Three Questions for Jean Monneret

Source: FSSPX News

At Easter, when many adults are baptized, DICI met with Jean Monneret. This 70-year-old French historian, a specialist on Algeria, is a faithful parishioner of St. Nicolas du Chardonnet in Paris. Having “returned to the faith” in the 1980’s, he wished to give twelve converts--a philosophy professor, a secretary, a psychologist, a housewife…– an opportunity to speak in a recently published anthology. These individuals, hailing from different walks of life, different countries, and even different religions or ideologies, all have in common that they found the Catholic faith at St. Nicolas du Chardonnet.

How did the idea for this collection of conversion stories come about?

I had been struck by the fact that, among the faithful at St. Nicolas, there were people who came from Tradition, who belonged to families that had responded to Msgr. Lefebvre’s call in the seventies. These families provided the main battalion of the faithful and a large part of traditional priests. But among these people, I became aware, there were many others who had come from very different backgrounds, at origin far removed from Catholicism. By talking with some, I came to understand that these were not simple cases of a return to the faith, as was my case, for example. No, these were genuine conversions in the strong sense of the word: Marxists, anarchists, Muslims–people who were a priori very distant from our milieu.

How does a conversion come about? Is there a common trajectory among them?

In these peregrinations —I use the term on purpose because some have really come from afar—the converts often pass through what we call “the conciliar Church.” That is to say, these people, having felt the call of Christ, having felt the beginnings of faith, quite naturally approached the church in their neighborhood or near their workplace. And then there often came a huge disappointment. They realized the “official” Church was not fulfilling its function, was not playing its role, which consists in fishing out [rescuing] souls and saving them. And so, it was from that point that some got beyond this disappointment by coming all the way to Tradition; there they found this living water, this confirmation of the faith that had sustained them in their attempts and had drawn them to the Christ they were seeking. A Muslim woman says as much in the book: having had the strength to leave Islam, how could she be content with a watered-down vision of Christianity? Only Catholicism as it is can answer the questions man asks about himself, his destiny, good and evil, salvation…

Ought one to deduce that the work of the Society of Saint Pius X is bearing fruit?

That is another lesson from this compilation: if there were not these priests, the churches, and the priories, which are there precisely to give these wandering souls a foundation, well then, they could only continue their wandering. And so we must never lose sight of the fact that the existence of the Society of Saint Pius X, the existence of all these places of traditional worship—this power of attraction the book illustrates—confirms us in our own faith, certainly, but also proves that what has been done is priceless. For, these souls, which are, as one of the witnesses says, “survivors from the darkness,” can be saved thanks to all of that.

Je me suis converti à Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet, edited by Jean Monneret (Paris: Editions Clovis, 2009), 128 pages.