An Easy Method of Mental Prayer

An Easy Method of Mental Prayer

By Father Bertrand Wilberforce, O.P.

I. What Mental Prayer is

Prayer is, says St. Gregory Nazianzen. a conference or conversation with God , St. John Chrysostom calls it a discoursing with the Divine Majesty ; according to St. Augustine it is the raising up of the soul to God. St. Francis of Sales describes it as a conversation of the soul with God, by which we speak to God and He to us, by which we aspire to Him, and breathe in Him, and He in return inspires us and breathes on us.

All prayer then is the speaking of the soul to God. This may be done in three ways ; for the prayer may be either in thought only, unexpressed in any external way, or on the other hand the secret thoughts and feelings of the soul may be clothed in words ; and these words again may either be confined to a set form, or they may be words of our own, unfettered by any form and expressing the emotions of our soul at the moment. In the first case our prayer will be purely mental ; in the second, in which we employ a set form of words, it will be vocal prayer ; in the third case. where the prayer is chiefly in thought, but these thoughts are allowed to break forth into words in any way that at the moment seem best to express the feelings of the soul, it is a mixture of mental and vocal prayer ; but as the words are spontaneous and not in any prescribed form, it may justly be considered as mental prayer.

In an audience with the Pope, we might read a written address to His Holiness, or we might trust to the words that might occur at the moment to express what we desired to convey to his mind. But if God were to enable the Pope to read the thoughts of our mind, we might then simply stand silent in his presence, and he would see all that we wanted to express. The formal address would be vocal prayer, the silent standing before his throne would be purely mental prayer, the conversation with unprepared words would be a mixture of the two, and might be called mental prayer in a more general and extended sense. God knows our secret thoughts more clearly than we can express them, more certainly than we ourselves can know them ; and words therefore are not necessary in our intercourse with Him, though often a considerable help to us.

A set form of words spoken or read cannot be called prayer at all unless the mind intends it as prayer and gives some kind spiritual attention, either to the actual sense of the words themselves or to God Himself while they are uttered. Shakespeare spoke as a theologian when, in Hamlet, he put into the mouth of the King, who asked for pardon without repentance:

My words go up, my thoughts remain below; Words without thoughts never to heaven go.

God condemned the merely material homage of the Jews by declaring, ” This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” All prayer, therefore, of whatever kind. must be ” in spirit and in truth “ [St. John iv, 23]; but vocal prayer is confined to a prescribed form of words, whereas mental prayer is the spontaneous utterance of the soul either with or without words. When St. Francis of Assisi said an Our Father, or recited his office, he used vocal prayer ; when he knelt before God without a word, his prayer was purely mental ; when he spent the whole night in saying ” My God and my all”, his mental prayer was mingled with words which expressed the burning love of his seraphic soul.

II. The Importance and Necessity of Mental Prayer

Prayer of one kind or another is absolutely and indispensably necessary for salvation – in other words, no one who has come to the use of reason, so as to be capable of prayer, can, according to God’s ordinary providence, be saved without it. This necessity is proved in the first place from the distinct, emphatic and constantly repeated command to pray, and to pray continually. For instance . “He spoke a parable to them (to show) that we ought always to pray, and not to faint” [St Luke xviii, 1] ; ” Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation ” [St Matt. xxvi, 41] : “Ask, and it shall be given you ” [St. Matt. vii , 7] : ” Be instant (that is earnest) in prayer ” [Coloss. iv, 2], and ” Pray without ceasing ” [I Thess. v, 17].

Besides these positive commands it is evidently necessary ; because though God really wills the salvation of all, [1 Tim. li. 4|, He will not save us without our own co-operation. He will save no one by force : for heaven is not the land of slaves. into which men are driven by compulsion ; it is the home of the free children of God, of those who love God, of those who are free with the freedom with which Christ hath made us free. Therefore God gives to all the grace to pray ; and if they use this grace and continue to pray aright, He will continue to bestow on them a chain of graces that will end in salvation. But to those who will not pray, He has promised nothing : ” The Lord is nigh unto all that call upon Him ; to all that call upon Him in truth ” [Ps. cxliv, 18]. ” Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you” [St. James iv, 8].

From this absolute and indispensable necessity of prayer in general, we can easily infer the importance and the moral necessity of the best and highest kind of prayer – namely mental prayer. If not absolutely it is certainly morally necessary in some form or another even for salvation; and there can be no manner of doubt that it is strictly necessary for any real advance of the soul in virtue and divine love. St. Alphonsus says : ” He who neglects meditation (a part of mental prayer), and is distracted by the affairs of the world, will not know his spiritual wants, the dangers to which his salvation is exposed, the means he ought to take to conquer temptations ; and will forget the necessity of the prayer of petition for all men: thus he will not ask for what is necessary, and by not asking God’s grace, he will certainly lose his soul.”

In the same way St. Teresa asks : ” How can charity last, unless God gives perseverance ? How will l the Lord give us perseverance if we neglect to ask Him for it? And how shall we ask it without mental prayer ? Without mental prayer there is not the communication with God which is necessary for the preservation of virtue.” The holy Doctors agree that those who persevere in mental prayer will live in God’s grace. The following words are the deliberate sentence of the holy Doctor St. Alphonsus, the conclusion gathered from his vast learning and experience : ” Many say the Rosary, the Office of Our Lady, and other acts of devotion, but they still continue in sin. But it is impossible for him who perseveres in mental prayer to continue in sin : he will either give up mental prayer or renounce sin. Mental prayer and sin cannot exist together. And this we see by experience ; they who make mental prayer rarely fall into mortal sin ; and should they have the misery of falling into sin, by persevering in mental prayer they see their misery and return to God. Let a soul, says St. Teresa, be ever so negligent ; if she persevere in mental prayer the Lord will bring her back to the haven of salvation.”

If this were merely the opinion of St. Alphonsus himself, it would be of immense weight, considering his resplendent sanctity, his vast spiritual learning, and the varied experience of his long and active life ; but besides this the holy Doctor is here only summing up in one sentence the teaching and experience of all the doctors, saints, writers, preachers, and confessors of the whole Church since the beginning. What stronger argument could be used to prove the importance and necessity of mental prayer ?

III. Is Mental Prayer Easy?

Anyone who has a real desire to be saved, and who believes that the opinion of St. Alphonsus and all other spiritual teachers – that mortal sin and mental prayer cannot live together, but are mutually destructive – is really true, but must feel a desire to adopt so certain a means of salvation. But many are fainthearted, and dread the little difficulty they feel in beginning a new exercise ; and many more lack the courage and self-denial necessary to continue in it after the novelty has worn away, and the yoke of perseverance begins to gall. Blessed are they who courageously persevere, for their salvation is secure!

Those who find it difficult to begin, or are tempted to abandon this powerful means of salvation, must pluck up heart, and encourage themselves by remembering that mental prayer requires no learning, no special power of mind. no extraordinary grace, but only a resolute will and a desire to please God. In fact, the hard matter is to convince people how easy and simple a matter mental prayer really is, and that the difficulty is far more imaginary than real. This difficulty often rises from not having grasped the true idea of what is meant by mental prayer ; and the false idea of the exercise, once formed, is often never corrected, the consequence being that the practice is either abandoned in disgust, or persevered in with extreme repugnance and little fruit.

One common cause of misunderstanding, perhaps the most common of all, is the custom of calling the whole exercise by the name of one subordinate and not the most important part -that is meditation. From this the idea arises that it is a prolonged spiritual study, drawn out at length with many divisions and much complicated process ; and this notion frightens many good souls, and makes them fall back on vocal prayer alone. They imagine that the soul must preach a discourse to itself. and they feel no talent for preaching. Many, if they spoke their minds clearly, would say : “I cannot meditate. but if I might be allowed to pray during that time instead. I could do very well.” This is no imaginary case. as anyone who has had any experience will testify: and this miserable misunderstanding, that so often holds souls back for years. is partly brought about by defective teaching, but partly also by the name meditation being used instead of the more comprehensive one of mental prayer.

Mental prayer, properly understood, will be found to be easy and within the power of all who desire salvation. Of course there are many degrees of prayer, and to pray perfectly is no doubt a matter of great difficulty ; but to pray well, and in a way very pleasing to God and very profitable to the soul, is an easy and simple manner. If we remember how many thousands have excelled in mental prayer, though not even able to read, we shall see that this holy exercise cannot require any special power of mind or any degree of culture. St. Isidore, a farm labourer, is an example of a man utterly devoid of human learning, but rising, by God’s grace, to the sublimest prayer.

The following method of making mental prayer is drawn from the works of St. Alphonsus who may justly be called the Doctor of Prayer ; and it is so simple that no one who studies it with any attention can fail to understand it, and all who reduce it to practice will find that in great measure it takes away the difficulty they may feel in the exercise. Many who have found ” making a meditation ” to be a wearisome penance, have experienced that with this method the time is all too short: and that conversation with God is indeed the greatest joy of life ; ” Taste and see how sweet the Lord is.”

IV. Method of Mental Prayer

All methods of mental prayer are essentially the same. They are different ways of reaching the same end, the object of all being to teach the soul how she can converse lovingly with God. In the method recommended by St. Alphonsus, the whole exercise is divided into three parts – the Preparation, the Body of the Prayer, and the Conclusion.

i. Preparation

The real preparation for prayer is a good life, a spirit of recollection enabling a man to live in God’s presence, and the invaluable habit of regular spiritual reading. But this is not the place to enter into these matters, and so we must proceed to the immediate preparation, when the time of prayer has come. ” Before prayer prepare thy soul, and be not as a man that tempteth God ” [Eccles. xviii, 23]. From this admonition of the Holy Ghost, it is evident that we must not presume to throw ourselves down before God unprepared, our minds full of idle, distracting thoughts, and imagine that we can thus pray in a way pleasing to Him. How careful should we be to prepare both body and mind if admitted to a papal or a royal audience! At least then make in preparation for your conference with God, three short though fervent acts :

1. An act of faith in God’s presence, and of adoration, profound and humble, of His majesty.

2. An act of contrition for sin, sin forming the cloud thick and dark over our heads that hides the brightness of God’s face. ” Your sins have hid his face from you ” [Isaiah lix, 2].

3. A fervent petition for light to see God’s holy will , especially in some one matter either pressing upon us then or suggested by the subject we are going to consider, and for grace to do God’s will when we do see it.

Examples of these acts may help beginners, but it must be clearly understood that they are only examples and that they may be made in any form.

1. Adoration of God present in your soul:

My God, I believe that Thou art present with me and within me, and I adore Thee with all the affection of any soul,”

Be watchful,” says St. Alphonsus, ” to make this act with a lively faith, for the remembrance of the presence of God is a great help to keep away distractions. Cardinal Carracciolo, Bishop of Aversa, used to say that distractions are a sign that the soul has not made a lively act of faith.”

