Editor’s note: Recently, we asked people to send in articles relating their stories of faith, family traditions, and conversion. The following comes to us from Mr. Daniel A. S. Barrett, who journeyed by a somewhat unconventional path from a sort of nominal, post-conciliar Catholicism to a life rich with Catholic Tradition, a big family, and multiple children who entered religious life.
In the year 1975 I was living in the small town of Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia, Canada. My wife, two children and I, were living much like everyone else in the Catholic Church, faced with the torrent of changes at that time. It was then that I received a strong inspiration to read the Bible, which seemed odd, since up until then I never had the slightest desire to read the good book. I decided to acquire one, but at my first attempt the parish priest told me they were out of stock and to check back in a few weeks. Finally, it arrived, and as I read I was enlightened by the message I found there; I knew my life needed to change.
The gospel of St. Luke reminded me of the Rosary, and that I should be saying it. My wife, of good Catholic French Acadian stock, remembered saying it when she was young. Her mother always had a strong devotion to it. So from then on we began to say the family rosary daily. I also needed to address the practice of contraception. We had been using this for some time, but I now knew it could continue no longer. Providentially this coincided with my wife’s doctor’s advice of putting a stop to it for health reasons. He also said that a new pregnancy may help with her arthritis. With the help of St. Gerard, the patron of expectant mothers, our family quickly grew from two to seven healthy and happy children. This seemed to me a real miracle.
Another dilemma in my life was the New Mass. My sensus fidei told me there was something not quite right about it, and it was not leading us in the right direction. There seemed to be something missing, although I couldn’t say what at the time. I began to pray for a sign from God, anything that might point me in the right direction. I joked with the good Lord to provide a crack in the wall or even a fire. Lo and behold, one day at work my colleague said, “Hey Dan, come outside and take a look at this.” Sure enough the church was on fire, it burned to the ground; the fire was so hot that the brass light fixtures melted. And as if this was not enough, when the services moved to the church hall, it also burned down! “Thank you, Lord, quite enough for now!”
After much prayer and fasting, I happened across an ad in the Halifax City Newspaper advertising the Traditional Catholic Mass. Having contacted the coordinator, I set out on the three-hour journey to the provincial capital. I then attended the Mass I had known as a child and everything fell into place. This is what I had been looking for all along. I was excited, over-joyed, and even more so when the priest, Fr. Yves Normandin (Author of “Un curé dans la rue” / “Pastor out in the Cold”) offered to visit me. Fr. Normandin was an independent priest, former pastor of St. Yvette parish in Montreal, who had refused the new changes, and was travelling across Canada providing the sacraments to those who wanted the traditional rites. [Fr. Normandin recently passed away on Dec 30th, 2020 at 95 years of age]. Many a Canadian soul owe their Faith or its rediscovery to this wonderful priest. Unfortunately, no Church would welcome him, so Mass had to be celebrated in a hotel. This good father kindly offered to pay for my trip to have my older children confirmed in New York by a certain Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. It was there in 1983 that I met this stalwart Bishop fighting for tradition. Following this I read many of his works and expanded my knowledge of him and the Society of St. Pius X. After such an amazing discovery, it was natural that I wanted to spread the good news, so I began writing letters to the editor of my local newspaper and later to the Halifax City Newspaper on a regular basis.
As my family grew I knew I needed to provide them with a good Catholic education, which would help them understand and appreciate their Faith more than was offered in the public school system. So I sent my boys off to St. Mary’s Academy in Kansas, U.S.A. This was a K-12 academy and college set in a beautiful, old Jesuit complex. It was originally established by the Jesuits in 1848 as an Indian mission. The SSPX acquired it in 1978 and today it services thousands of traditional Catholics, and is now building the largest Catholic Church in Kansas with capacity for 1500 people. Here my children could receive a good education with regular access to the Mass and sacraments, and good Catholic clergy. The girls would later attend St. Dominic’s Girls School in Post Falls, Idaho. This was a school run by Dominican teaching sisters formed in Fanjeaux, France. This congregation was friendly with Archbishop Lefebvre and shared the same traditional values.
However, my situation was still far from ideal, with a meager visit of a traditional priest once every three months. I realized we needed more spiritual nourishment. With the advice of my confessor, I looked to move somewhere with regular Mass and sacraments. Calgary, Alberta seemed a good option as the parish there also had a small school. This was obviously a major decision and not taken lightly. This meant moving my whole family away from our close relatives, nearly 4,000 km across the country, to a place we were unfamiliar with. But by God’s grace I “took the bull by the horns” as it were and applied for a job transfer. It was soon granted and we were on our way to Calgary, where I could continue my work as a Canadian Customs Officer. After retirement, I spent much of my time assisting the priests in Canadian priories. This included a variety of tasks from counting the monies to picking up coffee for the heavily overburdened priests!
I cannot but finish by firstly thanking God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon me and my family. One of my daughters, Tara-Anne went on to pursue a religious vocation and is now herself a Dominican sister – Sister Anne-Danielle – teaching children in Post Falls, much like she was herself. My youngest son Lawrence, now Rev. Fr. Lawrence Barrett, also went on to pursue a religious vocation and is now a priest of the SSPX tending to the flocks in jolly old England. All my other children are happily married and have surrounded me with twenty-one grandchildren so far. Finally, I should thank my lovely wife and family for all their kind support and prayers. The words “Seek and you shall find” have never had more meaning to me than they do today.
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