SOUTHERN SENTINEL

No. 14

Regnavit a ligno Deus
HOLY CROSS SEMINARY
FATHERS OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT PIUS X

J.M.J.
November 1, 2003
Feast of All Saints

Dear friends and benefactors of Holy Cross Seminary,

Allow 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.

Minor Orders

A 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.


SEMINARY

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.

Minor Orders

The Bishop, sacred ministers, ordinands and  altar boys
on the front steps of the Seminary,
under the newly repainted yellow entrance arch.


CLASSICAL STUDIES

Canon 1364 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.

The education 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 classical languages."


ACADEMIC IDEALS

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.

This indifference, 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.

Pope 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."

The 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".

Community with Bishop FellayCommunity with Bishop Fellay

Holy Cross Seminary community - priests, brothers and seminarians -
gathered in the Sacred Heart courtyard around its Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay.


A BODY OF DOCTRINE

The 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.

It 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".

Moreover, 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.

Pius 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 devotions.

Finally, I 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.

Yours faithfully in Christ the King,

Father Peter R. Scott


IGNATIAN RETREAT DATES AT HOLY CROSS SEMINARY DURING THE UPCOMING MONTHS:

COME & BRING YOUR FRIENDS!

Men’s 5 day:             Friday December 26 - Wednesday December 31
Women’s 5 day:        Monday January 5 - Saturday January 10, 2004
Men’s 5 day:             Monday January 12 - Saturday January 17
Women’s 5 day:        Monday January 26 - Saturday January 31


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Holy Cross Seminary, Goulburn, Australia