2. Sorrow for sin, our sins preventing union with God in prayer:

0 Lord by my sins I deserve now to be in hell; I repent, 0 infinite Goodness, with my whole heart of having offended Thee. I am sorry for sin from the bottom of my heart; have mercy on me.

3. Ask for light:

0 Eternal Father, for the love of Jesus and Mary, give me light in this prayer, that I may profit by it.

Then add a Hail Mary, an ejaculation to St. Joseph, your Guardian Angel, and your holy patrons.

These acts should be short. In a mental prayer of half-an-hour, not more than three minutes should be devoted to them. But at the same time they should be fervent and earnest, the whole attention being given to them ; for upon the manner in which they are made will, in great measure, depend the fervour of the whole prayer.

ii. Body of the Prayer

In order to pray with fruit and without distraction, it is very useful, and in most cases necessary, to spend some time meditation or pious thought, on some definite subject ; and from this fact, as before stated, the whole exercise is often called meditation. Instead of mental prayer. This often misleads people into imagining that meditation , that is, the use of the intellect in thinking on a holy subject, the main end to be aimed at, whereas in fact it is prayer, or conversation with God. Meditation furnishes us with the matter for conversation, but it is not itself prayer at all. When thinking and reflecting, the soul speaks to itself, reasons with itself; in prayer it speaks to God.

Meditation, in its wide sense, is any kind of attentive and repeated thought upon any subject and with any intention ; but in the more restricted sense in which it is understood as a part of mental prayer, it is, as St. Francis of Sales puts it, ” an attentive thought, voluntarily repeated or entertained in the mind, to excite the will to holy and salutary reflections and resolutions“. It differs in its object from mere study : we study to improve our minds and to store up information ; we meditate to move the will to pray and to embrace good. We study that we may know, we meditate that we may pray.

We must then use the mind in thus thinking of or pondering on a sacred subject for a few minutes; and in order to help the mind in this exercise, we must have some definite subject of thought, upon which it is well to read either a text of Holy Scripture, or a few lines out of some other holy book. St. Teresa tells us that she thus helped herself with a book for seventeen years. By this short reading, the mind is rendered attentive and is set on a train of thought. Further to help the mind, you can ask yourself some such questions as the following : What does this mean ? What lesson does it teach me? What have I done about this in the past ? What shall I now do, and how ?

Two remarks are here most important.

The first is, that care must be taken not to read too much. but to stop when any thought strikes the mind. If the reading is prolonged , if for example, in a short prayer of half-an-hour you were to read for ten minutes, the exercise would be changed into spiritual reading.

The second remark is, that you must not be distressed if you find the mind torpid, and if only one or two very simple thoughts present themselves. It is by no means necessary to have many thoughts, nor to indulge in deep and well arranged reflections. The object of mental prayer is not to preach a well-prepared and eloquent sermon to yourself, the object is to pray. If one simple thought makes you pray, why distress yourself because you have not other and more elaborate thoughts ? If you wanted to reach the top of a roof, you would not trouble yourself because your ladder was a short one, provided it was long enough to land you safely on the roof. The end is gained. If one simple reflection enables you to pray, you would, in reality, be merely distracting yourself from prayer, in order to occupy yourself with your own thoughts, if you were to go on developing a lengthy train of thought. This would be to mistake the means for the end, and it is a very common mistake, and the cause of great discouragement. This mistake will be evident if you remember that while you are following out a line of thought, for instance, when you are answering the questions suggested above you are conversing with yourself.

It is plain therefore that as your object is to converse with God, you should not remain too long in talking to yourself, and that therefore, if you feel a difficulty in doing this, you need not be distressed. ” The progress of a soul,” says the enlightened St. Teresa, ” does not consist in thinking much of God, but in loving Him ardently ; and this love is gained by resolving to do a great deal for Him.”

I have said that misunderstanding this point is the most fruitful source of discouragement and one of the commonest reasons for abandoning mental prayer in disgust ; and the reason is, because very few people are accustomed to prolonged or deep thought on any subject few indeed are capable of it. If therefore they imagine that prolonged if not deep thought, is necessary for mental prayer, they are in constant trouble and discouragement, which ends in their abandoning the whole exercise in despair. ” If I might only be allowed to pray,” they will sigh to themselves,” how much easier it would be ! ”

Let such persons then clearly understand that many thoughts are not necessary, that their reflections need not be deep and ought not, especially in a prayer of half-an-hour. to be long, lest prayer should be neglected and the exercise be changed into a study. “Meditation,” says St. Alphonsus. ” is the needle which only passes through so that it may draw after it the golden thread, which is composed of affections, petitions and resolutions.” The needle is only used in order to draw the thread after it. If then you were to meditate for an hour and think out a subject in all its details, but without constant acts and petitions, you would be working hard with an unthreaded needle.

Men’s minds differ as much as their features, and some men, especially those employed in very distracting duties, need more thought than others before they can pray ; but many, especially women, will find that the effort, after prolonged reflections, will generally defeat itself, and end in distraction.

As soon, therefore, as you feel an impulse to pray, give way to it at once in the best way you can by acts and petitions, in other words. begin your conversation with God on the subject about which you have been thinking. Do not imagine, moreover, that it is necessary to wait for a great fire to burn up in your soul, but cherish the little spark that you have got. Above all, never give way to the mistaken notion that you must restrain yourself from prayer in order to go through all the thoughts suggested by your book, or because your prayer does not appear to have a close connection with the subject of your meditation. This would simply be to run from God to your own thoughts, or to those of some other man.

One useful suggestion may here be introduced. Those who are accustomed to make regular spiritual reading will often meet some idea, or passage of their author, which strikes their mind forcibly, or seems especially suited for their own practice. When this is the case, they could not do better than to take that idea, or that passage, as the subject of their next mental prayer. As they have read about it and thought about it in the time of spiritual reading, a very slight reflection will be enough to enable them to pray upon that subject with solid fruit, and to make practical resolutions concerning it.

We have spoken thus far of the needle : now we must proceed to consider the golden thread which is the matter of principal importance. and should occupy the chief part of the time devoted to prayer. The golden thread is composed of a) acts or affectins of the will, b) petitions and c) resolutions: a triple cord of beauty and strength, which, when the soul uses earnestly, she can be said to have ” girded her loins with strength, and strengthened her arm.” [Prov. xxxi, 17].

a) acts or affections of the will

Acts, or affections of the will, are the movements of the soul towards God. The affections are called the feet of the soul, because by them she approaches to or recedes from God. To ” draw nigh to God ” does not mean any bodily motion, but the spiritual progression of love. When therefore in meditating on a subject you feel some holy sentiment arising in your heart, begin to make simple acts, with or without words, to God. Acts of this nature are very various, such as faith, hope, confidence, humility, thanksgiving, contrition, love. They should be simple, short, and often repeated. Think of our Lord’s prayer in the Garden, which is intended as a model to us. He prayed for three hours, and His whole prayer consisted in the constant repetition of one single act of resignation and petition. The word “ACTS ” will suggest the chief aspirations, that it is well constantly to repeat : A stands for Adoration ; C for Contrition ; T for Thanksgiving, to which is joined love ; and S for Supplication, the prayer of petition.

These acts should be spontaneous, springing up from your own soul, but some examples may help beginners. If then you were to take as the subject of your prayer the death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, you would, after the preparatory acts, begin to think of the mystery. ” Who is that hanging on the Cross ? “- you would say to yourself – “What is He suffering – in body, in soul ? Why does He suffer ? ”

Not many minutes’ thought would be necessary before you would feel moved to acts of Faith : ” O my Lord, hanging on the Cross, I believe in Thee. Thou art the Eternal God, made man for me. Thou art my Redeemer ; for my sins Thou art thus bleeding and dying on the Cross,” etc.

Humility : ” O my Jesus, I am not worthy to live. I have slain Thee, the Son of God. Who am I, dear Lord, that Thou, the everlasting God, hast thus suffered and died for me ! I am Thy creature, made by Thy Hands. I am Thy rebellious child. I deserve hell for my sins, I deserve to have been abandoned by Thee, and yet Thou hast thought of me and hast offered Thyself as a victim for me. How good Thou art, dear Lord, to be nailed to the Cross for so miserable and ungrateful a sinner ! I will not sin again,” etc.

Confidence : ” If I look at myself, dear Lord, l am filled with fear. I have sinned, O Lord, against Thee, my sins are more in number than the hairs of my head. How shall I dare ever to hope for pardon, after having so often and so basely offended Thee ! But Thy death is my hope. Thou hast made me, I am Thine, and Thou hast suffered for me, and died for me. I hope in Thee, in Thee do I put my trust, and I shall not be confounded for ever. Thou canst not reject me now that I repent, when Thou hast shed Thy Blood for me,” etc.

Thanksgiving :” l thank Thee. 0 Lord, with all my heart for Thy great goodness in dying for me and shedding all Thy Blood for me. Blessed be Thy holy Name ! I thank Thee for not abandoning me when 1 committed that sin, for loving me in spite of all my many sins against Thee. Blessed be Jesus, who shed His precious Blood for me ! Most holy Mary, help me to thank thy Son for all He has done for me,” etc.

Contrition : ” I am heartily sorry for all my sins. I detest them all, and especially because they have displeased Thee, because they have nailed Thee to the Cross. Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner ! Father, forgive me, for I knew not what I did,” etc.

Love : ” I love Thee. my Jesus. I love Thee. but I do not love Thee as I ought ; make me love Thee more and more. I love Thee with my whole heart. I desire to see Thee loved by all. I will only what Thou willest. Thou hast died for love of me. I desire to die for love of Thee : I rejoice that Thou art eternally happy. Do with me and all that is mine according to Thy will “. “This last act of love and oblation of self,” says St. Alphonsus, “is especially pleasing to God. and St. Teresa used thus to offer herself to God at least fifty times in the day.”

Acts of love should be frequent whatever the subject of meditation may have been.

” The act of love”, continues the same Saint,” as also the act of contrition (which is sorrow founded on love) is the golden chain which binds the soul to God.” An act of perfect charity is sufficient for the remission of all our sins : “Charity covereth a multitude of sins ” [I Pet. iv, 8]

The Ven. Sister Mary of the Crucified once saw, in a vision, a globe of fire, in the flames of which straws were instantly burnt up. She was thus made to understand that when the soul makes acts of love to God, all her sins are consumed in the flames of charity and are forgiven. Besides, the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas, teaches that by every act of love, we gain a fresh degree of glory. ” Every act of charity merits eternal life.” How many we can make in the course of the day, if we have some little fervour, especially during the time of mental prayer !

St. Francis of Sales has the following consoling and most instructive words concerning acts of sorrow founded on love, or, as he styles them, acts of loving repentance. ” Because this loving repentance is ordinarily practised by elevations and raisings of the heart to God, like to those of the ancient penitents :

I am Thine, save me ! Have mercy on me, 0 God, have mercy on me , for my soul trusteth in Thee .’ Save me, 0 God ; for the waters are come in even unto my soul .’ Make me as one of Thy hired servants .’ 0 God be merciful lo me a sinner .

