Georges De Nantes,
The Mystical Doctor of the Catholic Faith
AFTER Fr. de Nantes’ “ VATICAN II, AUTO-DA-FE, ” an almost word-by-word analysis and commentary on the major ACTS of a Council intended to reform the Church, a book that he wrote with a pen dipped in vitriol in 1996, during his exile in the Swiss monastery of Hauterive, with no other concern than that of speaking the Truth ; after his “ TO PREPARE VATICAN III, ” which constitutes the positive counterproposal capable of rejoining that Tradition, from which proceeds every true progress, at the furthest remove from both devastating Modernism and integrism that renders everything sterile, so that the Catholic Church will emerge from this formidable trial, “ stronger, more beautiful, holier and more conquering than ever ;“ here at last is “ GEORGES DE NANTES, THE MYSTICAL DOCTOR OF THE CATHOLIC FAITH, ” which we finished writing on the second anniversary of his dies natalis, February 15, 2010. This book will reveal to anyone who wishes to read it the unseen, inexhaustible source of his innermost being, the mainspring of his combat and of his entire work “ For the Church. ” 1
What does it mean to be a mystic ? Fr. de Nantes himself one day explained it to his friends :
“ A mystic is a man who has read his catechism and believed it, and who has since reached the point of knowing nothing, of experiencing no feelings, of loving nothing and of wanting nothing other than what is in accordance with the spirit of this revelation and under the sovereign impression of these invisible realities […]. The Faith is no longer a dead letter but a life-giving Spirit. What illuminates his path and charms his heart is nothing other than the ordinary teaching of the Church, but see how this grace, which we, too, have received, manifests in him unnoticed novelty, splendour and strength ! For him, all beings are first and foremost creatures of God ; he no longer leads a prosaic day-to-day existence but is on the path of heavenly eternity ; the others are children of God and the Body of the glorious Christ. ” 2 All the rest is in keeping with this…
To repeat an adage of St. Peter Canisius, the great apostle of the Counter-Reformation in Germany, whom Fr. de Nantes liked to quote often : “ It is not enough for a doctor of the Gospel to be a light for the people by his words, to produce a voice crying in the desert and, by means of the tongue, to come to the assistance of the piety of the multitude, in order to avoid deserving, through neglect of the ministry of the word, being called by the prophet a barkless dog, unable to bay. He must also be a flame, – sed et ardere illum oportet – so that, armed with works and with charity, he honours his evangelical office and follows Paul’s example. ” 3
Georges de Nantes burned with love and zeal for the Holy Catholic Church during a time when she was scorned, betrayed and abandoned, a time when her pastors remained silent like barkless dogs before the wolves. His entire life was consumed by this zeal.
He himself related the first years of his existence in his MEMOIRS AND ANECDOTES, which show him to be such a perfect son and heir : heir to the heart of his father, Commandant Marc de Nantes, heir to the wisdom of his mother, to the devotion of the Brothers and Fathers who educated him, then to the intelligence and the inexhaustible science of “ his incomparable friend ” who, at the seminary, formed his judgement and instructed him in all divine and human things.
Brother Gérard and I met him at Saint Martin’s College in Pontoise, in October 1953. He was our professor and we attached ourselves to him as disciples to their Master, as sons to their Father. From his person radiated a faith that made him throw himself to his knees to pray at the beginning of class, a faith that we understood to be as solid as all the truths that he was teaching to us. This was the great revelation of that blessed year : the service of the “ truth ” outweighs all other considerations. 4
Following his line of thought and his example, the conviction passed into us that everything in our religion is true and sovereignly endearing : we only had to follow, to follow him and, through him, the masters of his spiritual life and Jesus, the Master of the masters. He made us acquire forever a taste for the “ truth, ” with the intuition of the existence of things and admiration for the orthodromy of God’s plan in history. 5
When he wanted to enter the Carmel, we understood where his heart was. Judged undesirable, he soon came back to us because, in the plans of Providence, the Church needed a defender, and only a true mystic would go to the depths of the truth depending on God alone, in the time of the great apostasy that was coming.
