Abbé Laguérie and the Institute of the Good Shepherd, installed in Bordeaux
A year and a half after its inception, the traditionalist Institute has been able to allay concerns and dream about other horizons.
On Ash Wednesday, there were a hundred faithful under the white gothic vaults of Saint-Eloi in Bordeaux. "We had almost as many this morning, including 80 students from our school, and we do that weekly," says Father Philippe Laguérie, now officially the parish priest the past year, after several years of occupation of this church which had been abandoned by the diocese.
In the sacristy, a portrait of Archbishop Lefebvre hangs beside another of Benedict XVI. "Archbishop Lefebvre had a historic role in maintaining the tradition. Without him, there would be far fewer priests in a position to say the traditional Mass," says the priest, ordained in 1979 by the founder of Écône and who, in 2006, had chosen reconciliation with Rome. "Times have changed," he says. "We are no longer in the terrible excesses of the years 1970-1980."
"And this, the Society of St. Pius X... must [come to] understand." Now in charge of this parish at the heart of Bordeaux, it seeks to live the Mass according to the Missal of St. Pius V. "We are on the right track," says the priest, suggesting a figure of 600 faithful that, he says, are "people who have found a sacramental practice with us."
On the side of the archdiocese, after the turmoil at the announcement of the establishment of the Institute of the Good Shepherd, it welcomes the journey. "Things have become calmer. Abbé Laguérie and the Institute of the Good Shepherd have really played their part in belonging to the Catholic Church," said Fr. Jean Rouet, vicar general of the diocese. "There is a mutual respect that was born and which is very encouraging," confirms Father Laguérie. "If there is still a small scars, the wisdom of Cardinal Ricard is gradually forgetting past difficulties."
19 Priests and 35 Seminarians
Composed of five priests at the beginning, the traditionalist Institute today claims 19 priests and 35 seminarians. Four deacons are to be ordained on February 23 at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome, the Pope's cathedral. Numbers that Father Laguérie now considers sufficient to try the success of Saint-Eloi. An agreement has just been signed with the Bishop of Versailles, but the former pastor of St. Nicolas du Chardonnet [meaning Fr. Laguerie -- NLM] is already dreaming of Lyons and Paris.
In the capital, 1500 signatures were sent to Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois for the creation of a "personal" parish (i.e defined not by territory but by affinity), which would be entrusted to the Institute of the Good Shepherd . "The archbishop of Paris has already done much, for example, by allowing a Mass in Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois which is not a small chapel. On this side, Parisians have all the masses they want, acknowledges Father Laguérie. But one can not limit oneself to the apostolate of large area... to Sunday. The Christian life is not limited to Sunday Mass. There is also the catechism, scouting, youth, training… "
The priest of Saint-Eloi recalls that in his own explanatory letter, Benedict XVI suggests precisely the creation of personal parishes for the faithful attached to the old form of the Roman rite. "Thanks to his own distinction which distinguishes between "ordinary form" and "extraordinary form", things are working well, confirms P. Rouet. We live together in variety... Suddenly, things are regulated. "Nevertheless, when the Archbishop of Bordeaux has organized a series of catecheses on Vatican II, attended from 2000 to 3000 people throughout the diocese, Saint-Eloi preferred to organize its own conferences on Vatican II.
Understandable of course. We can see right within Rome itself the debate about the understanding of Vatican II; between the Bologna school and those who dispute that school's interpretation, such as Archbishop Agostino Marchetto -- and I daresay, the Pope and many others in the curia.
A concluding thought: the sense one might walk away from with this article is that the Institute of the Good Shepherd may well be providing some kind of template for a hoped for regularization of the SSPX to the Church as well.