The Confirmations at the new seminary provided a touching interaction to all who witnessed it - not just the confirmands.
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With the kind permission of the website One Peter 5, we reproduce Maike Hickson's commentary on and transcription of Bishop Bernard Fellay's Confirmation sermon given at the Society of St. Pius X's new seminary in Virginia.
On 4 November, 2016 – the day of the opening ceremony of the new seminary of the Society of St. Pius X in Dillwyn, Virginia – three little children were blessed to be confirmed by His Excellency Bishop Bernard Fellay. Everything surrounding this little ceremony – with some twenty priests, seminarians and different family members gathered around – turned an otherwise small event into something very large and holy. Each individual who was present there will no doubt count it as one of the great blessings of his life.
As with so many such blessings, it started with a cross. The confirmations were to start in the evening, at 6:30 pm, after the long opening ceremony for the seminary. The small group of families, sponsors, and seminarians was gathered around in the provisional chapel of the seminary (which shall one day be replaced by a larger, more beautiful church adjacent to the seminary) when suddenly a seminarian walked up the aisle, stood in front of the faithful, and told them that Bishop Fellay just had had an accident, and that he had injured his foot. Some medical experts were just then examining him, the seminarian said. We were to wait another thirty minutes in order to be further instructed. As it turned out, we waited an hour or so, not knowing whether the ceremony would take place at all.
It was around eight o’clock in the evening that the seminarian came one last time (after several updates) into the chapel. Since the bishop could not walk, we were invited upstairs to the private chambers of His Excellency so that he could help the Little Ones become Christian Soldiers. When all had gathered in a modest little room, Bishop Fellay came in to greet us. Nobody who was in that room is likely to forget what happened next: Bishop Fellay came in, with his as yet untreated foot – which turned out to have been seriously broken – on crutches, and with a big smile on his face! After first apologizing for the “inconvenience” (!) his injury had caused, Fellay then suddenly said, with an even bigger smile: “This is a very good sign! It is a very good sign, because it shows that the devil is very angry that these little children receive the Sacrament of Confirmation!”
The faithful present were astonished. How was it that this holy man smiled through the pain of a broken foot and yet rejoiced over obstacles put into his way? (One lady present said later that she had once had a broken foot; she confessed that she was not able to sleep all night because of how much it hurt.) And how was it that he ignored his suffering and did not allow such obstacles to hinder him from performing what might have otherwise be seen as only a small ceremony for just three children?
It was not much later that we were given a little more insight into Bishop Fellay’s deeply rooted conviction and principles. As soon as he was able to perform the ceremony – he had to be seated carefully – his eyes lit up even more. He completely focused his attention on the little children, looking only into their eyes – and quite intensely so – in order to explain to them the greatness of the Sacrament of Confirmation. His eyes were radiant and glowing when he explained to the children with words they could understand what they were about to receive. The warmth of his gaze toward the little ones was touching, as were his smile and tone of voice. It was quite a witness to us adults, seeing how a man of his stature paid no heed whatsoever to the adults around him, and how he gave his best to prepare the hearts of the little ones for the sacrament, and in a language that they might understand. Bishop Fellay had no prepared remarks, yet he cheerfully and with great concentration spoke for about twenty minutes or so, in what was for him a foreign language, and all without any sign of rushing or impatience. He was fully present for the children, acting as a supreme pastor for their souls.
Thankfully, I was able to record most of what His Excellency said. I received permission to make use of the transcript I have produced of those remarks in order to spread to as many Catholics as possible the radiant depiction of this channel of grace and a glimpse of the abundant graces we received that night in a bare room, in the twilight. The words speak for themselves and will bring us all back to the foundations of our beloved Faith. Since His Excellency, despite his poignant efforts, could still not kneel, as is traditional when singing the first stanza of the Veni Creator Spiritus, the very beautiful Latin chant to the Holy Ghost, he asked us to recite the very beautiful prayer to the Holy Ghost aloud and together.
Here now the transcript which I have produced to the best of my ability:
His Excellency, Bishop Bernard Fellay:
[A few introductory sentences are missing at the beginning where His Excellency introduces the theme of the Sacraments.]
