Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 2, Chapter XXXV

A Pilgrimage to Saint Mary's


August 1979

As the Society of St. Pius X has grown it has come to acquire properties in many countries - schools, churches, and residences – to be transformed into priories. There can be no doubt whatsoever that the most important acquisition to date is the former Jesuit Seminary at St. Mary’s, Kansas, in America. This seminary was one of the great centers of Catholicism in America. It had been sold by the Jesuits to a property company, and, as has been the case with hundreds of similar properties, it appeared lost to the Church for ever. St. Mary’s was to be sold to the highest bidder, and it was far from impossible that it would have fallen into the hands of a Protestant sect. But it was acquired by the Society in June, 1978, in an almost miraculous fashion, and at a very modest price agreed to by the board of the property company, so that the college could keep its Catholic character. A high proportion of the board members were Catholics. The College consists of twenty-seven acres of land on which there are thirteen buildings – lecture halls, gymnasiums, halls of residence, an infirmary, and the Immaculata Chapel, one of the most beautiful in America. Unfortunately the chapel was almost destroyed in a disastrous fire, but will eventually be restored to its former glory.

By the time the Society had acquired St. Mary's College some of the buildings were in a very dilapidated state, and the grounds were overgrown. But volunteers arrived from all over the U.S.A., and amazing transformation took place. A Pilgrimage was organized by The Angelus Press for 13-16 August 1979, led by Archbishop Lefebvre. At a banquet held in honor of the Archbishop, Michael Davies remarked that St. Mary's could be seen as a sign of hope for the entire Church. He noted that all those present at the banquet had enjoyed the privilege of participating in a Pontifical High Mass for the Feast of the Assumption. (There had been Pontifical Vespers the day before.) This had been the Tridentine Mass, the rite used in the College from the day of its foundation, which dated back to an Indian Mission opened in 1827. The College was being used for the purpose for which it had been founded, Catholic education, and sound Catholic literature was being sold there once more. Anyone who suggested that the Church might rise triumphantly once more from the rubble of the post-conciliar revolution would be looked upon as crazy by most Catholics today, but anyone who had predicted the transformation which had taken place in Saint Mary's would also have been considered crazy a year before. Here was a rare example of genuine renewal taking place in the post-conciliar Church, a renewal in the true sense of the word – something that had been abandoned had been restored and renewed.


A Newspaper Report

The September 1979 issue of The Angelus reprinted a report of the Pilgrimage which had appeared  in The St. Mary's Star. The following extract gives a very good indication of the spirit which pervaded it:

The transformation of Canisius Hall into Assumption Chapel seemed like a small miracle, and it was filled to overflowing. When the hundreds of chairs were quickly occupied, the worshippers stood. The altars were decorated with masses of lovely flowers, and tall white tapers in golden candlesticks. The unusual painting, the Icon of Kiev, was also accented with a bouquet of roses and carnations. The simplicity of the faces of the Madonna and Child contrasted with the elaborate brass halo and the ornate frame. And there was the huge Bishop’s Chair, the one that had been a part of St. Mary's College history for so many years. Above it was the red and gold canopy and the shield with the Archbishop's coat of arms.

The Mass began. How can you adequately describe the pageantry, the vivid colors of the vestments and the bishop's mitre; the grace and the beauty of the movements of the ritual; the pungent smell of the incense; the melodious sound of the ancient chants and hymns; the solemn faces of the altar boys; and the look of devotion on the rapt faces of the reverent worshippers? In his sermon, delivered in French and then translated, the Archbishop reaffirmed the desire to rebuild the chapel. For the Feast of the Assumption message, he used scripture passages to point out that Mary is the example and teacher of the faith. Holding the golden staff in his left hand, he charged the congregation to be "the leaven of the Church." Communion was distributed first to the children making their First Holy Communion, and then to the huge crowd of believers. The Mass ended.

