a ligno Deus
HOLY CROSS SEMINARY
FATHERS OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT PIUS X
November 1, 2003
Feast of All Saints
and benefactors of Holy Cross Seminary,
me first of all to fill you in on the blessings that accompanied
the visit of our Superior General, His Lordship Bishop Bernard Fellay.
During his five days here at the Seminary, he preached a recollection
to the seminarians, conferred the sacrament of Confirmation, and
gave the Orders of Exorcist and Acolyte to two of our fourth
year seminarians, and those of Porter and Lector to the three third
year seminarians. The magnificent vestments that some of you helped
us to purchase, were finished just in time for the Solemn Pontifical
High Mass of ordination. Add to this Brother Xavier’s first vows
on September 29, and it has been a very encouraging month indeed.
view of the bishop on the predella before the altar
during the ceremony of ordination to the Exorcist and Acolyte.
He is assisted at the altar by Fathers Scott, Ortiz and Frament.
All are wearing the new vestments.
Now that the
first trial year of the Seminary is coming to a close, I thought
that it might be appropriate to give you an update concerning our
progress and our goals. There can be no doubt that we have achieved
a great deal, and that God has sent us some truly spiritual young
lads, who manifestly appreciate the Seminary environment. However,
we continually battle against certain difficulties, namely lack
of prior intellectual formation, lack of self-discipline, lack of
application to studies, lack of the desire for perfection and for
striving to do one’s academic best. We have had constantly to struggle
against the mediocrity of boys who are content with simply getting
by. However, the faculty is determined not to lose this struggle.
The whole concept
of a Seminary is not as familiar in the English speaking world,
as it once was in Europe. A Seminary is much more than just
a college or high school, with a few extra pious exercises added
in for good measure. For the principal purpose of a Seminary
must always be to prepare boys academically and spiritually, so
that they are aptly fitted to follow a vocation to the priesthood
or to the religious life, should they be called in this direction.
This function is admirably described in Canon 1354 of the 1917 Code,
describing the purpose of Seminaries: "to take care especially
to protect from the contagion of the world, to train in piety, to
imbue with the rudiments of literary studies, and to foster in them
the seed of a divine vocation".
The boys who
come to us fall into one of two categories. Some explicitly desire
to enter the Seminary but are required by the Seminary to first
complete their studies, on account of their manifest insufficiency
for university level studies in Latin, Philosophy and Theology.
Others desire to complete their high school studies in the spiritual
environment of the Seminary, along with the special emphasis on
classical humanities that characterizes a Seminary. They see
it not only as a preparation for a potential vocation, but also
for complete Catholic manhood in the world, should that be the will
of God for them. However, in either case it is the general education
at high school level that is most desperately lacking in our young
men, and without which they will never have the ability, intellectual
formation and general knowledge of history, men, religion and culture
necessary to develop strong characters, to express convictions of
their own, to assess, evaluate and analyze ideas in virtue of higher
philosophical and theological truths.
Bishop, sacred ministers, ordinands and altar boys
on the front steps of the Seminary,
under the newly repainted yellow entrance arch.
of the traditional code of Canon Law describes the subject matters
that are to be regarded as having special importance in a
Seminary, and is consequently the basis of the Seminary curriculum:
"The study of religion is to have the first place, and is to
be most diligently explained in a manner adapted to the talents
and age of the students; especially the students are to learn accurately
the Latin language, as well as their own". Consequently, Religion
is the most important class, and is followed by Latin and English
Expression and English Literature. History is next. Mathematics,
Combined Science (or Physics), French and Gregorian Chant are also
offered as being a necessary part of a general education, both for
a future priest and for an educated Catholic man. Subjects other
than Religion, Latin and Chant are taught following a demanding
curriculum. In this way our Seminarians are prepared for external
examinations that correspond to the last four years of their high
school, namely I.G.C.S.E., which is equivalent to a high 10th
grade, and A levels, two years later, for the end of their high
school level studies.
given in the Seminary is consequently accurately described
as a classical education, in opposition to the primarily technological
education that is commonly given in today’s schools (that is when
there is any education at all). Many people find it difficult to
understand the "utility" of a classical education, for, they say,
how does it help these young men to get a job, and if they do not
persevere with a vocation, then they will have gained little or
nothing from it. There is, in fact, a popular misconception concerning
the very purpose of high school education. It is a gross deformity
and destruction of the very notion of education to claim that high
school education should be job-oriented.
