Vingt ans après

Twenty years ago today, I was into the office rather early.  The “office” I am talking about are the offices of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” on the ground floor of the Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio.

Being the first one in, I started up various machines, opened some windows to change the air in the place and … DING DONG … the doorbell rang.

On the doorstep was His Eminence Joseph Card. Ratzinger, who worked upstairs at the time.

“I wanted to give you the news as soon as possible”, he said.  “I had a phone call that Archbishop Lefebvre has died.”

Armed with that news, I phoned the residence of the President of the PCED, the late Augustin Card. Mayer, gave him the news, and suggested that we might have a busy day.

Twenty years ago today.

Here is a memorial card I have had in my breviary since 1991.

In your goodness, perhaps you will say a prayer for the late Archbishop Lefebvre today, on the 20th anniversary of his death.

May God be merciful to him.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. wmeyer says:

    I will pray for him, I will offer a Rosary, for this man of conscience who wrote so movingly in his Open Letter.

  2. Legisperitus says:

    Lux perpetua luceat ei.

  3. jrotond2 says:

    Twenty years ago, I was in sixth grade, and having newly gone over to the SSPX with my family, I spent that day passing around a copy of the NY Daily News to my classmates which had an article on +Lefebvre’s passing.

    Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

  4. MarkJ says:

    He was blessed to have died on the day of the Incarnation. I will pray for him, and for the good people of the SSPX, and I will also ask him to intercede for the Church during these turbulent times. May God have mercy on all of us still in the Church Militant, they we may fight the good fight until the end.

  5. Brooklyn says:

    Harking back to another posting you did today, someone mentioned that it is Jewish custom that a holy person dies on the anniversary of their conception. Archbishop Lefebvre was born on November 29, and died on March 25. Hmmmmm. Not exactly 9 months if he was born on time, but pretty close. And as already stated, it was a blessing for him to die on the day of the Incarnation.

    I will most definitely say a prayer for him today. And thank you, Father, for this magnanimous post.

  6. Twenty years ago today i was awaiting a canonical transfer out of NY State, a guest monk at New Skete. I will commemorate His Grace tomorrow at the Soul Saturday commemorations.

  7. I have absolutely no idea where I was 20 years ago today. But sadly I wasn’t Catholic.

    Prayers for the happy repose of the soul of Archbishop Lefebvre.

  8. Do we not long in joyful hope for the day when this Archbishop’s reputation is officially restored and his spiritual sons and their flock are fully and completely and securely under the protection of Peter? How can we desire anything but that; and may it come soon because the road is long and we will all be better in this together.

    Requiescat in pace.

  9. APX says:

    I was 5 years old, home from kindergarten, eating lunch and watching the Flintstones.

    I’ll say a prayer for him today too.

  10. BobP says:

    The world will not forget him. Requiescat in pace.

  11. NonSumDignus says:

    Pie Iesu Domine, dona eis requiem.

  12. wchoag says:

    I remember the day very well…

    My late mother woke me sometime before 6am (EDT) and just blurted out that had heard on the news that His Grace had passed away. I sat up in bed simply stunned…stunned.

  13. Centristian says:

    I recall that day rather vividly (I even recall the holy card you’ve posted); I was living out West at the time and outside taking a walk when a fellow SSPXer approached me with the astonishing news. He might as well have told me that the pope had died; that’s how highly Archbishop Lefebvre was regarded around the SSPX (which was part of the problem, really).

    Many years of study, research, thinking, and soul-searching later, I find myself happily reconciled with the mainstream Church and with no connections at all, any longer, to the society that Monseigneur Lefebvre founded. Although I now find myself in disagreement with much of what the archbishop said and did (although not everything), I imagine that I believe that he believed that he was doing the right thing.

    I recently watched a movie I purchased from Ignatius Press called “The Pope in the Tempest,” a biographical drama about Pope Paul VI. Not a bad movie as far as pope movies go. Archbishop Lefebvre was portrayed in the movie in two different scenes. In both scenes he was featured as rude, angry, and uncouth. I have been hard on the archbishop, myself, heaven knows. But even I found that portrayal unfair and unlikely. I always supposed the archbishop to be a gentle and kindly man, and there are plenty who knew him who would certainly confirm that.

