February 2002 - District Superior's Letter

The relaxation of the lenten observance was a cause for sorrow for Pope Ben XIV in 1741; what would he say today? The observance of Lent is the badge of Chrisitian warfare where the Christian advances in the spiritual life by means of intellectual and bodily mortification. Pray for the priests of Campos who have accepted a practical agreement with Rome; details are discussed herein.

Dear Faithful,

In 1741, Pope Benedict XIV grieved at relaxed lenten observance
As we begin the Lenten season let me quote from an encyclical letter of Pope Benedict XIV dated May 30, 1741 to the bishops of the Catholic world, expressing his heartfelt grief at seeing the great relaxation of the Lenten discipline in his day. "The observance of Lent is the very badge of the Christian warfare. By it we prove ourselves not to the enemies of the cross of Christ. By it we avert the scourges of divine justice. By it we gain strength against the princes of darkness, for it shields us with heavenly help. Should mankind grow remiss in their observance of Lent, it would be a detriment to God's glory, a disgrace to the Catholic religion, and a danger to Christian souls. Neither can it be doubted that such negligence would become the source of misery to the world, of public calamity, and of private woe."

Lack of mortification leads to social disorders
And Dom Guéranger adds in his Liturgical Year: “And must there not result from this ever-growing spirit of immortification, a general effeminacy of character, which will lead, at last, to frightful social disorders. The sad predictions of Pope Benedict XIV are but too truly verified. Those nations, among whose people the spirit and practice of penance are extinct, are heaping against themselves the wrath of God, and provoking His justice to destroy them by one or other of these scourges—civil discord, or conquest… The word of God is unmistakable: unless we do penance, we shall perish. But if our ease-loving and sensual generation were to return, like the Ninivites, to the long neglected way of penance and expiation, who knows but that the arm of God, which already raised to strike us, may give us blessing and not chastisement?”

Lent is about conversion and penance
Lent is above all a time of conversion therefore a time of penance. You cannot have one without the other. Conversion consists in the return of the soul to God and three good works which produce it: prayer, fasting and alms deeds. Penance consists in contrition of soul and mortification of the body.  The soul has sinned and the body cooperated in the sin.  Therefore both must expiate the offences.  The soul does it by a “spiritual fast” which consists in renouncing sin and its occasions as well as the vanities of the world, the body by physical fasting.  But we learn in the gospel of the Friday after Ash Wednesday that fasting from food is not pleasing to almighty God without this spiritual fast. As a matter of fact the aim of physical fasting is to help with the turning away from sin.  This is what is called conversion and it is the essential element of Lent: to arrive at Easter Sunday morning transformed, more Christ-like.  It is not just en exercise in losing weight!

Lent is a time of cultivating virtues and correcting bad habits
During Lent our main effort should de directed toward fleeing from sin and its occasions, correcting our bad habits and the acquiring of the virtues proper to out state. So our penance should first be directed to this end.  Never mind your TV, the Internet, movies (which you should not attend anyway), newspapers etc., make efforts to be more patient, forgiving, obedient, honest. Also more time should be given to prayer: assistance at daily Mass when possible, more fidelity to the daily Rosary, the daily Stations of the Cross, meditation, a retreat.  A good confession should be prepared, even a general confession especially if one was never made.  Add daily spiritual reading, daily examination of conscience and now your getting somewhere! 

Lent is also a time of bodily mortification
Having said this, it would be delusion on our part to attempt or pretend a conversion without mortification of the body. Bodily mortification is a sign and a proof of our repentance, it is the sign we mean what we say in our prayers.  Too easily we forget our past sins, our weaknesses, and our debt to Divine Justice. We think that all we need do is go to confession and all is well. This is why the Church reminds us that God “by fasting of the body dost curb our vices, elevate our minds and bestow virtue and reward.” [1]   “Be not without fear about sins forgiven” [2] for as Dom Guéranger says: “Our confidence of our having been forgiven should be in proportion to the change or conversion of our heart; the greater our present detestation of our past sins and the more earnest our desire to do penance for them for the rest of our lives, the better founded is our confidence that they have been pardoned.” [3]   Fasting and abstinence from meat are very much in the spirit of the Church.  In any case do some serious penance.  Remember that if we do not do it now we will have to do it later in purgatory.  God know we need it, penance has to be made for all the scandals especially Assisi, New Masses and all irreverences towards the Blessed Sacrament, the profanation of Sundays, bad confessions, abortions, contraception, not to mention our own sins.