All the Sacraments, God wanted them, and He did institute all of them. Now, when God does something, it means it is important. And you know that Confirmation, you receive it only once in your life. You receive it only once in your life because it is going to give you something which you will never lose. Whatever will happen to you, you will have it. It is a mark. The Holy Ghost will come into your soul today and will mark your soul. This mark does not go away. You see, there are other things which God has given to us, that we would call a Grace. Unfortunately, the people who are in mortal sin, they lose this Grace; this mark [this sacramental “character”], they don’t lose.
This mark is going to consecrate you to the Holy Ghost. Consecrated things are made holy, like a bell, like a ciborium, like an altar – when they are consecrated, they are made holy. And this is going to happen, at the very moment when the bishop is going to make a cross on your forehead. At the same time, I will say: “I sign you with the sign of the Cross.” That is exactly what we call a Sacrament. It is a visible sign, you can see, you can hear, but the sign indicates something else.
The difference between the Sacrament and the other signs: the other signs just indicate something. When you are on the road, and you see “Richmond, so many miles,” you know that when you go that way, you will get to Richmond. But these signs don’t change things.
The Sacraments. When you have here the sign, they will not only indicate something, but they will produce things. So, we have the sign, outside, and in your soul, at that moment, this mark – you see the mark, the sign of the Cross is a mark, and the words “I mark you with the sign of the Cross” these are words which are the same – then you have a sign in your soul. You receive this sign, this mark.
This mark is very special. It is, as I said, consecrating you, it is making out of you an instrument in the hands of the Holy Ghost. But it is a different instrument than the ones that I use as a tool. You use, for example, a pencil, that is, an instrument which allows you to write. A knife is an instrument that allows you to cut. A car is an instrument that allows you to drive. But you see, all of these instruments, they simply obey. If you take the pencil into your hand, you move it, that is it. The pencil is very docile. I have never seen a pencil which runs away so that one has to grab it. That does not exist, it is very docile.
We are instruments that are free. That is, we are instruments that can still move, and that is very special. And we will call it “instrument” because the agent – which is the Holy Ghost – will use even your free will to do the thing. And what thing does He do? (Pause. Continues slowly:) Ah. He joins you, or He makes you sink into the Mission of Jesus. Jesus has a mission. What does it mean, “mission”? We have a mission when somebody sends us to do something. And God the Father sent God the Son to save us. This is so true that the name He received from the Father is Jesus. Jesus means “Savior”. It expresses the mission of Jesus Our Lord. And He became flesh and assumed the human nature with which He was able to do His mission. And He died on the Cross. That is the way He saved us.
Now, before going back to Heaven, He transmitted His mission to the Apostles, to the Church. The Church is Jesus, but not Jesus on His own, but Jesus with the souls united with Himself through Baptism. With the greatness of Confirmation comes this very special call from Our Lord. He is calling you. He wants you to help Him. He does not need your help, if He wants it to save souls. Precisely this character will put you into this mission. That is why we call you from that moment on Soldier of Christ, because to save souls means fight. Why fight? Because the devil will do whatever he can to prevent souls from going to Heaven. So, those who will have to help Jesus will have to fight. You see, that is why you are soldiers. But you must not fear, because He is going to give you all the strength you need.
That is the second part of Confirmation. I say second, but all of it is happening at the same time. So this gives you a mark, it gives you a mission, and now He is going to put into you an incredible strength.
First, He is going to increase what we call the Sanctifying Grace. That which we have received in Baptism. Sanctifying Grace. What does it mean sanctifying? “Sancti” means saints, “fying” means to make. To make saints. The Grace that makes a saint. You received it at Baptism. That is why, without Grace, if you die, you go to hell. Only those who have it can go to Heaven. In Heaven, there are only saints. But there are degrees. They have more or less so that those with more Grace will have a nicer place in Heaven. And today, He wants to increase how much the level with which you started at Baptism? Three times? Ten times? One hundred times?
We don’t have words to say it. There is only one word we know. And the word is: fullness. Fullness that makes your soul filled. [short interruption of recording] There are ways for us to grasp this. I can give you one, but that is not enough. You see the difference between the moon and the sun. The moon is giving some light that you can look at it without being bothered. The sun is giving so much light that you cannot look at it, you would hurt your eyes. So, there is an increase in light between them both. That is an example for an increase of Grace that you will receive today. That means you will increase much more, much more in Grace. I will say this for you: for God, one Confirmation is something greater than the creation of all the creatures – all the stars, all these moons, planets, all the animals on earth, and so on. God, when He was doing that, He was doing less than what He is doing with one Confirmation. It is difficult to understand, but it is true.
