Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermon for Low Sunday: "Together with Thomas, exclaim: My Lord and my God!"


(and Profession of Simple Vows of Brother P. Bochenski)

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Father Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
Fontgombault, April 24, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,
     and most especially you, who are now going
     to make your religious vows,

Catechumens, who were baptised during Easter night, removed yesterday their white habits. As for you, you have chosen this morning the habit that you will now be wearing, God helping, every day of your life. When I give you the cope of professed monks, I shall pronounce upon you this prayer:

May the Lord clothe you with the new man, who from day to day renews himself in the image of Him Who created him. (Profession Ritual)

“The Lord has done great things for us: we were overjoyed!” (Ps 125:31) These words, which we sang as we came back from the chapter to the church, were the words of the Hebrew people on their way to the Temple of Jerusalem. Day after day, the Lord will clothe you with this new habit, and your heart will be overjoyed.

On the day of your clothing, on the day of your Mandatum, and once again this morning, when Father Abbot was asking you what you were seeking at the monastery, you answered: “God’s mercy and fraternal life.” God has heard you. Through the new habit He gives you, it is His mercy which is now enveloping you, and which will slowly and deeply transform your being. Through mercy’s work, the old man will recede far from you, and the new man, Christ, will build inside yourself His dwelling-place. Cleansed from the old leaven, you will become a new dough, which the divine Baker will cook at the fire of divine love. (cf. 1 Co 5:7)

Through your profession, you will come to Christ, “the living stone, rejected indeed by men but chosen and made honorable by God. Be you also as living stones built up, a spiritual house,” (1 P 2:4), which the monastic fraternity is.

On Easter morning, we heard Mary Magdalene tell with anguish to Peter and John, the beloved disciple, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher: and we know not where they have laid Him.” (Jn 20:2) Today, it is Thomas who is doubting:

Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe. (Jn 20:25)

Monastic life may encounter periods of doubt and anguish, which were known to the great saints. Yet, the Lord presents you already on this day with the remedy: As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile, that thereby you may grow unto salvation. (1 P 2:4)

Through a daily, faithful and silent reading of the Holy Scripture, the true face of God will unveil itself to you, and together with Thomas, in an ever renewed admiration, you will be able to exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28) How astonishing is Thomas the Apostle! By his out-of-place words, akin to those of child in a huff because he has missed a good encounter, he has just given an opportunity, as it were, to God’s mercy. He not only has to see Jesus, as the others did, but his demands aren’t limited there. Thomas has great desires:

“Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the place of the nails and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (Jn 20:25)

He is requiring a contact with Jesus, a strong contact, a flesh contact. That which Thomas yearns to see, are the Passion’s wounds. That into which he wants to put his hand, is the side pierced by a soldier’s spear, from which blood and water have flown (cf. Jn 19:34). Thomas goes to the fount, and wishes to drink from it. As he puts his hand in Jesus’ side, the unbelieving apostle encounters a Heart burning with love, an inexhaustible fount of Mercy for mankind.

How could we not mention St. Faustina Kowalska, the dear Polish saint, the apostle of Mercy who saw two rays of light bursting forth from Jesus’ Heart and irradiating the world. Jesus Himself once explained to her:

These two rays represent the blood and the water: the pale ray signifies the water that cleanses souls; the red ray signifies the blood, which is the life of souls. (Little Diary, I.130) I present men with a means, with which they must come and draw grace from the fount of Mercy. This means is this image, on which is inscribed, “Jesus, I trust Thee!” (ibid., I.138)

This trust, this friendship, is the core of a monk’s life. In the contact with Christ, “the definitive incarnation of mercy” (Dives in misericordia, n. 8), according to St. John Paul II’s beautiful expression, a monk is the object of the mercy of the Father, who is rich in mercy, and in his turn, he becomes an incarnation of mercy for his neighbor. It is in this trust, and in the light of Easter, that you are going this morning to sing your Suscipe: “Uphold me according to Thy word, and I shall live.” You will sing it in the presence of the community that receives you, as well as of your family, where you received the precious gift of life. This same family offers you today to the Lord, and we thank them. In today’s profession, in the lives of the monks of our community, in the lives of all men, we contemplate and sing, united with Mary our heavenly Mother, God’s mercy that extends from generation unto generations (cf. Lk 1:50).

St. John Paul II writes also: Mary [...] is the one who has the deepest knowledge of the mystery of God’s mercy. She knows its price, she knows how great it is. (Dives in misericordia, n. 9) She has experienced mercy in a unique way in the mystery of her own Immaculate Conception. Remain her child. The whole tradition of your nation [Poland, the nation of the new brother] is a call to that. As a conclusion, allow me to quote from a poetry of your country:

Arise, O my heart! for I hear the sound of the alarm.
Let us give praise to Mary, such are our arms.
For thou art Mary’s soldier,
And such a strong Lady no one can rival. [...]
Go and hear the password,
In thy heart always bear Her trace.
When asked, “Jesus”, thou shalt answer, “Mary”,
And may thy heart with Her ally for centuries. [...]
And when thou dost reach the end of thy life,
Take a safe-conduct from St. Mary.
Be blessed by Her, and at that moment,
Be a faithful guard in Her regiment. (Sarmatian Republic, p. 227)

Amen, Alleluia.