Light in the Darkness
Rev. Fr. Franz Schmidberger
|Excerpts from the remarks given by Fr. Franz Schmidberger, First Assistant to the Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X to the faithful at Immaculate Conception Priory, Post Falls Idaho, April 19, 2002.|
It is always a profound joy for me to visit different places around the world and to see the development of our work, so I am quite pleased to be here once again among you in Post Falls. It is a place blessed by God, since you have here in such a little spot three religious communities: the Carmelites, the Dominican Sisters with their school, and our own Society.....
News of Rome
First of all, let us have a look at the Church, Rome, and the bishops of the hierarchy. I think the most important event was the Assisi Meeting of January 24, 2002. This Assisi Meeting was another one in the whole series which have taken place over these last years, beginning with the Assisi Meeting of October 27, 1986 when the Pope invited the different religions to come together to pray for peace. On that occasion, he gave to the different world religions different sanctuaries in the city of St. Francis where they could perform their prayers. For example, the Buddhists had at their disposal St. Peter's Church, where they performed their Buddhist cult, adoring their idol which they put on the altarâ€”on the tabernacle of this Catholic sanctuary.
Afterwards, we saw meetings like this in Kyoto, Japan; then in Rome itself; then in Brussels; then in 1993, another meeting in Assisi; then a meeting in Milan, Italy; then a meeting on St. Peter's Square in Rome (Oct. 1999).
There was another inter-religious meeting in December, 1999, on Advent Sunday, in the National Marian shrine of Switzerland in Einseideln, where there is a big church of the Blessed Virgin Mary linked to a Benedictine monastery. The Father Abbot, together with another monk of the monastery, introduced the Buddhist monks into the sanctuary; then some young Hindu girls danced in the sanctuary. The monks of the monastery sang the Veni, Creator Spiritus, and then a Moslem couple spoke, a Jew, a Copt, a schismatic priest, and then young people discussed how they felt living in a multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-racial atmosphere as is the world today.
Some years ago, there was the national meeting of the Protestants in Germany, which is held every few years. This time, they held their meeting in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, a generally Catholic region. They scheduled their meeting for the Feast of Corpus Christi. The Catholics were very interested in having the Protestants assist at the Corpus Christi procession, but they knew that the Protestants would refuse to walk behind the monstrance with the consecrated Host. They reflected a little on a solution, and then found a very easy one: they left the monstrance in the church, and made the procession with the Protestants outside the church. You see our Lord Jesus Christ left behind, excluded, in order to have union with everybody, including the Protestants and other world religions.
The Pope himself is very much in favor of these meetings. He wants these meetings to be organized; he is, as it were, possessed by the idea that world peace cannot be achieved without a complete reconciliation between the different religions. He thinks that these other religions are tainted with false ideas, but if they were purified, they could very well fit together in a world religion. In order for you to understand a little of the mentality of the Pope, I will read to you a short address which he himself gave a little more than two years ago when he visited Egypt (Jan.-Feb., 2000). There he visited an Islamic university, the biggest institution of this sort in Egypt. He was received by a sheik who gave a welcome address to him to which the Pope answered. I translate from the French text that was printed in L'Osservatore Romano (Feb. 29, 2000), the Vatican's official organ of communication. What did the Pope say?
I thank you for your gracious words. Permit me to develop the ideas which you have invoked. God has created human beings, men and women, and given to them the world to cultivate. There exists a very close link between religion and culture. Islam is a religion; Christianity is also a religion. Islam has become a culture. Christianity also has become a culture. It is very important to meet personalities which represent the Islamic culture in Egypt. I express my profound gratitude for this opportunity, and I greet the eminent experts who are gathered here. I am convinced that the future of the world depends on the different cultures and inter-religious dialogue, because, as said St. Thomas Aquinas, the life of the human race is made of culture, and its future also. I thank your university, the biggest center of Islamic culture. I thank all those who developed the Islamic culture, and I am thankful for all that you do to nourish dialogue with Christian culture. I say all this in the name of the future, not only of our communities, but also of the nations and the humanity represented in Islam and in Christendom. Thank you.
The Pope is very thankful to all those who developed the Islamic culture! These ideas are more and more winning the minds of Catholics, and everywhere a certain spirit of religious indifferentism is present, telling us that in the end all religions are good, all religions are more or less wanted by God, all religions more or less lead to salvation. This spirit of indifferentism you find, for example, in the new Assisi Meeting of this year, where there were not a lot of protests, whereas at the first Assisi Meeting in 1986, there were still a lot of protests. Catholics are becoming used to these meetings, find that they are quite normal, are part of the Church, and so on.