It is not without reason that some have said, that prayer justifies ; for the repentant prayer or the suppliant repentance raising up the soul to God and reuniting it to His goodness, without doubt obtains pardon, in virtue of the holy love which gives it the sacred movement. And therefore we ought all to have very many such ejaculatory prayers, made in the sense of a loving repentance and of sighs which seek our reconciliation with God ; so that by these laying our tribulation before our Saviour, we may pour out our souls before and within His pitiful heart, which will receive them to mercy” (Treatise on the Love of God Book i i , chap. XX).

As already stated, these acts or affections should spring from the heart; we must not look for fine words nor make up grand sentences ; the mere movement of the will towards God, with love, gratitude, hope, sorrow for sin, etc, is sufficient even without words. Therefore does our Lord say : ” Do not speak much when you pray “- a simple movement of the heart is better than many words proceeding merely from the lips. Nor should we hurry from one affection to another. If you feel yourself moved to make acts of love, keep on making acts of love ; if you are excited to sorrow, repeat acts of sorrow for a while, till the affections grow cold ; then pass on to another. Moreover, these affections should be made slowly, allowing the soul to dwell upon each act. It is well to make slight pauses between. God often speaks to us during these pauses, and when He does, when we perceive some good thought in our mind giving us some new light, a clearer insight into ourselves or a better knowledge of God, or showing us our duty or God’s will for us, then we should listen humbly while God speaks, prepared to obey His commands.

b) petitions

Besides the acts and affections of the soul, all of which are truly prayer, since the soul, in making them, converses with God, it is extremely useful to occupy ourselves during mental prayers in making many fervent petitions to God for His spiritual graces and favour.

This prayer of petition is a matter that St. Alphonsus, in all his ascetical works, is continually urging upon every soul in language the most emphatic. Indeed, our Lord Himself has given us the first lesson as to the necessity of constant petition, not only by His command, “Ask and it shall be given unto you,” but by the fact that the Our Father, the model of all prayers, consists half of affections and half of petitions for what we need. In English, we have not any one word that expresses this kind of prayer, and we are obliged to call it prayer of petition. The French word la prière expresses it, while oraison means mental prayer with its acts, affections, and resolutions. This distinction explains many passages in the works of St. Alphonsus – for instance, where he says, ” Without prayer (that is, petitions for graces) all the meditations we make, all our resolutions. all our promises will be useless. If we do not pray (that is, if we do not make petitions for graces) we shall always be unfaithful to the inspirations of God, and to the promises we make Him. Because in order actually to do good, to conquer temptations, to practise virtues, and to observe God’s law, it is not enough to receive light from God, and to meditate and to make resolutions. but we require moreover the actual assistance of God, and He does not give this assistance except to those who pray, and pray with perseverance” (Treatise on Prayer Part I).

Here is the distinction between meditation with resolutions, or mental prayer in general, and prayer of petition, or between 1’oraison and la prière.

Without this distinction. which is not at first apparent in English translations, much that is said of prayer is confusing and unintelligible. For instance. in the above extract the Saint appears to say that mental prayer without prayer is of no avail. Again in his ” Rule of Life for a Christian” in that most valuable volume called ” The Christian Virtues”, the second rule is about mental prayer while the sixth is concerning prayer. When we understand that prayer means prayer of petition, the difficulty vanishes. In his constant exhortations to the practice of prayer of petition, the holy Doctor is fond of quoting the experience of that learned and enlightened writer Fr Paul Segneri. S.J., who thus speaks of himself: ” When I began and before I had studied theology, I used to employ my time of mental prayer in reflections and affections ; but God opened my eyes afterwards. and from that time I endeavoured to occupy myself in petitions, and if there is any good in me I consider it to be due to this habit of recommending myself to God.”

Petitions, therefore, for all you need, are a very important part of mental prayer, and are most useful to the soul. But a caution is necessary here to prevent misunderstanding. The petitions in the time of mental prayer should be spiritual petitions – that is, for spiritual objects, such as forgiveness of sin, love of God, light to see, and grace to do God’s will.

For if the petitions were for temporal favours, such as health of body for yourself or others, success in business, rain or fine weather and the like, two inconveniences would follow:

— In the first place it is always doubtful whether such things are according to the will of God or not, and they must be asked for only if they should be the Divine Will, and the whole spiritual value of the petition will then be in that act of resignation.

— Secondly, the mind be much distracted from God in order to think of the matters upon which to form petitions, and especially if the subject of the petition should be some person in whose temporal welfare you are much interested, or some worldly business that gives you anxiety, to pray for these things would probably result in distraction. The mind would begin to reflect upon the things themselves and forget God.

By this, it is not meant that these temporal matters must never be made the subject of prayer, but only that it is not generally advisable to occupy the mind with them during mental prayer, for the reasons given. The truth is that all these things are suggestions from experience ; for in the matter of mental prayer, in which ” the Spirit bloweth where He listeth,” there are very few “musts,” few things of which you can say this must be done.

With this understanding as to the subject matter of petitions, the soul cannot be better occupied during mental prayer than in making frequent and earnest petitions, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, for all the graces she feels to need. Ask, then, for help in the time of temptation, beg grace always to persevere in prayer when tempted, but particularly remember always to pray for the three following graces, which, if you obtain, will render your salvation secure. These three all-important graces are:

* (a) The perfect forgiveness of past sin ;

* (b) The perfect love of God ;

* (c) The grace of a holy death.

Christ our Lord, Truth itself, has promised distinctly and emphatically, “Ask, and it shall be given you ; seek, and you shall find ; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” [St. Matt. v i i , 7]. ” All things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” [St. Matt. xxi, 22]. Ask then for these three graces, which, by their very nature, must be according to God’s will that you shall have ; ask for them with humility, confidence and perseverance, and they must be given to you. God’s promise cannot fail. Ask for the perfect forgiveness of all your sins, and, however many and grievous they may have been, forgiveness will be yours. Seek for the love of God by many earnest petitions, and you shall find it. Knock at Heaven’s gate by constant petition for a holy death, and the golden gate of that city o f love and peace will be opened to you, as your eyes close in death, and your soul departs into eternity. ” Pray,” exclaims St. Alphonsus,” pray, and never give up praying. If you pray, you will certainly be saved ; if you do not pray, you will certainly be lost.” We have so many spiritual wants, that half-an-hour’s prayer will be all too short to make our earnest petitions before the throne of mercy.

c) resolutions

In order to make mental prayer truly fruitful, you should be careful to make some definite and precise resolution, either to avoid some fault or to practise some virtue. Mere thought, it is evident, cannot make us holy. Acts and affections by themselves will not make us practise virtue. Even petitions by themselves are not enough. They obtain for us, it is true, the strength to conquer sin. and to do what is good ; but the most difficult matter remains – that is, to use this grace. and actually to do what we recognize to be God’s will.

We must, then, make a resolution to carry in practice what we see to be good. How frequently, from want of this steadfast resolution, men pray for a grace, but in their actions deny and contradict their prayers ! The resolution should be often repeated, day after day, until we can easily keep faithful to it. Moreover, it should be definite, that is, not too general and vague. A determination for instance, to be better than we have hitherto been, to be humble, to love God, is of no practical advantage whatever. It means nothing, it will begin and end itself, and produce no effect on our daily life; we must therefore resolve to avoid some particular fault into which we are likely to fall that day, or to practise some one act of virtue that very day.

The resolution moreover must be of a practical nature, that is, it must be something that we can do if we please ; and above all. it must be sincere, by which is meant that we must truly intend in our hearts to carry it into practice when the opportunity occurs. It may be perfectly sincere at the time, even if we are weak enough afterwards to fail in its practice, but there is no excuse if we are insincere at the time of making it. That would surely be insulting to God, who sees the heart. We must never forget ‘he words of St. Teresa, already quoted ” The progress of a soul does not consist in thinking much of God, but in loving Him ardentty, and this love is gained by resolving to do a great deal for him.” Make then one practical definite resolution that you can keep and mean to keep that very day.

iii. Conclusion of the prayer

Before rising from your knees, three short but fervent acts should be made, as the finishing stroke of your mental prayer.

1. An act of thanksgiving for the lights and graces that God has given you during your prayer. for instance: “I thank Thee, 0 my God, in the name of Jesus Christ, for all the help Thou hast given mc Blessed be Thy holy name. Glory be to the Father,” etc.

2. Renew earnestly the good resolution you have already made.

3. Ask for grace to keep it.

You can address this petition either to the Eternal Father, begging Him through the merits of Jesus and the intercession of Mary, to grant you this favour ; or, you can address our Lord Himself, or you can beg the prayers of our Lady or your patrons.

Lastly, make an ejaculation for the conversion of sinners, and for the souls in purgatory.

V. Concluding Remarks

A few concluding remarks may be useful, in order to remove difficulties that often arise and discourage the souls who feel drawn to give themselves to the holy and delightful exercise of prayer.

1. “Is not mental prayer a very complicated manner ? There seems so much to remember, so many things to do ! “

When the method of prayer is drawn out step by step on paper this is quite true. It does look a complicated affair, and so would everything else if it were thus minutely described. Try to set down on paper all that we must remember in order to eat and drink in a polite manner, and see how formal and complicated it all seems ; but do it, and it at once appears easy and natural. It is the same with mental prayer. Practise it for a short time, and all its difficulty will vanish.

2. “Are all these things to be done in the exact order prescribed ? “

The preparation will always come first, with the three short fervent acts, and the conclusion will always naturally be at the end ; but in the body of the prayer no formal order is to be observed. That part should indeed always begin by a short meditation, some simple earnest thoughts, but the acts and petitions should come forth from the heart in any way that they arise. In describing them we must adopt some order that the matter may be intelligible ; but in practice they can be all intermingled in any way in which they spring from the soul. Remember the end and object of the whole exercise is to converse with God ; if you are doing this therefore you are doing well. I have said that there should always be some short meditation, because I am speaking to beginners of whom this is true ; but for those more advanced this become less necessary, and after a time might be only a distraction.

If the mind is all day long full of worldly and distracting thoughts and imaginations suggested by business, amusements, conversations, study, light reading, etc, it is evidently necessary to think of some holy subject in order to be able to pray with any fervour or recollection.

When, on the other hand, a person leads a quiet, secluded life, with few distractions, regular spiritual readings and frequent reflections on spiritual subjects, the soul is very easily moved to pray, and less meditation is necessary. After a time, with holy and contemplative souls, any train of thought would become a distraction ; they are at once, and without effort, absorbed in God. We may liken them to gunpowder ; the slightest thought of God acts like a spark and sets them at once in a blaze, whereas distracted souls are like damp wood that requires much artificial help to kindle it into a flame.

