Join our e-mail list

of Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta

Given on June 27, 2008

Excellencies, dear confreres, dear ordinands, my dear brethren,

When we consider the Church’s thinking on the priesthood, whether in Sacred Scriptures, especially St. Paul, or in Tradition — thinking which is as it were condensed in the Roman Pontifical — we see how truly Archbishop Lefebvre, our holy founder, was the faithful and prudent servant — fidelis et prudens (and we might add brave and valiant as well): He did nothing else than transmit to us faithfully what he had received from holy Church — the true Catholic priesthood. This is so true that it is enough for us to live what he handed on to us, to live what we have received, and, more precisely, to live what we are. Priestly holiness is, simply, to live what we are. I would like to speak to you about the teaching we have received, and about the priesthood. I do not claim to exhaust the subject but I will consider the elements which, in my eyes, are essential.

The Priest Is Meant for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

First and foremost, by his very priesthood the priest is meant for sacrifice, for the holy sacrifice of the Mass. The priest is above all a man of divine worship, a man consecrated and established in order to render true worship to the only true God. He is also established as mediator, intermediary between God and men, especially to offer prayers and sacrifices. He is essentially the man of the holy Sacrifice. There is no priesthood and no priest without the holy sacrifice of the Mass. The Apostle St. Paul says this very clearly in the Epistle to the Hebrews: “For every high priest taken from among men, is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices, dona et sacrificia, for sins” (Heb. 5:1).  And after showing that the priest can have compassion for sinners, indeed that he must have feelings of compassion and mercy towards sinners because he himself is “compassed with infirmity,” the Apostle stresses: “And therefore he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins” (5:3).

It seems to me that we accomplish this in three ways. It means first of all that we ought to make the holy sacrifice of the Mass the center, the heart, of our spiritual life, and of our priestly life; and of our lives  period. It is from the holy sacrifice of the Mass, and from the celebration of the Mass, that we must tap all the graces of sanctification for ourselves and for the faithful. This also implies that the chief means of our ministry as priests is the Mass. This is what Archbishop Lefebvre transmitted to us.

Next, we must accomplish the role of mediator by prayer. The priest’s mediation is by means of prayer both public and private. In the liturgy, his mediation is clear enough but it is no less real in his life of personal, private prayer. The priest is ordained to be a mediator between God and men. In other words, his prayer is a prayer of petition, intercession, mediation, reparation, expiation, and especially of propitiation. Our Lord Himself said to the apostles in the Gospel according to St. John: “You have not chosen me: but I have chosen you; and have appointed you, that you should go, and should bring forth fruit; and your fruit should remain” (Jn. 15:16). And our Lord added: “...that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” Thus the priest is an intermediary through prayer, and how powerful is he in this function, like Moses, for example, in the Old Testament, when he obtained pardon for the people by his prayer, or when he obtained victory in battle so long as he prayed for them; or like that of Elias, to open or shut the heavens, graces from heaven. Our Lord Himself gave us the example. Archbishop Lefebvre used to speak of our Lord as “the great supplicant.” He is the model of priestly prayer par excellence. And, once again, the priestly prayer par excellence is the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Mediation in order to render God propitious, not only for the Church, for Christians, and for the Mystical Body, but for the world, such is the example we have received from our Lord. As St. John Chrysostom pointed out, we are established to pray for the whole world.

Consequently, the holy sacrifice of the Mass must be as it were the model and soul of priestly prayer, and we achieve this first essential aspect by conforming ourselves to Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim. In this respect, an identification, an increasing conformity is required in our sacerdotal life. “Imitamini quod tractatis,” the Roman Pontifical tells us, “Imitate what you handle” — imitate our Lord in holy Mass. Now, in the Mass our Lord is the priest; He is the oblation; He is the sacrifice; He is the victim; therefore a twofold imitation is required. Every day we must try to resemble  our Lord the Sovereign Priest, in His holiness, in His constant concern for the glory of God: everything is ordained for the glory of the Father. We must imitate Him in His care for the salvation of souls and in His mercy. But besides striving for holiness, God’s glory, and mercy, we must also conform ourselves to our Lord victim, oblation, and sacrifice. Now, sacrifice always implies destruction, particularly in a holocaust.  Of necessity, there must be a destruction, and as it were a mystical death, especially at Mass. It is especially from the example of the Mass that we must draw this spirit, which is the true spirit of the priesthood. Plainly speaking: it means accepting joyfully and willingly sufferings, trials and tribulations, difficulties, misunderstandings, poverty... The list of man’s woes is very long. Yet, all this we must bear. With resignation, we must accept to endure the cross. We cannot avoid feeling the cross as a cross, otherwise it would no longer be a cross. It is a matter of uniting our cross with Our Lord’s; of living it in Him, to obtain all the graces we need for sinners and for holy Church. I think this is the apex of the priestly life, it is as it were its flower — or rather, its fruit.

