Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, last weekend visited the Vendée in France in order to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the Diocese of Luçon. On Saturday, 12 August, the cardinal gave an especially stirring homily in Puy du Fou in which he both honored the Vendeans and their courageously sustained heroism, and also then called upon the Christians of today to live in the “spirit of the Vendeans.”
In his homily, Cardinal Sarah explicitly compared the spirit of atheism at the time of the Vendeans with the spirit of relativism that we widely encounter today. He encouraged those Frenchmen of the l’Association du Puy du Fou who currently and loyally keep alive the memory of the Vendeans and himself made a rallying call of resistance, saying: “Your work is necessary! Because our time seems to be numb.” He continued, saying:
In the face of the dictatorship of relativism, in the face of thought terrorism which – once more – wants to tear God out of the hearts of the children, we need to find again the freshness of spirit, the joyful and ardent simplicity of these saints and of these martyrs.
When describing the Vendeans, Cardinal Sarah pointed out that they promptly revolted when the French Revolution “wanted to deprive them of their priests.” “A whole people stood up,” he explained. “In the face of cannons, these poor people only had their sticks!” Sarah added: “In the face of terrorist columns, they only had their rosary, their prayer and the Sacred Heart sewed upon their chest!” According to Sarah, the Vendeans knew very well that they would be “crushed” by the “planned and methodical wave of terror.” “They nevertheless, while singing, offered their sacrifice to Our Lord.” However, added the prefect, true history shows that “the Vendean peasants finally triumphed.” Because of their own sacrifice, he said, “the ideology of the lie” has not been able to reign as a master.”Thanks to the Vendeans,” added Cardinal Sarah, “the Revolution had to tear off its mask and show its face of hate, the hate of God and of the Faith.” “Thanks to the Vendeans, the priests did not become servile slaves of the totalitarian state; they were able to remain free servants of Christ and of the Church.”
Cardinal Sarah also praised the Vendeans for their trust in God, their confidence. Even though the boat “took water from all sides,” he explained, the Vendeans “did not fear” because they knew that their unique homeland will be “the Heart of Jesus.”
It is here that Cardinal Sarah called upon the faithful to take heart and to be inspired today by the spirit of the Vendeans:
My brothers, we Christians need this spirit of the Vendeans! We need this example! Like them, we need to leave our sowing and our furrows in order to fight – not for mere human interests, but for God! Who still today will rise up for God? Who will dare to confront the modern persecutors of the Church? Who will have the courage to rise up without weapons except the rosary and the Sacred Heart in order to face the death columns of our time which are relativism, indifferentism, and the disdain for God?
Cardinal Sarah then added to this inspiring speech, so full of zeal: “My brothers, like our brother Vendeans of former times, we are today called to witness, that is to say, to be a martyrdom!” He piercingly asked the Frenchmen: “When will you rise up with the peaceful weapons of prayer and of charity in order to defend the Faith?” The cardinal also reminded us that “we all are spiritually sons of the Vendean martyrs!” In his eyes, we all need their courage. “When it comes to God, no compromise is possible! The honor of God is not up for discussion!”
Moreover, Sarah mentioned “the love for the priest” and the “lesson of humanity” as aspects of the example of the Vendeans, “to know how to confront hatred without resentment and without bitterness,” adding: “Only love is the conqueror of the powers of death!” Cardinal Sarah also pointed out that spirit of self-sacrifice and of “joyful generosity” – which was lived so well by the Vendeans – is especially lived and cultivated in a family. That is what the “ideologues of the revolution” want to destroy, according to him. Here, Cardinal Sarah explicitly mentions the “gender ideology” and the “disdain for fertility and fidelity” as the “new slogans of this revolution.” The families, just as the Vendeans at the time, are to be “exterminated.” “One is systematically planning their disappearance.” The modern revolutionaries “are concerned about the generosity of large families.” “Christian families incarnated everything they hate.” In this context, Cardinal Sarah mentioned the situation in his own home continent of Africa. These revolutionaries, he explained, “are ready to let loose on Africa new infernal columns in order to pressure the families and to impose sterilization, abortion, and contraception. Africa, like the Vendée, will resist!”
Cardinal Sarah concludes his ardent call to resistance with the following words:
From now on, in the heart of each family, of every Christian, of every man of good will, there has to rise up an interior Vendean! […] Let us pray that a powerful and joyful interior Vendée may rise in the Church and in the world! Amen!
While visiting the Vendée, Cardinal Sarah also prayed at the tomb of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Monfort – the Saint who himself helped to evangelize more deeply the Catholic region of the Vendée, along with St. John Eudes.