Pope Pius XII
had this to say in his allocution of March 24, 1957 to students
of State Secondary Schools: "Take care before everything else
not to assess the importance of studies by the criterion of immediate
usefulness." Education is not primarily because of its "utility"
in a material sense. Much to the contrary, it has as its purpose
to form a man intellectually and spiritually, to teach him how to
think and develop his mind, how to practice intellectual and moral
virtue, how ultimately to be a reflection of the goodness of Almighty
God. It is a preparation for life, and not (primarily) for a job.
It is of this that boys in the public school system are, alas, deprived.
Pope Pius XII
expressed the importance of such a classical formation very aptly
in an allocution delivered on September 5, 1957 to the Seminaries
of France: "You must rejoice first of all at pursuing classical
studies, for they remain unequalled for the exercise and development
of the most valuable qualities of the mind: penetration of judgment,
broadmindedness, finesse of analysis and gifts of expression. Nothing
helps to understand man today as much as a profound study of history.
Nothing can teach one how to weigh the value of words, to grasp
the nuances of an expression, the logic of an essay and the strength
of an argument as well as the exercise of versions and themes in
There is nothing
new about the difficulties that our Seminary is determined
to overcome. They were well described by Pope Pius XII. The first
is that of apathy, mediocrity and indifference, fruits of the easy
life, of instant comfort, of complete satisfaction. This is, alas,
not uncommon in our traditional families. Correctly isolating themselves
from the spirit of the world, often following common sense and living
in the country in order to get closer to nature and to physical
reality, their children can easily lose the sense of the urgency
and prime importance of the battle over ideas that is directing
the modern world. Comfortable in their own little world of traditional
friends and family, they can easily fail to develop a sense of an
ideal, and fall into a mediocrity that treats higher studies as
of little or no value. Behind a real but superficial piety there
is no greatness of soul, and no desire to know, investigate, understand
and defend the highest truths.
not infrequent amongst our faithful, is, in my opinion, incompatible
with sanctity in an intelligent young man. Furthermore, it can be
a sign of a subtle but practical naturalism when such good things
as working a job, saving money, building a house, making friends,
having a good time, living in the country all take precedence over
the overwhelming thirst to understand Catholic truth that ought
to consume the idealistic young man.
Pius XII expressed the fundamental importance of fighting against
mediocrity in his allocution (April 20, 1956) to the Students and
Staff of the National Boys’ Boarding School of Rome: "The first
step to an excellent education, then, is to keep before your eyes
the highest possible level. The intelligent and healthy boy is spontaneously
borne along by his youthfulness to propose for himself great and
attractive ideals…Unfortunately in our times, there are many youths
who are insensible to the attraction of the greatness of wholesome
and high ideals, sluggish youths who are content to attend to their
little world of personal comforts, and whose ideals, when they have
any, are short-lived, of mere surface value and immediate advantage."
love of the truth, and the dedication to study that it is our duty
to enkindle in souls, are not possible without such lasting high
ideals, great aims, bold plans. It is from this that we can cultivate
the zeal for study, also mentioned by Pius XII in the above-mentioned
discourse to students of State Secondary Schools: "Apply yourselves
to your studies, expend every effort and do not pass over anything
that your teachers and your curricula offer you. Being indifferent
and lazy would mean betraying yourselves and renouncing a complete
and harmonious development of yourselves".
Cross Seminary community - priests, brothers and seminarians -
gathered in the Sacred Heart courtyard around its Superior General,
Bishop Bernard Fellay.
