Sermon delivered by Abbé Benoît de Jorna, Superior of the District of France, on March 13, 2021, during the Mass celebrated in the Basilica of Pontmain on the occasion of 150 years of the apparition of Our Lady.
In the name of the Father and of the Son of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It was the night of January 17th to 18th, 1871, and an unjustified tactical change occurred on the part of the Prussians. On January 18th, 2 km from Laval, the last battles ended to the advantage of the French army, although it was not in good shape. On January 20th, the German troops evacuated Mayenne and on January 28th the armistice was signed. Who stopped the Prussian armies on their way to victory? By coming to Pontmain on the evening of January 17th, the Blessed Virgin Mary essentially did a large-scale political action, accompanied by a military action.
It is true the saying, what they say about the Blessed Virgin: “You are beautiful and graceful, daughter of Jerusalem, you are terrible like an army arrayed in battle.” On this memorable night, Blessed Mary faces not only an army but the world, and at this moment the world of today. It is truly good and salutary to honor Our Lady in Pontmain in order to remain firm in the faith in the face of the current utopia advocated, unfortunately, by the heads of state, and even worse, by the princes of the Church. The Blessed Virgin Mary is gracious as is the Immaculate Conception. The Blessed Virgin Mary is also terribly warlike. The Blessed Virgin Mary is always the victorious queen.
No peace without the Virgin Mary
At a time when the Head of State has gone to war against a microscopic virus and is imposing drastic measures on worship, of which we are victims, it is good to remember that without the Mother of God, there is no true peace. Especially at a time when the Prince of the Church, unfortunately, advocates the abolition of all war, it is good to remember that Mary in Pontmain does not speak of the suppression of conflicts but speaks of victory, which is another program! Let us beware of the current sirens, the frightening irenicism of the princes of the Church, the ruinous dialogue of those who should defend Christ the King. The implausible utopia of the current civil and ecclesiastical leaders is damaging the political city and the visible society that is the Catholic Church. St. Augustine was more realistic, defending in his masterpiece The City of God, the origin and final destiny of our sinful humanity. Sinful in which, he said, two loves have built two cities: that of the earth by the love of self to the point of contempt for God, that of the love of Heaven by the love of God to the point of contempt for self.
There is and will always be only one reason for war, and that is the threefold concupiscence described very simply by the disciple whom Jesus loved more than the others, St. John, who said: “Everything in the world is either concupiscence of the flesh, or concupiscence of the eyes, or pride of life.” St. Augustine knew this, St. Augustine lived it, St. Augustine experienced it, and St. Augustine fought it, because his own land, the Africa of the past, was at that time agitated by schismatic Donatists, by military rebellions, by political expeditions, by barbarian uprisings. Far from him the grotesque cry “never again war.” Saint Augustine knew very well that all humanity, wounded and corrupted by original sin, is too often wounded by the refusal of the supernatural order in which we unfortunately live. Taking the opposite view of a blissful optimism, this Doctor shows that the chaff is mixed with the good grain in society as well as in the heart of each person.
In Pontmain, the Mother of God, gently victorious, has a suit of armor, this suit of armor is her blue garment strewn with stars. The star-studded night sky signifies faith, the faith that allows us to reach, to discover, the sky of the stars, but only when it is night, because faith, as St. Paul says, is “the vision of God in the enigma,” in the night, and the stars can only be seen in this night in which we are. We know very well that those who are victorious, victorious over the world, are those who have faith because, as the beloved apostle of Jesus, St. John, says, “those who are born of God are victorious over the world, and this victory by which the world is overcome,” says St. John, “is the effect of our faith, and faith is summed up - and this is important today - in believing in the one true God, who is the Trinity, and in the One who has been sent: Jesus Christ.”
Mary, not only is adorned with this beautiful starry blue garment but is also beautifully decorated with this beautiful crown. Her beautiful armor, her seamless dress, that soft armor of fabric, light armor on which all the features of the devil and the wicked always come to a halt, Mary not only has this delicate, light, fragile - and yet so strong - armor, but Mary also has a golden crown, a huge golden crown - 20 cm high - on her head because victory is assured. The Mother of God could never be defeated for any reason, she defeated the devil and all his minions, she said some years ago in Lourdes: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” This golden crown is her permanent and definitive victory, it shows that the Blessed Virgin is victorious and not abolishing the war.
Sweet Mary, warrior yet victorious, is our refuge. In our times troubled by wars, whether muted or manifest, and especially by this official war of secularism against the Church, let us turn with confidence to Our Lady of Pontmain, terribly victorious and magnificently adorned with this soft and delicate armor, blue as the sky, and with this golden crown of victory.
