Priory Magazine : Te Punga — No. 2 (April 2019)

St Anthony's Priory presents the second installment of Te Punga, our newsletter for friends and benefactors, including a reflection by the Prior, Fr François Laisney, pictures of the summer boys' and girls' camps, a report on the improvements at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Auckland as well as a photographic report of the Holy Week ceremonies. The full PDF follows the Prior's letter below.



Dear Friends and Benefactors,

The year 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first foundation of Archbishop Lefebvre, at Fribourg, Switzerland in October 1969. With nine young men, among whom was the future Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Msgr Lefebvre rented the second floor of a building that belonged to the Salesian fathers. The next year, he opened Ecône and eventually moved the whole seminary there.

His guiding principle was that what the Church needs most is good and holy priests. The formation of priests was the best contribution to the Church he could offer. He is certainly the only bishop after Vatican II who opened six seminaries. He had, at the beginning, the support of the Bishop of Fribourg, who approved the Society of St Pius X on November 1st, 1970. Next year will be the SSPX’s golden jubilee.

He opened that first house of studies in Fribourg two months before the introduction of the New Mass. He had already contributed to the preparation of the Brief critical examination, which was prefaced by a letter of Cardinal Ottaviani and Bacci. Though called the Ottaviani Intervention, it had been prepared by a group of nine theologians gathered by Archbishop Lefebvre. One of the key reasons why he refused the New Mass was that, with it, he could not train good priests. The holiness of the priesthood was the guiding light of his life. Just as for St Pius X, the seminary was the apple of his eye.

In this domain, we can thank God for the graces He has bestowed upon our country, because we have now three New Zealanders in the seminary, and we have more preparing themselves for next year and the following years; we have a good number of younger ones in the school also preparing themselves. If we could have at least one vocation per year to the seminary, this would be a great grace for the spreading of the Mass of all times over the world wherever the souls are requesting it. O Lord, grant us priests! O Lord, grant us many holy priests!

Please continue to pray for vocations: for the perseverance of those who have already entered and the good preparation of those who have not yet entered; pray that those whom our Lord Jesus Christ is calling, that they have the generosity to answer wholeheartedly and give themselves without reserve, preparing themselves by holiness of life and fervour. Every Thursday, we have our holy hour for vocations from 11:30am to 12:30pm. Unite yourself with us in this very important intention!

We need also to pray for vocations of brothers and sisters. The Church has always taught that the religious life is the perfection of the Christian life; it is “choosing the best part” (Lk. 10:42), the closest to our Lord Jesus Christ. “He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God… And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit” (1 Cor. 7:32, 34). Their spirit, their love is undivided: it is wholly for the Lord Jesus. It is true both for the contemplative and the active vocation: it is all for Jesus, with a total renunciation to the worldly things, to possessions, to pleasures, to self-will, contemplating our Lord Jesus Christ both in the mysteries of his Life on earth and in the glory of the Father, and serving Him in the souls of the neighbour, especially the children for teaching sisters.

Around the year 250, St Cyprian calls the consecrated virgins “the most illustrious portion of the flock of Christ!”

My address is now to virgins, whose glory, as it is more eminent, excites the greater interest. This is the flower of the ecclesiastical seed, the grace and ornament of spiritual endowment, a joyous disposition, the wholesome and uncorrupted work of praise and honour, God’s image answering to the holiness of the Lord, the more illustrious portion of Christ’s flock. The glorious fruitfulness of Mother Church rejoices by their means, and in them abundantly flourishes; and in proportion as a copious virginity is added to her number, so much the more it increases the joy of the Mother. 

We need to pray for their sanctification; we need to pray for many religious vocations; but even more we need the support of their prayers and good example. Indeed, we receive more from them than they receive from us. By the bond of unity in the Church, one never goes up alone: one soul that ascends closer to God draws many souls behind her, not merely those who witness her good example, but, by that bond of unity, many other souls often unknown to the first one. That spiritual law is true also within a family: the parents working on their own sanctification draw their children with them in a marvellous way; but one religious advancing in the ways of perfection draws many more souls with him or her.

