2, Chapter XXI
as with the story of St. Nicholas du Chardonnet, the event which
is described here does not involve Mgr. Lefebvre, it provides another
useful illustration of the hostility towards traditional Catholicism
prevailing in France, the country in which the Society of St. Pius
X has the strongest presence. It was written by Angela Cookson,
and appeared in the 31 July 1978 issue of The Remnant, with
the following title:
True Face of the Conciliar Church
weekend of Pentecost 1978 Fr. Louis Coache led a group of French
pilgrims to Lourdes. As Remnant readers will be aware, Fr.
Coache was deprived of his parish for the crime of organizing a
procession in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. He told his bishop
that he would be appealing to Rome, and received a letter from the
Vatican station that the appeal had been examined carefully and
rejected – before he had even posted it!1
Fr. Bordes, the priest in charge of the shrine, had announced before
the pilgrimage took place that the pilgrims would be denied access
to the churches of Lourdes and the grotto-by force if necessary.
Under no circumstances would any priest be allowed to celebrate
the only form of Mass at which St. Bernadette herself assisted,
the Mass at which countless millions of pilgrims had assisted at
Lourdes until the French bishops had taken it upon themselves to
prohibit its celebration anywhere in France. In order to appreciate
the enormity of this prohibition, to understand that it is a case
not of madness but diabolic logic, it is necessary to take some
moments to pause and reflect, to appreciate the fact that it really
is true that in the year of Our Lord 1978, French Catholic pilgrims
were threatened with force if, while in Lourdes, they attempted
to celebrate the order of Mass at which St. Bernadette had assisted.
pilgrimage was in no sense a demonstration. Many French Catholics
who have been making pilgrimages to Lourdes for decades feel unable
to take part in the official pilgrimages any longer-the atmosphere
and the liturgy being such as to repel any Catholic who loves the
faith. All the literature given to those taking part in the pilgrimage
stressed that its only aims were to be prayer and penance; that
no one was to engage in arguments or polemic no matter how seriously
provoked. Fr. Coache summed up the attitude he expected from the
pilgrims in one sentence: "En un mot, prière fervente, esprit
de sacrifice, charité – In a word, fervent prayer, a spirit
of sacrifice, charity."
came from all over France and from several other countries, including
England. A special train brought the main party from Paris. The
spiritual exercises began on the vigil of Pentecost, with devotions
lasting three and a half hours, beginning with the Rosary, at the
statue of Our Lady Crowned, which faces the Basilica. The pilgrims
had been instructed to converge upon the statue individually in
case they were refused entry to the Domain – that part of
Lourdes be- longing to the Church, which is technically private
property. They were urged to conduct themselves in a peaceful and
contemplative manner, and to set an example to the other pilgrims.
They carried out this advice to the letter, not just on this occasion,
but throughout the entire pilgrimage.
was not the objective of Fr. Bordes, the Rector. Hardly had the
pilgrims finished their Rosary when all hell was let loose over
the loudspeakers. A message from the local bishop was broadcast
claiming that Fr. Coache was some clerical counterpart of the Incredible
liable to tear basilica and grotto apart with his bare hands. Pilgrims
were warned not to have any contact with the traditionalists, even
out of curiosity. The fact that Fr. Coache could only walk with
the aid of a stick, as he was still recovering from an illness which
affected him with perpetual giddiness, was not calculated to add
credibility to the bishop's warning, and, as time passed, more and
more pilgrims from other groups joined the Abbé Coache when they
found to their delight, that it was possible to take part in a truly
Catholic pilgrimage. The warning against Fr. Coache blared forth
in a number of languages – hardly in the spirit of Pentecost.
to the grotto was barricaded and guarded by a line of strong-arm
men in civilian clothes and so the pilgrims passed by to celebrate
Mass in an adjacent field. The wind was so strong that four men
were needed to hold down the corner of the altar cloth on the temporary
altar which had been set up. No sooner had Mass of the Vigil of
Pentecost begun when the Rector turned up his amplifiers to full
volume and broadcast a veritable cacophony, including bells calculated
to drown out any other sound for miles around. But the Mass continued
with dignity. While Holy Communion was distributes to the congregation
kneeling patiently in the field, two priests shielded the ciboria
from the wind with borrowed black umbrellas. The communicants sang
the Lauda and Jerusalem, it is certain that their
Hosannas were heard in heaven, even if drowned on earth by the cacophony
of electronic sound. Here indeed was the most dramatic possible
representation of the conflict between the Eternal and the Conciliar
Churches, the former on its knees adoring God with the traditional
Mass, the latter trying to obliterate the least remaining vestige
of the Faith which had sustained St. Bernadette.
there was Benediction and a Blessed Sacrament procession-both conducted
in the face of the overpowering din of the Rector's loudspeakers.
