of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
On the Occasion of a New Priest's First Mass
Poitiers, France September
Father, you have the joy today of celebrating Holy Mass in the midst
of your dear ones, surrounded by your family, by your friends and
it is with great satisfaction that I find myself near you today
to tell you also of my joy and prayers for your future apostolate,
for the good which you will do for souls.
will pray especially to St. Pius X, our patron, whose feast it is
today and who has been present during all your studies and your
formation. We will ask him to give you the heart of an apostle,
the heart of a saintly priest like him. And since we are right here
in the city of St. Hilary, of St. Radegonde and the great Cardinal
Pie, well, we shall ask of all those protectors of the city of Poitiers
to come and aid you so that you may follow their example, so that
you may defend as they did in difficult times, the Catholic Faith.
could have coveted an easy and comfortable life in the world. You
had already begun the study of medicine. You could have gone in
that direction. But no, you had the courage, even in times like
these, to come and ask to be made a priest at Ecône. And why Ecône?
Because there you found Tradition, you found that which corresponded
to your faith. It was an act of courage which does you honor.
that is why I would like, in a few words, to answer the accusations
which have appeared in the local papers following the publication
of the letter of Msgr. Rozier, Bishop of Poitiers. Oh, not in order
to polemicize. I carefully avoid doing that. Generally, I do not
answer these letters and I prefer to keep silent. However, since
you as well as me are called into question it seems to me well to
justify you here. We are not called into question because of our
persons but because of the choice we have made. We are incriminated
be-we have chosen the so-called way of disobedience. But we must
understand clearly what this way of disobedience consists of. I
think we may truthfully say that, if we have chosen the way of apparent
disobedience, we have chosen the way of true obedience.
I think that those who accuse us have perhaps chosen the way of
apparent obedience which, in reality, is disobedience. Because those
who follow the new way, who follow the novelties, who attach themselves
to new principles contrary to those taught us by Tradition, by all
the Popes, by all the Councils, they are the ones who have chosen
the way of disobedience.
one cannot say that one obeys authority today while disobeying the
entire Tradition. Following Tradition is precisely the sign of our
obedience. Jesus Christus heri, hodie et in saecula, "Jesus
Christ yesterday, today and forever."
cannot separate Our Lord Jesus Christ. One cannot say that one obeys
the Christ of today but not the Christ of yesterday, because then
one does not obey the Christ of tomorrow. This is of vital importance.
This is why we cannot say that we disobey the Pope of today and
that, for that reason we disobey the Pope of yesterday. We obey
the Pope of yesterday, consequently, we obey the one of today, consequently,
we obey the one of tomorrow. For it is not possible that the Popes
teach different things; it is not possible that the Popes gainsay
each other, that they contradict each other.
this is why we are convinced that in being faithful to all the Popes
of yesterday, to all the Councils of yesterday, we are faithful
to the Pope of today, to the Council of today and to the Council
of tomorrow and the Pope of tomorrow. Again: Jesus Christus heri,
hodie et in saecula.- And if today, by a mystery of Providence,
a mystery which for us is unfathomable, incomprehensible, we are
in apparent disobedience, in reality we are not disobedient but
are we obedient? In believing in our catechism and because we always
keep the same Credo, the same Ten Commandments, the same Mass, the
same Sacraments, the same prayer—the Pater Noster of yesterday,
today and tomorrow. This is why we are obedient and not disobedient.
the other hand, if we study what is taught nowadays in the new religion
we realize that it is not the same Faith, the same Creed, the same
Ten Commandments, the same Sacraments, the same Our Father. It is
sufficient to open the catechisms of today to realize that. It is
sufficient to read the speeches which are made in our times to realize
that those who accuse us of disobedience are those who do not follow
the Popes, who do not follow the Councils, who, in reality, disobey.