So, He will give you an enormous increase in Grace. Now you have to understand that on the same level, He is going to increase all of your virtues, in the same proportion, you will receive an increase in Faith, Hope, Charity, Justice, Temperance, all the virtues now elevated in one person, like this (lifts his arms into the air). You are going to make progress, a great progress. The problem is you are not going to feel it. You cannot feel it because it is too high, too high for our means of measuring. It is only the Faith which tells us that. You see, when we talk about Confirmation, we hardly say a word about that. We insist upon one point, which we call the Gifts of the Holy Ghost. Because, there is something we have already received in Baptism, also, but the enormous jump in these [Seven Gifts]. So now, what are these going to do? The Gifts will make you docile, docile to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost. You see, as Saint Paul says it to us, it is very wonderful, those who are moved by the spirit of God are children of God. So you want to be children of God. For that we need that God moves us. [Short interruption of recording]
[So when we say God Our Father,] He is first in us, He helps us. He says it! He says it! And He grabs us, He puts us into this prayer. So every time you say “Our Father,” it is not you, it is He, the Holy Ghost who says it. He wants to help us, to help you. You don’t see it. You see, we have different examples of this. For example, Saint Paul says no soul can say “Jesus is God,” “Jesus is the Lord,” nobody can say “Jesus is the Lord,” if not in the Holy Ghost. So, every time we say “of course Jesus is God,” we say it because the Holy Ghost is pushing us to say it. So, every time we say “Our Father,” remember that He is putting that into you. Because He is the one who is in charge, with the Father and the Son, to make you children of God.
Now I will describe to you quickly what happens to you when you follow these inspirations. Suddenly, you have in your mind a good idea. You are doing [something] – whatever you do – suddenly there is this idea. We call that an inspiration. It is an invitation to do something good. It can be a prayer, a sacrifice, to do your duty, it can be at play or at work, to be fair, don’t be bad, it can be anything; don’t say a bad word; help Mom; do your homework; any kind of good idea!
And when you follow – when you have that idea and you say, okay, I am going to do it! – (and sometimes you say: no, I am not going to do it; sometimes there is a little bit of a fight in us and you say no, I don’t do it). But sometimes, we just do it. And when you do it, you are not alone. I am giving you an example. I give you a pencil. And I say: “Now, you make a drawing.” You then make your drawing. You take a pencil and you try to make a drawing. That’s once. That’s when YOU do it.
Now, let’s suppose, you get the pencil, a paper, and we have a tremendous artist who comes by. You are going to say: do help me do it. He grabs your hand which holds the pencil, then leads your hand, with the pencil, on the paper. This time, as far as you follow this slightest movement of the artist, you have a masterpiece. It is the Holy Ghost who did it! Leading you. So, every time, you just follow the inspiration, the Holy Ghost is doing a marvel. Can you grasp that? You have the impression that you do it, but as long as you stay a friend of His inspirations, what is happening is a masterpiece.
So, that is why these Gifts are so important. The Holy Ghost will come today to you, wants to make out of all of your actions a masterpiece. He wants to make you beautiful! As Saint Paul says – and so it is in the Holy Scriptures – God tells us what He wants us to do, and he says it this way: the Holy Ghost wants us to grow in the shining living image of the Son of God. So, He wants us to grow from the shining of the moon to the shining of the sun – or even more! And He does the job, as long as we just follow.
That is all, that is the major part of the Sacrament you are about to receive.
So, we ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Spouse of the Holy Ghost, that she may help you, prepare you to receive the Sacrament the best you can. We ask also for the Grace for you – but also for those who are present here – that is, that all of us, we may be always faithful to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, so that every day, we may really grow, as real children of God – not children of this world – that this will lead our souls, many souls, to God, to Heaven, that we may save souls.
So, the ceremony, we will start this way: First, we will ask for the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, and every time we ask with “Amen”. And then the second part, you will come here, where I am sitting, and we will have Confirmation here, you will be accompanied by your sponsor, who will put his right hand on your right shoulder, and you will kneel down here, we anoint you, and then afterward the ceremony, you will go over there to have Father remove the Chrism from your forehead, and then you will go back to your place. And then there is another prayer, and I will give you the blessing, and then we will pray the Profession of Faith.
Now let us start with the first prayer…
Special thanks to Maike Hickson of One Peter 5 for the article and photo of the Confirmation ceremony.