On the last weekend of October, more than 200 supporters, members and friends of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) gathered for their annual national conference at the TFP headquarter in Spring Grove, Penn. The event was the culmination of a busy year’s worth of activities. The TFP’s new book, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here and Where We Need to Go,provided the topics for the many informative talks and presentations.
Visitors from near and far arrived Friday evening to the irresistible aromas of wood-fired brick oven pizza. Old friendships were renewed and new ones fostered in a mirthful ambience beneath the large tent set aside for meals during the weekend. Students from St. Louis de Montfort Academy made sure all guests were served in a timely manner and saw to it that everything ran smoothly.
The conference was again blessed with the presence of Prince Bertrand of Orleans-Braganza from Brazil. The evening saw the arrival of distant friends from Europe and Hawaii who quickly mixed with the many supporters living nearby. Many conversations centered on the family’s plight in America today. Thankfully, the next two days would be filled with reasons for great hope for the future of our nation.
Fighting the Culture of Intemperance
Beginning Saturday with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, a full day of talks soon followed, starting with opening remarks by Mr. Michael Drake describing the central theme of honor and the program for the conference. This was quickly followed by TFP Vice-President John Horvat II speaking of “Wisdom: the Foundation of an Organic Christian Society.” He began by describing how modern man is as if lost in a forest, immersed in all manner of technology, yet at the same time is devoid of wisdom to properly make use of it. Wisdom is like a map that allows people “to know the highest cause of things.” What modern man needs most, Mr. Horvat concluded, is wisdom to discern how to deal with the present-day crisis. He then outlined three premises that reflected wisdom and found in an organic Christian society.
Mr. Luiz Solimeo and Mr. Gary Isbell next explained to the participants “The Tragic Role of the Crisis in the Church in the Same-sex “Marriage” Battle and How Catholics Must Fight Back.” The presentation began by making the connection with the loss of the sense of sin and the breaking down of “barriers of horror” toward sin. This facilitated the deadening of reaction to the sin of homosexuality and the spread of the homosexual agenda. They then explained how the crisis inside the Church has favored the advance of the homosexual movement. The conclusion of the presentation showed how the Church has always emerged victorious, and audience members were urged to raise barriers of horror against sin once again and thus be instruments of Divine Providence.
Following a hearty lunch and free-flowing conversations over the many topics addressed during the morning talks, the participants were given a presentation by German TFP member Mr. Mathias von Gersdorff titled “Pop: The Culture of Intemperance.” He began by explaining the problem with modern man being carried away with the spirit of the times due to a lack of personality to conform one’s life to one’s convictions. He then traced the history of popular culture and the drastic changes brought on by the quickening pace of life under the Industrial Revolution. He concluded by highlighting the role of the media in spreading a dangerous culture that has led to global massification and nonstop exposure to bad influences.
Mid-afternoon brought Mr. Robert Ritchie speaking on “Return to Order: Repercussions and Expectations.” He highlighted all the efforts that have been made by TFP members and supporters to promote the book, Return to Order and answered common objections. He then outlined new plans over the coming year to spread the ideas of the book and invite all to join in these efforts.
The final talk of the day was given by Mr. Norman Fulkerson. “When Men Dream, Heaven is Closer” began with a definition of the dream as the desire all peoples have for a better and ideal world. This ideal world is a realistic and non-utopian evaluation of a possible world that motivates men to progress. He then describe one way the Revolution deviated the dream was by introducing Romanticism. Mr. Fulkerson concluded by emphasizing how segments of the American public long for a true ideal, and what is being offered in Return to Order appeals to them because it is truly authentic and there is a wind of the future in it.
Under the Mantle of the Queen
Throughout the conference, the breaks between talks always seemed too short given that the wealth of information presented fueled lively conversations. Participants also availed themselves of opportunities for the sacrament of Confession and the blessing of religious articles throughout the day. A certain grace permeated the atmosphere as the meals and accompanying discussions provided sustenance for both body and soul.
With the setting of the sun and the conclusion of a splendid dinner, the traditional candlelight Rosary Procession soon progressed through the grounds of the TFP’s headquarters. The glow of candlelight gently illumined the fall landscape, and the dignified ceremony left no doubt of the presence of the holy angels. The American TFP’s life-size statue of Our Lady of Hope, Macarena was carried on the shoulders of eight strong men, while the TFP members in ceremonial habit led the Sorrowful Mysteries. The Litany of Loreto concluded the event, followed by the resounding melodies of the “Salve Regina” and “Magnificat.” With the conclusion of the procession, the men carried Our Lady back into the chapel accompanied by the hymn, “Ave Maris Stella.” Though the statue of the Queen of Heaven soon disappeared from sight, the solemn ceremonies assured her a prominent place in the hearts of all present.
