Brief Summation of 2017 talks at Saint Benedict Center’s 20th Annual Conference
Opening remarks from Brother André Marie. The theme of the Conference being “A World View in the Light of Fatima” Brother gave thanks to the late John Vennari for inspiring him with the Fatima World View theme. Such a world view can only be effective, he said, if it is unapologetically Catholic, supernatural, concerned above all for the rights of God, and how to interpret current events in the Church and our world in he light of Fatima. Anticipating his own talk and that of other speakers, he quoted Sister Lucia’s words on the “decisive battle” that Satan is waging right now against marriage and the family. Too, quoting from Father Lombardi’s interview with the oldest Fatima seer, Brother noted that Sister Lucia had to correct Father Lombardi’s unwarranted optimism, affirming, with emphasis, what Our Lady had shown her and her two cousins indicating that “many [souls] are lost.”
In her talk, “Hatred, Ambition, and Salvation,” Sister Maria Philomena spoke about Virtues and Vices: Passion, hatred, ambition, good habits, such as magnanimity and charity. The talk was an excellent capsulization of Our Lady’s apparitions at Guadalupe, Lourdes, and, most importantly, of Fatima. Her account of Sister Lucia’s struggles to write down the Third Secret was astonishing for those who were unaware of the recently revealed text of her encounter with Jesus and Mary in the convent of Carmel in Portugal in 1944. On that day, in that vision of January 3, she received the strength she needed to write down the secret in perfect obedience and tranquillity. Many other fascinating insights were presented from various saints and authors.
The Fatima Apparitions: A Review Course. Our new speaker this year was John Hanisch. Author of the Fatima book Only She Can Help Us, our speaker has garnered much expertise on this subject. He also was a writer and an editor for Father Gruner’s quarterly Fatima Crusader. Mr. Hanisch provided a review of the chronology of the Fatima events with some extra information that was new to all his listeners. Our speaker pointed out how Lucia Santos was prepared for her mission from childhood. A shepherdess at seven, she received her First Holy Communion at ten. It was interesting to know that fifty people were present for Our Lady’s second apparition at Fatima and 5000 at the third. Right up until 1952 when Our Lady uttered these heart-wrenching words “I am still waiting the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart” Mr. Hanisch covered all the apparitions and summarized all the messages, adding special emphasis on “reparation” for the outrages committed against the Mother of God.
Fatima: Our Lady’s Reply to the 20th Century Secularist Utopia. Also making his debut as a speaker was Martin Chouinard, a teacher at our high school and graduate of Saint Thomas More College in Merrimack, New Hampshire. The first part of Mr. Chouinard’s presentation was a tracing of the history of secular utopianism, which reached its height in the 20th century. He familiarized his listeners with the convert, Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, son of an Anglican Archbishop, and author of the best-selling, utopian fiction Lord of the World. With great lucidity our speaker interpreted the actual rise of the last century’s militant superpowers and their use and abuse of language (Woodrow Wilson’s making “the world safe for democracy,” for example) and international finance in the light of the prophetic “dystopianism” laid out in Benson’s novel. Julian Felsenberg, the book’s demagogic protagonist, is a figure of many tyrants that would follow soon after the book was published in 1907, and, in fact, of the anti-christ himself. Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World, offered similar themes and were equally lucrative for publishers. Our speaker did a great job highlighting the horror of WWI and II, pointing out that Wilson considered his presidency messianic. Other types of revolutions are singled out in this overview, in thinking and science, such as Francis Bacon’s paradise of technology envisioned in his book, New Atlantis. And, finally, we have Karl Marx. Mr. Chouinard notes with acute punctuations how the visionaries of this world, having divorced themselves from God, have generated nothing but death. In science, man has progressed from the slingshot to the atomic bomb. In the second part of his presentation, Mr. Chouinard rallies the troops with the banner of Mary, our last hope, the antidote to misery and death. Our utopia is, indeed, in heaven. But, here on earth. amidst whatever trials, our speaker gives us the hope that is the message of Fatima. Mary is that “good place” that is the true utopia (literally “no place”’ in Greek) that Thomas More’s book satirizes. Heaven, hell, sin, war as chastisement, and Our Lady’s sadness most effected the three shepherds of Portugal. In conclusion, our speaker bids all to love sacrifice; it consoles the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts. And to have hope! We know the victory is ours if we live the life of grace.
Gary Potter graced our conference once again. He has spoken at every one of our conferences. The title of his talk was Russia, America, Fatima. Communism is atheistic, but liberals in America, Mr. Potter stressed live as if God does not exist. Yes, Russia is schismatic; however, there are signs today that in that vast land the Christian faith is more alive than in the USA. As Americans, he said, we ought to be more concerned than we are with the conversion of our own nation. Our problem here is that there has never been a Catholic culture. “The core of the fruit of civilization is religion,” he noted, “and culture is the skin of the fruit.” Tears and gashes will corrupt the fruit. All that is summed up in the word “modernity” is corruption. What God has a “right” to expect of us is fidelity to the Faith and its morals. Prayer, he said, must be integral in all we do. We must fill in the free time that we have with not only contemplation in silence, but appreciation for the works of culture, books and art. Mr. Potter spoke about building Catholic communities locally and encouraging others doing the same elsewhere. We are not Amish, he said; we are “in the world” while not being of it. Catholic communities can be a nucleus for evangelization.