3. “How long ought mental prayer to last ? “

No general rule can be laid down. The real answer is that if we only consider the matter in itself, the longer mental prayer can last the better for the soul ; but taking into account the weakness of most souls, and the many occupations that cannot be neglected, half-an-hour in the day is a reasonable average time. If however half-an-hour appears too long, begin with fifteen minutes. One little quarter of an hour in each day is surely not too long to devote to the grandest of all occupations – conversation with God Himself. People who are less constantly occupied and more devout could easily spend two half hours: one in the morning, one in the evening, in this holy exercise. The appetite for this spiritual manna will increase by satisfying it. The more you allow yourself, the more you will want. This may be said in conclusion; that the longer time you spend in fervent and humble mental prayer the more rapid will be your progress in the way of virtue.

4. “When is the best time for mental prayer? “

Most certainly early in the morning. If it be faithfully performed in the early morning, this spiritual banquet is secured, but when once the duties of the day have begun, it is far more difficult to find time. Moreover, the early morning is the quietest time, and is far less liable to interruption. The brain, being then refreshed with sleep, is more able to attend to prayer. Besides all this. God seems more inclined to give His graces to those who mortify their sloth and arise early in order to praise Him ; and all those who practice mental prayer will agree that the early morning is the best time to converse with God. This seems to be the lesson conveyed by the act of the manna being rained down in the desert early in the morning and melting with the first rays of the sun, ” that it might be known to all, that we ought to prevent the sun to bless Thee, and to adore Thee, at the dawning of the light.” [Wisdom xvi, 28]

5. ” I have no time for mental prayer. “

It is difficult to answer this common objection with a grave face. What it means is, ” I do not want to take the trouble to make mental prayer.” To say that would be at least honest. But to plead the want of time to spend 15 minutes out of the 24 hours in conversation with God is childish. What would the same persons say if they saw a way of gaining £5 or even 5 dollars employing one quarter of an hour in a particular pursuit well within their power ? How quickly would time be found ! Who is there that does not spend a quarter of an hour daily in useless conversation or idle reading or in doing nothing ? I should reply, make time by arising a quarter of an hour earlier. All that is required is a little more earnestness in the one all-important business of salvation.

6. ” Where should mental prayer be made ? “

God is everywhere, and there is no place in which we cannot find Him, but in order to speak to Him reverently and without distraction, a private place should be sought. ” Thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret. “St. Matt. vi. 6. Our Lord prescribed this secrecy to avoid ostentation and vain-glory, but another motive would be to shun distraction. But for those who have no suitable place at home, the church is always ready.

7. “What book shall I use ?”

For those who are able to think a little for themselves, a text of Holy Scripture is the best food for meditation, or a sentence from the Following of Christ1But many need their thinking to be done for them by another, and this very thing often causes a difficulty. They come across a book which furnishes them with the thoughts and reflections of a man who probably was in a completely different state, both mental and spiritual, from their own. His thoughts most excellent and fruitful for himself, are not suited to them, to their difficulties, their temptations, their duties. The consequence is that they find these thoughts ” dry ” – that is, they do not come home to those using the book with any force or light, although so good in themselves. As a general rule the simpler a book is, the better for practical use, and each one should try to find an author, or to select some parts out of a book, suited to the needs of his own soul. If you come across one thought that strikes the mind, immediately delay upon it, as a bee on a honey flower, and strive to draw from that one thought your acts, petitions and resolutions. If the thought suggested by the book enables you thus to pray and to resolve, it has done its office ; and you need by no means distress yourself even if the acts elicited and the resolution formed do not seem to have any evident and immediate connection with the previous thought.

There is one snare, as has been said above, most carefully to be avoided – that is, to stop praying in order to refer to the book for more points of reflection ; for this would be to give up intercourse with God in order to entertain new thoughts. On the other hand it is well to have some other thought in store, in case you can pray no longer, and need some fresh light from the understanding to give impetus to the will. If you persist in using some book that does not suit your needs and fall in with your spiritual state, you will run the risk of suffering from a kind of mental indigestion, from trying to assimilate thoughts of another mind not fitted to be the food of your soul. The result will very probably be that you will abandon mental prayer in disgust, saying, ” It’s no use, I cannot meditate ! ” This would be as unreasonable as to give up eating because one particular kind of food disagreed with you and you could not digest it. Find the food that will.

Simple thoughts on the four great truths of religion. on the Passion of Our Lord, or the mystery of the Blessed Sacrament, will suit the greater number of souls ; and half the difficulty vanishes when it is clearly understood that one simple thought is amply sufficient as long as it helps you to pray, which is the real object of the exercise. Nor is it by any means necessary always to vary the thought, for often the same reflection repeated morning after morning, will suffice to help you to pray, and if so why change it ! We eat bread day after day, and if one thought nourishes the soul morning after morning why change it for another ? If it begins to pall and to produce distraction, then seek for another. One holy soul found matter for prayer and union with God for months together from the two simple words ” Our Father.” If they were sufficient to form matter for prayer for years together, why change ? Yet some people would have been inclined to pull St. Francis by the habit and to say – ” You have been saying “My God and my all” for an hour now : had not you better go to the second point ? ”

8. ” I am distracted.”

Examine the causes of these distractions. If they arise from too great dissipation of mind during daily life, try to live more in God’s presence. If from not having prepared any definite thought to dwell upon, the remedy is to have one always prepared. If from mere weakness of mind, do not be disturbed, use no violent effort but quietly turn the mind back to God. One thing at least to utterly avoid is to abandon mental prayer because you are distracted. By this you will please no one except the devil. He does all he can to make you give up mental prayer, because he knows full well that if you persevere in it you will be saved. If by causing you troublesome distractions he can make you abandon mental prayer, he has succeeded in his object. St. Francis of Sales tells us that if in mental prayer we are able to do nothing but continually banish distractions and temptations, we shall derive great profit from the exercise and please God. What more could be desired ?

Lastly, to encourage souls to persevere in the sanctifying habit of mental prayer, it is well to remember that Benedict XIV granted an indulgence of seven years to those who make half-an-hour’s mental prayer during the day, and a plenary indulgence if it is made once a month, on the condition of confession and communion, with prayers for the Pope’s intention. Those who are members of the Holy Rosary Confraternity can also gain a hundred days’ indulgence every time they make a quarter of an hour’s mental prayer, and seven years with seven quarantines for every half-hour devoted to this holy exercise.

How much can we trust Private Revelations?

How much can we trust Private Revelations ?

Extract from a letter of Fr. JANDEL, General Superior of the Order of Preachers in the reign of Pope Pius IX

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« It is to my sorrow that I see you overly preoccupied with extraordinary visions. The Holy Father does not put his trust in the imaginations of women; do likewise. Have confidence in God and live the Faith without becoming passionately fond of revelations. What is more worthy than all the prophecies is the certitude that the Faith gives us, that we are in the hands of God, and that not one hair will fall from our head without His permission. Bearing this always in mind, we remain in peace in the midst of all worldly tribulations.

Do not be overly preoccupied with N… This leads you to exaggeration. This unfortunate girl is neither a lunatic nor a monster; she is easily deceived, and there is nothing supernatural about her. I see no reason in breaking off all relations with her just because we do not believe that she is inspired or that she is blessed with revelations; this does not mean that we should shun her or excommunicate her. Nor have I ever intended to prevent her from receiving visitors; this would be excessively severe. I have limited myself to forbidding her to communicate her revelations to people other than her confessor. Be at peace with regards to her and do not dwell on the revelations.

While I do not trust [private] prophecies, I believe even less that the end of the world is at hand; this idea seems to be irreconcilable with what is written in the Holy Scriptures. Of the coming of the Antichrist, I know nothing; it is possible. But after the Antichrist must come the huge triumph of the Church and the reign of God on earth by the return of the Jewish people, by the conversion of the Gentiles, and by the return of the Faithful into one single fold under one single Shepherd. »

The G.R.E.C.

The G.R.E.C.

(Groupe de Réflexion Entre Catholiques or: Group for Reflection Among Catholics).

A once hidden story, now revealed.

By a Dominican Father of Avrillé, France.

In December 2011, Father Michel Lelong, member of the Society of the White Fathers (la Société des Pères Blancs), published a work entitled Pour la nécessaire réconciliation (For the necessary reconciliation), prefaced by Dom Éric de Lesquen O.S.B., Abbot Emeritus of Randol (a foundation of the Monastery of Fontgombault).

This book, 159 pages long, relates the work of the Groupe de Réflexion Entre Catholiques (GREC), from 1998 to 2010, in other words, twelve years of “discreet, but not secret” meetings (p. 29). These meetings, which were sometimes monthly, gathered together representatives of the official hierarchy, superiors of the Ecclesia Dei Institutes, and members of the Society of Saint Pius X. Their goal? “To speak without anger about things which make us angrry 1to favour the “necessary reconciliation”.   It will, of course, be necessary to clarify just what those in charge of the GREC meant by this expression.

The origin of the GREC: an Ambassador’s dream.

The GREC finds its roots in a note written by M. Gilbert Pérol, former French Ambassador to the Italian Government, in 1995, some months prior to his recall to God.  He had had the opportunity of meeting Archbishop Lefebvre in Rome and, when at home in Paris, he liked to go with his wife to Mass at Saint-Nicolas du Chardonnet2 each Sunday (p.90).

But, let us allow Madame Pérol to carry on the story:

Good diplomat that he was, [my husband] had drafted what is known as a “texte de bons offices” [text of mediation] wherein the points of view of one and the other party are presented, seeking what is common to both, and inviting each party to take a first step towards the other. The GREC – a means of perpetuating my husband’s life – was born from this text [p.90].

Following several encounters which are related in Father Lelong’s book (pp.21-25), a first working group was set up in 1998, which led to the organization of conference-debates which would deal with those points currently disputed in the Church.

The participants: a most varied palette.

From the earliest years of its existence, alongside Madame Pérol, Father de la Brosse O.P., Father Lorans (SSPX) and Father Lelong, the principal leaders of the GREC were:

  • Father Barthe, “who has lots of links with the Holy See and in the French Church, and has helped us a lot3”;
  • Father Vincent Ribeton, Superior of the French District of the Fraternity of Saint Peter, “who made a valuable contribution by his presence at meetings, by his interventions, and by his writings” (p.40);
  • Father Hervé Hygonnet (FSSP);
  • Laymen, such as Paul Airiau, Jacques-Régis du Cray, Luc Perrin, Philippe Pichot-Bravard, Jean-Maurice Verdier.

Madamoiselle Marie-Alix Doutrebente was named secretary.

Let us add, in order to complete the list of those who were principally in charge, that, on the 18th September 2004, a “theological group” was created within the GREC, one member of which was Father Charles Morerod O.P., professor at the Angelicum in Rome (p.57).  This religious “will be one of the personalities chosen by Benedict XVI to participate in the doctrinal discussions between the Holy See and the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X” (p.48).  Father Morerod has the absolute confidence of today’s Rome, since he was consecrated bishop a short while afterwards. In any case, the link between the GREC and the discussions with Rome of 2010-2011 is clear.

