By l'Abbé Bérenger Saunière, priest of Rennes-le-Château 1885-1909
6.00 Catechism. 8.00 Mass, procession. Sermon on the Eucharist, because we have a second procession of the Holy Sacrament. I make an announcement about the festival of St. Germaine, about whom I will have to speak next Sunday. I invite the people of Antugnac to come and take part in our festival of Perpetual Adoration. - I return on foot to Rennes where I arrive sweating. - Today we have a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Cavailhé, Mrs. Cazal, Mrs. Barrière, her son Jacques and two maids. Church made ready, High Mass, procession in the evening. - Lucrative collections. - After the Gospel I made the following speech:
"Our sense of gratitude makes it a duty for us, my dear brethren, to thank all these noble "strangers", all these distinguished benefactors of our dear little church, for the visit that they have kindly paid to us.
"Their arrival among us is an event, yes I say it again an "event", and that word is not too strong. May we never forget an event that fills us with joy and happiness, an event that honours our Parish and which delights at the same time both the hearts of the parishioners and that of their Pastor and that to a supreme degree. I have no hesitation in saying that.
"I am sure I do not have to remind you to treat our illustrious visitors with the very highest regard, attention and respect; a sense of honour and the commonest courtesy compels that of us.
"I am sure that I do not have to recommend either (in fact it goes without saying) that this morning, just like this evening, you should impress them both in church and in the procession with your piety, your silence and your good behaviour. You are Christians, you have faith, that is enough for me. Our dear guests must be given a good impression and must acquire a good opinion of the people of Rennes. When visiting us they must be able to say: we have just attended a beautiful festival, and a splendid and consoling ceremony.
"However, my brethren, that alone should not be enough for us. It remains for us to do much more. We should not forget that if, today, we have such a beautiful altar so worthy of the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries, if we have such rich bouquets and such beautiful ornamentation, then it is to them that we owe these things, to their extraordinary zeal, to their proverbial charity, to their unbounded devotion. That is why we must add to this attention, this honesty and this respect, a prayer: yes, we must pray today in a very special way for them and for all their families, as we did during March and May, those two months dedicated to the honour of the Blessed Virgin and the great and illustrious St Joseph.
"We must address fervent prayers to Heaven, so that they obtain therefrom all the graces that they need. We will also set aside for them, this evening, when we are saying the rosary, a very particular Intention, so that the Sacred Heart of Jesus grants them, via Mary, relief from suffering and good health, this invaluable gift of health which they have come to seek from the health-giving and beneficial waters of our locality. Join in the Intention with your Pastor during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which he will continue to celebrate for them (while, of course, setting aside enough time to say Mass for the rest of you tomorrow) so that the good Lord amply grants to them, along with all the celestial goods, the material wealth of which they know how to make such holy and pious use.
Every time you enter the temple of God, the House of the Lord, and gaze upon the tabernacle [a receptacle for the consecrated elements of the Eucharist; especially : an ornamental locked box used for reserving the Communion hosts] and on the altar, does something not stir in your soul? Doesn't your heart beat faster, stirred by a delightful memory? Tell me: have you ever been able to summon up thoughts of the pure joy of your childhood and, above all, the happy day of your First Communion, without feeling there, in your heart, in your very marrow, in the most intimate parts of your being, some sort of quivering that made you think of Paradise?
Yes of course you have, my brethren, and we hasten to add that a person would have to be quite unfortunate, quite pitiful, to enter without any emotion at all into this ineffable sanctuary where so many times he has sat down at the festival of the Angels and knelt at the altar, and where the God of love, by nourishing him with his flesh and his precious blood, has given him a pledge of eternal happiness!
The Eucharist! Oh, my brethren, how sweet this name sounds in the mouth of a Christian! How happy one feels to utter it, and what a delicious memory it awakes in our souls! The Eucharist! Last Sunday I spoke to you about how it came into existence. Allow me to spend a few more moments telling you about this precious Sacrament which feeds our hearts, about this sacred manna, this living bread which is sent down to us from Heaven to strengthen us in the desert of life and make us more familiar with the presence of the God of love Who, while rising in glory towards His Father, promised not to leave us orphaned.
