Marriage: from writings of Archbishop Lefebvre

The following text has been extracted from The Spiritual Life: Writings of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.


The present chapter is not meant as a complete treatise on marriage, but rather as a summary of principles, many of which have already been expressed over the course of this book and illustrated with practical advice. Archbishop Lefebvre does not claim to offer ready-made solutions to resolve particular cases, but gives principles which will allow parents to sanctify themselves and educate their children in a Christian manner. He reminds Christian spouses that their nature is wounded, he redefines true love, and finally he insists on the central place which the Mass and frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist ought to hold in a Catholic home.

1. Christian marriage

The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children. Thus, conjugal union finds its full meaning in paternity and maternity. Marriage is likewise a source of human perfection for the man and for the woman, who put in common their complementary qualities. Faithful and generous spouses are called to bring one another to maturity in the midst of the joys and pains inherent to every human life, in the midst of the responsibilities which they take on together, and through the profound affection which they bear for one another. In marriage as a sacrament, these values are maintained, purified, elevated, in order to serve the sanctification of the spouses.

A. The institution of marriage

In a few words, Archbishop Lefebvre describes the origin of marriage and its elevation to the dignity of a sacrament.

It is from God that comes the very institution of marriage, its ends, its laws, its bonds; it is men who are the authors of particular marriages in which are bound up the duties and the goods established by God.[320] That is the veritable origin of marriage such as God willed it from all eternity.[321]

It is very important to think about the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ chose to work His first miracle during a marriage. The Church has always considered that presence of our Lord at the wedding feast of Cana as the sanctification of marriage and the manifestation of the institution of the sacrament of marriage.[322]

I think we do not meditate enough on the greatness of marriage. Marriage is too often considered as something purely human, whereas our Lord Jesus Christ willed to make it a sacrament. Our Lord made marriage something divine, something supernatural. May those who are bound by the ties of marriage think a little bit about that.[323]

B. The fruit of the Passion of Jesus

God willed to create woman during the sleep of Adam by drawing from his side what was necessary for the creation of woman. When our Lord bowed His head and died, His heart was pierced and it is from His heart that was born His mystical Spouse, the Church. What a beautiful comparison! The birth of the woman is the symbol of the birth of the Church from the side of our Lord pierced by the lance. And that is the meaning of marriage. The grace of marriage is a grace which comes from the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ and which is symbolized by His sacrifice. So marriage is associated in a very special way with the sacrifice of Calvary. That is why the Church has always willed that marriage be conferred during the sacrifice of the Mass. All that has a remarkable significance, a tremendous significance, and ought to encourage those who are in the bonds of marriage, in their difficulties, in their trials.[324]

C. The properties of marriage

Common sense, which is the expression of true wisdom, along with the Holy Scriptures and Tradition, teaches us that the properties of marriage are two-fold: unity and indissolubility.

These two properties, which refuse on the one hand the presence of a third party in marriage and on the other hand any possibility of breaking the bond established by the contract between the two spouses, plunge their deepest roots in that human nature which God Himself established. The very nature of the matrimo­nial contract, which is to constitute the familial society by the presence of children, absolutely demands the perfect unity and stability of marriage.

St. Thomas says that conjugal fidelity and the procreation of children are implied by the conjugal consent itself, and consequently, if a contrary condition were stipulated in the consent which establishes the marriage, there would in fact be no marriage.[325]

The conjugal union therefore brings everything together in an intimate harmony: souls more closely than bodies.

To admit in the marriage contract that the bond might be broken is not only contrary to the nature of conjugal society, contrary to human nature, but also and especially contrary to the very end of marriage, the domestic society.

What will become of the children, those divided beings, sadder than orphans, who draw from the affection of their mother a hatred for their father, and who learn from the father to curse their mother?[326]

Think of all the divorces, those families torn apart, those children who no longer know whom to go to, their father or their mother, who are abandoned, as it were, who are also completely torn apart. Later, unfortunately, the bad example which they knew in their family will sometimes be for them, too, an encouragement to do evil, because often they were traumatized by what happened in their home.[327]

So can we even imagine a marriage contract that would admit the possibility of such a disintegration of the family and that would threaten the children with an existence forever wounded in its deepest affections? The willed, consented union of two human beings endowed with intelligence and will, for an end such as that of marriage, which consists in a mutual gift with the desire of constituting a family, could never be merely provisional.[328]

D. The marvelous fruits of a Christian marriage

Marriage is for the birth of the Christian family and for the birth of vocations which will come in the future, the birth of children who will consecrate themselves to God. It is truly the birth of the Church. The sanctification of the family by the cross, by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is very important. That is where family virtues are born.

