Good Shepherd Sunday: A parishioner’s praise of her two persecuted parish priests
April 16, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — To the glorious sacred hymn sung by the parish’s justly celebrated choir, the lone priest appeared and slowly processed down the main aisle to the high altar, unaccompanied by the usual cortege of numerous long-robed altar servers proudly bearing the golden cross and gently swinging the incense burner. “I had tears in my eyes,” said Marie, my friend and fellow parishioner; “he looked like Jesus-Christ walking all alone to the sacrificial altar.” This was the first solemn high Mass, celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter, following a harrowing week of frenzied mainstream media attacks against this meek and mild priest, Fr. Gabriel Grodziski, vicar of the parish, and even more so against Canon Marc Guelfucci, the courageous priest-in-charge of Saint-Eugène Sainte-Cécile Church in Paris, France, a parish well-known in the French capital for its beautiful and reverent celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. The trouble all began when a non-Catholic 31-year-old man, who had attended the Easter Vigil Mass at the parish for his brother’s christening, decided that the best way to celebrate such a beautiful occasion was to denounce the parish priests to the journalists of a widely circulated Parisian newspaper.
Denounce them for what, you ask? Well, what apparently shocked him the most was seeing the priest celebrate Holy Mass unmasked and give the Holy Eucharist on the tongue. The media outlet, as anti-Catholic as any other, showed the video of the unmasked procession to the baptismal font as well as the Communion of the altar servers, but replaced the sacred music with their own biased commentary accompanied by pandemic-style background noise. The jarring contrast between the sublime solemnity of the sacred liturgy, so familiar to me, and the odious calumnies and fear-inspiring sound effects, were profoundly painful to see and hear. This video unleashed a week-long firestorm of attacks targeting our priests, on the part of all the mainstream media. But the media lynching was only the beginning of the trouble. It was utterly unbearable to see my beloved parish priests dragged in the mud and treated like criminals and evil-doers, not only by the media, but also by civil and religious authorities.
Imagine the horror I felt when the vicar, whom I venerate as a truly holy priest, sent me a text message early this past Thursday morning, informing me that he and the parish pastor were being taken into custody for a police interrogation that could last up to 48 hours! This good priest was profoundly at peace, quite serene, and even joyful: “Christ is Risen, Alleluia!” was all the commentary he added to his message. Fortunately, the police officers didn’t have the stomach to place these good priests in a prison cell overnight and decided to set them free before nightfall. Needless to say, they have been accompanied by the prayers not only of their parishioners, but of innumerable Catholics throughout France, reciting countless rosaries and novenas for these priests and their parish. And these prayers will continue, for the end of their trials is not yet in sight.
However, my reason for penning these words is not so much to retell the horror of this past week, which I’d rather forget, but rather to do two things: I wish to ponder over just how deep is our faith in the True Presence of Our Lord if we believe that there is even the slightest risk of being infected with a virus by receiving Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in the traditional manner; and secondly, I wish to make a public act of reparation for the offenses suffered by Our Lord in the person of his faithful shepherds.
How deeply do we believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Our God?
Most so-called Catholics nowadays (around 70%) do not believe in the miracle of transubstantiation and in the True Presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. No wonder that they don’t hesitate to adopt the whole new cult-like COVID ritual for receiving Communion. But what about the true Catholics who actually profess the Faith? How deeply do we actually believe in the Presence of God, who is Goodness, who is Love in his very Essence, if we believe, even for a second, that He could transmit anything but life-giving goodness when we receive him in the Blessed Sacrament? If we willingly accept the purportedly necessary protocol of receiving Communion in the hand, from masked priests whose hands are dutifully sanitized, so as to avoid becoming infected with the virus, what sort of God do we believe in? If we profess that He is Good, then perhaps we do not believe that He is Almighty? As a simple faithful Catholic, I personally find absolutely repugnant the mere idea that the Almighty Good God could or would transmit an evil illness precisely at the very moment when He, at every Holy Mass, by an immense miracle of divine love, becomes truly present in the Sacred Host, and is given to us from the consecrated hands of his ordained priest acting in persona Christi.
These were the thoughts that were running through my mind this past week, not so much when I heard, unsurprisingly, the mainstream secular French media express shock at the priest’s placing the “wafers” directly on the tongue of communicants, but rather when, somewhat astonishingly, an auxiliary bishop of Paris echoed these same sentiments. Here’s how he expressed his regret that the priest did not respect the proper manner of giving Communion, with a mask and in the hand, as ordered by the archbishop of Paris: “As Easter is the victory of life over death, it would be quite paradoxical if we transmitted a contamination on the occasion of this celebration of life.” What are we to think of such a profession of faith? Does this bishop actually believe in the True Presence? If so, the True Presence of what sort of God? So I, personally, wondered and wonder still.
By contrast, quite another faith in the True Presence is, in my opinion, expressed by the very gestures of the vicar who celebrated the Easter Vigil mass that went viral last week. A good idea of the depth of his Faith in Our Eucharistic Lord could be summed up in the following, seemingly insignificant, anecdote. My son, visiting for the Christmas holidays this past December, said to me at the end of Mass, about this priest whom he had never seen before: “You’re right, Mom, he really is a holy priest.” I reacted with surprise, saying: “How could you possibly come to that conclusion since he spent most of Mass in the confessional?” His response is revealing: “It’s the way he gives Holy Communion.” That about sums it up. The reverence and love his gestures express are a most eloquent form of silent preaching, a moving testimony of profound faith.
