I had some work commitments that kept me from getting to the conference any earlier than minutes before the first talk. I picked up my badge and schedule and found myself in total surprise at the amount of people in the ballroom. The last Traditional Catholic conference that I covered was in 2006. It was a Remnant conference and even though there were some great speakers, like Dr. David Allen White, the crowd was at the most 1/3 of the size of the crowd I saw tonight.
The crowd waited a few minutes after the start time of 6:00pm. I wondered who we were waiting for, when everyone got on his feet and began applauding. It was Bishop Fellay. When he was seated, James Vogel, Associate Editor of the Angelus and MC for the weekend, introduced Fr. Arnaud Rostand, District Superior of the United States. Fr. Rostand focused his conference on the question: "Why are we here?"
His talk set the tone for the weekend: "We are here to express our gratitude." Reminding the crowd of the degrees of gratitude (recognizing the favor received, expression of appreciation, and repayment of the gift received). Fr. Rostand briefly glossed the Archbishop's life and work, reminding the audience that the Archbishop was not just misunderstood by outsiders, but by members of his congregation.
Father Rostand continued: "We are engaged in a crusade for the Mass, for Christ the King, for the Catholic church, for Catholic families..." which was "not about our opinions or preferences, but about the Holy Catholic Church.”
Fr. Iscara gave a conference recapping the Archbishop's life and work from his days of formation to his final years with the SSPX. The information was not new for anyone who has read Bp. Tissier's biography of the Archbishop or Dr. White's shorter book about the Archbishop. However, Fr. Iscara bookended this broadly-sketched conference with two important points.
He began with a story by recounting a visit to the ruins of Pompeii with seminarians. Some friendly nuns had come by with umbrellas, hoping to shield the young men in cassocks, who they were so pleased to see. "What order are you from?" "The Society of St. Pius X." Not recognizing the name, they asked who the founder was. "Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre." As the name was pronounced, the nuns stopped smiling, beat a hasty retreat, excusing themselves as politely as possible, and left the seminarians once again alone.
Father ended his talk by pointing out that Vatican II was trying to be "up-to-date" and "cool" and ended up by dating itself in the 1960s. The vestments, the music, the architecture of the Vatican II church are stuck in the 1960s, when what is perennially "up-to-date" is the never-dated always-new doctrines of the Church.
The evening ended with hors d'oeurves and musical performances from some of the students from Society schools. The mood was festive and celebratory, and there were many priests, religious, and faithful present.
I'll get an actual head count tomorrow during the longest day of conferences. Photos for tonight available here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=28585&l=9d837f3391&id=141281255892731