Remembering the Early Days of the American TFP

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Remembering the Early Days of the American TFP
Remembering the Early Days of the American TFP

The history of an institution often resembles that of a building. We can find analogies between the creation and growth of both. The history of a Catholic-inspired institution more precisely resembles the building of a cathedral. Every truly Catholic institution bears traces of the moral profile of Holy Mother Church from which it is born and receives its mission.

The features of a cathedral awaken the sense of order in human relations and eternity in relation to God. By its principles and actions, an institution reveals its religious dedication to a higher cause.

Building a Cathedral

The growth of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) is like a cathedral built over the last fifty years, which we celebrate this year. Those who have followed the TFP since its beginning see, as in every living organism, that it is always the same yet also different.

The American TFP was built like the first cathedrals in Christendom, in which the builders made its religious purpose its priority. Thus, the presbytery was the first structure built to house the high altar, around which the liturgical celebrations could begin. Afterward, they built the naves, side altars and bell towers.

The continual invasions by barbarians and Saracens forced those cathedrals to build fortifications. Towers and battlements formed part of the sacred building complex. Arrow slits were placed under windows while moats protected its perimeter. Its size sheltered part of the population-women, children, the sick and the elderly-during attacks. We see these architectural features in the twelfth-century Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. These are the traces of the Church Militant.

Attacking the Revolution

Using the work Revolution and Counter-Revolution by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira as a handbook, the American TFP gradually built the towers and battlements needed to fight the Revolution, a historic process that promotes errors and social unrest over the centuries.

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Thus, the TFP has strengthened itself religiously since its foundation. Its actions have always opposed socialism and communism, divorce, abortion, and perverse school curricula for children. The TFP became notable for praying Rosaries in public squares all over the country. Its young activists courageously appear at universities infested with furious adherents of LGBT ideology.

Remembering the Early Days of the American TFP
Remembering the Early Days of the American TFP

The golden lion on its standards announces in the face of the Revolution the truths proclaimed over the centuries of Faith like the bells atop cathedral towers.

An American Counter-Revolution

In a recent interview with Crusade Magazine, American TFP co-founder Philip Calder states that in those early days, he sensed the potential for Counter-Revolutionary action. Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira said he “had great hope for the American TFP and believed that Americans had a big capacity for enthusiasm for the Counter-Revolution.”

Dr. Corrêa de Oliveira, founder of the first TFP in Brazil, considered the United States to be one of the most strategically influential countries in the world. A TFP in the U.S. would influence public opinion in nations where TFPs existed and those where a TFP had yet to be founded. America led the Free World.

However, from the standpoint of the Holy Mother Church, the history of the U.S. fifty years ago was full of blank pages with much to be written. On those pages, the American TFP wrote with golden letters an important chapter in the Catholic history of this country.

First Contacts

Who were the persons who first joined the TFP? They were those who saw in the TFP the twinkling lights of a dawn. Their eyes saw in that dawn the first glimmers of the Reign of Mary announced by Our Lady in Fatima.

Mr. John Hart, a Louisiana native and pro-life militant living in New York, attended an audiovisual presentation by a Brazilian TFP representative visiting friends in America.

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Mr. Hart admired the Counter-Revolutionary action portrayed by the audiovisual. He decided to meet Dr. Plinio and the TFP in Brazil to see if something similar could be done in America. He visited Brazil in late 1970.

Upon his return, he started publishing Crusade for a Christian Civilization. In Brazil, we were deeply impressed by its unpretentious first issue. Mr. Hart had understood the meaning and goals of the Counter-Revolution and conveyed its spirit.

Remembering the Early Days of the American TFP
Remembering the Early Days of the American TFP

He soon met with others in New York. They quickly grew in number. Facts showed that Our Lady was active in America in a surprising way.

Early Campaigns

Prior to the official incorporation of the American TFP, its future members did not remain idle. They collected six thousand signatures asking the Archbishop of New York to allow the celebration of at least one Tridentine Mass each week in every parish of the archdiocese. The signatures were delivered to the chancery of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The petitioners never received an answer.

Almost every Sunday, Crusade for a Christian Civilization was sold on New York City’s busy sidewalks.

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We remember John Spann. He had moved to Argentina in search of a Catholic ideal. One day, turning the corner of a street in Buenos Aires, he saw the glowing red TFP standard waving in the wind high up against the sky. He couldn’t believe his eyes.

In a flash of perception, he received a hazy yet intense understanding of the TFP ideal. In early 1972, he moved to New York and dedicated himself to that ideal that he discerned in the streets of Buenos Aires. Mr. Spann maintained this allegiance to the Counter-Revolution until the last moments of his life.

Expansion of the American TFP

Upon his arrival, the TFP rented a house in Little Neck, Queens, New York, to serve as a headquarters. This rapid advance of the TFP showed the immense potential for the Counter-Revolution in the U.S.

At that time, Dr. Plinio asked Mr. Luiz Antonio Fragelli, an active member of the Brazilian TFP, to come with his family to this country and to help form the American TFP. With enthusiasm, Mr. Fragelli gave the best of his dedication to the TFP until his last breath. His long experience in shaping Counter-Revolutionary groups was put to good use as he noticed the fast course of events in the formation of the TFP.

In October 1973, the American TFP held its first youth seminar in Walden, N.Y. It consisted of three days of anti-communist formation and studies. Amid colorful fall trees, Holy Mass was celebrated daily by a priest who also gave some lectures on Catholic doctrine.

