What is the Institute of the Good Shepherd (IBP)?
The IBP is a priestly institute (a "Society of apostolic life") under Pontifical law. That is to say, it is placed under the direct authority of the Holy See. It was founded on September 8, 2006 in Rome, and its Mother House is the parish of Saint-Eloi, in the center of Bordeaux.
Created at the instigation of Pope Benedict XVI, the IBP today brings together around 45 priests, serving around twenty dioceses in Brazil, Colombia, France, Italy, Poland, Uganda and the United States. Our priests exercise their apostolate within small communities, within the framework of personal or territorial parishes.
The specific charism of the Institute of the Good Shepherd—its raison d'être—is the defense and dissemination of Catholic tradition in all its forms: doctrinal, apostolic and liturgical. In particular, the priests of the IBP celebrate Mass exclusively in the traditional rite, that is to say according to the so-called “Saint Pius V” liturgy. In addition, the Institute was founded with the explicit task of offering a constructive and theological critique of certain reforms born from the Second Vatican Council, a critique which aims to offer the whole Church a fresh look at its own identity.
For the priests of the IBP, this resolute attachment to tradition is a way of serving the Church, in submission to the Pope, at the service of the Catholic bishops, and for the good of all the faithful. It is the expression of their desire to offer the riches and benefits of the Catholic tradition to the Church and to the whole world.
What is the particular identity of the priests of the IBP?
The spiritual identity of an IBP priest is that of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. Our Lord calls himself such in the Gospel of Saint John: "I am the good shepherd" (John 10:14). The priests of the community seek to resemble most closely this figure of Christ, because they see in it a model of apostolate entirely adapted to the specific mission of the IBP: the liturgical and doctrinal tradition. The image of Christ as a shepherd—that is, as a pastor—is one of the first and most ancient representations of Jesus. It can be found on several occasions in the catacombs of Rome.
Indeed, the Good Shepherd's mission is to gather the last sheep, to console them, to feed them, and to care for them. As God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah: "I will gather the remnant of my flock... and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, says the Lord." (Jer. 23:3-4)
The Good Shepherd is above all the one who "lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11) It is in his sacrifice on the cross that Jesus proves his love for men, offering himself as an innocent victim for their salvation. The priests of the IBP wish to draw from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass this spirit of renunciation, generosity and self-giving, for the good of all the "sheep" of Jesus Christ, especially those who are the most distant from the Church. The daily celebration of Mass in the traditional rite allows them to identify each day more with this great work of Christ, in its sacred aspect and its mystical significance.
The Good Shepherd is also the one who "knows his sheep" and whom his sheep know, because they listen to his voice (John 10:27): fidelity to the teaching of Christ, through the voice of his Church, is a necessary condition to touch souls, minds and hearts.
"The Good Shepherd, who gives his life for his sheep, is the perfect model of this essential apostolic life: a spirit of service and of self-forgetting which is like the mystery of Jesus Christ. Each member is aware of being "the useless servant", just as the Institute does not consider itself as an end in itself, but a means at the service of the Church. This authentically apostolic requirement is rooted in boundless charity for the mystery of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The pride of the priests and their boldness in the apostolate will be that of Saint Paul: 'You can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ.' (Eph. 3:4)"
— Statutes of the IBP, II, §3
How are IBP priests trained?
In order to be faithful to the charism of the Institute, our future priests are all formed in France, at the seminary of Courtalain, in the diocese of Chartres. The seminarians there receive a complete formation, at once entirely traditional and turned toward the evangelization of the current world, with its own requirements and its own difficulties.
This double ambition is realized by adopting a mode of formation tested by the wisdom of the Church: A rule of community life, and by following a demanding six-year philosophical and theological course under the unifying principles of the doctrine of Saint Thomas Aquinas.
The priests in charge of teaching endeavor to transmit to the seminarians the rigor and beauty of divine science, being convicted that adequate answers to the problems of our current age are found only in the wisdom of the great theological tradition of the Church.
Intellectual training is accompanied by a solid course in the humanities, through the study of Latin, Greek, ancient civilizations, ancient and modern history, as well as by the study and practice of secular and religious music. These foundations are enriched through regular guest speakers, who aim to open the minds of future priests on specific issues: art, medicine, psychology, economics, politics and the study of non-Christian religions. In this way, the seminarians are equipped, both humanly and intellectually, to become true pastors who listen to all, faithful without compromise to the doctrine of Christ and of the Church.
The whole formation is, of course, punctuated by a liturgical spirituality which is lived deeply every day, centered on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The constant attendance to the Catholic liturgy aims to give the priest a keen sense of the sacred, a visible love for divine worship, and a true apostolic ardor. Neither sentimental no individualistic, the splendor of the traditional liturgy is the most efficient and most universal means of evangelization.