With the kind permission of His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, we here publish an English translation of the homily which he delivered yesterday in the cathedral of Chartres to the pilgrims present for the annual Notre-Dame de Chrétienté pilgrimage. Our deepest thanks to His Eminence, and to the organizers of the pilgrimage for the pictures, from the Notre-Dame de Chrétienté website.
Allow me first of all to warmly thank His Excellency Bishop Philippe Christory, Bishop of Chartres, for his fraternal welcome to this wonderful Cathedral.
Dear Chartres pilgrims,
“The light has come into the world,” Jesus tells us today in the Gospel (John 3, 16-21), “and men have preferred darkness.”
And you, dear pilgrims, have you welcomed the only light that does not deceive: that of God? You walked for three days, prayed, sang, suffered under the sun and in the rain: did you welcome the light in your hearts? Have you really given up darkness? Have you chosen to pursue the Way by following Jesus, who is the Light of the world? Dear friends, allow me to ask you this radical question, because if God is not our light, all the rest becomes useless. Without God all is darkness!
God came to us, he became man. He has revealed to us the only truth that saves, he died to redeem us from sin, and at Pentecost he gave us the Holy Spirit, he gave us the light of faith … but we prefer darkness!
Let’s look around us! Western society has chosen to establish itself without God. Witness how it is now delivered to the flashy and deceptive lights of a consumer society: to profit at all costs, and frenzied individualism.
A world without God is a world of darkness, of lies and of selfishness!
Without the light of God, Western society has become like a drunken boat in the night! She does not have enough love to take in children, to protect them beginning from their mother’s womb, to protect them from the aggression of pornography.
Deprived of the light of God, Western society no longer knows how to respect its elderly, accompany unto death its sick, make room for the poorest and the weakest.
Society is abandoned to the darkness of fear, sadness and isolation. She has nothing to offer but emptiness and nothingness. It allows the proliferation of the maddest ideologies.
A Western society without God can become the cradle of an ethical and moral terrorism more virulent and more destructive than Islamist terrorism. Remember that Jesus told us, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10, 28).
Dear friends, forgive me this portrayal. But one must be clear and realistic.
If I speak to you in this way, it is because, in my priestly, pastoral heart, I feel compassion for so many wayward souls, lost, sad, worried and lonely! Who will lead them to the light? Who will show them the way to the truth, the only true path of freedom which is that of the Cross? Are we going to leave them to be delivered to error, to hopeless nihilism, or to aggressive Islamism?
We must proclaim to the world that our hope has a name: Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world and of humanity! We can no longer be silent!
Dear Pilgrims of France, look upon this cathedral! Your ancestors built it to proclaim their faith! Everything, in its architecture, its sculpture, its windows, proclaims the joy of being saved and loved by God. Your ancestors were not perfect, they were not without sins. But they wanted to let the light of faith illuminate their darkness!
Today, you too, People of France, wake up! Choose the light! Renounce the darkness!
How can this be done? The Gospel tells us: “He who acts according to the truth comes to the light.” Let the light of the Holy Spirit illuminate our lives concretely, simply, and even in the most intimate parts of our deepest being. To act according to the truth is first to put God at the center of our lives, as the Cross is the center of this cathedral.
My brothers, choose to turn to Him every day! At this moment, make the commitment to keep a few minutes of silence every day in order to turn to God, to tell him “Lord reign in me! I give you all my life!”
Dear pilgrims, without silence, there is no light. Darkness feeds on the incessant noise of this world, which prevents us from turning to God.
Take the example of the liturgy of the Mass today. It brings us to adoration, filial fear and love in the presence of God’s greatness. It culminates in the Consecration where together, facing the altar, our gaze directed to the host, to the cross, we commune in silence in recollection and in adoration.
Dear friends, let us love these liturgies that enable us to taste the silent and transcendent presence of God, and turn us towards the Lord.
