Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Suspicion, Vigilance, Pugnacity With Oneself and the
Saint of the Day, April 21th 1971
The Revival of the Fervor of Spain during the Civil War and Its Latter Decadence
The text I have before me is taken from a book by Father Frederick Duckerman, a Jesuit, and the book is called Listening to the Soul of Spain. It is drawn from letters dated in the years of 1936 and 1937. These excerpts are as follows:
The soldiers and falangistas of Salamanca carried the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on their banners. The falangistas of Seville began by putting on their uniforms a small image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; now, every officer and soldier in the army, including General Queipo de Llano, bears the shield of the Sacred Heart. The armored car assigned to our group carries on its front a great painting of the Sacred Heart and the people call us “the troops of the Sacred Heart.”
All of society is being purified, passed through fire, and sublimated. From everywhere people are reporting facts such as these: in Valladolid the newsstands selling pornographic literature were reduced to a pile of ashes. The youth association sent their members to the bookstores looking for books that were immoral or hostile to religion. These young men are going to end by completely reforming the life in the universities...
Aboard the warship Canarias: “they were singing at night... the commander reintroduced the ancient Spanish custom. You know the song very well: Thou who dost command the winds and the sea, speak and command the winds and the storm to be silent. Have mercy on us Lord, mercy Lord, mercy.”
Fal Conde composed a book of prayers for the Requetés. In the fights of Novafria, six volunteers were sent out on a patrol. They made their confession, set out and never returned. When our troops, days later, took the enemy’s positions, they found the corpses already darkened. One of the valiant ones had not died immediately, for his body was stretched out, his head was resting on one hand, and with his left hand he was holding open the prayerbook of the Requetés, before those eyes which no longer saw. The page it was opened to was the Prayers for the Dying.
A symbol of the habitual fervor of Spanish heroism
All of these are very beautiful facts. I consider that the most impressive and overwhelming of them is the dead Carlist youth, the Requeté from Navarre who died while reciting the Prayers for the Dying.
He was on a patrol which set out to do a reconnaissance and all of them were killed. The youth was hit and he fell. He saw that he was gravely wounded and perceived that he was entering into his agony. So he rested his head on one of his arms and began to recite the Prayers for the Dying. In doing this Our Lord gathered up his soul and probably carried it straight to Heaven. This attitude of the warrior who is found wounded, and still has before his unseeing eyes the prayer book open to the page of the Prayers for the Dying makes us feel so much the last breaths of life on the one hand, but on the other, the first cold breath of death. It is truly overwhelming. And it makes us feel very well the transition from life to death, and the soul which goes to Heaven. It makes us feel so well the holocaust of souls who immolate themselves, and with this conquer Heaven. This fact is truly overwhelming.
It is a scene worthy of a great poet, of a great painter, or a great sculptor who might represent it adequately. The history of Spain is so full of scenes like this, that it is almost impossible to select one. It would be necessary to draw lots, in order to select one, because Spain is a place where heroism is habitual.
The Rebirth of Religious Fervor in Spain in the Civil War: Clear Opposition to Communism
You find also in these facts other manifestations of the piety of the troops who fought against communism in 1936. The author speaks of a revival of fervor throughout Spain, and furnishes some indices which are truly encouraging.
Spain was a country which was laicised to some extent. A revolution took place, the Republic was proclaimed and it quickly became socialist. The marks of modern paganism had become very accentuated in several aspects of Spanish life. But with the religious persecution, there was a general crystalization. Some aspects deserve our attention and special analysis.
The first aspect is to notice how at that time the opposition between Catholics and Communists was clear. The anti-communists marched to war with the Sacred Heart painted even on their tanks. Everybody thought that was normal. Since Communism is the Cause of the Devil, the Cause of Anti-Communism had to be, necessarily, that of God. And every one considered that this was the appropriate symbol for anti-Communism. Everyone thought that was the very banner of anti-Communism. Everyone thought that the very reason for the existence of the anti-Communists was the defense of the rights of the Catholic Church, the rights of religion.
