Rorate Caeli

Fr. Cyril Gordien: "The hardest thing is to suffer at the hands of the Church"

On the occasion of the very moving funeral of Father Cyril Gordien, a priest of the diocese of Paris, in the church of Saint-Pierre-de-Montrouge, which was filled to capacity on March 20, all those present, the faithful (1700), priests (150), bishops (Ulrich, Aupetit, Castet, Rougé, Marsset, Verny), found in their place a 36-page pamphlet: Abbé Cyril Gordien, Mon testament spirituel: A Priest at the Heart of Suffering. We are publishing excerpts here (courtesy of Paix Liturgique).


There is no doubt that Father Gordien wrote these pages at the end of the illness that led to his death, with the intention that they be diffused, as the tone of public testimony shows. It is also clear that the organizers of the ceremony wanted to respond to the testamentary will of their friend, provoking a kind of spiritual and ecclesial shock by publishing and distributing this testament, which is, not only, but especially, the cry of a priest who suffered at the hands of men of the Church.


Born in 1974, Father Gordien died on March 14, 2023, before reaching his 49th birthday, of a devastating cancer that had been diagnosed a year ago, in March 2022. From a very Catholic family in the Southwest, he had become a priest of the Diocese of Paris in 2005, and had served in various ministries, including as a high school chaplain (most recently at Notre Dame de France), national chaplain for the Scouts and Guides of Europe, in charge of vocations in the diocese, and finally, pastor of Saint-Dominique Parish since September 2019.


Wearing the cassock, as do a certain number of “young” priests in the diocese of Paris and other dioceses, known for his spiritual and very orthodox preaching, organizer in his parish of Perpetual Adoration, follower of a reverent liturgy, He freely celebrated ad orientem in a chapel of his church (as the drawing on the cover of the booklet of the funeral Mass evokes), and even more than that, since before Traditionis Custodes dropped, was preparing to institute a traditional Mass for young people on Wednesdays at Saint-Dominique [Fr Gordien regularly said the TLM and loved it deeply--Rorate]. Like many priests of the same sensibility in the Paris diocese, he benefited from the good spiritual care of Opus Dei, which organized retreats and priestly sessions for them (he was, moreover, a member of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, linked in this way externally to Opus Dei).


Very attentive to discerning priestly and religious vocations, he had been diocesan vocations delegate from 2019 to 2022, when, during the vacancy of the see of Paris after the resignation of Bishop Aupetit, he was dismissed from his office overnight by Bishop Marsset, auxiliary bishop, with the approval of Bishop Pontier, administrator, which was a very brutal shock for him a month before the announcement of his cancer. It is true that the priestly vocations he brought to the seminary of Paris—which was in a state of significant decrease, as in most dioceses—were of a very conservative nature, which did not please the diocesan authorities; but this, in any case, is true today of the vast majority of vocations that come to the seminaries of France.


Very courageously, during the Covid crisis, he kept his church open, and made sure that he always celebrated accessible Masses, which earned him some setbacks with his hierarchy, under the pretext that he did not respect the “sanitary precautions.” And it can be said today, for his posthumous praise: he even celebrated marriages during the period when they were scandalously forbidden by the Republican State and the Catholic hierarchy.


Father Cyril Gordien was thus an emblematic figure of the “new priests.” The large crowd attending his funeral—as classical as possible, with a Kyriale from the Requiem Mass and the Roman Canon, but unfortunately in the form of a mega-celebration of almost all the priests present—shows to what extent priests of this type respond to a sensibility that is becoming dominant among Catholics who are still practicing, of a more visible militancy, attached to family morality, defenders of life, followers of a doctrinally sound preaching.


The moving text he wrote is that of a holy priest, very attached to his priestly duties. His references are those of the priests of his sensibility: John Paul II, Benedict XVI. Not a word, however, is said about Francis. He was a devotee of José María Escrivá and the Curé d’Ars, and marked by the Diary of a Country Priest by Bernanos, as we learn from a discreet quotation: “I don’t pray enough for what I suffer,” he writes, referring to the Curé of Torcy who says to the Curé of Ambricourt in the Diary: “You don’t pray enough. You suffer too much for what you pray, that is my idea.”





