With the solemn singing of the Veni Creator, invoking the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the academic year at the Our Lady of Sheshan Major House of Formation began formally with a Lectio Brevis, this time delivered by Fr. Nathaniel Dreyer, IVE, from the United States. Fr. Nathaniel graduated from the Catholic University of America with his licentiate in Philosophy and is now the Assistant Master of Novices at the St. Isaac Jogues & Companion Martyrs Novitiate House in and parochial vicar at the parish of St. James in Mt. Rainier. He also lectures at the Ven. Fulton Sheen House of Formation of the IVE in Washington and is here in the Philippines to teach some classes at our Seminary here, having just finished preaching the week-long Spiritual Exercises in English.
Fr. Nathaniel is the Coordinator of the English Language Division of the Cornelio Fabro Cultural Project and it was in this capacity that he delivered the Lectio entitled “The Life and Importance of Cornelio Fabro”.
Broken into 3 parts, Fr. Nathaniel first gave an overview of the life of Fr. Cornelio Fabro, followed by an examination of the connection between our Religious Family and Fr. Fabro and lastly, the status of the Cornelio Fabro Cultural Project, especially the English section.
Fr. Cornelio Fabro demonstrated his genius even from a very young age and had a prodigious memory. He was a truth polymath and had doctorates not only in Philosophy (at 19 years of age!) and Theology, but also studied the natural sciences and also psychology. He taught biology, theoretical psychology and metaphysics at the Pontifical Lateran University. He also had a great love for poetry and “hands of silk” according to the Chair of the Organ Department of the National Academy of St. Cecelia in Rome where he studied music. His deep intellect can be seen in the anecdote where, studying the thought of Søren Kierkegaard and seeing that the translations of Kierkegaard’s thought were poor and faulty, taught himself to read Danish in less than two months and proceeded to translate Kierkegaard’s books into Italian, with the Diaries alone occupying 12 volumes!
But his true love was philosophy and Fr. Nathaniel narrated the 3 periods of his intellectual itinerary, first studying the notion of causality, founded on the metaphysical notion of participation, which Fr. Fabro uncovered as the core of the metaphysics of St. Thomas Aquinas. This spanned approximately 20 years. The second intellectual period, also of about 20 years, focused on dialogue with modern thought and tackled the problem of atheism. The last focused on the notion of liberty.
Ultimately, though, Fr. Fabro is first and foremost a priest and those who knew him testified to his great holiness of life and childlike confidence in God. In 1980, his life was threatened in a note delivered by the Red Brigades, the armed wing of the Italian Communist Party. It was not an idle threat, because they had just kidnapped and assassinated the former Prime Minister of Italy, Aldo Moro 2 years earlier in 1978.
His last will and testament, written 8 days after the threat, but only made public after his death in 1995, showed his priestly heart.
In it, he not only forgave his would-be assassins, but offered his life for the salvation of their souls, the work and safety of the Holy Father, at the time Blessed Paul VI, and the purification of theology and Christian piety, according to the desires of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The importance of Fr. Fabro for our Institute was highlighted by the fact that Fr. Fabro was highly esteemed as an interpreter of St. Thomas Aquinas and a fervent lover of the truth by Fr. Julio Meinvielle, the teacher of our Founder Fr. Buela.
Fr. Fabro is important not only because of his knowledge of St. Thomas Aquinas and his commentators but he is able to transcend the very limitations of St. Thomas himself, sometimes linked to the state of science of his day, and to reach the through, perennial St. Thomas whom the Magisterium of the Church and the Second Vatican Council in its documents recommend for us as our Teacher and Guide.
Fr. Nathaniel also updated us on the progress of the Cornelio Fabro Cultural Project, undertaken by the Institute to preserve and diffuse the thought of this great philosopher, and particularly the English Language Section, which seeks to make his works more known in English.
The Fathers, seminarians and novices of our Houses of Formation we joined by the sisters and novices of the SSVM for the Lectio.
The Lectio was followed by celebration of the Holy Mass in the Seminary Chapel of Our Lady of Sheshan, which features elements of Chinese architecture. The Homilist was Fr. Javier Ibarra, IVE, the Rector of the St. Jose Sanchez del Rio Minor Seminary in Mankato, Minnesota.
Fr. Javier spoke of our call to be faithful and the importance of fidelity to the Church and Her Magisterium, our fidelity to God and to our vows and our need to follow the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Virgo Fidelis, the Virgin Most Faithful who was praised by Elizabeth not only for being the Mother of the Lord, but for being a woman of faith.
The Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit was celebrated by our Provincial Superior, Fr. Miguel Soler, IVE, and assisted by the priests of the Houses of Formation.
In the evening of the same day, the Professors of the various subjects in the Seminary took the Oath Against Modernism, promulgated by St. Pius X, in which they affirmed their assent to the perennial truths of the Catholic Faith promised to teach and hand them on in their totality purity in obedience to and in accordance with the Magisterium of Holy Mother Church.
This was followed by the Exorcism and Blessing of the Houses, where each of the buildings of the Houses of Formation, including the Novitiate of St. Joseph Freinademetz, was blessed.
The Chapel of Our Lady of Sheshan, the center of our spiritual life in the Seminary, still awaits its interior furnishing and exterior completion.