Newsletter of the District of Asia

 October 1997

The Missions

by Fr. Daniel Couture

“All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth.  Going therefore, teach ye all nations..”.  “You shall be witnesses unto Me... to the uttermost part of the earth....”  “But they, going forth, preached everywhere.” (Mt. XXVIII, 18-19; Acts I, 8; Mk. XVI, 20)

Our Lord Jesus Christ began his public missionary life by performing miracles and through these He anchored faith in his disciples.  “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee (...) and his disciples believed in Him.” (Jo. II, 11 )

The Catholic Church too, which is Christ continued, began its missionary work of evangelising through an abundance of miracles.  The book of the Acts of the Apostles bear abundant witness to that.

Among the multiple miracles which have proven the divine origin of Christianity and which have been its radiance ever since its foundation, there are two in particular, always ancient and always new, that outshine the others.  These miracles are two historical facts against which all the attacks of unbelief have failed for 2000 years.  These two facts which will lead any reasonable man to faith or folly can be summarized in the following dilemma: Christianity was established with miracles or without miracles: if it is with true miracles, then it is true because God cannot do miracles to attest lies (cf. St Thomas, Summ. Theol. III, 43, 1c).  If Christianity was established without miracles, that is the greatest miracle!

The first of these two miracles which has accompanied missionaries of all centuries is the triumph of weakness over strength, of the victims over their executioners, of twelve poor fishermen, ignorant and uneducated, over all the human powers gathered against them.  That is an absolutely undeniable and indisputable miracle.  “The Apostles did more to convert the world by their poverty than by their very miracles;” said St John Chrysostom.  This indeed is their greatest miracle since the effect, here, exceeds its cause, the means (weakness, poverty, ignorance), cannot account for the end (empires subdued).

The second miracle is not less astonishing: the rapid, almost instantaneous propagation of Christianity throughout the whole world.  Twelve poor fishermen coming from a small lake of Galilee brought, in about 30 years, the truth of the Gospel to the uttermost part of the earth, made it accepted by people most different in beliefs, in morals, in customs and civilisations, people moreover separated by almost infinite distances.  Did one ever stop to consider how many obstacle much above human strength they had to overcome?

Moral obstacles: the prejudices and passions of all these peoples, civilised or barbarians, the ignorance of philosophy, of politics, of the languages of these various people.

Material obstacles: men living on alms, in absolute poverty, the incredible hardships of constant voyages, from East to West and from West to East; the chains of prisons, the storms, the shipwrecks.  St. Paul details these obstacle in a famous passage of his Second Epistle to the Corinthians (XI).

This second miracle, the instant and universal propagation of the faith against all odds, is much less known today but it is a miracle as great as the first one, the triumph of weakness over strength.  Moreover it proves beyond doubt that it is the clear will of God for the Catholic Church to be missionary.  It is in its very nature to go after the conquest of souls and of nations.  “Teach ye all nations” (Mt. XXVIII, 19) - or according to the literal Greek: “Make disciples of all nations”- not just the individual but whole peoples, “all nations”.

“Just as God sent the ancient Prophets towards nations and their leaders to reproach them their apostasy and their crimes, thus Christ sent His Apostles and His priesthood to the peoples, to the empires, to the sovereigns and legislators to teach all His doctrine and His law.  Their duty, as that of St. Paul, is to carry the name of Jesus Christ ‘before the Gentiles, and kings and the children of Israel’ (Acts IX, 15).” (Card. Pie, Pastoral Works, III, 514)

The Catholic Church has in its very name this aptitude to reach all souls, no matter what their conditions, their culture, age, education, language.  (This needs to be said and emphasized in these days of inculturation).  The note of Catholicity goes deeper than the mere geographical expansion.  The physical growth is only its natural effect.  The cause enabling missionaries of all time to reach the most diverse souls is the radical aptitude the Church has to adapt to souls created by the same God who made and sent the Church after these souls redeemed at a great cost by the Blood of Christ, God Incarnate.  Listen to another soul-stirring passage of the great bishop of Poitier:

“The Christian, it is not therefore, as a certain contemporary world seems to believe and states daily under every form, it is not therefore a being who isolates in himself, who sequesters himself in an oratory indistinctively shut to all the noise of world and who, satisfied as long as he saves his soul, has no time or care for the moving things of this world.  A Christian is the very opposite of that.  A Christian is a public and social man par excellence, his surname shows it: he is Catholic, that is, universal.  Jesus Christ, in giving us the Our Father, made sure that none of His could accomplish the very first act of religion which is prayer, without putting himself in relation, according to his degree of intelligence and according to the horizon open before him, with all that can move forward or backward, foster or hinder, the reign of God on earth.  And as assuredly man’s works must be coordinated with his prayer, there is not a Christian worthy of the name who does not strive actively in the measure of his strength to promote this temporal kingdom of God and to overthrow all that is an obstacle to it.” (Pastoral Works, III, 500-501)

