This year’s Conference was a rousing success. We had a full house for the two days of talks and a wonderful time socializing and getting to know the new folks who came; one from California (he was inducted into the Third Order) and one from West Virginia, not to mention our guest speaker, Mike Church, from Louisiana. The following is a run down of the presentations.
Theme: Keeping the Counter-Reformation Going
Brother André Marie’s Opening Remarks
Brother André Marie explained the theme of this year’s twentieth Saint Benedict Center Conference, Keeping the Counter-Reformation Going, Brother’s introduction invited the audience to imagine a scene that took place in 1586 in Buckinghamshire, England, in the home of a military man who had converted back to the Faith, one Richard Bold. The secret meeting was held during the height of the Elizabethan persecution. Mr. Bold hosted three recusant Jesuits in disguise. One was the priest who converted him, Father William Weston, the superior of the Jesuit mission in England. The other two clerics were Fathers Henry Garnet, and Robert Southwell. Father Garnet would later be martyred as would Father Southwell. Also present was the musician Robert Byrd and there was also a choir. One can imagine that the high Mass they celebrated in that mansion was most beautiful and, at the same time, painful. From that abode, a theologian, a Hebrew scholar, and a poet would venture forth to proclaim the Faith and nourish the faithful under presecution, all the while, at every moment, risking their lives. Father Southwell, who is the subject of Brother André’s talk was the poet. Without taking any of the thunder out of the topics that would be covered by the other seven speakers Brother then gave a brief introduction of each of them and the subjects they would address.
Brother Alexis Bugnolo
“A True Work of Mercy: A New Order of Crusaders”
Brother Alexis presented an excellent overview of the situation in the Mid-East, especially in Iraq, and the plight of the Christians there and elsewhere who are being killed and terrorized from their homes by Moslem jihadists. His talk was a call to show true Catholic mercy to those Christians who are suffering from ISIS brutality by supporting a Catholic Military Order which he hopes to launch with the help of military men. These volunteers,he explained, will be professionally trained. The ultimate goal is to have them, with government approval, go to trouble areas in Iraq (and possibly elsewhere) and provide Christian towns with a well armed defense. More detail can be found on our website at http://catholicism.org/ad-rem-no-277.html
Brother John Marie Vianney, M.I.C.M. Tert., Prefect
“The Best Way to Counter the Reformation”
Our Third Order Prefect spoke about a few of the great saints and theologians of the Counter-Reformation and how they succeeded not only on account of their Catholic knowledge and writings, but, also on account of their holiness. This talk was a call not for new doctors of the Church but for laymen to fulfill their Marian consecration, or make it if they have not done so already. He pointed out how many saints often have saints for friends, counselors, and disciples. If we are dedicated to Mary, to quote Saint Lawrence of Brindisi (who led the troops as their chaplain against the Moslem Turks in the Battle of Szekesfehevar, Hungary, in 1601), “the victory is ours!”
Sister Maria Philomena
Sister spoke eloquently about the rise of the Counter-Reformation as it was nourished, grew, and eventually peaked in the latter half of the sixteenth century into the seventeenth (1560-1648). One could say that the theme of her talk was the Mystical Body. In introducing Father Damien and his work on Molokai (hence the alluring title “Hawaiian Reform”) Sister used leprosy of the body as an analogy to leprosy of the soul. As leprosy is a bacterial infection that infects blood cells that feed the skin, so unhealthy cells (members) in the Mystical Body weaken the strength and vitality of the Church. As in Hansen’s disease, the nerves of the skin are deadened, so, too, corruption among the members of the Mystical Body can furtively go undetected and infect other members unless they are destroyed by healthy cells. Hence, we must be those healthy cells, if we are to “Keep the Counter-Reformation Going”.
“Finding Reasons to Keep Going”
Mr. Potter contrasted true reform with false reform. Every revolution, he said, begins with a call for reform. The Counter-Reformation is the Catholic remedial response to the corruptive dissolution of truth that was the Protestant revolt. It is the truth, Mr. Potter said, because it is the teaching of Christ, Truth Itself, Truth crucified and risen from the dead. Our speaker criticized his own title saying that we do not need “reasons” to keep going, alas, the reason was given by Our Lord Himself who commanded His Church to “teach all nations.” That is the gospel. Mr. Potter spoke of the importance of respecting the papacy, not merely the office, but the person of the pope. It was the papacy, he said, that brought him into the true Church. Not that we are to be supine and uncritical when the Pope fails to defend the truth or weakens it, nay, rather, our speaker affirmed that we must resist where resistance is necessary, but always with respect. Mr. Potter had some interesting insights concerning Russia and Vladimir Putin that he considers to be encouraging signs of the future conversion of Russia, as promised by Our Lady. In all, this talk was filled with hope and not a stale exercise in righteous wailing.
“Anglo-Catholicism, the Ordinariates, and the Conversion of the Anglosphere”
Mr. Coulombe, a scholar, par excellence, of history, focused on England and the Anglosphere. He talked about the history of the Church in England before Henry the VIII, immediately after the king’s defection, the great martyrs of that period, and the later Anglo-Catholic movements of the nineteenth century that produced so many converts. He contrasted the zeal of Protestant and Anglican converts with the parochialism of Catholic immigrants to America, who preferred often to “go long” to “get along.” In a PBS documentary on Catholic immigration, our speaker heard the narrator affirm, “They [Catholic immigrants] got what they wanted; they lost what they had.” Not that they lost the Faith, but that they lost the zeal and charity to win converts to the Faith by word as well as by example. Mr. Coulombe spoke at length, and with clarity, about the Anglican Ordinariates that are the fruit of the charity of Pope Benedict XVI. He said that, in his experience, he has heard more affirmations of “No Salvation Outside the Church” from Anglican converts than cradle Catholics. That is because, he said “Cradle Catholics have never looked upon the screaming emptiness that is the world outside the Catholic Church.”
