Te Punga — No. 1 (Sept 2018)

Dear Friends,

It is already more than six months since my last letter. Much has happened since then.

The General Chapter

The most important event was the election of our new Superior General, Father Davide Pagliarani. He is an Italian and studied for the priesthood at Ecône. He was then for seven years in Rimini as assistant priest and for three years in Singapore with Fr Couture, first as assistant and then as prior. He was there when Wanganui became part of the District of Asia in 2006. He was then appointed District Superior of Italy for  six years, and Superior of the Seminary of La Reja in Argentina for another six years. Hence, he has experience of a priory, of a mission country, of a district and of a seminary: this gives him a very broad experience in all the major apostolate of the Society of St. Pius X; he speaks French (at Ecône), English
(at Singapore), Italian and Spanish, thus almost all the languages used in the Society of Saint Pius X.

The General Chapter elected as first assistant Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta. He had done some studies in Argentina before his entry at Ecône and was ordained priest by Archbishop Lefebvre on 24 August, 1980. He was first teacher at the seminary of La Reja for five years, then twice district superior of Argentina for a total of five years. He was consecrated bishop by Archbishop Lefebvre on 30th June 1988. He was superior of the seminary of Argentina for a total of four years, and superior of the autonomous house of Spain for fourteen years. Lately he has been wholly occupied by his duties as bishop: for ordinations, confirmations, blessings of chapels, visits to monasteries and convents, etc. This has given him a wide knowledge of the Society of Saint Pius X, which will be of great benefit for all.

The General Chapter also elected as second assistant Father Christian Bouchacourt. He was ordained in 1986 by Archbishop Lefebvre, and then was assistant and then prior of Unieux, in France for ten years, prior of Saint Nicholas du Chardonnet in Paris for seven years, district superior of Argentina for eleven years and finally district superior of France for four years. His knowledge of the district of France—which has been a difficult district in the recent years—will be of great value to assist Fr Pagliarani.

It is noteworthy that the three elected by the General Chapter have been in Argentina, in Buenos Aires, which was the diocese of Pope Francis. This was certainly not intended by the members of the Chapter but is a mark of Divine Providence. How God will use this, I do not know; He knows, but in this we can see the hand of God in these elections.

A few days following the election, the General Chapter added two new “Councillors,” the two former general superiors, viz. Bishop Bernard Fellay and Father Franz Schmidberger, already well known to all of you. The French word “councillors” is “conseillers”, which means “advisors”, a slight nuance from “assistants.” The General Chapter has certainly
defined their role, as it is new in the Society of St. Pius X, certainly due to the growth of our Society.

Father Couture wrote to me before the General Chapter that “many superiors considered that the first goal of the General Chapter was to work for the unity of the SSPX and the sanctifications of our priests. It is only when we are well united and holy that we can work efficiently for the good of the Church.” I am convinced that Father Pagliarani and his
assistants represent very well this goal, so that their election is a great blessing for all of us. We must pray much for them, that the Good Lord gives them all the graces they will need for their heavy responsibility so that they will exercise it for the greater glory of God and the salvation of very many souls.

News from New Zealand

The year 2018 is already more than half gone. We have had our Gala on April 14th, which brought in close to $10,000. This is less than last year, but it was my first gala. The gala committee and I have reviewed the event and have planned some improvements for next year.

As for St Dominic’s school itself, there has been a problem in our language program. The fact that our classes are small in number obliges us to have combined classes for Forms 1 and 2, and Forms 3 and 4: but for languages this makes it very difficult. For other subjects, this works very well, such as history or geography, where the curriculum can be on alternate years, but not in language. One can study almost indifferently the history or geography of New Zealand first, or of foreign countries first; but one cannot have the second-year language before the first year! As a remedy to this situation, we have already implemented an improvement this year with firstyear Latin for the boys. From now on, the students will begin one language in the Standard 4 class and another language in Form 1. Thus in 2018, both Standard 4 and Form 1 started Latin together. In 2019 this year’s combined Standard 4-Form 1 first-year- Latin class will become the usual combined Form 1-Form 2 boys class studying second-year Latin, thus avoiding split-levels in language classes. At the same time, in 2019 Standard 4 boys and Form 1 boys will start French together.

This will provide better continuity in the language curriculum and should prepare the students to the IGCSE exams even earlier, freeing them later for the higher subjects.This will be implemented for the girls next year also.

Our students visited to the Wanganui observatory, on a beautiful June evening when we could see all five visible planets: Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. There were many exclamations when they saw the rings of Saturn or the red dot and moons of Jupiter: “wow!” So great was the enthusiasm that all want to go again. We will try in late August, God willing (and providing good weather). I also want them to “follow” the planets as they move with regard to the background stars. This is very easily noticeable with Venus that has already passed from the constellation of Cancer, where it was in late June, to the constellation of Leo and now well into the constellation of Virgo.