My brethren, you may complain, perhaps, of your weakness, your inability to do good. Well, come to the God of the Eucharist: it will be your strength. For you the Earth is a place of trials and suffering, well so be it! Go to the God of the tabernacle: He will be your consolation. What shall I say to you finally? The memory of your past iniquities may perhaps terrify you and make you tremble just like those victims that an irrevocable sentence condemns to death; but go to the God of the Eucharist, come to the God of the tabernacle, throw yourself in your entirety into the midst of its mercy - it will be your hope and the pledge of your immortality.
The Eucharist is our strength; the Eucharist is our consolation; the Eucharist is our hope and the pledge of our immortality. So as not to bore you and abuse your good will for too a long time, I am content merely to gain your attention and to suggest for your meditation my two first thoughts that will form the basic division of this short conversation.
The Eucharist is our strength: first thought.
The Eucharist is our consolation: second thought.
But, you tell me brethren, "we are weak and powerless to do good". Alas, when the Holy Scriptures themselves teach us that the tendency to do evil and the powerlessness (which we all experience) to resist, all by ourselves, the effects of our conspiring enemies are actually the disastrous consequences of our original sin, then cruel experience teaches us only too deplorable lessons. Who is there among you indeed, my brethren, who can still doubt his weakness? Who is there among you who has not felt his weakness a thousand times? Doesn't each day cause us to utter this cry which comes out of every human mouth, this cry that the Apostle St Paul himself once uttered when he said: "Infelix ego homo" ("I am an unhappy man"). "I see good, I would like to perform this good act, and yet I do not do it. I see also evil, I would like to refrain from it, I would like not to do it and yet I allow myself to get involved." And you yourselves, my brethren, how many times perhaps have you not said, for the first time on the day of your First Communion, or later, after a full confession or an excellent Communion following a good Lesson on one of the great truths of our Holy Religion: "Yes, it has worked for me! I want to convert, I want to return to God, I want to entirely change my life. Yes, I want to break free from these bonds that bind me to sin. Yes, I want to end all these guilty relationships, I want to shake off the yoke of all these bad habits, I want to give up such-and-such fault or sin. Yes, it has worked for me, I want to be a Saint, a Holy man." How many times, I repeat, have you not spoken in this manner and, while doing this, have formulated the most demanding of good resolutions? And I am persuaded that if, at that very moment, somebody had come to you and said: "Watch yourself, because tomorrow you will fail in that", you would have rejected him as a prophet of doom and would have thrown in his face the words of the Gospel, "Vade retro, Satana" ["Get thee behind me, Satan"], and you would have been right to do so; and yet what the prophet had said would have been only too true. The very next day another instance of backsliding will force you to hide your face and acknowledge to yourself your extreme weakness. Let us not therefore engage in an illusion, my brethren: we are weak, indeed very weak, and we cannot, without lying to ourselves, refuse to accept this unfortunate burden.
But, in the presence of this great weakness, in the presence of this undeniable infirmity, what should we do? Should we be desolate? Should we be discouraged? Should we despair about doing good and resisting evil? Should we, as some would say, simply fold our arms and give in to all our bad instincts? Let us strive to be good, my brethren, let us strive to be good, because it is true that ultimately we cannot, on the basis of our own nature, do anything alone. But we can do anything with the help of another, and this other is Our Lord Jesus Christ who, knowing our great weakness, wants Himself to be our strength. To achieve that He is not content to merely communicate these graces to us - he actually wants, Himself, to be a part of our entire being, in order to act and to remain within us, and He achieves these intentions through Holy Communion.