Since society is none other than the gathering of families, then if families sanctify themselves, society will be holy. That is how the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the source of Christian civilization. The Catholic societies that used to exist were built around the altar.[329]

2. The spouses

A. Love God in one's spouse

Here is a passage in the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas which I have often used for sermons at weddings.[330] St. Thomas has two phrases which we have to hold on to. He says in an answer to an objection: We ought to love our neighbor "on account of what he has of God."[331] He also says in the body of the same article: "What we ought to love in our neighbor is that he may be in God."[332] These two considerations are marvelous because they show that I cannot love in my neighbor what is not of God. That is very important. You have to love one another, but with what kind of friendship? For what there is of God in you and so that God might be in you. You have to love your spouse so that he or she might be in God, and that is the true reason for your friendship, the depth of your friendship for one another. You must not love in him or in her what is contrary to God, what draws him away from God. Consequently, you must not foster your spouse's defects or sins or bad tendencies.[333]

Spouses who live selfishly do not actually love each other. That is just selfishness side by side. To love a person because he flatters us or for other reasons like that, is not to love, it is to encourage his faults. With patience and charity, we have to help him correct his defects.[334]

What do a father and a mother do who are conscious of their duties, if not sacrifice themselves for the love of their family and for one another? You have to sacrifice yourself or there is no love. Sacrifice is a condition of love and our Lord showed it to us, His arms stretched on the cross, His hands and feet pierced, His heart opened. That is the sacrifice of our Lord out of love for His Father offended by sin and out of love for His neighbor, for the salvation of souls: a great lesson of love through sacrifice![335]

B. Open your home to life

Conjugal life is a school of generosity and chastity

-1. The welcoming of children

The fruitfulness of the marriage of our Lord and His Church is signified by His Passion, by His blood which flowed to give birth to the whole Christian family. And that is the signification which is applied to the sacrament of marriage.[336]

Just as that union between our Lord Jesus Christ and His mystical Spouse has produced countless children and has been extraordinarily fruitful, so also the spouses have to love one another, give their life for one another if need be that they also may spread natural and supernatural life.[337]

Christian families, I beg of you, keep far from you anything which may hinder the coming of children into your home. There is no more beautiful gift which God can give to a home than to have many children. Have large families; a large family is the glory of the Catholic Church. It was so in Canada, it was so in Holland, it was so in Switzerland, it was so in France; everywhere a large family was the joy of the Church and the prosperity of the Church. They will be so many elect for Heaven. So do not limit the gifts of God, I beg you; do not listen to those abominable slogans which destroy the family, which ruin health, which ruin a household and cause divorce.[336]

It is marvelous—I am not exaggerating—to see the Church continuing in traditional circles with the same kind of families as we had before, not limiting themselves to one or two children. We see five, six, ten children in families. Our circles are overflowing with children, babies in their mothers' arms. The future of the Church is there. And we see the faith and the happiness reflected on the faces of parents, happy to have beautiful Christian families.[339]

-2. The practice of conjugal chastity

Thanks be to God, there still exist Christian homes, homes which live in continence, which live as God asked them to live, as Cluistian parents, with the desire of having many children and raising them in a Christian manner.[340]

It seems to me that the very atmosphere of our religious ceremonies, of the liturgy, teaches us the virtue of chastity, a virtue which is also necessary for people in the married state. What an example for them to see the priest practice that virtue! We could define marriage as a school of continence, the apprenticeship of the virtue of chastity. The practice of this virtue is not always easy in marriage. Consequently, the faithful need the example of priests who express that virtue in their bearing, in their manner of living. It is an absolutely indispensable element in the Church. To the extent that the virginity of priests disappears, it is obvious that the virtue of chastity is going to disappear in Christian homes.[341]

-3. By contact with Jesus in the Host

You see with what delicacy our Lord shows what He is thinking when He changes water into wine at Cana. Our Lord certainly willed to announce the Holy Eucharist as well, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, transubstantiation. What a miracle! The miracle of bread changed into the Body of our Lord and of wine changed into His Blood is much more perfect, much more divine, much more extraordinary, than that of water changed into wine.