This year (2002) there was a very special Stations of the Cross held in the Vatican on Good Friday. These stations were celebrated by Cardinal Ratzinger. The Pope himself assisted at this Stations of the Cross ceremony. The meditations were composed and read by a Capuchin monk. In the latest issue of The Remnant (Vol. 35, No. 6, April 15, 2002), there is an article reporting these meditations. It says:
At the Vatican's Good Friday liturgy, marking Christ's death on a cross to redeem humanity, the Pope's preacher said other religions had some role in God's plan of salvation. While criticizing modern theological descriptions of Christ as just one of several ways to salvation, the preacher, Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, said God "is humble in saving," and the Church should follow suit. "Christ is more concerned that all people should be saved, than that they should know who is their savior," he told a large congregation March 29 in St. Peter's Basilica. Pope John Paul II and top Vatican officials were among those in attendance. Fr. Cantalamessa said other religions "are not merely tolerated by God, but positively willed by him as expressions of the inexhaustible richness of his grace, and his will for everyone to be saved."
A thing like this cannot describe more clearly the situation in which we are now. The other religions, says this priest, are not just tolerated by God as an evil, but they are positively wanted by God as ways of salvation....
Another enormous harm done by these inter-religious meetings is the sin against charity towards the adherents of these other religions. Why? Because they are made comfortable in their false religions. When the Pope invites their representatives, this is like a certain approval, and so they do not need to convert in order to be saved. What a difference there is between these prayer meetings and what happened at the first Feast of Pentecost. When the Jews had gathered, after they heard the storm, the Holy Ghost coming, St. Peter gave them a long sermon explaining the whole Old Testament as a preparation for the coming of the promised redeemer, the Messias, God with a human nature, and when the Jews then asked, "But, what must we do?" St. Peter told them three things: firstly, you have to repent of you sins; secondly, you have to be baptized, and thirdly, to do so in the name of Jesus Christ. That's it. In this way, he said, you are saved. He told his hearers to save themselves from this corrupted world. We must always have before our eyes that we Christians are washed, cleansed, sanctified, redeemed in the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ....
The Church Is Dying Out
Let us talk about the consequences of the continued decline in doctrine, faith, discipline, and liturgy in the Church. I will just point out some of them.
First of all, the priesthood. Some statistics will allow you to understand: In 1925, in Austria, 488 priests were ordained for the different dioceses. In the last years, there were ordained for the different dioceses altogether 25 to 30, or 5% [of what was ordained 75 years ago]. In France today, there is a total of 20,000 priests–both active and retired–belonging to dioceses or to religious orders. About 800 die every year, and every year about 100 are ordained. This makes a deficit of 700 per year. It is very easy to calculate there will be no more priests in France [in approximately 25-30 years].
Let me give you an example about the lack of priests in France. I was recently visiting one of our houses in the diocese of Bayonne in France, in the Pyrenees Mountains, where we have a school. The director of the school told me, "Look, in this diocese, I know a priest who has to take care of 68 churches. When this priest dies, who will take over the 68 churches ? The neighbor priest, so he will have to add 68 more churches to the churches he already takes care of." Sixty-eight churches!? If you celebrate Mass in every church on Sunday, it would take more than a year to make the circuit!
Fr. Marchosky is the elderly priest in our new priory in Veneta in Oregon, who 50 years ago did his seminary studies in Quebec, Canada. He told me, "When I did my studies, there were 600 students for the priesthood. Today there are 28." This is not even 5%! These are the facts.
What's happened in the United States? You are very well aware of the scandals among the clergy. There is no doubt there is a profound connection between morality and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Mass is a true sacrifice in which the priest also offers himself as a victim to God. There is no doubt that these scandals are the bitter fruit of deviation from the Faith, the decline of faith, and the errors in the doctrinal teaching of the Church. If the priests believe themselves to be just social workers and no longer know they are men of God representing Jesus Christ on earth, then they will permit themselves all things, all pleasures....
Last year at Pentecost I met with Mr. Michael Davies, president of Una Voce. He said to me, "Look, in this country there are about 4 million Catholics in the United Kingdom, and among them there are still about 1 million practicing their faith. But every year, about 50,000 of those stop practicing." It is easy to figure that in 20 years there will be no practicing Catholics in the UK. The Catholic religion there is finished.