Fr. Cyril Gordien


Spiritual Journey


I would like to begin these few lines of meditation with an immense thanksgiving to our Lord. Yes, I give thanks to my God for the faith I received as a child, a solid and pure faith, a faith that has never failed despite the many trials of life, a faith that my dear parents passed on to me in fidelity and true love of the Church. I thank the Lord for the close-knit family into which I was born, and for all the love that my parents and brothers lavished on me. I had a very happy childhood, marked by the example given by my father, an example of self-giving in his profession as a surgeon and of fidelity in religious practice. [...]


I give thanks to the Lord for having called me to the priesthood, I, his unworthy servant. When I felt this call in the depths of my heart, it filled me with an unspeakable joy, and at the same time with a fear full of respect for the Lord: why me, who feels so unworthy and so incapable of assuming such an office and such a great mission? My path towards the priesthood, in the seminary, was both joyful and painful. Joyful, because of the graces I received, which have always strengthened me in my vocation, and because of all that I received through formation; painful, too, because of the trials and sufferings that came from the Church.


I have never betrayed the convictions that animated me, despite the inevitable persecutions. I have always resisted, fought, and struggled when I felt that lies, mediocrity or perversity were at work. I have been beaten and bullied for this, but I do not regret these fights with conviction. The hardest thing is to suffer at the hands of the Church. [...]


After two years, I was appointed to the chapel of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, on rue Cortambert. My apostolate was entirely with the young people, whether in the high schools where I was chaplain or in the chapel with all the activities proposed. These were happy moments full of joy in the midst of all these young people who were thirsty for a true and demanding word. Unfortunately, I did not always find the expected support from the local leaders (community of sisters, pastoral council...), having to endure constant blockages in liturgical and pastoral initiatives. So many battles to fight!


In September 2013, I was appointed to a neighboring parish, Our Lady of the Assumption. It was then that the Gerson affair occurred in April 2014, which I will not go into in detail. I would simply like to confide that this affair was fomented from scratch by parents and teachers who could not stand the religious impulse deployed in the establishment. In this struggle, we were not supported by the diocesan administration, which fueled the crisis, nor by the diocese. I was never consulted to give my opinion on how I perceived things from the inside. It was a trying crisis, but we overcame it through our unity and our convictions. I saw again how our leaders did not take care of the priests.


The six years spent at Assumption were years of great happiness: I was deeply happy in the missions with the young people, and we were very united with the priests, in a joyful and fraternal atmosphere. They were years of grace. I thank in particular Father de Menthière who was for me a model parish priest and a friend. I want to say here how important priestly friendship is in the life of a priest. I have very good friends who are priests, since the seminary, and we meet regularly. The Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, to which I belong, also assures me of the support and friendship of many priests.


Then I was appointed in September 2019 as parish priest of Saint Dominique, in the XIVth, a district that I knew well, having lived for three years with my grandfather, at the Porte d’Orléans. First parish as a priest: one loves one’s parish, one marvels at it, one gives oneself to it. I immediately committed myself to the youth apostolate, which seemed somewhat neglected. I undertook perhaps too quickly the changes that were necessary, notably liturgical ones, without taking enough time to explain.


Then the coronavirus crisis came along. In March 2020, barely six months after my arrival, life was paralyzed. I found myself totally alone in the presbytery and in the church, everyone having left to confine themselves elsewhere. For me, it is obvious: I cannot celebrate Mass by myself, locking myself away to protect myself... I am not a priest for myself, depriving the faithful of the sacraments. I decide to leave the church open, all day, and to celebrate Mass in the church, exposing the Blessed Sacrament beforehand, making myself available for confessions. I didn’t tell anyone, but the faithful came by themselves. I fully assume this choice, and do not regret it in any way. Some people, who went on holiday to the country, reproached me for it from a distance. Others, on their return from the confinements, have reproached me strongly. It is easy to criticize when one spends several weeks in the sun, outside Paris...


This crisis reveals a drama of our time: we want to protect our bodies to preserve our lives, even if it is at the expense of personal relationships and love given to the end. We want to save our bodies at the expense of our souls. What is the value of a society that gives absolute priority to the health of the body, leaving people to die in appalling solitude, depriving them of the presence of their loved ones? What is the value of a society that comes to prohibit the worship of the Lord?