It is also a sign that the sanctification of marriage has to take place by the Holy Eucharist. People who are in the path of marriage have to have a great devotion to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and to the Holy Eucharist.[342]

We can say in all truth that spouses who frequently assist at the renewal of the sacrifice of the cross, therefore at the renewal of the nuptials of our Lord with His Church, are resurrecting the sacramental grace of their marriage and increasing that particular grace which they need in order to accomplish worthily, as true Christians, what is asked of them in marriage. They have to assist at Holy Mass. Holy Mass is truly the foundation stone of the Christian family. The Church willed it that way.[343]

In receiving Communion, we are participating in the Victim who has offered Himself. So we also participate in the state of victim, in the state of a soul which offers itself with our Lord, which offers its whole life with our Lord. All our life is a cross that we carry with our Lord. We are victims with our Lord. There is not an act we perform, day in or day out, which is not meritorious and which does not merit for us eternal life, provided that it be in conformity with the law of God and that we offer it with our Lord. Ah, how that orientation transforms your life! How it makes you able to endure the difficulties in a household! That is what makes the union, what makes the strength of Catholic homes and what encourages the spouses to carry their crosses together![344]

3. Children

A. Parents are responsible for education

Children are the extension of parents and that is why parents have the duty to raise them, to educate them, to prepare them for life, by instilling in them the principles of the faith, the practice of virtues, the necessary knowledge to make their life easier by orienting them toward a profession.[345]

B. Baptize children as soon as possible

Before the beginning of His public life, our Lord sanctified the waters of the Jordan and in so doing sanctified the water which would flow on the foreheads of all those who would be baptized throughout the ages. It is another great lesson for Christian families and an invitation to baptize their children as soon as possible, to make them part of that family of the Holy Trinity, to make them already a part of the family of Heaven.[346]

Canon Law says we have to baptize children quam primum, as soon as possible, to avoid the risk of having them die before receiving baptism and thereby grace. Not baptizing them as soon as possible is a failure in justice toward them. Children have a right to expect baptism from their Christian parents. It is a misunderstanding of the greatness of the supernatural state which God gives us by sanctifying grace, to leave children without baptism for a month, two months, because the godfather or the godmother are absent, or else because we want to have a little party. Those priorities show how little faith those people have who behave that way. My Lord! we never know, the child could have an accident and die without baptism. So we have to baptize children as soon as possible.[347]

C. Teach the children to pray

It seems that a child at his birth, if he were aware of what he is and of what he owes to God, would already in his heart adore God, thank God for having created him, and even from a purely natural standpoint. It would be justice that the human soul barely created turn toward its God to praise Him: "I am like our Lord Jesus Christ; I have come into this world to do Your holy will" (cf. Heb. 10:9). That is what should be the first movement of the soul as soon as it is created. That is what parents need to instill in their children as soon as they are capable of understanding that they are creatures of God. That virtue of religion is practiced above all through adoration, not merely exterior but interior.[348]

We have to teach children to express their adoration toward our Lord, teach them to make a good genuflection before the Blessed Sacrament, to kneel down for a certain amount of time before sitting, to adore the greatness of God when they come into a church.[349]

Children and adults have to pray, because it is in prayer that the creature truly finds his fulfillment, his life. Our life ought to be a life of prayer. A soul which does not pray is not corresponding to the reason it was created.[350]

D. Prudence in education

Education is a question of balance. It is simply a wise mix of indulgence and firmness, of austerity and relaxation. Archbishop Lefebvre warns against a certain laxity in education, but he also invites educators to a spirit of mercy.

-1. The necessary firmness

Let us give to children a solid ascetic education which carries them to the respect and the practice of the fundamental Christian virtues: fraternal charity, humility, docility, obedience, abnegation.[351]

We therefore have to give to children energetic habits and know how to master that nature which always has a tendency to do what it wants and not what it ought. We can measure self-possession and self-mastery by the little details of life. And we have to seek them not so that our children might become ascetics or Spartans. It is not a question of educating children the way you train an animal, either. It is a question of helping them to belong totally to our Lord, so that on the day our Lord asks them for something which costs them, they are going to be so used to being submitted to Him that they will say yes.

Alas, too often, our modern way of educating is deplorable. Selfishness has been cultivated in children because parents are too much at their children's service and have not accustomed them enough to sacrifice, have not encouraged them enough to think of their brothers and sisters, to think of others. People have flattered their children, they have served them hand and foot, they were always asking them what they wanted. The child wanted to eat, they gave him something to eat. He wanted to drink, they gave him something to drink. He wanted to go outside, they let him go outside. Parents were always at his service. That is an absolutely deplorable education. It never occurred to parents to say to their children, "Come now, make a sacrifice; you can learn how to do without something." As soon as the child asked for anything, right away they gave it to him.