Reducing the Holy Mass to a masquerade, a counter-testimony of our Faith?
Returning to this first solemn high Mass celebrated just after the eventful past week, here are some luminous remarks our vicar made in his homily concerning the importance, for the integrity of our Faith, of respecting the sacredness of the liturgy: “How can we bear witness that Jesus Christ is God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, born of the flesh of the Virgin Mary? … Simply by performing only the acts which are in conformity with our Faith in the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and by clearly rejecting, before the eyes of the world, those which are contrary to our Faith in the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, or which manifest a certain ambiguity. Reducing the Holy Mass to a masquerade, to a masked spectacle, is it not a counter-testimony of our Faith in the sacraments …? How can we make the world believe and bear witness that for us, Catholics, the Holy Mass is a real sacrifice which makes truly sacramentally present the bloody sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, and that during the Holy Mass an immense mystery takes place, if the Holy Mass is disfigured, if its sacred character is veiled, if not violated in its appearances? For truly each and every sign either conveys or obstructs the grace which, while transcending its materiality, employs it as a channel. If we use a sign that ridicules the Holy Mass, we desecrate it and, in the eyes of the world, it is the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, and the salvation as God that He has merited for us, which is despised, and so, ultimately, in the eyes of the world, it is his divinity which is no longer confessed.”
And he concluded by explaining to his parishioners why he had preferred the absence of the altar servers to what otherwise would necessarily have been a masked parade: “As you have noticed, I am celebrating this morning without altar servers. It is not, of course, that they have fled and deserted our parish. On the contrary, they are very faithful to our parish, but it is a liturgical choice. It is a choice, which I asked Monsieur le Curé to be able to make, in order to remain faithful to the spirit of the liturgy as we try to teach it and also to live it at Saint-Eugène. May our liturgy bear a clear witness to the transcendence of the Holy Mass and, thus, be a true confession of the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and not make God a liar, as Saint John asks of us in the conclusion of his Epistle. May this liturgy be free from any ambiguity or counter-testimony. Thanks to our efforts to remain faithful to the authentic spirit of the liturgy, may the imperative use of the mask during Communion, as it has been strictly imposed upon us, allow us to avoid this detestable fault and merit for us the mercy of God.”
Indeed, God did show his mercy at this Mass, for, just after listening to a letter written by the archbishop, who had ordered that it be read aloud at this Mass, in which the priests were soundly reprimanded for putting God before Caesar, Monsieur le Curé himself pulled out yet another letter, this one addressed to him personally, by Cardinal Robert Sarah, so well-known and venerated by French Catholics, in which he expressed his great sympathy and whole-hearted support for our beloved priests, gave his blessing and promised his fervent prayers. Those consoling words from the good cardinal, in contrast with the harsh words of the archbishop, were like a soothing balm on our hearts, and more importantly, on the hearts of our priests.
Acts of reparation for the outrages suffered by Our Lord in the person of his priests
I would invite all Catholics, on this coming Good Shepherd Sunday, to make acts of reparation for the outrages suffered by Our Lord Jesus Christ in the person of his faithful priests, who are Alteri Christi for us. When our priests are pursued and persecuted, it is Our Lord who is pursued and persecuted, as he was once pursued and persecuted by the soldiers of Herod during the flight into Egypt. Cardinal Sarah has said that the Church today is living out her Passion, her Good Friday. The current persecution of the Church worldwide, whether it be full-blown persecution or the mere rumblings of thunder announcing the imminent storm, is a clear sign that the Church on earth must follow the Mother and her Son on the Way of the Cross, with the priests at the head of this procession of the faithful, knowing that those who will walk on this Way of the Cross will not be alone, because Our Sorrowful Mother will be by their side and will support them. It is up to us, along the Way to Calvary, to wipe the face of Christ, just like Saint Veronica did, in order to remove a little bit of the spit, the blood, and the mud which disfigure the face of Our Lord. We, too, can imitate this beautiful gesture of Saint Veronica, who, by her simple act, wished to relieve the pains of Christ. We can do this by making reparation for the outrages that Our Lord suffers in the person of his priests. If Our Lord is spat upon, in the person of our Alteri Christi, we too, through our prayers, can wipe some of the filth from his face.
Thanks to all faithful and courageous shepherds on this Good Shepherd Sunday
Finally, let’s all express our gratitude to all the good shepherds, throughout the world, who have courageously celebrated Holy Mass in a reverent manner despite unjust intrusions by governments across the globe for over a year now, since the beginning of our current turmoil. Let’s not forget how much the deprivation of the Holy Mass is painful for us, by showing to our priests our reverence and our gratitude, because, without them, we would be deprived of the Holy Mass, we would be deprived of the Holy Eucharist, of this spiritual nourishment which sustains us during our earthly pilgrimage. Let us never forget that, without our priests, who act for us in persona Christi, we are deprived of this immense gift that God wanted to give us by giving us his priests, and we are deprived of the immense miracle that occurs at each and every Holy Mass, where Our God himself nourishes us with his Body and his Blood in the Holy Eucharist.
As a sign of our gratitude, let’s entrust our priests to Mary, Mother of all priests, and especially of persecuted priests, and let’s pray that the Mediatrix of All Graces will keep our priests under her protective mantle, close to her Immaculate Heart, where they will receive all the consolation and loving devotion due to them as the truly faithful shepherds, who give their lives for their flock, in order to lead them to the one Good Shepherd, Our Lord Jesus-Christ.