mother: let us be her children. God wants to do great things to us also.Amen.
At II Vespers, before the procession of the vow of Louis XIII
Allocution of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
(Fontgombault, August 15, 2014)
To be faithful to the Vow of King Louis XIII, we now want to raise an ultimate supplication to her who is France’s Holy Patron.The world is ablaze. Wars are raging at the very gates of Europe, in Africa, in the Holy Land, in Iraq. Too often, selfish calculations and vested interests are the unnamed motives either of either the silence or the words of the various countries, of their passivity or their action, whether they be directly concerned or spectators in the conflicts.Economical and political interests of the various parties are practically the factors which determine whether so many victims of human madness will be helped or jettisoned. The devil seems to be the sole master of situations which he has made impossible to unravel.Whereas so many countries in Europe remember the First World War and its numerous casualties, one may wonder whether all the lessons have been drawn from thiswar.Eight hundred years ago was born Saint Louis, King of France whose feast we shall soon celebrate on August 25. In a paraphrase of St. Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274), Pope Francis has reaffirmed Paul VI's affirmation that politics could be considered as “the highest form of charity.” He asked: “Now, what could be the best thing that we could offer to those who rule us?” He then called the faithful to pray for their rulers, including the bad ones. “A Christian who does not pray for the people in power is not a good Christian,” he concluded.Let us today beseech God through the intercession of Our Lady and the Holy King Saint Louis to make the world rulers mindful of man’s welfare, of the good of their peoples, of peace and justice.Grant, o Lord, strength and success to those soldiers, apostles of peace, who all over the world give assistance to the oppressed.Comfort, we beseech Thee, the members of religious and secular institutes who courageously remain in the lands where war is rife.May our prayer become fervent in the image of our Rosaries, made up with series of beads which know no end. May our prayer last not only for a feast day but throughout our whole life. Thus will our Rosaries surround the world and bring it back to God.Our Lady of Prayer, teach us how to pray!