Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Crusade of Enthusiasm


16th SEFAC’s Closing Session [*]

January 21, 1973 [**]

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Conference audio (in Portuguese; text translation in Italian)

Reverend Father Olavo Trindade, Mr. Vice-President of the National Council, Members of the National Council, ladies and gentlemen, dear SEFAC participants.

 It is incumbent on me to say a few closing words after a few days of intense and fruitful work in the light of the great ideals that have just been sung in the beautiful lyrics of the Spanish-language TFP hymn composed by the President of the Argentine TFP, Mr. Cosme Beccar Varella. Having spent these days in the light of these great ideals, you now prepare yourselves, in the warmth of this closing session, for supreme farewells that will take you back to your everyday struggles.

 Every day struggles which, for a TFP militant, are undoubtedly not light but heavy and laden with shadows, a fight that for this very reason deserves from the one who presides over the National Council of the oldest TFP, the Brazilian TFP, a word of encouragement, guidance and courage that invites you to the combat.

 Inviting for combat, uttering fighting words, combating for an ideal in a bloodless ideological struggle waged by legal means to achieve a great ideal: How all this is far removed from the basic impulses that drive millions and millions of men, and why not say it, that drive whole crowds and gigantic masses in this highly troubled, shaken and carefree Western world, so attached to the enjoyment of life!

 Indeed, it can be said that if the West is shaken and troubled it is because it is dominated by the concern that, since this earthly existence is something to be enjoyed in its entirety, one has to use it for one’s own benefit, and to the last drop. We must live under the sign of utility and pleasure so that, from this life, we take to the grave as few hardships as possible, and as many joys and advantages as possible.

 This neo-pagan conception is reminiscent of the paganism of all time. It reminds me of the tomb of Queen Nitocris, the famous Egyptian sovereign who was buried on top of a portico in a city of the Old Kingdom in which she reigned. Back then, many centuries before Our Lord Jesus Christ came to the world, she had inscribed on that portico this phrase which is so twentieth century: “You, passer-by, eat, drink, rejoice and sleep while you are alive; for after death there is no pleasure, no existence, and it’s all over.”

 This profoundly pagan mentality used to drive all the masses before Our Lord Jesus Christ, and started to drive them again more and more as they gradually abandoned Our Lord Jesus Christ and the ideals that never die and are now returning to the world. That pagan ideal completely diverts man's attention from his true reason for being, from the true meaning of life, and therefore turns the existence of a TFP militant in the contemporary world into a living contradiction – something we do not hide but are proud of.

 Indeed, while some people only look forward to a hypothetical future which they hope to be bright because they do not want to see the truth; while others look down, concerned only with the present day and with their immediate material interests, the TFP militant walks with his eyes on high, looking straight at eternity, proud of what he is, not bothering with mockeries, laughter or campaigns of silence, defamation or isolation. Proud because he has his eyes fixed on Our Lady, on the Catholic Church and on Christian civilization, and because he finds in this chivalrous pride the very motive, joy and meaning of his daily existence.

 This is how, ladies and gentlemen, the portal that separate some from others can be called the portal of holy pride. Because we as disperse, leaving this environment in which everything tells us about our ideals, and penetrate the great crowds in which these ideals are so often defiled and denied, we take with us the standard, with our rampant lion and under it the words that appear on the standards you have received as a souvenir of this SEFAC: God vult! - God wills it!

 God wants, in the twentieth century, to have sons who will do His will, sons who rejoice and are proud of remaining in His service while so many abandon Him; sons who are proud of the traditions that so many cast aside; sons who, like new Crusaders and knights of the twentieth century – as the motto God wills it reminds us of the Crusades and of Chivalry – exclaim: God wills it! Sons who penetrate ignorant and hostile crowds in which, nevertheless, unexpected sympathies arise here and there, to carry out this great Crusade, the Crusade of the twentieth century. It is an extension of the TFP which, having begun so tiny on a ground floor of a small building preserved today almost as a relic, at the Martim Francisco Street, is now developing throughout a whole continent, from the icy cold pampas all the way to North America; transposing the ocean, it has penetrated the lands of Portugal, Spain, and is now making its good odor felt and giving rise to hopes in France, Italy, and England.