The Priest Is Ordained to Preach the Truth Whole and Entire

The second essential element of the priesthood is the preaching of the Truth. Our Lord Jesus Christ is Truth itself: “I am...the truth” (Jn. 14:6).  He came into the world to give testimony of the truth, as He said to Thomas. And the Church is the pillar supporting the truth. Hence preaching the truth is an essential task of the priest for which he must prepare. He must be capable or become capable of teaching the truth. He must dedicate himself to preaching. For St. Paul, to be an apostle essentially means to preach, to teach, and to be a doctor, a messenger, a herald who constantly proclaims the word of God — these are his own words: the word of God, the word of truth, the holy words of our Lord Jesus Christ, the words of the Faith, holy doctrine. Such was the example our Lord gave us. His public life was a life dedicated to preaching, teaching, and revealing the truth to souls. He even made it His commandment: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations” (Mt. 28:19) — that is, teach all men. And this preaching must be faithful. What is required in the discharge of one’s duties is fidelity. What is expected of a minister is that he be faithful. A minister must be faithful to his ministry, to what he is asked to hand down. To be faithful means firstly to preach the whole doctrine, and next, to teach it in all its purity. So you see, it is a matter of preaching the whole Faith, and nothing but the Faith. We may neither add nor take out anything.

And this whole and unalloyed preaching  must necessarily be traditional. It is necessary to preach in accordance with the teaching of Tradition, which is the rule of faith, the primordial criterion of the Faith. St. Paul put it thus: “For we are not as many, adulterating the word of God; but with sincerity, but as from God, before God, in Christ we speak” (II Cor. 2:17). He was rightly proud not to be an adulterator of the Faith. He also said to Timothy: “With all the faith and love thou hast in Christ Jesus, keep to the pattern of sound doctrine thou hast learned from my lips” (II Tim. 1:13) — sound doctrine. He added: “By the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, be true to thy high trust” (1:14). So, the priest receives the Holy Ghost very specially in his ordination to the priesthood for the safeguarding of this doctrine, this Tradition, to teach it and preach it. These are the criteria of Catholicity. Recall the words of St. Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians: “Though it were we ourselves, though it were an angel from heaven that should preach to you a gospel other than the gospel we preached to you, a curse upon him!” (Gal. 1:8). So if anyone, be he a priest or a bishop or  a cardinal or a pope “preaches to you what is contrary to the tradition you received, a curse upon him!" (Gal. 1:9). The rule of the Catholic Faith and of the priest’s preaching is conformity with the Tradition of the Catholic Church. And we constantly appeal to this truth. This is the source of our strength. We do not set ourselves up as a magisterium “above the pope’s magisterium.” We appeal to the magisterium of the popes and to the constant teaching, the Tradition, of the Catholic Church, which is above us and above the pope.

Next, the priest must preach and teach with authority, with force — an essential quality of preaching. Obviously, this does not mean with violence or  aggressively. Force means “strength,” to be strong. St. Thomas says that the priest must preach and teach with authority because he is the instrument, the minister of God. Thus he has authority, he is vested with the authority of God for the discharge of this office. Not only must he teach doctrine, not only must he exhort the faithful to do good, but he must also correct their faults and errors, either by denouncing evil or rebuking the guilty. And if it is a matter of faith or doctrine, he is obliged to make a solid refutation. St. Paul emphasized that he must “convince the gainsayers” — he must be able to convince or silence contradictors. He said to Titus: “These things speak, and exhort and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15). St. Paul also added, that “embracing that faithful word which is according to doctrine, ...he may be able to exhort in sound doctrine, and to convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9). These were St. Paul’s words to Titus.

