Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermon for All Saints & All Souls: "Communion with God is not just a state. It burns with a desire that may become painful."

All Saints
(And Solemn Profession of Brother Philippe Couvreur)

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau 
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault 
Fontgombault, November 1, 2019

Blessed. (Matt. 5)

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 
My dearly  beloved Sons,
and most especially you, who are going to make your solemn vows of religion,

Great multitudes come to us on this morning, those from your family and friends, who have come to attend your solemn profession, those of the Saints and Blessed we celebrate today, those the Lord talks to, on the mountain which was then to become the Mount of Beatitudes.

The multitude of the Saints and Blessed is made up of the chosen of God, marked on their foreheads with the seal of His servants, “a great multitude, which no man could number”, and which, united with the angels, praises its Maker:

Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving, honour and power and strength, to our God, for ever and ever. (Ap 7:12)

Let us give thanks for the wealth and diversity of holiness the Lord has generated, and still keeps generating, “of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” (Ap 7:9)

Tomorrow, the Church will invite us to pray for another multitude, those who have crossed the gates of death, but have not yet reached Paradise. From the place of purification where they abide, they beseech our help. Our personal prayer, united with the prayer of the universal Church, the offering of Masses, the visits that many of us will make of cemeteries, all of this helps them cross a waiting stage, which is all the more painful as the desire of God is in them present and potent. On this day, don’t let us forget those who have given us life, life of the body, but equally, life of the intelligence and soul: our parents, the members of our families, our teachers, our friends, our brothers. If they once begot us, it is in our power today to beget them to eternal life with our prayers. Don’t let us deprive them of this desirable and invaluable gift.

These two days of thanksgiving and prayer in a row also remind us of the concrete character that the crossing of the gates of death will someday have for us. In that hour, God will not disappoint us.

If the Blessed praise God, nonetheless they don’t forget their brothers on earth. They intercede for them. The Saints in heaven are totally turned towards God, Who fascinates, captivates, and fulfills those who take the time to consider Him, and it is in Him they see their earthly brothers.

How beautiful is this wonderful exchange between the inhabitants of Heaven, purgatory, and earth, between the triumphant Church, the suffering Church, and the pilgrim Church! This encouraging communion, this valuable assistance, is called the communion of Saints, and any kind of human fraternity is already a harbinger of it.

To return to our gospel, let us mingle with this multitude, taught by Jesus through a litany where a word keeps recurring as a burden, “Blessed”.

What a contrast with the multitude of the Blessed! These ones are in the peace of Heaven. They sing the glory of God, and praise the Lord forever. The other ones are proclaimed blessed, but they are still on their way, and the program the Lord offers them is not the most attractive of all program. According to God, indeed, are blessed the poor in spirit, the meek, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Are blessed the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake and for the name of Christ.

There is a real contrast, yet both these multitudes bear a common point, which is of the deepest order and reveals God’s plan for men. The point they share is the communion with God.

The beatitudes are an explicit invitation to detachment of everything that may possess and take away the human heart. They herald, and already develop, the Lord’s answer to the young man who was desiring eternal life, and whom Jesus loved: “Go, sell what thou hast, […] and come, follow me.” (Mt 19:21) Now, Jesus loves all men, and wants all of them to be saved.

Monastic life is a radical answer to this calling of the Lord, and it appears as a privileged place where to carry out these two texts. Its centre is the praise of God, both in the divine office and in manual work. Under that respect, it resembles eternity. Its day to day life is the practice of beatitudes.

My dear child, you have heard this word, “blessed”. It is this word that induced you to push the door of the monastery. You know that St. Benedict used it at the beginning of the Prologue of his Rule: “Who is the man that desires life, and yearns to see happy days?” (cf. Ps 33:13)

If you truly live the beatitudes, you will be happy, and you will make the others happy. Let’s listen to the words her mother told to her who would someday become Mother Teresa (1910- 1997):

My daughter, you should never forget to pray God, and to beg His Saints to intercede on our behalf. Yet, above all, talk to God in your prayer of the poor and miserable who no longer believe in Him.

Talking to God of the miseries of a world that no longer believe in Him, that is the function of monks, too. Through the witness of their silent and radical lives, they shout “God” to a garrulous, disorientated, lost world. This is what Léon Bloy answered Raïssa Maritain, when she tried to pray, to believe in a God Whom she considered as vanished:

Through science, you will merely get closer to Him. But through love, you will find Him, and thanks to this love, you will be happy and holy: for there is but a single unhappiness, which is not to be saints.

After you have read your chart of profession, you will sing: “Uphold me, O Lord, according to Thy word, and I shall live.” These are not the words for a mere moment, but words for a whole life, and even, in a sense, words for eternity. Communion with God is not just a state. It burns with a desire that may become painful. Many ideologists are at work in the world, in the Church. What is tragically lacking is men and women of desire, devoured by a deep love of God.

On this path, you will therefore both tarry and grow, possess and beg. You will do that unpretentiously, as a child listening to the precepts of the Master, and inclining the ear of his heart, ac- cording to St. Benedict’s words. God is faithful.

Mary, Queen of Saints, our Mother and our Lady, offers you the witness of her life. May she lead you on the path of true life.