Joys Mixed with Crosses; the Cross Transformed into Joy
On Sunday, April 10, 2016, during the pilgrimage to Notre-Dame du Puy-en-Velay (France), Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X, gave a sermon in which he spoke about the Post-Synodal Exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, which had been published two days earlier, on April 8, and about his visit with Pope Francis on April 1.
Today, on Good Shepherd Sunday, we have the privilege of celebrating the Solemnity of the Annunciation. You know that when the Feast of the Annunciation—which is a major feast day—falls within Holy Week, it is postponed until after the Easter Octave. It is celebrated on the first day after Easter Week, on Monday. And we have the right to celebrate it on the following Sunday as a Solemnity.
The Joy of the Annunciation and the Sorrow of the Passion
We celebrate this Feast of the Annunciation here in particular on the occasion of the Jubilee of the Great Atonement, the jubilee that takes place every time the Feast of the Annunciation, normally celebrated on March 25, coincides with Good Friday. In other words, this happens every time, over the course of the years, this conjunction occurs with the Feast of the Annunciation, which is the feast of the Incarnation of Our Lord. We celebrate the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, we fittingly direct our attention to the Most Blessed Virgin at the moment when she pronounces her fiat, with which she accepts God’s plan. For God made His redemptive plan, the plan by which He intended to save mankind, depend on the yes of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Everything depends on this yes, and at the moment when the Blessed Virgin says yes, Our Lord, the Word of God, is made flesh. To say “the Annunciation” is to say “the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ”. Therefore this is the beginning of Our Lord’s life as a man.
This year, this day happens to be linked to the day on which we celebrate His death, the Passion of Our Lord and His death on the cross: Good Friday. Joined together on this day, therefore, are the beginning and the end of Our Lord, the Alpha and the Omega, the first letter of the Greek alphabet and the last: principium et finis, the principle, the beginning, and the end. This day is therefore a very special day, which calls for a Jubilee Year here in Puy, a Great Atonement. This feast or this jubilee also joins quite intimately, as you understand very well, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary on the one hand, and Our Lord on the other hand. And if we see in the Annunciation the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, and Our Lord, in the Passion, we see both of them joined also. This time the action is upon Our Lord, who suffers and dies in his horrible Passion. But we see Our Lady too at the foot of the cross, suffering; and the Church dares to say that her sufferings are the equivalent of a martyrdom. One the one hand the Annunciation, joy, and on the other—the Passion, suffering, sorrow, tears.
Mixing Joys with Tears
As for Saint Joseph, on his feast day, in the hymn for Vespers, there is a very beautiful phrase at the end saying that he combines joy with tears, that he “mixes” them: miscens gaudia fletibus. He mixes joys with tears. And if we reflect a bit, that is indeed our lot on earth, and that can go very far, as we see in the Annunciation and in the Passion. In the Annunciation, of course, we see the joy, we rejoice, and that is normal; it is necessary to rejoice. The extraordinary thing is that God was made man, but for God, becoming man is an annihilation. The word used in Latin is exinanivit: He emptied Himself (Phil 2:7). For God, to become man—God who is all-powerful, who is above all creatures—to assume a human nature is to be emptied out, which at the same time takes nothing away from His infinite majesty, His Omnipotence. God remains God. The tiny Infant Jesus, in His Mother’s womb, while entirely dependent on a creature for His life, for His survival, remains at the same time Almighty God.
On the one hand there is this joy to see our Redeemer arrive, but we must note that this Redemption will be accomplished in annihilation, in suffering, in sorrow, and this journey, begun at the Annunciation, reaches its culmination in the Passion. Yet in these unheard-of, indescribable sufferings, we know that at the very height of His soul, Our Lord still had the beatific vision that is the summit of happiness; it is Heaven. It is hard for us to grasp how these joys and these tears could be united. Often here below we speak about a valley of tears, and that is how we describe life. We have joys nevertheless, but what seems to dominate is the valley of tears. This does not mean that there are no joys, but if we are here, if we come to the Blessed Virgin, we all have tears to show, we all have requests, supplications to make to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, our intercessor, our Mediatrix, so that she might obtain for us all sorts of good things, gifts, and graces! Oh yes, we bring our tears so that they might be transformed into joy.
