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District Superior's
Letter to Friends & Benefactors

February 2010

1970 - 2010

The Society of St. Pius X will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year. The Society was founded and approved in the diocese of Fribourg on November 1, 1970—and, despite the difficulties and the crisis in the Church, it now exists throughout the world.

This anniversary is, for all of us, an occasion to express our gratitude towards our founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and to see even more clearly, with the passing of the years, that the founding of the Society was an act of Divine Providence. How grateful we should be—laity, as well as priests and religious—as the beneficiaries of so great a gift.

I would like here to simply let the Archbishop himself tell the amazing story of the beginning of the Society of St. Pius X.  Following is an excerpt from his book The Little Story of My Long Life, taken from conferences our founder gave to the Sisters of the Society of St. Pius X, and then later published by them.

It was at this time that some clerics… came to me and described the situation at the French Seminary, where things were going from bad to worse: no more discipline, seminarians going out at night, no cassocks, weekly liturgical changes (a liturgical group was in charge of making up a new liturgy each week). There was truly incredible disorder in the French Seminary which I had known to be so flourishing and which I remembered so fondly.


These young seminarians, knowing I was free from any commitments at that time, insisted that I do something for them. Personally, I was not anxious to get back to work again. It was 1969—I was almost sixty-five years old—and I did not think it was the time for me to be starting something else. Many people retire at age sixty-five, so I figured I was entitled to do the same. But because of their insistence, I was willing to take care of them, without however having the least thought of founding a society. Far from it!


…I sent some of them to Fribourg right away in order to get them out of their present surroundings. I went there once or twice to see them, to see how things were going. But an aggiornamento was taking place there too: changes were being made. These seminarians were no longer happy in the community of the Holy Ghost Fathers because the liturgy was being changed, civil clothing was being adopted, and there was no longer any discipline. “Oh,” they said, “we are not going to remain for long. We are not receiving any formation. They are not giving us anythingno spiritual conferences, nothing at all. With things the way they are, we cannot stay.”


Oh, this is worrisome,” I thought.


So I went to see Bishop Charričre. I asked him if there wasn’t something else at Fribourg which would be better than this house of the Holy Ghost Fathers, somewhere that the seminarians I was looking after could stay and receive a better formation. He answered me: “You know, Your Excellency, the situation right now is very bad and is getting worse and worse. I am pessimistic; I do not know how things are going to turn out. In any case, we do have an interdiocesan seminary which serves all the Swiss dioceses and even accepts secular students. So it could very well receive your students also. I suggest you inquire there.”


I went to see this interdiocesan seminary and the superior received me very kindly. “Your Excellency,” he said, “we accept secular students, so we are certainly willing to take in a few additional seminarians… However, to be frank, the seminarians here do not receive any special formation… as far as we are concerned, they are not our responsibility… We will lodge and feed them, but that is the extent of it.


…Knowing that I was somewhat looking after a few seminarians, Father Philippe, a Dominican, Mr. Bernard Fäy, a layman (both professors at the University), Father d’Hauterive, and another layman (also a friend of mine, who was teaching at Fribourg), asked to see me.


Your Excellency,” they said, “you have to do something; you cannot just leave these seminarians as they are, like this. We will be sure to send you others; it will not be difficult. We already know of several who desire to receive a real formation.


…Faced with this project which did not appeal to me at all — here again, it was Providence which was compelling me to forge ahead! — I said: “Fine! Listen, it is simple. Since you insist, it will be Bishop Charričre who decides. I know Bishop Charričre, the bishop of Fribourg. I will go and see him. If he encourages me to go ahead, fine; I will see if I can organize something for these seminarians. There was still no question though, of founding a society, just of taking care of these seminarians in a more direct way. “If Bishop Charričre does not agree, then I will not do anything, or will do only what he tells me.


I went to see Bishop Charričre and laid the matter before him. “Yes, yes, by all means,” he said. “The situation is very serious, you know, and you will see that things are going to get even worse. Do it; I beg you to do it. Look for something here in the city; rent a building; put your seminarians there and take care of them; otherwise they will not receive a formation. You must do something for them. You must not abandon them.


