By Fr. John J. Hugo - PB - 176 pages
Fr. John Hugo (1911–1985) was a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburg who spent much of his life giving retreats based upon those that he had participated in while still a young priest in the 1930s. Those retreats were given by Fr. Onesimus Lacouture S. J. and Fr. Hugo was one of over 6000 priests to whom the retreat was given over a course of several years. The Retreat, as it was affectionately called by its devoteés was an electrifying and life-changing experience for many of them. It was nothing more nor less than the Spiritual Excercises of Saint Ignatius. But these retreats given by Fr. Lacouture were, as the saying goes “the real deal.” They were given as St. Ignatius intended, for the proper length of time and according to the true Ignatian spirit. They got to the real “roots” of Christian living. They were, in short, radical.
Fr. Hugo became a disciple of Fr. Lacouture in the sense that he experienced the fruits and saw the necessity of the retreat for Catholic Americans. He determined to continue that work as part of his priestly vocation. Fr. Hugo became the spiritual advisor of Dorothy Day (and the Catholic Worker Movement) who took the retreat more than twenty times during her life.
This book, The Gospel of Peace, is one fruit of that work, and it was very controversial at the time of its publication in 1943. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is always controversial because it is “out of step” with the world.
LORETO PUBLICATIONS FORWORD
The twentieth century has been called by many the “bloodiest of centuries,” “the American Century,” and most recently by Jewish writer Yuri Slezkine, “The Jewish Century.” All three nicknames have many cogent arguments to support their use, but no matter what history calls it, there is no doubt that it has been a time of great moral, spiritual, and political ferment. Just two of its many wars have already earned the name of World War. To the Catholic there is always only one war, and it will be waged constantly from that terrible day in the Garden of Eden until that awesome day of the Second Coming of Our Blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ our King. The war is always and everwhere between the Kingdom of Christ and that of the Prince of this World.
It is Catholic priests who are so often found in the front lines of this perpetual battle, and even such an anti-catholic nation as the USA has produced in this bloody century some couragous and holy priests who have in one way or another “fought the good fight” against evil and for the salvation of souls. It is important for us as Catholic Americans to remember these men and to honor their sacrifices. Priests like Fr. Charles Coughlin, Bishop Fulton Sheen, Fr. Leonard Feeney, and the two to whom Loreto dedicates this publication, Fr. Onesimus Lacouture (the inspiration of it) and Fr. John Hugo (the author of it), should be models of inspiration for us, as they were for countless souls during their lifetimes.
The Holy Spirit blows where He will, and He inspires those faithful who wish to live a Christ-like life, toward many different means of service to Christ the King. For Father Lacouture and Fr. Hugo and other American and Canadian priests, their method of service was The Retreat. The preceding words are in italics because that is how those disciples of Fr. Onesimus most affected by his spiritual direction affectionately termed it. They also called it simply The Doctrine, in much the same way that the disciples of Father Feeney always spoke of extra ecclesiam nulla salus, as The Dogma or referred to the first fourteen verses of St. John’s Gospel as The Center Prayer (the Last Gospel of the Mass which all of Father’s disciples could recite from memory in Latin and English).
The Retreat, as it was called is nothing more nor less than the Spiritual Excercises of Saint Ignatius. But these retreats given by Fr. Lacouture were, as the saying goes “the real deal.” They were given as St. Ignatius intended, for the proper length of time and according to the true Ignatian spirit. Father Lacouture was a Jesuit, as was Father Feeney. In fact, Fr. Lacouture and Fr. Feeney were both trained at St. Andrews-on-the-Hudson; Fr. Onesimus preceeding Fr. Feeney by about fifteen years. What made the retreats that Fr. Lacouture gave very special were two things: 1) he only gave them to priests (over 6000 priests in a few years time took his retreat) and 2) he was a masterful spiritual director and doctor of souls.
Father Lacouture, like all of the priests mentioned above, ran into opposition because of the spectacular results he achieved for the building up of the Kingdom of Christ. In his case, the retreats were stopped dead in their tracks after a few years by his superiors, and he was internally exiled and forbidden to give any more retreats. But he had disciples, many disciples, because of the efficacy of his work. In the USA his work was continued by many priests, most famously by Fr. John Hugo who gave the retreats until the time of his death in 1985. Notably, the retreats in the USA were given primarily to the laity, and one of the groups of laity who not only attended these retreats (often many times) but who credit the retreats as being a prominent source, if not the driving motivation of their organization, was the Catholic Worker Movement founded by Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day. Father Hugo was her spiritual director and she took the retreat over twenty times during her life. (Please see the appendix for her brief eulogy of Fr. Lacouture upon his death in 1951.)
If, as the scriptues say “by their fruits you shall know them,” one may judge Father Lacouture’s work by the tremendous impact he had on the spiritual lives of thousands of priests in Canada and the USA and the extended effect upon the laity who were inspired and affected by the lives of those priests.
The influence that Fr. Lacouture excercised on priests in Quebec was legendary, so legendary in fact that his disciples received a nickname of opprobrium similar to the term Jesuites that was hurled at the disciples of St. Ignatius or Feeneyites that was cast at the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the order that was founded by Fr. Feeney. The general movement toward true Ignatian spirituality on the part of the priests who were spiritually recharged by these retreats was called Lacouturisme. And, like all truly Catholic movements, it was opposed vigorously by the world and by worldlings, both inside and outside of the Church. Neither he, nor his retreats, nor the books that sprang from his retreats were ever officially censured in any way by the Church. He was just asked, (and forced) to “go away,” like Our Lord was asked to depart by the Gerasenes.
Father Lacouture’s faithful disciple, Fr. John Hugo, wrote three books relative to The Retreat. The Gospel of Peace is the one I call “the fruit.” The second is titled A Sign of Contradiction and I call that one “the polemic,” since it defends Fr. Lacouture and The Retreat. The third was Applied Christianity, which I call “the doctrine” since it is the notes of the retreats reflecting the doctrine of Jesus Christ according to St. Ignatius and his spiritual descendants. So that Fr. Lacouture and Fr. Hugo and the work that they did may be better known and appreciated, Loreto Publications will soon publish the other two books.
Like St. Ignatius and Fr. Feeney who both threw down the gauntlet, so to speak, to the world of their day, Fr. Hugo in this book throws down the challenge of the Gospel of Peace of Jesus Christ to the most blood-soaked century in history. It is a hard saying and who can take it. We feel it is just what the world needs today at a moment when worldwide war may break out once again without warning.
The Feast of Saint Hermengild 2018