Mgr. Gaume, another famous French writer of the XIXth century wrote a very interesting book on the second of the above miracles.  This book, “L’Evangelisation Apostolique du Globe”, is a patristic and historical commentary of Our Lord’s words: “And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all nations; and then shall the consummation come” (Mt. XXIV, 14).  The literal meaning of this infallible prediction is that, from the departure of the Cenacle until the arrival of Titus, destroyer of Jerusalem, that is, in a period of 36 years, the Gospel would travel the whole world; would be announced to all nations of the earth, and after that, in punishment of the crime of deicide, the capital of the Jews, Jerusalem, would be destroyed.  Such is the unanimous interpretation of the most learned commentators: Saint John Chrysostom, Theophilact, Cornelius a Lapide, Saint Hilary.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa, summarising the whole of Tradition gives the precise meaning of Our Lord’s words in his usual lucidity: “The preaching of the Gospel of Christ (in the whole universe) may be understood in two ways.  First, as denoting the spreading abroad of the knowledge of Christ: and thus the Gospel was preached throughout the whole world even at the time of the Apostles, as St John Chrysostom states (Hom. XXV in St. Matth.).  And in this sense the words that follow, “and then shall the consummation come”, refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, of which He was speaking literally.  Secondly, the preaching of the Gospel may be understood as extending throughout the world and producing its full effect, so that, to wit, the Church would be founded in every nation.  And in this sense, as St Augustine writes to Hesychius (Epist. CXCIX), the Gospel is not preached to the whole world yet, but when it is, the consummation of the world will come” (I-II, 106, a4, ad4).

Elsewhere, St. Thomas adds this other precision, quoting St. Jerome this time: “If we understand it (the preaching in the whole world) of the fame of their preaching, then it was accomplished before the destruction of Jerusalem, when Christ’s disciples had been dispersed over the four quarters of the earth.  Whence St. Jerome says, I do not suppose that there remained any nation which knew not of the name of Christ; for where preacher had never been, some notion of the faith must have been communicated by neighbouring nations” (Catena Aurea, in hoc loco).

What is the exact meaning of the words “in the whole world - in universo orbe” which Our Lord uses without restriction?  Are they to be taken as an hyperbole, an exaggeration, as would like some rationalist critics?  With such an approach, any other words of Our Lord can be called hyperbolic: “You will be my witnesses to the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts I, 8); “This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world” (Mt. XXIV, 14); “The Apostles preached everywhere” (Mk. XVI, 20).  All these, exaggerations?  Was the Son of God powerless to fulfil his prophecy?

Mgr. Gaume with an abundance of patristic texts, shows the fact of the fulfilment of this prophecy, (in the first meaning given by St Thomas above) not just in all the countries of Europe but also in Africa, Middle East, India and even China.  It is also probable that their voice resounded even on the American continent if we scrutinise the accounts of what some missionaries heard when they reached either the Eskimos, or some tribes of Gaspesie (Quebec), or of the district of Yucatan in Central America.  The natives in many instances had vestiges in their religions of elements who were clearly Christian, such as the veneration of the Cross, or the belief in the death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, even of baptism and of the Holy Eucharist. (Gaume, op. cit. chapters VI to XIV)

A priori, Mgr. Gaume adds some interesting comments to back up his point.  First on the theory of evolution.  It is clear now that evolution must be taken backward, that is, man does not come from the ape, from a savage state, but rather ends up in a savage state as a punishment for an abuse of God’s graces.  One can only recall the story of Nabuchodonosor in the book of Daniel, chapter IV.  As a punishment for his pride, king Nabuchodonosor lost his kingdom, “and he was driven away from among men and did eat grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till his hairs grew like the feathers of eagles and his nails like bird’s claws” (verse 30).


This ties in exceptionally well with what W. Johnson says in his book Evolution in a chapter entitled “Cultural evolution or devolution”: “It is popular to talk about culture evolving up from savagery.  But the evidence shows the reverse.  It shows culture degenerating down to savagery; this means that primitive tribes in the modern world are not man on the way up - they are sad evidence of man’s tendency to go down culturally” (3rd printing, 1987, p.88).

Second a priori comment of Mgr. Gaume: Speaking of China, this is what he has to say as proof of its early evangelisation: “A second proof, quite solid to our estimate, of the primitive evangelisation and of the Christianisation of China, is the exceptional obstination of Chinese in their idolatry.  No nation under the sun has been so stubborn in resisting the light of faith.  It has now been more than three hundred years (he wrote in the 1850’s) that Europe pours rivers of gold and blood to convert this nation; and on three to four hundred million inhabitants, China can barely count six hundred thousand Catholics...  And if European missionaries ever disappeared, soon Christianity would go too.  Where can such a resistance come from?  Being open to correction, can we not say that it comes in great part from an abuse of grace? (...)  It is well established today that its ancient books contain many vestiges of biblical revelation, both from the Old and the New Testament.” (Op. cit., pp.69-70)

We submit theses thoughts to the readers of the Angelus, and we continue our article on the missions with some news of the work of the Society in these same nations which could certainly have heard the apostolic message, directly or indirectly during the first age of the Catholic Church.

