I just finished reading Bernard Tissier de Mallerais’s The Biography of Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Society of St. Pius X.
I’ve always wanted to read this book, as I’ve always been interested in the origins and life of this infamous, traditional society. Call me crazy, but I admire their pluck and nerve. May God bless them all!
Since I wanted to read this MAMMOTH book, I thought, hey, why not invite others too? So, I gathered a group of curious ladies and away we went. (By the way, if you’ve ever been burning to read a book, but need motivation, get others to read it with you. It’s much more fun.)
Did I mention that this book is HUGE and expensive? Due to its extreme FATNESS and excessive expense, some of us are sharing, myself included. This meant I had to read the book double-quick in order to pass it along.
One member of our group had the genius idea to simply call the local SSPX priory (is that what they’re called?) and ask for a cheaper copy. She got hers for $10 less at their bookstore, versus buying it online. Smart woman.
This 642 page book was fascinating, even if it read a bit like a history book. It’s even got maps, charts, pictures, and footnotes along with important letters and documents in the back with a timeline, bibliography, and index. All very organized and thorough, just as one would expect from SSPXers.
Just What Is This Book About?
We began our book club discussion of Marcel Lefebvre with first reading a bit from a completely different book, Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s, Christus Vincit. Schneider has a whole chapter dedicated to the Society of St. Pius X, and we wanted a perspective from somebody we trusted in the Church.
Now, this is important, and read it slowly…the Society for St. Pius X is NOT in schism. I know this will shock some of you, but it’s true. Schneider says, “They are already in communion with the Church, since they recognize the current pope, mention him in the Canon, pray for him publicly, and pray for the local diocesan bishop. The SSPX has received faculties for absolution from the pope, and the priests of the SSPX may now obtain faculties from the diocesan bishop or from the parish priest canonically to assist at marriages…the members of the SSPX are not excommunicated.” (See page 149.)
This was important for us ladies to understand before diving into this fascinating history, which begins with Marcel’s parents in northern France and details his deeply Catholic upbringing, all the way through seminary, priesthood, missionary life in Africa, the second Vatican Council, the chaos which resulted from it, the birth of his priestly society, and then his death in a Swiss hospital.
Really, after reading it, I have more respect for those priests and religious who fought for tradition. Incidentally, and perhaps in spite of the text itself, I couldn’t help admiring Cardinal Ratzinger’s role in negotiating between Pope John Paul II and Lefebvre. What an undertaking!
I don’t have time to summarize and analyze this immense book, however. I can only say, that if you’re curious about the second Vatican Council or those controversial ordinations in 1988 or anything else related to traditional things, take out a loan and buy the book.
Lastly, I was reading our latest issue of The Remnant and lo and behold! On page 8, there’s an entire article on the importance of recognizing the role of SSPX in paving the way for other traditional groups like the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) and the Institute of Christ the King (ICKSP). The author, Robert Morrison, even quoted de Mallerais’s biography of Lefebvre. That was just fun to read.
What am I reading next?
Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky for our local Well-Read Mom book club.