Dear brother priests, I want to address you specifically. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the place where you will find the light for your ministry. The world we live in is constantly petitioning us. We are constantly in motion, without taking care to stop and take the time to go to a deserted place to rest a little, in solitude and silence, in the company of the Lord. There is the danger that we regard ourselves as “social workers”. Then, we would not bring the Light of God to the world, but our own light, which is not that which men expect from us. What the world expects of the priest is God and the Light of his Word proclaimed without ambiguity or falsification.
Let us know how to turn to God in a liturgical celebration, full of respect, silence and sacredness. Do not invent anything in the liturgy. Let us receive everything from God and from the Church. Do not look for show or success. The liturgy teaches us: To be a priest is not above all to do many things. It is to be with the Lord, on the Cross! The liturgy is the place where man meets God face to face. The liturgy is the most sublime moment when God teaches us to “to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren” (Rom. 8, 29). Liturgy is not and should not be an occasion for grief, struggle or strife. In the ordinary form, just as in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, the essential thing is to turn to the Cross, to Christ, our East, our Everything and our only Horizon! Whether in the ordinary form or the extraordinary form, let us always celebrate, as on this day, according to what the Second Vatican Council teaches: with a noble simplicity, without useless additions, without factitious and theatrical aesthetic, but with the sense of the sacred, with the primary concern for the Glory of God, and with a true spirit of a son of the Church of today and of always!
Dear fellow priests, always keep this certainty: to be with Christ on the Cross is what priestly celibacy proclaims to the world! The plan, again advanced by some, to detach celibacy from the priesthood by conferring the sacrament of the Order on married men (“viri probati”) for, they say, “pastoral reasons or necessities”, would have serious consequences, in fact, to definitively break with the Apostolic Tradition. We would to manufacture a priesthood according to our human dimension, but without perpetuating, without extending the priesthood of Christ, obedient, poor and chaste. Indeed, the priest is not only an “alter Christus”, but he is truly “ipse Christus”, he is Christ himself! And that is why, following Christ and the Church, the priest will always be a sign of contradiction! ~ To you, dear Christians, lay people engaged in the life of the City, I want to say with force: “do not be afraid! Do not be afraid to bring the light of Christ to this world!”
Your first witness must be your own example: act according to the Truth! In your family, in your profession, in your social, economic, political relations, may Christ be your Light! Do not be afraid to testify that your joy comes from Christ!
Please, do not hide the source of your hope! On the contrary, proclaim it! Testify to it! Evangelize! The Church needs you! Remind all that only “the crucified Christ reveals the true meaning of freedom!“ (Veritatis Splendor 85) with Christ, set free liberty that is today chained by false human rights, all oriented towards the self-destruction of man.
To you, dear parents, I want to send a special message. Being a father and mother in today’s world is an adventure full of suffering, obstacles and worries. The Church says to you: “Thank you”! Yes, thank you for the generous gift of yourselves! Have the courage to raise your children in the light of Christ. You will sometimes have to fight against the prevailing wind and endure the mockery and contempt of the world. But we are not here to please the world! “We proclaim a crucified Christ, scandal for the Jews and folly for the Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1, 23-24) Do not be afraid! Do not give up! The Church, through the voice of the Popes – especially since the encyclical Humanae Vitae – entrusts to you a prophetic mission: to testify before all of our joyful trust in God, who has made us intelligent guardians of the natural order. You announce what Jesus has revealed to us through his very life: “Freedom is accomplished in love, that is to say, the gift of oneself.” (Veritatis Splendor 87)
Dear Fathers and Mothers, the Church loves you! Love the Church! She is your Mother. Do not join those who laugh at her, because they only see the wrinkles of her face aged by centuries of suffering and hardship. Even today, she is beautiful and radiates holiness.
Finally, I want to address you, you the younger people who are numerous here!
However, I beg you first to listen to an “elder” who has more authority than me. This is the Evangelist St. John. Beyond the example of his life, St. John also left a written message to young people. In his First Letter, we read these moving words of an elder to the young people of the churches he had founded. Listen to his voice full of vigor, wisdom and warmth: “ I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. Do not love the world or the things in the world”(1 John 2, 14-15).