The Cross: the Means of Salvation
I would like to insist on these tears. God is infinitely good; He is Goodness itself. In the Most Blessed Virgin Mary we see maternal goodness. But then we ask ourselves the question: why then so many sufferings? And when we are making efforts, that is when trials hit us the hardest; when we are making efforts to please the Good Lord, that is when we have trials. Why these sufferings? Why did Our Lord choose that way of saving us? He could have done otherwise! We know that one smile of the Infant Jesus, just one of his tiny tears amply and infinitely sufficed to redeem us, because each of His acts has an infinite value, because each of Our Lord’s acts has an infinite redemptive value. Then why all these sufferings? Why all these pains? God performs for us a work of mercy that is difficult for us to understand. The great evil that strikes mankind, that blights our history and our life, is sin; and to understand sin is not so simple a thing. The Good Lord allows suffering, sorrow, and trials so that we might come to understand a little bit more what sin is.
All suffering, my dear brothers and sisters, all suffering, all pain that we must suffer, whomever the person may be here on earth: whether it is the slightest things, the little boo-boos of children, or big things like wars or famines…all pain is the consequence of sin. Will we ever manage to understand that? Through the first sin of Adam and Eve, suffering and death entered the world of mankind. Before sin, neither one existed. And the more human beings sin, the more suffering there will be. But not because God likes it that way; the Good Lord takes no pleasure in causing suffering. No! If we only knew how much He compassionates with us! But this is a work of mercy that He does for us, and He gives us these sufferings, even unto death, so that they might become ineffable sources of life and joy, to the extent that we accept them, to the extent that we are willing to unite them to His, to His sufferings, to His death. A difficult joy, to be sure, but you know very well, my dear brothers and sisters, that in the depths of the soul one can continue to rejoice in God’s joy, even when one suffers. Once we draw near to the Good Lord, once we manage to keep our souls united with the Good Lord, in other words, once we flee sin, then yes, this peace, this love of God, this joy exists in the depths of the Christian heart.
Our Lord makes these sufferings His own in the soul that He loves. In the soul that is in the state of grace, Our Lord will continue His Passion with His sufferings. And you can say with Saint Paul: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His Body which is the Church” (Col 1:24). Your sufferings then are really transformed into means of salvation, for you and for others. Our Lord was the first to do this; He is so good, so powerful that He is capable of transforming evil into a greater good. The greatest sin of all, deicide—in other words, killing Our Lord, causing Him to die on the cross—Our Lord will use this act and will transform it into the redemptive act in which He, by offering His life to God, expiates all the sins of all mankind, and thus offers salvation to all human beings. He offers it, if they are willing. Alas, many, many souls are unwilling.
The Exhortation Amoris Laetitia
Mixing joy with tears. Allow me to allude to a current event, a very recent event: an Apostolic Exhortation entitled The Joy of Love, which makes us weep. This Exhortation is the summary of the two Synods on marriage. It is very long, it contains many things that are correct and beautiful, but after building what I was about to call a fine building, a beautiful boat, the Supreme Pontiff cut a hole into the hull of the boat, beneath the flotation line, and you all know what happens then. What difference does it make that the hole was made with every possible precaution? What difference does it make that the hole is very small? The boat leaks.
Our Lord Himself said not to change one iota: “one jot or one tittle shall not pass of the law” (Mt 5:17-20). When God speaks, these words allow no exception. When He commands, God has an infinite wisdom which has foreseen all cases; there is no exception to God’s law. And now suddenly they pretend that this law about marriage is upheld by saying that marriage is indissoluble—they keep this statement, they say it—but afterward they say that there can nevertheless be exceptions along these lines: so-called “remarried” divorced persons, in that state, while living in sin, could be in a state of grace and therefore can go to Communion. That is extremely serious. I think that we do not sufficiently appreciate the gravity of what has just been said. What difference does it make that these are very small exceptions in a corner? That is how they brought about Communion in the hand. And as I told you, small holes in a boat are enough. The boat leaks!
The Meeting with Pope Francis
Miscens gaudia fletibus. There are still more joys and more tears, recent ones too. You know that a short time ago we met Pope Francis. Well, he explained to us that Benedict XVI, at the end of his pontificate, had set a deadline, and that if the Society did not accept the Roman proposal by that date, he had decided that the Society would be excommunicated. And Pope Francis went on to tell us: the Holy Spirit was probably the one who inspired Benedict XVI and told him a few days before his resignation to abandon that plan, because Benedict XVI said: I leave this matter to my successor.
And it was proposed to his successor, Pope Francis. They put on his desk our excommunication, saying, “You just have to date and sign it.” And Pope Francis said, “No, I do not excommunicate them, I do not condemn them.” He told me: “I will not condemn you.” He also said: “You are Catholics…,” and he continued, saying: “on the path to full communion.” Nonetheless he maintains that we are Catholics. He also said: “You know, I have quite a lot of problems with you; people make it difficult for me because I am nice to you, but to those people I say: listen, I embrace Patriarch Kirill, I do good to the Anglicans, I do good to the Protestants, I don’t see why I can’t do good to these Catholics.” That is how he explained it. He also said: “If I have problems, you have problems too, and therefore we must not push, we must not create more divisions, therefore we will take our time.”
