Lenten Conferences of Fr. Lacordaire No. 12

by | Mar 5, 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.

There is nothing more sweet than to love

Conferences of the Rev. Père Lacordaire, p. 377-378

[God sows a seed of virtue in the soul through the] saying, “Whosoever will be greater among you, let him be the least; and he who would be first among you, let him be your servant, even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.”(1) You complain of being slaves, you know not what you say. A man is a slave when he serves against his will; serve by your own inclination, and slavery would be destroyed. You have been told that the greatest misfortune and the greatest humiliation is servitude; and I say to you, make an act of love of servitude; that which was ignominy will become a glory, that which was slavery will become devotedness; that which was last will become first; and that which was the depth of misery will become an excess of joy.

Do you not know that there is nothing more sweet than to love? And when men love, they give themselves; when they give themselves, they serve; and when they serve from love, they are happy. Serve, then, with love— what will be wanting to you? It is true that the order has been inverted, because it is love which precedes service, here service has preceded love; but what is that to you? Re-establish order by loving; wherever service and love go together, the mystery of heavenly blessedness is accomplished.

You, then, O you, my brethren, who are slaves, form a holy republic of love; love each other, and love your masters with the common love which you bear to yourselves; you will end by disarming them, by persuading them to love you also, and to love each other themselves. Nothing is so contagious as virtue having attained to the state of love. Your masters regarded you as enemies they felt even more fear of than hatred towards you; when they see that you love them, and that you serve them freely, their eyes will become open— your liberty will spring up of itself, as a fruit rises from its own tree, and falls of itself when it is ripe.

(1) St. Matthew, ch. 20, v. 26, 27, 28.

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.