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Friday, August 5, 2022

The Convictions that Fueled Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s Heroic Life

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The Convictions that Fueled Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s Heroic Life

As faithful Catholics around the world hope and pray that God will soon intervene to end the worsening crisis in the Church, it is worth reflecting on a meeting which took place in 1969, in Fribourg, Switzerland, with a group of seminarians, priests and laymen. Here is Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s description of the key moment:

“They literally took me by the scruff of the neck and said: ‘Something must be done for these seminarians!’ It was useless my saying the I was sixty-five and retired, or that it was foolish to begin something that I could not continue if I should die within the next few years . . . They wouldn’t have it . . .  ‘Okay,’ I said to them, ‘I’ll go and see Bishop Charrière. If he says yes, that will be a sign of Providence.’” (The Biography of Marcel Lefebvre, p. 411)

In one way or another, almost every single Tridentine Mass said in the world today — whether it was said by a SSPX, FSSP, ICKSP, independent, diocesan, or even a sedevacantist priest — was facilitated by the work of Archbishop Lefebvre.

Although we must acknowledge that God might have provided another shepherd if Archbishop Lefebvre had rejected their pleas for help, it is hard to overstate the debt of gratitude we owe to him today for having agreed to come out of retirement to train and ordain priests. In one way or another, almost every single Tridentine Mass said in the world today — whether it was said by a SSPX, FSSP, ICKSP, independent, diocesan, or even a sedevacantist priest — was facilitated by the work of Archbishop Lefebvre. Without those Masses, where would we be?

If we only see Archbishop Lefebvre as the man who fought for the Mass and Tradition in ways we can never imitate, though, we may miss seeing the virtues accessible to all Catholics. As Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais wrote in his biography of Archbishop Lefebvre, the Archbishop was above all a man of Faith:

“Although pragmatic, the Archbishop was in reality, without wanting to say it, above all a man of faith. He was guided by a faith that was both active and contemplative, the fruit of the Gift of Intelligence which perfected in him a deep mind that was reflective and intuitive.” (The Biography of Marcel Lefebvre, p. 572)

We can do our part to cooperate with God’s graces to end this great crisis if we can live by the same convictions that allowed Archbishop Lefebvre to do more for the Faith than any other Catholic since Vatican II.

We can do our part to cooperate with God’s graces to end this great crisis if we can live by the same convictions that allowed Archbishop Lefebvre to do more for the Faith than any other Catholic since Vatican II. As we can see from his own words below, he was simply a man who loved God and did all he could to cooperate with God’s abundant graces:

We Must Strive to Do God’s Will. “Our Lord is not far from us. He is with us; He is in us. Ultimately, everything depends upon the attitude we have towards our Lord. Of course, everything depends upon the grace of God, but everything depends upon our disposition to receive our Lord in us. Are we disposed to receive Him, or is there some part of us (a secret reserve) in which we would prefer that our Lord not enter, that His gaze not penetrate?” (The Mystery of Jesus, p. 95)

“[T]his is one of the lessons which I would like you to learn from these examples: when we do the Will of God and not our own, God blesses us. And in the end we become attached to the task which God has given us.” (The Little Story of My Long Life, p. 86)

“Archbishop Lefebvre was filled with a ‘basic conviction’ and ‘disposition that went to the roots of his soul.’: ‘Recognizing our nothingness before God and our continual dependance on God for existence and in all we do.’” (The Biography of Marcel Lefebvre, p. 573)

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre left us with the Mass and a strong defense of the Faith against Satan and his infiltrators.

We Must Trust in, and Cooperate with, God’s Providence. “So, you see, I cannot say that it was really I who said, ‘I want to do this . . . it will be this way . . . and I think . . . and I want it like this . . . ‘ It was not at all like that. I realize, and you have noticed as well, that it has been the same throughout my entire life. It has always been Providence which decided everything. On my part, I rather resisted, I did not really agree, I was not very eager. But it pulled me on anyway: ‘Ah, no, you must come!’ Then afterwards . . . well . . . I see indeed that God has blessed, blessed everything, and that it has all worked out fine. Deo Gratias!” (The Little Story of My Long Life, p. 121)

“If we must act, Providence will direct circumstances such that our decision will be clear, and conformed to the faithfuls’ sensus fidei, the sense of the Faith.” (The Biography of Marcel Lefebvre, p. 543)

“It has also been said that after me, my work will disappear because there will be no bishop to replace me. I am certain of the contrary; I have no worries on that account. I may die tomorrow, but the good Lord answers all problems. . . . If my work is of God, He will guard it and use it for the good of the Church. Our Lord has promised us, the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.” (Open Letter to Confused Catholics, pp. 162-163)

Everything in the World Relates to Christ.  “Nothing is done in the world that does not relate to our Lord; it is either for Him or against Him, with Him or without Him. Our Lord is the key to the solution of all the problems. There are none here below that are indifferent to our Lord. Men try in vain to work without reference to our Lord, but it is impossible because our Lord is everywhere.” (The Mystery of Jesus, p. 18)

“The presence of the Incarnate God in the history of humanity cannot but be its center, as a sun, towards which everyone goes, and from which everything comes. And if one thinks and believes that this mystery of the Incarnation is for the mystery of the Redemption, then it goes without saying that without Jesus Christ there can be no salvation possible. Every act and every thought which are not Christian are without saving value, without merit for salvation.” (Spiritual Journey, p. 31)

“Our Lord is the center of history. Everything was made by Him and for Him and the only happiness of men and mankind is to be united to our Lord, to live for God by Jesus Christ, because He is God. He has given us the means; this is why He came.” (The Mystery of Jesus, p. 18)

“Jesus is not optional. ‘Qui non est mecum, contra me est — He who is not with me is against Me.’ To deny this is the fundamental error of religious liberty and ecumenism.” (Spiritual Journey, 39)

In the process of fighting so valiantly to do God’s will, he also left all of us an example of the true convictions that should animate the lives of all Catholics.