Also participating in the meetings of the GREC were certain French bishops, priests and laypeople belonging to the Diocese of Paris and other French dioceses, members of the Society of Saint Pius X, of the Fraternity of Saint Peter, and of the Institute of Christ the King (p.27).

Both Father du Chalard (SSPX), whose “support was as discreet as it was attentive” (p.26), and Dom Éric de Lesquen (then Abbot of Randol), “who had played a part in Dom Gérard’s agreement with Rome of 8th July 19884”, supported this initiative from its very beginnings.

The Nuncio, Monsignor Fortunato Baldelli warmly welcomed it.  It was the same story for his successor, Monsignor Luigi Ventura (pp.29-32).

The French Bishops’ Conference was informed of it.  Following a visit from Madame Pérol, Father Lorans and Father de la Brosse to Cardinal Ricard, a bishop was designated at their request to follow the work of the GREC and to inform the Bishops’ Conference of it: the bishop was Monsignor Breton, Bishop of Aire and Dax.  When Archbishop Vingt-Trois of Paris succeeded Cardinal Ricard as head of the Bishops’ Conference of France, the same group visited him, promising to keep him informed regularly (p.35).

Amongst the other Cardinals and bishops having supported the GREC, we can mention: Cardinal Barbarin of Lyon, Archbishop Duval of Rouen, Bishop Aubertin of Chartres, Bishop Fort of Orléans (who often came to the meetings), Bishop Delmas of Angers, Bishop Aubry of La Réunion, Bishop Rey of Toulon, Fathers Brouwet and Aillet both before and after their episcopal consecrations (p.41).

It was Father Lorans, for the Society of Saint Pius X, who kept Bishop Fellay informed (p.35).

On Rome’s side, the following were kept up to date: the Secretariate of State from 1998 onwards, then Cardinal Hoyos, President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, Cardinal Ratzinger, then President of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and numerous Vatican personalities.  When Cardinal Ratzinger rose to the Sovereign Pontificate, the GREC was able to have direct contact with the Pope (pp. 44-48).

The goal of the GREC: a dangerous ambiguity

What was the goal of these meetings?

If it were only a case of having meetings to try to make the Conciliar Church authorities understand the necessity of returning to Tradition in order to save souls, every Catholic (in other words missionary) mind could only have rejoiced.

Unfortunately, from the beginning, the GREC set off down a path which could not have been more ambiguous.

In the book’s preface, in effect, Dom de Lesquen, wishing that the action undertaken (by the GREC) would “obtain precisely that the act qualified as schismatic by the Holy See in 1988 not turn into an out-and-out schism” (pp. 12-13), adds: “The GREC’s objective is the necessary reconciliation” (p.15).

What reconciliation are we talking about?

For a Catholic, the answer is clear: that the Holy See reconcile itself with the teachings of the Popes and Councils before Vatican II.  This reconciliation is necessary, because it is the only means of saving the Church and the world.

On 20th October 2008, far from imploring Pope Benedict XVI to accept to call the Second Vatican Council into question, those in charge of the GREC sent a very ambiguous letter to him, implying that it was the Society of Saint Pius X which was in an abnormal situation. Thanking the Pope for the Motu Proprio of 2007 on the Traditional Mass5, and requesting the lifting of the “excommunications” of 1988, they concluded their letter in the following manner:

We hope that this will be the opportunity for the Society of Saint Pius X to regularize its canonical situation and thus to be able to manifest its will to return to full communion with the Holy Father (p.52).

Something which is ambiguous is defined thus: a phrase (or a word) having two different meanings6.  Here we are dealing with a perfectly ambiguous situation:

  • From the point of view of the official authorities, the letter to the Pope gives it to understand that the ultimate goal of the GREC’s work is to bring the Society of Saint Pius X back into the bosom of the present-day Church: we can understand the generally favourable response to this initiative on the part of these same authorities;
  • Seen from the Traditionalist point of view, a benevolent – but superficial – interpretation, gives another understanding: the letter to the Pope means that the goal of the GREC is to remake unity in the Church, to at last once more find union with the Holy See, to get out of this tragic and terribly painful situation – which it truly is – which consists in being in opposition with the Head of the Church.

Moral theology adds that “an ambiguity, which hides the truth, can only be used in case of necessity or for a reasonable cause7”.

But, if there is a time when hiding the truth is illicit and dangerous, it is precisely when the Faith is at stake. How can one make use of ambiguity by making the authorities believe that one desires to return to full communion with them, whereas they persist in continuing along a path which leads to apostasy?

Had those unofficial representatives of Tradition who signed this letter with the other members of the GREC forgotten the warnings of Archbishop Lefebvre?

Rome has lost the Faith. Rome is in apostasy. […] We can no longer trust these people. They have left the Church, they are leaving the Church. It’s sure, sure, sure8.

When I am asked when there will be an agreement with Rome, my answer is simple: When Rome crowns Our Lord Jesus Christ once more! We cannot be in agreement with those who uncrown Our Lord.  The day when they once more recognize Our Lord as King of peoples and nations, they will not have joined up with us, but with the Catholic Church in which we remain9.

At that moment, the canonical question will be immediately resolved.

Of course, the GREC was aware of the limits of its actions:

The GREC never had a vocation to participate in any negotiations whatsoever. Its raison d’être is much more humble: it strives to create, through meetings and regular discussions, a climate of mutual benevolence, which is the indispensable prelude to any eventual rapprochement and reconciliation whose practical details and time-frame are unknown to us10.

The method used by the GREC.

Conference-debates and approach of the authorities.

To push the “necessary reconciliation” forward, the GREC worked in two directions:

  • organizing conference-debates on controversial points;
  • approaching the authorities.

All this happened in a climate of great discretion:

“We wanted to remain discreet. But we did not want to be secret” (p. 29).

It is understandable that it was better to exclude journalists and avoid internet debates for such a delicate affair.

It is nonetheless astonishing that no reference was made to these meetings during the four symposia on the Second Vatican Council held in Paris between 2002 and 2005, symposia which brought together priests of Tradition from all over the world. These symposia, which were themselves of a completely public nature, were conducted under the patronage of Bishop Fellay. While the workshops at these symposia were highlighting the harmfulness of the Council’s texts, “discreet” meetings relativizing the errors of Vatican II and seeking to open the path to a canonical recognition of the Society were taking place in the very same city, unbeknownst to the participants of the symposia.

Given what was at stake, it is also astonishing that, throughout twelve whole years of conferences and approaches made towards the Conciliar Church, the superiors of those religious communities working alongside the Society of Saint Pius X were excluded and were not informed of what was being done.

Father Lelong’s book itself failed to elicit any response in the official organs of the Society of Saint Pius X, not even to deny or qualify what the author said. Yet, three years have passed since it was published. We can therefore suppose that the persons mentioned in this book have nothing to add.

But now let us see how the work of the GREC was carried out.

The conference-debates.

For twelve years, numerous conference-debates were organized on major topics: “Ecumenism, risk of apostasy or future of the Church?”; “Interreligious dialogue, peril or hope?”; “Which path for the Church? Concrete proposals for getting out of a crisis” (p. 59); “Should we revise and/or interpret certain passages of the Second Vatican Council?” (p. 64), etc.

We will try to see, a little later on, why these conferences, interesting in themselves, ended up in total failure.

Nevertheless, for the moment let us take note of one disturbing comment, the responsibility for which we leave to its author.  Speaking about the conference-debate of 21st January 2008 between Father Morerod O.P. and Father Grégoire Célier (SSPX) on the theme: “Vatican II and the other Ecumenical Councils; to revise and/or interpret certain passages of the Second Vatican Council”, Father Lelong notes:

Listening to their presentations, we could see that the doctrinal and spiritual convergences between these two theologians were much more numerous and profound than the divergences between their respective approaches (p. 64).

Would there have been the same convergence if it had been Archbishop Lefebvre face-to-face with Father Morerod, a priest who is totally one with Rome’s modernism?

An impressive series of diplomatic comings and goings.

Alongside these discussions took place an impressive series of diplomatic comings and goings: bishops, nuncios, Secretariate of State, Ecclesia Dei Commission, all were kept up-to-date on the GREC’s activities. Once Benedict XVI was elected, it was the Pope himself who was informed in person. According to Father Lelong, the accession of Cardinal Ratzinger to the Sovereign Pontificate “was welcomed by the leaders of the GREC with great joy and much hope, a hope which was not to be disappointed, but entirely fulfilled” (p. 48).

These men were in complete utopia. We refer our readers to Bishop Tissier de Mallerais’ brilliant study entitled L’Étrange théologie de Benoît XVI11 as well as to the premier bilan (i.e. initial assessment) of his pontificate, published (complete with photographs) by Le Sel de la terre, 84.  In any case, this admission of Father Lelong is revelatory of the spirit which reigned in the GREC, especially under Benedict XVI.

To enter a little farther into the details, this diplomatic action of the GREC was conducted mainly in two different directions: towards the Pope on one hand, and towards Bishop Fellay on the other.

1.  GREC’s interventions with the Holy See

Already back in 1998, Father Lelong had written to Cardinal Sodano, Secretary of State, to inform him of the GREC’s initiative, and to suggest that the Holy See lift the “excommunication” of the Society’s bishops on the occasion of the Jubilee of the Year 2000.  We must quote at least one extract from this letter in order to see the spirit in which these approaches took place. For Father Lelong, kingpin of the GREC, the goal was to get the Second Vatican Council accepted by the Traditionalists:

“I am profoundly attached to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, and I am trying to make them understood by those of our brother Catholics who have followed Archbishop Lefebvre and his successors. Some friends and I have set up a working group in Paris which is trying to prepare the day when all traditionalists will be able to find their place once more in the Church, in obedience to the Holy Father and under the authority of our bishops. […] It is in this spirit, in total fidelity to the Sovereign Pontiff and to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, that in the name of many French Catholics, I take the liberty of asking your Eminence, if, in a gesture of charity towards our brothers, the Holy Father could lift the excommunication which had been pronounced against the bishops who were irregularly consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre (pp. 42-43).” [bold emphasis is added]

Was this letter the personal initiative of Father Lelong, or did it have the approval of the unofficial representatives of Tradition within the GREC? The book does not say.  In any case, Cardinal Sodano having asked for “signs of repentance” (p. 44) on the part of the authorities of the Society, the approach resulted in nothing.  As regards the question of the lifting of the “excommunications”, the situation remained unchanged under the pontificate of John Paul II.

However, starting from the pilgrimage of the Society of Saint Pius X to Rome for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, frequent contacts began to take place between Bishop Fellay and Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos, then President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission. Father Lelong does not say a word about them.