So children who have been educated that way have a hard time thinking that there are other people around them. They only think about themselves. It would never occur to them to take care of their neighbor, of someone who is sick, for example, because no one ever taught them to think about others before thinking of themselves. That is what makes sacrifice extremely difficult for many young people. They were not educated to doing without.[352]

Parents should already be making their children obey by the time they are two, three, four, five years old. As good Christians, they need to realize that their children are wounded. They have those wounds that are left in every man after original sin, and right away we can see the beginnings of defects, selfishness, weakness.[353]

Therefore, parents must not flatter the faults of their children. They must not love their little naughtiness, their little selfishness, their little pride. For example, they should not say about them, "Oh! That little one is so funny, look at that, he is so lively! He is so willful!" Ah! he is willful because he is prideful. Soon we are going to be calling it a quality. You are flattering him, you are flattering his vice, he will be even more prideful afterwards. Do not tell him, "Aw! Look at my little fellow, he's going to be a rascal, just you watch!" Oh, yes, quite a rascal! In a few years he may well be causing his parents to weep with his bad habits and his evil tendencies. We have to love in children what comes from God and not what comes from the devil, from sin and from all the evil tendencies.[354]

That is why parents have to correct their children right away. If parents abandon their children to their disorders, their defects are only going to grow, until the children are in real danger of committing grave sins because no one helped to them correct themselves.[355]

It is the parents' job to correct those wounds through grace, through prayer, through the sacraments, through advice, through example, and so on. Children raised in that way settle right into the order where they ought to live and later on they will give consolations to their parents.[356]

-2. A merciful spirit.

People come to ask your advice in a given situation. For example, parents have a child who is behaving badly. He kept poor company and has let himself be influenced. So they ask you, "What should we do? How can we save him from a bad situation?" You see that if we are not merciful, we may perhaps decide with harshness, austerity, in a way which does not actually correspond to reality. Why? Because we have to take into account man's sinful condition. What is mercy but to take pity on misery? And what is the first misery of all? It is sin. So we cannot just say, "He should not have acted in that way; he should not have acquired that vice." But since, in fact, he does have that vice, what can we do now to save him?

So we have to draw near to the sinner with kindness, the way a doctor leans down over a seeping wound and thinks how to find a solution. A person does not go to the doctor to hear him say, "You should not have gotten sick!" What does a doctor do who is faced with someone gravely ill? He studies the illness, sees what means would be most likely to bring about a cure. It is the same thing with any good educator. He should have a merciful heart. That is true prudence, true wisdom, and it goes along with the beatitude, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Mt. 5:7). That is why St. Thomas says that mercy is the beatitude which corresponds to prudence.[357]

-3. The apprenticeship of freedom

We have to hope that, by an authentic education in true freedom, which means doing good spontaneously, these persons might become worthy of the name and learn how to use their freedom in conformity with the will of the Creator. Such an education can only occur through the influence of religion. An education from which God is absent inevitably leads to moral license, in other words a bad use of freedom.[358]

In the family, cracking down on some evil is part of parents' duty in the education of their children, whenever there is a truth the children have to be taught or a virtue they have to acquire. Nonetheless, when adolescence comes along, a successful education should be turning into an apprenticeship of freedom, which means more an appeal to self-discipline than a cracking down.[359]

-4. Painful situations

Something painful for Catholic parents today is to feel very often that the Christian education of their children is slipping through their hands because of the scandals of the world. Those who ought to be protecting the family and helping parents to educate their children in a Christian manner are those who, on the contrary, are scandalizing them, leading them toward sin, turning them away from our Lord Jesus Christ. What sorrow, what tragic situations in families today! How many letters we receive from weeping parents, begging the seminary to pray for their children, for a son, for a daughter, who has completely turned away from God, who has completely abandoned all practice of religion, who is living an immoral life! And those are children from profoundly Christian families, profoundly Catholic families.

