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Interview with Fr. Massimo Sbicego


Don Massimo Sbicego, a 38-year-old parish priest who just joined the SSPX, recently granted an interview to Marco Bongi for the District of Italy; their website has graciously given permission to translate it.

Marco Bongi: How did you become acquainted with the SSPX? Had you heard about it before you had any first-hand knowledge of it?

Fr. Massimo Sbicego: In 1992 I found a back issue of the magazine La Tradizione cattolica interesting; “I wonder whether they still publish it.” I tried to contact the publisher and subscribed. Meanwhile I finished my seminary training, was ordained in June of 2000 and began my ministry; not until May 2007 did I visit the priory in Rimini and meet Don Luigi.

When you were a seminarian, did anyone ever talk to you about Archbishop Lefebvre and the old Mass?

No. Tradition in its positive dimension is absent from modern seminary teaching. If the “pre-conciliar” Mass is mentioned it is only to emphasize the inadequacy of that liturgy and that theology. Even recently, in response to the motu proprio, I know that a certain “liturgist” showed seminarians the DVD of the [traditional] Mass produced by the Society of St. Pius X in order to ridicule its ritual and gestures with them.

What did you experience the first time that you attended the Mass of All Time?

I felt that I was in the Presence of God, a little like Moses on Mount Sinai; for the first time the whole celebration was “in front of Him” and He Himself was there. In the Coptic rite the rubrics prescribe that the priest should enter the sanctuary barefoot; moreover our Pontifical ritual prescribes special shoes for the bishop; the first time that I celebrated Holy Mass [i.e. the Traditional Latin Mass] I suddenly understood why: Moses in front of the bush. That is what it is like every time I enter the sanctuary: the burning bush of His presence.

What is life like in the SSPX?

Above all it is a simple, fraternal life. Archbishop Lefebvre designed it based on his experience in mission territory: he understood the importance not only of the apostolate but also of having a place in which to “recharge” spiritually and intellectually, a place where you live together with other priests fraternally; he intended a place that would also protect the priests from the world; this place is the “priory”.

It is great because there is always a kind word, a back-and-forth rather than a doctrinal debate, something to repair, a guest who has come from far away, prayer in the one liturgy despite the diversity of the individual national languages.

Then there are the sisters, who are an example in everything: prayer, diligent work, attention, modesty, discretion… and the brothers, consecrated religious but not ordained, who generously take care of us all: the house, the guests, and us priests.

Do the priories host people who do not belong to the Society also?

I would say that the priory is open to welcome those who respect its rhythms and purposes: a priest is always available to offer a word, an encouragement, a time of retreat or discernment. Then there are specific encounters that are organized for priests and lay people; the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are preached several times a year according to the method of Fr. Francesco da Paola Vallet and popularized by Fr. Ludovico Maria Barielle.

What is the daily schedule like? The apostolate…?

There are essentially two different routines: when we are home (at the priory during the week, on a feria) and when we are involved in the apostolate (on weekends or feast days).

At the priory the official wake-up time is 6:00 a.m., but many priests rise before that to recite Matins and Lauds; at 6:30 there is recitation of Prime in common, then meditation and the Angelus; at 7:15 Holy Mass and a thanksgiving; at 8:10 breakfast. Then there is time to devote to study, to preparation for appointments, catecheses, meetings, or to articles; time for various sorts of manual work and errands, or even for a further moment of prayer, for the breviary (Terce and None), Sacred Scripture, etc. At 12:15 there is the recitation of Sext and the Angelus, and then lunch at 12:30. In the afternoon there is again time for study, work or prayer (the private recitation of Vespers) until 6:50 with the common recitation of the Holy Rosary and the Angelus (on Thursdays there is Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament). Dinner is at 7:20 and at 8:45, Compline, which is followed by Grand Silence until 8:00 the following day.

For the apostolate on weekends, feast days and other occasions, the usual obligations hold for the clergy (Breviary and Holy Mass) and for all members of the Society (daily Rosary), but the schedules are flexible depending on the different situations and needs.

I have not yet been included in this important mission; however I see my confreres traveling hundreds of kilometers to help and meet the faithful, to celebrate Holy Mass for them, to resolve countless problems connected with the establishment of chapels, celebration of the Sacraments, lodgings, and the hostility of the pastors and bishops, in the sense that they are not very charitable towards us.

Do you think that other priests will follow your example?

I sincerely think that other priests and seminaries are asking themselves the question. As a result of one’s own decision to be consecrated to the Lord, one discovers that it is necessary to rethink seriously the priestly dimensions of the “presbyterate” and the sacrificial dimensions of Holy Mass.

The post-conciliar ideological trend is petering out in an essentially agnostic system; among young priests and youth there is, on the other hand, a reawakening, and they are searching for authenticity in our faith: hence they draw closer to Catholic Tradition.

The modern priest, the first victim of the new ecclesial way, often experiences a profound identity crisis; he can emerge from it only by reclaiming the means provided by the living Tradition of the Church: in the first place the Mass of All Time, then the breviary, a fraternal priestly life, and then the apostolate.

Many thanks, Fr. Massimo. I thank you.

Translator: Michael J. Miller

Thanks to LaPorteLatine and SSPX’s District of Italy website, for this interview.

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