Rorate Caeli

Lent with Lacordaire: Our vocation

Pleasure is not the foundation of society, but virtue. Enjoyment is not our vocation here below, but labor and grief. God has created us expressly to produce by us a thing which He could not produce alone: that is, greatess in vileness, strength in infirmity, purity in flesh and blood, love in selfishness, good in evil, virtue in a heart which possessed each moment the liberty of being a convinced sinner. This is our vocation, our fate.

Jesus Christ conquered the world only because He knew [this fate]; and because, from His Cross, slave and God, he supremely fulfilled it. Salvation (as well as all glory and all joy) is found in following him.

This is why -- thanks be to God! -- pleasure and enjoyment shall never [be the foundation] of a society here below. Misfortune must be stronger, so that virtue may exist; there must be poor, so that alms shall be given; wounds, so that they may be bound up; tears, so that they may be accepted; disorders, so that men may aspire to order; ruins, so that pride may be humbled; ... bloodshed, so that there may be saints.

Henri-Dominique Lacordaire
Conférences à Notre-Dame de Paris (1845)


  1. So intensely beautiful - extremely appropriate for meditating upon the importance of penance during this great liturgical season. Sometimes it nearly causes me to despair to look at the world and the Culture of Death, but Praise be Jesus for the holy men and women who have gone before me and left such magnificent writing behind them!

  2. Thank you for posting this wonderful and reflective text. It puts our present existence, on this temporal earth, into a proper perspective.

  3. Anonymous3:58 AM

    "God has created us expressly to produce by us a thing which He could not produce alone: greatness in vileness"

    This must mean something different from what it seems to mean. What traditional teaching is Fr Lacordaire expounding here?


  4. Not at all: it pleases God to see our miserable, poor (vile), condition disproportionately elevated through virtue performed in our state of smallness (a state which could only belong to the nature of a creature, and not to that of the Creator): "if we consider the proportionate degree, a greater reason for merit exists after sin, on account of man's weakness; because a small deed is more beyond the capacity of one who works with difficulty than a great deed is beyond one who performs it easily" (see ST I, 95, iv, among other references). That is the greatness of saints, the only true great human beings: "Hence, Augustine, after saying that 'for a just man to be made from a sinner is greater than to create heaven and earth,' adds, 'for heaven and earth shall pass away, but the justification of the ungodly shall endure'" (cf. I-II, 113, ix). That is the general meaning of this passage by Lacordaire.

  5. Anonymous2:47 PM

    What Fr. L seemed to mean is that the Creator's purpose in creating man was precisely to produce the miserable present situation of vileness, infirmity, selfishness, evil, and bloodshed, so that He could be pleased by our rising above them. Which would seem to mean that God's creative will was malicious (loving evil in order that good might come of it) and that our first father's sin was well in accord with it: which is absurd.

    I misunderstood Fr. Lacordaire's "God has created us" as referring to us, the race of man; and his "there must be bloodshed" as proposing that bloodshed etc. are required for the goodness to exist than man was created for.

    St Thomas at your reference point (I 95 iv) of course makes clear that these stupid misunderstandings of mine are wrong, for he says that the degree of virtue in the primordially innocent man is greater than that in the fallen man.

    So I understand Fr Lacordaire to mean that we (i.e. himself and his hearers, modern men) were made by God in order to do good within the evil situation which we men caused in the first place by sin; because God is more glorified in bringing greatness out of this present vileness, by grace given to us, than by (for example) eliminating the race of man altogether in order to bring about and end to those evils.

    I being still a bit of a Modernist, I suppose, don't see such a sublime teaching immediately in Fr. L's words. You guys are lucky who can read this as intensely beautiful right from the start.



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