Lenten Conferences of Fr. Lacordaire No. 8

by | Feb 28, 2024 | Formation

At the request of Frederic Ozanam and other university students, the Archbishop of Paris, Monsignor de Quélen, instituted the Lenten Conferences at Notre-Dame, which are still held today. The first cycle of conferences took place from February to March 1834. Father Lacordaire, who would later join the Dominicans but was then a diocesan priest, preached those of 1835 and 1836. These extracts come from those conferences.

To those who oppose the Catholic Church

Conferences of the Rev. Père Lacordaire, p. 242-243*

I appeal to you, you have seen Catholics; are we men of doubt? Moreover, what is the question? We, Catholics, bear witness to the phenomena which occur within us; you are free to disbelieve us, to want hearing and discernment. I will not, and I cannot force you; but I say again: We feel no doubt, and we prove it by our conduct during life, and at the hour of death! Do you find the people, who hear the language of the Church affirming on the one side, and your language denying on the other, do you find them hesitating? Is the child who receives his first communion troubled by the fear of being deceived? You move heaven and earth against children, peasants, soldiers, women; knights of error, armed from head to foot, you mount your barbed and caparisoned steed, and enter the lists against the lowest order of humanity: Do the Christian people pay attention to you? They pass on their way, they travel on towards eternity without looking towards you, without hearing or heeding you. Is this doubt, or is it a certainty which is not the result of learning, and transluminous? For if it were only a luminous [intellectually brilliant] certainty, that poor labourer, that child, that maid-servant, could answer you, and they do not.

You talk to them of metaphysics and of history; you say to them: It is the Church which has made you slaves, you are by nature sovereign; the Church has made you poor, you are by nature rich; the cause of your hunger, is the Church; of your thirst, the Church; of your tattered garments, the Church; of your miserable bed, the Church; your wife is dying, —the Church is the cause of it; all your sufferings are occasioned by the Church; and you do not perceive it! If, at least, you had addressed yourselves to me, I could have answered you; but those poor people, what do you expect them to say to you, if they only possess their knowledge and their reason? Happily, and thanks be to God for it, they possess a divine light, before which yours is as nothing; they feel regarding you that which men feel when they see, before the sun, a blind man who blasphemes against it. We see the sun of eternal truth, and your words against it do not even enter into our ears: they are as the whistling of the herdsman before the roaring of the sea.

Jean-Baptiste-Henri-Dominique Lacordaire (1802-1861) was a renowned preacher and restorer of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) in France. He was a great friend of Frederic Ozanam (in fact, he is the author of a very interesting biography on Ozanam) and very close to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Image: Lacordaire, painted by Louis Janmot (1814-1892), friend of Frederic Ozanam and an early member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

*Source: Conferences of the Rev. Père Lacordaire: Delivered in the Cathedral of Nôtre Dame, in Paris. Author: Jean Baptiste Henri Dominique Lacordaire. Translated from the French by Henry Langdon. Publisher: T. Richardson in 1853.