Lent is a time of almsgiving
Alms deeds include all the works of mercy toward our neighbour: alms to the poor, visit of the sick and elderly. When done for God and not merely as an act of human kindness, is raised to the level of an act of religion, an act of love of God himself who’s divine justice is appeased.  “Water quencheth a flaming fire, and alms resisteth sins” [4]   “Prayer is good with fasting and alms, more than to lay up treasures of gold: for alms delivereth from death, and the same is that which purgest away sins and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting.” [5]   Be generous.

Loss of Campos
A few word about Campos.  No doubt you have heard by now that the priests of Campos, Bishop de Castro Mayer’s former diocese have “returned” to Rome. I will not repeat all that has been written about it.  Please read Bishop Williamson’s last letter. What is difficult to understand is why they did it.  They have gained nothing, received absolutely no liturgical or disciplinary guarantee from Rome whatever.  They have completely and unconditionally surrendered.  Here is what is in store for them and what Rome is planning for us.  It comes from Father George Cottier, none other than the theologian of the Papal Household, so he must know what is going on.  Here is what he said in an interview to Zenit the Vatican’s Internet news site, on January 20, 2002 and it is very interesting.

“John Paul II's decision to allow a formerly schismatic fraternity to celebrate Mass according to the St. Pius V rite should not be seen as a setback for Vatican Council II…  Following Lefebvre's schism, permission was granted to St. Peter's Fraternity to maintain this tradition alive... 

“There is much more behind Lefebvre's schism: There is the rejection of the Council, of ecumenism, of the principle of religious freedom --a global rejection of which the liturgy was only the flag…

“Since the rupture [in 1988] until today, other followers of his have already returned to full communion with the Catholic Church. However, the principal condition has always been the full recognition of the authority of Vatican Council II. And this is what the principal group, the one of Ecône, has never accepted up until now.

“Many Lefebvrists maintain that "our" Paul VI Mass is not valid [6] . At least now this group will not be able to think such a thing. Little by little we must expect other steps: for example, that they also participate in concelebrations in the reformed rite. However, we must not be in a hurry. What is important is that in their hearts there no longer be rejection. Communion found again in the Church has an internal dynamism of its own that will mature.  And Fr Cottier concludes that with last Friday's action, the implementation of the Council certainly has taken a step forward.

Why doesn't the SSPX make an agreement too?
If some of you still wonder why the SSPX has not made an agreement with Rome wonder no more. The Romans have not changed, they know what they want and they are not deviating one iota. They cannot be trusted.  It is very clear: they want us to accept Vatican II, the New Mass, ecumenism, the principle of religious freedom. This is what it takes to return to “full communion” with them.

Oh yes as it was pointed out to me, when he was “reconciled” Mgr Rangel was named titular bishop of Zarna, which is the ancient Carthage.  We all know what the Romans did to Carthage… they completely destroyed it. 

Have a fruitful and profitable Lent.  As usual the monthly Mass for all our friends and benefactors is on the last Sunday of the month.

With my blessing,
Father Jean Violette


[1] Preface of Lent.

[2] Ecclus 5, 5

[3] The Liturgical Year, Vol. 5 Lent, Practice during Lent.

[4] Ecclus 3, 33

[5] Tob. 12, 8-9

[6] Archbishop Lefebvre did not say the new Mass was invalid; he said it was evil, coming from heresy and leading to heresy.