The rapidity of the expansion of the work of the Society of St. Pius X in Asia fits in perfectly with this miracle of the instant propagation of the faith, already in apostolic time.  If, as St. Thomas said above, by the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, all nations had heard of the name of Christ, we can say the same, mutati mutandis, of the name of one of the successors of Christ’s apostle, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.  It is truly amazing to travel through this vast continent, to meet all these various people, from Japan to South India through the Philippines and Singapore, and to see the respect of some and the antipathy of others for the name of “Lefebvre”.  We cannot but think of a famous prophecy: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted.” (Lk.II,34)

As early as the late 1970’s, contacts were made between India and Econe, in Switzerland.  The fact of a Bishop keeping Tradition somewhere in Europe, making traditional priests who would say only the traditional Mass could not remain unknown in the Far East, just as it spread through South America, Australia and Africa.  The Society was able to send its first priests in Asia, in India, in 1986.  Due to terrible visa complications, the priests could not leave the country.  On their way to or from Europe, they would stop in Sri Lanka at the request of some faithful.  Then, as the apostolate continued to develop in Australia, Singapore, a turning table for Asian voyageurs, saw the revival of the true Mass.  Near Singapore, at one hour’s flight North, another group called for the priests’ pastoral care: it was Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.  So, two groups of souls thirsting for Tradition are now visited regularly every month; these two groups almost equidistant from famous Malacca, the turning-table of the XVIth century traders and missionaries, such as St Francis Xavier.  The Saint, who visited many times this commercial place either on his way to the Moluccas, in Indonesia, or to Japan, had finally seen his dream of entering China thwarted by Malacca’s Captain.  Francis had to result to papal excommunication to finally put a bit of fear of God in the Captain to force him to let the missionary go.

The beginning of the apostolate of the Society in the Philippines was the result of adverse publicity.  The Angelus has carried a number of articles in the past by one Attorney Dominguez and on the topic of the Philippines.  In a nutshell, the Attorney reading about the excommunication of June 1988 saw evident legal injustices.  He took interest in the matter, wrote to Archbishop Lefebvre and become his most ardent and vocal defender in this part of the world.  In 1992, the Society opened its second Asian priory, in Manila.  It was followed three years later by another foundation, this time in Negombo, Sri Lanka.

Besides the countries already mentioned, the Society visits on a monthly basis Seoul, Korea and Tokyo, in Japan.  Every two months, the priests also bring the grace of the sacraments and the light of the truth to some faithful in Osaka, Japan and in Hong Kong, China.  So far, exteriorly, not much has changed in the life of Hong Kong.  Soon or late the consequences of the change of rulers will come to light and then our apostolate may be affected.  But not at present.  We still can go with our white soutanes and black saches and move around without being disturbed in the least.

The Society’s District of Asia comprises at this moment 10 priests.  Our work besides visiting regular mass centers consists in keeping alive this pilot light of the True Faith with the celebration of the True Mass.  Schools are slowly emerging: there is one in Christirajapuram, South India, another is about to see daylight in Sri Lanka this coming January.  In these places, our apostolate concentrates on the children, as the adults, struggling in a real pagan, Hindu or Buddhist atmosphere, stay close to their parish and the conversion to Catholic Tradition is most difficult.  In Singapore, Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur, the difficulty is to find a decent venue for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  The Mass is still celebrated in homes or in a local rented for the occasion.  In Hong Kong, the attendance is composed chiefly of Philippine domestic workers.  More than 150000 young and not so young Philippine women go to Hong Kong seeking an employment they cannot find at home.  Hong Kong Catholic churches are mainly filled with Pilipinas.  This work, though, makes me think of the appearance and development of Christianity in the Roman Empire.  Did St Paul not write: “See your vocation, Brethren, that there are not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble.  But the foolish things of the world hath God chosen that He may confound the wise, and the weak thing of the world hath God chosen that He may confound the strong.” (I Cor. I, 26-27)

Through this weakness which God uses for His mighty work, He managed to bring back to Tradition a Philippino Bishop, H. E. Bishop Salvador Lazo, retired bishop of San Ferdinan La Union, in Northern Luzon, as well as a diocesan priest, Fr. Santiago Hughes.  The work in the Philippine promises so much that God alone knows what could be achieved with a few more priests.  Our main work presently is the recruiting and training of male vocations for the priesthood and the brotherhood.  This is done in St. Bernard Pre-Seminary, in Manila.  Our priests in Tamil Nadu, South India as well as in Sri Lanka are in the process of establishing similar houses.

We recommend all this apostolate to the readers of the Angelus.  Each of the three priories edits a small periodical.  The main one for the District is the Newsletter published in Manila.  A bimonthly letter to foster prayers for Asia is also published in the lines of the old Annals for the Propagation of the Faith recalling the history of the Asian Missions and telling some juicy missionary stories.  It is entitled For the Missions of Asia.  Our goal with it is to obtain one million Hail Marys daily for Asia.  We have reached the figure of 160,000 so far.  The fruits are already visible.  Will you join our efforts for the conversion of Asia?

Fr. Daniel Couture
District Superior
The Society of St. Pius X
2 Cannon Rd.
New Manila, Quezon City 1112

Tel. [63] (2) 725-5926, fax [63] (2) 412-7389

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