District Superior's Letter: Dec 2010
For most, if not all of us, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the Society of St. Pius X have had a great impact on our lives, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. It is largely thanks to the Society that the Faith, the Mass, our priesthood have been passed on to us...
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
As we celebrate this year the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Society of St. Pius X, it is our pleasure and duty to express our gratitude.
For most, if not all of us, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the Society of St. Pius X have had a great impact on our lives, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. It is largely thanks to the Society that the Faith, the Mass, our priesthood have been passed on to us, that we have access to the true Sacraments, that there is yet light in these times of darkness. For all these things and so much more, we are deeply thankful.
St. Thomas Aquinas explains that gratitude is a special virtue, a special element of justice. If justice, in general, is to render to each what is due to him, then gratitude is, more specifically, to give thanks to one’s benefactors. The angelic doctor, St. Thomas spells out, indeed, that there are three degrees of gratitude:
The first degree of gratitude is to recognize the favor received—to realize that it is a favor, given freely; to see that the favor given was not due, and that it must not, therefore, be taken for granted.
The second degree of gratitude is the expression of one’s appreciation—it is to go beyond plain acknowledgment in the mind, and to convey one’s thanks outwardly. It means, further, not only to express thanks in word, but also to show one’s appreciation by making good use of that which is given.
The third degree of gratitude is to repay the gift received, for as St. Thomas says, “a moral debt (such as a favor) should be repaid at a suitable place and time, according to one’s means.” Repaying favors whenever possible, and as much as possible, is part of the virtue of gratitude. “We should repay those who are gracious to us,” says St. Thomas, “by being gracious to them in return.”
In a sermon given on November 1, 1990, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Society, the Archbishop called to mind the miracle of the foundation, or more specifically, the approval of the Statutes and of the Constitution of the Society, by the local bishop, as well as by the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome.
The Archbishop himself called this approval “a little miracle”, as the times were already very unfavorable to Tradition. One could hardly have expected that in 1970, just five years after the close of the Second Vatican Council, the approval and blessing of the Church would be given for a traditional seminary and priestly society. No; the Revolution had started and was already well underway; such an approval would be completely in the opposite direction. Nonetheless, the unlikely did happen… and when the Archbishop brought back news of it to his seminarians, there was “an explosion of joy and of amazement!” The Archbishop always recognized this approval as a great blessing from Heaven, and a sign that Providence wanted him to continue the work he had begun. He was to carry on the formation of priests for the Holy Catholic Church, in accordance with the way he himself had been formed, and as he had in turn formed others in the past. Thanks to this “little miracle,” he saw clearly that the Society of St. Pius X was providential, in accordance with the will of God.
Twenty years later, Archbishop Lefebvre reiterated that the Society, its growth, its priests, the many faithful and facilities, its expansion throughout the world—all these things showed that God wanted and continued to bless the Society of St. Pius X.
“We must acknowledge the blessing of God,” he said. Moreover, it is the same today, as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Society: we must admit that God has blessed the Society and us through the Society, tremendously. It would be a terrible ingratitude to benefit from this blessing and not recognize it as a great favor from God.
Archbishop Lefebvre saw the work of the Society of Saint Pius X as counter-revolutionary; he saw the Society as an army that would oppose and fight against the Revolution in the Church. It is a small army, certainly, but a true one, meant to fight ‘Goliath,’ the giant. Like David in the Old Testament, we come forward to face the giant with but a simple weapon. Our “sling” with its little “stones” is the Mass, the true Sacrifice of the Mass, and the graces that come from it. It is the Archbishop who told us how we are to fight the Revolution: by the Faith, by the Mass and the Sacraments. These are our weapons. The light to see in these times of crisis, to know the direction we are to take and the means by which we shall overcome… this light we have received from the Archbishop and the Society he founded.
The second degree of gratitude is to express it and to make good use of what one has received.
The Archbishop paid a great price for what we have received. We think back on the great decisions he had to make: in 1976, for instance, holding firm under threat of suspension, or in 1988, making the immense decision to consecrate four bishops for Tradition, an act we know to have been vital for the safeguard of the Catholic priesthood. So much was at stake in these decisions, but only he could make them; he was alone.
In one of his sermons, he spoke of how one must be ready to loose everything for the glory of God, even his reputation. He knew from experience what he was talking about. What heroic sacrifice!
In the 20th anniversary sermon, we already mentioned, Archbishop Lefebvre spoke also, of how painful it was to be misunderstood; it was a cross he willingly accepted, nevertheless it was a true cross. Misunderstood by the authorities in Rome, misunderstood even by his own priests, who deserted him and faithful at times…. Often, in return for the good he did for the Church, he received evil in return. As previously mentioned, in 1988 Rome responded to his attempt to save the priesthood by the “excommunications.” It was the same, sadly, from a number of his priests; how many priests received everything from him, but did not understand him and finally not only left the true fight, but also tried to justify their independence by finding fault where they had received only blessings.
He truly saved the Mass, but was criticized on all sides for doing so. Some disapproved of him for not accepting the New Mass, others for accepting the 1962 rubrics. How many people have not really understood the spirit and work of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre!
Aware, then, of the price he paid on our behalf, we want to express our gratitude. To do this in words is not difficult. Therefore, we want to go beyond words; we want to show our appreciation to the Archbishop by cherishing the treasures we received from his hand: the Faith, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacraments; the priesthood. What a tragedy when souls take these treasures for granted; it is then that they are liable to be lost!
We want to value the rich heritage of the Church, as the saints valued and loved it, as the Archbishop did value and love it. Let us treasure these riches with all our hearts, and show that we do so, by our effort to avail ourselves of them, and by the immense respect we demonstrate in doing so.
The third and final degree of gratitude is to repay the favor received. How can we hope to do so effectively, when the gift we have received is infinite in value? We cannot hope to truly and completely repay such a favor.
Nevertheless, if we treasure what the Archbishop loved and sacrificed for, we cannot but be filled with affection for the Society that he founded and that continues his work. This love for the Society, this fidelity to the Society and its work, is the return that is asked of us. We can show our gratitude to both God and the Archbishop by courageously standing strong in the Society’s combat for the Church and the Faith, generously giving ourselves under the leadership of the Superiors that Providence has chosen to carry on the work of Tradition.
Here also, we can find inspiration in the words of the Archbishop: We must recognize the role God is entrusting to us, Catholics in the 21st century. We are engaged in a Crusade. The Archbishop has taken us on a beautiful Crusade: a Crusade for the Mass, for Christ the King, for the Truth, for the Catholic Church, for Catholic families! How not be grateful for such an honor!
Let us be proud to take part in this beautiful Crusade and reflect long on the words of Archbishop Lefebvre, spoken on the 20th anniversary of the Society: “Have confidence; God is with you.”
With my prayers and blessing.
In the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Fr. Arnaud Rostand
This letter is an extract of the conference that Fr. Rostand gave during the Angelus Press Conference held in October.