Continuing, he told us: the authority to hear confessions, quite obviously, continues after (the Holy Year), and also to give Extreme Unction, and also to grant absolution for abortion–all that continues. At that point I said to him: Why not for the other sacraments then? He was quite open to the idea. We will see how these things develop. These things obviously give us hope. But one day we see things that give us a little hope and we rejoice over them, and the next day there is a terrifying Exhortation that does so much harm to the Church.
The Interview with Abp. Pozzo
The next day we saw Abp. Pozzo, Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, the dicastery in Rome that deals with us. And Abp. Pozzo told us: “We think…”—the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and not just he—“that we should ask of you only what is demanded, what is required of any Catholic, and no more.” He developed his thought by saying: “Most of Vatican II did nothing doctrinal, and therefore that does not have to be required of you.” He was even much clearer when he told us: “You have the right to defend your opinion on religious liberty, on ecumenism, on relations with other religions as set forth in Nostra Aetate.” This was such a surprise that I told him: “It could well be that I will ask you to come to our houses and say that.”
I don’t think that we should be triumphant about this, dear faithful Catholics. I actually think this change is a profound one, a very important one; it has come about because of the Church’s dire situation. One might say it is in part the result of the chaos that is taking hold of the Church. There is such confusion, there are such attacks against faith, against morality in every way that finally, it is as if the Congregation of the Faith decided: we have no right to treat [in such a way] those people who only say and teach what the Church has always taught…we have no right to consider what they do as a very serious sin, while all around them there are so many — up to prelates and cardinals; we would almost say all the way up to the Pope – who not only talk nonsense, but utter heresies that are an open path to sin.
Yet there are some men in the Church who are reacting, thinking, who are saying: things should not be like this. And it is in the midst of this disorder, amid tears that comes this whisper: no, we cannot force you to accept the Council. They perhaps will not say it so clearly, but they did indeed say it to us after all. Of course, we take this very cautiously, we ask God to enlighten us so that we see what it all means, if it’s really true, of whether tomorrow it will all start again in another direction. Nevertheless, my dear brothers, all this shows us something: that fidelity to all that the Church has always taught really does pay. We must just remain firm. These modern people cannot deny it; the reality is obvious: we are Catholics and we want to remain so.
May Mary keep us Faithful to the Catholic Faith
And so our first request today to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, here in Puy, is precisely that we may keep and preserve all these treasures, that we may remain Catholics pure and simple and continue our work, so that it might spread again, and so that little by little we might win souls, that souls may be saved and return to Our Lord, to the Faith, to His commandments, God’s commandments.
Allow me to make an appeal to the young people today, on Good Shepherd Sunday. All of you, every one of you, must ask yourself: Is the Good Lord calling me to the religious life? To the priestly life? Does He want me to become a priest? Does He want me to work in His vineyard to win souls, to save them? To show you that this is not just an idea, even Abp. Pozzo told us: “You really should think soon about founding a seminary in Italy!” This is to show you that they are taking us seriously in the midst of this disarray, in the midst of this general confusion in which no one knows what is good, what is evil, in which all sorts of theories emanate from the authorities themselves. And there is no sign that this confusion will stop; it will increase even more!
How much we need this protection of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary! And there is no doubt that this guidance is fidelity; what the Church has done and taught in the past cannot suddenly become false. Quite the contrary! It is true and it remains true, and those who adhere to it are protected from error, from novelty. Let us prepare ourselves, then, for some tears; the Church’s trials that are only beginning. Through these tears, let us unite ourselves with all our hearts to Our Lord and Our Lady, remembering that God is All-Powerful, He is Divine Providence, He governs all things. He is the one who writes history, not men! Human beings who are free do all that they can, all that they want, but ultimately the one who has the last word is God. God who does not abandon those who seek Him, for those who ask for His help will receive it and even more: “to them that love God all things work together unto good” (Rom 828). All things, even the trials, even this crisis in the Church, “all things work together unto good for those who love God.” Let us ask the Most Blessed Virgin Mary for this love, the Faith, hope and charity that lead infallibly to heaven.
In order to preserve the distinctive character of this sermon, the spoken style has been kept.
(Source : FSSPX/MG – transcription DICI dated April 13, 2016)