Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermons for the Assumption: Vow of Louis XIII; and Mass of the Day - "All want to question the Dogmas of the Church, but no one is in doubt about the dogmas of democracy."

The Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Father Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
August 14-15, 2019

Sermon at Vespers, before the procession of the Vow of Louis XIII

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

On the evening of this day, we are going on a procession in the honor of Mary, to abide by the vow of Louis XIII.

Let us pray for our country, which is in such a perilous situation, and especially for the young people whose education and training, both of affection, ethical, and moral, is with each passing day more and more difficult.

If all of us should be the children of Mary, how much more our country, France, should enter the Mother of Jesus’ school, Mary, who has always answered “Yes” to the plan of God, and is therefore the perfect teacher for nations and hearts!

In the Book of Genesis we find the reflection of the plan of God: man and woman, created in the image of God, are meant to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, making it bear through their work beautiful fruits. Today, man arrogates to himself the rights of his Maker, while feigning to ignore the consequences of his errors: human relationships are marked by violence, enslavement, bondage, possession of the other one, unto the most sacred domain, which is human love, a place of fecundity.

Whereas it is good form to cast doubt on the dogmas of the Catholic Church, which are founded on the witness of the Scripture and have been preciously kept by centuries of Christendom, no one seems to be in any doubt concerning the dogma of democracy: establishing as the source of the executive and legislative powers the person or persons who will have been approved by the will of the majority, is guaranteed to save the nation and ensure its happiness. 

Yet, casting an honest glance on the recent history of the Western world and on the state of today’s society is not that reassuring.

In his Message to the Youth of the World for the 21st World Youth Day (April 9th, 2006), Benedict XVI wrote:

It is not easy to recognize and find authentic happiness in this world in which we live, where people are often held captive by the current ways of thinking. They may think they are “free”, but they are being led astray and become lost amid the errors or illusions of aberrant ideologies. “Freedom itself needs to be set free” (Veritatis splendor, n. 86), and the darkness in which mankind is groping needs
to be illuminated.

Setting free freedom, such is the key of happiness: setting free freedom, so that it may be responsible, fair, and true. Today, children are conditioned from the very first years in their lives by the contact with death-bringing ideologies, which refuse the human condition such as it was willed by his Maker.

O Our Lady, look after the youth, defend and protect the purity of their hearts and bodies, threatened from all sides by the Evil One and the ideas of the world. Lead their hearts towards all that is good and holy, and pour out in them a living and trustful faith in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, King and Lord, as well as a deep love for thy maternal Heart. Amen.


Sermon for the Mass on the Feast of the Assumption

Beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
All generations shall call me blessed.
(Lk 1:48)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

On this blessed day, let us contemplate with wonder the fairest of all creatures, who, at the end of her earthly life, is going up towards heaven, body and soul, borne by the angels. What an enthusiasm, what songs of thanksgiving among the heavenly powers, whereas their Queen crosses the threshold of
the Kingdom into which we hope someday enter after her.

At that very moment, Mary our mother becomes, after Christ Himself, Porta cæli, Door of Heaven for all her children. If the Church invites us to unite our voices with the song of praise of the angels, she also wants to associate us to the Magnificat of the humble Virgin of Nazareth, crowned with glory.

This canticle, uttered as an answer to Elizabeth’s words, “Blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord” (Lk 1:45), has inaugurated, as it were, a praise that will no longer stop. The Church makes us sing it everyday at Vespers, and she also wants to make it the prayer of our own lives.

If Mary is the Door of Heaven, it is because she was first Porta aurea, the Golden Door, which Christ crossed to come among us. Indeed, the Church sings during Christmastide:

He came down from Heaven, sent from on high by the Father. It is through the ear of the Virgin that He entered our world, clad in a purple robe. And He came forth through the golden door, light and splendor of the created universe. As a spouse, the Lord comes out of the bridal chamber.