So today more than ever we have to remember that the graces of the Christian education of children come above all from the parents' own devotion to the Holy Eucharist. That is where their children in turn are going to have to draw all of the graces they will need in order to resist the scandals of the world.[360]

-5. The school
a. The secularization of schools

What is going to become of the young people who are being formed in Catholic schools today or in secular schools? What faith are they going to have? What idea of the moral law are they going to have, what ideal? We can already see the consequences of that progressive secularization, not only in public schools but also in Catholic schools, which for all intents and purposes are doing practically the same thing as state schools. In every country, we observe that influence which is certainly Masonic and which is trying to gain control over the free schools, over Catholic schools, in order to impose on them little by little their programs, their authors, in order to bring them into line with state schools.[361]

In our schools, the results of children at standardized exams are superior to those of other schools. They have better grades than the others. Yes, God allows that. So we cannot give in to the spirit of the pagans and the enemies of our Lord.[362]

b. The duty of parents

At a time when there were still very few schools that were fully Catholic, Archbishop Lefebvre advised mothers of families to teach their children themselves.

If you have to, you will teach your children yourselves. If the schools are corrupting your children, what are you going to do? Give them to corrupters, to those who are teaching those abomi­nable sexual practices in schools? Catholic schools of Brothers, of Sisters, where they are teaching nothing less than sin! In practice, they are corrupting children from their tenderest years. And you are going to put up with that! It is not possible. Better that your children be poor, better that your children be far from all that apparent knowledge which the world possesses, but that they be good children, Christian children, Catholic children, children who love their holy religion, who love to pray and who love work, who love the nature that God made![363]

c. What is a Catholic school?

A Catholic school is a school where a person learns discipline, where a person learns sacrifice, because we cannot be Catholic without sacrificing ourselves. Why sacrifice ourselves? In order to be filled with charity and love. We were created to love God and to love our neighbor. That is the whole law of God. There is no other. In the Gospel, the entire law is contained in charity. But to become charitable, we have to sacrifice ourselves. If we do not sacrifice ourselves, we cannot devote ourselves, we cannot give ourselves. Someone who is selfish, who only thinks of himself, is not charitable. At a Catholic school, a person learns to sacrifice himself, to discipline himself: to discipline his intelligence, to discipline his will, to discipline his heart.

A person learns to discipline his intelligence by receiving the truth and submitting to it.

A person learns to form, to discipline his will. Everyone has his defects; the effects of original sin follow us to our death. So we have to struggle against these evil tendencies, these evil desires which are in us, and to discipline our will with the help of God, with the help of grace. That is why the chapel is the heart, the principal building of the school. Everything in the school is oriented toward the chapel, toward our Lord Jesus Christ. It is He who is our truth, our strength, our love.[364]

4. In the school of the Holy Family

A. The life of Jesus within a family

Our Lord Jesus Christ willed to be born into a home. He could have chosen another means than that of coming to earth to save us. That is the way He chose. He willed to have a mother and He willed that mother to have a spouse, St. Joseph. He willed to be born into that home. He willed to live in that home for 30 years out of the 33 which He spent here below. What could be the meaning of our Lord's staying such a long time in a family? It is not because He needed it. He is the one who gave all of the qualities to the home of Mary and Joseph. He was God; He had nothing to receive from them. But He willed to remain in that home precisely in order to show the importance of the family, because it is from the family that children are born and that is where they prepare for the mission which they are going to have to carry out in the world, just as Jesus willed to prepare Himself for His mission in the midst of His family. What a great lesson!

Our Lord wished by these signs to manifest His will to sanctify the Christian family and to show that the family is the privileged means by which souls are prepared for their mission here below and for their Heavenly mission as well.[365]

B. A simple story and a perfectly true story

At the finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, in Jerusalem, the Blessed Virgin says to Him explicitly, "In sorrow Thy father and I have been seeking Thee." And our Lord answered them, "Did you not know that I must be about My heavenly Father's business?" The Evangelist adds, "And they did not understand the word that He spoke to them." (Cf. Lk. 2:48-50) We could think that the most Blessed Virgin would have understood the meaning right away. She certainly understood it afterwards, but right then, in her sorrow, she did not understand: Non intellexerunt verbum istud.

This shows that the story of our Lord is a true story. It did not happen as in a dream, where the Blessed Virgin was always with the angels, where all she had to do was pray, where the angels served our Lord at meals. Not at all! The story of the Holy Family is that of a couple with a child, where the father and the mother are working to raise their child, to care for Him, to earn money to buy food to eat. It is a very simple story. Obviously St. Joseph and the most Blessed Virgin had particular graces, but we must not make a kind of romanticized story out of it, which would make people think that everything happened as in a world other than our own.