We know that the priests of Campos (Brazil), invited by the General House of the Society to join these negotiations, did not resist the seduction of Rome. This was their deplorable rallying to Conciliar Rome, victory for Cardinal Castrillon and loss for the combat of the Faith.  Bishop Rifan now concelebrates the New Mass fervently12.

The pontificate of Benedict XVI, which manifestly brought great hope to the members of the GREC, especially after the Motu Proprio on the Traditional Mass, was the opportunity for a new approach, this time to the Pope himself.  On the 9th July, 2008, “the leaders of the GREC” (p. 49) addressed the following request to the Pope:

We are very grateful, Most Holy Father, for this decision [concerning the Motu Proprio] and we wish to respond to your call for reconciliation among all Catholics, respecting those legitimate diversities which exist within the Church. There are many of us who wish that the proposition handed by Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos to the Society of Saint Pius X will meet with a favourable outcome, since the doctrinal questions relative to the Second Vatican Council are of interest to the whole Church.  We also wish that the excommunications be lifted and that the Society of Saint Pius X once more find its place in the Church where it has so much to bring [pp. 49-50].

Then there was the famous request of 20th October 2008, where the leaders of the GREC, wishing the Society of Saint Pius X to “regularize its canonical situation and manifest its full communion with the Holy Father” (see above), added:

We think that the lifting of the excommunications would set in motion an inevitable process of approach, in view of an agreement between the Holy See and the Society of Saint Pius X, or at least an agreement with a large part of the priests and faithful of aforementioned Society (p. 52)13.

The request appears to have obtained its effect, since the “excommunications” were lifted in the beginning of 2009.

2.  Interventions of the GREC with Bishop Fellay

The leaders of the GREC seem to have been concerned with bringing about the cessation of attacks against today’s Rome. To quote Father Lelong:

At that time, all too often aggressive and polemical points-of-view were being expressed both on the part of those Catholics attached to tradition14, as well as on that of those who claimed to follow the spirit of the Council.  These were not contributing to bring about that climate of peace and mutual confidence which is necessary in the search for a true reconciliation (p. 33).

The Society of Saint Pius X must understand that, even if it has much to bring to the Church of Rome, it also has much to receive from it.  Therefore, it must stop rejecting Vatican II in its entirety (p. 85).

In their letter to Benedict XVI of the 9th July 2008, which we have already quoted and which is so important, the leaders of the GREC (therefore, the unofficial representatives of Tradition as well?) desired to reassure the Pope on this point:

We ask the leaders of this Society to cease declarations and polemical articles which criticize the Holy See (p. 50).

On the 20th June 2008, Father Lelong and several members of the GREC had written to Bishop Fellay:

Are you not afraid that by refusing the repeated calls of the Holy Father and by permitting yourselves to criticize him unjustly and systematically, the Society will end up taking a path which will lead it inevitably to separate itself from Holy Church, as has – alas! – happened throughout history? (p. 39).

Occupied Rome does not really mind cozy academic discussions taking place between theologians about Vatican II.  It allows the Ecclesia Dei communities to engage in them in principle.  It gives an impression of openness.  But what this Conciliar Church cannot bear is that scandals be denounced: the ecumenical meetings at Assisi, the visits to synagogues and mosques, the false beatifications and canonisations, etc.  It is especially these scandals which, over the years, cause millions of souls all over the world to lose the Faith.  But, when the Faith is in danger, attacked by the wolves, it is a duty for the shepherds to shout out in order to protect the flock. Not to do so is a grave sin in relation to the confession of the Faith, because to attack current-day Rome, destroyer of the Faith, is necessary to maintain the great Truths of the Faith.  All the efforts of the Conciliar Church since the Consecrations by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988 have been employed in breaking off groups of priests from Tradition by granting them the Traditional Mass without asking them to officially accept Vatican II15.  Conciliar Rome knew that by acting thus, it would no longer have anything to fear from these groups: they could do nothing else but remain silent concerning the Council and the scandals of the hierarchy, for fear of losing their canonical recognition and of being refused all apostolate in the dioceses.  That is what happened with all the Ecclesia Dei communities without exception from the moment that they signed, and it is their great sin before history, before the Universal Church and before all souls.

Today’s Rome desires the Society of Saint Pius X to go down this path. At this point we must understand the subversive techniques used especially in the last two centuries by the enemies of the Church.  Their major tactic for destroying resistance consists first and foremost in obtaining an end to any attack against them.  To obtain this, they use liberal Catholics, their best auxiliaries, seducing them by promising them peace, on condition that they cease fighting. At the same time, they provoke anathemas against those (the anti-liberals) who are not resigned to lay down their arms.  They cover them with all sorts of epithets, calling them men of bitter zeal, integrists16, etc.  In this way, the enemy seeks to isolate them in order to remove all influence they may have.  Then, at their leisure, they can work away at putting the main part of the flock to sleep and slowly win it over to the new ideas.

Thus, in the 1950’s, under Pope Pius XII, there were thousands of good priests who were both pious and doctrinally sound. T hen “Good Pope John” arrived, with his suggestion at the beginning of the Council of no longer anathemitizing, of no longer condemning errors, with the exception of “the prophets of doom” who, following in the footsteps of the anti-liberal Popes, continued to lambast modern errors.  The manoeuvre succeeded.  Just look at what the Church has become today all over the world17.

Archbishop Lefebvre rose up and unfurled the flag of battle.  This was the foundation of the Society of Saint Pius X and the works of Tradition, which spread like wildfire throughout the entire world.  Since the death of Archbishop Lefebvre we have witnessed the manoeuvres of modernist Rome (advised by Freemasonry) to destroy the only organized resistance to world Revolution. T his manoeuvre consisted in attacking the superior authorities of the Society in particular, among whom they had detected certain weaknesses (because the enemies of the Church are shrewd observers).  Father Lelong’s book does us the service of enlightening us on at least one part of this operation.

The results of the GREC.

In 2010, when the doctrinal discussions began in Rome between the Holy See and the Society of Saint Pius X, the GREC ceased its activities, or at least the conference-debates18.  Did letters and telephone calls continue in order to advance the “necessary reconciliation”?  It is quite possible.  When a group of people shares the same objective, relationships and friendships built up over the course of years do not just stop from one day to the next.  Besides, it is very dangerous to keep up regular contact with heretics (and the Modernist heresy is the most dangerous in this respect, since it does not clearly affirm its errors).  By dint of frequent meetings, we end up forming friendships, relativizing what opposes us, no longer speaking about it, and at last abandoning the fight.  How many priests of Tradition have fallen for having played this imprudent game, with a good intention at the beginning.  Such an apostolate requires men of the strength of Archbishop Lefebvre.  Having known the Rome of Pius XI and Pius XII, he did not allow himself to be impressed by the Rome of Paul VI or John Paul II.  And even a bishop of the stature of Archbishop Lefebvre almost fell into the trap by signing a protocol of agreement on the 5th May, 1988.  He recovered heroically during the night and saved us.

It is now time to take stock of this group’s activities between 1998 and 2010.

The failure of the conference-debates.

When reading Father Lelong’s book, it is striking to see how, after twelve years of discussions, there was no movement on the part of the “Concilars”.  Bearing in mind all the tendencies which exist among those who claim to follow Vatican II, “each one stood firm in his positions19”:

Dom de Lesquen is still persuaded that the episcopal consecrations of 1988 were “a schismatic act” potentially leading to “an out and out schism” (p. 13).

Father Lelong is so enthusiastic about the last Council that he devotes an entire chapter of his book to an unreserved defence of it (Chapter 4, pp. 71-87).

Even the most glaring prejudices towards the Traditionalists remained intact. Thus, recalling an interview from March 2003 with Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos, Father Lelong writes:

He observed that, in our country [France], the misunderstandings and tensions between the French bishops and the Society of Saint Pius X often had to do with political motivations, rather than truly theological reasons.  This observation seemed perfectly correct to me since, in the 1970’s, I had often heard French bishops reproaching Catholics attached to the Latin Mass with being “extreme right-wing” (pp. 44-45).

To still be at this point after twelve years of meetings, discussions and conference-debates has something quite despairing about it.

Father Lelong will reply that the goal of the GREC was not to sort out the doctrinal question, which can only be done by authority.  Certainly, but without having the pretention to resolve current problems with all the technicality of theologians, it is difficult to understand how priests and bishops speaking about doctrine for twelve years, did not advance a single step.  And how can we explain the fact that the top-level discussions which took place in the period 2010 – 2011 between the Roman theologians and those of the Society of Saint Pius X (despite being carried out in a remarkable manner by the latter), ended up in the same failure?

Whence the impossibility of discussing the crisis in the Church?

The first cause, with today’s clergy, is, in a general manner, a subjectivist and evolutionary concept of the truth, which comes from a warped theological formation.

When one no longer seeks the truth, all that is left is “dialogue”, in order to find a way of living together without waging war on one another and in order to arrive at a certain unity which respects our differences. Moreover, the word dialogue comes back time and time again in the book:

When we are all together in friendship, writes Father Lelong, I often think of Gilbert Pérol who, while actively taking part in Islamic-Christian dialogue, had the idea for having this dialogue between Catholics (p. 27).

Since Vatican II, there was a lot of talk in the Church of dialogue with Protestants, Jews, Muslims, the Dalai-Lama, and also with atheists.  Those with whom there was no dialogue were the faithful attached to the Mass of Saint Pius V, labeled as integrists (p. 60)20.

The very aim of the discussions seem, therefore, to have been achieved: French Catholics, of diverse and even opposed sensibilities, have freely accepted to engage in a dialogue which in no way prejudices a total reconciliation – domain which is reserved for the competent superiors – but opens the possibility, when the day arrives, for the authorities involved in dialogue to come face to face with partners capable of understanding and mutual respect, and no longer confined in radically opposed camps21.

In his brilliant work Iota Unum, Romano Amerio has a whole chapter devoted to dialogue (Chapter 11)22:

This term is totally unknown and unused in pre-Vatican II doctrine (p. 347). […] Dialogue, it is said today, does not have either the refutation of error, or the conversion of the interlocutor as its goal23.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his last Christmas discourse to the Curia before his lamentable resignation, clearly enunciates what the concept of dialogue is for the Conciliar Church:

  • Dialogue does not aim at conversion, but at understanding. In this respect it differs from evangelization, from mission;
  • Accordingly, both parties to the dialogue remain consciously within their identity, which the dialogue does not place in question either for themselves or for the other24.

The GREC situates itself resolutely in this perspective. Thus, Father Lelong, speaking of the foundation of this think tank, writes:

It remained to specify the best way of implementing this beautiful project, by associating with it Catholics belonging to very diverse schools of thought, but who share our concern to contribute towards the unity of the Church, respecting legitimate diversities (p. 25).

Up to what point is diversity legitimate? Father Lelong gives his solution:

After the Motu Proprio of the Holy Father in July 2007, we can hope that the old and the new rites will from now on not only live alongside one another, but mutually enrich one another, as Benedict XVI desires (p. 82).

