Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The Voice of the Popes
Thus, Pope Pius X was absolutely right when he desired as lay collaborators of the Church
sound Catholics, firm in faith, solidly instructed in religious matters, truly submissive to the Church and especially to this supreme Apostolic See and the Vicar of Jesus Christ. They must be men of real piety, of manly virtue, and of a life so chaste and fearless that they will be a guiding example to all others.
If they are not so formed it will be difficult to arouse others to do good and practically impossible to act with a good intention. The strength needed to persevere in continually bearing the weariness of every true apostolate will fail. The calumnies of enemies, the coldness and frightfully little cooperation of even good men, sometimes even the jealousy of friends and fellow workers (excusable, undoubtedly, on account of the weakness of human nature, but also harmful and a cause of discord, offense and quarrels)- all these will weaken the apostle who lacks divine grace. Only virtue, patient and firm and at the same time mild and tender, can remove or diminish these difficulties in such a way that the works undertaken by Catholic forces will not be compromised. (17)
For this same reason Pope Benedict XV wanted lay apostles "to be deeply penetrated by the truths of the Catholic Faith, so that knowing one’s duties and rights, one acts in accordance with them." And the Pontiff continues:
We sum up our thought in one word: Jesus Christ must be formed in the souls of the faithful before they can fight for Him. If new circumstances seem to demand new works, those who…have been well prepared for the fight for the law, will perform them with no difficulties. (18)
In his Apostolic Letter on Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Pius XI adds that
those who do not possess a patrimony of interior virtues, we do not consider them apt for the tasks of the apostolate: the same as the bronze which resounds or the tympani which reverberate, they could not render a service, rather, they would harm the cause they pretend to defend: the experience of preceding times already proved it. (19)
It might be useful to mention yet another topic from the same Apostolic Letter:
The youth inclined by nature to exterior works and always in a hurry to throw themselves in the battlefield of life, should be led to feel that before thinking of others and the Catholic cause, it will be necessary for them to fight for their own interior perfection by means of study and the practice of virtues. (20)
As we can see, nothing could be more conclusive.
There is no better commentary on this luminous doctrine of the Popes than the aforementioned book by Abbot Chautard, to which we refer those readers that desire more extensive argumentation. From all that has been said, let us merely retain the consequence drawn from the writing of Pius XI: Catholics recruited by Catholic Action in a disorderly and hasty fashion will be noxious to the cause of Holy Mother Church.
One last argument remains to be considered: if Pius XI convoked all the faithful to Catholic Action, how can one assert that only some should actually join Catholic Action?
This is very easily answered. If Pius XI regarded as noxious to have the collaboration of "oves, boves…et serpentes," how can one maintain that it was his intention to convoke everyone? In fact, what he did was to suggest that everyone acquire sufficient formation so that, if and when proper authority deemed them apt, they could come to work in the great militia of the apostolate. "For many are called, but few are chosen." (21)
17) St. Pius X, Encyclical Il Fermo Proposito, June 11, 1905, no. 11, at www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_x/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-x_enc_11061905_il-fermo-proposito_en.html
18) Benedict XV, Letter Accepimus Vos, Aug. 1, 1916 at www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xv/letters/documents/hf_ben-xv_let_19160801_accepimus-vos_it.html. (Our translation.)
19) Pius XI, Apostolic Letter Singulare Illud.
21) Matt. 22:14.