In any war there must be a battle plan to win. I reveal no secret to you when I say we are in a war. The war, in our case, harkens back to the word “crusade.” The Crusades were holy wars that were undertaken by Catholic powers to free the Christian Holy Land from its Mohammedan conquerors. The crusade of Saint Benedict Center is a spiritual one. As you know it has two ends: 1) to defend all the dogmas of the Catholic Faith, especially extra ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the Church there is no salvation) and 2) to convert America to the one true Faith. Ours is a holy war in that we are “fighting” to free our non-Catholic brothers and sisters and bring them to the liberating light of the Catholic religion. This is a work to which the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary have been particularly devoted for sixty years. The goal is good and true, but the laborers are few.
St. Paul encourages us to use spiritual weapons in order to fight the enemies of our souls (Eph. 6:11-17). “Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day… having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace”. One of these spiritual weapons is Catholic knowledge; we must have plenty of it if we are to teach our countrymen. “That in all things you are made rich in him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge” (1 Cor. 1:5). And what will we teach? The Faith, without compromise.
The crusade was launched by Father Leonard Feeney who sought to save the salvation dogma of the Church from obscurity and, in so doing, rescue all Catholic dogmas from the “dictatorship of relativism” — to borrow a term of Pope Benedict’s. That effort began in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with, as Sister Catherine writes in The Loyolas and Cabots, the consideration of the “authentic doctrines of the Church through the study of Holy Scripture, and the writings of the Fathers, doctors, and saints of the Church. This program of studies achieved immediate success, filling the spiritual vacuum created by an obvious deficiency in the neighboring academic institutions. The Center was attended in large and growing numbers.”
Father Feeney chose Brother Francis Maluf, our recently deceased superior, to help him establish a strategy for the doctrinal crusade. When Brother Francis received his assignment in the 1940s he knew he had to prepare by prayer and study. And that is just what he did. He did not activate his dream to initiate a school of studies nationwide until the 1970s when he saw the time was right. It was only then that he launched the Saint Augustine Institute of Catholic Studies (SAI), announcing the program to friends of the Center across America.
Brother’s assignment is now our assignment. One of the best ways to re-ignite our enthusiasm for the conversion of America is to listen to the words of the man who so deeply desired the personal sanctification of his students and religious disciples and their education in the Faith. Brother Francis had a charism when he spoke. Anyone who heard him was instantly cognizant of it. And, thanks be to God and Brother’s loyal students, we still have his words recorded on tapes and CDs. Although his knowledge was immense in the breadth of its extension, wisdom was his greatest gift. As a true philosopher, he always sought for the causes of things, going from the immediate to the first causes. Yes, he was deep, but he also had the gift of communicating his wisdom in a clear, simple, and, at times, even in a child-like manner.
Brother loved to quote an often-repeated exhortation of Saint Paul: idem sapite, “be of one mind.” To effect this end, a much greater emphasis will be placed on the link, the connection, the training ground, the school we refer to as the Saint Augustine Institute of Catholic Studies. Brother Francis often called the Institute and its circles of study, the “engines of the crusade.” Engines require fuel to operate. If we do not work at being reservoirs filled with the fuel of holiness and erudition, we will have ignored one of our founder’s prescriptions for the conversion of our own homes and of our fellow citizens, our neighbors. In order to be good aqueducts we must first be reservoirs.
SAI is under the Third Order and the Third Order will support SAI. In fact, we wish all tertiaries to be active in study circles, or, at least, progressing in the program individually. Why? Brother Francis, in his very first recorded talk about SAI, said he believed that if you gave him a couple of hundred souls working to study the Faith in the friendly atmosphere of the circles of study, that number could eventually turn into many thousands — to the point where America could be converted as the Faith spreads from one soul to another.
Today, sixty years after the founding of our crusade, our purposes are the same. Third Order brothers and sisters, what are we waiting for? Please make it your goal to start or join a circle of study, to obtain the tapes or CDs of Brother Francis, and to share your knowledge and joy with others.
Finally, let me suggest that you purchase two sets of recordings: the “Introduction to the Circles of Study” (by Brother Francis) and “Why Be a Tertiary?” (by Brother André Marie).
Email Brother John Marie Vianney at firstname.lastname@example.org.