The abandonment of the fruits of victory through the loss of the religious fervor and the loss of pugnacity in the face of Communism
It is shocking and painful to see the change in spirit, which occurred from the time of those heroic episodes to our days, in which Spain appear, with all of Europe, to have lost its fiber, its anti-Communist fervor, and even to be allowing itself to be taken in by Soviet diplomacy, which some time ago it would have refused with the force of arms.
The Civil War was in 1936-1939. Therefore, it was only 35 years ago. But what a turnabout in this short period of time. Little by little the anti-Communists who risked their lives in a religious combat, and who didn’t hesitate to shed their blood for Catholic Spain were shoved aside, despised, boycotted, while others of an opposite mentality occupied the positions of leadership in the nation.
How was this change possible? It happened as a consequence of that which we have so often pointed out as being dangerous: rest, relaxation after victory, sleepiness in the face of danger. An atmosphere of well-being, of neutrality, of ideological indifference, and of “chacunière” was introduced into Spain, and the best of Spaniards fell completely asleep. But on the ideological plane, sleep is the image of death. And with death comes putrefaction. This putrefaction generated softness, connivance and complicity with the advance of the Revolution on Spanish soul, of which the world-wide current of progressivism was one of the worst promoters.
Nowadays, the anti-Communists are frowned on in almost all Catholic circles. And the pro-Communists are well thought of in those same circles. Every one of us could say with the first mentioned “Extraneus factus sum fratribus meis, et peregrinus filiis matris meae.” (I am become a stranger to my brethren, and an alien to the sons of my mother – Ps. 68, 9). It is the groan of fidelity of the few.
The Cause of this Decadence: The Lack of Vigilance – The Role of “White Heresy”
What does one see in this whole panorama? A great revival of religious fervor, a great grace for Spain, which completely disappears. And why did it disappear? What was the reason? Was it lack of prayer?
I would not go so far. There is always a need to pray a little more, but Spain was a country where people prayed a lot. But the question is that those who speak of prayer, take in a kind of a one-eyed way Our Lord’s admonition: “Watch and pray” (Matt 26, 41). They pray, but they do not watch. They develop a spirit of prayer, but they do not develop a spirit of vigilance.
That is to say, they lack that suspicion in relation to evil, that concern to perceive their maneuvers, to unmask their game, to counter evil’s game with a game of their own making. If they had only done this, evil’s game would have been perceived, and this frightful disaster could have been avoided.
The Spaniards, however, did nothing of the sort. They had a treasure, but they neglected to keep it inside a jewel box. Rather, they threw it into the middle of the street, so that any thief could pick it up. Spain’s treasure was its moral qualities, the lack of a jewel box was its lack of vigilance. This magnificent outburst of heroism was annihilated, reduced to nothing in just thirty-five years.
You can see in the example of Spain one of the most sensitive blind spots of “white heresy” (a sentimental attitude that demonstrate above all in a certain type of mawkish piety and masks as “charity” towards one’s neighbour). The opposite of this must be one of the characteristics of the ultramontane (true counter-revolutionary).
Suspicion, Vigilance and Pugnacity With Oneself
The ultramontane is vigilant, he is suspicious, he is pugnacious. The non-ultramontane is not vigilant, is not suspicious, and is not pugnacious. To say things in their proper order, we should say suspicious, vigilant, and pugnacious.
What is suspicion?
What does suspicion mean here? Suspicion is the habitual realization that we live in a valley of tears. And that in this valley of tears, in this life in which man is in the state of trial, where he is in the state of Original Sin, he carries the sin of Revolution within himself. He is surrounded at all times with danger. Dangers within him, and dangers without of him. And he must have his attention on continuous alert against these dangers. This is the fundamental notion of suspicion.