Because they do not have the right to change our Creed, to say today
that the angels do not exist, to change the notion of original sin,
to say that the Holy Virgin was not always a virgin, and so on.
do not have the right to replace the Ten Commandments with the Rights
of Man. Nowadays one speaks of nothing but the rights of man and
no one speaks of his duties which are in the Ten Commandments. We
don't see that it is necessary to replace the Ten Commandments in
our catechisms with the Rights of Man. And this is very grave. The
commandments of God are attacked and thus those laws defending the
most Holy Mass, for example, which is the synthesis of our Faith,
which is precisely our living catechism, the Holy Mass has been
deprived of its nature, it has become confused and ambiguous. Protestants
can say it, Catholics can say it. Concerning this I have never said,
and I have never followed those who say that all the new Masses
are invalid. I have never said anything of the sort but I believe
that it is in fact very dangerous to make a habit of attending the
New Mass because it no longer is representative of our Faith, because
Protestant notions have been incorporated into the New Mass.
the Sacraments have, to some "extent, been deprived of their
nature and have become similar to an invitation to a religious assembly.
These are not Sacraments. The Sacraments give us grace and take
away our sins. They give us divine life, supernatural life. We are
not simply part of a purely natural, purely human, religious collectivity.
is why we keep to the Holy Mass. We keep to it also because it is
the living catechism. It is not only a catechism written and printed
on pages which can disappear, on lifeless pages. Rather it is our
living catechism, our living Credo. This Credo is essentially the
history, as it were, the "song" of the redemption of our
souls by Our Lord Jesus Christ. We sing the praises of God, Our
Lord, Our Redeemer, Our Saviour who became man to shed His blood
for us and thus to give birth to His Church and the priesthood so
that the Redemption might continue, so that our souls might be bathed
in the blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ through Baptism, through all
the Sacraments, in order that we might participate in the nature
of Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in His divine nature by means
of His human nature and so that we might be admitted eternally into
the family of the Most Holy Trinity.
is our Christian life. This is our Faith. If the Mass is not the
continuation of the Cross of Our Lord, the sign of His Redemption,
is no longer the reality of His Redemption, then it is not our Credo.
If the Mass is nothing but a meal, a eucharist, a "sharing"
if one can sit around a table and simply pronounce the words of
the Consecration in the midst of a meal, it is no longer our Sacrifice
of the Mass. And if it is no longer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,
the Redemption of Our Lord Jesus Christ is no longer accomplished.
need the Redemption of Our Lord. We need the Blood of Our Lord.
We cannot live without the Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He came
on earth to give us His Blood, to communicate to us His life. We
have been created for this and it is the Holy Mass that gives His
Blood to us. This sacrifice continues in all reality. Our Lord is
really present in His Body, in His Soul, and in His Divinity.
is why He created the priesthood and this is why there must be new
priests. This is why we wish to make priests who can continue the
Redemption of Our Lord Jesus Christ. All the greatness, the sublimity
of the priesthood, the beauty of the priesthood, is in the celebration
of the Holy Mass, in the saving words of the Consecration. It is
in the making Our Lord Jesus Christ descend onto the altar, continuing
the Sacrifice of the Cross, shedding His Blood on souls through
Baptism, the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Penance. Oh, the beauty,
the greatness of the priesthood! A greatness of which we are not
worthy, of which no man is worthy. Our Lord Jesus Christ wanted
it. What greatness, what sublimity!
our young priests have understood this. You can be certain they
have understood. Throughout their seminary days they loved the Holy
Mass. They will never penetrate the mystery perfectly even if God
gives them a long life on earth. But they love their Mass and I
think they have understood and will understand even better that
the Mass is the sun of their life, the raison d'etre of their
priestly life so that they may give Our Lord Jesus Christ to the
souls of the people and not simply so that they may break bread
in friendship while Our Lord is absent. Because grace is absent
from these new Masses which are purely a eucharist, a mere symbol
of a sign and symbol of a sort of charity among human beings.
is why we are attached to the Holy Mass. And the Holy Mass is the
expression of the Ten Commandments. And what are the Ten Commandments
if not the love of God and of our neighbor? How better is this love
fulfilled than in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? God receives all
the glory through Our Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. There
can be no greater act of charity for man than this sacrifice. And,
is there any act of charity greater than that of giving one's life
for those whom one loves? Our Lord Himself asked that.
the Ten Commandments are fulfilled in the Mass, the greatest act
of love which God could have from man, the greatest act of love
that we could have from God. Here are the Ten Commandments. Here
is our living catechism. All the Sacraments take their radiance
from the Eucharist. All the Sacraments, in a certain sense, are
like satellites of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. From Baptism
right through to Extreme Unction, the Sacraments are only reflections
of the Eucharist since all grace comes from Jesus Christ, present
in the Holy Eucharist.
