Note: By request I am going to begin restoring some posts from the old Opus Publicum over the next week or so. This one, which originally appeared on 4/27/2014, is not of my own composition. Rather, it is a translation of Dom Gerard Calvet’s sermon given at Chartes Cathedral on Pentecost 1985. You can read the translation at its original host, the defunct Lidless Eye web-log, here. In the hopes of keeping the text available in case Lidless Eye should ever disappear, I have copied the text below. The friend who directed me to it referred to it as “the illiberal Catholic manifesto.” I think he’s right.
Delivered by Dom Gérard,
Abbot of Le Barroux,
In Chartres Cathedral,
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear pilgrims of Notre-Dame,
Here you are finally reassembled in the company of your guardian angels, themselves also present in the thousands, whom we salute with affection and gratitude, at the conclusion of this ardent pilgrimage filled with prayer, song, and sacrifice; and already, many of you have recovered the white robe of baptismal innocence. What happiness!
Here you are reassembled by God’s grace, in the heart of this blessed cathedral, under the watchful gaze of Our Lady of ‘la Belle VerriPre’, one of the most beautiful images of the Holy Virgin Mary. The image before which we know that Saint Louis knelt after completing a pilgrimage barefoot.
Is this not sufficient to have us recover the taste for our Christian and French roots? We thank you, dear pilgrims, for having set out by the thousands to honor this Holy Virgin, and it is these thousands of voices, coming from thousands of hearts of all ages and conditions, which afford us, this evening, the most living image of Christendom.
We thank you for presenting yourselves thus, every year, like a living parable; for as you advanced during the course of this three—day trek towards Mary’s shrine praying and singing, you expressed the very condition of the Christian life, which is that of a long pilgrimage, a long march towards Paradise! And your walk ended in church, which is the image of the Heavenly Sanctuary.
The Christian life is a pilgrimage, often painful, which passes through Golgotha, but is illumined by the splendours of the Spirit. And which leads to glory. Oh! We may well be persecuted, but I forbid that we be pitied. For we belong to a race of exiles and voyagers, gifted with a prodigious power of invention, but refusing—that is its religion—to be distracted from the things of Heaven.
It that not what we shall sing, presently, at the end of the ‘Credo’: ‘Et expecto’—and I await,– ‘Vitam venturi saeculi’,–the life of the world to come? Oh! Not an earthly golden age, fruit of a supposed evolution, but God’s true Paradise, of which Jesus spoke to the good thief: “Today, you shall be with me in Paradise!”
If we seek to pacify the earth, to beautify the earth, it is not in order to replace Heaven, but so that the earth be Heaven’s stepladder.
And if, one day, faced with the growth of barbarism, we were obliged to take up arms in defense of our earthly cities, it is because, as our dearPéguy has said: “they are the image and the beginning, the body and the test of the House of God.”
But even before the hour sounds for a military reconquest, is it not permissible to speak of crusade, at least when a community finds itself threatened in its families, in its schools, in its sanctuaries, in the soul of its children?
And so it is, dear friends, that we are not afraid of revolution: we rather fear the eventuality of a counter-revolution ‘without God’!
This would be to remain trapped in the infernal cycle of laicism and desacralization! There is no word to express the horror that the absence of God from the modern world’s institutions should inspire in us! Look at the U.N.: elaborate architecture, giant halls, the flags of every nation blowing in the wind. ‘No crucifix’!
The world organized without God, without any reference to its Creator. An enormous blasphemy!
Visit a state school: the children are instructed in everything. ‘But silence about God’! What an atrocious scandal! This is a mutilation of the mind, an atrophy of the soul—not to mention the laws permitting the abominable crime of abortion.
But the saddest and most shameful of all is that the mass of Christians ends up becoming accustomed to this state of affairs. They do not protest; they do not react. Or, to give themselves an excuse, they invoke the changing norms of society. How shameful!
If there be anything worse than this declared renunciation, said a friend of ours, it is the smiling abandonment of principles, the gradual slide down the slippery slope, with airs of fidelity. Is there not a putrid scent wafting from modern civilization?
Well then! Against this apostasy of state and civilization which is destroying our families and our cities, we propose a great remedy across the entire body politic; we propose what is the ‘idée-force’ of any civilization worthy of the name: ‘Christendom’!
What is Christendom? Dear pilgrims, you know what it is and you’ve just experienced it: Christendom is a covenant between earth and Heaven; a pact, sealed in the blood of the martyrs, between the world of men and the Paradise of God; a play, both candid and serious, a humble beginning of Eternal Life. Christendom, my dear brothers, is the light of the Gospel projected upon our homeland, our families, our mores, our works. Christendom is the earthly body of the Church, her bulwark, her inscription in time.