 This great Crusade, this Crusade of twentieth century Knights, this Crusade of pride requires me to say a few words about this pride as we part ways.

 Let me emphasize from the outset that by pride I mean panache, valor, idealism, and therefore the idea is a world apart from the cheap and crass utilitarianism of an epoch in which material and physical values, body, health and gold are worshipped and appear to be the only values worth living for; and for the sake of which, men work and sacrifice everything to gain advantages and rise in life until death reaps them and they ingloriously fall to the ground. 

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira talk in St Michael auditorium

Pride. What does pride mean here? Without a doubt and above all, pride is a feeling, a state of soul in which the person has a faith that doubts nothing, a solid and unalloyed enthusiasm. The knight-errant departed full of enthusiastic pride when he set out on his expeditions to do justice, to defend the poor, widows and orphans, and to make the Law of Christ reign. When a Crusader would depart to wage war, he would leave full of enthusiastic pride; proud for being a crusader, proud for being a knight errant.

 What was the fundamental reason for this pride? It was, above all, the Roman Catholic and apostolic faith. The Crusader had faith, the knight-errant had faith. He knew that the Catholic faith is the true Faith; he believed in it with all his strength and fully drew all its consequences. He had no doubt, and that certainty caused a great light to be born in his soul. What was that great light? It was the light of loving enthusiasm. It was not enough to have faith; it was not enough to believe. He loved the faith he had, understood that it was the greatest value of his existence, and that it was worth more than all the things on this earth; he did not despise the goods of this earth – tradition, family, property, wealth, position, culture, prestige – but he conceived them as true values only when lived in function of the Catholic faith and in the hierarchical order established by the Catholic faith.

 How lively, in the soul of the knight, were the great affections of this earth such as filial affection, affection for one’s motherland, for superiors, conjugal affection, fraternal affection, paternal affection, affection among friends! How much medieval chronicles tell us about the feats performed by those knights under the impulse of those affections!

 However, it must be said that for them, those affections were hierarchical, dominated and enlightened by a superior affection which was the affection for Our Lord Jesus Christ: an affection that does not even deserve this name because it is more than affection: it is adoration, veneration, filial love for Our Lady, and love for the angels and saints who constitute the heavenly Court.

 But it is not enough to speak of love: it is necessary to speak of something that our century does not know, something that our egalitarian century is forgetting more and more: it was not horizontal love, it was not the kind of love for Our Lord Jesus Christ that would lead to blasphemously call Him “the boss,” but it was a love full of admiration. Medieval man had admiration. And as Mr. Cosme Beccar told me a short time ago, Aristotle said that “to think is to admire, to live is to admire.” The man of the Middle Ages lived intensely because he lived in admiration.

He had a most profound and complete admiration for the human and Divine figure of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore he admired all those who followed Him and lived on this earth adorned and marked by the sign of the Faith. And for that reason he also had the greatest admiration and veneration for the Roman Catholic Church, Queen of souls, Queen of humanity, and Teacher of truth. And since what we admire somehow penetrates our soul, and medieval man had his soul filled with immense admiration, he was in some way the consubstantiation of that admiration. 

 St Louis IX prisoner in Egypt

Medieval man was to the Church like a mirror is to the sun, facing it, and open to receive all its rays. He receives those rays in full and thus sends them forth with extraordinary fullness. Medieval man, and above all the medieval knight, received the sun of faith in his soul and thus spread the faith all around him. And he not only spread it on extraordinarily fruitful missions but made the faith admired even by those he could not convince about it.

 Thus, for example, when made a prisoner by the Mohammedans, St. Louis the King of France, a glorious ancestor of our dear Dom Bertrand, was chosen by them to be an arbiter of their quarrels. For they knew that complete righteousness, virtue and seriousness could not be found except in one who was a perfect servant of Christ Himself, Whom, oh mystery of iniquity, they nevertheless fought against.