At the closing banquet, attended by approximately 1,200, Father Bolduc expressed his thanks to so many who helped to make this first pilgrimage such a success. Appreciation was also extended to the city and to the residents of St. Marys for their cooperation this past year. Archbishop Lefebvre will take back to Ecône a beautiful picture of the Immaculata Chapel as it was when he first saw it two years ago. He also carries with him a cordial invitation to return again soon for the dedication of a rebuilt chapel. The activities on the Feast of the Assumption ended with Confirmation, a candlelight procession, and Benediction. The first pilgrimage ended Thursday with hourly masses and prayers of gratitude.

This has been a week for intense and mixed feeling. For the members of the Society, it has been a joyous time, a dream come true, the answer to a prayer. For the more than 2,000 who made the pilgrimage from all over the world, it has been a time of renewal and hope.


The Archbishop’s Sermon

The sermon preached by Archbishop Lefebvre on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 1979, at St. Mary’s College, Kansas, during the Angelus Press Pilgrimage:

My dear brethren:

When I came to St. Mary's College for the first time two years ago, I was amazed and stupefied by the magnificence of the chapel, of the chapel dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. And when those who were showing me around this magnificent chapel told me that it was a shrine venerated throughout America, and particularly in this area, I thought at once that, if God permitted us to have this property, and especially this chapel, we would make of it a center of pilgrimage, a center of devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary for all America. People come from the North, from the South, from the East, from the West, to this center which lies in the geographical center of America, so as to manifest their devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, and to discover at her feet the line of conduct to follow in this terrible period that the Church is passing through today.

And already I was promising Father Bolduc that I would come for the Feast of August 15, to meet all those who desired to come to pray at the feet of the Most Blessed Virgin, and to encourage them to preserve the Catholic Faith in union with the Virgin Mary. But, by the decision of Providence, the chapel caught fire. This was a great trial for us. It was indeed a disaster. Our hearts were in anguish. But since God had decided thus, we still thought that we should maintain this date for the pilgrimage and that, since it had become necessary, we would reconstruct the chapel.

And what we did just a little while ago – the blessing of the cornerstone – is proof that you are determined to rebuild the chapel for the glory of the Most Blessed Virgin. I am convinced that all of you will help to make this shrine as beautiful, if not more beautiful, than that which was there before.

And I am happy to see that you have come – despite the destruction, you have come from all parts of America.

In a few words I would like to show you how much the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, in this painful crisis that the Church is going through, should be our guide and our model. With her we are certain not to go astray. We shall look to her, we shall ask her what she did during the course of her life, what she has to teach us, and we shall see that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary teaches us just what the Church has taught us ever since, in the course of twenty centuries.

The first element that concerns the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, and that announces her, is found in the protogospel, in Genesis, where already Mary is presented as a queen going forth to battle, as the queen of hosts, queen of armies, who gathers about herself all the forces of God, all the graces of God, and this to fight. To fight whom? To fight what? To fight the devil?

It is God Himself who announces this to the devil: "I shall place between thee – the devil, Satan – and the Virgin Mary an enmity.” So the Virgin has an enemy. And not only an enmity between the Virgin Mary and Satan, but an enmity between the progeny of Satan and the progeny of Mary; between the world, between everything represented by those of Satan, by those who are the children of Satan, by those who struggle against God, who detest God and the Son of Mary, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and all those who will be the children of the Virgin Mary.

There are then, by the will of God, two armies in the world: an army of the children of the Virgin Mary, and an army of the children of Satan. And between them, God has placed an enmity, an enmity that will last until the end of time, until the end of the world. Consequently, the Virgin Mary, already, before being born, promised by God, draws us into a combat, into her combat, into the combat which will lead her to victory. A combat, however, which, alas, will often be waged in painful, in difficult, and in trying periods. But if we follow the Virgin Mary we are sure with her to achieve victory.

This victory that the Virgin Mary desires is a victory against Satan and, consequently, against sin. The Virgin Mary is the symbol of those who do not want to be sin, who do not want to disobey God. This is the battle that the Virgin Mary is going to wage through the ages. So it is a great lesson that God gives us in announcing the birth of His Mother, in announcing that we shall have a Mother, a heavenly Mother, a Mother who will do battle. So we shall do battle together with her and we must do battle against the common enemy – Satan, and all those who with Satan are against God.