Christendom, for us French, is Gallo-Roman France, daughter of her bishops and monks; it is the France of Clovis converted by Saint Clotilde and baptized by Saint Rémi; it is the land of Charlemagne counselled by Alcuin the monk, both of whom organized Christian schools, reformed the clergy, and protected the monasteries.
Christendom, for us, is 12th century France, covered with a white mantle of monasteries, where Cluny and Cîteaux were rivals in holiness, where thousands of clasped hands, consecrated to prayer, interceded day and night for the cities of man!
It is 13th century France, governed by a saintly king, son of Blanche of Castille, who invited to his table Saint Thomas Aquinas, while the sons of Saint Dominic and Saint Francis set out on the roads and in the cities, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom.
Christendom, in Spain, is Saint Ferdinand, the Catholic king; it is Isabelle of France, sister of Saint Louis, emulating her brother in piety, courage, and wise benevolence.
Christendom, dear pilgrims, is the military profession, tempered and consecrated by chivalry, the highest incarnation of the military ideal; it is crusade, where the sword is placed at the service of the faith, and where charity expresses itself through courage and sacrifice.
Christendom is a laborious spirit, the taste for a job well done, the self-effacement of the artist behind his work. Do you know the names of those who crafted the capitals of these columns, and these stained-glass windows?
Christendom is intelligent and creative energy, prayer translated into action, the use of bold, new techniques. It is the cathedral, breathtaking image of Heaven, immense vessel where Gregorian chant, suppliant and radiant, rises unanimous to vaulted heights, and then descends in layers of silence to our pacified hearts.
Christendom, my brothers,–let us be truthful,–is also a world threatened by the forces of evil; a cruel world where passions clash, a country in the grip of anarchy, the Kingdom of the Lilies ravaged by war, fire, famine, pestilence: sowers of death in countryside and city.
A woeful France, deprived of her king, in total decline, headed for anarchy and pillage. And it is in this universe of mire and blood, that the humus of our sinful humanity, watered by the tears of prayer and penitence, would cause to germinate the finest flower of our civilization, the purest and noblest, its stem the straightest ever to appear in our soil of France: Joan of Domrémy!
Saint Joan of Arc will complete, for us, the definition of Christendom. It is not only cathedral, crusade, and chivalry; it is not only art, philosophy, culture, and men’s works rising like a sacred liturgy to the throne of God. It is also, and especially, the proclamation of the kingship of Jesus Christ over souls, institutions, and mores. It is the temporal order of intelligence and love, submitted to the most high and most holy kingship of the Lord Jesus.
It is the affirmation that the sovereigns of the earth are but the viceroys of the King of Heaven.
“The kingdom is not yours, said Joan of Arc to the dauphin, it is my Lord’s”—”And who is your Lord?”, Joan is asked.—”The King of Heaven, replies the young girl, and He entrusts it to you, in order that you govern in his name.”
What a broadening of our perspective! What a grand vision of the dignity of the temporal order! In one striking phrase, the shepherd girl from Domrémy gives us God’s design for the internal rule of nations.
For the nations,–and ours in particular,–are families loved by God, loved so much that Jesus Christ, having redeemed them and washed them in his Blood, wishes also to reign over them, with a kingship of perfect peace, justice, and love: a prefiguration of Heaven.
“France, are you faithful to the promises of your Baptism?”, asked the Pope, five years ago.
Most Holy Virgin Mary, Our Lady of France, Our Lady of Chartres we ask you to heal the illness of this people, to restore its childlike purity, its filial honor. We ask you to renew its farming vocation, its peasant vocation, its large families lovingly and respectfully tending the bounteous land. This land which, over the centuries, has been able to produce honest bread and fruits of holiness.
Most Blessed Virgin, revive in this people its vocation of soldier, plowman, poet, hero, and saint. Restore for us the soul of France!
Deliver us from the ideological scourge constraining the soul of this people. The crucifix has been banned from schools, courts, and hospitals. They have arranged for man to be educated without God, to be judged without God, and to die without God!
It is therefore to a crusade and a reconquest that we are called. To reclaim our schools, our churches, and our families.
So that, one day, if God grants us this grace, we shall see coming towards us, at the conclusion of our efforts, the much loved and radiant features of she who was called by our ancestors, gentle France. Gentle France, image of the gentleness of God!
Would it be permitted us, this evening, before thousands of pilgrims, to speak of the gentleness of God?
It is a monk who speaks to you. And the gentleness of God, you know, rewards beyond all expectation, the battles that his servants wage for the Kingdom.
Paternal gentleness of God. Gentleness of the Crucified! O gentle Virgin Mary, wrap our embattled souls in your mantle of gentleness and peace.
We invite all of Christendom to meet here, next year, at Notre-Dame of Chartres, which, from this day forward, shall be our national Czestochowa.
May the Holy Spirit enlighten you, may the Most Blessed Virgin watch over you, and may the angelic Hosts protect you. Amen!
(Translated from the French by Peter Vere and Raymond Lévesque)