Sunday of March 2011:
Third Sunday of Lent
of the Death of
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
Twenty years ago
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre passed away. In February 1990, in three
conferences that he gave to the Sisters of the Society of St. Pius
X, at St. Michael’s Abbey, he had agreed to relate quite simply
what his life had been. His remarks, collected in a little book
The Little Story of My Long Life, conclude with
this epilogue, which depicts him as he was and as he remains in
our grateful memory.
I cannot say that
it was really I who said, "I want to do this… it
will be this way… and I think that… and I want…." It was not at
all like that. I realize, and you have likewise noticed, that it
has been the same throughout my entire life. It has always been
Providence which decided everything. On my part, I rather
resisted; I did not really agree; I was not very eager. But it
pull me on anyway, "Ah, no! you must come!" Then afterward… well… I now see that God has, in fact, blessed, blessed everything,
and that it has all worked out fine. Deo gratias! Let us
hope that it will continue like that…
On March 25, 1991, on the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed
Virgin Mary, he surrendered his soul to God.
Fr. Alain Lorans [DICI
Collection of Tributes to a Catholic Bishop
Sunday of March 2011:
Second Sunday of Lent
of St. Joseph
The Loretta Chapel
with Miraculous Staircase
of St. Joseph
A bit of
After the United States’ victory in the Mexican-American
War, a vast piece of land in the Southwest was ceded in 1848
to America. The Spanish town, La Villa Real de la Santa
Fe de San Francisco de Asis (“The Royal Town of the Holy
Faith of St. Francis of Assisi”), founded in 1610, became
the capital of the state of New Mexico, with the new name of
Santa Fe. It was then occupied by Indians, Mexicans and
Simultaneously, a young French-American priest stationed in
Cincinnati, Ohio, Fr. Jean-Baptiste Lamy was appointed
the bishop for this new acquired territory. When he
arrived, many priests, resenting him as an interloper,
decided to return to Mexico leaving the new diocese with
a few priests and educators. In response, Bishop Lamy
wrote pleas requesting priests, brothers and sisters for
his diocese: “I have 6000 Catholics and 300 Americans”
he explained! The first to accept his plea were the
Sisters of Loretto.
This young congregation, founded in 1812 by Fr. Charles
Nerinckx under the name of “the Little Society of the
Friends of Mary under the Cross of Jesus,” was the first
order of sisters created in the United States. When they
named their little log cabin “Little Loretto” in honor of
the Holy Family, they became known as the “Loretto Sisters”.
In 1852, seven courageous sisters left the safe, secure and
civilized state of Kentucky and began the arduous
journey to Santa Fe.
A second group of
in transit to Santa Fe in 1867
Their trek was through St. Louis, then westward along the
Missouri River to Independence, Missouri. The small group
was beset by a cholera epidemic; the superior, Mother
Matilda died, while another sister was too ill and had to
return to Kentucky. The remaining five continued their
travel by wagon through bad weather and hostile Indians, a
journey of several months that included struggles and fears,
broken axles and wheels, sights of sun-bleached bones and
Exterior of Loretta
The sisters did not speak Spanish when they arrived;
nevertheless, supported by Bishop Lamy, they started the
school the following year in 1853, “for the education
of young ladies”. Through tuitions, donations,
inheritances, and dowries from their families, they
built the convent, chapel and school (titled the Loretto
Academy of Our Lady of Light).
Bishop Lamy brought the architect Antoine Mouly from Paris
to build his cathedral. As an architect, he had been
involved in the renovation of the Ste. Chapelle in
Paris, France in the early 1800s. When asked by the
Loretto Sisters to design their chapel, he fashioned it
in a beautiful Gothic style after the Ste. Chapelle.
Skilled craftsmen and artisans from France and Italy were
brought to assist the qualified local builders for the
bishop’s cathedral. They also helped with the sister’s
chapel. The entire design and craftsmanship were executed
majestically but not at a large expense the sisters could
The chapel was built with a choir loft but installing
stairs was a problem. During the fourth year of the chapel’s
construction the sisters faced a dilemma. The school was
growing with more students each year. A typical staircase
would use too much floor space thereby limiting seating in
the chapel. On another hand, using a ladder to ascend the
loft would be terrifying and unfitting for the sisters and
the girls. Mother Magdalen called in many carpenters to try
to build a stairway; but each, in his turn, measured,
thought, and then shook his head sadly saying, “It can’t
be done, Mother” (“No se puede, Madrecita”).
These sisters though were ladies of great faith! They
decided to entrust the difficulty to the one they had placed
the construction of their chapel under: St. Joseph. So,
sisters and students together began a nine-day novena to St.
Joseph, asking for his intervention. It was not surprising
therefore when on the ninth and final day of the novena,
there appeared at the school an old, gray-haired and bearded
man with a donkey and a tool chest; a carpenter who offered
to build the needed staircase. He was hired and proceeded to
go to work.