This mysterious nourishment produces in our heart the same effects as material bread produces in our body. It communicates the strength and energy that are appropriate to it. Look at a workman, tall, with a strong body and vigorous muscles. He works fervently, perhaps successfully. But after six hours of painful work his tools feel heavier, he cannot raise his arm as high, the blows of his hammer are slower. He is hungry. But if he can have a good meal then the situation will change completely. A large healthy meal, a large glass of wine, will double his strength or even multiply it by ten. And so it is with the Christian who eats the Bread of the Angels, who drinks from the Chalice of Salvation, who takes Communion; it is, said St Ignatius, as terrible for the Devil as the lion of the forest is to the unarmed traveller who would like to attack it. Recedentes a mensa et liones, doemonibus terribilis ignem spirantes ["So that when we leave the altar we breathe forth flames of love, which make us objects of terror to hell" - St. John Chrysostom.]
Is not this what the experiences of every century teach us? What is it that has given the eighteen million martyrs of every rank, of both sexes, of every age, that the Church holds within its bosom the courage to face torment and death? It is the Eucharist.
Where do the daughters of Charity draw their courage and self-denial that draws them to the beds of the sick and enables them to cope with all the human misery in our hospitals, on the battle fields, through the dangers of the plague and a thousand other dangers? From the Eucharist.
And those good brothers of the Christian Doctrines whose devotion is wondrous, whose patience is so admirable, whose charity has no limit, what has given them to us; what supports them and encourages them in their careers, which seem to be so humble and yet are so glorious in reality? It is the Eucharist.
And the poor man who has nothing; this Christian man or Christian woman whom the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune have attacked from all sides, what gives them strength in such cruel circumstances? It is the Eucharist.
How can this young man of twenty or twenty-five years of age preserve his purity and religious instincts amidst such dissolute young people and such a corrupt and corrupting world? It is because he goes to Communion.
How can this young person be so modest, so pious, in spite of all the bad examples, the scandals and the seductions of every kind that the world presents to him? It is because he approaches the Sacraments and takes nourishment from the bread of the strong.
The Eucharist - here is the source of strength and devotion. The soul that slakes it thirst there does not fear anything and can exclaim with a noble pride: "From now on, come Hell with all its dark cohorts, come the World with all its charms, come the Flesh with its covetousnesses, I am stronger than them because Jesus is with me".
Nothing - neither tribulation, nor anguish, nor hunger, nor barrenness, nor danger, nor persecution, nor the sword - will be able to overcome me, because Jesus is with me.
Let us return to ourselves, my brethren, and, as they say, examine our consciences for one moment. How comes it that there is within us so much cowardice when faced with temptation, so much defeatism in our struggles, and so much impotence in the practice of the Christian virtues where does all that come from? Why do we display only coldness and indifference towards this divine sacrament? We mistrust it, we fear it. We drag ourselves before the altar like a victim being led to sacrifice. Here is the cause of our weakness; this is the cause of our poverty. There are no others.
In the 3rd [???] Book of Kings we read that the prophet Elijah, fleeing the persecutions of Queen Jezebel, who sought to destroy him, had withdrawn into the desert, and that having made a day's journey, he had sat down under a shrub, and that there, not being able to withstand any more tiredness or discouragement, he had asked Heaven to kill him.
4. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
5. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
6. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.
7. And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.
8. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God." [I Kings 19].
Who is there among you, my brethren, who has not seen, in this bread sent down from Heaven, the figure of the Eucharist, and in this prophet a quite touching personification of our own poor humanity, which is pursued, in the vast desert of life, by a host of enemies who are as resolute as Jezebel but in a quite different way?
But what are these enemies, my brethren? These enemies are, first of all, Hell, the world, they are - especially - our passions, the tyrannical demands of our corrupt nature. We must constantly be on our guard against other people, and more still against ourselves; having only just overcome a particular passion we then immediately have to fight against the contrary passion; and the Devil, as if he did not have enough evil to conquer us with, even hides pitfalls in virtue itself. Alas, my brethren, who is there among us who does not tremble at the thought of the dangers, the dangers that surround us on all sides! In the state of general lassitude and prostration into which this struggle plunges us every day and at every moment, who among us would not raise his eyes to Heaven from where Salvation must come?