You could go through the other countries, Holland and Germany....But where is Eucharistic adoration; where is Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament still celebrated? Where are the processions with the Blessed Sacrament? Where is the saying of the rosary in the family and in public promoted? Where is the frequent reception of the sacrament of penance promoted? Where are all these things?... A German theologian held a conference recently and called penance a "lost sacrament." This is the reality. If there are still any confessions, they only take the form of penitential celebrations where the priest makes the people write down their sins and then burns the sheets in the Easter candle, or something like this.
Look at how the destruction of the supernatural order has progressively destroyed the natural order in Catholic families and Catholic schools. In the US, about 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Europe is no better. The poor children are the victims.
The church of St. Isidore, Denver, CO,
Then think about abortion. In the world all together there are about 40 to 50 million abortions per year. If you calculate this over 25 years, it adds up to one billion! The history of the human race has never known such a tragedy. One billion innocent human beings killed in their mothers' wombs!
Look at what is happening to peoples' psychological balance. More and more people are unbalanced, unstable, with psychological sicknesses such as psychoses, neuroses, depression, schizophrenia, and paranoia. There is a renowned psychologist and doctor in Germany, a convert to the Catholic Faith, whose specialty is the treatment of children and young people. She says that in Germany, 10% [8 million of its population of 80 million] are psychologically sick. She claims, "For every one of these sick persons, at least two others are profoundly involved, for example, the parents, brothers, sisters. This means that 24 million Germans are profoundly affected by this sickness. We do not need any atomic bombs; we are destroying ourselves. Just let us continue like this and it will be finished."
Glimmers of Hope
Is there some light in this darkness? Is there some hope? There are some tiny lights of hope here and there, starting with the Holy Father himself.
The Pope wrote a letter, dated September 21, 2001, to the Congregation of Divine Worship, saying that the Missale Romanum according to St. Pius V contains very nice prayers and that this missal is a fitting model of all liturgy. All liturgy should express, he continues, a profound reverence and spirit of humility in the celebrant towards these mysteries which, he says, is in this Missal. Now, we ask, if this Missal contains such nice prayers, why do we not use it? This is the logical conclusion, isn't it? Unfortunately, people are not as logical as they should be.
Another tiny light of hope is the appointment of a bishop from Sri Lanka to the Roman Curia. His name is Bishop Malcolm Ranjith [say: Ran'-jit]. I had the opportunity to meet him last year in March (2001) in his diocese in the bishop's house in Ratnapura, located in the middle of Sri Lanka. We had a very good discussion for two hours. He told me, there is no doubt that there is a profound link between the crisis of the priesthood, the crisis of the identity of the priest, on the one side, and all that is going on in the liturgy on the other side. He said if we want to restore the Church, if we want to bring a true renewal to the Church, we must begin there, in the very center. We understood each other very well.
At the very beginning of the month of October, we suddenly heard that Bishop Ranjith was nominated an Archbishop, and that he was appointed Joint Secretary to the Congregations for the Propaganda of the Faith and the Evangelization of the People in Rome. Some days later, I again had the opportunity to meet him, because he has a married sister in Germany. Once again, we had a very deep and very healthy conversation, and he said, "I agree 200% with you that there really is a problem in the Church with the liturgy and the priesthood, and both go together. We must work on this, and there is no doubt that the Pope has to set free the true Catholic Mass for everyone–I am going now to Rome where I will have my private chapel. I have just taken care to get a Missal of St. Pius V to celebrate Mass as it should be."
He is not the only bishop with this orientation. Perhaps you have heard about Bishop Manat from Thailand, who visited Canada and the United States last year in February (2001) with Fr. Daniel Couture, District Superior of the Society of Saint Pius X in Asia. Bishop Manat was very well known to Bishop Salvador Lazo in the Philippines, who, before he died two years ago, returned completely to the Latin Mass and Catholic Tradition. He explicitly offered his life for the conversion of Catholic bishops. Bishop Manat is the first fruit of Bishop Lazo's sacrifice. It seems that Bishop Manat is getting closer and closer to us. Last year he traveled around the US, celebrating pontifical Masses, giving public addresses to the people and explaining to them why he has chosen this way and why he wants to return to the Latin Mass.
Then there is Archbishop Wolfgang Haas of the Principality of Lichtenstein. Archbishop Haas used to be a bishop of a Swiss diocese, Chur. There he was reputed to be very conservative. His enemies would not rest. They put heavy pressure on Rome and he was dismissed from his diocese. Now, in his diocese there was a little country called the Principality of Lichtenstein. They established this little State as an archdiocese (!), and named Bishop Haas as its Archbishop. Before, in Chur, he had about 600 priests under his orders; now he has 17!...We have a good relationship with him and when I visited him the last time, he said, "It is absolutely necessary that the Pope finally make an act of enormous charity towards the Church and free the Latin Mass to every priest who wants to celebrate it. This is very badly needed now. It is absolutely necessary. It must be done." He said, "It is of the highest importance. This act would change the whole atmosphere in the Church. It is not that the Mass is everything; there are doctrinal questions and questions of faith, and so on, but it is a very important step to change the atmosphere in the Church, and then the other things will follow."