sacrament and sacrifice are intimately united in the Mass. One cannot
separate sacrifice from sacrament. The Catechism of the Council
of Trent explains this magnificently. There are two great realities
in the Sacrifice of the Mass: the sacrifice and the sacrament deriving
from the sacrifice, the fruit of the sacrifice. This is our holy
religion and this is why we hold to the Mass. You will understand
now, perhaps better than you understood before, why we defend this
Mass and the reality of the Sacrifice. It is the life of the Church
and the reason for the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And
it is the reason for our existence, our union with Our Lord in the
Mass. Therefore, we cry out if they try to take away the nature
of the Mass, to deprive us in any way of this Sacrifice! We are
wounded. We will not have them separate us from the Holy Sacrifice
of the Mass.
why we hold firmly to the Sacrifice of the Mass. And we are convinced
that our Holy Father, the Pope, has not forbidden it and that no
one can ever forbid the celebration of the Mass of all time. Moreover,
Pope St. Pius V proclaimed in a solemn and definitive manner that,
whatever might happen in the future, no one might ever prevent a
priest from celebrating the Sacrifice of the Mass; and that all
excommunications, all suspensions, all the punishments which a priest
might undergo because he celebrated this Holy Sacrifice would be
utterly null and void, in futuro, in perpetuum.
we have a clear conscience whatever may happen to us. If we are
apparently disobedient, we are really obedient. This is our situation.
And it is right for us to tell this, to explain it, because it is
we who continue the Church. Really disobedient are those who corrupt
the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacraments and our prayers, those
who put the Rights of Man in the place of the Ten Commandments,
those who transform the Credo. Because that is what the new catechisms
feel deep pain at not being in perfect communion with the authors
of those reforms. Indeed, we regret it infinitely. I would like
to go at this very minute to Msgr. Rozier and tell him that I am
in perfect communion with him. But it is impossible for me. If Msgr.
Rozier condemns this Mass which we say, it is impossible. Those
who refuse this Mass are no longer in communion with the Church
of all time.
is inconceivable that bishops and priests, ordained for this Mass
and by this Mass, men who have celebrated it for perhaps twenty
or thirty years of their priestly lives, persecute it with an implacable
hatred—that they hound us from the churches, that they oblige us
to say Mass here, in the open air, when the Mass is meant to be
said in the churches constructed for that purpose. And was it not
Msgr. Rozier himself who told one of you that if we were heretics
and schismatics he would give us churches in which to celebrate
our Masses? This is something beyond belief. If we were no longer
in communion with the Church but heretics or schismatics we could
have the churches. It is quite evident that we are still in communion
with the Church. There is a contradiction in their attitude which
condemns them. They know perfectly well that we are in the right
because we cannot be outside of truth when we simply continue to
do what has been done for two thousand years, believing what has
been believed for two thousand years. This is not possible.
again, we must repeat this sentence and continue to repeat it: Jesus
Christus heri, hodie et in saecula. If I am with the Jesus Christ
of yesterday I am with the Jesus Christ of today and of tomorrow.
I cannot be with the Jesus Christ of yesterday without being with
the Jesus Christ of tomorrow. And that is because our Faith is that
of the past and that of the future. If we are not with the Faith
of the past we are not with the Faith of the present, nor yet of
the future. This is what we must always believe. This is what we
must hold to at any price— our salvation depends upon it. Let us
ask this today of the guardian saints of Poitiers, ask it especially
for these dear priests, for this new priest. Let us ask it of St.
Hilary, of St. Radegunda who so loved the Cross—it was she who brought
to this land of France the first relic of the True Cross and so
loved the Sacrifice of the Mass; and finally, of Cardinal Pie who
was an admirable defender of the Catholic Faith during the last
century. Let us ask these protectors of Poitiers to give us the
grace of fighting without hatred, without rancor.
us never be among those who try to polemicize, to disrupt, to be
unjust to their neighbors. Let us love them with all our hearts
but let us hold to the Faith. At all costs let us keep our Faith
in the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
us ask this of the most Holy Virgin Mary. She can only have had
a perfect faith in the divinity of her Divine Son. She loved Him
with all her heart. She was present at the Holy Sacrifice of the
Cross. Let us ask of Him the faith that she had.
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109
Vol. II, No.
7, July 1979