Priest of Jesus Christ


The priesthood has been my whole life. I have never regretted for a single moment having said yes to the Lord who has showered me with his graces through my ministry. What a priceless gift it is to be a priest of Jesus Christ! What an ineffable grace! Every day, celebrating Holy Mass was an immense joy. I hardly measure the gift that the Lord has given me to be able to hold his divine body in my poor hands, and to lend him my voice and my wounded humanity so that he can make himself sacramentally present. I go to Holy Mass while climbing Golgotha, aware that the drama of salvation took place on this hill. I collect in my chalice the precious blood that flows from the pierced heart, the saving blood that was already flowing in Gethsemane. It was while sweating drops of blood that our Lord Jesus pronounced the great yes to the will of his Father and accepted to offer his life in sacrifice for the salvation of all men. [...]


When I arrived as parish priest in September 2019, I had the feeling that many beautiful things were being lived, but mostly in a horizontal way. Even if a real life of prayer was present, I perceived that a vertical, transcendent dimension was missing—a dimension that would make it possible to support everything in order to harness to God the whole of parish life. That is why I was convinced that we had to start Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Without the unfailing support of a faithful pair of parishioners whose faith is a rock and whose commitment is unfailing, I would never have succeeded. [...]


The Curé d’Ars is for me a model and a guide in my priesthood. When I was a student and thinking about my vocation, I read with passion his biography written by Bishop Trochu. This life entirely given, in total self-forgetfulness, for the salvation of souls, overwhelmed me. He was a tireless apostle of the mercy of God.


Confession, along with the Mass, is at the heart of the priest’s life. To transmit God’s forgiveness through the sacrament is an extraordinary grace. Who am I, a poor man, to say to someone: “I forgive you all your sins...” What an immense joy it is to be a witness of the Lord’s mercy! The sacrament of forgiveness rejoices the penitent: he or she arrives with a sad face, carrying the weight of his or her sins, and leaves with a light and purified heart and a look of joy at the love of God. The sacrament also brings joy to the priest: what a joy to allow a person to be freed from his sins and to leave with a heart at peace! This sacrament also brings joy to the Lord, it makes God’s heart happy! “There is more joy in Heaven for one sinner who is converted...” [...]


Among my great joys as a priest, there is the joy of the apostolate with the young. I have had the good fortune, in my various apostolates, to have accompanied many young people: through scouting, notably as national religious advisor of the Guides and Scouts of Europe; as a chaplain of secondary schools; as a parish priest, by founding an Even group; by organizing and accompanying many pilgrimages, to the WYD, to the Holy Land, in France...




The Ordeal of the Disease


When I learned that I had cancer, in March 2022, it did not really surprise me. I had the intuition that something serious would happen and that I would die young.


The mystery of suffering... it was confirmed that there was no cure for my cancer. Medicine can only relatively contain the evolution of this cancer at stage 4. For how long? How many months do I have to live? I, who have often meditated on death, accompanied the dying, celebrated funerals, exhorted people to the hope of eternal life—I am now confronted with my own death at the age of 48.


I want to prepare myself with faith for this decisive moment. I am not afraid of death, for I believe with all my being in eternal life; but I fear my Lord with a fear full of respect and love. “I know that my Redeemer lives,” as Job professes. I know that my Lord is waiting for me. I also know that I will appear before Christ, and I must prepare myself to appear before Him humbly. I acknowledge my sins, my many sins. And I implore for myself the great mercy of God. How unworthy I am to have been chosen to become a priest....


I don’t pray enough for what I suffer. No one can imagine what I have been suffering since March 2022 when everything changed. How difficult it is to carry one’s cross every day... I discreetly carry these daily sufferings, these hidden humiliations, these wounds of the body that hurt even in the tasks of everyday life. I try to put on a good face, to show nothing. I want to fulfill my mission as a parish priest as much as I can, through the tria munera [three duties], especially in the daily celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass. I unite myself with all my being to Christ who gives His life on the Cross. As I pronounce the holy words, “This is my body given up for you,” I think also of my poor suffering body, which I desire to give up for the salvation of souls.




Purification through Suffering


I live a daily way of the cross. Our Lord certainly wishes to purify me, to unite me to his sufferings. I still do not understand why I have to go through all of this. I often cry out to the Lord, and sometimes I cry too. The trial is heavy. I do not rebel against God, but I dare to cry out like the Psalmist. The cry of the suffering soul is also a prayer. Our Lord Jesus cried out to his Father at the moment of death: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” [...]