Perhaps you have observed nowadays in modern ecclesiastical literature that they no longer want to talk about the enemies of the Church, they no longer want to talk about the enemies of God, the enemies of Our Lord Jesus Christ. They would like these enemies to become brothers. Instead of combatting sin in them, the sin that removes them from God, by loving them, by seeking to convert them, it now seems that those who believe in the Virgin Mary, and are the children of the Virgin Mary, and those who are not children of the Virgin Mary, are all brothers.

Well, this is not true. We must strive to bring them to become children of Mary, but we cannot recognize them as children of God if they are not children of Mary.

The second lesson that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary gives us, when she was visited by the Angel Gabriel, is her faith. The first fact noted for us in the Gospel on the occasion of the Annunciation, is the faith of Mary. And her cousin Elizabeth congratulates her: "Beata quae credidisti – blessed art thou who hast believed." Yes, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary believed. She believed in whom, in what? She believed that the Son who was to be born of her was the Son of God; she believed in the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ; she believed in the Divinity of her divine Son.

This is the great lesson that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary gives us. Henceforth, she lives only for the Reign of her Son, for the glory of her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the greatest humility – she says, herself, that she was chosen because of her humility.

Saint Elizabeth did not hesitate to praise her precisely for this: “Blessed art thou, O Mary, because thou hast believed." This should also be our own first conviction: We must believe: we must believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God, must believe all our Credo, the whole faith that the Most Blessed Virgin had transmitted, that the Most Blessed Virgin manifested to the Apostles and that the Apostles transmitted. We must keep this faith intact. Let us ask the Blessed Virgin to have faith like hers – to have faith as deep, as firm, as courageous as that of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.

The third event in the life of the Virgin Mary that shows us how we should behave is what took place at the wedding feast of Cana. You remember that they ran out of wine during the wedding feast. The servant came to tell Mary that there was no more wine. And what did Mary tell the servant? “Do all that He tells you.” This is the Gospel of Mary. All is summarized in this phrase: “Do what Jesus tells you."

Many addresses these words to us as well, not only to the servant of Cana. At the very beginning of the period of evangelization of Our Lord, the Most Blessed Virgin is already speaking to us, is already speaking to those who will be the disciples of Our Lord. And when we appeal to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary to ask her what we should do in the difficult circumstance of our lives, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary will answer us, just as she answered the servants at the wedding feast of Cana: "Do all that He tells you. Do the will of Our Lord. Observe the commandments of Our Lord Jesus Christ. If you do the will of Our Lord, if you do the will of my divine Son, then you will be saved. Then your soul, which is perhaps like water, will be changed into wine, a generous wine. Your soul will be filled with the grace of the Lord. Your soul will be filled with all that is necessary for you to fulfill the commandments of God.” This is the third lesson that our heavenly Mother gives us.

The fourth lesson that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary gives us is her presence on Calvary. Her presence on Calvary where she is not the priest who offers the sacrifice - the priest who offers the sacrifice is Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, but the Most Blessed Virgin Mary is there, present. The apostles are absent; only St. John is with her.

By this presence on Calvary, the Virgin Mary shows us the importance of the Sacrifice of Calvary, and, consequently, the importance of the Sacrifice of the Mass. She is the Mother of Priests. She is the Mother of all the faithful. And by "this presence, standing before her divine Son Who is covered with blood, Whose blood was poured forth for our sins, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary shows Him to us, and says to us: "See the love He has for you: my divine Son has given all His blood that I myself gave Him in my womb, this blood that is now all over His body. His heart is open. His head is pierced with thorns. His hands are pierced; His feet pierced - all that by love of you." And this will continue until the end of time through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Thus the Most Blessed Virgin Mary teaches us the great mystery of the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ, realized in the Sacrifice of Calvary, in the Sacrifice of the Mass, and in the Holy Eucharist. For the Sacrifice of the Mass also gives us the Eucharist; this Flesh and Blood of the Victim that we must eat and drink to obtain eternal life. It is Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself Who said so: "If you do not eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will not have eternal life." So Our Lord Jesus Christ accomplished this unimaginable, the incredible miracle of really giving us His Body and His Blood to eat and drink. This is what the great love of Our Lord Jesus Christ accomplished, and this is the lesson that the Virgin Mary gives us by her presence at the feet of her divine Son on Calvary.