The Virgin of Nazareth’s path of glory began by the reception of the angel Gabriel’s words, and the conception in her womb of the Word made flesh; this path went on with the generous acceptance of the plan of God. Mary has thus made Heaven a welcoming place for us. Door of Heaven for us, Golden Door for Christ, Mary is also the bridal chamber where mankind is reconciled with its Maker.
Mary’s glory bursts forth in the great sign revealed by the seer of the Apocalypse:

And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. (Ap 12:1)

Clothed with the sun, Mary is also for each one of us Stella maris, the Star of the Sea, the beacon that is never extinguished and safely guides the path of our little boats towards the shores of Heaven. Mary went through this path by accepting each present moment in a deep communion with God. During the Nativity, she remained silent, and kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. During the wedding in Cana, she was worried because wine was lacking, and let her Son know it. When He was hanging from the wood of the Cross, she was still near Him. Each of these moments is the bearer of a two-fold message: Be present to God, and “do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5). On the Cross, Jesus gave us Mary as our Mother: “Woman, behold thy son” (Jn 19:26). As St. John, let us take Our Lady in our own homes, in our hearts, families, and houses.

How may we enter the school of Mary? In an admirable prayer, St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote: "O soul, you are the hallmark of the true Godhead, […] the imprint of true light. If you gaze upon this light, you become this same light." (2nd Homily on the Song of songs, PG 44, 805 d) 

Contemplating God doesn’t mean talking to Him, inviting Him to take a share in our projects, and maybe upbraiding Him when these fail. Contemplating means turning our eyes towards the divine mysteries, so as to allow them to impregnate us. Becoming what He is. Contemplation is not a privilege of the monks. Let me assure you that if you find it difficult, it is no less difficult for monks who are living out of the world. Yet, the measure of our contemplation is the true measure of our communion with God. If we were truly contemplative, impregnated with God’s light, how our view of the world, our relationships with our neighbors, would be glowing!

Modern society doesn’t teach us to contemplate, but to grab and consume, and then throw away. God’s mysteries, which last forever, cannot be consumed. They are inexhaustible. Man can but either surrender himself to them, or lose all interest for them. Contemplating the mysteries of Mary means savoring the simplicity of the Fiat, the joy of obedient an Yes to God. It also means remaining in an unwavering hope when doubt or hardship might trouble our souls. Contemplating Mary means admiring the fulfillment in her of the titles with which the Litany of Loreto hails her, or those which our Eastern brothers like to sing in the Akathist hymn. “Mary is a sea that no one can exhaust, He who will draw more, will find there more.” (Gauthier de Coincy, twelfth century)

But what should we say to Mary? Among the Marian prayers, one has a privileged place, the rosary. It opens with the proclamation of our faith in the Credo, then proceeds with alternating Our Father and Hail Mary as the decades follow each other, each of which meditates a mystery of the life of Our Lord or Our Lady. For centuries, this prayer has fulfilled the most simple believers, as well as the most eminent pastors, or the most learned theologians. Mary showed how this prayer pleases her, when she came to hear it form the lips of children.

Contemplating Mary means learning from her how to become children of God. Mary, according to Bernanos, is “younger than sin”. From her very conception, she is immaculate, preserved from the mark of our first parents’ sin, unscathed by the plague that strikes all human beings. Having committed no sin during her earthly life, she is the all-pure, and God marvels before her as on the very first day of creation.

Whenever we come into contact with Mary’s youth, our ageing hearts get younger and are renewed. Our lives, families, communities, as they receive the peace coming from Heaven and offered to all men of good will, take on a Marian face, a glowing and attractive face. Then, with Mary and in her, we may in our turn sing our Magnificat, and invite into this singing the men and women of our times.

Let us unite our voices with the voice of all generations to proclaim Mary blessed. Let us ceaselessly contemplate our heavenly Mother, so as to bear the burden of the day, of temptation, of despondency. Mary is our Mother, close to us and loving, light and splendor of all the created universe, our glory and our joy.

Amen, Alleluia.