The important point there is to become “realists”, impressing on them the reality of what they learn, as not mere ideas, written in books, but real things, “out there”. The very unreachable position of the planets and stars reinforces this realism. It is quite evident that we cannot make them. Realism is the philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas, very much opposed to the idealism of modern philosophy. In educational circles today, the dominant philosophy is constructivism, as if the students construct their own ideas as they want. No! We do not make reality, we learn it. We abstract our ideas from reality and must conform our ideas to reality. When we open our eyes, we do not make what we see; we learn it. This is true for the eyes of our body, as well as for the eyes of our soul. This is true both at the natural and at the supernatural levels. We learn the truth, we do not make the truth. We learn it either from our observations (slow method) or from teachers (faster method) at the natural level; we learn it from our Lord Jesus Christ, through His Church, at the supernatural level. In neither case do we create our own truth.

Seeing the boys to be sometimes too much attracted to physical performance in sports rather than to intellectual performance, I thought it would good for them to increase their motivation for science. And so, I have started a “robotics” club on Saturdays at 4 p.m., where they will learn to design their own robots and even eventually compete against other teams in
such design. They will have to learn some programming and engineering design skills, and to develop better team skills. I am hopeful that their enthusiasm at the beginning will continue and bring forth good fruits, not only in their studies but also in their spirit. Indeed, by their own experience, they will understand more clearly the great principle of St Thomas Aquinas: “it belongs to reason to put order in things—rationis est ordinare”. In other words, wherever there is order/design, there is a designer. There cannot be a program without a programmer. At a higher level, all the design in the world—all the natural laws of physics, chemistry, biology, etc.—could not be without a supreme Designer, a most admirable Designer, the most Holy Trinity.

I also want to give more importance to proofs in the mathematic curriculum. Even in good books, too often theorems are given without any proof. It seems that the goal is to teach the students how to use formulae, rather than to understand them. It seems evident that understanding can only lead to a better use of these formulae. Mathematics has the great advantage of simplicity: it is much easier to prove a theorem in mathematics than in other domains. Already Ptolemy in the second-century explained why: there are three degrees of abstraction: physical science, mathematics and philosophy. Thus, below mathematics, in physical science the very complexity of the matter itself makes proofs more difficult. Above mathematics, in philosophy, the very elevation of the subject makes proofs more difficult to grasp. This ability to prove theorems in mathematics is a very important training of the mind. Here again, we do not construct our own ideas as we may wish, we learn reality as it is, to which we must conform our mind. With proper proof, truth imposes itself onto the
mind! We receive it. We do not fabricate it.

The top subject of study of course being Catholic Doctrine, both Fr Johnson and Fr Palko have been carefully preparing very interesting catechism course for the students. Father Bochkoltz has been giving a catechism more adapted to the primary students, with great dedication and enthusiasm. But mostly he has taken many good initiatives to develop practical training of all the children through the St Stephen guild, the Eucharistic Crusade, the Children of Mary, and especially in his Cadets. Moreover, he has developed many beautiful initiatives for the procession of the Blessed Sacrament: the altar of repose, etc. He has done so many things in this parish during the years he has been here that it would be too long to relate. He will be sorely missed. I give him here my most sincere wholehearted thanks for all his good work for the salvation of your souls!

I must recommend to your generosity our fundraising through the Bike-a-thon, which has been moved ahead to 24 September, to give more time to raise the funds which we sorely need. This year, the Labour government has decided to discontinue the Aspire program. Those already in it will continue it until the end of their schooling, but no more children will thereafter benefit from it. Since the decile of many of our families is rather low, we had a good number who were able to benefit from that program, and it brought every year about $80,000. This will be eventually reduced to zero! As you can see, we do need your help!
 

Last Thursday, after paying fortnightly payroll, our regular savings account went below what is necessary to cover the next payroll! And our Bike-a-thon fundraising is not yet half of what was raised last year: so we do really need your help to make ends meet this year also. Last, but not least, we had the women’s Ignatian retreat, followed by 22 women near Ngaruawahia, where the Good Lord gave many graces. Moreover, please mark the dates for this year’s men’s Ignatian retreat is scheduled from 1 October at 1 p.m. to Saturday, 6 October at 1 p.m. at Stratford’s St Mary’s hostel. St Ignatius is a master of spirituality and especially of retreats. The little book of the Spiritual Exercises has been praised by so many saints, Popes and holy men that we cannot recommend these retreats too warmly to you and all your friends. So, make the necessary arrangements to go yourself, and do encourage and help others to go.

Today is the feast of St Pius X. He gave us a marvellous model of faith: his was not a theoretical faith disconnect with life, but a practical faith that guided efficiently all his actions. He was faithful to his mission, as Pope, as Guardian of the Faith, and thus gave light to the Church, showing the right path to follow for us in the midst of our very troubled times: path of uncompromised fidelity to the Catholic Faith, i.e. to the “Faith once-for-all delivered to the Saints” as St Jude says, the unchangeable Apostolic Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, our King and Saviour.

May the Immaculate Virgin, whose many feasts we celebrate in September, help us to be faithful to his guidance, so that we may go to Heaven!

Yours sincerely in Jesus and Mary,

Father François Laisney