Not only is Mary terribly victorious, but she is also graceful as is the Immaculate Conception. At the first stage of the apparition the Lady, the children said, had her arms crossed, her hands open, and they added “her face was of incomparable beauty and she was smiling,” she was smiling and she was looking at the children with a smile they said “of infinite sweetness.” Here is the great victor, here is the beautiful and graceful one.
“Here she is laughing,” the children report, and the story is known. The children, the faithful, come and go for what only children could see. All of them could then have sung to Mary this famous psalm, Psalm 67, that the Hebrews sang to celebrate the victory of God. This is what the Hebrews said, which can be attributed to the Blessed Virgin: “Let God arise, let our enemies be dissipated, let those who hate him flee before his face as smoke disappears, let them disappear as wax melts before the fire, let the enemies, the sinners, perish in Gehenna from before the face of God. Let the righteous, says the psalmist, be as in a feast, let them rejoice in the presence of God, let them be filled with joy.”
We can say the same thing, we are approaching Our Lady of Pontmain here. We are indeed, although in peril, in the transport of joy because we are in the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary by faith.
Heaven and the Cross
The good people of Pontmain, at the time of the war, were in fear. The good people were in fear. The war was at the gates, their children were at the front: would they come back alive, wounded, dead? But the beautiful Mary appears, the gracious Mother of God arrives and everything returns to order, to the tranquility of order, that is, to peace... anxiety gives way to calm. Human anguish gives way to security, to supernatural serenity.
Sweet Mary then sends this message, it is written to be sure: “but pray my children.” The “but” is initial and solemn, it transforms the tears of anxiety into joy, as Jesus had said, it is the tears that are transformed into joy and the Blessed Virgin insists: “but...”. And this “but” which enjoins the children to pray, this written “but,” this “but” shows the tenderness of a mother towards the children whom she urges to act: “but pray therefore!” It is a very small prayer of very small children which in a way challenges the power of God, Creator and Master of all things.
God, as the Mother of God who is Jesus Christ said - there is no other - God who is Jesus Christ “lets himself be touched,” his Mother intervened as at Cana. The hour has come and this hour is always the same, it is the hour of the Cross. The well-dressed Virgin, the crowned Virgin, the Mother of God, the Mother in Heaven, “becomes darkened,” as the children say. Yet she is darkened without weeping, but she returns to the foot of the Cross. The Sacrifice of Our Lord appears in this little red cross that the Blessed Virgin will carry. The Blessed Virgin carries this cross on this blue starry background as if to show the contrast: Heaven and the Cross. Neither one nor the other can be divided: Heaven is with the Cross, the Cross is with Heaven.
This is what shows Mary's love for her children, which we are, but also the reason for this love for us: God's love for his Son. As she holds this instrument of salvation in her hands, so say the children, “her lips trembled a little,” yes they did. Through this Cross, through this instrument, order has returned and peace has been achieved, the armistice will be signed, peace is established, grace triumphs, Mary's face once again lights up, victory is achieved. Military victory, but also victory over souls.
We can do everything through Mary
This is why it is good to pray to the Virgin of Pontmain today. Why? Because she said it, her Son lets Himself be touched. On January 18th, 2 km from Laval, the last fighting stopped, the children prayed, the cause is heard, the victory is granted. Coming to Pontmain is certainly a beautiful opportunity - unfortunately there are not many of us - to see the power of prayer, ours, Mary's, on the Heart of Jesus and this power is conferred by Mary. It is up to us to address her as her children, docile and trusting.
The real fighters, the sure victors, are those who, strengthened by hope, rely completely, totally, on the Divine Power, on the sacrifice of the Cross, brought to life at Mass. All of this is based on the virtue of hope, which is so lacking today, its ingenuity, which should shine through, is often missing. Its innocent sincerity which should make our souls, our faces, happy, perhaps lacks veracity. The simplicity of our hope is perhaps still a little confusedly lacking. In this world in which we live, in this world of war, almost under terror, at the same time as in this aphrodisiac world, it is urgent to pray to Our Lady of Pontmain, Our Lady of Hope. We are fighting for the kingdom of heaven, not for the earth, we are fighting for the triumph of Christ over the political city, we are fighting for the honor of the Church mocked by secularism, we are fighting for the glory of Mary Mother of God, the only Savior.
But we need, in addition to faith, that virtue of hope which made Saint Paul say “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” With him we can say: “We can do all things in Mary, we can do all things through Mary.” May she grant us victory over sin and over our enemies.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Father Benoît de Jorna is the current superior of the District of France of the Society of Saint Pius X. He was previously the Rector of the Seminary of Saint Pius X in Ecône.