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"Weapons of Our Warfare": An Interview about the 2018 CFN Conference

"Weapons of Our Warfare": An Interview about the 2018 CFN Conference

Brendan Young, coordinator of "Weapons of Our Warfare", provides readers with details on the 2018 annual conference.

Catholic Family News (CFN): The annual Catholic Family News conference will take place between April 6-8, 2018. What can you share about "Weapons of Our Warfare?"

Brendan Young (BY): There are several reasons why I believe this year’s Catholic Family News conference will be a unique one.

Firstly, what immediately comes to mind – and I’m sure this is the case for CFN readers and traditional Catholics in general – is that this will be the first CFN conference without our late editor, John Vennari. John died last April 4th (the 98th anniversary of the death of St. Francisco of Fatima). He organized the first CFN conference, back in 1996. Of course there wasn’t a 2017 conference, so he was present as editor for all the conferences between 1996 - 2016. As has been understandably the case in the newspaper and on the web, his absence will be very much felt at the conference. Things will certainly never be the same without him.

We can’t help but associate CFN with John Vennari, just as it’s impossible to think about The Fatima Center without Fr. Nicholas Gruner, the Society of Saint Pius X without Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, or the March for Life without Nellie Gray. But John would emphatically emphasize the same point as Fr. Gruner, as the Archbishop, as Ms. Gray: this is about the cause, the mission, the fight - in CFN’s case, the fight for the Faith. Those were John’s final words for readers of CFN: “the most important thing is to fight for the Faith, the Faith is worth fighting for.” We have to keep this fight going!

So no one – I’m thinking particularly of long-time guests, regular attendees of the conference – should be deterred from coming because John won’t be there; just as people shouldn’t stop reading the paper because he’s no longer with us. John was a humble man, a holy man in many respects: the first to acknowledge (despite his extraordinary contributions to the traditionalist movement), that CFN wasn’t about him, but rather the defeat of modernism and the return of sanity to the Church.

Another unique aspect is that this will be the first CFN conference with the paper’s new editor, Matt Gaspers. Matt took the helm last summer. After John’s death his wife Susan Vennari, also came on board as president of CFN, so we have this continuity. Both will be present, as will a number of previous speakers. Besides Matt, we’ll have Fr. Isaac Mary Relyea, Fr. Albert Kallio, O.P., Christopher Ferrara, and Dr. Andrew Childs. Certainly, a number of familiar faces.

CFN conferences usually have 10 speakers, this year we'll have 11. We are excited about our six new speakers, two in particular. We are honored to be joined this year - for the first time in CFN history - by a bishop. His Excellency, Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais will be speaking Saturday evening. We are also privileged to have well-known author and historian Dr. Roberto de Mattei coming from Rome for the weekend. He will speak on Saturday afternoon.

CFN. What about the conference theme, why “Weapons of Our Warfare”?

BY: It’s a theme that evokes the fight I mentioned. Traditional Catholics have been in a particular fight for over 50 years, now. As Catholics in general, we’ve been fighting our three main enemies (the world, the flesh, and the devil) since Adam and Eve’s original sin.

But the theme is scriptural. We read in the book of Job that “the life of man upon earth is a warfare.” (Job 7:1) The phrase itself comes from Saint Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty to God unto the pulling down of fortifications, destroying counsels.” (2 Corinthians 10:4)

The part of the Mystical Body of Christ on earth has always comprised the Church Militant. But today we’re not just engaged in the perennial battle of the Faith, for the Faith. I think it’s safe to say that we now find ourselves in the midst of the “decisive battle” described by Sr. Lucy in her 1957 interview with Fr. Agustín Fuentes.

Sr. Lucy said that this “decisive battle is the final battle where one side will be victorious and the other side will suffer defeat. Also, from now on we must choose sides. Either we are for God or we are for the devil. There is no other possibility.”

We are engaged in this spiritual warfare, and it’s basically come to the point of hand-to-hand combat. Our forefathers in the Faith had it bad enough with what we might consider ‘standard temptations.' But we’re living in an unprecedented era, a time when due to cultural and societal dissolution, degeneracy in the true sense of the word is at an all-time high (or perhaps we should say low in this case) masterfully aided by all kinds of technology and social media.

