Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Embracing Christ and the Cross
"O Legionário", n. 764, march, 30th 1947 (*)
An authentic piety penetrates every recess of our souls, naturally stirring our most intimate emotions. Piety, however, is far more than feelings. It arises deep within ourselves from our knowledge of the truths that govern an interior life formed in accord with the Faith. To be sure, these life-giving truths are often acquired through diligent and disciplined study, but intelligence, like emotion, is an inadequate foundation for piety, which also resides in the will.
Thus we must desire to live the truths we know. It is not sufficient to understand that God is perfect, for example. We must also love His perfection and desire to have some share in it; we must aspire to sanctity.
To desire is not simply to entertain vague notions or feelings. We truly desire something only when we are ready to make every sacrifice necessary to attain it.
Without the will to sacrifice, our “pious desires” are but vain illusions. Tender contemplations of divine truths and sacred mysteries are sterile seeds if they do not bear fruit in firm resolutions to live our faith.
Meditating on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ is a praiseworthy devotion, but we must follow the Way of the Cross in our lives as well as in our churches. We must give Our Lord sincere proofs during these days of our devotion and love, amending our lives and fighting with all our strength in defense of the Holy Catholic Church.
“Why Persecutest Thou Me?”
When Our Lord confronted Saint Paul on the road to Damascus, He asked him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” (Acts 9:4). Since Saul was persecuting the Church, Our Lord’s words make it clear that to persecute Christ’s Church is to persecute Christ Himself, for the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ.
If the Church is persecuted today, then Christ is persecuted, and Our Lord’s Passion is being relived in our days. Every act that draws a soul away from the Church persecutes Christ. To separate a soul from the Church is to amputate a member of the Mystical Body of which Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Head. To wrench a soul from the Church is like chopping off Our Lord’s hand, severing His leg, pulling out His eye.
Therefore, if we desire to identify with the Passion of Christ, let us indeed meditate on His sufferings at the hands of His persecutors nearly 2,000 years ago, but let us not forget to consider all that is being done to inflict the same wounds on His Mystical Body today.
Above all, let us not fail to examine our own acts of indifference, cowardice, and betrayal. While His sacred blood mingled with the dirt during His agony in the garden, Our Lord foresaw the sins of all men of all times. He saw our sins and suffered for each one of them. In the Garden of Olives we were present with Christ as executioners and, as such, we accompanied His bloodstained steps to the heights of Golgotha.
Behold the suffering of Holy Mother Church mocked and jeered before our jaded eyes. She stands before us as Our Lord once stood before Veronica. Let us console the Church by defending Her whatever the cost. In doing so, we will be consoling Christ as Veronica did.
How Many Souls Will Lose Their Faith?
Certain truths about God and our supernatural end we can learn by using the reason He has given us. Because our reason has been clouded by sin, however, we can know other truths only because God has taught us. In His infinite goodness, He has revealed them to us in the Old and New Testaments.
Our belief in Revelation is grounded in the virtue of faith. Without faith there is no salvation, but no one can make an act of faith without the supernatural help of God’s grace. God offers this grace to all men, but He showers it in torrential abundance on the members of His Mystical Body, the Church. Through faith, the Holy Ghost dwells within us, sanctifying our bodies as His holy temple (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19). To abandon the Faith is to reject the Holy Ghost, to expel Jesus Christ from our souls.
Yet, around us we see many Catholics who have rejected the Faith. They were baptized, but in the course of time they lost their faith. Alas, they suffered this loss through their own fault, for howsoever enticed by others, no one loses his faith without mortal fault. Behold them, indifferent and hostile, thinking, feeling, and living like pagans. They may be our relatives, our neighbors, perhaps even our friends. Their disgrace is immense. The mark of their baptism is indelible.
Marked for heaven, they are bound for hell. The blood of Christ has been sprinkled on their souls, and no one can efface it, yet they defile it by adopting principles and norms that violate the doctrines of Christ’s Church.
And we? Are we troubled? Are we concerned? Does this pain us? Do we pray for their conversion? Make reparation? Are we apostolic? Where is our counseling? Our argumentation? Our charity? Where is our fearless and energetic defense of the truths that they deny or insult?
The Sacred Heart of Jesus bleeds because of this. It bleeds for the apostasies of these souls and for our indifference, an indifference that is twice guilty because it is indifferent to our neighbor and, first and foremost, to God.
How many souls around the world are losing their faith? Consider the endless numbers of impious newspapers and magazines, broadcasts and films, that flood the world daily. Consider the innumerable workers of Satan who, in academia, in the bosom of the family, in meeting rooms, in places of entertainment, propagate impious ideas. The consequences are before us. Institutions, customs, and art are becoming ever more de-Christianized, an undeniable indication that the entire world is losing God.
Is there not some great scheme in all of this? Can so many articulate and uniform methods, united in their objectives and development, be merely coincidental? Since when have spontaneous motions concertedly produced the most complete, organized, extensive, ingenious, and formidable ideological offensive in history, fully consistent in its essence, its goals, and its development?
We don’t think about it. We don’t even perceive it. We sleep the heavy sleep of our daily lives. Why are we not more vigilant? The Church suffers greatly, but alone. Far from Her, very far from Her, we slumber. The scene in the Garden of Olives is repeated.
“Could You Not Watch One Hour With Me?”
We, thanks be to God, still profess the Faith that so many have abandoned and betrayed.
But what use do we make of it? Do we love it? Do we understand that our greatest happiness in life consists in being members of the holy Church, that our greatest glory is the title of Christian? If we respond in the affirmative — and how rare are those who, in good conscience, could so respond — are we ready to make every sacrifice in order to preserve our faith?
Before answering with a romantic yes, let us take a moment to examine our consciences honestly. Do we ever seek occasions that might put our faith at risk? Do we enjoy worldly pleasures that are — at best — indifferent to it? Do we read or view materials that violate its standards? Do we welcome the company of those who disregard or even disparage it?
By virtue of their instinct of sociability, all men are prone to conform to popular opinion, to accept the conventional wisdom around them. Today’s dominant opinions contravene the teachings of the Church in philosophy, sociology, history, science, art — ultimately, in everything. Our friends quite likely follow the trend. Do we have the courage to stand against it? Do we guard our hearts against any penetration of erroneous ideas? Are we of one mind with the Church in everything? Or are we content with negligently going about our business, taking in everything the spirit of the times instills simply because it instills it?
Perhaps we have not expelled Our Lord from our souls, but how do we treat this Divine Guest? Is He the object of all our attention, the center of our intellectual, moral, and affective life? Is He our King? Or do we allot Him only a small space where He is tolerated as a secondary guest, a rather uninteresting and inconvenient guest?
When the Divine Master groaned, wept, and sweat blood during His Passion, He was tormented not solely by physical sorrows, nor just those sufferings occasioned by the hatred of those who persecuted Him then. He was also tormented by everything that we would do against Him and the Church in the coming centuries. He wept because of the hatred of all the evil men, every Arius, Nestorius, and Luther. But He also wept foreseeing the unending procession of lukewarm souls, apathetic souls, that, while not persecuting Him, do not love Him as they ought.
This is the innumerable multitude of those who spend their lives neither hating nor loving and who, according to Dante, remain at the gates of Hell because not even Hell has sufficient place for them. Are we among these? This is the great question that with God’s grace we must answer in the days of recollection, piety, and expiation we are about to enter.
(*) Original title: Reflexões durante a Semana Santa. The preceding article has been translated and adapted for publication without the author's revision. Ed. American TFP.