Venerable Emmanuel D’Alzon – Letter to the Assumptionists at Nîmes – 11 April 1870

Venerable Emmanuel-Maurice d'AlzonTo the religious at Nîmes

During the Easter season, you will be enjoying some leisure time. Let me say a few things about that.

1) Remember that the special aim of our Institute is teaching at every level. Cardinal Reisach used to say to a friend of ours that the most powerful effect of the Council would be to revive ecclesiastical studies. That is true, but for it to be successful two things are necessary: men and time. As for time, see whether or not you are losing any. And then see if you are working in view of studies that will be useful. Make no illusions, academic work all over is disastrously mediocre. This is due in large measure to the discredit into which theology has fallen, based as it is on current philosophy. Theology, the queen of the disciplines, has fallen drastically; the other disciplines as well, except for the physical sciences. But even these have lost a sense of their divine origin.

What should you do? Try to restore true wisdom by the demanding and serious study of the disciplines and seek to enlighten the learning that has created things as its object and is the aim of the lower reason, with higher reason, which has wisdom as its aim, i.e. a knowledge of divine things. You will reach this goal in two ways: through intellectual work and through prayer. A good indication that we are not praying well is provided when, if after having prayed, we obtain so few results. The conclusion is that our prayers and our studies are routine and mechanical. If we really apply to both the effort of our intellect and of our heart, we will achieve results that are superior from every point of view.

It is important that you be convinced of this truth, since then as religious you can make your spiritual growth and your intellectual growth advance together.

2) It is crucial that you be convinced of the truth that the world, even in a decadent state, is governed by ideas. After the Council, religious who are sowers of ideas, provided they be true and fruitful ideas, will be the true renewers of society. You ought therefore also to fill yourself with true ideas and great principles. Where are these to be found if not in the treasury of divine learning, entrusted to the Church, whose mission it is to communicate it to the world? I suffer from the fact that I express this all so badly because what is at stake is the salvation of those who are led astray by false ideas, whose power to mislead is so disturbing to those who love the reign of God and the triumph of Our Lord in the people.

3) We should not hide from ourselves the fact that after the definition of infallibility the Church will find herself in an extraordinary situation. The Pope will be like the General of a huge army, whose regiments are led by Colonels in revolt. The General has to pass over these in order to reach the Captains and the soldiers. The Colonels in revolt are the Gallican Bishops. In part the Pope will have to rely on the priests and the laity. This will be the beginning of his ordinary and immediate jurisdiction over the dioceses. But he will also need his own troops that will have to be quartered among the regiments of the Colonels who are trying to involve their own men in the revolution. These more personal troops of the Pope are the religious Congregations. For that reason, therefore, their privileges and exemption will grow rather than diminish.

I will probably develop all of this in a letter or a more detailed study. For the time being I am explaining only what Father Laurent or Father Emmanuel may not be able to make you understand. These ideas constitute one of the most important points of view from which we can appraise the Council.

Good-bye, dear Brothers.