HOW DID THE COMMUNITY CHANGE?
1)The internal influence: the role of the superior
The example of le Barroux shows that when a superior wants to join with Rome, he can prepare his subjects in order to lead them in this direction, even if many are at first opposed to it (which was the case at le Barroux). He can, in different ways, and more or less consciously, condition his community. This explains why the monastery, as a whole, followed Dom Gerard.
-The superior filters information (I spoke of periodicals suppressed at the community table, and replaced by others) and presents news in his own way.
-The superior uses a double language in order to please everyone. He adapts to the person he is speaking to or to his audience: he is hard with the hard, and soft with the soft. If you manifest your distress to him, he replies: “I understand you, I am vigilant.” If, on the contrary, you find that things are not progressing fast enough: “Be patient, we are advancing, but we must go slowly.” This double language can sometimes go as far as lying.
-The superior endeavours to reassure those who are worried. Dom Gerard often told me: “The community is in good health, we are strong, so don’t be worried!” I replied that the community was really not in good health, and I gave him some examples.
-The superior insists on the obligation of trusting him: relations with Rome come under the prudential domain, we must therefore trust authority. And if we are not completely in agreement, we submit. Trust and obedience…
-The superior often reminds of the duty of sanctifying oneself, which is obviously of the utmost importance. But for him, it is a question of sanctifying oneself without taking into account the crisis; whereas we must sanctify ourselves in the crisis and by the crisis. The crisis is an occasion of sanctifying ourselves: at first sight, it is an obstacle, but God changes obstacles into means. In a monastery, in a period of crisis, we cannot therefore content ourselves with living the religious life well, as if there was no crisis.
-The superior changes the problems. “There are so many things going wrong in France, in the world, in the Church, that we must not dwell on petty quarrels over details. We have to expand our horizons.”
-The superior benefits (consciously or not) of the fact that his subjects trust him and are attached to his person. At le Barroux, many could not imagine that Dom Gerard could one day go astray. This is an opportunity to stress that we must be committed to principles more than to people. Why? Because people can change, whereas principles do not change. We can recover from the failures, even serious failures, of a person, we do not recover from the abandonment of principles. It was Mgr. Freppel who said, “We never recover from the sacrifice of principles.”
-The superior makes those who resist the orientation that he endeavours to impose feel guilty about their position; he reproaches them for disturbing the community, as if the trouble wasn’t the result of the actions and words of the authority, but of those who are worried about it, and rightly so.
-The superior repeats that we have to keep the sense of the Church: “Beware of the dangers of schism and of sedevacantism!” (A spectre that is raised frequently today…).
How did the community of le Barroux react? For most, trust was necessary because Dom Gerard was the leader, thus he had the graces of state. If, despite everything, we asked questions, if we did not agree, we had to in any case not propagate a bad spirit, so as to preserve the unity of the community. Unity became more important than truth. But when you put unity above truth, you lose both: you lose the truth, and you also lose unity. This is what happened at le Barroux.
One of the fathers of the monastery, who had important responsibilities, was personally opposed to concelebrating in the new rite, but he especially did not want to criticize his superior, Dom Gerard. He thus held a good principle: no compromise with the new mass; but he remained attached to a person who contradicted this principle. He finally gave in and concelebrated, when he had vowed that he would never do it. He accepted at least once. This was the case with most of them. I think two or three of them never did it and would never want to. That being said, not concelebrating the new mass oneself was not enough: one also had to protest against those who did it. This was one of the reasons for my departure: I could not bear knowing that my fellow brothers participated in concelebrations, particularly a father ordained at the same time as me in Econe on June 27, 1986, who did it quite often. Not only was it out of the question that I use the new rite (they would never have dared to ask it of me), but I could not stay in a community where it had become a normal thing.
In this type of situation, the superior does not necessarily ask you to be in agreement on all points with him; he simply asks you to be quiet: “If you have any reluctance or reservations, keep quiet, do not speak of them.” If, in effect, you keep quiet, that allows him to continue to advance in his direction, without any obstacles. And he who agrees to keep quiet, by keeping quiet, and by not expressing his convictions, slowly ends up losing them. He one day accepts to take a first step, and we know that the first step is the hardest.