Thus when Catholics attending a true Mass run into any of the difficulties surrounding its celebration, they can become impatient, for instance, at lack of unity amongst all the priests celebrating the true Mass. Such impatience may be justified, at least in past, but would not such Catholics be wiser today to be grateful for any and every single true Mass celebrated? We may not yet be in those days when the sacrifice is going to be taken away (Dan 8:11), but if things continue on their present course, those days may soon be here, and then with what longing may those Catholics not look back on a single one of those back-room Masses said in however unfavorable circumstances?
It is called being grateful for small mercies, or, counting one's blessings. Similarly wise, in my opinion, is anybody who does not pin too great hopes on the future of the Society of St. Pius X. Through it no doubt immense gifts and graces have come to many of us in the past and are still coming in the present, but nothing gives us the right to count on their continuation in the future. On the contrary, according to all normal expectations, the more powerful the current of apostasy sweeping downstream Church and world to their perdition, the more irresistible the current becomes, and the more likely it is that the still resisting Society will be swept away as well.
Please, these lines are being written before the Society's General Chapter of July 11 to 14, so they have nothing to do with any particular decision that will be taken there. They are based on entirely general considerations, for instance that every Catholic group or organization has a structure of authority, which authority must ultimately derive from the Vicar of Christ, the Pope. When therefore the Pope repudiates a Catholic organization, as Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II have effectively repudiated the Society of St. Pius X, then that organization is submitted to a severe strain ....
Here is another dark thought: in the 1950's the Catholic Church was holding out magnificently against the world, conversions were multiplying, the intellectuals were rejecting Communism, the whole world seemed ready to lie down at the feet of the Church, and what happened? In the 1960's it was the Church which at Vatican Two collapsed at the feet of the world! Today the Society of St. Pius X is holding out magnificently against the false church, intellectuals are rejecting the Novus Ordo, conversions to Tradition are beginning .... Let us beware of that moment when all the church seems about to lay down arms at the feet of the Society! Exile is painful, the combat is wearisome, the world has its attractions ....
Now — brighter thoughts! — of course God is God, God is the Lord of Life and death, God can preserve or destroy what He will, God will never abandon His Catholic Church nor leave His sheep without shepherd, so He can easily provide Society members with special graces to ensure the Society's survival until such time as He inspires a Pope not only to give the surviving Society his approval, but also maybe to lean on the Society for support in reconstructing the Church.
Such a scenario is intrinsically possible, even, without any vanity on our part, plausible. For instance Rome no doubt relied on Archbishop Lefebvre's death in 1991 to provoke the disintegration of the Society, but for over three years Rome has been disappointed. Similarly, right now Rome must be hoping that the General Chapter will sow germs of division or disunity between Society members, but you readers have been praying, and the Lord God can all the more easily grant special graces of unity if true fidelity to Himself was the original reason — and it was — for the Papal disapproval putting that unity under strain in the first place.
Nevertheless, while the scenario of special graces of survival for the Society until the recovery of the Pope, is a scenario possible and even plausible, it is neither necessary nor certain, and that is why we need to be wisely grateful. For instance, humanly speaking, it is wholly possible that the devil of discord or even the maneuvers of Rome will get in amongst Society members — Rome is still eagerly angling for individual defections of Society priests. Now may Heaven prevent that any of us should through any fault of his own cause or promote such discord, but regardless of our good will, the pressures are intense, the confusion is great, temptations are multiple, the devil is cunning and human nature by itself remains weak.
So the possibility of the Society stumbling and falling before such time as God brings the Pope back to his Catholic senses remains a possibility which must be kept in mind. What it amounts to is no more than what any Catholic should know: in the Catholic Church itself I have an absolute, faith, hope and trust, because the Catholic Church enjoys Our Lord's own guarantee of survival and protection ("Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it" (Mt XVI, 18); "Going, teach all nations... and behold I am with you all days, even to the end of the world" (Mt. XXVIII, 20)). But in all other institutions I have only a relative faith, hope and trust, relative to their fidelity to the Catholic Church, because within that church there are many institutions like the Society of St. Pius X that have come with time, and with time have gone. Upon the Catholic Church I absolutely depend to save my soul, upon the Society of St. Pius X only relatively. So for as long as the Society seems to be the instrument God has given me to serve the Church, I mean to serve the Society with all my heart and soul, but the Society remains in relation to the Church a means to an end.
That is why for each ceremony of ordinations like those of a week ago I am immensely grateful, and for each month that the Seminary can continue to prepare young men to be ordained, and for each year that the Society of St. Pius X is still there to sustain its seminaries, and yet if any or all of these gifts from God were to crack or perish, I would not be entirely surprised nor would my Catholic Faith be weakened. At the beginning of the Church Militant Jesus Christ led his followers through the catacombs and persecution out into the open, and at the end of the Church Militant He may well lead them from the tent in the open field through persecution back to the catacombs. If it comes to that, and if we make it to the catacombs, for many of us it will certainly not have been without the Society but back in the catacombs we may have to do without the Society.
Ah, dear Society! Dear Seminary! Dear seminarians? Regularly I tell them that as Society of St. Pius X seminarians they are on a hiding to nothing, that they have everything to lose and nothing to gain; that the whole world is against them; that the whole world is going to hell in a hand-basket; that the Society of St. Pius X could easily perish; that the future is dark and where there is no gloom it is full of doom. Do you know, I do believe that if any of my dire forebodings actually came true, seminarians would be pleasantly surprised!
Letter from Winona 1994