Charles Coulombe spoke about the Reign of the Two Hearts: Kingship of Christ and Queenship of Mary. The “reign” of the two Hearts is not a private but a public matter. Devotion to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts grew at about the same time, he said, as we see in the apostolate of Saint John Eudes. Mr. Coulombe spoke eloquently about the Kingship of Christ and the Queenship of Mary, on earth as it is in heaven. He presented a summary of papal encyclicals dealing with the universal Reign of Christ (Quas Primas of Pius XI) and the application in societies of the Social Reign of Christ over nations. A major point made by our speaker was that relations with our fellow man, especially those in the Mystical Body, must descend from our adoration of God the Father. There cannot be a brotherhood among men without faith in the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. Examining ourselves first, we must ask the question: “Are we a city shining on a hilltop for all to see”? Our mission is not “to make America great” but to save souls. Christ must reign in our hearts: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His justice and all else will be added.” In conclusion, Mr. Coulombe reiterated what he emphasized last year, namely doing tangible things to make our faith visible and attractive. Inviting non-Catholics to public devotions is one way to do this. Get involved in local affairs. Be a Catholic presence. We cannot love our country if we do not love our neighbor. The highest patriotism is to share our Faith with our neighbors and society to the best of our ability. Our nation is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. Dedication means action.
Mike Church was with us again this year. The title of his talk Vocatio Viri: “How I Learned Stop Worrying And Save The Free World” demanded an explanation. And Mr. Church, as anyone knows who has listened to his radio program, knows how to impel a curious audience. By baptism, we are all called. Vocation is a calling from God, an abiding full-time job to be fulfilled on earth. Our speaker began with a brief summation of his own reversion back to the Catholic Faith in 2010. By 2012 he was a “traditional” Catholic. And what did he do about his Vocatio? He brought it into his radio show with both barrels blazing. Inevitably this got him fired. And getting fired was the grace that moved him to launch his own radio station. So, our speaker, uses his program to fight the good fight and reach souls with the truth. Quoting Saint John Paul II, he said: “Do not say I am only one person, what can I do?” Look at Father Feeney, he said. Numbers don’t matter. There were only eleven good Apostles! “Father Feeney did not take his vocation as an adjective or noun, but as a verb.” Now that’s quotable. That’s propelling! The presentation ended gloriously with a tribute to Saint Joseph.
Brother Andrè Marie spoke all about Fatima: “A Vision of Fatima”. I do not think it would be possible to paint a more limpid picture of all things Fatima than Brother does in this hour presentation. He began by talking abut happiness which, as Saint Thomas teaches, can only be achieved in this life by living for our last end. First in thought, last in execution. It is the possession of the true good that makes man happy. The good is what all men desire by nature but, alas, evil, in the guise of a false good, is preferred by most. The highest good is that which is desirable in and for itself. Lesser goods are sought as means for something else. Brother explains very convincingly that, whereas the will seeks the good, happiness is in its possession. That is to say, along with Saint Thomas, happiness is in the intellect, which is the faculty of the highest form of possession, i.e., knowledge. “[W]e shall be like to him: because we shall see him as he is” (1John 3:2). Eternal Life is thusly called “the Beatific Vision”. After speaking about the Fatima children and the visions and messages, Brother demonstrates how the seers were happy in holiness — translated, blessedness. The second part of his talk is a beautiful reflection on the eight beatitudes as manifested in the short lives of two of the Fatima children and in the patient endurance unto death of all three of them as they hungered and thirsted for justice (holiness). The seers of Fatima, as Brother colors in the details so well, truly lived the Beatitudes in a heroic way.
Winding up the line of speakers was C.J. Doyle. His talk was titled Our Lady of Fatima and the Fate of Nations. Mr. Doyle made a major point with the issue of clarity. Thinking and communicating clearly is a sign that we are, at least, holding on to sanity in an insane world consumed by sophistry and equivocation. We believe despite the fact that so many, even in the hierarchy, have lost the integral Faith. We believe in the whole message of Fatima that has been revealed (while we still await the message of the Third Secret). When Our Lady spoke about whole nations being annihilated if her requests were not heeded, Mr. Doyle posed the question that perhaps this annihilation includes the genocide of abortion and birth control. Abortion , he said, is one of the errors of Russia. Even today, in post-communist Russia, abortion is endemic. And, unlike China, abortion is not mandated in Russia. It’s chosen freely. Nations of the West, by abortion, are being annihilated. For every 100 babies born in Europe, 93 are murdered in the womb. That does not even take into account the millions being killed through abortifacient birth control methods. Christian Europe is being annihilated also, he said, by means of Moslem immigration. And not only is Europe being depopulated, but western, zero-population promoters are intent upon sterilizing the Third World (without much success) and attempting to do so in Latin America. Our speaker highlighted other anti-life policies that came to Russia with and after the Revolution, such as divorce and replacing marriage and family with the godless state leviathan. The first European country to legalize divorce, he said, was actually England in the 17th century under Charles II. Mr. Doyle gave us much information regarding the defection of other nations that once made for Christendom. C.J. saved the best for last however. Providing examples of Catholic victories, such as Austria’s Rosary Crusade in 1955, which culminated with the Red Army pulling out of that country on the very feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, May 13. Mr. Doyle rallied all of us with some encouraging heavenly interventions that should give us hope in these darkest of times.
Question and Answer Period
The grand finale of our conference is always putting the speakers on the stand in the Q&A, that is, of course, after they are well wined and dined, It’s all impromptu and lightsome. The questions, as you can see below, do not have to be theme oriented. Speakers are free to comment on any question. Here are a few of them in the order they were received:
How do you see the Church’s future in sub-Saharan Africa?
What are the virtues of a Slave of Mary and how can they be acquired?
Do you think Trump has been influenced by Pat Buchanan?
Does the Consecration of Russia with all the bishops include the Orthodox Bishops? (Answer “No”)
Is the President of the US morally obligated to work for the reign of Christ the King?
What is the mean between being anti-social and being worldly?
Are there Catholic criteria for good music?
*If you would like individual talks or a complete set of the conference, CLICK HERE.
Talks are available as CD’s, DVD’s, MP3’s and MP4’s.