At all times in this history of the Church, it was through the saints, and very often, through the religious, that the crises of the Church were overcome. One thinks not only of St Anthony of the desert, of St Benedict, St Bernard, St Malachy, St Francis, St Dominic, and many others after such as St Vincent de Paul...but also of St Scholastica, St Mechtilde, St Clare, St Theresa, St Jeanne de Chantal and many holy nuns. So, in this very deep present crisis of the Church, we do need many holy religious to bring back the fervour among the people.

Every Catholic family should hold consecrated life in great esteem. St Paul teaches that marriage is good, but consecrated life is “better” (1 Cor. 7:38). The example of consecrated life helps married couples to be faithful to the chastity of their own state. If, by the grace of God, one can keep a higher degree of chastity, namely, consecrated perpetual virginity, then certainly by the grace of God it is possible to be faithful in marriage and it is possible to prepare for a holy marriage by virginity. The modern world completely ignores the beauty and the eminent value of virginity. But the Catholic faithful have always known its value, especially linked with their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary: constantly, we refer to our Lady and “The Virgin, The Blessed Virgin, The Virgin Mary…” It is her quality, as Virgin, that is the most remembered by Holy Church, though her most important title is that of Mother of God.

There should be nothing in a Catholic house that would be a scandal for a vocation. On the contrary, a truly Catholic home is a little portion of the Kingdom of God on earth, where the Sacred Heart truly reigns, through the practice of family prayer and all virtues, especially charity and purity. In the good ground of a truly Catholic family, God is pleased to sow the seed of vocations, and this is the best reward of good parents.

It takes time for a vocation to grow, like a tree. It is watered by prayer and sacrifices. Indeed, Archbishop Lefebvre used to say that every vocation is a call to be closer to our Lord Jesus Christ crucified. Who is poorer than our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, stripped of everything? Who is more detached from pleasures than our Lord Jesus Christ crucified? Who is more obedient than our Lord Jesus Christ, “obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross”? (Phil. 2:8) The Mass being the unbloody re-enactment of the Sacrifice of the Cross, it renews the very source and model of the religious vows, of the evangelical counsels. The Mass is at the very heart of religious life. By the way, this is the reason why the attack on the Mass in Vatican II and its reformed liturgy have cause havoc in the religious life, with so many abandoning it and losing their vocations: the present crisis is even more acute among religious than it is among diocesan clergy. And the remedy to this crisis can only come with a complete return to the Catholic Faith, and its solemn expression in the Traditional Mass.

By the grace of God, there are some religious vocations from Whanganui preparing themselves, and also some from elsewhere who will come here as pre-postulants. Please, pray for all of them, and for many more holy vocations to follow.

Another intention of prayer is the return of our prodigal children, which is even more difficult to obtain. Wounds take time to heal: this is true for physical wounds and even more for the spiritual wounds caused by sin. There is a price for souls: if we want the salvation of souls, we must be ready to pay the price. Yes, our Lord Jesus Christ paid it all on the Cross, but He wants to associate us in this work of Redemption and wants us to pay our “little contribution”. It is little in comparison with what He paid, and little in comparison with the eternal value of a soul. Following the example of St Monica, parents have often to pay that price to obtain the return of their wayward children; priests and religious also pay that price by the renouncement to the world and its three concupiscences; devout souls pray and sacrifice themselves in reparation for souls–and we have a devout group of such souls dedicated to these prayers of reparation on Tuesdays. There are so many that need to return to our Lord and are still away from Him! I beg all of you, dear friends and benefactors, to join in prayer and sacrifices for this most important intention, especially in union with our Lady of Compassion, at the foot of the Cross.

In our modern world which pretends to live without God, the ungodly say: “The Lord seeth us not, the Lord hath forsaken the earth” (Ez. 8:12). Does God really not care for what is going on earth? In fact, the truth is the very opposite: “God looked down from heaven on the children of men: to see if there were any that did understand or did seek God” (Ps. 52:3). It is not that God does not care about men: He most certainly does. Rather, the problem is that men do not care about God. Yet Ezekiel sees in the very place where the ungodly perform their abominations “behold the glory of the God of Israel was there” (Ez. 8:4) and saw everything, and was showing with great indignation to the prophet all the crimes of those men who had said that He did not see!