Worse still, is the ongoing spiritual disintegration: the reduction of the Catholic Church to the shambles she is in today, under Pope Francis. The elect, the members of the Mystical Body, are subject to the worst temptations, encouraged to sin against God Himself, against the Faith. They are enticed in this by their pastors and prelates: the very shepherds who should be leading them to salvation are leading them to sin! As scandalous as this is, we shouldn’t be shocked. Our Lady came to warn us time and again: in Quito beginning in 1594, at La Salette in 1846, Fatima in 1917 and Akita in 1973.

St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, truly a saint of and for our time, said: “We must not only defend the Faith and collaborate in the salvation of souls, but we must also courageously and unselfishly go on the offensive.”

How do we keep the Faith, how do we protect ourselves and our families, how do we go on this offensive, winning souls for Our Lord and Our Lady? With our weapons! We can’t go into battle empty-handed. That is the point of the conference, to discover (or re-discover) the myriad of weapons in our Catholic arsenal: how to use them, and use them effectively.

CFN: Returning to the speakers, what will they speak about – what are the weapons they will present, how will they arm us?

BY: I’ll give a brief summary of each talk and some biographical information on the speaker.

Our conference's keynote speaker, His Excellency, Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais will speak on "The Weapons of Archbishop Lefebvre." Bishop Tissier will provide guests with an expert summary of the great Archbishop's doctrinal and spiritual formation and how this priceless treasury has been passed down to us. We can and must utilize the Archbishop's weapons for our own salvation and sanctification, and the restoration of Tradition to its rightful place in Holy Mother Church.

Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais is one of three auxiliary bishops of the Society of St. Pius X. Born in France and one of the very first members of the Society, Bishop Tissier was ordained a priest by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in June, 1975, and consecrated a bishop by him in June, 1988. He has served as professor and rector of the International Seminary of St. Pius X in Ecône, as well as Secretary General of the Society. Since his episcopal consecration, His Excellency has traveled the world to provide the Sacraments of Holy Orders and Confirmation. He is the author of the definitive study of the Archbishop's life, Marcel Lefebvre: The Biography.

Fr. Isaac Mary Relyea's talk is entitled "The Sacrament of Confession, True and False Mercy." Fr. Isaac Mary will describe the extraordinary beauty of the Sacrament of Confession when approached properly by priest and penitent alike. He will also detail the horror of unfruitful confessions, in light of the life of the soul and in view of Eternity - which awaits each of us. Sadly, the information Father will address is too-little known, even among Traditional Catholics - not only lay people but priests, too. The truth about this vital Sacrament is needed today more than ever, when it is frequently obscured thanks to the imposition of a false mercy throughout the Church: the result of deficient catechesis and study of the Church's moral doctrine. This will undoubtedly prove to be a captivating and appreciated talk!

A popular preacher and speaker, Fr. Isaac Mary is a traditional Franciscan friar. Born in New York to a Catholic family, Fr. Isaac Mary experienced a remarkable reversion to the Faith after leading a sinful life and gave up a very successful secular career to enter the seminary. He was blessed to receive a solid religious formation, especially in traditional Alphonsian moral theology. Since his priestly ordination in 1999, Fr. Isaac Mary has traveled extensively to preach parish missions – especially on the Four Last Things – during which he spends countless hours in the confessional. He has spoken at several Catholic Family News and Fatima Center conferences, most recently in Moscow, Russia.

Fr. Albert Kallio, O.P. will speak on "The Filial Correction and Possible Papal Heresies: A Dogmatic Investigation." After the initial unfamiliarity with Pope Francis wore off following his election, we have borne witness to a steady stream of errors and novelties on the Pontiff’s part, for the past five years. Amoris Laetitia and other Bergoglian blunders have caused many Catholics, clergy and laity alike, to question his personal orthodoxy besides the validity of his holding Papal office. How do we understand the various corrections sent to the Pope, especially the Correctio filialis, how must we view him as a Pope, and as a Catholic? This and more will be covered in Father's promising talk.

