April 2, 1994
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
Good news from the Argentine — the Society of St. Pius X is advancing and consolidating in Latin America. Progress is not spectacular, any more than it is anywhere else, but it is re-assuring: the pilot light looks like staying lit, there as elsewhere, until the gas is turned on again.
At the invitation of the Society's District Superior for Latin America (except Mexico), Fr. Xavier Beauvais, and of the Rector of the Society's Latin American Seminary, Fr. Dominique Lagneau, both based in or near Buenos Aires, capital of perhaps the most Catholic country in Latin America, the Argentine, I was down there from the end of February to the middle of March.
By the end of this February in the American Midwest, I was saying to myself, I am getting too old for these winters, indeed to get to Miami I had to re-route round Chicago, socked in by a major snow-storm, However, having fled to the southern hemisphere, where of course everything is upside down but at least they have summer while winter is going on up here, I ran into what were apparently two of the hottest weeks of the Argentine's summer, and I found myself saying, I am getting too old to take the heat. No comment!
Firstly there was a retreat for the priests of the Latin American District, about twenty in number, most of them based in the Argentine, but two on the other side of the Andes in Chile, and three in the far north of the South American Continent, in Columbia. These last three priests are immensely isolated. Air travel is available between all these countries, but it is rather more expensive than within the United States, and our faithful in Latin America are not rich. However, I knew that Winona's benefactors would not mind helping to sustain some isolated Society priests, so the visiting bishop helped out with some airfares. On the priests' behalf, thank you. I know they were happy to be back for a week amongst old friends and colleagues at the Seminary in La Reja which is their "alma mater," or "motherly mother," in the priesthood.
There followed a week's retreat for the old and new seminarians at the seminary, to mark their late summer beginning of the new school year. Thanks to an intensive programme of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius being given in various locations in Latin America by Society priests over the last few summers, priestly vocations have risen so that there are now more than thirty seminarians and five brothers at La Reja, eleven seminarians entering this year. This is no small consolation to the La Reja Seminary priests who went through some lean times following on the Argentine's intra-Society explosion of 1989, when the former Rector marched out at the head of nineteen seminarians! One hopes that the continued preaching of the Ignatian Exercises will maintain the present rate of new vocations, but one must be under no illusions - everything in today's world conspires more and more against Catholic vocations, against youngsters even thinking of giving their lives to God.
What a shame! Little do the youngsters know what happiness they miss. Pyre Barrielle back in Ecône used to quote the old French saying, "If you want to be happy for three hours, get drunk; if you want to be happy for a month, get married; but if you want to be happy for the rest of your life, get ordained a priest." Several married men have told me the "months" should be replaced by "weeks" (Oops! No male chauvinism around here! I am sure married women say the same thing!). However, that is not how it looks to youngsters today. Actually, by their instability and immaturity, many of them are as unfit to get married as they are to get ordained. And whose fault is that? The liberal adults who by their liberalism pretend that one need never endure unpleasantness nor take any consequences — all crosses are to be rejected because nobody has the right to make me suffer. Yet "In suffering is learning," said the ancient Greek poet, Aeschylus. In suffering is maturing. In the Cross is our salvation, our only salvation. Poor youngsters! How will they learn? How will they mature?
For there to catch a glimpse of a different way of life, bring them to the priestly ordinations at Winona this year. Flyer enclosed. Here are extracts from the letter of a non-Society layman written after attending last year's ordinations:
"I finally found a few minutes to set my thoughts to paper regarding the June 19 ordinations... I must tell you that I and many thousands of other traditionalist Catholics agree with and support the positions of the Society - the only impediment to total acceptance for many is the fact that the Holy Father is not 'officially' in the picture. Nevertheless, I saw nothing at the ordinations that indicated that the Society does not recognize the Pope — in fact, I could see nothing of the schismatic attitudes that the mainline Church's powers-that-be keep talking about, and the sermon confirmed those conclusions.
"What I did" see was surprising in many ways. I shall begin with the ceremonies.
"I am still in awe of the magnificent solemnity of what I saw in that tent. I cannot understand how the `mainline' church could trash such beautiful tradition in favor of the banalities that dominate the modernist liturgical worship in the Church today. It has become increasingly more difficult for me to accept the validity of much of the `new' liturgy, and my experience on a foggy Saturday in June at Winona has made it still more so. I saw the Mass again celebrated as it should be, and it was wonderful.
"As 1 knelt on my slicker, I chanced to observe the people around me, and I was immediately impressed by the following:
1. The numbers present. I reckoned the head count to have totaled between 550 to 700, in spite of the weather.
2. They were there to worship God, not each other. The reverence and respect for what was going on was reflected in the actions and faces of all, including the children. What a relief to be free of the howdy-and-shake fiasco!
3. The large number of teenagers and young adults, and the exemplary way in which they conducted themselves. It was so good to see beautiful young women adorned with embroidered veils on their heads and flowing long dresses, and young men who looked and acted like gentlemen.
4. The large number of wives in their late 30's and into their 40's that had children under 2 or 3 years old. I was seated in the back in a row where there were 2 or 3 women whom I judged to be near the end of their child-bearing days who nevertheless had beautiful, healthy small children who were well behaved and distinct pleasure to `be in church with.'
5. The international flavor and variety of those present. After the ceremonies, I `met and mingled' with some who came from `countries far.' One old woman aged over 80 years, came all the way from Winnipeg; she has been coming to the ordinations since the first, and `If God is willing, I will be coming again next jahr!'
"I could go on, but I must keep this letter of reasonable length. Suffice it to say in a single sentence: I am glad that I came to see."
Confirmations this year in Lauzon (Quebec) April 22; Atlanta, GA, May 1; Post Falls, ID, May 8; Colton, CA, May 14; Sacramento, CA, May 15; San Antonio, TX, May 21; Dickinson and Sanger, TX, May 22; St. Mary's, KS, May 27; Richmond, VA, May 29; Pittsburgh, PA, June 4; Buffalo, NY, June 5; El Paso, TX, June 12; Armada and Mancelona, MI, June 19.
We will pray for good weather here on June 25, when Bishop Fellay will perform the ordinations, and. we will pray for vocations, many vocations, many good vocations, from amongst the gracious young ladies and the gallant young gentlemen observed here by our visitor last year!
Sincerely yours in Christ,