May 4 1890
4th Sunday after Easter. -- Saint Monica.
1st day of the "double service" shared with Antugnac.
Low mass at 8:00 -- Sunday procession -- Sermon.
-- happy to be conducting this service - zeal and devotion. --
As your dear Curé and my revered predecessor Abbé Vernioles told you before his departure, as I myself just a few days ago had the honour of telling the Mayor of your village in writing, Monseigneur the Bishop of Carcassonne has entrusted me, via Monsieur Fournier his Vicar-General, with the care of this Parish starting from today, May 4. But for how long? Probably until you have a Curé.
I do not know how you to express to you, Monsieur Fournier, the joy that I felt and the sheer pleasure that I experienced when I was told this news! It is for me, I swear, both an honour and a great source of happiness to be useful to you in such circumstances. Why? It will not be difficult for me to explain why.
We are certainly not strangers to one another. For me Antugnac is not an unknown village. Indeed, it is to some extent a second home.
For a long time, during the frequent visits that I had the honour to make to you during religious festivities, I saw you at work. I was able to get to know you, to love you and to value you, so much so that I think I may say today, without fear of deceiving myself, that Antugnac is a model parish, an exemplary parish, a deeply Christian parish: in a word, one of those rare parishes that preserve intact their Christian faith and principles.
Well, that is what you are like. But what about me? Do you see me as a foreigner? I do not believe so. You first met me and got to know me when I was quite a young Abbé, when we came – my brother and I – to attend your beautiful festivals of Perpetual Adoration and your splendid pastoral visitations.
Your dear Curé looked upon us as his children, and we saw him as a father. He had only to say a word to us, to make a sign, and it was with the greatest eagerness that we would respond, as you will recall, to his kind invitation and run to answer his paternal call, to help him, to assist him, either in decorating the Church, or in helping with the majestic ceremonies of the holy temple of God.
So I am justified in saying that we are not strangers to one another, not unknown to each other, but to some extent compatriots, true friends, almost brothers.
And that explains the happiness that I feel in being able to be of use to you. Yes, Monsieur Fournier, I am very happy, and I assure you that, from today onwards, if the good Lord preserves my strength and my health, I will do everything I can to help you.
Your parish will not be for me a mere annexe, but rather a sister of Rennes-le-Château. I will serve it with the same zeal, the same charity and the same devotion. For I must admit I have always had a soft spot for you. I have always felt a strong sympathy with your parish. Yes, I have always felt great affection for the good people of Antugnac. And since we all are here today as one big family, and since I have begun to make confession, allow me to finish that confession. Let me say this quite quietly – and please do not breathe a word of it to the people of Rennes! – I almost harboured a desire to one day be your Curé. If the good Lord does not wish my desire to be fulfilled then I can at least flatter myself on having been your vicar.
Therefore, Monsieur Fournier, you can count on my utmost devotion to you and affection for you. For me you will be a second parish, which I will love, and which I will serve with all the fervour of which I am capable, and although - as you know - I am obliged to celebrate only one Sunday mass for you, to preach, to instruct the children and to take care of the sick when you come to collect me, nonetheless the proximity of Montazels allows me to do more than that.
I will try, apart from Sundays and compulsory feasts, to also come during the week for hear the catechism from your children, to hear confession from anyone who wishes it, and to visit the sick, for whom I have, I want to make clear, a very particular concern. Under these headings I shall do everything I can to save you the uphill journey to Rennes.
Lastly, if you wish me – on important feast-days or on a particularly solemn occasion – to visit you to perform all the Offices or to sing Vespers, you have only to tell me and I will hasten to you. But you must understand that this will only very rarely be possible, because you must not forget that I am made neither of iron nor of bronze. For as robust and brave as one might be, one rapidly becomes exhausted and ill if one tries to do too much. I am not immortal. I am prone to illness and suffering, and although I am still quite young and may look quite healthy I am already somewhat prone to rheumatism and other infirmities. Moreover, not having ever performed "double service", I am unsure that I will have enough courage and strength for the extra work-load.
Far from being demanding, I know you will be reasonable in your requests. It is better, I believe, to start with a little and then to build up gradually, rather than to do a lot at the beginning and then be obliged to stop half way. Do not forget the proverb: "Never bite off more than you can chew".
As recognition of the zeal and devotion as well as the goodness that I wish to display to you, I ask you for the moment just one favour: that you attend Sunday mass and the compulsory feasts.
I feel all the joy, happiness and satisfaction of a Shepherd when he sees all his flock come together for divine office.
Your complaisance and your willingness to listen to me and take the advice that I will give you will be the measure of my own zeal and devotion to you.
Followed by: a lesson from the Gospel.