During the post-war years, in Mortain, he noticed that priests were tending to blend in with the world and to lose their priestly identity. Vocations, or rather the number of responses to God’s call, began to decrease; in the seminaries the theologians currently in fashion were replacing St. Thomas Aquinas; liturgical experiments were desacralizing the sanctuary; young priests were too often behaving like community organizers. If the salt of the earth loses its flavor, with what can it be salted?
Dream of Dakar
Once while in his cathedral, the Archbishop of Dakar saw as though in a dream what the solution must be for the renewal of the Church and of Christendom:
Given the gradual degradation of the priestly ideal, [we must] transmit, in all its doctrinal purity, in all its missionary charity, the Catholic priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as He transmitted it to His apostles and as the Roman Church transmitted it until the mid-20th century.
When he arrived in Paris in 1962 as the new Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers, his reputation followed him: he was the missionary bishop, sure of his doctrine and devoid of any human respect, who supported La Cite Catholique of Jean Ousset, which was targeted for attacks by the core members of the French episcopate. Some young men came to see him: “We do not want to lose our vocation in the seminaries in France; do something for us!”
Professor Bernard Fay
At first he was content to send those young candidates to the French Seminary in Rome. Alas, liberalism already reigned there. But in 1968, relieved of his responsibilities as Superior General of the Spiritans, he could take action. That was a first sign from Providence. The University of Fribourg in Switzerland, run by the Dominican Fathers and faithful to St. Thomas, was a temporary solution. His friend Professor Bernard Fay, an historian and specialist in Freemasonry and the French Revolution, invited him to visit him at his home, along with Dom Bernard Kaul, the Cistercian Abbot of Hauterive and Dominican Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, a professor at the university.
These eminent Catholics convinced the archbishop:
Good,” he told them, “on the day after tomorrow I will go to the chancery to see Bishop Charriere; if he agrees, that will be the second sign of Providence.
On June 6, 1969, the Bishop of Fribourg welcomed his friend with open arms. They had become acquainted in Dakar when, in order to thank the Swiss Catholics for their generosity, Marcel Lefebvre had invited the bishop to bless the brand-new church of Fatick.
What?!” Bishop Charriere exclaimed, “Archbishop Lefebvre in our community? A seminary? Yes, but of course, Your Excellency, establish your seminary in Fribourg; find a house for your seminarians!
Beginning at Fribourg
So it happened that on October 13, 1969, nine recruits appeared at Rue de Marly, where Archbishop Lefebvre welcomed them. He was alone, because the priest on whom he had counted to serve as rector of the seminary let him down at the last moment. Providence decided that the aged archbishop and apostolic delegate, having reached retirement age, with no certainty whatsoever about the future, would start from zero and found a seminary by himself and all alone.
So it was that every evening, after their courses at the University, in the intimate setting of the humble community room in the Don Bosco House, Archbishop Lefebvre explained to his novices the rudiments of the spiritual life: Jesus Christ, His sacrifice, the Mass, the priesthood.