So you have at least three non-retired, active bishops who are privately celebrating the Latin Mass. This was not so ten years ago.
About two months ago we received an anonymous letter signed, "With My Episcopal Benediction." It said, "I have been observing your Society since about 1982, and I have come to the firm conviction that it is really maintaining the whole deposit of the Faith, of Catholic Tradition. You understand that I cannot reveal my name, seeing my position, but I can tell you that I work to the best of my abilities, of my possibilities, here and also in Rome [for the same cause]." This letter is somewhat characteristic of the thinking of a certain number of prelates–some whom we know, some unknown to us. Perhaps it came from a retired cardinal?...
Cardinal Stickler, the Austrian, caretaker of the Vatican Library for years, celebrates the Latin Mass every day. One day in Rome, he told me, "There is no doubt there has to be a revision of the Second Vatican Council. This work has to be done one day, and you must participate in this work."...Think about Cardinal Thiandoum, the successor to Archbishop Lefebvre in Dakar in Senegal. He is now retired and recovering from a stroke, but when I met him last year in Italy, he was absolutely convinced that there must be a retraction of the so-called excommunications [of the bishops serving the Society of Saint Pius X] and the Latin Mass allowed to everybody.
One more example is Bishop Krenn from St. Polten in Austria, just about 40 miles west of Vienna. I met him several times because I spent four years in Austria as District Superior. He is the local bishop where our District house is established. About two years ago when I met him, he said, "You guys cannot imagine how when you come back, everything will need to be cleaned out in the house. You have to help clean the house." "Well, we are quite ready to help in this cleaning," I told the Bishop, "We are even ready to clean the toilets of the house, but the problem is that you must permit us to clean. This the problem; let us work." I met him once again in Rome last October. We spoke about different things and he said, "Yes, it is no doubt, that in many regards, you are a model for us." And he went to see some personalities in the Vatican, the Pope himself, Cardinal Ratzinger, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, to insist that they bring these things to a solution, that things cannot continue as they are.
There are about 15 or 20 prelates with whom we are in contact that have these sympathies for us.
We have always insisted that the most important points which have to be resolved are doctrinal differences, for example, ecumenism, religious liberty, questions regarding the Mass, and so on. Just recently Cardinal Ratzinger wrote us a letter saying, "We could perhaps begin with these doctrinal discussions." Now, this is absolutely new because it corresponds to what we always wished. But, as you understand, we must be very careful and very prudent, because these people have their fixed ideas, their system, and their idea is always to bring us into their system. At the end, the question is the following: who converts whom? If we convert the others, that is very good; if they convert us, it's bad.
Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos has written letters to Bishop Fellay addressing the different problems and saying that there must be oral discussions in follow-up to these letters. I think that certain Roman authorities realize that things in the Church in general are going very wrong. They see that our Society is progressing little by little, is quite stable, is working in the whole world, and this is their fault, and they cannot swallow it. It is so very important, not just for us, but for the whole Church, to be very firm in our stand, very strong in our convictions, and so we can only regret that here and there people have left us....
The Society of Saint Pius X
Regarding our own Society and its development, I think there are three issues on which we have to work.
The first of these is for us to try to do our best, to pray, to do what is within our possibilities to convert Rome and the bishops, that is, to simply return to sound tradition, step by step, because we cannot expect them to return completely all at once. For the moment, we do not see this return....All our dialogue with Rome, the visits of the bishops, the contacts with cardinals and archbishops, have no other purpose than to convince these people that the salvation of the Church is its return to what our fathers and our ancestors have done, to how they prayed, to what the Church was in other days. Otherwise, the Church will continue to decline and souls will be lost. Our purpose is the triumph of the sole Tradition and the true Mass. It is not to compromise. It is not just to find a diplomatic formula and sign something. No, it is the triumph of the social kingdom, the universal kingdom, of our Lord Jesus Christ as the King of the whole human society, and especially of His Church.