The procession thus concluded, all gathered for a reception in honor of Prince Bertrand at the main house named Our Lady Seat of Wisdom. Guests were treated to hot apple cider while TFP member Philip Calder gave a lively organ concert. The hours soon disappeared as it became difficult to depart from so many like-minded people and grace-filled camaraderie.
10,000 Hours and Returning to Honor
Sunday began with a presentation by Mr. Horvat called “Using the Map: Stories from Return to Order.” The talk by the book’s author focused on how to use the map of wisdom present in the book in a practical way. He gave five principles found in the book, a practical episode or example found in daily life and then practical things that might be done to apply the main principle. At the end he presented the need to enter upon the Way of the Cross, and how great sacrifice and suffering are needed to do anything worthwhile. He cited author Richard Sennett who claims that craftsman and other experts need at least ten thousand hours of training to become masters of their skills and how this long training is arduous like the Way of the Cross. Mr. Horvat applied this principle to the promotion of Return to Order and invited the audience to engage on a Way of the Cross of 10,000 hours of work now needed to advance the campaign to spread the book’s principles.
Following a short break, Mr. James Bascom presented the talk “Examples from Organic Society.” He began by explaining how a Return to Order for our country will result in a society which is truly Catholic, entirely organic, and authentically American. He then related nine principles which characterize organic society in contrast to what prevails today.
The morning came to a close as Mr. Rex Teodosio delivered the timely presentation “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother: The Irreplaceable Role of the Family in Society.” Beginning with a precise definition of honor and its proper consideration, he then related it to the family and the preservation of honor maintaining unity between ancestors and descendants. He sought to make known the importance of the spirit of sacrifice in the gaining of honor, and how this spirit is alive and well in some sectors of America today.
The presentations came to a close with Mr. Michael Whitcraft offering “Role Models and How They Inspire Society.” The talk defined representative figures and bourdon souls, and he gave examples of role models already existing in America whose actions inspire men to heroism and virtue, contrasting with those promoted by the media who lead men to vice and immorality. A final exhortation encouraged audience members to seek out and be good role models as a means for transforming our society.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary and Christ the King
The Sunday afternoon came to a close with Holy Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in the neighboring city of York. A solemn procession with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima began the celebration, followed by the glorious strains of organ and trumpet accompanying a choir of TFP members singing the coronation hymn of St. Louis IX, “Gaude Felix Francia.” The sublime chants of the Mass then echoed throughout the magnificent church, with texts centering on Christ coming to reign over all nations. During the homily, those gathered were exhorted to have devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary in order to bring about the reign of Christ the King. The majestic Papal Hymn concluded the splendid ritual.
A spectacular sunset awaited the participants as they drove back to TFP Headquarters. The tent for meals had completely been taken down in their absence, and the auditorium for the presentations had been transformed into a medieval banquet hall. As has become a tradition for these conferences, final remarks during dinner were given by Prince Bertrand of Orleans-Braganza. Summing up the thoughts of the other presenters over the weekend, Prince Bertrand reiterated that the path to an organic Christian society in America will not be easy and seems impossible, but those present had already done the impossible by being part of the 11,247 Rosary Rallies in public squares all across the United States. In concluding, Prince Bertrand succinctly summed up the hopes of all present by quoting Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in his seminal work Revolution and Counter-Revolution:
“When men resolve to cooperate with the grace of God, the marvels of history are worked: the conversion of the Roman Empire; the formation of the Middle Ages; the reconquest of Spain, starting from Covadonga; all the events that result from the great resurrections of soul of which peoples are also capable. These resurrections are invincible, because nothing can defeat a people that is virtuous and truly loves God.”
An enthusiastic standing ovation filled the banquet hall, and conversations continued long into the night. Strengthened from a full weekend of informative presentations, sacral liturgies, and matchless convivium, participants returned home ready to do their part for a Return to Order in our country. Like the Prodigal Son in the Gospel, may Our Lady send an abundance of graces so we as a nation can make the decision to return to our Father’s House in order to fulfill God’s marvelous plan for America.