The Society of Saint Pius X must understand that, if it has a lot to bring to the Church of Rome, it also has a lot to receive from the latter. Therefore, it must stop rejecting Vatican II in its entirety and accept its main orientations, interpreting them as the Holy Father proposes today (p. 85).

Father Barthe thinks that this cohabitation of opposites could bring back the authorities of the Church to Tradition:

In the same way that, from the liturgical perspective, the Motu Proprio said that the Traditional Mass was never abolished, we are going to arrive at a situation where it will be said that the doctrine from before the Council concerning the disputed points was never abolished.  We can follow the “extraordinary doctrine”.  And just as the extraordinary liturgy draws the ordinary liturgy to itself, so we can hope that the “extraordinary doctrine” will draw the “ordinary doctrine” to itself also” (p. 121).

This all makes one want to cry out: sufficit(enough is enough)!

Precisely what part did the pressure from Rome and the GREC play respectively in the evolution of Bishop Fellay’s thought?  It is difficult to say.  Both certainly had an influence on it.  In any case, the spirit of the GREC is to be found in the Doctrinal Declaration sent by Bishop Fellay to Cardinal Levada on 15th April, 2012 to commit all faithful Catholics (who were unaware of it) to a practical agreement with Conciliar Rome:

The entire tradition of Catholic Faith must be the criterion and guide in understanding the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which, in turn, enlightens – in other words deepens and subsequently makes explicit –  certain aspects of the life and doctrine of the Church implicitly present within itself or not yet conceptually formulated [No. 4].

We declare that we recognise the validity of the sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments celebrated with the intention to do what the Church does according to the rites indicated in the typical editions of the Roman Missal and the Sacramentary Rituals legitimately promulgated by Popes Paul VI and John-Paul II [No. 7].   [italic emphasis is ours]

This Doctrinal Declaration has never been retracted by Bishop Fellay.  It has simply been “withdrawn”.

Bishop Fellay should know that compromise with error will never restore unity.

For the Church, the first principle of unity is the Faith:

Wherefore, in His divine wisdom, He ordained in His Church Unity of Faith; a virtue which is the first of those bonds which unite man to God, and whence we receive the name of the faithful […] The Church, founded on these principles and mindful of her office, has done nothing with greater zeal and endeavour than she has displayed in guarding the integrity of the faith.25.

A “dialogue” where one part of the interlocutors is not seeking the truth, but, on the contrary, a union outside of the constant and infallible Teaching of the Church, can only end in failure.  And it will be the Church and the Faith which will be the losers.

In such conditions, it is understandable that after twelve years of (sometimes monthly) discussions, the Conciliar interlocutors and the unofficial representatives of the Society stuck firmly to their positions.

A dangerous diplomacy, and a weakening of Tradition.

If the GREC had limited itself to discussions which had resulted in nothing, the most that could have been said was that it had all been a waste of time, and that the time for the restoration of the Church had simply not arrived.

But, was there anything more dangerous than setting all the authorities of the Church in motion by allowing it to be thought that the Society of Saint Pius X desired a canonical regularization and a return to full communion with the Holy See at a time when the Conciliar Church was continuing its descent into apostasy?

It was even totally opposed to the resolutions that this same Society had taken at its 2006 General Chapter:

The contacts made from time to time with the authorities in Rome have no other purpose than to help them embrace once again that Tradition which the Church cannot repudiate without losing Her identity.  The purpose is not just to benefit the Society, nor to arrive at some merely practical impossible ‘agreement’. 26  When Tradition comes back into its own, “reconciliation will no longer be a problem, and the Church will spring back to life”.27

This firm resolution normally-speaking should have stopped the diplomatic initiatives of the GREC in their tracks from 2006 onward. This did not happen.

So, while, the world over, Tradition continued to live and develop in peace, in the belief that it was protected by the decisions of the highest authorities of the Society, an informal group composed of both Traditionalist and Conciliar figures was discreetly continuing to prepare the way for a practical agreement with “the Rome of Neo-Modernist and Neo-Protestant tendencies28”.

The result was that Tradition was on the brink of disaster in June 2012;  the lifting of the “excommunications” in 2009 having, in effect, initiated “an inevitable process of approach in view of an agreement between the Holy See and the Society of Saint Pius X”, as the leaders of the GREC had predicted in their letter to the Pope29.  Bishop Tissier de Mallerais commented:

Let us trust in the Blessed Virgin who got us out of a tight corner, it is true.  This year, she got us out of this tight corner, she did not want any of this talk of an agreement; in other words, that we would go to Rome to submit ourselves to the Conciliar authorities.  Certainly, they are the authority in the Church, the Pope is Pope, Successor of Peter, but he is also the representative of this system which controls the Church, which paralyzes the Church, which we name the Conciliar Church by manner of speaking.  It is not another Church, it is another form of Church, it is a new religion which has penetrated within the Catholic Church, and which is supported by the Pope and the entire Hierarchy, apart from some exceedingly rare exceptions.

Dear Faithful, how could you want us to submit ourselves to such a Hierarchy?  It would have been impossible to collaborate, it would have been a bogus collaboration, a lie.  We would never have collaborated and we would have been constantly persecuted, threatened by the bishops and by Rome.  How could one survive in such conditions?  With the obligation of signing a misleading text, ah no!

Nevertheless, Tradition emerged in a weakened state from the whole episode.

It is difficult to say precisely what role the GREC played in the evolution of Tradition since 1998.  In any case, it would be impossible not to make the link between the reiterated appeals made by this group to put an end to attacks against Rome, and the fact (observable by all) of the loss of the spirit of combat in Tradition, at least generally-speaking.  The emblematic example of this is the DICI newsletter, official organ of the General House of the Society.  Headed up by Father Lorans, one of the main leaders of the GREC, DICI endeavours to always show the least bad side of the Pope, and remains silent concerning those scandals which cause the loss of Faith.  Continual complaints made to Bishop Fellay by figures of authority within the Society, by priests and by members of the faithful, have never achieved any result.  Such pertinacity proves beyond doubt that there has been a change of direction.

Yet, in the conference cited above, Bishop Tissier had raised the alarm:

Archbishop Lefebvre passed on everything he had received.  The entire heritage of Father Le Flo’ch30, of the [French] Seminary [of Rome], all his experience, he passed it all on through the Society, and it continues to work, but only so long as we continue with the same spirit of combat.  There can be no question of putting away our arms in the midst of battle; we are not going to look for an armistice while the war still rages on, with Assisi III or IV, with the beatification of a false Blessed, Pope John Paul II – a false thing, a false beatification, and the demand ceaselessly made to us by Benedict XVI to accept the Council and the reforms, and the magisterium from after the Council31.

The voice of Bishop Tissier, echoing that of Archbishop Lefebvre, seems, however, to be have been lost in the desert. Let us not imagine that this will not have its consequences.

The early generations built up Tradition with the sword.  The new generations have received everything without having to fight: chapels, schools, seminaries, religious houses etc.  They have fallen asleep in bourgeois-like comfort.  As an editorialist recently wrote:

The vast majority of the faithful in our chapels do not form themselves, they do not read.  Only from time to time do they concern themselves with the future of their family and of their children.  Assistance at Mass (to which they arrive ever later) is for them the maximum they can commit towards their eternal salvation.  Some of them add to this the daily recitation of the Rosary, the most fervent among them saying the full fifteen decades.  Some free up their consciences by signing a petition or by risking themselves in some protest or another, but that is all.  Do not talk to them about any in-depth work or study of Freemasonry, for example, and its role in the current state of a society which is in the process of being de-Christianized, a fact which they deplore!  Speak to them about the root causes of the decomposition of the Church which has become Conciliar, or of the crisis which seriously affects Tradition today, and they care not.

To this we should add the growing levels of immodesty in many chapels, the stagnation of the number of faithful attending spiritual retreats, the resulting insufficiency in the number of vocations, etc.

There are, of course, edifying exceptions, but these are no longer numerous enough to inspire the whole with new fervour.

As we write this article, we do not know if a practical agreement between the Society of Saint Pius X and Modernist Rome will take place within a shorter or longer time-frame.  But the very fact of no longer denouncing the scandals coming from Rome, or of only doing so timidly, under pressure from concerned priests and faithful, avoiding attacking the Pope by name, makes Tradition resemble more and more those communities which have already gone over to Rome and which have abandoned the combat of the Faith.  The day when we will be fully imbued with their spirit, a practical agreement with today’s Rome will no longer be a problem for anyone.  The new direction of the General House of the Society will have destroyed the work of Archbishop Lefebvre.  The enemy will have conquered.

Will Providence raise up a small remnant to continue the fight and to save what can be saved?

Father Michel Lelong, Pour la nécessaire réconciliation, Le Groupe de Réflexion Entre Catholiques (GREC), Paris, NEL, 2009 (159 pages). Price: €19.



Or the means chosen by God to redress the present situation

by a Dominican father

This is a sermon given in the Dominican monastery la Haye-aux-Bonshommes in Avrillé (France).

The Fatima Message

Starting on May 13, the Most Holy Virgin appeared to three young shepherds on the 13th of every month in the presence of a growing number of pilgrims and the inquisitive. The children alone saw Our Lady.

It is not sufficient to say that the message was a call for prayer and penance, as the Vatican claims. Such a lack of precision allows the particular demands given by Our Lady for our times to be placed under the bushel. We must therefore state the exact nature and the aim of the prayer request. Therefore, it is more correct to say that the instructions given by Our Lady between May 13 and October 13 may be summed up in these words: the daily Rosary and sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. That is the Fatima message in general.

To this general message were later added two particular requests that were in keeping with the promise made as early as July 13:

– in 1925, the request was made for the Five First Saturdays devotion in reparation for sins ;

– and in 1929, the request was made for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by the Pope in union with all the bishops in the world.

It would be an error to limit the Fatima message to these two particular requests and to forget the general request: the daily Rosary and sacrifices for the conversion of sinners.

The Miracle of the Sun: the Facts

Let us go back to the 13th day of October 1917, the day that we are commemorating today.

As early as July 13, the Virgin Mary announced a huge miracle that would take place on October 13 so that the entire world may believe in the reality of the apparitions and in the serious nature of Heaven’s warning.

The story is well known: a crowd of nearly 100,000 people gathered in the area; they were mostly Catholics, but also non-believers, militant atheists, and even the freemasonic government minister for national education. A torrential rain pouring from midnight on soaked everyone to the bones and rendered the Cova da Iria1 into a muddy field: in order to give blessings, God wills that we first do penance. At midday, Lucy asked the people to fold their umbrellas. The entire crowd complied and magnificently displayed their faith and obedience. A few moments later, the sun broke through the clouds and Our Lady appeared above a small holm-oak. She asked for the conversion of sinners and, as in every apparition, she insisted on the daily recitation of the Rosary.