Visitors who did not understand what was happening would have been
surprised to see that with three churches in easy reach, a priest
was sitting under a tree to hear confessions. By an interesting
coincidence, this was the very tree where St. Bernadette had seen
the last apparition of Our Lady when the way to the grotto had been
barred to her 120 years before, just as it was barred to Fr. Coache
and his pilgrims. History has its ironies. However, the day was
not to pass without a Mass which St. Bernadette would have recognized
being celebrated in the grotto. When night had fallen, after the
torchlight procession, the pilgrims entered the grotto one by one.
The strong-arm men who manned the barricades had no means of differentiating
members of the Eternal and the Conciliar Churches. At about 10 o'clock
glimpses of white vestments could be seen within a huddle of people.
A priest was vesting for Mass and acolytes were donning their cottas
and cassocks. The traditionalists converged upon the group. In a
moment, in the twinkling of an eye, an altar had been set up, protected
by a ring of kneeling pilgrims, and the traditional Mass was being
celebrated. A priest of the Conciliar Church launched forth upon
a diatribe in rapid French, then fell silent. He may have felt the
temptation to order his "heavies" to demolish the altar
and remove the priest by force-but with the press present he clearly
deemed this imprudent. He fell silent and, protected by an umbrella,
in the flickering light of the candles, the indomitable Fr. Coache
celebrated the immemorial Catholic Mass before the grotto where
the Mother of God had appeared to a little shepherd girl who had
known no Mass but this, Up to a thousand pilgrims knelt on the wet
ground, some knelt in puddles to receive Holy Communion.
Sunday the situation had changed. The Rector made a formal demand
that the police should take action against Fr. Coache for "failing
to respect the private domain of the grotto." The police refused,
and stated that far from the traditionalists causing trouble or
endangering the peace, the only person doing this was the Rector!
The barricades were removed, the strong-arm men disappeared, an
attempt by the Rector to use the amplifiers as a weapon was swiftly
curtailed, apparently on the insistence of the police.
of Pentecost was celebrated in a field opposite the grotto, accompanied
by birdsong against the background of snowy mountains, wooded slopes,
the cloudy sky, and swiftly flowing River Gave. The congregation
was at least double that of the previous day, so many pilgrims from
other groups had joined. There was a poignant moment when a group
of mostly middle-aged Dutch pilgrims passed by. They slowed down
– they looked at the Mass not with curiosity but longing. Then a
priest wearing a collar and tie came running back, clapped his hands,
shouted at them, and shooed them safety away. The last man in the
line walked backwards, unable to take his eyes from the Mass he
had been brought up to know and love-but he, too, was shepherded
away, saved from contagion.
On the following
day the pilgrims made the Stations of the Cross. After Mass they
made the ascent of the steep winding hill where these moving, life-sized
statues are situated. Many of the traditionalists knelt on the steep
slopes at each station. Young mothers carried their babies, an old
blind priest was supported by two faithful friends. The sun shone
through the green leaves as the pilgrims united themselves with
the Passion of Blessed Lord.
children, and do penance."
been Our Lady's message. This was the message the pilgrims obeyed.
But even here it was not possible to escape from the Conciliar Church.
The traditionalists were followed by a small German group led by
a priest in lay attire with a dazzling tie and a stole made of sacking
in the shape of Tyrolean braces.
train pulled out of Lourdes later in the day, and the pilgrims passed
the field that had been their church, they sang the Salve Regina.
Life for traditionalists today is indeed a lacrymarum valle,
and yet they returned from their pilgrim – age with a feeling
of intense joy and consolation. It was the Rector who felt misery
and bitterness, still insisting that the police should prosecute
his fellow Catholics for the crime of coming to pray and do penance
in answer to the request the Lady of the Grotto had given to little
Bernadette. Once before the way to the grotto had been barricaded.
Who knows, the time may come once more when those who wish to worship
God in the churches of Lourdes in the manner of St. Bernadette will
be freely permitted to do so. The greater the extent to which traditionalists
obey the call of the Blessed Virgin to pray and do penance, the
sooner that day may come!
I, pp. 108-109.
American cartoon character with superhuman strength.
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109