November 2001 - Superior General's Letter #61
We had the joy of seeing a magnificent church in the heart of Brussels restored to Catholic worship. It sums up where we are and what we are doing – restoring Catholic Tradition as best we can within the Church. Already a considerable number of priests, especially young ones, and even some bishops, are looking with favour upon our work. We represent an encouragement for them and a glimmer of hope, because many of them feel overwhelmed by discouragement, not to say despair, at seeing the indescribable obstinacy of so many bishops in preventing all rescue attempts.
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
On the occasion of All Saints’ Day, anniversary of the founding of our Society of St. Pius X, we had the joy of seeing a magnificent church in the heart of Brussels restored to Catholic worship. This church, with an area of some 25,000 square feet, built in the middle of the 19th century, was for a long time Belgium’s national shrine dedicated to St. Joseph. Kept by the Redemptorists, it was the religious edifice in which the traditional Mass was celebrated officially for the longest time in Belgium’s capital city, well after 1969. We were able to acquire it from a Syriac group which worshipped there for some fifteen years
Acquiring this church seems to us highly symbolical. As it were, it sums up where we are and what we are doing – restoring Catholic Tradition as best we can within the Church.
That may seem presumptuous, and, no doubt, if it were something we were trying to do by ourselves, we could hardly avoid the accusation of presumption. But the facts are there: we remain faithfully and steadily attached to Catholic Tradition, in particular to the Tridentine rite of Mass bearing abundant spiritual fruit And now that the crisis in the Church is becoming more obvious by the great lack of priests in eastern and western hemispheres and by the immense emptiness at the heart of the faith as it is being handed down to future generations, the Tridentine rite is becoming like a statement pointing out how to put a massive end to the crisis in the Church, and to bring about a lasting restoration.
Already a considerable number of priests, especially young ones, and even some bishops, are looking with favour, in most cases without yet making themselves heard, upon our work. We represent an encouragement for them and a glimmer of hope, because many of them feel overwhelmed by discouragement, not to say despair, at seeing the indescribable obstinacy of so many bishops in preventing all rescue attempts, be it in the teaching of the catechism, in the introducing of a little more respect in the receiving of holy Communion or in the celebration of Mass.
For thirty years now all over the world, we have been watching how the least recovery attempt is met by an often savage opposition on the part of those who anonymously but efficaciously wield power. Stop anything that looks like turning the clock back: all too often the authorities watch out for nothing else. If only that was not the case! But very few of them stand up to the all-round pressure of the reforms and their aftermath.
Even in Rome, if any of the churchmen become aware of the disaster, they hasten to state that there is no turning back, as regards for instance the Mass or ecumenism. It is a little as though a baker were to complain of the low nutritional value of some new bread, only to declare that there is no going back to making the old kind of bread. Why not?
Why should the ecumenism being practiced today be irreversible? Why should general freedom for the so-called mass of St. Pius V be refused, when its grandeur, beauty and all-round fruitfulness are known to all? The reason we are given is that that would be to devalue the new rite of Mass. That is a poor reason, coming from suicidal reformers who would rather cling to the reforms they brought about than get out of their misery.
Well, for our part we are resolved to be just as obstinate, for the sake of the Church, the Roman Catholic Church which we love because she gave us the Faith, the life of grace, the sacraments, supernatural life, the pledge of eternity. In one word, because she is our Mother. We wish her to be like Our Lord wishes her to be, stainless, without spot or wrinkle (Eph V, 5), but we also know such beauty comes at a price. We know that a restoration of the Church will not happen without suffering, without the Cross, as we follow in Our Lord’s own footsteps: “For unto this you are called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps. ‘Who did not sin, neither was guile found in his mouth’. Who, when he was reviled, did not revile: when he suffered, he threatened not: but delivered himself to him that judged him unjustly. Who his own self bore our sins in his body on the tree: that we, being dead to sins, should live to justice: by whose stripes you were healed” (I Pet. II, 21-24).
We are not looking for an easy or highly visible success. Ours is an undertaking that calls for souls ready to give everything, including life; souls ready to sacrifice and suffer. Our Lord gave us no other way to follow, no other remedy. And all Church history is full of such heroes, such victories “in reverse.” We seek no other way than this one, because it is Our Lord’s way. “Regnavit a ligno Deus”. God reigned from the Cross. We preach Christ, and Christ crucified, such is the line taken by the Apostle of the Gentiles. “For I judged not myself to know any thing among you, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Cor. II, 2).
However, Brussels is not the only place where the Church’s restoration is symbolically expressed: we rejoice in a number of church blessings and consecrations this year. Let us take just the most typical: in Denver, Colorado, a magnificent neo-Romanesque church was built with the help of some 300 Denver Catholics, and consecrated on August 18; the seminary church in La Reja in the Argentine, a neo-colonial jewel, will be consecrated next December 8; also in the Argentine, Mendoza is getting a new priory and a splendid church; in Switzerland, Fribourg now boasts a beautiful chapel, as does Veneta in the USA, while in Mexico the transformation of our church in the capital city is being completed. In France, three handsome buildings will soon be ready for purposes of worshipping God: in Toulon, Saintes and Saint-Malo. So here and there all over the world are rising up beautiful buildings for our priests and people the more easily to lift up to God their worship through the prayer of the liturgy. It is most consoling to see scattered across all continents the same fervour, the same zeal to honour God as handsomely as possible. The numerous buildings are clear testimony to your admirable generosity.
However, we rejoice far more yet in the building up of your souls. In all ages Mother Church has seen in the building of a church a symbol of herself. The souls are stones cut to fit one another, resting firmly on the Rock, Peter, laid by Our Lord Jesus Christ Peter, on whom the Redeemer built his Church, describes this mystery in his first epistle: “Unto whom coming, as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen and made honourable by God: Be you also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices…” (I Pet. II, 4-5).
So even if times are hard, God is granting us many consolations, such as conversions, the education of our children, the opening of their hearts towards their heavenly Father; Christian families set upon living according to God’s commandments without holding back, at the cost of great sacrifice; abundant fruit also in the various religious congregations close to us all this is a consolation to us because it consoles the heart of God.
So let us continue, dear friends, let us continue to do as much good as possible, especially good to souls our own souls, those of our relatives and of many others too. The day will come when what we are witnessing to will be recognized. May Our Lady hasten that day!
With my blessing,
† Bernard Fellay