Then, suddenly, Lucy cried out: « Look at the sun! » In front of the stupefied crowd of people, the sun gyrated in on itself as if it were a fire wheel, turning various colors of the rainbow. This lasted nearly eight minutes but seemed like hours. This cannot be attributed to a collective hallucination, because the phenomenon was seen within a forty-kilometer radius by various individuals.

While the sun was spinning around, the three young shepherds, Lucy, Jacinta and Francisco alone saw a vision that symbolized the three sets of the mysteries of the Rosary:

– representing the Joyful Mysteries: St. Joseph appeared with the Child Jesus and Our Lady: St. Joseph and the Child Jesus were blessing the world;

– representing the Sorrowful Mysteries: Our Lord appeared with Our Lady of Sorrows;

– representing the Glorious Mysteries: the Virgin Mary in Heaven was seen holding the scapular of Mount Carmel.

The sun then turned blood red in color and seemed to fall from the sky and hurl itself towards the earth. Everyone believed that the end of the world had come. Then everything stopped – the sun returned to its normal place in the sky.

The people got up and noted another phenomenon: their soaked clothes were completely dry.

The non-believers had to acknowledge the reality of the facts. The following day, newspapers, including those most hostile towards the Church, all reported on the event.

What lessons may we draw today from this miracle?

The Miracle of the Sun: Lessons to be Drawn

The largest miracle in the entire history of the Church

Firstly let us observe the spectacular nature of this miracle. We must turn to the Old Testament to find similar prodigies that were performed in front of an immense crowd of people: such as the manifestation of God to Moses and to the Hebrew people on Mount Sinai (Ex 19); or when Joshua stopped the sun and the moon from advancing so that nightfall would not prevent the Jews from exterminating the enemies of Yahweh (Jos 10). The miracle of October 13, 1917 is assuredly the largest miracle in the entire history of the Church. Let us ask why.

The history of the Church is the history of the struggle between two cities: the city of God and the city of Satan:

These two Cities are made by two loves: the heavenly City by love of God even to the contempt of self; the earthly City by love of oneself even to the contempt of God (St. Augustin, The City of God).

This magnificent synthesis of St. Augustine is nothing other than what is written in the Book of Genesis:

I will put enmities between thee [the snake] and the Woman [the Virgin Mary], and between thy seed and her seed [Our Lord; the Church]: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel [the persecutions of the Church] (Gen 3, 15).

We are now living in the times when « the devil is fighting the decisive battle, meaning the final battle », says Our Lady2. This is the day when the general assault of all anti-Christian forces is launched against the Church.

It is urgent that we realize the terrible reality that we are in. We do not wish to frighten people, but this is an urgent call to the reality of our situation, comments Sr. Lucy 3.

And it is in order to draw our attention to this final phase of the history of the Church that Heaven produced the largest miracle of the past 2,000 years.

Paradoxically, the current Church authorities are totally silent on this event.

And so, in the year 2000, when Cardinal Ratzinger released to the public a questionable version of the third secret of Fatima, he made no allusion whatsoever to this miracle.

Why this silence?

The current Church authorities have not yet fulfilled the Virgin Mary’s request, and so it is understandable that they are embarassed by this miracle, which clearly proves the heavenly origin of this request. At the same time – could it be their guilty conscience? – these authorities feel obliged to talk from time to time about Fatima and to perform the consecrations of the world or of mankind. Pope Francis made one such consecration on October 13, 20134. However, by not consecrating Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as Our Lady requested, the popes are unable to provide the world with the promised remedy, and the situation continues to get worse.

The Fatima apparitions are the key to understanding the entire history of our era

We will now move to the second important consideration: the Fatima apparitions are the key to understanding all the events of the 20th century and all that we are living through today, whether in the religious or political sphere. To be truly convinced of this, one only needs to read the authoritative work by French Br. Michel of the Holy Trinity, The Whole Truth about Fatima5.

The troubles, the upheavals and the unprecedented decadence of our times are the direct consequences of the fact that churchmen have not yet wished to fulfill the request of Our Lady of Fatima:

I will come to ask for the Consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and for the Five First Saturdays in reparation for the sins, said Our Lady on July 13, 1917. If my requests are granted, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If my requests are not granted, Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, raising up wars and persecutions against the Church.

The October 1917 Revolution that took place immediately after the request of Our Lady of Fatima was not a simple coup d’état bringing about a regime change. The aim of the Revolution was especially « to spread throughout the world the institutions and the mores of atheism6 », and the immorality that was to follow in its wake7.

This Revolution occurred precisely during the huge conflagration of 1914 – 1918, which was the first Great War aiming to prepare for a one-world government. It is this that constitutes the errors of Russia: the creation of an atheistic society without Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the supreme assault against the Social Kingship of Our Lord. And we must admit that these errors have now spread throughout the entire world. No nation has been spared.

The only effective obstacle to this plan was the Church. In order to protect the Church and the world from this plot, the Virgin Mary requested Pope Pius XI in 1921, by the intermediary of Sr. Lucy, to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart. The Pope did not believe the matter was worth pursuing. Ten years later Our Lord complained to Sr. Lucy:

Tell My ministers: because they are following the example of the king of France in delaying the fulfillment of My request, they will share in his tragedy8.

It was indeed during those years that an organisation was put in place by Moscow in order to infiltrate seminaries and novitiates with agents who had false vocations. These agents later reached influencial positions and gradually worked to effect a new orientation in the Church. This has been proven by a good number of documents. (We have provided references in an article about Fatima9 in our review le Sel de la Terre.) The Pope having ignored the protection that Heaven was offering, the Church became the plaything of her enemies.

At the time of the Second Vatican Council, Moscow doubled the budget they allocated to the Pax organization, which was one of the principal agents of Communist infiltration into the Church10. Among other things, this group contributed to the attacks directed at the Curia during the Council11.

We should therefore not be surprised that the two major documents passed by the Council, and not without opposition, were:

the document on Religious Liberty12, which sanctions the secularization of States, that is to say their becoming atheistic States, preventing the Social Reign of Our Lord and forbidding the constitution of officially Catholic nations;

– and the document Nostra Aetate13 which, along with the decree on Ecumenism14, leads to what we see today: churchmen who abandon missionary activities in order to work towards uniting all religions for the service of the atheistic and anti-Christian world government. Last October 1st, in an interview with the chief editor of the newpaper Repubblica in Italy, an interview which made huge waves, Pope Francis declared: « Proselytism [that is, missionary activity] is a pompous absurdity ». But this Ecumenism, which refuses the conversion of non-Catholics, leads to Religious Indifferentism, and Religious Indifferentism leads to Apostasy and to Atheism. That is what we see today in the entire world.

Yes, the errors of Russia have penetrated inside the Church.

The means chosen by God to redress the current situation

So, what must we do? And can we do anything, we who are so few?

We need to understand that God alone can now redress the situation. There is no longer any solution on the purely human level. But that does not mean that there is nothing for us to do: God always wants the co-operation of His creatures, but the co-operation must be in accordance with His plan.

The Two Battles

Some years ago an eminent traditional Catholic thinker summed up the situation very well when he said that there are two battles that must be fought at the same time:

1) We must fight in order to preserve our last holdings. It is obvious that we must above all maintain our chapels, our monasteries, our schools, our publications, our associations15, and, generally speaking, we must hold on to our hope of salvation and to the orthodoxy of our Doctrine. This is the lower battle. It is a defensive battle, a battle where we hold our own against the enemy.

2) But on a level higher than these countless battles of self-preservation, a battle of the greatest importance has begun and whose objective is the transfer of power16. « I will reign in spite of My enemies », said the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret-Mary in 168917; a promise that was renewed in the 19th and 20th centuries to a large number of mystics, in particular to Madame Royer in France. […] We may rest assured that today Our Lord is working mysteriously, as He always does, towards the destruction of the Beast and towards the restoration of His own Reign. This mysterious battle which is led by Christ the King constitutes the higher battle, and that is the principal objective18.

The Lower Battle

Concerning the lower battle, the battle fought by men, Fr. Calmel O.P. had these enlightening words to say:

May each priest, each layman, each little group of priests and laymen, who have authority and influence over a small remnant of the Church and of Christendom go to the utmost of their possibilities and power. […] May the leaders of the small groups and their members know each other and communicate with each other. May each of these small groups thus protected, defended, led and guided in their prayer and chants by a true authority, become as much as possible a bastion of holiness: this is what will garantee the continuity of the true Church and what will efficaciously prepare for a revival, when the day chosen by God comes19.

Let us note what Fr. Calmel says: our bastions must be bastions of holiness.

What is worrisome at the moment is not so much the advancement of the forces of evil, but rather the softening of the good. Actually, there’s probably a link between the two tendencies. Those who knew the heroic beginnings of Tradition with Archbishop Lefebvre note that today the traditionalists have become quite lukewarm in comparison to those heroic days: the slovenly manner of dressing, sinful and imprudent use of the Internet, weakening of the convictions among the young, the faithful who no longer read in order to maintain their Faith and to oppose errors, fewer people going on spiritual retreats, a proportional decrease in vocations, etc.

If our principal focus in this lower battle is not on our sanctification, we will not preserve our bastions. We will be swept away in the general apostasy. Let us be watchful, let us wake up!

The Higher Battle

Above this battle of self-preservation lies the higher battle whose goal it is to completely defeat the forces of evil. This is where God’s battle lies. And where do we stand in this battle?

There is but one simple action that each one must take. Our Lady confided that action to Sr. Lucy of Fatima:

Many times, while I was spending precious hours in her company, Our Lady insisted that we fulfill our daily duties according to our state in life and that we offer this effort for the reparation of our sins and for the conversion of sinners. This is the fundamental condition which will enable us to push back the forces of evil that threaten to submerge the world today and which will bring about the conversion of Russia and a period of peace to the world. But she also explained the importance of the Rosary because it is the one principal means given to us by Our Lady for the sanctification of our daily duties20.

This is how we can truly and efficaciously participate in the final battle which will definitively crush the enemies of the Church. This is within everyone’s reach and that is very encouraging!


Let us conclude with the words of Abp. Lefebvre which he gave in a sermon in his last Pontifical Mass on November 1, 1990 in Écône on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the SSPX. This is his testament:

My dear Friends, you can easily see the importance of your role. […] You are a small remnant, but you carry the torch boldly. […] Ah! What a beautiful task, what a noble crusade lies ahead of you! The good God has placed you in a period of the history of mankind that is exciting for young people such as yourselves! It was just like this at the time of the Machabees when they left the corrupt Jewish society, and they too were very few. Judas Machabee with only eight hundred soldiers faced an army of twenty thousand – and he defeated them. And so, be confident, my dear Friends, God is with you. He will not abandon you, just as He has not abandoned us over the course of the last twenty years. Nor will He abandon you in the future because it is Himself that God wants. God does not want to disappear; He is God, He wants to remain God, not only in Heaven, but also here on earth. That is why He wants soldiers in His army.