October 2023 - On Firm Foundations
October 12, 2023
In the lives of God’s servants, it is praiseworthy to humbly render the glory and credit to God. The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, He also is in the middle, actively guiding, supporting and accomplishing through the cooperation of faithful souls. Fr. Yves le Roux, the seminary rector of twenty years, came silently and left just as silently. There was no welcoming party (that anyone remembers) or departure celebration other than a small occasion internally to recognize the years of service. I therefore take occasion to give some credit where it is due.
For myself, I can be thankful that he made the job of his successor as easy as possible. Everything was in order. From the big picture priorities of the supernatural ends guiding the natural ends, to the overall functioning of the institution, to the details of the daily life which at each step is engineered to form priests. At a natural level, I can only imagine what a difficult task it must have been for him to understand foreign youth and to form their character, but thankfully for him and myself, the means are not simply natural. God’s grace abounds and has proven in its effects to be most fruitful.
Fr. le Roux began his duties as rector in 2003. Almost immediately upon arrival, it became apparent that the Winona building would not suffice for future growth. This began a long and tedious process of weighing the pros and cons of building further on location or looking elsewhere. If looking elsewhere, which available buildings would match the needs and who would sell a previous Catholic house of religious formation to the SSPX? Through prayer, the notable generosity of certain parishioners, and Providential signs, the choice fell upon the countryside of Virginia.
As American history goes, it is old country. Notable Indian trails and warpaths run nearby. Pre-revolutionary settlements and estates mark the countryside. Civil war history is remembered as one drives in any direction. Appomattox Court House is only a half hour drive away from the seminary. But still the country around the seminary, though it holds many memories, is quiet and rural: a perfect setting for a house of priestly formation.
The remoteness of the location may be a cause to wonder. But as the modern world flies away from God, the soul pursuing Christ must fly away from the world. Yes, there have been (and a few still remain) seminaries in cities. However, the spirit of the world which is the spirit of anti-Christ, is not just present but aggressively seeking to denature man. As just one example, Fr. le Roux’s last letter was another dire warning of the insidious effects that technology has upon nature. As the name suggests, a seminary is a place where the seeds of truth and the divine life are sown. Technology has succeeded in making the soil infertile. Seeds grow best when the environmental conditions are best.
The former rector had his eye to the priest of the future – well, even of the present. It is already a great sacrifice for the priest to have followed the course of the seminary in an ordinary way. But to really become another Christ through and through, to really embrace the Christlike ideal in Charity, Humility, through a spirit of Poverty, a sincere Obedience, and a real internal Chastity takes a special grace and a great effort.
How can we characterize the priest’s work today as opposed to other times of the Church’s history? I go to the source. Archbishop Lefebvre described it in these words to his seminarians in 1977:
You are destined to fight, you are destined to be apostles, extraordinary apostles we might say, in a way priests have rarely had to be for generations, because you are going to have to rebuild the Church, form anew the spirit of Our Lord in people, in all these people who are losing this spirit, in all these people who will have lost it by the time you become priests.
You are going to find yourselves in a pagan, paganized world, a world that has lost the Faith and become atheist. You are going to have to offer them the model of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We have to give Our Lord back to people, and you will only do so if your whole attitude, your whole heart, your whole spirit is truly like that of Our Lord…
I return to the work of the former Fr. Rector. The land in Dillwyn Virginia was fertile ground. From it rose a truly beautiful structure. Drawing its inspiration from various monastic designs, it combines both a form inspiring supernatural work and a function facilitating that same work. Even more, because we know that a building alone doesn’t make the priest, there is a culture to be found there that is beneficial to virtuous growth.
Fr. le Roux is remembered by former and current seminarians and faithful alike for key ideas which fed that culture. He saw the seminary as a point of junction between heaven and earth, he saw the priest as the incarnation of Christ, he saw the Fatherhood of God in his own and other priests’ authority, and he saw that the Revolution against God, Christ, the Church and Christian society was the key to understanding the spirit of the age and the challenge to the priest’s work. In the end, the spirit of the seminary is excellent, and the life is one of Charity.
There is an epitaph on the tombstone of an architect buried in a church of his own design. Forgive me, since I’m applying it to a living, Catholic (and French) priest though it is taken from a dead, Protestant (and British) architect. It reads in Latin: si monumentum requiris, circumspice: ‘if you seek his monument, look around’. If you seek a tribute to Fr. le Roux’s work you simply need look at the fruits: a seminary which speaks of God and, more importantly, the 117 priests ordained during his twenty years as Rector. My own hope is simply to continue the work.
I recommend to your prayers and generosity our work in Dillwyn. We in turn remember all of our friends and benefactors in the daily community rosary. May Our Lady bless you abundantly!
In the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
Fr. Michael Goldade