The world we must not love, as Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa commented in his homily on Good Friday 2018, to which we do not have to comply, is not, as we all know, the world created and loved by God, it is not the people of the world to whom, on the contrary, we must always go to, especially the poor and the poor of the poor, to love them and serve them humbly … No! The world not to love is another world; it is the world as it became under the rule of Satan and sin. The world of ideologies that deny human nature and destroy the family … structures from the UN, which impose a new global ethic, play a decisive role and have today become an overwhelming power, spreading through the airwaves through the unlimited possibilities of technology. In many Western countries, it is a crime today to refuse to submit to these horrible ideologies. This is what we call adaptation to the spirit of the times, conformism. A great British believer and poet of the last century, Thomas Stearns Eliot wrote a few verses that say more than whole books: “In a world of fugitives, the person taking the opposite direction will appear to run away”.
Dear young Christians, if it is permissible for an “elder,” as St. John, to speak directly to you, I also exhort you, and I say to you, you have overcome the Evil One! Fight any law against nature that would be imposed upon on you, oppose any law against life, against the family. Be of those who take the opposite direction! Dare to go against the grain! For us, Christians, the opposite direction is not a place, it is a Person, it is Jesus Christ, our Friend and our Redeemer. A task is especially entrusted to you: to save human love from the tragic drift into which it has fallen: love, which is no longer the gift of oneself, but only the possession of the other – a possession often violently tyrannical. On the Cross, God revealed himself as “agape”, that is to say as a love that is given to death. To really love is to die for the other. Like the young gendarme, Colonel Arnaud Beltrame!
Dear young people, you often, without doubt, suffer in your soul the struggle of darkness and light. You are sometimes seduced by the easy pleasures of the world. With all my heart of a priest, I say to you: do not hesitate! Jesus will give you everything! By following him to be Saints, you will not lose anything! You will win the only joy that never disappoints!
Dear young people, if today Christ calls you to follow him as a priest, as a religious, do not hesitate! Say to him: “fiat”, an enthusiastic and unconditional yes!
God wants you to have need of you, what grace! What a joy! The West has been evangelized by the Saints and the Martyrs. You, young people of today, will be the saints and the martyrs that the nations are waiting for in a New Evangelization! Your homelands are thirsty for Christ! Do not disappoint them! The Church trusts you!
I pray that many of you will answer today, during this Mass, the call of God to follow him, to leave everything for him, for his light. Dear young people, do not be afraid. God is the only friend who will never disappoint you! When God calls, he is radical. It means He goes all the way to the root. Dear friends, we are not called to be mediocre Christians! No, God calls us all to the total gift, to the martyrdom of the body or the heart!
Dear people of France, it is the monasteries that made the civilization of your country! It is men and women who have accepted to follow Jesus to the end, radically, who have built Christian Europe. Because they have sought God alone, they have built a beautiful and peaceful civilization, like this cathedral.
People of France, peoples of the West, you will find peace and joy only by seeking God alone! Return to the Source! Return to the monasteries! Yes, all of you, dare to spend a few days in a monastery! In this world of tumult, ugliness and sadness, monasteries are oases of beauty and joy. You will experience that it is possible to put concretely God in the center of his whole life. You will experience the only joy that will not pass.
Dear pilgrims, let us give up the darkness. Let’s choose the light! Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to know how to say “fiat”, that is, yes, fully, like her, to know how to welcome the light of the Holy Spirit like she did. On this day when, thanks to the solicitude of the Holy Father Pope Francis, we celebrate Mary, Mother of the Church, let us ask this Most Holy Mother to have a heart like hers, a heart that refuses nothing to God, a heart burning with love for the glory of God, a heart ardent to announce to men the Good News, a generous heart, a heart as profuse as the heart of Mary, as abundant as that of the Church, and as rich as that of the Heart of Jesus ! So be it!