Within the Church, wolves have crept in. They are priests, and sometimes even bishops, who do not seek the good and the salvation of souls, but who desire first of all the realization of their own interests, like the success of a “pseudo-career.” So they are ready to do anything: to give in to the dominant mode of thought, to make a pact with certain lobbies such as LGBT, to renounce the doctrine of the true faith in order to adapt to the times, to lie in order to achieve their ends. I have met such wolves disguised as good pastors, and I have suffered through the Church. In the various crises I have gone through, I have realized that the authorities did not care for priests and rarely defended them, taking the side of recriminating progressive laymen in need of power and wanting a flat liturgy in a self-celebration of the assembly.


As a priest, pastor, and guide of the sheep entrusted to you, if you decide to take care of the liturgy to honor Our Lord and give him true worship, it is unlikely that you will be supported in high places in the face of complaining laity.


Today, I want to offer my sufferings for the Church, for my parish, for vocations. All vocations: priestly, religious, marital. I ask the Lord for the strength to forgive those who have persecuted me, and for the courage to go forward carrying these crosses every day. Like Zacchaeus, to see Christ, we must climb a tree, the tree of the Cross. “Stat crux dum volvitur orbis”—“the cross remains while the world turns”: this is the motto of the Carthusians. In the midst of the changes and troubles of this world, the cross of our Savior remains planted on our earth in a stable manner, as the sign of our faith.




The Holy Virgin Mary


“How can I be so blessed that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” asks Elizabeth (Lk 1:43). And I also marvel at the presence of Mary in my life.


The Virgin Mary has always been present in my life, from my childhood until today. It was she who guided me towards the priesthood, encouraging me with confidence, despite the feeling of my unworthiness and incapacity. I remember with emotion that moment of grace when, in a small chapel on the hill of Vézelay, Mary took me by the hand to reassure me and launch me on the path to the priesthood. The Blessed Virgin has always protected and comforted me. In all the moments of trial that I have known, in all those human situations that seemed lost, I have always entrusted myself to Mary, taking refuge under her immaculate white mantle, placed under her protection. In these moments of abandonment, I have always felt a grace of consolation, with the certainty that Mary was watching, that she was there, vigilant and protective. I have never been disappointed or abandoned by her. I would like to testify to how much prayer to Mary is a source of graces. The Blessed Virgin does not keep us for herself, she leads us to her divine Son—she teaches us, like a mother, to know him and to love him. [...]


At the grotto of Massabielle, where I have been so many times, I have asked Our Lady of Lourdes to help me to want what God wants for me. This grotto is for me a refuge, a holy place, a rock on which to lean to regain strength. The spring of living water that flows at the bottom of the grotto is the fountain of graces that the Blessed Virgin wishes to give us.




The Good Fight


The good fight is that of faith: to keep the faith and transmit the faith, in fidelity to the tradition of the Church. My faith today is that of the patriarchs, the prophets, the apostles, the men and women saints who preceded us and who transmitted to us this treasure of faith in the true God. Throughout the centuries of the Church’s history, how much blood has been shed, how much suffering has been endured, how much violent persecution has been waged, to protect and transmit the Catholic Faith!


The good fight is the one that consists in remaining faithful to the promises of one’s baptism, in fighting to remain united with the Lord Jesus, in living as a Christian, in keeping one’s convictions. It is a daily struggle, because the devil never stops trying to turn us away from God. The good fight is that of fidelity to Christ, a fidelity that is won every day through the duties of the Christian life: daily prayer, Sunday Mass, regular confession, the fight against this or that sin that keeps coming back. There are heroic Christians who fight every day to overcome a sin that poisons their life. These shadowy battles, in the secrets of life, are so many small victories won against the Prince of Darkness.




“The Moment of My Departure Has Come”


“I, in fact, am already offered as a sacrifice, the moment of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:6,7).


I have been fighting this cancer for almost a year. A year of relentless struggle, of daily suffering, of various hospitalizations. A year of chemotherapy endured every two weeks. I can feel that my body is weakening and that the cancer is gaining ground. “But one does not fight in the hope of success, no, no, it is much more beautiful when it is useless!” […]


I am therefore preparing to appear before my Lord. I am confident, because, as Benedict XVI wrote, the Lord is both my judge and my advocate: “Soon I will face the ultimate judge of my life. Even though, looking back on my long life, I have many reasons to be afraid and frightened, I nevertheless have a joyful soul, because I have the firm conviction that the Lord is not only the just judge, but at the same time the friend and brother who has himself suffered from my faults and who, therefore, as judge, is also my advocate.”