 This faith, this admiration filled medieval man with enthusiastic pride. It filled him with pride because he had that light in its fullness. And though others did not recognize that light in him, though others denied that light, though others took up the sword to overthrow him because of the light he spread all around, he gave no importance to these facts. Sure of himself, he travelled long distances, broke up the ranks of his adversaries, distributed blows on all sides, killed a thousand on his right and a thousand on his left, as the Scripture says of the perfect Catholic man, and won memorable battles.

 Battles that sometimes took eight hundred years, as did the Spanish and Portuguese Reconquista. Think about the meaning of eight hundred years of warfare! We are in the year 1973; the time span from the 1173 to 1973 was the time it took for the Reconquista. There were many generations of knights who fought. They fought hard, with pride, enthusiastically, merrily, with hope, and so there was no obstacle they failed to overcome. 

Triumph of the Holy Cross - Navas de la Tolosa battle

Marceliano Santa María - Burgos - Spain

What is more, as they conquered and enlarged the empire of Christ, both on the Rhine front and on the Spanish-Portuguese front, Christian civilization gradually spread as they passed, as if they had been spreading flowers. Cathedrals were erected, universities built, the magnificent structure of feudal society established.

 Why did that happen? It happened because that whole society was enthusiastically proud of being Catholic. It lived off the joy of being Catholic, off the admiration for that in which it believed; and since it believed in the truth, God blessed it in both at war and at peace. In war, they won; in peace, they built. And when the Middle Ages came to an end, these centuries of enthusiasm and chivalry left behind the greatest amount of progress humanity had ever achieved.

Therefore, this enthusiastic pride, my dear friends, is not only the feeling of possessing a higher good but it is a deeply humble feeling, while at the same time profoundly gallant and warlike. The true medieval knight was not proud of being Catholic because the profession of faith adorned him in the eyes of men. Christian pride, the enthusiastic pride of true chivalry, the chivalry of the Crusades rather than the decadent and quixotic chivalry of troubadours and courtly love, the true Chivalry achieved that law of love of which St. Augustine spoke: man carried enthusiasm to the point of being proud only of God and forgetting about self. Whereas false enthusiasm, pride without humility, causes man to be so proud of himself as to forget about God.

It was, therefore, an unpretentious pride. But it was such an enthusiastic pride that in his Introduction to the Life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Montalembert recounts an episode that profoundly impressed me: a Moor prisoner traveling through the lands of Europe and looking at the great cathedrals, asked who had built them. And someone pointed out some lay brothers of a religious Order who were there and who had participated in the great work. And he, after analyzing those lay brothers so unpretentious, humble, and effaced, thinking so much about God and so little about themselves, asked the perfectly sagacious question: How can it be that such humble men managed to build such lofty monuments?

 The reason is that the true Catholic is enthusiastically proud of God, for the cause of the Church, but is humble in regard to himself. He does not want glories. He wants victory for God alone, according to the famous supplication we find in Scripture: Non mihi, Domine, non mihi, sed nomine tuo da gloriam: Render glory not to me, o Lord, but to thy Name. Let the Church shine, let Christian civilization shine forth, let the cause of tradition, family and property win as pillars of the Reign of Mary to be born from the remnants of the Christian order that was once implanted on earth, as a link arching over the night of the Revolution, a link between the medieval past and the world to come; let family, tradition and property shine forth to render glory to Our Lady.

 That is what a TFP militant desires. He wants the standard to be raised high in public places, that this motto is known to all and project its beneficial and exorcizing influence upon today’s world. The motto remains, the ideal remains, the fruit of one’s work remains. The militant will pass; all of us here will pass. Heaven and earth will pass, but one day we will have our reward.

 On that supreme day, when the Son of God comes to this world with great pomp and majesty to judge the living and the dead, and the angel sounds the trumpet to resurrect both the good and the bad for their punishment or reward, may we find ourselves, through the prayers of Mary and through Divine mercy, among those who will hear that most glorious invitation which contains all the glories that man can imagine: Come, chosen ones, to partake of my glory. You fought for me. You were not ashamed of Me on earth, while men were ashamed of my Name; and so I now confess you before the angels of God. Come and occupy the thrones of glory to which you have been called.

