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In Memoriam: Father Engelbert Lacasse, S.J. (1906-2005)
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

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By Luc Gagnon, Director of Égards Magazine, as well as Director of Campagne Québec-Vie. Reprinted with permission.

Note: Normally, I post articles on my site which can interest everbody, and not articles that fog up my eyes. But Father Lacasse was my first spiritual director (after Father Benoît Garneau, of the SME), so I owe him much. Moreover, the author of this article, Mr. Luc Gagnon, is a good friend of mine. We joined the Legionaries of Christ together, about fifteen years ago! (I ran away after two days and a half, while thanking God for some good aspects of The Quiet Revolution!)

Father Engelbert Lacasse finished the temporal course of his life, this past September 21st, in the hundreth year of his existence dedicated to the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. Up to the age of 95 when he left the Vimont residence of Bréboeuf College for the community nursing home of Saint Jérôme, he tirelessly preached Saint Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises to thousands of penitents. The good Father Lacasse had the fiery soul of an apostle and he took care to the end of the young persons he directed, with great priestly zeal. He was the source of numerous priestly and religious vocations, even in the spiritual desert in the aftermath of Vatican II. If the Church in Quebec some day rises from its current torpor, She will owe much of it to this humble yet great Jesuit.

Born in a small village in the Laurentians, Sainte-Sophie, Father Lacasse first did his classical studies at the Sainte-Thérèse Seminary, before entering the Jesuit noviciate in 1928. He had among other colleagues at the noviciate, writer François Hertel whom he spiritually supported even after his apostasy in the years after the war, when Hertel sadly exiled himself to Paris. Father Lacasse didn't like to talk about Hertel out of discretion and tact, but he warned me about pride which, according to him, was the root cause of Hertel's apostasy and his insubordination to his superiors.

Father Lacasse was on the contrary a role model of religious obedience according to the spirit of the Jesuit's Founder: "obey like a corpse". He was always happy with the sometimes thankless positions he occupied. He accepted all missions with joy and enthusiasm, wanting to save souls everywhere. For many years, he was the Logger's Chaplain on the work sites of Northern Quebec. He also preached retreats to all social classes: students, forestry workers, professionals, illiterates, etc. As opposed to many of his Jesuit collegues, he didn't teach in colleges, except during his regency training. He was generally assigned to Quebec City or Montreal.

The Quiet Revolution was painful for this disciplined Jesuit. After the Council, he had even made Cardinal Jean Daniélou, SJ, come to Canada to re-establish a certain number of truths washed away by an advanced secularization. He suffered from the crisis occuring even inside his religious community: a large number of colleagues defrocked, the ecclesiastical habit and religious discipline were abandoned, the Roman doctrine was systematically criticized, an intellectualism and rationalism contrary to traditional Faith became widespread. From his discreet position as a spiritual director, he nevertheless reacted in a positive way by encouraging all good initiatives, especially by training Catholics who were aware of the requirements of their Faith and who were able to deal with the crisis. He silently suffered from the disobedience and treasons of many of his collegues, and he cried over the collapse of his religious community and over the Church in Quebec.

He remained faithful to the Faith and the traditional practices of the Church, but he never revolted against the authorities. He was always critical of the tangent taken by Monsignor Marcel Lefebvre, especially after the 1976 condemnation by Rome. He remained a fervent defender of the Pope right up to his death. He was not very enthusiastic about the 1969 liturgical reform, but he accepted it as legitimate, orthodox and authentic. He first celebrated the new Mass in Latin, and then adopted the vernacular language. He considered the Vatican II Council as totally valid, but he rejected the spirit of rupture that tried to oppose Vatican II to the previous councils and traditional doctrine: he received the teachings of Vatican II in light of Tradition, and not according to fashionable ideas.

He was involved in Quebec's social issues, among others by supporting Catholic schools and by encouraging the pro-life movement. He encouraged me in 1989 when, as a medical student, I had created a pro-life committee at Laval University. He was also a very close spiritual advisor of Mr. Gilles Grondin during the foundation of Campagne Québec-Vie.

Behind the scene and in the souls, Father Lacasse prepared the Catholic rebirth for the Quebec of tomorrow. He was a father and a guide for many spiritual orphans of the Quiet Revolution. At the Dauphine House in Old Quebec, Father Lacasse would welcome us with a truly paternal charity and guide us onto the right path. I, who benefited from his supernatural goodness and generosity, while I was a reactionary and perplexed teenager, victim of the spiritual dilapidation of the lyric generation, can never thank God enough for having put on my path this most dedicated of the French-Canadian Jesuits of the old school.


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