Why a gathering? Besides the obvious fact that such a gathering is a delightful thing (Ps. 133), our founder strongly wished such a gathering of priests. Yes, priests need priests. Only priests can understand other priests, since they are “taken out of the world.”
To gather together all the priests, old and young, was certainly worthwhile. Scattered as they are throughout Asia, in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and the Philippines, they certainly welcome this occasion to meet and exchange notes in a “Triduum of Prayer, Study, and Charity.” If the organizers at our priory in Manila hesitated before receiving all these priests, they were richly rewarded by the brotherly spirit which reigned during the meetings and which made those few short a treat of sacerdotal charity, and more than repaid them for the pains they took to make those meetings an all-around success.
Monday evening saw the arrival of our priests -- despite the paranoia about the new strain of coronavirus – all arrived in good health and bulk of them were accommodated at the priory. On Tuesday morning, Fr. Summers presided over the first session, “A Retrospect and a Program”, with some reflections on the past and future. We are on the eve of a grand jubilee. Much has been done in the District, but the task ahead remains still greater. Let us trust in God. “Confidence is the best form of courage”, after all. The first things he brought up were the essential duties of priests and their sanctity. He then went on to discuss at length, the problems of our apostolate in Asia. Apostolate presupposes apostles, and we must frankly acknowledge that the questions of vocations to the priesthood is a rather acute one in our parts of the world. Priests we have, and good ones. We may have had a glorious history of recruitment in the past, in spite of trying circumstances, but what about now, in 2020? What are our numbers in comparison to our needs, compared to 4.5 billion souls of Asia? Even in the Society, we only represent 4% of the priests throughout the whole continent, which itself represents 60% of the world’s population. The universal problem of vocations to the priesthood is acute and its solution depends very much on the effectiveness of those who are already priests. Beyond this question, God does His part in providing for the manifold needs of the Church Militant in Asia; He leaves a free choice to the person called, but not to those whose duty it is to discover vocations. “Vocationis germen foveant”, the Church reminds her priests in Canon Law.
In the afternoon, Fr. Therasian read a brief essay on “Theological Trends on the Eve of Vatican II.” After briefly explaining the difference between trend and fashion, he showed what were the positive and negative trends that were found in the theological life of the Church under the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. A Holy Hour in the evening ended day one.
On Wednesday, Fr. Benoit Wailliez presented a learned essay on the “De Peccatis Reservatis,” i.e. “Of Reserved Sins.” He approached the question through the Regulations of the SSPX. The conference was fascinating and enlightening. Fr. Albert Ghela, who followed, gave a speech on another topic of Moral Theology: “the problem of recidivism.” Fr. Fidel Ferrer gave us hints to help our faithful to avoid the dangers lurking in the Internet. The subject on “Priestly Spirituality” by Fr. Peter Fortin brought out very forcibly the characteristics of priest’s sanctity and humility joined to an intense spirit of penance and prayer. In the afternoon, the community made an outing to a nearby shrine and a monastery. We also had a sumptuous meal in a classy hotel, thanks to one of our faithful who paid for us. It is their delicious way of showing their gratitude and support.
On the last day, Fr. Etienne Demornex clearly laid out the financial situation and policies of the District. A lively discussion ensued. And the last session of the triduum: “Archbishop Lefebvre, a guiding principle for us in 2020”, by Fr. Daniels. Fittingly, he recalled at some length the memory of our beloved and saintly founder, Msgr. Lefebvre. In the office for a Confessor Pontiff, we read, “Non est inventus similis illi, qui conservaret legem Excelsi.” Yes, our founder did win the affection and confidence of all, for he knew how to, by his supernatural outlook on things, and how to blend justice and charity. A rare talent these days, for sure. Fr. Daniels insisted that Msgr. Lefebvre, besides inspiring us to many virtues, is famous for one: Joy. No matter how daunting the situation was, he never lost joy, that precious fruit of the Holy Ghost. With this beautiful and inspiring message, the triduum concluded.
“Haec olim meminisse iuvabit” ... That was definitely the atmosphere outside the conference time. At table, priests humorously brought back the pleasant reminiscences of bygone days. What we read in the Acts of the Apostles about the first Christians, “Multitudinis credentium erat cor unum et anima una”, was verified to the letter at Our Lady of Victories Priory during these days. Surely, there were many unavoidable inconveniences for the brothers especially, to accommodate so many guests in their rather small priory. But, despite it all, they remained generous and joyful. Our dear brothers must be thanked. Often our pleasures are made of the sacrifices of others. They took a lively interest in this meeting and thanks to them, it proved a great success.