The Right Reverend
At ten years remove from the consecrations, I would like to offer a simple, intimate evocation of those days, so vital for the Church; a few unarranged memories where great questions and simple matters are presented together; where impressions of the moment and matured reflections mingle.
I know that the faithful are very sensitive to this, because they love us well, and it is perhaps time to lift the veil of discretion which has cloaked the events of those days. To give an example of what I mean, I still do not know how the other bishops learned of their nomination, or how they got through these days. We have never talked over these matters between us!
Obviously, the most important and the strongest memory I retain is that of the incommensurable figure of His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Undoubtedly, one of the benefits of the consecrations for us was to have been able to closely share with him these important events, and to have been able to confer intimately with him over what was the most crucial moment of his life. Now, it is in such circumstances that the qualities of a man are made known, and so we were able to see close up the grandeur and, at the same time, the simplicity of his soul: fidelity to the faith, to the Church, to his duty as Catholic bishop and pastor, with wisdom, serenity, prudence, strength and magnanimity. He was equal to the gravity and scope of such an event. Moreover, we benefited from his practice of the hidden virtues of daily life: humility, simplicity, goodness, paternal charity. It was striking to see what peace and joy he radiated in the midst of these events. In short, the Archbishop showed himself to be a hero of the Faith and a loving father.
The Telephone Call
The first Friday of the month of June 1988, I received a telephone call from His Grace. After the due exchange of greetings, He asked me if I had intended to come to Ecône for the ordinations scheduled for June 29th. In principle, I had. "Can you come a bit earlier?" he asked me. I reminded him that most of the priests were at that time in the midst of a 30-day Ignatian retreat at the seminary of La Reja, so that I was obliged to be available to cover their missions, and that it would be difficult. But, of course, if it were necessary, I would certainly arrange it. "Then," he told me, "arrange to be here by the 12th. Someone will let you know if you must come sooner."
Obviously, I was very surprised by this telephone call. Not having received much news on the progress of the talks with Rome, I told myself that undoubtedly it was for a meeting of the superiors to study the eventual proposals that might come from the Vatican. But then, why had His Grace called me personally?
That very day, I booked a flight for the following Friday. Wednesday Swissair (the Swiss are very serious) asked me to confirm the reservation. Not having received any word from the Archbishop, I cancelled. Thursday at seven in the morning I received a call from Fr. Lorans who called to confirm that I had to be at Ecône by Sunday at the latest... The airline managed to find a seat for the next day, and I arrived Saturday at noon at Ecône, just as they were coming from the refectory. On passing by, Fr. Le Boulch greeted me then congratulated me, but I did not understand why. Then Fr. Faure in turn congratulated me, and then I understood. The idea which had come to mind and been promptly rejected as absurd during the long, uncomfortable flight began to prevail, since Fr. Faure had been, in our estimation, the likeliest Spanish-speaking candidate. Invited to have coffee with the professors, as is customary on Saturdays, I learned that the talks with Rome had been interrupted, and that Archbishop Lefebvre had decided to consecrate four bishops. My confreres, seeing that I was not informed, did not dare tell me that I was to be one of them. But soon after, I caught up with Fr. Faure, who confirmed it.
The next morning, I met His Grace, who had returned the night before from Flavigny without my being able to see him. "I suppose that you understand why you are here?" he said. He explained to me why he had decided to consecrate bishops. When I told him that perhaps there were other Spanish-speaking candidates, he answered: "Oh, yes, but we thought of you." And he added, laughing, "I hope that you will accept." I told him that I would accept if he were sure of his choice.
Here I must say that from the day when the Archbishop raised the question, I was in agreement with the idea of the consecrations, with or without Rome's permission. The very continuation of the Church was at stake. How could there be a Church without bishops faithful to the Catholic Faith? The strategy of Rome was "muerto el perro se acabo la rabia" (dead dog, no rabies). With Archbishop Lefebvre dead with no successor, the Vatican's "problem" would die with him. The Vatican churchmen clearly showed that they were seeking the death of Tradition. Archbishop Lefebvre did not have the right to go joyfully to his death without leaving the Church faithful bishops. Since I was agreed in principle, I felt obliged to accept, as a soldier whose leader calls him to the front.
The other candidates arrived that evening. I shall always remember our meeting, the nodding of heads, Bishop Williamson's sighs, the smiling silence of Bishop Fellay, the grave silence of Bishop Tissier. The first impression vanished, a joyful, relaxed atmosphere set in as we tried on misers, rings, cassocks, and so on.
Such are a few personal reminiscences of the consecrations. I regret nothing. What has touched me most during these ten years has been the affection shown us by the faithful and their priests. My only fear is not to be equal to the task of my ministry and to so many holy predecessors. W