Fr. Albert is a traditional Dominican priest from Canada. Having studied in Italy and France, he was ordained in 1994. Fr. Albert provides spiritual and doctrinal formation for traditional religious communities, and has written for several publications including The Angelus. He first met Fr. Gruner in 1979, and now serves as a member of The Fatima Center's Advisory Council of Priests, as well as being a theological advisor for Catholic Family News. Besides preaching various retreats, missions and recollections, he has spoken at many conferences, including those held by Catholic Family News, The Fatima Center and Angelus Press. He is also the host of Fatima TV's popular "Ask Father" series. Fr. Albert currently assists the Canadian District of the Society of St. Pius X at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Vernon, British Columbia.

Tu es Petrus: True Devotion to the Chair of Saint Peter" is the title of Dr. Roberto de Mattei’s talk. “Tu es Petrus” will be an eye-opener for many, as we learn the truth about the Papacy as established by Christ, the real "authentic magisterium," the Pope's authority, the errors of Papalotry, and what must be our reception and reaction to the present Pontificate.

Dr. de Mattei is a well-known historian, professor and writer. The president of the Fondazione Lepanto (Lepanto Foundation), de Mattei also directs the Radici Cristiane (Christian Roots) magazine and the Corrispondenza Romana (Roman Correspondence) news agency. Dr. de Mattei is also one of the organizers of the Marcia per la Vita (March for Life) held in Rome, the largest annual pro-life event in Europe. The author of many books, he has gained fame in the English-speaking world for The Second Vatican Council – An Unwritten Story, Blessed Pius IX, and Holy War, Just War. A professor at several Roman universities, Dr. de Mattei has also spoken at international conferences such as those held by Angelus Press and the Rome Life Forum.

"Music in the Elizabethan Catacombs: The Polyphonic Masses of William Byrd" will be presented by Dr. Andrew Childs. Composer William Byrd made his contribution to the Church as a Recusant Catholic by producing music for the persecuted English Church. Music is not often considered a weapon utilized in spiritual warfare, but these Masses are truly an important, inspiring, and not well-enough known part of our Catholic cultural heritage.

Dr. Childs is a professor of music and public speaking, Associate Dean and Chair of Humanities at St. Mary's College in St. Marys, Kansas. A convert to the Catholic Faith, he has taught at various institutions including Yale University, the University of California at Irvine, Missouri State University and Connecticut College. Dr. Childs is a gifted tenor and professional performer, singing with symphonies, orchestras, chamber and new music ensembles throughout the country. He has written for Catholic Family News, The Angelus, and The Remnant newspaper, while also speaking (and performing) at various conferences.

Christopher Ferrara, J.D., will present "Expose, Oppose, Propose: Our Duty of Publicly Defending the Faith." We are primarily and most importantly armed for our role in the Church Militant through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. How do we present and defend our Faith not only among family and friends, but publicly – in our schools, workplaces and other venues? Given the present confusion in our Church and world, this promises to be one of the best and most needed talks of the weekend.

Christopher Ferrara is the founding president and chief counsel of the American Catholic Lawyers Association. Besides contributing to FatimaPerspectives.com, he writes regularly for Catholic Family News, The Remnant and The Fatima Crusader. He has authored or co-authored several books including The Great Façade, Fatima Priest, The Secret Still Hidden, False Friends of Fatima, and Liberty, the God that Failed. A close associate of the late Fr. Nicholas Gruner and John Vennari, Mr. Ferrara often speaks at Catholic Family News, Catholic Identity, Angelus Press and Fatima Center conferences, as well as the Roman Forum's annual Summer Symposium. He now lives in Virginia.

CFN editor Matt Gaspers will describe in his talk “Holiness at Home: Importance of the Family.” We cannot underestimate the importance of the family in the Christian life. As it undergoes the strongest attacks ever in its history, the family –  strong, solid, and holy – is vitally needed by the Church for her restoration. Parents, the primary educators of their children, need to be equipped properly, especially in Faith and Morals, to fulfill their role of leading to Heaven the children God has given them; for God's greater glory and the good of the Church.

