March 1, 1991
Dear Friends and benefactors,
In Latin America the faithful remnant is faithful but it is only a remnant. Such was the conclusion from the journey I made there from late November to early January.
The first stop was Columbia. This was the third time I had visited Latin America. Each time I visit I get a sense of the extraordinary accomplishment of Spain in setting up a rosary of Catholic nations from Mexico in the North to the foot of Chile and the Argentine in the South. Today Catholicism and colonialism are heavily devalued, so that in Latin America they are regretting that the continent was opened up by the Spaniards. It is the exact opposite of matter for regret. From the stand-point of the Faith, how many millions of souls must have gone to heaven from these countries, thanks to the Spanish "Conquistadores" having brought with them the Faith, and missionaries and priests, to plant it firmly amongst the local peoples.
This sense came over me again soon after landing in Columbia. True, this country which at the turn of the century had a highly Catholic Constitution, was in November just about to elect a majority of Communists to re-write that Constitution; true, Columbia is presently preyed upon by the drug trade which is also protected from on high by the Revolution; nevertheless, not far beneath the surface of Columbia, the values, history and mentality are Catholic. What a blessing for a country to have been founded in the Faith! The practice may be corrupt, but deep down lie good principles which shed light even when they are abandoned. The hall-mark of Protestant countries is that even with the best will in the world men believe in principles that will tear any society apart.
Pray for the Society's two young priests in Columbia, both in their mid-twenties, Fr. Martinez ordained one year ago, Fr. Zendejas (the Superior!) ordained two years ago, neither of them Columbians, both several hours by aeroplane from the next closest Society priest, between them carrying two priories on their shoulders and the defence of the Faith in a whole country collapsing under the Revolution! Ordinarily speaking, it makes no sense at all, but there they are, and that is the Society. May Our Lady protect them and reward them!
Next stop was Chile, where the Society has a priory with three priests in the capital, Santiago. Chile is very different from Columbia. Well led by General Pinochet — yes, well led by General Pinochet — Chileans had worked themselves into such a favorable economic situation as even the Liberals were obliged to admire, but that of course did not stop them using their vile media to get him out of office in a vote genuinely free such as only a non-Communist will allow. Now Chile is no doubt getting back into the bankers' debt, into the communists' clutches and into the media's favour, unless the people rise up to restore Pinochet. I was taken to the spot where he was waylaid in a highly professional ambush on a country road some 40 minutes out of Santiago in 1985. Five men of his escort were killed, and gun fire rained down accurately on the back window of the car in which he was riding. The protective glass was battered but did not give way. The Chilean people were indignant at the vile assassination attempt, and the figure of the Madonna and child seemingly punched out on the glass by the bullets — copies of the picture on demand — suggest that she at least is not afraid of mixing politics and religion!
Then why did Pinochet fall from power a few years later? Maybe, just maybe, because although three Society priests separately urged him to consecrate Chile to the Sacred Heart, he failed to do so. "O ye of little faith..." It is heart-breaking to visit in Santiago a great and handsome convent building occupied by a handful of nuns only holding on because of a Mother Superior heroically resisting the diocesan authorities who are doing all they can to fill the whole convent, like its church, with dust .... When Mother Veronica ten years ago opened the church to Society priests arriving in Chile, they and she must have hoped in a popular reaction, in an up-swing of the Faith, in the re-filling of the dusty pews. It was not to be. "My thoughts are not your thoughts”, saith the Lord.
From Chile to the Argentine, circumstances enabled me to make the passage by road over the majestic Andes, the same pass taken by the much impressed St. Frances Cabrini on her missionary travels years ago. What labour for men to cut a pass by road or rail over such heights, but, for the mountains themselves, what insignificant and fragile surface scratching such a pass represents. "O Lord, how great are thy works! Thy thoughts are exceeding deep… Thou hast multiplied thy wonderful works, O Lord my God; and in thy thoughts there is no one like to thee. I have declared and I have spoken, they are multiplied above number” (Ps. XCI, XXXIX).
The Argentine is the Society’s base of operations in South Amnerica. It is the most European of the Hispano-American countries, having received for instance many post-colonial immigrants from Italy, and it boasts a depth of Christian civilization and Catholic culture which the financial manipulators and engineers of corruption have not yet succeeded in destroying. The inland city of Cordova had a magnificent Jesuit baroque church and university long before Harvard University was even a gleam in a heretical preacher’s eye.