St. Thomas Becket Church and Academy,
The second issue is to work for the renewal of the Catholic priesthood. There are everywhere in our Society efforts in this regard. For example, our confreres in France are sending the Letter to Our Fellow Priests to all the priests in that country [about 17,000 priests–Ed.]. This letter has become a forum for discussions, a means by which priests are approaching us, especially young priests who are realizing that things are going very wrong, and that doctrinal problems and questions of faith are at the root.
When I was in the US last year, I visited Kansas City to talk with Fr. Peter Scott, the District Superior, and I asked, "In the US District, the Society has about 45 member priests. How many priest friends do we have in this country?" By a "priest friend," I refer to a priest who is close to us, who may be living in one of our houses, who might be celebrating the Latin Mass in one of our chapels, who attends our priests' meetings and/or retreats, and so on. His list had 176 names. This means that there are four times as many priest friends as we have in our own ranks. This shows a little bit the impact that we already have on the clergy. Everyday there are contacts here and there. We have to be very diligent and very delicate in dealing with these matters. We cannot expect that these priests wear the cassock, knowing everything, knowing their theology, understanding completely our position. No, they are coming, drawn by a certain foreboding about the future of the Church, sometimes lacking dignity in their clothing, sometimes not knowing Latin, sometimes never having celebrated the Latin Mass. We have to invite them to consider us, to receive them, and guide them to solid convictions, bringing them back step by step to what they are to be. It is a work of true conversion, of hearts, showing them their priestly identity and dignity.
At our seminary in Winona, MN [St. Thomas Aquinas] there are four priests who have linked up with us completing their studies there. They are not members of our Society and they have come to us by different paths.
One, Fr. Vidko Podrzaj, is from Slovenia, a part of Yugoslavia. He was a parish priest there, and he heard about a priests' meeting in the US which was organized in Phoenix, AZ by Fr. LeBlanc, a priest friend of ours. When he went there (Sept. 1999), the priests asked him if he knew of the Society of Saint Pius X. He did not. They told him that he should, so they gave him the address and invited him to contact the Superior General, Bishop Fellay. He went to Ecône on the occasion of a visit of Bishop Fellay there and had a short meeting with him. Bishop Fellay directed him to get in touch with the Society priests in Austria who are responsible for the East European countries. I was the Superior there at the time and took the telephone when Father called. "I paid a visit to the US and went to Ecône. I was told I should contact you," he said. I invited him to come and see us. We had to instruct him about the Mass. Some time later I went to see him in his parish where he had already begun to make certain changes. He had taken out the table and put it in the sacristy. "If the Pastor asks me why I put it in the sacristy, I will answer that it is very cold in winter, and I celebrate Mass in winter in the sacristy." He also abolished Communion in the hand and re-established certain things like genuflections during his consecration. But I saw that he still celebrated the New Mass, so I asked him, "Why do you not at least celebrate the New Mass using the old Offertory and the old Canon? Why do you not, by one step or another, go back?" He said, "The general vicar has threatened me. He told me that I have to finish my Mass and everything in 50 minutes, and if you take more time, you will be kicked out of your parish." Well, I told him the doors in our Society were open. That was in May of the year 2002. In August he came back to visit us once again. There he could celebrate the Latin Mass, and our friendship became closer and closer, and then after the second visit he wrote us a letter. "I saw that you are all wearing the cassock, and I thought that I am improperly clothed, and it would be very good if I also had a cassock, please. Here are my measurements...." So we sent him two cassocks. We celebrated his taking of the cassock privately. The Archbishop of Lubiana learned about all these things and told him, "You cannot continue like this, all these stories: Latin Mass, not giving Communion in the hand....What next? If it continues like this, you will be suspended." "Well," Fr. Vidko replied, "if I am suspended, I will go to the Society of Saint Pius X."
Last year in May, the Archbishop of Lubiana went to Fr. Vidko's parish for confirmations. Fr. Vidko personally accompanied him with the paten to distribute Holy Communion, but he suddenly saw that the Pastor was in the sanctuary intending to distribute Communion in the hand. He wondered what he could do. Thinking quickly, he removed a ciborium from the tabernacle for the Archbishop, locked the tabernacle and put the key in his pocket!
In July, Fr. Podrzaj called me and said, "I have some news for you. There is a young man living in Canada who is of Slovenian origin. He will be entering the Society's seminary in Winona. I have asked for a long time for God to give me a sign of what to do. I take this as the sign given by God. I also will come." And he went. In June of 2002 he will return to Europe and work out of our priory in Austria into his own country of Slovenia. [This past June, Fr. Podrzaj departed St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary and now resides in the Society's Austrian District House in Jaidhof, soon to bring the Latin Mass among the Catholics in Slovenia who remember him.–Ed.]