Finally, the last lesson that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary gives us is that of her presence in the midst of the apostles the day of Pentecost. It is through her that the graces will be given to the apostles and that the Holy Ghost will descend upon the apostles. The Church teaches us so. The apostles were sanctified on that day by the Holy Ghost through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, through the mediation of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.

She no longer needed to receive the Holy Ghost. She was filled with the Holy Ghost. The Angel Gabriel told her so: “Thou art filled with the Holy Ghost." She no longer needed to receive Him. But if she was present, it is because she wanted to communicate the Holy Ghost to the apostles, and because Our Lord wanted Him to be communicated to them through her – to them and, consequently, to the Church. There she truly became the Mother of the Church, because it was she who by her mediation gave the Holy Ghost to the apostles.

So the Blessed Virgin Mary teaches us to love the Church, to love the Holy Ghost - the Holy Ghost, who is given to us by all the Sacraments instituted by Our Lord, and especially by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and by the Eucharist. This is what the Most Blessed Virgin Mary teaches us.

Therefore we must be attached to the Church, and it is because we are attached to the Church that we defend our holy Mother the Church. The Roman Catholic Church is our mother. And it is because we are the devoted sons of the Church, because we love Rome, because we love all those who truly represent the Holy Catholic Church, that we defend our faith, that we defend what the Virgin Mary has given us.

We do not want them to change our Church. We want no other Church. We want the Roman Catholic Church, that which the Most Blessed Virgin Mary communicated to the apostles in the Holy Ghost. This is the Church that we want. This is the Church that we love – the Church of the Mother of Jesus, the Church of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, the Church of Our Assumption. This is the Church that we want! This is the Church that we venerate, the Church to which we wish forever to remain subject. So we beg those who have posts of authority in the Church not to change our Church, to remain faithful to the Church of Mary, to remain faithful to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, to all the lessons that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary has given us.

And I beg you, my dear brethren, to be the leaven – the leaven of the Catholic Church, of this love for the Catholic Church, in all your regions, in all your families, in all your homes. Remain children of Mary. Pray to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Meditate on the lessons that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary gives you. Then you will be true Catholics. You cannot be children of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, in a full and holy manner, without being the best children of the Catholic Church. This is what reassures us that we are indeed true sons of the Catholic Church.

So I am convinced that when you return home you will be true representatives of the Catholic Church, and that you will do all you can so that she continues, despite the difficulties, despite the trials, despite the contradictions. We must all pray together today for you to be witnesses. Just as the apostles received the Holy Ghost through the Virgin Mary, and went forth to give witness to the Gospel throughout the world, so you also must be the witnesses of the Virgin Mary, of the Holy Ghost that you have received through her, and give witness to your faith in God, of your faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, of your love for the Church, wherever you may be. This is what God desires.

You are the Church! You are the Catholic Church! So let us remain in this Church of the Virgin Mary. Let us confide in her. Let us confide to her our families, especially our children, who so need the help of the Virgin Mary to remain in the true Catholic Faith.

I congratulate you with all my heart for preserving this Faith. I also congratulate you with all my heart to see that you have so many children. We observe that half of the assembly here is composed of persons less than twenty years old. This is a sign, a sign of your fidelity to the Catholic Church, a sign of your fidelity to the commandments of God, and I congratulate you. I am sure that God's blessings are upon you.

I hope that next year, or perhaps in two years, I do not know, if, of course, God gives me life, that I shall be able again, with you, to say Mass, no longer here, but in our beautiful basilica which will be rebuilt, by the grace of God. And we shall be able to sing the praises of the Virgin Mary, as we are doing today, but perhaps with still greater beauty and a still greater number of pilgrims.

May God bless you. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.


Chapter 34

Courtesy of the Angelus Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109

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