Today, I was told, the uncrowned king of the Argentine is the American Ambassador, and the present Argentinian President is a theatrical puppet. Just before I arrived a failed military putsch had, one may think, been laid on to persuade the visiting President Bush what good democrats the Argentinians are, yet when the financiers will have passed away with all their pomps and all their works, the baroque church, one suspects, will still be standing.
Meanwhile the Society profited by the Argentine's Catholic leadership of the continent to launch there in the late seventies its mission to South America. Now the Society has a thriving parish in the capital, Buenos Aires, another parish in Cordova, and a Sisters' Noviciate and a priestly Seminary a little way outside the capital. Alas, a rigourist putsch within the Seminary in 1989 emptied it of half its seminarians. Of the two dozen left, I was privileged to ordain in mid-December an Argentinian for Mexico and a Mexican for Columbia. Youngsters, to minister virtually unaided to an aging and ailing world... Sheep sent out amongst wolves... "Eppure si muove".
The next stop was Brazil, where I was to spend three days as the working guest of the Traditional Catholic priests of the diocese of Campos, a city lying a few hours by car to the north-east of Rio de Janeiro, city little in size but great in faith, having given to the world over the last thirty years the living proof that no diocesan bishop or diocese was obliged to follow Vatican II in its soft apostasy. It is well-known that Dom Antonio de Castro Mayer, bishop of Campos from 1949 for over thirty years, is the only bishop in the world to have stood in public beside Archbishop Lefebvre in his resistance to the neomodernists' destruction of the Church; it is also known that Dom Antonio's diocesan priests stood behind him and maintained the Tridentine Mass when the rest of the Church was dropping it; what is less well-known is how after Dom Antonio's resignation the large majority of those priests, driven out of their parish churches by Dom Antonio's modernist successor, have since hung together and, with the vigorous support of their people, are rebuilding eleven new churches, from ground zero, to continue keeping the Faith!
I was able to meet a good number of these priests. Humanly speaking they are ordinary enough men, humble and solid workers in the Lord's vineyard, but divinely speaking, the example of Catholic fidelity which they are giving to the world is an extraordinary accomplishment. As always, the disproportion between the humility of the instrument and the sublimity of the achievement demonstrates the finger of God. May He richly bless and long preserve these faithful priests!
They are the fruit of Dom Antonio's episcopacy. Dom Antonio, now in his 87th year, is mostly confined to bed where his priests will let no-one else look after him and where I was able to visit him. His mind is completely alert and with his twinkling good spirits he continues to be the supernatural inspiration of his priests. They are seriously considering consecrating one of their number to succeed him, and that is another thing that might divert Archbishop Lefebvre from North America this spring. But successor or no successor, the story of Catholic resistance in the Diocese of Campos is no less than an epic.
Last stop on the way back to U.S.A. was Mexico, maybe the most privileged of all the Catholic nations in Latin America. Our Lady of Guadalupe is Patroness of the Americas. However, in God's Providence Mexico has also been severely tried by the proximity of its immediate nonCatholic neighbour to the North, from where Freemasons have repeatedly interfered in Mexican history, for example in 1929 when they helped to frustrate the Cristeros of their imminent victory in their bloody three-year struggle for the Faith. But the Faith is still alive in the Mexican people, so that hundreds of Catholics attend Mass in each of the Society's two largest and most recently purchased buildings in Mexico City and Guadalajara. The Society landed in Mexico like by parachute, but it is putting down roots, thanks especially to our retreat-house near Colima, and to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
For these Exercises for men in Easter Week in Winona, see the enclosed yellow flyer, giving also the dates for the Exercises for the rest of the year in Winona, and in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Sign up. There is also a flyer for the summer camps being held by the Society of the United Statues this year for boys and (separately) for girls: Next on blue paper is a Profession of Faith for the 1990's by our Superior General, Fr. Schmidberger, most usefully addressing itself to the errors attacking the Faith today. This Profession of Faith should be valuable to put into the hands of Catholics asking what "Tradition" is all about. Lastly, the twice-yearly S.C.S.F. or Seminary Continous Support Fund card is enclosed for those of you wishing to pledge regular support to the Seminary with the help of a return envelope reaching you each month by first-class mail. By all means return the card if you wish to make an address correction but then kindly make it clear you are not making a pledge.
We are full into Lent and Passiontide begins soon. Profit by the graces of the season. There is nothing like the Passion to help understand this crisis of the Church, and nothing like this crisis to help understand the Passion It is through weakness, humiliation and defeat that love emerges triumphant. Divine mystery!
Sincerely yours in Our Crucified Lord,