I was District Superior in Austria from 1996 to 2000. While there, I tried to work for the priests, all priests, because our Society is a priestly Society and its first aim is to train priests, to prepare a new generation of priests for the Church, and also to take care of the priests afterwards, so that our houses can be seats of priestly association, where there can be bulletins, meetings, recollections, retreats, and so on. As superior, I began to take care especially of the priests. I began to send out to all the priests in the country (2,500) bulletins, letters, and so on. We put on our normal mailing list all those who replied in a favorable manner. We narrowed the list of the most interested priests to about 200 names and I began to visit them personally and individually. During the summers of 1999 and 2000, I personally visited 172 priests around the whole country. It was quite a work, but it was very encouraging, very uplifting, because it appeared to me every time like a pilgrimage to our Lord Jesus Christ High Priest in his human instruments.
Apart from some discouraging things, as you can imagine, I also found a lot of encouraging things: priests who fast one day a week, or priests who are very dedicated to their work....
There was a monk who has been living in a hospital as chaplain for 32 years. "In these 32 years," he explained to me, "the attitude of the Catholics has completely changed. Thirty-two years ago, when somebody was seriously ill, I was called by the nurse or a sister of the hospital to prepare this person for the last sacraments, and so on. But today," he said, "I am only called when the person has already died." I invited him to come to our house to see us, but he told me he could not leave. He has no holidays. He has been on call 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, for 32 years! Who will take his place when he dies?
I met another priest who was chaplain of a community of sisters. This community of sisters had a hospital and a house for elderly people. He had been there for 29 years. He told me, "I celebrate the Latin Mass when I can. With the sisters I have to arrange things a little, I have to make some compromises....In the 29 years I have been here, I have given 26,000 last rites." This means about 1,000 per year, an average of three per day!
You still see priests who are very dedicated to their work. One had completely transformed his parish. When he came his whole parish was in rebellion, split in cliques. They wanted to kick him out when he came but he stayed. He systematically consecrated their families to the Sacred Heart. He did 2,000 consecrations in 20 years, and he said, "Now the village counts about 1100 to 1200 people; there are 800 to 900 at the Masses on Sundays. All the youth, children, everybody is here."
Last year I was in London for the Feast of Pentecost, and I went to see an old Jesuit Father in a parish whom I had met once upon a time in Rhodesia [now Zimbabwe in South Africa–Ed.]. I went to see him, having learned he was in a parish in London. He was with a young Benedictine priest. They began to talk with me about our dialogue with Rome and all the stories, and they said, "We have a little priestly association, the St. John Fisher Association, and we have regular meetings." "How many people are there," I asked. "Well, about 20 priests." "Oh, that's interesting. I am quite prepared to come to one of your meetings if you invite me." The parish priest invited me to their meeting of October 1. At this meeting there were 18 priests present from London and the suburbs of London. Among them, for example, were the superior of the London Oratory–the successor of Cardinal Newman–with two of his confreres. I gave a whole presentation about what is going on in the Church, the Episcopal consecrations of 1988, and so on. There was a very good atmosphere; we had a nice meal, prayed together. Afterwards I received a letter from the parish priest saying, "This was excellent, and you are always invited to come back, and we want to collaborate with your Society." They are conservative priests and most normally celebrate the New Mass. We have to stay in contact and work with them.
Fr. Couture, who is the District Superior of Asia, paid a visit to priests in Japan together with Fr. Onoda, who is a Japanese Society priest stationed in the Philippines. One of them, on the occasion of this visit said, "I will no longer celebrate the new liturgy. I return completely to the old liturgy." He came with Fr. Couture to Post Falls, Idaho, and attended the Priests' Meeting in February (2002) in Winona. He seems to be quite a serious man.
(Top) Our Lady of Guadalupe Benedictine Monastery in Silver City, NM, rises above the Gila Forest. (Bottom) The growing community lines up in front of the incoming novices.
The third issue about which we have to work is a spiritual resurrection of nations. We must not think of our priories as "service stations," that is, "I want my Mass. I want from time to time to go to confession, a little sermon, not too long because I want my Sunday, a little basic catechism for my children; that's it. I don't need more." No. I think we have to consider what is our true mission, our true goal from God–the spiritual resurrection of nations, especially of the former Catholic countries. Spiritual resurrection means a complete conversion on religious, moral, cultural, social levels. How can these apostatized Catholic nations be brought back to the Faith, to our Lord Jesus Christ, to the Church? In my eyes there are only two means, which must both be applied: schools for the children and the youth, and retreats for the adults. There are no other means.