    I will certainly remember him in my prayers today. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

  14. anna 6 says:

    Did his Eminence stop by often? Tell us more about your encounters with the future pope!

    RIP M. Lefebvre.

    [His Eminence did not stop often, no. But I ran into him pretty often around the place (and in some other places). Some of the stories are good!]

  15. samgr says:

    Twenty years ago, I was just back to work at the NY Daily News after a five-month strike, doing a different job. I forget whether I handled the story about the Archbishop’s death or not, but he’s in my prayers today.

  16. samgr says:

    And speaking of New York newspapers, here’s an amazingly pro-Catholic story in, of all places, The NY Times:

  17. teaguytom says:

    Like APX, 20 years ago I was in Kindergarten getting my mat from the cubby hole to take a nap, maybe even learning to tie my shoes. As a traditionalist, this man led the way for the revival of the Extraordinary Form. Although I believe it was a foolish decision to consecrate bishops over the authority of the Pontiff, his leadership and retention of traditional Catholic doctrine and liturgy was well needed. The magesterium of the time was hardly a hotbed of orthodoxy. The groups we have today, mainly the FSSP and ICKSP but others as well, were either formed from or inspired by the SSPX. As David of T.O. says, I pray that one day his reputation will be restored and the SSPX will finally rejoin the church. Tip of the beret and a prayer to the late Archbishop.

  18. Centristian says:

    “And speaking of New York newspapers, here’s an amazingly pro-Catholic story in, of all places, The NY Times…”


    I’m seeing an article about the Governor of Illinois, not Archbishop Lefebvre.

  19. Eric says:

    I was still a little over a year away from being baptized.

    Will not his excommunication be bound in heaven? How will my prayers help? [Let’s leave the debates aside. Just pray for the poor man.]

  20. Random Friar says:

    Prayed for his soul. May we be one as our Lord and the Father are.

  21. asophist says:

    I will pray for Msgr. Lefebvre’s soul, too.

  22. rtmp723 says:

    I was Baptized twenty years ago around this day. Not sure the exactly date but it was mid/late march.

  23. Folks, I think it best to stick to sentiments of prayer. I would prefer not to suspect commenting permissions.

  24. Mike says:

    At the time, I was married, teaching at the same school I am now, only remembering the Archbishop as one who ordained a boyhood friend (now FSSP), and thinking….how retro, 50’s, that Latin Mass-thing. Thankfully, I don’t think that any more, but love the TLM, and pray for the SSPX and the Archbishop frequently. May they be in full communion very soon!

  25. Mike says:

    Thankfully, I am still married–to the same woman! :)

  26. Anagnostis says:

    In spite of everything, I continue to love and revere him. May his memory be eternal.

  27. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    Orisons offered. How wonderful to die on the Feast of the Annunciation. RIP.

    On which note, I hope you have all rejoiced in the Salvation wrought by Our Lady’s ‘fiat’ and thanked God today by eating a big steak on a Friday, with other delicacies. Mine all offered up for the repose of the Holy Souls. A digestivo now, I think.

  28. anna 6 says:

    Sorry…I know this isn’t the right thread…but some day tell us the stories about meeting Cardinal Ratzinger…at least the ones you can!

  29. The Astronomer says:

    I remember an article years ago in “The Latin Mass” magazine where it reported on 18 September 1991, Cardinal Silvio Oddi, who had been Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy from 1979 to 1986, visited Lefebvre’s tomb, knelt down at it, prayed, afterwards saying aloud: “Merci, Monseigneur”.

    I pray that the Archbishop is resting in the bosom of the Lord and at perpetual peace.

    Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

  30. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Almost all of the comments recall the Archbishop’s life in the Society. We should also remember his years as an indefatigable missionary, converting countless people in Africa to the Faith. He also inspired many African men to the priesthood, one of whom rose to be a Cardinal and remembered Archbishop Lefebvre with fond memories. Archbishop Lefebvre, in fact, began his episcopal ministry as the diocesan bishop of an African diocese which he helped to found from his missionary work.

