Another characteristic of the Society of St. Pius X is the founder’s decision to prepare its future priests for their ecclesiastical studies with a preliminary year of spirituality.
He had cherished the idea for a long time, and Providence allowed him to put it into practice in Econe, in Valais, in the former property of the Canons of the Great St. Bernard that had been rescued from secularization. “Concerning the house in Valais,” Archbishop Lefebvre wrote,
my intention is to turn it into a house adapted to a first year of spiritual and liturgical formation; a sort of expanded novitiate, without the name or the canonical status.”
In Autumn 1970, the first 11 recruits, who came from circles affiliated with La Cite catholique and the Chevaliers de Notre-Dame (Knights of Our Lady), thus began a year of spirituality and started what would become the seminary in Econe.
The program for that preparatory year was lightened. The spiritual life taught refers to no particular spirituality. It is the life of the Church. It has St. Thomas Aquinas as its guide. It consists of a spiritual itinerary: God the Trinity, the Creator and Divine Providence; man, sin, justification, sanctifying grace, the theological virtues, the virtue of religion, the gifts of the Holy Ghost and the Beatitudes, the Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the sacraments, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Virgin Mary.
The young Levites (candidates for the priesthood) were initiated in the exercises of the spiritual life: reading of Sacred Scripture, spiritual reading, regular confession, meditation. In the beginning they followed the method of St. Ignatius, then the seminarians were encouraged to simplify their meditations and to pray in a contemplative way with the heart. Courses in Latin, patrology and Gregorian chant rounded out this formation.