Our Society has priests in 29 countries on all continents. Additionally, we are visiting more or less regularly, about 30 other countries. This means that we are working in 60 countries on every continent. What an importance a priory has in a country! If there is established an altar, if there is established a tabernacle, if our Lord Jesus Christ is dwelling among His people, He is drawing souls towards Himself, is radiating His grace and His life. Little groups of families gather around the altar. It transforms their homes, their private lives, their family lives, their social lives, their professional lives. Everything takes a Catholic aspect. What a change. This is the beginning of the resurrection of a country. Then a little school is started, then retreats are preached. Then a bulletin is mailed out. Then there are private meetings, there are conferences.
We have missions not only in the US and in South America, not only in Western European countries, but also especially in the Eastern European countries. Fr. Karl Stehlin organizes our missionary efforts in Poland, the Ukraine, and in the Baltic countries. Everywhere souls are calling.
One of our priests stationed in Austria visits the capital of Belarus, Minsk, for about two weeks a month. We have bought a house, established in it a chapel, and there is a parish of about 40 people regularly, and on feastdays perhaps 60 or 70. It's a 24-hour train ride to go there and 24 hours to return. From Minsk, Father also goes to Russia, to Moscow, where we have an apartment rented in a big house with three rooms. In one of these apartments is established the altar, so a little chapel without chairs or benches. When I was with our priest there in 1999, we recited the Rosary before Mass. These young Russians, a group of about 20 young intellectuals! They were kneeling in a semicircle around the altar, the rosary in their hands, and then the Mass began. This was like a vision of what Russia could be one day; the whole of Russia on its knees; the whole of Russia holding the rosary in its hands; the whole of Russia gathering at the altars of the Divine Victim, and so living out of the Holy Eucharist, receiving our Lord, living according to His principles, in this spirit of adoration, of research, of virtues, of loving our Lord–our Lord in the center as the King of Love.
In the Society, we also have about 75 schools. In this country there are about 25. In France there are about 25. The other 25 are scattered throughout the whole world: 2 in Canada, 1 in Mexico, 1 in Colombia, 1 in Chile, 1 in Argentina, 1 in Gabon, 1 in South Africa. Then in the different countries of Europe, England, 1, Ireland has 1, Belgium, 1, 3 in Germany, 5 in Switzerland, 1 in India, 1 in Sri Lanka, 3 in Australia, 1 in New Zealand....
I think it is very important that we have these schools to preserve our children from the triple corruption: an intellectual corruption, a moral corruption, and a religious corruption. If tomorrow we want Catholic medical doctors, Catholic lawyers, Catholic business men, Catholic farmers, Catholic soldiers, Catholic professors, teachers, Catholic politicians, journalists, Catholic fathers, Catholic mothers, we must prepare them today. If not, we will not have them tomorrow. It is very simple. So these schools are very, very important.
We are very pleased to have about 30 religious communities linked in friendship with us. Think about the traditional Redemptorist Fathers on Papa Stronsay Island, the Dominican Fathers (Avrillé, France), the Benedictine Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe of Fr. Cyprian in Silver City, NM, and the Benedictine Fathers in Brazil and now in France. Think about the Dominican Sisters from Fanjeaux, and Brignoles, another congregation. They both sponsor schools. There are also contemplative Dominican Sisters in France. There are Capuchin Fathers and Sisters. The Dominicans of Fanjeaux number about 100 and sponsor seven schools. The other congregation, Brignoles, has six schools. The combined number of students in all these traditional Catholic schools is about 6,000 children. It is clear that is not very many in comparison with the population of the world. It is relatively nothing, but absolutely it is an enormous thing because in the souls of these children everyday there is done a lot of good. I ask the children of our schools, "Well, if you would not have this school, where would you be today? How would you look? Perhaps like punks?..."
We are also very pleased to have been able to build churches and buy churches around the whole world. You have this wonderful church here of the Immaculate Conception. Sunday we were able to be in the absolutely wonderful church of Denver, CO. You can really be proud of this sanctuary. It is an honor to America. It is the most beautiful church in this country that we have. We were able to see the recently-constructed church of St. Thomas Becket in Veneta, OR–very nice. There is a church just constructed in La Reja, for our seminary in Argentina. We have been able to buy a church in the city of Brussels, Belgium, which holds about 1200 people.
So we are expanding, we are growing, but we are not growing in a very spectacular way. It is a slow, constant growth, but I think a very solid growth.