Consequently, to defend the faithful against any doctrinal contamination is inherent in the duty to preach. The priest must fight against errors and false doctors, against heresies and heretics, for he is the guardian of the truths of faith; but he is also the guardian of the good of souls, and their greatest good is precisely this Truth — the Catholic Faith. St. Paul is  quite adamant on this score. Recall his words: “I charge thee, before God and Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead, by his coming, and his kingdom: Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine” (II Tim. 4:1-2). Of course, we must be patient with the faithful or the culprits when correcting them, but he did not mean just that. He was saying that correction must be done patiently because it is difficult, it is a source of sufferings, and entails a combat. He foretold — this was his spiritual testament — that a time would come when men, even Catholics, would turn away from the truth and would open their ears to fables. Hence the priest must be watchful: “But be thou vigilant, labor in all things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry” (II Tim. 4:5). The defense of the Faith and of souls is a duty. We must denounce errors and heresies, but also the instigators of error and heresy. Obviously, this presupposes, strength. When the fight lasts or the crisis persists, our patience and strength are more specially put to the test. For this reason, St. Paul told Timothy: “But thou, O man of God, ...fight the good fight of faith” (I Tim. 6:11-12). For the Apostle to the Gentiles, it was a good fight, and not a bad fight. But we do have to fight. And to do so, we must be strong in  the faith. St. Paul reminds us through Timothy that by the imposition of hands, we have not  received the spirit of fear, “but of power, and of love, and of sobriety” (II Tim. 1:7). He puts “power” first.

The Priest Is Preordained to Bring About the Reign of Our Lord Over Persons and Institutions

The third essential element is that the priesthood is entirely ordained to Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingship. “For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus” (I Cor. 3:11). In other words, it is futile to try to build this mystical edifice which is the Catholic Church on any other foundation than our Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever builds on another foundation, builds a purely human, and even — as we can see today — a humanistic edifice. The priest must firstly ground his whole priesthood, his whole life, and his whole ministry on our Lord Jesus Christ as essential basis.

At the same time, our Lord must be the end of all his efforts, for we have been instituted “to re-establish all things in Christ — omnia instaurare in Christo” (Eph. 1:10), namely, to restore, to  set up, or, according to the Greek, to reunite everythingin our Lord Jesus Christ. The end of the apostolate, as well as of the priesthood and of the holy Church is Our Lord Jesus Christ. We aim at basing everything upon Our Lord Jesus Christ, and at being inspired in all things by Him. The priest can have no other desire or will than to devote his whole life, all his efforts and all his works, so that our Lord Jesus Christ may be all in all. I would like to use the words of St. Augustine: Our Lord must be all in all things, and in all men. But it must be  the whole Lord with His doctrine, His priesthood, His grace, His sacrifice, His kingship, His Church, His holy Mother. And it must be our Lord for all men, because there is no salvation outside our Lord. There is no other name by which we may be saved. It is a gift, but also a demand. Our Lord is for all men, not just for Catholics or those who faithfully practice their religion. No! Our Lord is for all.

Then, all things must be directed to our Lord: all for Him. St. Paul is clear: “For all things are yours...; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (I Cor. 3:23). This is the will of God the Father: that all return to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

And we, priests, merely co-operate to bring all back to God. That is why Archbishop Lefevbre would often recapitulate our position with St. Paul’s words: “Oportet Illum regnare He must reign” (I Cor. 15:25). Our Lord must reign indeed, and the priesthood is a work of Christianization. Our charge is entirely ordained to Christianizing [society] and establishing the reign of our Lord fully over individuals as well as over institutions — in quantum possumus, as far as we can, of course, nowadays. But we are for this reign over individuals as well as  societies, and we work towards this. We are for the confessional State, which is a consequence of Jesus Christ’s kingship. We are for the social kingship of our Lord, and hence for the confessional State. This is not merely a  matter of politics, nor a question of timeliness, and whether it is possible or not. No, it is a matter of faith: Oportet Illum regnare. St. Gregory the Great had already said as much: there are heretics who deny our Lord’s divinity, others who deny His humanity, and still others who deny our Lord Jesus Christ’s kingship. Note that he called them all heretics.