Editor of CFN since July, 2017, Matt Gaspers is from Colorado. Mr. Gaspers studied music, theology and history, and has written for Catholic Family News and The Fatima Crusader since 2011. He has also been published online by The Remnant and OnePeterFive. Previously involved in catechetical work in his parish, he was chosen by John Vennari to succeed him as editor of CFN, due especially to a similar style in teaching the Faith. Among Gaspers' interests are Church history, the Eastern Rites and Islam – on which he has written and spoken extensively, at several Catholic Family News and Fatima Center conferences.

Louis Tofari will speak on “The Roman Mass: Bulwark of the Faith.” He will explore what the Roman Mass is, how the Sacred Liturgy has been a continual source of orthodoxy throughout the history of the Church and a refuge in times of rampant heresy, and how we can effectively make use of the Mass to battle the modernism infecting the Faith today.

Louis Tofari is the founding editor of Romanitas Press, which specializes in publishing, promoting and providing liturgical formation and resources. Before focusing on Romanitas Press full time, he was spokesman and webmaster for the United States District of the Society of Saint Pius X. Mr. Tofari was also instrumental in the introduction and promotion of the Archconfraternity of St. Stephen in the U.S. He has advised, collaborated and assisted Angelus Press and Preserving Christian Publications on many sizable projects. Based in Kansas City, Missouri, Mr. Tofari is a regular guest on Magnificat Radio, contributes to various publications and websites, and travels to speak and instruct on liturgical matters.

"With the Help of Thy Grace: Challenges and Solutions for Modern Catholic Youth” is the title of Alexandra Reis’ talk. Rapid changes in today’s world mean new challenges for young people. “Millennials” often find themselves lost as they transition to adulthood. Miss Reis will present various practical solutions for Traditional Catholic young people, who often second-guessing themselves, and second-guessed by older generations, are nevertheless ready and willing to defend and fight for the Truth. 

Alexandra Reis is a writer from Ontario, Canada. Aspiring to missionary life from a very young age in order to reach the most abandoned, Miss Reis spent time as a postulant in a traditional Dominican convent. Realizing that her vocation lay elsewhere, she returned to secular life and has channeled her zeal for studying and teaching the Truth and saving souls through writing a popular, monthly section for youth in Catholic Family News. Miss Reis also writes for CFN's website, besides her own blog. She is now happily engaged to a young man whose family has also been involved in publishing for the traditionalist movement. Her conference talk will be geared especially toward younger attendees.

CFN: What will be some of the spiritual highlights of the conference?

BY: Most importantly, the daily Traditional Latin Mass. It will be, liturgically speaking, very beautiful because the conference is scheduled for the close of the Octave of Easter: Easter Friday, Easter Saturday and Low Sunday.

On a devotional level, the weekend includes First Friday and First Saturday - there will be ample opportunity to fulfill the requests of Our Lord and Our Lady for the Holy Communions and Confession of reparation to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts. Besides the daily recitation of the Holy Rosary, there will also be time set aside for the First Saturday meditation.

Traditional priests will be on hand to hear confessions, provide guidance and bless sacramentals. Those who attended the 2016 conference will be happy to know that the beautiful, life size replica of Our Lady of Good Success from Quito, will be joining us again this year.

Some past conference attendees have likened the experience to a mini-retreat, that observation would be all the more valid this year.

CFN: What else can we look forward to at the conference?

BY: The same heartfelt fraternity, energizing camaraderie and affirming friendships - old and new - that have characterized all CFN conferences.

The stalwart Benedictines of Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery in Silver City, New Mexico will again join us throughout the conference. Not only will their famous Abbey Roast coffee be available for purchase, but we are proud to say that their coffee will actually be served during the conference’s delicious meals.

Other quality, traditional vendors will also be present to offer their products. Of course, being the first conference since his passing, we will make special mention of John Vennari, and pray for the happy repose of his soul.

Over all, the conference promises to be welcome respite in the midst of the battle.

CFN: Do you have any closing thoughts?

BY: Those who attended the 2016 conference said that it was “outstanding,” and “the best conference yet.” We hope to make “Weapons of Our Warfare” even better!

To register, or for more information on the upcoming Conference, see our "Weapons of Our Warfare" page

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