On the Occasion of the 15th Anniversary of the Institute of the Good Shepherd
Dear friends and benefactors,
Divine Providence has willed that our young Institute celebrate fifteen years of life in the bosom of the Church.
The first thing that we as members of the Institute of the Good Shepherd ought to do is give thanks to the Lord Our God for His mercy in having given us this spiritual family through which we can answer the vocation to which He has called us, to the service of His Church.
We must also thank our founders, Pope Benedict XVI, and all those who were instrumental in its creation.
In fifteen years there has been a lot of history in our Institute, but now we have to face a difficult time where the uncertainty of the future seems to attack us in an attempt to rob us of our peace, and sow discouragement, fear, and distrust in our ranks.
We ask ourselves then : how can we face this difficult situation not only for our Institute, but also for the Church? What grain of sand can our Institute contribute to the good of the Church in these times of anxiety?
The general aim of the INSTITUTE is the Glory of God through the perpetuation of the Catholic Priesthood received from Christ on Holy Thursday and handed down to the present day in the heritage of the See of Peter, as at its source. (Est. II, 1)
The key to our response to the times in which we live is given us by our statutes. Indeed, they indicate what the Church wants of us. There we can see that the very reason for our existence as priests of the Institute of the Good Shepherd is "the perpetuation of the Catholic Priesthood received from Christ", that is to say, that the priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of which we participate, must be maintained, must be exercised by us in the spirit of Christ himself, for the edification of his Kingdom; the priesthood "handed down to the present day in the inheritance of the See of Peter, as at its source", that is to say, faithful to the Roman Tradition, tradition which we cannot renounce.
Here then is the strength of our response to the present situation, the root of our hope, of our confidence, the strength of our resistance in the face of adversity. It is the same strength of the Priesthood of Christ in which we participate within the Catholic Tradition.
As you know, last August 31st, we, the superiors of some Institutes of Pontifical Right of the former Ecclesia Dei, met together. I have to say, I was only able to participate virtually, because I still have health difficulties as a consequence of the after-effects of Covid, and because of sanitary restrictions.
I would like to share with you some of the words I shared at the beginning of the meeting:
I believe that the purpose of this meeting is to join forces around the commonalities that our institutes have; namely, among other things, the use of the traditional Catholic liturgy in the exercise of our priesthood and the life of our communities, the maintenance of both the traditional doctrine of the Church, and traditional Roman theology, (i.e. of the Roman theological schools), based on the teaching of the holy doctors of the Church and the theological tradition, added to the treasure of traditional Catholic spirituality and traditional apostolic action.
I say that we are called to be united around these commonalities to face the new scenario that presents itself in the Church after the entry into force of the Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes, which is evidently, at least, a restriction of our own survival as institutes.
However, I believe that the decision to remain firm in that which is the very reason for our existence, namely, the maintenance of the liturgy of all times, of the doctrine of all times, of the Catholic Tradition, is not only a good for our institutes, but above all a good for the Church herself; For when the roads become uncertain and at times clearly perilous, more than ever, in my opinion, a clear point of reference on its path is needed, which is like a solid rock on which to build its work of evangelization which in turn is its very root, which is Holy Tradition.
In particular, maintaining the Traditional Mass, presents itself to us today as an imperative, if one can use this term, so that the Church does not run the risk of totally losing (if this were possible) her link with what really makes her such, which is to faithfully transmit the deposit she has received from Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Needless to say, we are simply servants of the Church, but if God has given us this particular vocation in the life of the Church herself, namely to live in her, in and through Holy Tradition, he also asks us to do everything in our power to preserve this enormous good for the whole Church.
It seems to me, then, that we must not change our charisms, and this out of love for the Church herself, out of fidelity to this treasure of Tradition, and in particular of the liturgy, and out of fidelity to the Holy See itself. We cannot accept the accusation that our fidelity to the Mass is an infidelity to the Church or to the Holy See.
The priests of our institutes, our faithful, but also diocesan priests and priests of other communities who celebrate Mass in the ancient rite, or who are close to the traditional liturgy, also expect from us fidelity to the commitment we have made to the Church, to our special vocation to help sustain Tradition. They also expect from us our courage, the light of doctrine, the clarity of the perennial teachings of the Church. They also demand from us a commitment to the truth and the witness of the conviction of the priesthood, of the religious life in coherence with what we have lived and defended throughout our lives.
We cannot claim, of course, to be the saviors of the Church. But we are called to contribute in what is allotted to us, for the good of souls. We must not abandon them. Not only must we not stop tending to them pastorally, but we must not abandon our particular charism, nor the particular vocation that Our Lord has wanted to give us.
It seems to me that these thoughts are born precisely from the principle expressed as the general purpose of the Institute in our statutes, the perpetuation of the priesthood of Jesus Christ, received by the Tradition of the Church.
Moreover, the work that we were able to do at this meeting, together with the assistants and the district superior of Europe, and which I had previously done in consultation with the other major superiors, was always based on our statutes: "The INSTITUTE upholds its profound Romanicity, because it is carefully concerned with preserving the Tradition of the Church in its permanent actuality." (Est II, 1); and also: "The particular purpose of the INSTITUTE is the full exercise of the priesthood, in the Catholic hierarchy and Tradition, according to a form of life adapted to its mission and in the privileged support of a common life fully ordered to the apostolate. It presupposes fidelity to the infallible Magisterium of the Church and the exclusive use of the Gregorian liturgy" (Est II, 2).
Indeed, our Institute, in spite of the present situation, cannot fail to affirm its profound Romanicity, which it does without falling into attitudes of servility or a revolutionary spirit of rebellion.
It is also capable of discerning what fidelity to the infallible Magisterium of the Church supposes from what, being only pastoral in character, is perfectly modifiable and therefore susceptible to being open to opinion.
Let us not forget that our statutes, speaking of the very nature of the Institute, affirm that: "Its members wish to exercise their priesthood in the doctrinal and liturgical Tradition of the Holy Roman Catholic Church." Here then is all our strength; in the Tradition of the Church which will not perish.
Let us be faithful to Tradition. Let us continue our apostolic work without allowing ourselves to be frightened by the difficulties that arise. Let us go deeper and deeper in acquiring that exercise of the priesthood in the doctrinal and liturgical Tradition of the Holy Church. Let us go deeper into traditional theology; into traditional apostolic action, with which so many saints converted souls and built Christianity; into the traditional spirituality that has faithfully transmitted the doctrine of the Heart of the Good Shepherd; into the richness of the liturgy that has been handed down for so many centuries.
This, of course, does not mean remaining in a nostalgic attitude of the old, but on the contrary, it is to drink from the primary source which is what Our Lord Jesus Christ has wanted to give to his Church from the beginning and throughout his life, the response of each era, from the firmness of the solid rock of Tradition.
Let us delve deeply into all these riches of Tradition, for this is the purpose of our Institute, and thus its proper vocation: for it is carefully concerned with preserving the Tradition of the Church in its permanent relevance. That is to say, living our apostolate in a traditional way, but responding to the needs of today, just as the Good Shepherd would do in these times.
Dear friends, it is time now, more than ever, to work together for the common good of the Church and of our Institute itself, leaving aside things that, while they may be important, are secondary when it is necessary to preserve what is essential, the very Tradition of the Church.
May Our Lady, who wanted to obtain for us the grace that our Institute be born on the date on which her own birth is commemorated, obtain for us the protection and the always ardent courage to continue in her service, so that her Immaculate Heart, united to that of her divine Son, may reign in more and more hearts.
Luis Gabriel Barrero Zabaleta Superior Generalis