Answer to a prayer
One would not pay an itinerant craftsman until after the
job was completed. Mother Magdalen wrote she didn’t even ask
the name of the mysterious carpenter. During these times it
was considered immodest for the sisters and the girls to
carry on a conversation with a male laborer. They just
remembered that the only tools he had were a hammer, a saw
and a T square. And he worked during more than six months.1
When the work was completed, Mother Magdalen went to pay
him, but he had vanished. She went to the local lumber yard
to pay at least for the wood, but they knew nothing of the
Wonder of construction
The winding stairway that St. Joseph left for the sisters
and their students is a masterpiece of beauty and
wonder. It makes two complete 360 degrees turns. There
is no supporting pole up the center as most circular
stairways have. This means that it hangs without
support, and the transferred weight is solely on the
base. Until now, no consensus among engineers having
reached to give a scientific explanation.2
The short pieces of wood 3 to 5 feet in length were put
together only with hundreds of square wooden pegs used
with great precision and exceptional craftsmanship.
There are no nails, screws nor glue. The assembled
structured is comprised of approximately 93 pieces of
wood divided amongst 10 for the outside stringer, 8 for
the inside stringer, as well as 33 steps and 33 risers.
when first built
The perfection of the stringers’ curves is baffling; the
wood is spliced along the sides of the stringers and each
piece is perfectly curved.
down from the choir loft
Another mystery of this staircase was the type of wood
used. Though the treads have been constantly walked on
and were used daily by the sisters and children for over
100 years, nonetheless, only the edges show signs of
wear. The wood also appears not to be native to the
state of New Mexico, and is in fact, an unknown variety.3
When first built, the staircase had no banisters,4
a feature that would not be added until seven years later.
Joseph, pray for us!
Mother Church is always cautious about making statements
concerning things of a supernatural nature. Though
nothing definite has been said about the stairway,
everyone is convinced that this was St. Joseph’s answer
to prayers. Devotees of Christ’s Foster Father do not
require the Church’s official judgment to understand
that the humble, silent, generous and exceptional
craftsman was St. Joseph himself.
May he help us to ascend, through the imitation of the life
of Jesus to the choir loft of Our Lady to sing eternally
with the angels and the saints the eternal Sanctus
to the Trinity!
account tells the work was done very quickly.
major theories have sought to provide an explanation for the
strength of the staircase: a) the double helix and the
weight placed upon it could make it stronger; b) the inside
stringer, being of small diameter could be a load-bearing
column; c) the well-fitted square wooden pegs could create a
virtual solid entity.
3 In 1996,
after a 15-month study and wood analysis by Forrest N.
Easley, a wood technologist for 40 years, it was concluded
that the wood of the staircase is of an unknown origin. It
is a spruce species but of a subspecies like no other. As
stated by Mr. Easley, “No other spruce has square shaped
structured cells”. It is now named: Pinacae Picea
Josefii Easley, or as a common name, Loretto Spruce.
the girls who attended the academy at the time the stairway
was constructed was a girl of about thirteen years. She
later became a Loretto Sister, Sister Mary, and she never
tired of telling how she and her friend were among the first
to climb up the stairway. They were so frightened when they
got up to the choir that they came down by crawling down
backward or by “bumping down on their bottoms”.
Sunday of March 2011:
First Sunday of Lent
Should Exorcisms and
Exorcists be sent to Hell?
Behind the flippant air of this title lurk rather sinister
things worth our attention. Between known rock stars giving
themselves to the devil and Harry Potter producing “white
magic”, our children are getting “witchcraft friendly”.
another note, some of our readers may have seen the
movie The Rite, based on a nonfiction book
by Matt Baglio,
The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist.
The central character is Michael Kovak, a seminarian who
questions his faith. But before he leaves the seminary,
he attends an exorcism course in Rome, where he meets
Fr. Luca, an experienced exorcist. While working with
Fr. Luca, Michael participates in several exorcisms and
comes face to face with the devil. Michael is ultimately
required to perform an exorcism on a most unexpected
person and realizes that believing in God and His power
over evil is necessary to overcome evil.
This movie prompted some reactions from the U.S.
bishop’s conference (Nov. 2010) on the “liturgical
and pastoral practice of exorcism,” especially since
the number of exorcists in the US is minimal. Fifty-six
bishops and even more priests have registered to hear
about the shortage of trained exorcists and the growing
interest in the mysterious rite. May God instill in them
the power to fight against the invisible but real “power
which infests the air.”
Fr. Gabriele Amorth
On this matter, it is well worth considering
Gabriele Amorth, 85, has to say. The Vatican's
chief exorcist for 25 years, he studied 70,000
cases of demonic possession. He has written the
famous book, An Exorcist Tells His Story.
He also objected to the introduction of a new
version of the exorcism rite, complaining that
it dropped centuries-old prayers and was “a
blunt sword” about which exorcists themselves
had not been consulted. Here are some of his
The extraordinary forms of Satanic activities can
manifest themselves in many ways, including
external physical pain (e.g., those which
afflicted St. John Vianney), demonic possession,
diabolic oppression, diabolic obsession, diabolic
infestation and diabolic subjugation (consecration
Just as it would be wrong to deny the existence of
Satan, it is also wrong to accept the prevalent
opinion that there are spiritual beings that are
not mentioned in the Bible. These are the
invention of spiritists and of those who believe
in “wandering souls”. There are no good spirits
other than angels; there are no evil spirits other
than demons. Two Councils of the Church (Lyons and
Florence) tell us that the souls of those who die
go immediately to heaven, hell, or purgatory. The
souls of the dead who are present during séances
or the souls of the dead who are present in living
bodies to torture them are none other than demons.