A BODY OF DOCTRINE
second difficulty in education is overcoming the materialistic conception
of education, according to which it is the quantity of knowledge
that is fundamental, it is the memorization of facts, figures, dates
and theories that matters. In the allocution to students just quoted,
Pius XII has this to say: "There is nothing more harmful than
a mass of ideas accumulated in a confused and disorderly way - ideas
which neither meet nor integrate". Indeed, nothing could be
more discouraging for the student.
is our desire at the Seminary to overcome this tendency of
modern "education" by teaching a united body of doctrine, based
upon the basic principles of Faith, religion, philosophy, and correct
expression of ideas, whether it be grammatically, linguistically
or mathematically, as well as a Catholic theology of history, art
and literature. Such is the synthesis of knowledge that gives satisfaction
to the intellect and zeal for study, and that is recommended by
Pope Pius XII: "The intellect should constantly increase its
capacity for synthesis and profound research through serious philosophical
studies…The much-hoped-for unity of culture will be achieved when
the ‘corpus doctrinae’ has Christ as its head. ‘I am … the truth’,
He one day exclaimed. When you study nature remember that ‘All things
were made by Him and without Him was made nothing that was made’.
When you learn history remember that it is not a simple enumeration
of more or less bloody or edifying facts, for one can easily see
in it a structure which should be studied in the light of universal
Divine Providence and the undeniable freedom of man’s actions".
just as Faith gives a whole new perspective to the study of history
and of science, so also is philosophy necessary to the profitable
study of language, literature and experimental science. For it is
a Catholic philosophy that alone can give adequate answers to all
the fundamental questions that men continually ask in these subjects,
such, for example, as concern the existence and nature of God and
of His relations with the created world, and with men, the meaning
of life and of death, of being, good and beauty, of joy and suffering,
of free will and grace, and the importance of society to human life
- the family, the State and the Church.
XII in the above discourse had this to say: "It is necessary
to appeal to the everlasting philosophy which was elaborated by
the great intellects (he is referring principally to St. Thomas
Aquinas) throughout the past centuries. It has lost none of its
objective value and its didactic effectiveness". The Pope goes
on to mention the necessity of more advanced studies in religion
at high school level, without which "the religious heritage"
would be "incomplete and superficial…suffocated and probably
destroyed by non-religious culture…Inasmuch as it is necessary for
the foundation of your faith to be rational, a sufficient study
of apologetics is indispensable. Afterwards you should sample the
beauties of dogmatic theology and the harmonies of moral theology.
Finally, try to include Christian ascetics in your studies and press
on, on beyond to the high planes of mystical theology. Oh, if you
could see Christianity in all its greatness and splendor!" This
is what Pius XII expected of high school students in Rome, and that
is what we expect of our seminarians. Unity between study
and piety is essential in this regard, and this is why their spiritual
duties are very similar to those of the Major Seminarians, namely
the same daily Divine Office, daily meditation, Mass, Rosary and
ask your prayers for the success of this undertaking, and in particular
for our insistence in maintaining these high Catholic goals. It
is the most important support that you can give us. May the Angelic
Doctor be our protector and guide. We already have five new students
enrolled for next year, three of whom are from overseas. Work on
St. Joseph’s House has begun with grading the ground to prevent
any further water damage. I would like to thank the two families
who generously adopted a seminarian’s room. However much of the
work will have to be done by volunteers, since we do not have the
means to do it otherwise. Consequently, I invite any traditional
tradesmen who would be willing to give up a week or so of their
summer to contact me.
in Christ the King,
RETREAT DATES AT HOLY CROSS SEMINARY DURING THE UPCOMING MONTHS:
BRING YOUR FRIENDS!
day: Friday December 26 - Wednesday December 31
Women’s 5 day: Monday January 5 - Saturday January 10,
Men’s 5 day: Monday January 12 - Saturday January
Women’s 5 day: Monday January 26 - Saturday January 31
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