In other words, in the spiritual life of every one – and I will never grow tired of repeating this – every single one of us must have, towards himself that suspicion which a normal man has towards a wild beast, towards a snake. I have a wild beast and a snake inside of me. There is a wild beast, a snake inside everyone. If I relax, however slightly, I nourish my defects; once I have nourished my defects, I will not have enough strength to overcome them, and my spiritual life comes tumbling down.
It is necessary that I be vigilant, that I have my eyes continuously turned to my interior. It is necessary that I be paying attention to what I am feeling, at what is going on within me, in order to root out the evil being reborn within me at every moment.
The image of a good man is not the naive and foolish man within whom the tendency to evil is not being reborn continuously. No. Rather, the image of a good and serious man, is he who knows that evil is being reborn within him at every moment, and who is in continuous combat against himself.
Every man has bad tendencies, which, if he consents to them, will lead him quickly to infamy. This is the notion which every one of us must have of himself. And as a consequence of this, on account of this suspicion each one of us has towards ourself, the obligation of vigilance is born, for he who is suspicious, watches.
What is vigilance?
What is it to be vigilant? What does it mean to watch? To watch is to be attentive, to be on the wait for, to be looking out for. It is to be in a continual state of mobilization. The attentive man watches continuously. He says to himself: If I know that I have inside of me a continuously flowing spring of the worst defects, and that this spring is constantly bubbling up new manifestations of these defects, then I must watch myself. And if I don’t watch myself, I am going to fall. The logical fruit of suspicion – suspicion here is a corollary of the belief in the dogma of Original Sin – is vigilance against oneself.
What is pugnacity?
Is vigilance enough? No, it is not enough. It is necessary to be pugnacious. And what is a pugnacious man? It is a man who, normally, habitually, is capable of beginning a fight at any moment. Even though it may be a most difficult fight, if he is pugnacious, he does not hesitate to enter the fray. If it is necessary for him to fight, he fights.
He is not a cretin who gets into brawls for no reason. Such a person is no more than an idiot. Rather, he is a man who does not hesitate to fight. Our pugnacity with ourselves implies that we are disposed to fight against ourselves at every moment. We must be disposed to say “NO” to ourselves, at every moment. And the first person to whom I have to know how to say “NO” to is myself, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira and no one else. It is I.
It is of no use to be forceful with others, to say “NO” to others, to be pugnacious with others. That is easy. The problem is being pugnacious with myself, to say “NO” to myself, when it is necessary to do so. And this must be so in every case when it is the case to say “NO,” and just as soon as it be the moment to say “NO.” There cannot be any delay in saying “NO.”
For this reason, the pugnacious man fights his own defects as soon as they appear. As soon as vigilance points out to him the birth of just one single bad tendency, the pugnacious man suffocates it, rejects it, and roots it out. If he doesn’t do this, he perishes, because the bad tendency grows within him, and he becomes weak. Bad tendencies have to be fought against in their inception, in their first manifestation, in their very first moment. It cannot be any other way.
Suspicion, Vigilance, and Pugnacity constitute the trilogy of Vigilance as applied to the interior life – the notion of manliness.
You have with that which was said the trilogy of vigilance as applied to the interior life.
Unfortunately, though, what characterized Catholic circles for the last twenty or thirty years before the mounting tide of progressivism (1930-1940) was a lack of these qualities. People had virtue, but they didn’t have vigilance. Vigilance was not talked about in any real sense of the word. Piety was sweet. It had no fiber, and no manliness. And piety needs to have manliness. The first element of manliness is manliness with oneself. This is the point of departure for true manliness.
Suspicion, vigilance, and pugnacity in relation to our neighbor
And how do we apply this trilogy of vigilance in relation to our neighbor? My neighbor is a man like I am. All the evil which I perceive in myself exists in everyone else too. I am neither better nor worse than the others. There is no place for super-humility or worm-eating here. Much less any manifestations of pride. It is the experience of 60 years of life. I am neither better nor worse than anyone else. We are all very bad, and we are worth nothing! The result is that if I have close relations with someone in whom I recognize the best qualities, but I see that he lacks vigilance, what kind of confidence can I have in him?
