Rorate Caeli

Building a civilization

This is a little text that I put in our parish bulletin! May the Holy Ghost inspire us so that we can continue the battle for the reign of Christ the King.
Happy Feast of Pentecost to all of you.

We will never be harmed by repeating this: the liturgy is eminently educational. It is even more than this; the liturgy civilizes societies and raises the arts and the culture. The reason is that it establishes a relation between men and God. And when men are close to God, they can only be better and perform better work. France has gained the beautiful titles of Eldest Daughter of the Church and educator of peoples and I think that the liturgy certainly had a great role to play in this matter. One of the pillars of the Carolingian dynasty was precisely the liturgy.
We can find an origin to this fact with the influence of the remote ancestor of this dynasty, who was Saint Arnoul (582-641), Bishop of Metz and forbearer of Charlemagne. One of his successors to the See of Metz also had a great influence on the building of the Carolingian empire, Saint Chrodegang (712-766). Pepin the Short appointed him as mediator between the kingdom and the papacy. He went to Rome where he discovered the Old Roman chant which he brought back to Austrasia. He then convinced King Pepin to officially adopt the Roman liturgy in his kingdom, which was done at the Council of Quierzy in 754. The Franks recognized in this liturgy the most exalted expression of the type of civilization they desired to promote. Metz became a high liturgical place and its numerous manuscripts are still today a precious source of information for research on the Gregorian chant.

The son of Pepin, Charlemagne, pursued the work of his father. One of his closest counselors was an English monk named Alcuin, who worked for the unity of the Empire by promoting the liturgical unity. A great liturgist, among many other talents – philosopher, theologian, man of letters and of arts – Alcuin can be considered as one of the lights of the early Middle Ages. One of his major works was the organization of the monastic Orders in the Empire. The monasteries were the seats of knowledge and culture. But their main and highest duty was the Divine Work according to the teaching of Saint Benedict. The building of Christendom would probably not have been possible without the monks. We know the great influence that Cluny and Citeaux would have later. How interesting it is to see that among the greatest names whose memory has been perpetuated from the Middle Ages until today, many are the names of monks! Because they were men of prayer, and especially of the prayer of the Church, they were the artisans of a social, political, economic and cultural order, in other words, the artisans of a civilization.

The two orders, temporal and spiritual, are well distinct, but they are not stranger to each other, as the body and the soul are distinct but are both the two essential components of one human person. If one part is sick, the other is affected. For that reason, one of the causes of the western world’s crisis may be found in the liturgical drift of the recent past decades. If the liturgy has the power to make a civilization, it can also maintain this civilization in time, as the soul, which is the form, informs the body, which is the matter, of the same one substance. But when the soul is separated from the body, this one, breaks down and is changed into something else.
It needed only half a century for France to change her identity. The Eldest daughter has denied what had been her principle for many centuries. She lost her soul and her body has changed. The Church of France has lived through many ordeals and torments and yet has always found the strength to invigorate herself. We see this in the XIX century when dealing with the Revolution which persecuted her; she still produced a beautiful missionary impulse within the country which extended to all the continents. Truly, it was a century of heroes for the Church, with names that have crossed the boarders of the country, such as Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, the humble Curé d’Ars who clandestine, made his first Communion, because the Church was then persecuted. It is the century of Saint Eugene de Mazenod, the beautiful Bishop of Marseille and founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate; he established the second house of his Congregation at Notre-Dame du Laus whose apparition has just been approved by the Vatican this past week. One of his spiritual sons, Joseph Cardinal Guibert would become Archbishop of Paris in 1871, succeeding Monseigneur Darboy, who was killed by the “Communards.” A few decades earlier, it was Archbishop Affre who died on the barricade while trying to restore the peace during the insurrection of 1848. To General Cavaignac who urged him to not come, for his safety, Monseigneur Affre answered: my life is of little value, I will gladly risk it. As soon as he arrived to the See of Paris, Monseigneur Guibert began to work on the project of the building of the church of the National Vow, as a symbol of the Counter-Revolution. This church is now known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre.

It was the century of the restoration of the Benedictine Order by Dom Gueranger in Solesmes whose works on the liturgy and Gregorian chant are priceless. Inspired by this example, Lacordaire would follow by restoring the Order of Saint Dominic which had been suppressed in the country in 1790. So many other Congregations flourished or were created in this century that it would be impossible to name them all, but let us just mention the Congregation of the Holy Ghost and the Society of the Foreign Missions of Paris whose seminary used to train a legion of martyrs. One of them, who inspired Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, was Théophane Venard. This magnificent priest chosen in the prime of his age was so happy to give his life for Jesus Christ. The Most Holy Sacrament had His champion too, in the person of Saint Pierre Julien Eymard, founder of the Congregation of the Fathers of the Blessed Sacrament.
And there are all the others, those that we cannot name, because the list would be too long or simply because they were unknown to the world, but not to God.