The true God is not like some so-called “philosophers” claim, a distant being who started the world and went away, no longer caring for what He made. The true God, as He revealed Himself, is a most caring God, who knows all things, sees each one of us, cares for each one of us, and calls us to share His own infinite happiness, beatitude. This consoling truth is at the very heart of our Catholic Faith: the most Holy Trinity is a caring God: “God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting” (Jn. 3:16). The Incarnation, the Redemption is the very proof of the infinite care God has for us. If only we would understand what it means: “God hath loved us first!” (1 Jn. 4:19) we would most generously respond with love: “Let us therefore love God, because God hath loved us first” (1 Jn. 4:19). This was the very motto of Archbishop Lefebvre: credidimus caritati: “we have known, and have believed the charity, which God hath to us. God is charity: and he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him” (1 Jn. 4:16).

And that love of God cannot remain in our heart alone: it must overflow and spread itself around us by fraternal charity: “Dearly beloved, let us love one another, for charity is of God… My dearest, if God hath so loved us; we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn. 4:7, 11). It is that “charity of Christ [that] presseth [all of] us” (2 Cor. 5:14) to pray and work for the return of these prodigal sons, lest they stay far from their Father’s house and die of [spiritual] hunger. Any time spent away from God is time lost for eternity.

Since last year, Father Louis Bochkoltz has returned to his native Belgium because he is one of the rare priests of the SSPX who can speak Flemish. He now serves the faithful of Antwerpen, with Father Joseph Verlinden, whose brother Jonathan had come here some time ago. Father Bochkoltz’s work was most appreciated, not only in New Zealand, but also in New Caledonia and in Vanuatu’s missions.

He has been replaced by Father Benoît Martin de Clausonne, who brings here his experience from Africa, where he spent many years in Gabon, South Africa and Zimbabwe. He is a very appreciated and capable confrere.

Here, our school continues to grow, being close to 140 students now. Our Malaysian students have returned home after graduating, but we now have a Japanese student, and even recently one from Tahiti. Also, we welcome Sr Osanna, from Samoa, making our community even more cosmopolitan, but all united with the same Faith and Charity.

Due to the greater number of students, especially the girls in forms 1-2, we had to combine two classrooms into a double room, by opening the wall between them. It provides for a larger classroom that can accommodate the larger number of students but makes one less classroom. Whence, we do really need to provide for more classrooms. For example, the form 1 and standard 4 girls this year must use a classroom from the boys’ school in order to study French.

Here we encounter a difficulty. Before we can begin any new building, we must first pay off our debts. We do not have any bank debts–that is good–but in order to finance our current buildings we had to undertake large amounts of borrowing both within the SSPX and from some private loans. In fact, this has been a recurring problem: the need of growth made that again and again we started the next project before having paid all debts from previous projects. Considering just these debts, at the end of 2017, the difference between such borrowings and current assets was about $213,000; at the end of 2018, it was still about $116,000. Moreover, we also need to set apart the “Wellington building fund”, monies accumulated over the years from Wellington for a future chapel there. This is another $300,000 which Whanganui ought to reimburse Wellington.

As you can see, we are working hard in repaying these loans, but they prevent us from starting any new building project. Last year, from the pulpit in September I made an appeal that sounded to some as if the school were in danger; in fact—by the grace of God—the school is not in danger and will continue: the very fact that we have been able to reduce our debt shows the health of our situation. But we are not out of the water yet, and do need your help, in order to provide for the growth, and by the grace of God provide good education and foster future vocations.

To respond to the immediate need, we would need to be able to add one classroom. A prefabricated one would cost about $35,000 for purchase, plus installation. But we would likely need twice that much to obtain the permission to do it and not fail in our reimbursements at the same time. May our Lord Jesus Christ inspire you with generosity, especially during Lent, so that His hundredfold reward will be even greater for you, now and for eternity!

This year, we had our most successful gala, with a profit of above $12,000. Heartfelt thanks to all who have helped, but it is still a long way off from our needs.

May our divine Saviour bless you most abundantly especially in these holy days commemorating His Passion, Death and Resurrection! May our Lady of Compassion help you, giving you her love for Jesus crucified and risen from the dead!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Fr François Laisney, Prior