A Brief Synopsis of a Sermon
by Fr. John Fongemie, FSSP
December 2, 2007


Interspersed with references to the Holy Father's recent encyclical, SPE SALVI, in which Pope Benedict XVI speaks several times of sin and its effects, Father Fongemie painted a vivid image of the Advent season for us to contemplate. Since he neither writes down his sermons nor has them taped, we can only provide a short summary and pray it will do his efforts on behalf of the glory of God, His holy Mother and the souls he strives as a priest to save, justice.

The beginning, as it is with all things concerning our need for a Redeemer, was with the reality of Original Sin, which is denied by modern man by and large, who has decided for himself what is good and what is evil. Unlike the Puritans [some Protestants] who saw the world as evil, Catholics know that the world is good because God created it, but it has been soiled by our sins. This is why Christ called Satan the "Prince of this world." FR. JOHN

And unlike some modernist thinkers, with a vaunted idea of the greatness of men, who say that Jesus Christ came down to earth because He wanted to know what is was like to be a man, we know from our Catholic faith that in His infinite mercy and love for us, God condescended to take on a human nature in order to redeem us through the Cross.

Father then paused, turned back toward the altar where the Missale Romanum awaited and showed us the page that begins the Mass of the First Sunday of Advent. The image is that of the Annunciation, which is traditionally pictured for this Mass because of the close association with the Incarnation of Christ within the Virgin's womb when she consented to be the Mother of God almost nine months before in March when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her on bended knee to announce the Advent of the Redeemer. Father said that some people think of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a simple girl of about fifteen who knew very little, most untrue. From the moment of her conception in her mother's womb she was filled with grace and her every action was so meritorious that she grew in grace every moment. Mary was intimate with the Scriptures and filled with knowledge of Divine things. She was [and is] so beautiful and appealing to God that it is as it were as if she was drawing God down to earth to be united more completely to her. In other words, not as modern man prefers to believe because he prefers himself to God, but as God knows Himself and as He really is and His creation truly is.

He paused again, this time in his train of thought, that is on the surface it appeared he had paused, but of course, as always his sermon was an intricate tapestry made up of a small moment in time rendered eternal through a glimpse of Heaven as Father gave us a small share in the contemplation of God: Mary was contemplative in all manner of her being. He addressed the judgment of priests and religious contemplatives, which is most severe in that they are charged with the salvation of souls either directly through the Sacraments and their counsel and or prayer. When they fail through their own fault and lead sinful or unworthy lives, they deserve a severe judgment. He said that we might think that the words contemplative and contempt are derived from the same root word, as they sound alike, but they do not, although they are related in that one aspect of contemplation [and this applies also to us who are not contemplatives] is that of contempt for the world, not because it is evil in of itself but because of Original Sin, it has a strong attraction for us to take us away from the contemplation of God. Contemplative religious are called by God to withdraw from the world in order to pray for us. He said that actual graces that come to us at a specific moment can be granted through their intercession and sacrifices of reparation, even though we may not know it.

Mary's life on earth was such a life. And she had more grace than all of the Angels and Saints combined. This is why we ought to be faithful to the Holy Rosary as it is her School of Contemplation. She lived the 15 decades in order to desire, love, attain, and know and serve God fully. She shared in the Beatific Vision while on earth, however not as fully as she does in Heaven. To have the Beatific Vision, to see God face to face is to to see Him as He knows Himself [in His Three Persons].

Father Fongemie then raised the matter of the sets of Mysteries and why the three sets given to St. Dominic by Our Lady are deliberate, for the three phases of salvation: (1) the desire for God, (2) the means to know and attain God, and (3) the enjoyment or fruition of the first two.

Again the beginning of Advent with reference to the Joyful Mysteries, the desire to know God, to possess Him, begins with the Redeemer coming to us, unseen in Mary's womb then adored and contemplated in His human nature at the Nativity.

The means to attain God and the Beatific Vision [and salvation] is the Cross represented by the Sorrowful Mysteries and the fruition is the Glorious set of Mysteries. Father elaborated here, but we will stop now, except to interject that during the course of his sermon he had paused to once again look back to the Missale Romanum to point to the richness and number of the Collects in this day's Mass. Because of the exigencies brought on by the current state of affairs in most dioceses, Catholics attending the Traditional Roman Mass must often travel as much as two hours or more one way with many children if they are young parents, most likely home schooling and already exhausted. So priests, in their mercy for the human condition, tend to pray only the minimum collects required. Father did not expound on the purpose of the collect in general, but for those of you who were not brought up in the pre-Vatican II Church, collects are brief prayers recited before the Epistle at Mass. They are a collection [hence the name] of ancient prayers [mostly from as far back as Pope Leo I] consisting of three elements: (1) the invocation to God [this Sunday, the Trinity and the need of a Redeemer]; (2) a petition with a spiritual objective [Ibid., the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and the next collect, prayer for the Church against its enemies]; and (3) the last or ending collect which calls on the name of Jesus Christ [this Sunday the last two collects are intertwined as it were with the petition to Christ for assistance for the Roman Pontiff].

Father had already stressed the importance of praying much for the Pope.

During the course of his preaching Father Fongemie taught the importance of a careful preparation for the reception of Holy Communion and a proper thanksgiving after. He said that one would think that with so many Catholics going to Communion so frequently that the world ought to be much holier although it isn't. This is because of receiving Communion in the state of mortal sin or if worthily, not as worthily as could be because of ill-preparation and thanksgiving. The fruit derived thereof is greatly diminished. Even before the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary she already sensed the Advent of the Redeemer and was immersed in prayer and meditation although she did not know she was to be His Mother.

Father ended his unfinished sermon with the exhortation to be faithful to the Rosary and its School of Contemplation, the three sets of Mysteries.

I say unfinished, because as those who have the good fortune or the benefit of special graces from God and are present at Father Fongemie's sermons, one leaves Mass still at Mass, drawn closer to God, wanting to be withdrawn from the cares of daily life in order to contemplate as best we can the life of God and His Saints, especially through the Queen of Heaven and the most Holy Rosary. Today I understood better why on Sundays of Advent we are encouraged to meditate on the Joyful Mysteries, rather than the Glorious. For those priests who are close to the Mother of God through the daily recitation of the Rosary, she is more truly, visibly known by us, their charges, and can really say she is the Queen of the Clergy. To know the Mother is to know the Son. The last petition Father always says after the prayers requested by Pope Leo XIII at Low Mass [1] is:

Most Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

1. Low Mass is a simplified form of Mass said by one priest, in contrast to a High Mass which is sung by more than one ordained minister, a priest, a deacon and sub-deacon. Sometimes priests serve in the office of deacon for another priest who is the one offering Mass, rather than have an actual deacon serve. This usually occurs when there are several priests available for the High Mass. At Low Mass only two candles are lit and there is no incensing and all the action takes place at the altar.


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