The Last Word
In his Biographical Memoirs, Don Bosco tells of a little but highly symbolic incident that happened to him on an Easter Sunday morning in Rome while acting as cappa magna bearer to a cardinal in St. Peter’s. Due to a moment of inadvertence during the procession, he got stuck on the very balcony where the Pope was coming to give his Urbi et Orbi blessing. A moment later, feeling something weighing on his shoulder: he was aghast to see that it was nothing other than the foot of Pius IX, who had just arrived on his sedia gestatoria, right next to him, and who highly respected him. It was indeed prophetic: Don Bosco was to be a great pillar and defender of the papacy in the many difficult days during those times. Pius IX often sought advice and comfort from him.
As paradoxical as it will appear to some, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre too was a pillar and a defender of the papacy even throughout the storm that he traversed during the last 30 years of his life.
He lived through eight very different popes, from St. Pius X to John-Paul II. He had learned at the feet of Fr. Le Floch that to be a good Catholic, one had to think like the popes, study their encyclicals and writings, and conform one’s life to this eternal Romanità. He was indeed so solid that Pius XII made him his Apostolic Delegate for the whole of French Africa for eleven years.
When we read carefully his long biography, it is striking to see his constant use of papal texts to justify his teaching and his actions. We, who have been privileged to study directly under him, can testify to the fact that he gave us a profound love of Rome and of the popes. We cannot be Catholic otherwise.
His heroism in the defense of the papacy is clearly manifest when we consider that he maintained his deep faith in and love for the papacy in spite of being censured by conciliar popes and while opposing their errors, as he did, for instance, in his Episcopal Manifesto in 1983.
In 1975 in a conference to his seminarians he said: “Let us hope that the Good Lord will inspire us and that (the pope) will understand that far from being against him or against the Church, we are his best defenders, and that he should lean on us and not condemn us, that we are totally ready to work with him and for him to maintain the Church, to continue the Church. We are there for that and for nothing else.”
Fr. Daniel Couture