By the Episcopal Consecrations, Archbishop Lefebvre Intended to Safeguard the Catholic Priesthood

You see my dear brethren, this simple description of the priesthood and its essential elements throws into relief Archbishop Lefebvre’s fidelity in transmitting to us the Catholic priesthood; and it also brings to the fore what we are presently witnessing: that ecclesiastical authorities are going adrift. For they are radically opposed to everything I have just said. And we can observe this even today. Consider, for example, the Holy Father’s visit to the United States. We may say it is a rather typical example of how an  underlying teaching is ever present and applied, in varying degrees depending on persons and circumstances. We are not saying that he only preaches error nor that he always preaches error. Yet if we bring out the underlying principles, we  find out precisely this naturalistic and humanistic spirit which is not strictly speaking supernatural, but rather human. His is a human vision with man as the center of more or less everything. Such a preaching fosters freedom of conscience and religious freedom. Now, this is the very reverse of Christianization which consists in drawing all to Christ. Here, everything is independent; man is autonomous, whether in his conscience or his social life. Yes,  purposely or not, the Roman authorities are doing a work of dechristianization, which is diametrically opposed to the rules inherited from our Lord Jesus Christ, because they adhere to the liberal, modernist principles denounced by the Church for two centuries. They have only to read the encyclicals of the previous popes.

Moreover, the Truth is no longer preached it is sought out. Today, the principal means of apostolate is dialogue. What has this to do with the vocation of the priest, who must preach, and preach the truth? who must teach in accordance with Tradition! We can thus see how ought to be the Chair of Truth and Wisdom has become, in the best of cases, a Chair of Confusion, and in the worst of cases, a Chair of Error. This is  dreadful! Yet, this is what we are witnessing today. The sacrifice of the Mass is diminished, blurred, obscured to the point that it even becomes an obstacle to faith and the grace of our Lord and to the real Catholic spirit, which is founded upon the sacrifice of the Cross! This is dreadful. Speaking of the sons of Heli the priest, Scripture says: “Wherefore the sin of the young men was exceeding great before the Lord: because they withdrew men from the sacrifice of the Lord” (I Kings 2:17). Their sins  were serious since they were condemned by God; and they died because of them.

In any case, all of this shows how important and necessary were the consecrations which took place 20 years ago. If the consecrations were performed, it was precisely to ensure the survival of the Catholic priesthood. And today we are proud of the consecrations. We take pride in this act, not as if it were some kind of rebellion against the authority of the pope, nor do we glory in its seeming disobedience, but we do take pride in it for its true resistance to the destruction of the priesthood, and inasmuch as we did it only to safeguard the Catholic priesthood. Whoever safeguards the priesthood also safeguards the Catholic Faith and the Church. For this reason, we are also proud of the figure of Archbishop Lefebvre. In this context, his figure stands out as that of a giant. For, let us not forget it, the Archbishop was the main savior of Tradition. We are often told: “You are Lefebvrites.” And we always retort: “We are not Lefebvrists, we are Catholics. But I nevertheless underline that we are disciples of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and very proud of it.."

We should not let ourselves be drawn into the logic or semantics of our enemies. Of course, the term “Lefebvrist” is derogatory, and means that we are Catholics because we are Lefebvrists. It is quite the contrary: because we are Catholics and because Archbishop Lefebvre was Catholic, we are his disciples. Nowadays it is the very reverse: people believe because they obey; they do not obey because they believe. For them, supernatural faith does not come first, but obedience. You are a Catholic if you obey and not because you believe. But obedience is a consequence of faith. If we have adhered to this savior of Tradition, it is because he was truly Catholic. That being said, we are indeed proud to be known as his disciples. We are very happy to have shared in this fight; we shall still be very happy to carry on, and to share the sufferings, trials, adversities, and even the condemnations he endured. We are not ashamed of the Gospel of our Lord. We are not ashamed of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not ashamed of the Catholic Faith of all time. We are not ashamed of the Catholic Church of all time. Consequently, we are not ashamed of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