My neighbor as my friend
This doesn’t mean to say that I do not appreciate him. Of course I can appreciate him, but my appreciation is laced with suspicion.
Is he good? Many times I feel like saying: “He is. He is very good... for now. How long will he be like that? I don’t know, because I don’t see any vigilance in him.”
Now then, if I would not survive without exercising vigilance, why will he last? On the basis of this then, I must treat him respectfully, and kindly, but with an open eye! I don’t know what tomorrow will hold. At times I confide because I have to confide, because things cannot go ahead unless I confide in this one or that other one. But how many times this is a melancholic and sad act of confidence in which I say to myself, “How long will this confidence be justified? In what respect? To what degree? I don’t know, because I don’t see any vigilance.” Of course, my dear! It’s normal! Anything that is not this, is not serious! This is the truth and anything else is foolishness!
I can understand that one of you could say: “But,” - let’s suppose it is a beginner who is talking - “I have been an ultramontane for three years now, and you don’t trust me entirely? You don’t trust me as I trust you?” I would like to answer, “My dear young man, even if it were thirty years, if I don’t see vigilance in you, I will not trust you. How can I? Is it serious for me to say that I do? That would be playing the role of a fool.” Obviously, 2+2=4, that is the reality.
My neighbor as an enemy
This which unfortunately is so true in relation to our friends, should be all the more true in relation to our enemies. Who is our enemy? The dangerous enemy is not he who excites the virtue of vigilance in me, the aggressive man who insults me and who argues with me. Do you know who this “dangerous enemy” is? He is my neighbor.
My enemy can be my neighbor. It can be a classmate or a relative who smiles at me and flatters me, not because he truly wants what is good for me, but because he wants to win my sympathy so that afterwards he can instill in my soul, in a greater or lesser disguise, the neo-pagan maxims of the Revolution. Such a person is my enemy.
Why? Because everyone who gives me a bad counsel, or who exercises a bad influence over me, is an emissary of Satan to me. At a certain moment, Our Lord said this to St. Peter himself. St. Peter said something he should not have said, and Our Lord rebuked him saying: “Get behind me Satan!” (Matt. 16:23)
How many Satans do we have around us? Or better, how many Satans in whom we place the foolish confidence which the ultramontane, led so often by remnants of the “white heresy” within him, is inclined to deposit in this, that, or the other? This is something that evidently happens. And it happens frequently.
At times, it happens like this. The ultramontane asks a true catholic for a favor, and he is turned down. He goes to someone outside the ranks of this group of catholics and the favor is done. So he obtains outside, that which was denied him inside. He reasons with egoism and foolishness: “You see? Among these catholics where I ought to find my true brothers, I do not find them. I find them outside with these others. Now then, my true brother is he who helps me. Therefore, my true brother is outside the walls of these catholics, not inside.” This is a lie. I cannot call someone whose mentality intoxicates me, my brother! I cannot call someone who communicates death to my soul, my brother! I cannot call someone who separates me from Our Lady, my brother!
On the other hand, I ought to call that poor individual who belongs to this group and who refused my request, but who does not drag me to evil, my brother, even if he is an imperfect brother, a brother affected by the sad evil of semi-fidelity, a brother with lacunae, with defects.
I should not call him who takes me away from Our Lady, him who takes me away from my Mother, my brother. That is egoism. It is to put my interests in the center of everything.
How many times a boobified Catholic believes in things like this! What is the result? For many years our great difficulty in the apostolate was to persuade Catholics that heresy could infiltrate itself into the Church! What we had to deal with in this line... It was a matter of blind trust. Was this or was it not my dear veterans the very thing that opened the doors of Catholic circles to this infiltration? It was, obviously. You all know this.