Satanic infiltration included power struggles at
the Vatican as well as “cardinals who do not
believe in Jesus, and bishops who are linked to
How can we defend ourselves from all these evils?
A strict interpretation of the Ritual
confines the use of exorcisms only to instances of
true possession. However, as I stated before, the
current Ritual fails to address many
occasions in which an exorcist diagnoses an evil
influence. In all cases when there is no
possession the usual means to obtain grace should
be sufficient. These means are prayer, the
sacraments, almsgiving, leading a Christian life,
pardoning offenses, and soliciting the aid of our
Lord, Mary, the saints, and the angels.
Behind Harry Potter hides the signature of
the king of the darkness, the devil. Rowling's
books contain innumerable positive references to
magic, the Satanic art. The books attempt to make
a false distinction between black and white magic,
when in fact, the distinction does not exist,
because magic is always a turn to the devil. Also,
the books bring out a twisted morality which
suggests that rules can be contravened and that
useful lies are quite justified.2
1 The Times, March 11, 2010.
2 Ignatius Insight.
MORE ON THIS TOPIC
The Problem with the Harry Potter Series
Sunday of March 2011:
The Facebook Effect
(by David Kirkpatrick)
This book launches a warning signal to all parents. The
latest danger lies in a new communication device: social media (Myspace,
Facebook, etc). Lucky there are parents who still have the choice between
having and not having such media in the home. Some are less fortunate and
may soon realize how difficult it is to delete its traces. In any case,
social media is a problem for teenagers (and children too, alas!) which
requires parents to be fully educated about them.
The author describes the tragedies of teenagers who fell
victims to the new monster. Here is one example out of a thousand: one
youth realized only too late that he was being filmed in his room
indulging in a promiscuous relationship. Instantly, the film was public
and seen through one of these networks. When he realized this, the boy was
so psychologically disturbed that he jumped off the Washington Bridge.
Besides the trauma, the new reality which comes with social
media is a form of radical transparency. It does away with any limits of
privacy and sends a message to “Publicize yourself!” The problem with this
is that one’s pictures, actions, and thoughts are shared instantly,
globally and permanently: exactly the opposite of the Christian culture
where people go into the secrecy and sacredness of the confessional to
blot out their sins forever.
Who has come to grips with the new monster, growing
exponentially by adding 25 millions members every month? About half of US
citizens are involved, including three out of every four teenagers. Under
the guise of the innocent pastime of connecting with friends, here are
some of the dangers of these networks.
is the hallmark. “Users can construct their public profile”, and
are encouraged to fake things. This foments the “virtual self”, the person
we fancy we are and we dream to become. Naïve parents have been deceived
by children smart enough to set up a dummy page to cover up the real page
they use to connect socially. The system encourages them to break from all
shackles of parental control, by the common use of initials known only to
users, like PIR (parent in room) or POS (parent over shoulder).
is the most targetable medium in history. Predators of all sorts use it
quite successfully, drawing out credit card numbers and other private
information. Other types of predators try to seduce youngsters, including
toddlers. Obviously impurity is rampant as the medium engages browsers to
outdo each other in boldness. Other initials known only to avid users are
common, e.g., GYPO—get your pants off—which is, as you can imagine,
one of the more “innocent” ones out there. About one in every two children
has been bullied or threatened online.
will be quite edified to know that social media has teenagers hooked for
about 20 hours per week. This amounts to about three hours a day taken
away from the scarce precious time of family life, studies, and sleep.
Three hours in which parents lose total control over children and teens,
ignore totally what they do and say, who they talk to, and where they are
going! What more is required to show the demise of parental authority? At
that point, the parents only have an incidental influence on their
children. Part of the problem is that such teens are not adults and cannot
yet function responsibly! They are endowed with a huge capacity but
without the power to control it by themselves, like a powerful sports car
with bicycle brakes. This is in addition to the fact that the package of
information is sent at a speed beyond the capacity to analyze and judge.
In such conditions, given that the pace of threats is exponentially
multiplied, the ability to react is proportionately diminished. The
intellect and will turns into a bird brain only able to Twitter!
teaches children to flee from reality. Whoever enters this realm of
virtual reality must leave at the gate any natural sensation like smelling
a rose, disengaging himself from human interaction and real beings. One
leaves real friends and ends up “friending” hundreds of people you know
nothing about. You leave reality because you are “not real” until you are
connected: the online people you reach with Myspace are more real and more
meaningful to you than Mom and Dad and your fellow students at school. You
make your own world and your own image to show off, for
self-glorification, to feed vanity, and offer yourself an alternate
God entrusted our parents with the care of children for one
particular purpose, and that is to teach them the way to know, love, and
serve God in this life and save their souls hereafter. Everything leads us
to think that Facebook fits poorly into this plan and was devised for a
very different goal.