I wanted to make an appeal to you to be very generous in your practice of the Faith, to practice virtue in a heroic manner. You see, now is not the time to be lukewarm or mediocre. You must be Catholics 100%, completely dedicated, really practicing your Faith, taking seriously your religious instructions, singing the praise of God.
I encourage you very much to practice in this country especially Gregorian chant, which was always recommended by the popes, who said that it is the first, the most noble, and the most important singing of the Church. Do what you can in this regard.
To end, I will give you a little example that shows you the work of the grace of God. In New Zealand we have a priory in Wanganui, on the north most island. They have about 400 people on Sundays, a school, and three priests. There is a family there called the Shaw Family, who come from the Fiji Islands northeast of New Zealand. These people are very dedicated, very apostolic minded. They have established a chapel in Wellington where Mass is celebrated every Sunday. But the Shaws said, "You should also go to the Fiji Islands. There are also souls calling for the true Mass, priests, and so on." So we began to pay some visits there, but in a very irregular manner. One day, they bought a house in the Fiji capital, Suva. They established a chapel on the ground floor, rooms for priests on the second floor, everything for a priory. We went there every two or three months for two weeks. A little parish of about 100 people began to form. There was also a whole local village which asked for our service, our priestly apostolate. Last year, for Pentecost, one of our priests went there ....Mrs. Shaw told the priest, "Look, 400 miles north, there is another little island, and the people there have been asking for the Society of Saint Pius X for a long time. Couldn't you go there?" It's a small island, about 10 miles long and 3 miles wide, with a total population of 2,000, most of them Methodist because that sect's missionaries were the first to arrive in the 19th century. Then the Catholic priest arrived, some of the Catholics were killed and they were counted as martyrs. Today, there is only one Catholic parish there and one priest. There is also the new liturgy. The Catholic people felt very uncomfortable with the new liturgy. The parish priest was using formulas of prayer from the Methodists. The people said, "This is not possible. Our ancestors have died, shed their blood to remain Catholic, and now we take forms of prayer from the Methodists?! No way." They stopped going to the New Mass altogether. But they continued to say the Rosary every Sunday in the church. The priest permitted them to go in the church to say the Rosary, so they did. There was a group of about 50 Catholics. In 1984, they wrote a letter to our priests in Australia asking them to come to visit. All these letters never arrived, or the answer never arrived, or the answer was never written. But they have continued to pray the Rosary every Sunday for 17 years. Now Father made his plans to visit: one flight per week in a very little plane with two seats. So Father and Mrs. Shaw went to this island. The people of Rotuma Island were informed they were coming. What should they do after 17 years of sheer faith? Immediately the apostolic work began: teaching catechism to the children, hearing confessions, visiting the sick, blessing marriages, receiving two Methodists into the Church, celebrating the Holy Mass, and so on. Then the big feast. They stayed for one week.
Since that first visit, several others have been made. It is not so easy and the trips are very expensive, and there is only this little group of 50 people. Nevertheless, this is how it starts. How is it possible that people, out of communication, on an unknown island in the Pacific Ocean, who have no special religious instructions, who are not theologians, understand the problem of the new liturgy enough to stop attending it?! And whom do they call? They call the Society of Saint Pius X to help them. They realized this is what God wanted. They had to wait a long time, wait patiently, and persevere in prayer. God rewarded their faithfulness and their piety.
Their parish priest learned about the visit, and so he called the only policeman on the island and told him to stop this group from entering the Catholic church. They can no longer go into the Catholic church to pray the Rosary. So they found a little piece of land on which to build a chapel there with their own means. The work continues, therefore, even if they are no longer allowed in their parish church. You see that everywhere the opposition is always the same. When it comes to true Tradition, the doors are closed.
Once again, dear faithful, be very courageous. We have to be faithful to the See of Peter, even if those who occupy it today give a bad orientation. It is like in a family where the family father doesn't do his duty and gives a bad orientation to the family. Nevertheless, the children have to recognize him as their father, and to give him reverence as their father, even if they do not agree with what he is doing and must, to a certain extent, act against him to prevent the family from being damaged by such a bad orientation. This is exactly the attitude of the Society of Saint Pius X. So let us be faithful sons and daughters of the holy Roman Catholic Church, paying very much attention to the Holy See, to the Eternal Rome, and let's especially pray the Blessed Virgin Mary in her Immaculate Conception, to preserve us from all corruption and to lead us to the everlasting happiness of heaven.
This article was transcribed by Miss Anne Stinnett for Angelus Press. It has been abridged and edited by Fr. Kenneth Novak to maintain its conversational tone.