Our Lord had all of the angels at His disposal. So it would not have been difficult for Him to have an angel come and tell St. Jo­seph and the most Blessed Virgin Mary that He was in the Temple. The angel could have taken them by the hand to lead them there and tell them, "Here is your Son." It would not have been difficult for our Lord, but He did not will it to be so. He willed to live as much as possible like us, and He permitted that the most Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph suffer because of Him.[366]

C. A model to imitate

It is in union with our Lord Jesus Christ, in the atmosphere of the Holy Family, that spouses will discover the secret of a stable and happy union; that they will practice mutual support, daily cooperation; that they will offer to their children and to society the example of a life where the body is subject to reason, reason to the soul and the soul to God, carrying out in themselves, by the grace of our Lord, the designs of God for humanity. May they love to repeat this expression of St. Paul, "May the Lord renew me as one whom He has created in justice and holiness of truth" (cf. Eph. 4:24), until the day their union, grown stronger with the years, finds in God its total fulfillment for eternity.[367]

5. Family life

A. Piety in the family

Archbishop Lefebvre bases himself on what he knew in his childhood to suggest to Christian families how to create an atmosphere that fosters the practice of family virtues in the home.

People used to read a great deal in the home and especially during the long winter evenings. Everyone gathered around the fireplace and we read Cottage Evenings, for example, a Catholic review, profoundly Christian, which presented many saints' lives with the examples of their virtues. It was encouraging for families. It was another atmosphere than we have today with the television. That is the atmosphere our tertiaries[368] have to try to reintroduce into their families in order to create in their home a sanctuary where God dwells, where the charity of the Holy Spirit dwells, also, and so to create that atmosphere of charity which ought to unite the members of a family.[369]

If Christian families want our Lord to stay in their home, they have to maintain the spirit of the Church, that is, a spirit of prayer and simplicity, and not seek the spirit of the world, and not attach themselves to the things of this world.[370]

Let us love to pray as a family. We see so many sad examples in this domain! How many receive from God their daily bread without asking Him the grace of good measure in its use, and without thanking Him! May every head of a family bring back into honor this custom which is so edifying for the children, so pleasing to God, so filled with benedictions for the home! How can we be surprised that God pursues us with His vengeance and His just anger when He looks in vain to find sentiments of gratitude for the benefits which He grants us?[371]

Good fathers and mothers of families reveal God through their works, through their life. The holiness of the Church is seen in these Christian families where everyone gathers to pray in the morning or the evening, where they go to Mass together, where they pray to the Lord, where they even recite the rosary as a fami­ly. Those are clear manifestations of holiness which are produced by our Lord Jesus Christ, since He is the one who is the source of all those graces.[372]

Christian families, consecrate your families to the heart of Jesus, to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Pray as a family. Oh! I know that many of you do so, but may there always be more and more who do so with fervor. May our Lord truly reign in your homes![373]

B. Family virtues

All of the generations of those holy fathers and mothers of families, who suffered as Christians, who accepted their sufferings with joy, who were an example for their children, really under­stood what the Christian life is. They bore their sufferings and their difficulties with our Lord Jesus Christ. And those genera­tions of Christian families were a favorable ground for vocations. Vocations are born from the example of parents. Children have seen their parents live with our Lord Jesus Christ, suffer with our Lord Jesus Christ, pray with our Lord Jesus Christ, assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with that faith, with that piety, offering themselves in oblation as victims with our Lord Jesus Christ.[374]

In the hymn for Vespers of the feast of the Holy Family, at the sixth stanza, it says, "By grace, all of the virtues blossomed in your home. Ah! Make it so that our families might reproduce these virtues in their lives." That is what Christian parents need to ask of the Holy Family: that the virtues which they practiced might be honored in their homes, also.[375]

6. Preparation for marriage

May young people understand the nobility of marriage and may they prepare themselves for it worthily through purity, chastity, through prayer, through reflection. May they not let themselves be dragged along by all those passions which put the world in turmoil.[376]

Now you see can what we have to do to give marriage back all its dignity.