Thanks to our Founder, both St. Pius X and Fr. de Foucauld became our fathers and our masters. Through him our love reached the hearts of the saints. Far from making us propagandists for one party, far from putting religion to the service of our opinions and passions, the defence of the fragile heritage made us God’s co-operators in His orthodromic plan, instruments of the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
One day, the Church will recognise it : Fr. de Nantes was a great mystic, a “ total ” mystic, a mystic “ for everyone. ” In his old age, he fulfilled the ideal of his youth, that of becoming a missionary monk, “ ready to go to the ends of the earth and live to the end of time ” for the extension of the Kingdom of God, by his identification with Christ, the first Eucharistic missionary, by his identification with the Church of which he untiringly sang both the glories and the divine maternity. He was her heroic defender, violent when it was a question of “ respecting the true meaning of the Gospel ” ( Ga 2 :14 ).
He intensified the violence when he attacked those who, after denying their baptism, dreamed of a Church without frontiers, profaning Christendom under the regime of religious liberty. It was holy jealousy that animated him, that of true love, because for this son of God who lived in thanksgiving for his baptism, religion was a love ! 6
To the liberals’ “ mere verbal and chimerical construction, ” denounced by St. Pius X, he opposed the mystical realism of charity based on a relational philosophy and on a “ total ” theology, both ancient and new, of inexhaustible fruitfulness, harmonising with reason and faith, revelation and human wisdom.
Thus, in the heart of the Church where charity has cooled, our Father left us his heart, in the centre of which a precious gem shines, his devotion to the Immaculate Heart of our most cherished Mother and Queen !
During his long life, this love burned very early in his heart, and it did not cease to grow until it had pervaded everything, when it was set ablaze by the light of Fatima. The divine plan revealed itself to him in all its fullness : God wants to establish in the world devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and He wants the reign of His Mother to pass before His own.
From that day on, our Father had “ a Woman in his life, ” as he was fond of saying. Yes, his Mother and his Queen became his Mistress of Truth, of life, of conduct. In the apocalyptic combat, She was the deep source of his ardour as a polemicist, of his indefatigable alacrity, of his courage and his unfailing hope in Her promises. This is why, at the end, he decided “ to give way to Her ! ”
For fifty-seven years I was the privileged witness – and always filled with wonder ! – of the life and the thought of Fr. de Nantes. This book is my filial testimony. I have kept in the background as much as possible in order to let our Father speak, for he alone knew better than anyone else how to relate the incredible combat into which he led us, and how to present the monumental work that he bequeathed to us, which we must now cause to bear fruit. His example, his writings and his eloquent preaching, unwearying but never wearisome, delivered with a touching resonant voice that was recorded in hundreds of hours of conferences and retreats, remain. Our Father is the witness and mystical Doctor of “ the Catholic Faith that remains unchanged, unchangeable, and non-negotiable by reason of its divine perfection. ” He was set apart for the hour of the resurrection of the Church, after the great Apostasy that was predicted by the Scriptures.
This total, relational mysticism is capable of reaching us, of seizing us wherever we are and of drawing us into the Kingdom of Christ and of the Virgin Queen and Mediatrix, a Kingdom that is of Heaven and earth, with which he, like all the saints, is in intimate communion and which he opens to the lowly.
The most marvellous of all the relationships that he loved and served day by day unto total sacrifice, that he unceasingly offered to our contemplation, which sums up the whole of the divine work in this world and constitutes the source of all graces in the economy of Redemption, is the union of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the new and eternal Covenant, from which our souls are reborn on the wedding-bed of the Cross. “ Oh my Father, our Father, ” he asked in his first Mystical Page, “ grant that I may announce to my brethren, by my life and by my words, that Love is not loved, and that their happiness lies in loving Love ! ” 7
St. Bernard is correct in saying that there is scarcely an encounter more fruitful and more suave than coming to know such men.
Maison Saint-Joseph, February 15, 2012.
(1) Title of the four-volume book that presents the whole of Fr. de Nantes’s work.
(2) Letter To My Friends no. 122, All Saints’ Day 1962.
(3) Homily for the Feast of Saint Martin, Bishop ; in the Roman Breviary, a lesson from the third nocturne of the feast of St. Peter Canisius, April 27.
(4) He is Risen no. 19, p. 7.
(5) He is Risen no. 108.
(6) Mystical Page no. 47, ed. CRC 2010, “Baptism“, August 1972, pp. 233-237.
(7) Mystical Page no. 1, “Our Father,” February 1968, p. 10.