Well then, it was the same in Spain. Splendid fruits of heroism destroyed on account of this boobishness, this lack of vigilance. You have here then a great Catholic nation, which had a primordial light to be a nation vigilant among all nations, a nation which gave to the Church holy inquisitors who were canonized, and which self-destructed on account of its lack of vigilance.
Where does this lack of vigilance come from? From a boobified piety. And this boobified piety was very much in vogue in certain circles in the last few years of the pre-Conciliar Church.
Let us not seek the applause of the revolutionaries. Were we to have the most celestial natural or supernatural qualities we would not obtain their applause. If Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself were to return to the earth in bodily for, they would crucify Him. “Quia vero de mundo non estis, propterea odis vos munus.” (Because you are not of this world, the world hates you – John 15:19)
Sloth, the defect which is opposed to vigilance
What is the defect which is opposed to vigilance? The capital vice which is opposed to vigilance is sloth. The slothful man is not vigilant, because vigilance requires an effort. The slothful man is not suspicious, because being it requires an effort to be on one’s guard. The slothful man is not pugnacious, because the fight is the greatest of all efforts. A month of work is easier than one day of fight. Everyone in the world knows this. This is true above all when the fight is against ourselves.
We must therefore beseech Our Lady that She root out from our souls the capital vice of sloth, which is exactly the sin that leads so many of us to boobishness, to mediocrity, and to a kind of chronic dissidence with the true catholics. You agree, agree, agree, but only from the mouth out. When the moment comes to act, something else happens. Why is this? Because the virtue of vigilance is lacking. The person has given himself to the capital vice of sloth. We must beseech Our Lady, therefore, to cure us, from the capital vice of sloth.
Are the evil vigilant? Yes, the evil are always vigilant. They keep themselves well informed as to who the good are and what they are doing. They inform themselves point by point, minutiae by minutiae.
The Reign of Mary and Vigilance
The Reign of Mary will either be the reign of vigilance or it will be as ephemeral as a dream. Because the higher the virtue, the stronger it will be if it’s vigilant, and the weaker it will be if it’s not vigilant.
The "bed" of St Francis of Assisi in La Verna (Italy)
I give you an example. Imagine a man who leads a life of tremendous mortification, like St. Francis of Assisi. He sleeps resting his head on a stone, and he does many other mortifications of this sort. If he is very vigilant and he does not make any exceptions to this regime, he goes little by little accustoming his whole being to this austerity. If however, he relaxes a little, the appetite for all that which he gave up jumps at him like a lion. He, who is stronger than everyone in not making the least concession, becomes weaker than everyone after he makes the least concession.
So will be the Reign of Mary. Evil will be continually reborning. The anti-Christian conspiracy will continue to exist, and if we do not have our eyes on it continuously it will win. The evil will be in their dens, not so much looking for other evil ones, but looking to see who is not vigilant in order to run after him and destroy him. He is the victim. He is the weak part of the sacred wall.
A parable as an example: a fact from the French Revolution
When I talked about the French Revolution on another occasion I cited the case of the Viscount of Montmorancy-Laval, who proposed in the Estates General the abolition of all titles of nobility. This man later fled to the United States with a small sum of money which he began to invest there in order not to die of hunger. At a certain moment he needed to execute a certain legal document. He went to a Notary in order to prepare it. The Notary addressed him as Mr. Mathieu de Montmorancy-Laval. He was indignant. “What do you mean? Why don’t you address me by my title of Viscount? Don’t you know that I belong to such an order of chivalry given by the King, and this, and that, and the other?” He was so beside himself with rage, that he wanted to beat the Notary with his walking cane. All because the Notary had not put down his title, the very title whose abolition he had asked for! That is to say, this miserable man with so little vigilance, had not believed that the revolutionaries would go so far as to implement the request he was making in the Estates General.
In this sense, the French Revolution is a parable of flames, a parable of fire.