"To the proximate preparation of a good married life," writes our Holy Father Pope Pius XI,

belongs very specially the care in choosing a partner... Those about to enter into wedlock should carefully deliberate in choosing the person with whom henceforward they must live continually... Let them not omit to ask the prudent advice of their parents."[377]

Moreover, no one would imagine giving the sacraments to people who were unaware of what they were receiving. The sacrament of marriage is so important! It is a question of their whole life for those two people. Obviously, the priest is not going to be satisfied with simply asking them a few questions as a kind of formality before the marriage and just saying to them, "Come to confession the day before the wedding, then you get married, and that's all there is to it!" Not at all! The priest who is conscious of his duty needs to say to the fiancees,

Listen, if you do not have the chance to follow a retreat for fiancees, you absolutely have to come to see me. I will give you a few instructions on the nature of the sacrament of marriage, on the ministers of the sacrament, on the object of the contract, on the moral questions related to marriage,"

and so on. Immorality is so common today!

Unfortunately, even in the Church, it seems that people are afraid to speak of the sins against the holiness of marriage, to the extent that young married people may very well wonder if what they are doing is in conformity with morals or not. The priest therefore has to inform the future couple of what is allowed and what is forbidden in the use of marriage, all in remaining discreet, obviously, in his manner of saying things. There was a priest in the Vendee, who is dead now, Fr. Loizeau, who used to be at the French Seminary, who preached retreats to fiancees which were excellent in every way: spiritually, doctrinally and morally.[378] He spoke of the importance of the sacrament of marriage, of the role of parents in the education of children. He gave a whole set of instructions which were really remarkable.

So marriage preparation is part of a priest's apostolate. We have to think about the fact that marriage is a sacrament. It is no small thing; it is the basis of society.[379]

7. Good families: a pledge of hope

Christian families, you represent the Church, be convinced of it. Your families contain a wellspring of supernatural faith, of graces, of blessings of God, which is absolutely evident. So it is a great hope; I would even say it is the only hope; I see no other.

It is therefore you, dear Christian parents, who are truly the wellspring of the Church, and we congratulate you. Continue. For pity's sake, continue. Take it to heart to give your children the profoundly Christian formation which you yourselves received.[380]

8. The sacraments: gifts from heaven

In conclusion to this chapter, we see Archbishop Lefebvre cast a final admiring glance on the sacraments, which procure so many benefits to souls that are well disposed.

What a need there is to reflect more deeply on these sacraments, which are so beautiful, so noble, so divine, since our Lord Jesus Christ Himself instituted them: baptism; confirmation; the sacrament of penance; the sacrament of holy orders, which gives that grace of participating in the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ; the sacrament of marriage; the sacrament of extreme unction![381]

How God has done all things well! And how we ought to thank Him for using things of the senses, which are the matter of the sacraments, to signify His grace! We need that. We are not only spirits, we also have a body and we need to use our senses to venerate the things that God has made. By the intermediary of these material things, we can raise ourselves even to the intimacy of the divinity of the most Holy Trinity.[382]


320 The goods of marriage are children, fidelity and the sacrament (cf. Summa Theologica, Suppl., q. 49, a. 2).

321 Pastoral Letter, Dakar, February 11, 1950; cf. Pastoral Letters: 1947-1968, p. 17.

322 Sermon, Econe, January 9, 1977, in Priestly Holiness, p. 347.

323 Sermon, Jurancon, July 29, 1979.

324 Sermon, Unieux, July 1, 1979; cf. The Mass of All Time, pp. 88-89.

325 Cf. Summa Theologica, Suppl., q. 49, a. 2, and q. 47, a. 5.

326 Pastoral Letter, Dakar, February 11, 1950; cf. Pastoral Letters: 1947-1968, p. 17-18.

327 Retreat for the Sisters of the Society, Albano, September 24, 1976, 3rd conference.

328 Pastoral Letter, Dakar, February 11, 1950; cf. Pastoral Letters: 1947-1968, p. 18.

329 Spiritual conference, Zaitzkofen, February 7, 1980; cf. The Mass of All Time, p. 90.

330 Summa Theologica, IIa IIae q. 25, a. 1, ad 1.

331 Amatur homo propter illud quod est Dei in ipso.

332 Hoc debemus in proximo diligere ut in Deo sit.

333 Spiritual conference, Econe, April 6, 1981, in Priestly Holiness, p. 345.

334 Retreat for the Sisters of the Society, St.-Michel-en-Brenne, Quasimodo 1978, 7th conference.

335 Sermon, 1st Mass, Rouen, May 1, 1980.

336 Easter retreat, Econe, April 6, 1980; cf. The Mass of All Time, p. 89.

337 Sermon, 1st Mass, Fanjeaux, July 7, 1979; cf. The Mass of All Time, p. 89.

338 Sermon, Paris, September 23, 1979.

339 Sermon, Econe, confirmation, May 26, 1985.

340 Sermon, Econe, April 6, 1980; cf. The Mass of All Time, p. 162.

341 Sermon, Econe, March 15, 1975; cf. Priestly Holiness, p. 154.

342 Sermon, Econe, January 9, 1977, in Priestly Holiness, p. 347-348.

343 Easter retreat, Econe, April 6, 1980; cf. The Mass of All Time, p. 89. The sacramental grace of marriage is a grace which gives to spouses the courage to accomplish their conjugal and parental mission in a holy manner.