Remembering the Early Days of the American TFP
Remembering the Early Days of the American TFP

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An anecdote is worth telling. At the end of the three days, the organizers realized they had no podium for the final speeches at the closing ceremony. One participant unabashedly stretched out a rug to serve as his platform, took a big medieval sword from the wall and planted it in the ground. He declared the sword was his podium. And so the final speeches were given American style. We see in this gesture something of the spirit of the present TFP Call to Chivalry Camps.

Springtime Graces

Those early movements of grace, first achievements and epic campaigns were incredibly beautiful. Above all, we saw the beauty of the contact with souls that were now exposed to Counter-Revolutionary principles.

The TFP visited homes all over the country with audiovisual presentations. During these visits, those watching often asked us to stop at slides showing TFP standards waving on public thoroughfares. They wanted to contemplate better the scene of medieval-inspired standards fluttering on the streets of the modern cities.

A Rejection of the Revolution

In those early days, we could sense the swift spiritual progress of young members. As they engaged in the struggle for America, we could perceive that blessings hovered above them.

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These TFP members developed a great interest in Catholic culture, historical battles of Holy Mother Church, the glorious conversion of peoples or the decadence of Faith wrought by the ominous advance of the Revolution over the last five centuries.

The profoundly combative TFP founding members had a desire—perhaps not explicitly—to offer reparation for the honor of Holy Mother Church humiliated by the Revolution. It was a spiritual revenge for the decline of Catholic influence worldwide over the last five centuries.

These young Americans understood the nature of the evil that could be found in America’s Revolutionary ambiances and customs, whether it be in art, fashion or music. They immediately distanced themselves from these evil influences and began to oppose them by saying: “The Revolution has deceived me.” They did not want to be part of the Revolution, but still, they did not know any way out at that time.

An Appeal to America to Reject the Revolution

This dedication gave rise to a very special mystical grace, rarely given to people so durably. Our Lady Help of Christians gave these Americans a grace of resistance against manifestations of evil they had previously accepted.

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We, Brazilian-born TFP veterans, saw with emotion that this grace was not fleeting, as often happens, but strong and long-lasting and even persists today.

We sense that Our Lady is calling the American people to carefully look at the meaning and purpose of human life, society and the world in light of Catholic teaching. This is the feature of the spiritual TFP cathedral that points to the sense of eternity.

Remembering the Early Days of the American TFP
Remembering the Early Days of the American TFP

The Revolution covered America’s vocation with the materialistic cloak of progress and technology, preventing it from flourishing spiritually. From its beginnings, the American TFP has lifted this veil at decisive moments, encouraging the nation to know, love and fight for its transcendent vocation. Amid the postmodern desert, the TFP perceived signs of a profound appetite for the Church and the sublime aspects of all things.

Tears, a Miraculous Call to the American Nation

In 1972, the International Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima shed tears in New Orleans. Our Lady reserved this miracle for the United States fifty-five years after the Fatima apparitions. The Blessed Mother’s actions always have a higher meaning. Her tears were an invitation to the American nation. It was not an apparition. There were tears. When a mother weeps, her good children must console her.

Thus, this miracle was a call for her good children to oppose the cause of her tears. To the TFP founders, each tear falling from Our Lady’s sacred face was like a dewdrop announcing the dawn of a new day.

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The following year, the American TFP was incorporated. It might be said that this founding represented an answer to those tears since it gave rise to the TFP’s unceasing spreading of devotion to Our Lady and her Rosary. It gave rise to expectations for the Reign of Mary, foreseen by Saint Louis de Montfort.

Proclaiming the Faith Publicly

Today, good Catholics are tempted to isolate themselves in the face of the Revolution’s growing power. The temptation of the average faithful might be to say: “I will be a good Catholic but not a Counter-Revolutionary.”

Given the aggressive nature of the Revolution, a Catholic who is not a Counter-Revolutionary will perish sooner or later. One way the TFP helps people overcome this temptation is by encouraging them to shine forth in the public square and proclaim Our Lady’s message nationwide. The 22,045 Public Square Rosary Rallies this year turned Catholics into combative Counter-Revolutionaries by challenging the Revolution’s dominion everywhere.

While such action was unimaginable in the early days, we can say that this feat was potentially contained in the early movements of grace fifty years ago. It was included in the promise that Our Lady would accomplish great things through her American TFP.

Looking to the Future

The American TFP will accomplish much more in the future. The course of its history has only just begun.

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Over these last fifty years, the American TFP resisted the easy murmur that said: “You are few and isolated. You don’t understand the future. The world wants progress, not old tradition.”

The Revolution claimed that those who insisted on remaining faithful to the Catholic ideal would be like black vultures lonely on a dark and rainy night, with their soaked feathers stuck to their bodies.

Such birds were supposed to settle on a perch, ashamed to fly. Yet, their high ideal has resisted darkness, rain, cold and isolation. Fifty years of struggle for tradition have passed, and now the lights of the Counter-Revolution shine on the horizons of this immense nation.

Remembering the Early Days of the American TFP
Remembering the Early Days of the American TFP

As the sun rises, we can now see those birds surrounded by thousands of others who joined them, forming a large group called the American TFP. At daylight, we also realize these birds are not vultures but eagles!

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This daylight is reflected in the TFP street campaigns, the fluttering of the standards, and the young faces publicly proclaiming the Church’s moral teachings to the tune of bagpipes.

This perception is confirmed in the comments of some Rosary rally participants who exclaim: “I can sense the nearness of angels.” It seems to signify the beginning of God’s return to the world. Indeed, passers-by see a campaign and think: “Everything is so chaotic. I live in a state of utter confusion. Here I see order, an order I thought no longer existed, but now I see that it flies the colors of victory.”

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