“The English “Deformation: The Great Faith Robbery”
Mike Church is a national radio broadcaster and host of the Veritas Radio Network. He features Brother André’s weekly Reconquest program. Mr. Church was our guest speaker at this year’s conference and his radio program ran our two-day conference live across the nation. His own talk was on the “Deformation” of the misnamed “Protestant Reformation.” After an entertaining introduction filled with humor and commentary on our present day situation in the USA, Mr. Church compared the cleverness and zeal that went into The Great Train Robbery, a book authored by Michael Crichton (1975), with the vices and virtues that, employed for an evil purpose, went into the corrosive work of the Protestant destroyers. The vices that aided and abetted the revolution of the “reformers,” he noted, were “pride, lust, greed, injustice, and (on the part of the deceived) sloth.” Quoting Brother Francis, our speaker noted that the four cardinal virtues were needed for the success of any major crime: the plotters had to have prudence, justice (at least distributive among themselves), fortitude (as in a brave boldness) and, of course, temperance (they had to keep their wits and sobriety). Mr. Church talked about how the Faith came to England as early as the second century and how it endured until the mid-sixteenth century. He introduced us to a work that he is publishing, The English Reformation, by Father Gerald Caulkin. It is a concise history chiseled down to thirteen chapters. Caulkin, who was a gifted historian, was determined to offer the Catholic truth for English speaking readers who, he said, have a duty to defend the Faith against the lies and “black legends” of Protestant English history. This was a fascinating presentation, given by a man used to the microphone, and used to keeping an audience riveted and anxious for more.
Brother André Marie, M.I.C.M.
“Lessons from Saint Robert Southwell”
Complementing Mr. Coulombe’s talk, Brother André introduced us to a great English martyr, Saint Robert Southwell. We learn from Brother that the saint was born into a wealthy family, his father being a courtier in Norfolk. Richard Southwell, his father, wavered between Catholicism and apostasy, drawn to the latter for a time, but dying with the Faith. His mother was a pious Catholic. At the age of fifteen, Robert entered the Jesuit English College of Douay in Flanders. He received a heavy cross however when he was rejected by the Society. Undaunted, he walked to Rome in order to apply directly to the Jesuit Novitiate there. Having been accepted in Rome he made his profession in 1580 continuing his studies there at the Gregorian University. Here is where he developed his prodigious skills in writing Latin poetry. One of his teachers was Saint Robert Bellarmine. Ordained a priest in 1584, Southwell, after reading about the martyrdom of Saint Edmund Campion, petitioned the Superior General to be sent to the English mission. As he and his companion, Father Garnet, left Rome, the General is said to have murmured, “lambs to the slaughter.” Arriving in England he took up residence in the home of Earl Phillip Howard, a convert, who would be martyred soon after Father Southwell. In London and its environs Father Southwell administered in secret to the English Catholics. When he could, he wrote poetry in English, concentrating heavily on spurring on the faithful to embrace perfect contrition for their sins. This, he believed, would prepare them for a possible imprisonment where they would not have the last rites. Our Jesuit was arrested in 1593 and was tortured by a horrible invention called “the manacles.” Brother André provides the details of his martyrdom three years later in 1595. Brother also shared some of Southwell’s exquisite and heart-rending poetry.
“Church Militant Restored: How the Counter-Reformation Saved Christendom”
This ad copy writer has never heard a more informative summation of the history that surrounded the period of the Protestant revolt. Our speaker has kept his audiences totally attuned with his erudite presentations over these past 20 years. Before launching into that history, Mr. Doyle spoke of the crisis we are now living in with the Church in retreat. He listed five crises: 1) The imposition of the modernist heresy, the “synthesis of all heresies” as Pius X wrote, 2) The absolute collapse of Christendom in Western Europe. 3) The Islamification of Europe and the demographic decline. 4) The defection of so much of Hispanidad (Latin America) to Protestant Evangelicalism. And 5) The ethnic cleansing of Christendom in the Middle East. Mr. Doyle illustrated with sober facts how quickly Protestantism spread, first in Scandanavia, then in Germany by 1526. He spoke, too, of the infection of the Netherlands, Bohemia, and, with Calvin, of France and Switzerland. France rallied for awhile before it fell under the revolution ignited by Freemasonry. A point Mr. Doyle stressed was that Protestantism would have never established roots were it not for the invasion of Islam from the East. The heart of Mr. Doyle’s talk however was a survey of the champions of the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Their success was due, primarily, he said, to reforming popes who meant business. From Paul III to Saint Pius V and Gregory XIII his successor (1534-1585), there was a series of seven consecutive popes who set about reforming the Church in every capacity and in every Catholic country (including England before its fall). Mr. Doyle concluded his presentation with a reminder that all true Catholic reform begins in the well-informed and generous human heart.
Question and Answer Speaker Forum
This years Q’s and A’s dealt principally with how to keep the youth enthused about the Faith in the face of the counter-culture. And, a good chunk of the discussion had to do with uplifting novels that exalted virtue. The speakers offered about a dozen suggestions, many of them Catholic historical novels. That’s not all. As always the speakers gave personal insights on related topics, commented on other speakers’ talks, or re-enforced their own presentations with some additional information that time did not allow them to delve into further
If you missed the conference and would like to order it, please visit our store.