Christ Must Reign. “All that I know, the faith teaches us; it is that Our Lord Jesus Christ must reign here below, now, and not only at the end of the world, as the Liberals would have it!” (They Have Uncrowned Him, p. 251)

“History is all ordered to a person who is the center of history, and who is Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . Jesus Christ is therefore the pole of History. History has only one sole law: ‘He must reign;’ if He reigns, true progress and prosperity also reign, which are goods more spiritual than material! If He does not reign, it is decadence, decay, slavery, in all its forms, the reign of the Evil One.” (They Have Uncrowned Him, p. 139)

We Cannot Compromise with the Faith. “Let us keep the Faith above all else. It is for this that Our Lord died, because He affirmed His divinity. It is for this that all the martyrs died. It is by that that all the elect are sanctified. Let us flee from those who make us lose the Faith or diminish it.” (Spiritual Journey, 68)

“I will never compromise. I will accept that which comes from proper authority which is in keeping with the Truths, Doctrines and the Traditions of Holy Mother Church, and I will reject what does not conform to that criteria.” (quoted in Dr. David Allen White’s The Horn of the Unicorn: A Mosaic of the Life of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, p. 249)

“All the faithful can and should resist whatever interferes with their faith, supported by the catechism of their childhood. If they are faced with an order putting their faith in danger of corruption, there is an overriding duty to disobey. It is because we judge that our faith is endangered by the post-conciliar reforms and tendencies that we have the duty to disobey and keep the Tradition.” (Open Letter to Confused Catholics, p. 131)

“We will never fully understand the struggle between the good and the wicked throughout history, as long as we do not see it as the personal and unyielding battle for all time between Satan and Jesus Christ. What duty befalls upon every man because of this fundamental and unyielding battle between the two opposed leaders of mankind? It is the duty never to compromise, on whatever it may be, with that which is of Satan or his followers, and to enlist ourselves beneath the standard of Jesus Christ, and there to remain always and fight valiantly.” (Spiritual Journey, p. 37)

May the Blessed Virgin Mary help all of us, and especially the bishops, to fight as heroically as Archbishop Lefebvre would if he were alive today.

We Must Fight. “As for me, I will not resign; I will not content myself with being present, my arms dangling, at the death-throes of my Mother the Holy Church.” (They Have Uncrowned Him, p. 250)

“This is why I persist, and if you wish to know the real reason for my persistence, it is this. At the hour of my death, when Our Lord asks me: ‘What have you done with your episcopate, what have you done with your episcopal and priestly grace?’ I do not want to hear from His lips the terrible words ‘You have helped to destroy the Church along with the rest of them.’” (Open Letter to Confused Catholics, p. 163)

“Urgent spiritual remedies must be applied. We must pray and do penance, as the Blessed Virgin has requested, and say the Rosary together in the family. As we have seen during each war, people begin to pray together when the bombs begin to fall. In exactly the same way, they are falling at this moment; we are on the brink of losing the faith. Do you realize that that would surpass in seriousness every catastrophe feared by man, such as world economic crisis or atomic warfare?” (Open Letter to Confused Catholics, p. 158)

“It is very important to return to the true principles of Catholic action. First of all prayer: beg the good God for His grace. Then study the teaching of the Church in order to act in conformity with the principles of truly Catholic action. Such is the normal order.” (Against the Heresies, p. 19)

The Blessed Virgin Mary is Our Spiritual Mother. “If Mary, by her fiat, miraculously became the Mother of God, the Mother of the Savior, she became by the very fact the Mother of His Mystical Body, that is to say of all those who live the life of Jesus here below and will do so for eternity. She became the Queen of Angels, and the terrible enemy of the devils. Consequently, we have become her children by Baptism, and we nourish ourselves of her Son in the Eucharist. She is truly our spiritual Mother.” (Spiritual Journey, p. 56)

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre left us with the Mass and a strong defense of the Faith against Satan and his infiltrators. In the process of fighting so valiantly to do God’s will, he also left all of us an example of the true convictions that should animate the lives of all Catholics. May the Blessed Virgin Mary help all of us, and especially the bishops, to fight as heroically as Archbishop Lefebvre would if he were alive today. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!

Prayer for the Canonization of His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre

O Jesus, Eternal High Priest, who deigned to elevate Thy faithful servant Marcel Lefebvre to the episcopal dignity and to grant him the grace of being a fearless defender of the Holy Mass, of the Catholic Priesthood, of Thy Holy Church, and of the Holy See, of being a courageous apostle of Thy Kingdom on earth, of being a devoted servant of Thy Holy Mother, and of being a shining example of charity, of humility and of all virtues; bestow upon us now, by his merits, the grace we beseech of Thee, so that, assured of his powerful intercession to Thee, we may one day see him elevated to the glory of the altar. Amen.

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Last modified on Friday, August 5, 2022
Robert Morrison | Remnant Columnist

Robert Morrison is a Catholic, husband and father. He is the author of A Tale Told Softly: Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Hidden Catholic England.