    As well, the archbishop was a Holy Ghost Father, and as a religious, rose to be the superior of the order, taking care of business with a fatherly concern for each member. His zeal as a missionary and his exemplary life living the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience should be kept in mind to balance whatever else we think of from his later years.

    May he rest in peace and may his hopes and dreams for the spread and exaltation of the true Faith come to pass some day.

  31. brianvzn says:

    20 years ago I was a very confused 14 year old. Although a cradle Catholic, and attending Catholic schools, I had no idea what the Faith was about. At 14, I was listening to satanic heavy metal music and also dabbled in the occult. I started coming back to the Church after seeing The Passion of the Christ in 2004, and then discovered Tradition (i.e. TLM) in 2007. These past 4 years I also discovered the writings of the late Archbishop. “Spiritual Journey” & “Open Letter to Confused Catholics” are excellent. I often wonder that if I was trained correctly in the Faith & experienced Tradition as a child, if I still wouldve ended up abandoning the Church and dabbling in the occult. Rest in Peace Archbishop. I hope I live long enough to see you declared a Saint. God bless you Fr. Z, I have learned much from you in the past year or so since I discovered this blog.

  32. wchoag says:

    1991 was a tough year for me…Archbishop Lefebvre died in March, Bishop de Castro Mayer died one month later to the day, and the rector of the SSPX-aligned chapel that I attended died in October.

    In spite of parting ways with the SSPX over a decade ago, I must in gratitude credit Msgr. Lefebvre that I am today a practicing and orthodox Catholic unlike so many generation who have fallen away to nothing or, a much smaller group, taken up with evangelical Protestantism.

    Merci, Monsigneur!

  33. kat says:

    If I remember correctly, this was also at the beginning of Holy Week; thus the Requiem Mass for him was postponed until after Easter.

    Requiescat in Pace.

  34. Giambattista says:

    I just said a prayer for Archbishop Lefebvre. I do admit, that I also pray for his intercession on occasion.

    I can’t recall what I was doing 20 years ago on the March 25. At that time I was 24 years old and had never heard of Lefebvre and only had a vague idea that there was once a “Latin Mass”. All this was to change in the next few years. Archbishop Lefebvre has been very influential in who I am as a Catholic today and I am grateful to him for this. May he rest in peace!

  35. irishgirl says:

    Is it that long ago that Archbishop LeFebvre died? And he passed from this life on Annunciation Day, too! Most mysterious….
    May he rest in peace!
    Wow, Father Z-you got the news from none other than Cardinal Ratzinger himself! The future Pope!
    Nice memorial card you have, too….

  36. irishgirl says:

    Whoops-that’s supposed to be ‘Lefebvre’-no capital ‘F’!

  37. tecumseh says:

    At the time of Archbishop Lefebvres death I was working in a nuclear power station. One of the guys who I was working with had taken his dog out for a walk, on the eve of the Archbishops death, he mentioned next morning that he’d seen the Aurora Borealis in the night sky. This was in the north of England…I have tried to look up the exact dates of Aurora, they are not uncommon but there was one around that time.

    Another thing Father….can you confirm if the Vatican sent a representative to pray at the Archbishops coffin before the funeral…??? I seem to remember that this happened, strange, if they sent a person all the way from Rome to the funeral of an at that time “Excommunicant”…???

    Tell us how the Vatican official prayed….and we can repeat the prayer, now in these days.

  38. JAS says:

    @Tecumseh – At the time of the Archbishop’s death, I was in college in Virginia. On the evening of the 25th, I witnessed the Aurora Borealis (this far south!). It was all changing colors of red. The next day I found out that the Archbishop had passed away that night.

  39. kat says:

    My husband, living in Virginia at the time, also so the Aurora Borealis that night. I heard of several people who did. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen them; if I have, it’s been a rare occasion, probably in northern Michigan, as it’s too bright here by the cities.

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