For us, the deeds of our eldest are not just a beautiful thing to remember. They are – they should be – a source of inspiration in order to continue the prodigious work of civilization accomplished during twenty centuries. We have to go to the source to draw the strength to do this. The source is Our Lord Jesus Christ, the One for whom it is worthy to consecrate our lives and to die if it is necessary. It is first, at the altar that we will find Him. The liturgy introduces us into the mystery of His life. By doing this, it has the power to edify us. Before thinking of a restoration of Christendom, we should remember that we have first to become saints.
The time of Pentecost is an occasion to be renewed in the Spirit. This is the intention that I present to Our Lady during this month of May. Her powerful and yet delicate intercession is more than ever necessary. The task is huge!

Father Laurent Demets, FSSP


  1. This is beautiful! Thank you, Father!

  2. Anonymous5:00 PM

    Dan Hunter says,

    Yes thank you ever so much, Father.

  3. Beautiful, indeed! May I share this with our parish, next year, Father?



  4. Anonymous3:05 AM

    Monsieur l'Abbe,

    Merci for these words of true optimism.

    This I believe: France can be renewed with Him, in Him and through Him.

    "Before thinking of a restoration of Christendom, we should remember that we have first to become saints."

    Providence never fails, the conversion of millions of atheists and mahometans is at stake.

    Christ-Roi sauvez vos fideles parmi les infideles!


  5. Anonymous5:50 AM

    Vatican: Space aliens might actually exist
    'This is not in contradiction with our faith, because we cannot establish limits on God'

    Posted: May 13, 2008, 5:34 pm Eastern

    Artist's concept of a space alien

    Believing that there are little green men who one day will land on earth does not contradict Catholic doctrine, according to the chief of the Vatican'sObservatory.

    Fr. Jose Gabriel Funes told L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican daily, that such extraterrestrial life "is possible, even if until now, we have no proof."

    "But certainly in such a big universe this hypothesis cannot be excluded," he told the newspaper.

    According to a report by Catholic News Agency, the interview was titled, "The Alien is my Brother." Funes, a 45-year-old Argentinean priest who runs the Vatican Observatory, said, "Astronomy has a profound human value. It is a science that opens the heart and the mind. It helps us to put our lives, our hopes, our problems in the right perspective.

    "In this regard, and here I speak as a priest and a Jesuit, it is an apostolic instrument that can bring us closer to God," he told the newspaper.

    Funes said he favors the "Big Bang" theory about the origin of the universe and that does not contradict the Bible.

    "We cannot ask the Bible for a scientific answer here," he said. "At the same time, we don't know if in a near future the 'Big Bang' theory will be superseded by a more complete and precise explanation of the origin of the universe."

    But there is no tension between the Catholic faith and the belief in aliens, Funes said.

    "Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures over the earth, so there could be other beings, even intelligent, created by God. This is not in contradiction with our faith, because we cannot establish limits to God's creative freedom," he told the newspaper. "To say it with St. Francis, if we can consider some earthly creatures as 'brothers' or 'sisters,' why could we not speak of a 'brother alien'? He would also belong to the creation," he said.

    "Fr. Funes says that taking the image of the lost sheep in the Gospel, 'we could think that in this universe there can be 100 sheep, equivalent to different kinds of creatures. We, belonging to human kind could be precisely the lost sheep, the sinners that need the shepherd. God became man in Jesus to save us. In that way, assuming that there would be other intelligent beings, we could not say that they need redemption . They could have remained in full friendship with the Creator,'" Catholic News Agency quoted him saying.

    Pope Benedict XVI

    The journalist for L'Osservatore then asked, "But if they were sinners?"

    "Jesus became man once and for all. The Incarnation is a single and unique event. So I am sure that also they, in some way, would have the chance to enjoy God's mercy, just as it has happened with us human beings," Funes responded.

    The priest heads the Vatican Observatory, founded by Pope Leo XIII, with offices at Castelgandolfo, near the Apostolic summer palace, and another in Tucson, Ariz.

    Pope Benedict XVI, who recently visited the U.S., has included an exploration of the links between faith and reason as a focal point of his papacy.


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