Well then, my brethren, do you know where this Salvation is to be found? Salvation lies in the bread of the strong, it is in this celestial manna that imparts to the soul a really energetic strength and makes it invulnerable like the martyrs and confessors of the faith; it is this mysterious wine that possesses the double virtue both of making Virgins fruitful and soothing the passions.
"Take the Holy Eucharist", a religious writer tells us, "and if concupiscence inclines you to evil then it becomes less strong; if the thorns of the flesh make themselves felt they are less sharp; the struggles you will have to contend with will all be less violent and, if they are painful, you will always emerge victorious thanks to the power of He Who can seal Satan in his abyss with just a single glance."
My brethren, I am appealing to your own experience now when I ask you: is it not true that the day on which you experience the joy of receiving your God in the Sacrament of His love, is it not true that on that day you feel capable of the greatest things, and that that which appeared impracticable to you the day before at that moment does not weigh an ounce? Isn't that true?
Ah! What has happened is that the bread of the strong has tripled your energy and your courage, and, that, following the example of St. Paul, you can do everything in Him that which strengthens you: Omnia possum in eo qui me confortat [Phil. 4.13].
Secondly the Eucharist is a principle of consolation. And who among you, my brethren, does not have need of consolation? If you don't then stand up! I am not talking about the poor man who suffers cold and hunger. I am not talking about the patient languishing, year in year out, on a bed of pain. I am not even talking about the person whose soul is prey to all sorts of moral tortures, a hundred times more atrocious than those which tear our body apart. I am talking about a person whose happiness makes us jealous and whose days seem woven in silk and gold. Let the powerful man, the rich man, the voluptuary, let him tell us whether his happiness is real and whether he does not have moments in his life when the fate of the patient and of the most famished beggar does not strike him as far preferable to his
Alas, my brethren, a long time before Solomon, Job put it quite succinctly: Homo natus de muliere, brevi vivens tempore, multis repletur miseriis ["Man born of a woman, living for a short time, is filled with many miseries" - Job 14.1]: he counts his days only by the sorrows that he endures, and his joys are only small points of light lost in the darkness of his deplorable existence.
You knew that, Lord! You knew our needs and our misery when, about to complete your sacrifice and separate yourself from your dear disciples, you said to them in a tender voice:
My children, now it is time for me to return to my Father, but take comfort, I will not leave you orphaned, I will come to you: "non relinquam vis orphanos, veniam ad vos!". You came, O God of love, to be our support, our friend, the companion in our pilgrimage on Earth; you were given to us to help us in all our needs and to comfort us in all our pains!
Hear, my brethren, hear the divine Master calling to him all the unhappy ones! - Come you all to me, he says to them, "venite ad me omnes" whatever you may be, great and small, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, happy and unhappy, "venite ad me omnes qui laborati et onerati estis", all you who suffer, all you who work, all you who are afflicted, come to me, and "ego reficiam" ["I will give you rest"]. Yes, come all of you, whatever you are, whatever your sufferings might be, your sorrows, your sadnesses, your afflictions, come to the Supreme Doctor, to your Father, your God, your Consoler! When you are close to him sorrow is dissipated or made less bitter, and your tears will relieve and soothe your soul when you pour them out onto the breast of this celestial friend!
Tell me, my brethren, in all your sorrows, in all your pains, do not feel you calmer when you are near the tabernacle? Does there not escape from it a sacred balsam that heals the wounds of your soul? And if the wound is of a kind that nothing here below can cure, does not the tender voice of the beloved make the pain less acute; doesn't it at least give you, along with the strength to endure it without complaint, the necessary resignation to sanctify the suffering and make it fruitful for Heaven?
What am I saying? Ah, is there not in everyone's life a solemn day whose pleasant and pious memory floods our heart with inexpressible joy? Don't you feel your heart beat more vibrantly when you think of your First Communion? You should often recall to mind this salutary thought, my brethren, it will be the remedy for all your ills, your asylum from suffering, and the good angel who will support you in your despair: in particular, make sure you come from time to time to taste at the altar the delicious impressions that you feel there: that will offer you a prelude on Earth to the pure and immortal pleasures that await you in Heaven.