Well there you are! “Since you are the voice of Providence,” I answered, “we will see what we can do. I will think about it and then see if accommodations can be found.


We began, waiting to see who would come…Mr. Aulagnier, Mr. Tissier de Mallerais, Mr.  Pellabeauf, and six others… so at the beginning, there were nine…

Once again, Providence was leading me along ways upon which I was not really eager to walk. But walk I did!


And then our friends, Mr. Aulagnier and Mr. Tissier de Mallerais, said to me: “Your Excellency, what will become of us after the seminary? Where are we going to go?


Well, you will return to your dioceses, and you will work in your dioceses.


But the bishops will never agree to receive us if we hold fast to Tradition, if we continue to wear the cassock, if we want to hold on to all that. They will never accept us! No matter where we go, we will be sent away. We will never be able to work in the dioceses.


But what can be done about it?


 We must stay together. A society must be founded to unite us together. Then we must try to find a bishop who will accept us and allow us to work together to continue Tradition. Otherwise it will never work.


 “You know,” I said, “you might be right…We will try to found a society. Nevertheless, it will need to be approved. So before anything else, let’s work on the statutes.


I drew up the statutes of the Society, and when bringing them to Bishop Charričre, I said to myself: “If Bishop Charričre accepts them, good, but it will surprise me. He knows we are traditionalists. He will soon have served his time; he is planning to hand in his resignation in January. He will not want to get involved in something like this. But, we will see.


Fine, I will study this,” Bishop Charričre said to me. “Come back after vacation and we will see.


…We had yet to find out, however, if Bishop Charričre approved of this Society. Yes or no? I went to see him with many doubts and greatly feared that he would not give his approval. It was November 1. “Yes, yes, I approve of it,” he said to me. “I am in complete agreement with it. Yes,  yes. I will have my secretary come.


Get some paper, etc.” he said to his secretary. “Type my canonical approbation of the statutes of the Society of St. Pius X founded by Archbishop Lefebvre...


I said to myself: “This is not possible!!! I am dreaming! It is just not possible!!!”   I can still see myself returning with the statutes… Bishop Charričre’s signature and mine… in the midst of the seminarians at Vignettaz, and saying to them: “Well, here they are! The statutes of the Society are approved! Oh! they did not believe me either. Ah, what a sign of Providence! Approved by the local bishop! It was unbelievable! And all the more so because it was Bishop Mamie who became his successor three months later. Bishop Mamie was already against us and would not have wanted Bishop Charričre (whose vicar-general he was) to give his signature for this Society. He did not approve of it, but it was done.

Throughout these excerpts, it is clear that the Archbishop merely followed the lead of Providence. “Never precede Providence,” Archbishop Lefebvre would say.

Today, 40 years later, the Society of St. Pius X has grown: The Society includes 6 seminaries, priories all around the world, 511 priests, 233 seminarians, 104 brothers, 74 oblate sisters…

The United States District includes 18 priories, 25 schools, a college, and 100 chapels; there are 75 priests, 13 brothers, 24 sisters and 80 seminarians.

These numbers are signs of the Providential work of the Society in these times of crisis. Providence was there at the very beginning of the Society of St. Pius X; Providence has been there, guiding all along the way the growth of the Society over these 40 years. Providence was watching over the decisions made by Archbishop Lefebvre, helping him see clearly regarding the Council of Vatican II, guiding him in his decision to consecrate bishops in 1988, blessing all of his work and the work of his successors.

 We see in Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, not only our founder, but also one given us by Divine Providence to lead us in these times of crisis when all authority has been shaken.

Celebrating this anniversary, then, with deep gratitude toward both our founder and our God, we ask the Good Lord to keep us faithful to the graces of the foundation of St. Pius X, following Divine Providence step by step.

With my prayers and blessing.

In the Immaculate Heart of Mary,

Fr. Arnaud Rostand © 2013                    home                    contact