Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermon for the Dedication of the Abbey Church: "The Church is buffeted by all the waves, but she doesn’t founder."

Dedication of the Abbey Church

Homily of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau 
Father Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault 
Fontgombault, October 12, 2021

Ecce nova facio omnia.

Behold, I make all things new.

(Ap 21:5)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My dearly beloved Sons,

The feast of the Dedication in the liturgical year belongs neither to the temporal cycle, which goes through the mysteries in Christ’s life, the times of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost, nor to the Sanctoral cycle, in which the Church invites her children, through a public worship, to imitate the life of those who have lived their lives listening to grace, and according to God’s law, and whom she has proclaimed saints.

Nothing of the sort this morning. The feast of the Dedication is the reminder of an event which has marked the history of a certain place, and which doesn’t fail to leave an undying memory to those who lived it. The dedication of a church is God taking possession of this place, which becomes consecrated. Yet, all churches are not dedicated. On the walls of those which are, twelve crosses remain, witnesses to the event. Candles are lit before them on the anniversary day. Significantly, the rite of dedication begins with the entry of the martyrs’ relics, which will later be put inside the altar table, and ends with the inauguration of the Eucharistic reservation.

God is more in His own in this place than in any other place. As on the greatest feast days, the Church unfolds on this anniversary the splendor of her liturgy. The church of stone is a holy place, as it is sung in the introit antiphon: Terrible is this place: it is the house of God, and the gate of heaven. House of God, gate of heaven, a church is a favorable place for those who want to walk towards God. In this place of silence, reserved for prayer, the Lord dwells is a special and sacramental way in the tabernacle.

The reading taken from the Apocalypse evokes unambiguously the holiness of the place where we are:

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: “Behold the tabernacle of God with men: and He will dwell with them. And they shall be His people: and God Himself with them shall be their God.” (Ap 21:2-3)

Entering a consecrated church invites us to remember that a church is a place unlike any other. Entering a consecrated church also means listening to the call to receive God in one-self, in one’s own dwelling, in one’s family, in one’s community, in one’s own heart and soul. Marked with the sign of the cross during the sacrament of baptism, a soul is a sacred place, which is to be protected.

It is God’s will to come and dwell, not only into stone temples, but also inside ourselves. This will appears in a very tangible way in the delightful lines which tell us of Jesus’ visit to Zacchaeus, a tax-collector: “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down: for this day I must abide in thy house.” (Lk 19:5)  “I must”: the Lord doesn’t leave much choice to the man who was perched on a sycamore tree, hoping to see while rmaining unseen. Many men and women today, far more than we might think, seek to know Jesus… Will He leave them more choice than to Zacchaeus?

The call was personally addressed by Christ to Zacchaeus, and the Apostles received as their mission to make it resound until the ends of the earth, as St. Matthew tells at the end of his Gospel:

Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. (Mt 28:19-20)

The call to mission is now addressed to all Christians, and especially to the priests. It ought to be possible to conclude this call by the same remark made by Jesus:

This day is salvation come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Lk 19:9-10)

Salvation, such is the aim of mission.

A few days ago, a scathing report was made public, accusing priests and religious. What have they done? They have abused young people. These men had been sent on a mission by the Church, to lead towards God, to provide salvation. But duplicity was lurking in their hearts. Concealed behind their mission as apostles, they tried to draw benefits, not to serve, but to serve themselves. Sometimes also, those who knew kept silent.

There is a huge wound in the hearts of those who had received these men as ambassadors of Christ. Through the fault of some evangelizers, and either embarrassed or complicit silences, it is the Church that is today accused, and Christ Himself derided by some who have suffered at the hands of mercenaries. All the Christians are wounded and put to shame.

Today, as in many periods, the frail ship of the Church is buffeted outside by the waves, as well as inside by her members’ faults. St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople during the fourth century, asserted:

Such is the Church’s greatness: she is fought, and she triumphs. She is insulted, and she appears all the more dazzling. She is wounded, but she does not succumb to her wounds. She is buffeted by all the waves, but she does not founder. (St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in Eutropium, 1, PG 52, col. 397)


Faced with scandal, we find ourselves so powerless. The Lord of all consolation knows how to soothe the victims’ hearts. It is impossible that they should remain on the road-side, forsaken both by their torturers and those who would prefer to ignore them. They also are children of Abraham. Despite their wounds, and through their wounds, they are still invited to cross the gates of the holy city. Through the Church, God wants to touch them, and heal them. May He inspire to the pastors the gestures and words that have to be made and uttered. The promises of God told by the Book of the Apocalypse remain topical:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more. Nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away. (Ap 21:4)

God’s affirmation is irrevocable: “Behold, I make all things new.” (Ap 21:5)