 That will be the moment when a great hymn of enthusiasm will reverberate across the celestial choirs, an immense chant of thanksgiving will rise from the souls of all men born of Adam and Eve and redeemed by Our Lord Jesus Christ, and history will be consummated. This history in which we will have played a role with our sacrifice, self-denial, and struggle. We will have been part of those who, in the twentieth century, repeated the feats of the warriors of bygone ages and paved the way for the warriors of the ages to come.

 We are sons of this militant Church, which will fight until the end of times because she was established to fight evil in a permanent challenge whereby, looking at evil, however powerful, influential, ornate and prestigious it may be, men will know how to look at it with contempt, tell it the whole truth, attack and overcome it in the name of Jesus and Mary.

 You, my dear friends, will now begin the battle of everyday life. You will enter into daily life and be assailed by all the factors of disintegration of today’s world. You will have to face insolent and arrogant sexual aggression, and do so with enthusiastic pride. Unashamed of the virtue you were called to practice, but enthusiastically proud of a virtue that was given to you and which you would not have if Our Lady had not obtained it for us on the Cross at the moment that Our Lord expired.

 But you will do so with this enthusiasm full of love, full of self-assurance, with integral faith and love, confessing the ideal of Catholic purity, and disdaining the disdain of those who dare mock the children of light in the name of impurity.

 You will represent tradition at a time when progress is spoken of as contrary to tradition. By your attire and your bearing, you will constantly challenge those who think that it is a manifestation of character to trample tradition and follow other people’s examples like a bunch of sheep.

 You will be sacred, standing and indignant inconformity. With strength and enthusiasm, you will affirm the necessity of decorum, bearing, and a noble attitude to express a noble soul, in a world in which metaphysical, philosophical and religious values are so well expressed by the word nobility that Pius XII wrote that nothing is preserved, even in genuine democracies, without truly aristocratic institutions. You will represent the nobility within the degradation and degeneracy of the contemporary world.

 You will have to fight a thousand times, and perhaps even with those close to you. Scripture says that man’s enemy is often the one near him. And you will have to face this struggle with gallantry, love, and irreducible and inflexible intransigence.

 You will play the game and do the work of fidelity. But when you pass by, what will happen is precisely what this audience is a proof of: While crossing the seas of incomprehension, some souls from here and there will look at you. Many will say: how marvelous! And--why not?—some will begin to applaud you. And others will begin to follow you. And just as we were few in this march toward the sun, toward glory, toward the Reign of Mary, and yet today we are spread across a whole continent and arrive at the Old World, so also our ranks will thicken as we walk together along the way.

 And this world which is losing confidence in itself will look at your self-assurance, will look at your faith and will begin to listen to your voice more and more. The proof that the TFP does not preach in a desert, the proof that its voice is understood, is this historical and indisputable fact: all our campaigns have been victorious, and at this very moment, the TFP is addressing Brazil’s population. In a campaign of just over a month, we have sold more 40,000 copies of the Pastoral Letter by Dom Antonio de Castro Mayer, when an edition of 4,000 copies is deemed large for any book.

 This means that the public listens to us, that the public has confidence in us, that while one sector or another may at times listen to the voice of defamation, in times of great and serious crises we are listened to and followed.

 And thus something is maturing, transforming, germinating, as spring germinates under the snow. You are those germinating springtime seeds; you and all those that you are called to bring. My dear friends, be proud, enthusiastic and courageous! Go, and may Our Lady accompany you so that, when returning here next year, you will have brought many more so we can celebrate together the victory of Our Lady today, as we await the great victories of tomorrow.

 Deus vult! God wills it! Enthusiasm for Our Lady! 





[The Crusader of the 20th century: Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira - Roberto de Mattei]

[**] The preceding article is taken from an informal lecture Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira gave on January 21, 1973. It has been translated and adapted for publication without his revision.