344 Sermon, Massongex, March 20, 1977; cf. The Mass of All Time, p. 156.

345 Pastoral Letter, Dakar, Lent 1955; cf. Pastoral Letters: 1947-1968, p. 69.

346 Sermon, Econe, January 8, 1989, in Priestly Holiness, pp. 346-347.

347 Spiritual conference, Econe, December 18, 1980.

348 Sermon, Lyon, February 8, 1976; cf. The Mass of All Time, p. 53.

349 Retreat for the Sisters of the Society, St.-Michel-en-Brenne, Quasimodo 1986, 7th conference.

350 Sermon, Econe, June 30, 1983.

351 Letter to Brother Priests, Rome, March 25, 1960, in Lettres Pastorales et Ecrits, p. 122.

352 Spiritual conference, Econe, September 20, 1976.

353 Spiritual conference, Econe October 27, 1983.

354 Retreat for the Sisters of the Society, St.-Michel-en-Brenne, Quasimodo 1986, 9th conference.

355 Retreat for the Sisters of the Society, St.-Michel-en-Brenne, September 25, 1984, 8th conference.

356 Spiritual conference, Econe, October 27, 1983.

357 Mercy corresponds to the gift of counsel which is what perfects prudence. Summa Theologica, IIa IIae, q. 52, a. 4. Retreat, Econe, January 30, 1978, in Priestly Holiness, pp. 264-265.

358 Pastoral Letter, Dakar, Lent 1955; cf. Pastoral Letters: 1947-1968, pp. 75-76.

359 Mes Doutes sur la Liberty Religieuse, Clovis, 2000, p. 119; cf. Religious Liberty Questioned - The Dubia: My Doubts about the Vatican II Declaration of Religious Liberty, Angelus Press, 2000.

360 Sermon, Econe, January 9, 1977, in Priestly Holiness, p. 348.

361 Spiritual conference, Econe, November 27, 1975.

362 Retreat for the Sisters of the Society, St.-Michel-en-Brenne, April 6, 1988.

363 Sermon, Paris, September 23, 1979.

364 Sermon, Montreal de l'Aude, March 31, 1982.

365 Sermon, Econe, January 8, 1989, in Priestly Holiness, pp. 346-347.

366 Retreat for the Sisters of the Society, Albano, September 28, 1976, 9th conference.

367 Pastoral Letter, Dakar, February 11, 1950; cf. Pastoral Letters: 1947-1968, p. 21.

368 The archbishop is speaking to members of the Third Order of the Society of St. Pius X.

369 Sermon, Econe, September 3, 1988.

370 Sermon, Econe, July 14, 1985.

371 Pastoral Letter, Dakar, February 17, 1952; cf. Pastoral Letters: 1947-1968, p. 34.

372 Retreat for the Sisters of the Society, Albano, September 24, 1976, 2nd conference.

373 Sermon, Paris, September 23, 1979.

374 Sermon, Econe, September 14, 1975; cf. The Mass of All Time, p. 69.

375 Sermon, Econe, January 8, 1989, in Priestly Holiness, p. 347.

376 Sermon, Paris, September 23, 1979.

377 Encyclical Casti Connubii, December 31, 1930, §115; Pastoral Letter, Dakar, February 11, 1950; cf. Pastoral Letters: 1947-1968, p. 20.

378 Fr. Eugene Loizeau (1907-1964) was the private secretary of the Bishop of Luton. Beginning in 1946 he directed an organization for marriage-preparation retreats.

379 Conference to deacons, April 12, 1976, in Priestly Holiness, pp. 344-345.

380 Sermon, Econe, Confirmation, May 26, 1985.

381 Sermon, Jurancon, July 29, 1979, in Priestly Holiness, p. 323.

382 Sermon, Econe, April 22, 1979.