Our Relations with Rome Should Be Envisaged in Light of the Catholic Faith

This leads me to speak to you briefly about the current situation. You may have heard that we had received an ultimatum from Rome, from Cardinal Castrillon. “Ultimatum” is a bit too strong a word, according to me. Obviously, they mean this to disturb us, to scare us by pressuring us into the direction of a purely practical agreement, which has always been His Eminence’s proposal.   Of course, you already know our way of thinking.  This way is a dead end; and for us it is the way to death. To go this way is out of question. We cannot undertake to betray the public profession of the Faith. It is out of the question and simply impossible. Inasmuch as we was to safeguard Tradition and build up the mystical edifice which is the Church, we cannot lend a hand to a work of destruction. I let you reflect upon all that I have already said, and you will see that it is impossible. Our reply to Rome is along the lines of what we have already been requesting for a long time, namely a series of steps with the preconditions. These might possibly lead to a discussion, to a theological confrontation, and even more than just a theological confrontation, a doctrinal one, and I would even go further than “doctrinal” and say a confrontation with the acts of the Magisterium, and ultimately with the Faith. This is the only path we are ready to tread. This is the only procedure we are requesting. Obviously, the answer of the Society points in this direction, and it will always point this way.

What does the near future hold in store for us? I do not know. I think that most probably, all this will result in a pause, a stagnation in our contacts with Rome. Less probably it may bring about a new declaration against us. And even less probably, it may lead to the withdrawal of the decree of excommunication prior to a discussion about the Catholic faith. Discussion, if we may call it so, as I have just explained it to you. So, I gave you these probabilities in what I consider as a decreasing order. Yet, it is only a matter of personal conjecture.

The Help of Providence and the Blessed Virgin’s Protection

By way of conclusion, I remind you, dear ordinands and dear confreres, of the words of our Lord before His ascension into heaven, words which seems to me to contain as it were the very essence of the Gospel: “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth” (Mt. 28:18). Thus spoke Christ the King of the universe is speaking, the Master of History and the Church. Then, Christ the Priest, Doctor of Truth, said: “Going therefore, teach all nations” (Mt. 28:19).. Christ the Truth tells us: “Baptiz[e] them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost" (28:19). These are the words of Christ the Life, Christ the Priest, the Giver of grace who command us to convert them and give them grace. “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:20). Here, Christ the Legislator establishes the moral law and asks us to teach it. “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16): thus Christ the Judge and Rewarder forewarns us. “And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Mt. 28:20). By these words, Christ the Savior, Redeemer; Christ the Head of the Church, the Sacred Heart of Jesus promises His help in His might and mercy. So, then, we have nothing to fear, as He said to the apostles: “Have confidence, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). Our Lord is not speaking only of world of the worldly; the context shows that His overcoming the world includes the ecclesiastical authorities of the time, since shortly before this statement He was speaking of the Pharisees and Sadducees. In other words, Our Lord has triumphed over all his enemies. And we are in the service of this most powerful Lord, King of kings and Lord of lords, so we have nothing to fear.

In the future, Providence will give us what is good for us, as always — sometimes sufferings or trials, or sometimes a respite or victory in a small battle. We do not know the future, nor where the history of the world, and of the Church herself will end, nor what God has in store for us. But whether it be suffering or combat, joy or victory, we are equally confident, for our hope rests upon God, His Providence, and our Lord Jesus Christ. And that is why we pray today especially to the most Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculata, the Virgin most pure, because she is the safe and sure way to go to our Lord Jesus Christ and to live the life of Christ. It is the Immaculata who has received the promise of victory: Ipsa conteret she shall crush thy head” (Gen. 3:15). The victory has already begun by Mary; the final victory will come through the Immaculata, by the triumph of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Let us have this confidence; and let us be courageous in the exercise of our ministry and  the ever more perfect fulfillment of the demands of the Catholic priesthood.


The headings and Scriptural references have been added by DICI.

  © 2013                    home                    contact