Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Monseigneur Lefebvre, the SSPX, and I

On St Bonaventure's Day, 1988, just two weeks after the Episcopal Consecrations at Econe, I sent a letter to Monseigneur Lefebvre that I will forever regret. In it I told him that he was a hell-bound excommunicate for consecrating the four Bishops without Papal mandate. He never answered, not that I was surprised.

A couple of years later I was seeing Rome's tepid attitude to enforcement of the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei and I'd had a bit of personal experience with it. I had written my Ordinary with a request that my children be allowed to receive the First Sacraments in the Traditional Form. As a formality, I had copied the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei in Rome.


Weeks passed with no answer. Then one day, out of the blue, I received an answer from the Archbishop. It was four pages long. The first page told me how much he supported the Pope in issuing the motu proprio. The following pages were an explanation of why he would not grant my request, and a long screed accusing me of being a 'Lefebvreite'! Note, I had never mentioned Monseigneur or the SSPX in my letter of request.


Given that I lived, at the time, in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, and that both St Vincent de Paul in Kansas City, MO and St Marys, KS were within comfortable driving distance, had I been a 'Lefebvreite', I'd have had no trouble having my children receive the First Sacraments in the Traditional form.


A day or two later, I received a letter from His Eminence Augustin, Cardinal Mayer. Obviously the Archbishop had had no intention of replying, until he realised Rome was involved. The letter from Cardinal Mayer was a massive disappointment. He told me that if I would assure him that I was not a schismatic (i.e. an adherent of the SSPX) he would request my Ordinary to accede to my request!


After this exchange of correspondence, I wrote Monseigneur Lefebvre again. I apologised for my earlier letter, and told him that I had come to view him as the Athanasius of the 20th century. Ever the Catholic gentleman, as well as a holy Bishop, he not only replied to this missive, he gave me his Episcopal Blessing, and included some holy cards from the jubilee of his Consecration as a Bishop.


Fast forward a few years. I joined FishEaters Forum in 2006. Over the ensuing almost 13 years, I have defended Monseigneur Lefebvre and the SSPX on countless occasions. I have pointed out that the 1988 'excommunications' were on extremely shaky grounds under the 1983 Code of Canon Law. With each defence, I included a disclosure that I had never in my life attended an SSPX Mass. This past Friday, however, I posted on the Forum,

I've been swimming in the Tank for almost 13 years. In that time on innumerable occasions, I have defended the SSPX. I've always included the disclosure that I have never attended a Mass offered by an SSPX Priest. Well, after Sunday, I will not be able to say that.

A Facebook friend from western Nebraska is going to pick me up and we're driving down to St Marys for the Feast of Christ the King, a procession, and a festival celebrating Christ as King. Vivat Christus Rex!  ¡Viva Cristo Rey! Vive le Christ-roi! Long live Christ the King!
It was an adventure! My friend, Lucas, lives in Broken Bow, NE, in the Diocese of Grand Island, which is almost 200 miles from Wilber. St Marys, Kansas is another 130 miles from here. He drove to Beatrice, just a bit down the road from Wilber on Saturday and stayed the night with friends before picking me up at 07.45 Sunday morning.

The Solemn High Mass of the Feast of Christ the King was scheduled for 10.30. We arrived on the grounds of St Mary's Academy at about 10.20 and followed the crowd to the Academy auditorium, where the Mass was to be celebrated.


It was glorious! I haven't been to a Latin Mass since I returned from Canada, and I've only been privileged once or twice before to hear a Solemn High Mass. The auditorium was packed! Father Carlyle (sp?) later told us he estimated there were 2,000 people in the congregation! In fact, we were late enough that we didn't see any available seats when we entered. I was leaning on my walking staff and a solicitous usher offered to find me a chair.


I refused. Many years ago, as an altar boy, I once complained about having to kneel on the marble altar steps. My Pastor said, 'Our Lord hung on the Cross for three hours for you. You can kneel on stone for a few minutes on Sunday'. I've kept that admonition in mind ever since when I suffer discomfort at Mass. I just offer it up.


After Mass, the entire congregation formed up into a Eucharistic Procession. We processed through the Academy grounds, out onto US Highway 24 with the police blocking traffic. After about half a block, we turned south on Grand Avenue to East Palmer St. We processed about a mile on Palmer. We crossed a small bridge over a creek. An arch had been erected over it in honour of Our Eucharistic King. Some of the homes were displaying banners honouring Our Eucharistic Lord. Walking down Palmer St we passed directly behind Immaculate Conception Church, the Novus Ordo Parish.


When we turned north off Palmer, we stopped at a temporary Altar in a vacant lot in downtown St Marys for the first Benediction. Then we crossed US 24 again, north to Mission Street, where we headed east, back to the Academy. Again, homes had banners. There were also slogans chalked on the pavement on our route. 'Christus Vincit!+Christus Regnat!+Christus Imperat!', 'Ave Maria', and others of that sort.


On several occasions, between songs (I'm not much of a singer, so I was reciting my Rosary!), a voice would ring out, '¡Viva Cristo Rey!', and the Procession would shout back, '¡Viva!'


When we arrived back on the Academy grounds, we halted at another temporary Altar for the second Benediction, and then dispersed for the Christ the King Festival. The quad was filled with booths from different nationalities dispensing ethnic foods. The food was free, but one did have to pay for a Guinness, a bottle of cider, or an Irish coffee.


Lucas and I had originally thought we wouldn't stay at the Festival for long (long drive home!), but we found some new friends to talk with, had a couple of adult beverages, and chatted amiably until we realised that the Solemn Sung Vespers at 17.00 was approaching, so we decided to attend that before leaving.


All afternoon, I had been looking for Fr Ken Novak, one of the 12 priests of the Priory. Many years ago, I met Fr Novak briefly at a drugstore in which I was a manager. After talking for a bit, I knelt in the aisle for his blessing. I wanted to find him to say, hi. I finally did, as we were entering the auditorium. I told him who I was, and he said, 'How about another one?' I knelt, he blessed me, placing his hand on my head. And then, he played drums on my pate, drumming out a quick rhythm, as I started to chuckle!


It was a glorious and beautiful day! The weather was absolutely gorgeous, the food was great, the fellowship outstanding. Two thousand people of all ages, mothers and fathers carrying small infants, older people with canes or walking staffs (moi), all of us, marching to honour Christ our King, Ruler of all creation!


Since we had stayed for Vespers, we were a bit later leaving than we had planned on. Lucas had intended to drive home to Broken Bow after dropping me off, but after stopping for gas and a snack, it was 21.30 by the time we got to Wilber, so he decided to drive to Adams, 25 miles from Wilber, to stay with friends, and return home Monday morning.

The pictures below were all taken by Lucas, since I found it impossible to walk, juggle my (necessary) walking staff, and operate my phone all at the same time.

The Procession forms up
Sculpture of the dead Christ, under an Altar in
Assumption Chapel
The reliquary room, containing Relics of the Saints
in Assumption Chapel
The auditorium, after the Mass



A shot of the grounds during the festival
The High Altar in Assumption Chapel
A Martyr Saint in Assumption Chapel



Interior shot of Assumption Chapel. It probably seats two or
three hundred. Obviously, not big enough for major Feast Day Masses!

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