Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermon for the Feast of Saint Benedict in Summer: "We should take note of our social regression: God has been eliminated from the States and societies."

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
Fontgombault, July 11, 2021
Let us rejoice.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

On this Sunday, from the very first word of the introit, the Church invites us to rejoice. Is that so astonishing? Sunday is quintessentially a day of joy. After a week of work, man is invited by God Himself to rest. Such is the commandment, or more exactly the word, a word of love, which God addressed on Mount Sinai to the people He had just brought out of Egypt:

"Six days shalt thou labour, and shalt do all thy works. But on the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: thou  shalt do no work on it, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy beast, nor the stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them, and rested on the seventh day: therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it." (Ex 20:9-11)

God had just set His people free from Pharaoh, and He did not want greed for lucre to shackle it, and lead it through a ceaseless frenzy of work to forget its Maker. The seventh day therefore became the day on which man would remember that he had been freely liberated by God from bondage.

For Christians, Sunday has been enriched with a new gift. Man, who from the very beginning had rebelled against God, had to be liberated from another form of bondage, a deeper, more universal, and multifaceted one, that is, sin. Man needed to be reconciled with God, with the design God had prepared in His immense love for His so puny creature: eternal beatitude, that is to say, life in communion with God, the vision of God for eternity. Such is the reward of rewards, to which God in His goodness calls us.

God wanted this liberation from sin, which no human being could obtain, to be carried out by His Son, both God and man, and more especially through the mystery of His death on a cross and resurrection. Every Sunday in the liturgical year therefore commemorates the archetypal Sunday, the Lord’s Passover, the day on which, every year, the Church proclaims at the end of the Paschal triduum the death of the Lord and announces His resurrection. But this triumph of life over death needs from now on to be communicated to each of us, as St. Paul asserts:

"All we who are baptized in Christ Jesus are baptized in His death. For we are buried together with Him by baptism into death: that, as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life." (Rm 6:3-4)

The joy proper to Sunday is therefore caused by the Lord’s resurrection. And yet, the Church invites us today to rejoice for another reason, which, although different, is not alien to the first one. United with the angels, the Church rejoices for the holiness glowing in Abbot Benedict. In the saints, it is Christ’s life which is glowing.

This holy monk, who lived in Italy, at the end of the fifth and the beginning of the sixth century, has left a deep mark both in the Church history, and in the history of Europe. Most of the religious orders, and many new communities, have borrowed from the wisdom of the Rule he left to the monks. Europe, with its vast expanses of lands sprinkled with monasteries, has received from the holy patriarch the foundations of a civilization based on Christian values, obedience to the law of God, Creator and Redeemer, as well as an invitation to respect every human being, created in the image and likeness of God.

In his book, La Règle de saint Benoît aux sources du droit [St. Benedict’s Rule at the Fonts of Law], Gérard Guyon upholds the view according to which St. Benedict, as he wrote his Rule, was the source of an original judicial system, first adopted by the elite, which then spread to the whole European lay society, and the influence of which is still perceptible today.

According to St. Benedict, the law is in the service of justice, and he who wields the power bears primary responsibility for this service. While the Rule gives a great authority to the abbot and deans of the monastery, it reminds them of the foundation of authority, which is a participation to the Creator’s authority. This implies that the holder of authority will be held accountable for it.

After the deputies voted, last June 29th, the revision of the law on bioethics [Rorate note: with many changes to French law in the field of life, most notoriously allowing almost limitless IVF and surrogate pregnancies], Abp. de Moulins-Beaufort, Archbishop of Reims and president of the French Conference of Bishops, summed this text up with a worrying judgment: “If the law says that which is lawful, it does not say that which is rightful.”

Let us be more specific: the law says that which is lawful, namely, what people may do without being challenged by the State services. The law does not say that which is rightful, it does not say, it no longer says, that which is truly just, and which basically should be a reference and a guide for man.

Mgr de Moulins-Beaufort asserts:

"Satisfying a need, even a legitimate one — the equal opportunities principle, necessities of scientific research, fear of handicap, — may never justify the fact that human beings might be treated like a material to be manipulated and disposed of.

"More than ever, it is essential that everyone should find the means of personal watchfulness and discernment, so as to be able to make one’s choices in full awareness of their ethical consequences."

We should take note again of the regression process into which our society is sinking. St. Benedict invites the abbot to consider every human being, be he a victim or a culprit, be he strong or weak, as a man to be led to his Maker. He invites the abbot “to honor all men.” That is rightful.

Paradoxically, the various States have forsaken this imperative. The pregnant woman’s maternal womb is supposed to be a stronghold for the child, and it has turned into a place of holocaust. On the opposite, some children will be conceived deprived of their father. God has been eliminated from the States. God has been eliminated from the societies. God must be eliminated from the souls.

Yet, does that give us grounds for despair?

When St. Benedict wrote his Rule, the Roman world had collapsed. The European continent was subject to fire and sword. Let us therefore go back to the lines the holy monk wrote, for a new evangelization, a new Passover.

St. Mary, St. Benedict, all the Saints of God, pray for us.