The yearly ordinations at the Society of Saint Pius X's seminaries make it possible to see the fruits of the seminaries, ripened and brought to maturity as the newly ordained priests. But they also make it possible to celebrate the anniversaries of the ordinations of the alumni: 25, 50, 60 years ... These anniversaries should immerse us in thanksgiving.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, the Italian District interviewed Fr. Davide Pagliarani, the Superior General of the SSPX, who was passing through Albano Laziale. He leaves us his testimony on the value of the priesthood and his personal experience.
Full text of the interview (original in Italian).
You are celebrating your 25th anniversary as a priest. How do you live it?
It is certainly the greatest gift God can give a man and the best life a man can have. After 25 years, you realize it more every day, especially when looking at your past life. All that has happened. A priest realizes that God not only calls him to His service, but continues to guide him through a very special Providence. I felt it immediately and I feel it more and more.
A vocation is a call from above. How can we listen to it and respond to it?
The Lord always calls and will call souls to His service until the end of time, to the priestly life or to the religious life. He calls in different ways: a vocation is not necessarily something you hear, like a voice or a feeling.
Certainly, God makes one feel an attraction towards His service, towards all that is sacred. It is in this way in particular that God calls souls. And how do we listen? I would say first by trying to live in a state of grace, and then especially by being disposed to do His will, whatever it may be. These are the simple fundamental provisions for being able to discern if God is calling us to His service.
Did you imagine that you would find yourself as the Superior General of the SSPX?
A few months before the General Chapter of 2018 certain rumors had reached my ears. Before, I have to say that I never thought about it. I remember in particular the joy of having been able to work for 3 years in Asia, in Singapore.
After all these trips to Asia, I remember wanting to stay in those countries all my life. I clearly remember once I visited a cemetery, with the graves of all the missionaries, a Christian cemetery, in a Muslim country. And when I saw the missionary graves, I vividly remember the desire to spend the rest of my life in those countries. To be buried myself one day, far from my homeland. The Lord then changed my plans.
How do you live this responsibility?
I think a question like this deserves a simple answer, which might be disappointing. In reality, a priest is a priest, whether he is responsible for the catechism of the youngest children, for their first communion, whether he is responsible for men and women religious, whether he is responsible for a priory, for a district, for the formation of future priests or that he be Superior General.
It is the same love, the same charity, which must animate the priest. The assignments that a priest may have remain an accidental, contingent, changing reality, with a beginning and an end. What must not change is the priestly zeal by which the priest accomplishes his ministry, his priestly functions, and he must accomplish them with the same spirit: whether he is in charge of catechism for children or is the Superior General.
What memories do you keep of your stay in the seminary and of your ordination?
Of my seminary years, I especially remember the love of the liturgy, the joy of preparing feasts, major celebrations, very interesting studies. Contact with my confreres. It is in the seminary that a future priest gradually learns to know others, to accept them as they are, to love them as they are. It is through this school that the priest, the future priest, prepares himself to have the same attitude towards the souls who will one day be entrusted to him. It is a beautiful memory; it is a memory that becomes even more beautiful over the years because over the years one comes to understand the importance of this kind of school.
As for my ordination, I must say that the most vivid memory I have is that of my first Mass, the day after my ordination. I vividly remember the moment of the consecration, when I bowed over the altar to speak the words of consecration for the first time. I remember shaking. I remember not only the feeling of unworthiness, but the impression, the sensation and the certainty of not being worthy to pronounce the words. I remember very well that I said them with a tight throat. With a hint of fear, fear of God. Then, of course, the joy of having celebrated my first Mass made me forget that fear almost completely.
Tell us about your apostolate in the world.
I have a lot of memories, very varied memories. Very different countries, very different latitudes, very different longitudes. Asia, the apostolate of the missions; Italy with its particular situation; Argentina, another country, another language, and another type of apostolate: the seminary, the formation of future priests.
Thinking back on all this, what strikes me the most is that once again, regardless of the place or the specific type of apostolate, the priest is always called to the same mission, to the same ends, with the same means. To show or bring forth the supernatural life of Our Lord in souls. To cultivate the supernatural life in himself, then communicate it to souls. And that goes for Asia, Africa, Argentina. It applies to the whole world. It applies to the young priest as well as to the elderly priest, and to the Superior General.
In Italy, the faithful are more and more numerous and the commitment to our two schools is growing. What advice can you give so that it's not just an increase in numbers?
I think we must remember that the growth of the Italian District, like any other work of the Society and any other work of the Church, is an essentially supernatural reality. It is God who decides when and how a work should develop. He asks us to do our duty, to be faithful to our priesthood and then it is He who decides when it is time to bring about, through events and providential elements, the appropriate and necessary growth. We must not forget that.
The life of the Society and that of the Italian District cannot be equated with the life of a company, even if God asks us to do all that is possible. In the last two years, especially in Italy, there has been a more conscious reaction to the disasters of the Council. The catastrophes of recent years help the faithful, the souls to realize the gravity of the situation and to seek the appropriate remedies, obviously in the Tradition of the Church herself.
And then the Covid-19 epidemic. God is using it for the good of souls. Like all trials, Covid-19 is also necessary for the good of souls. And it must be said that many souls have discovered Tradition, in Italy as elsewhere, on this occasion. Certain chapels, certain communities have doubled, tripled their number. Why? Because during the Covid crisis, as much as possible, our priests have tried to assure souls of all the assistance they could provide. They have tried to continue celebrating Mass.
It must be said that the priests of the Society are trained for it, prepared. In a way, they were prepared for this crisis because, for many years, they have been used to celebrating Mass where they can, as they can, but to celebrate it anyway. And I think this providential habit has paid off.
If you could still have five minutes to speak to Archbishop Lefebvre, what would you ask him?
I would mostly say that I would let him speak. I would ask him what he would have to say to me, what he would advise me to do, if he had anything for which to reproach me. I'm sure he would. And I would tell him about my concerns which I think matched the ones he had, especially with regard to the formation and sanctification of priests. It is the mission of the Society to take care of the priesthood, to try to ensure the formation and the perseverance of priests. Fidelity to what they have received. This was certainly Archbishop Lefebvre’s main concern. I would tell him about it and try to cherish every word, suggestion, or observation that might come from of his lips.
What if you were granted these five minutes with Pope Francis?
I would speak to Pope Francis about the same subject. This concern regarding the formation, sanctification, and perseverance of priests. But I'm not sure we would understand each other straight away.
Do you have a message for the faithful?
First of all, I want to thank the faithful. If the Society exists, it is thanks to Providence who created it, who makes it live, it is thanks to the confreres, but it is also thanks to the faithful. The generosity of the faithful is impressive in every sense of the word. They support the Society, not only materially, but above all morally.
I sincerely thank them for the generosity they showed during the last Rosary Crusade for vocations. Above all, I remind the faithful that they should never be discouraged. The more critical the situation, the closer Providence is to us. The more the holiness of the Church seems to be completely eclipsed, the more the triumph of the Church will resound. The more visible and comprehensible the triumph of the Church will be to every man of good will, the more this triumph will manifest the divine nature of the Church herself.
This is why God allows the current crisis. He allows this eclipse which has lasted for years. Do not be discouraged. God is so much closer to us when we feel we are in an irremediable situation. Nothing is irremediable in the hands of God and nothing is irremediable as long as we keep the Faith.