by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Cristiandad, Barcelona, Nov. 1958
Cristiandad is honored to publish an article by a prestigious leader of Hispanic-American Catholicism, Brazilian Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira.
We have decided to publish his work in the original Portuguese since it is a sisterly language. In so doing, we render homage to the noble Brazilian nation, at the same time as we express our consonance of feelings with the magazine, Catolicismo, a herald of our own ideals in Portuguese-American lands.
One who looks at history with the eyes of the Faith, and knows how to discern the interventions of divine Providence in it in favor of Holy Church, is impressed with the coincidence and harmony between the missions of two great saints: St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
When the revolutionary cancer was forming
Both lived in France at a moment of capital importance for the history of the world. Working deep in the bosom of French society, germs from the great ideological movements of the 16th century continued to develop vigorously. While still discreet, tendencies toward rationalism, secularism and liberalism spread like a roaring underground torrent in key sectors of society. And the slow but inexorable sunset of aristocracy and guilds of artisans and merchants, coinciding with the ever more marked rise of the bourgeoisie, prepared remotely the social organization that would be born in 1789.
In a word, the Revolution was a movement coming from way back but with great strength from the outset, a strength that would soon become almost irresistible from the human standpoint, forming, as it were, a cancer in the entrails of an otherwise still healthy organism.
Historic processes like that must preferably be nipped in the bud; for if they are allowed to develop, they become more and more difficult to overcome.
Intervention of Providence to avoid the Revolution
Thus, it is important to note that precisely at the moment when a preventive action appeared more opportune and efficacious, Providence raised up in France two saints obviously with a special mission in that sense. A mission which, while primordially and directly related with the first-born daughter of the Church, would indirectly benefit the whole world. For if on the one hand the extinction in ovo of revolutionary germs in France could have avoided the calamities of the Revolution for the whole world, on the other hand a brilliant triumph of Religion in the leading European country of the 18th century could have had incalculable repercussions on the religious and cultural history of mankind.
The reign of Louis XIV lasted from 1643 to 1715. Saint Margaret Mary lived from 1617 to 1690, and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort was born in 1673 and died in 1716. As can be see, both the action of the Visitation sister to whom the Sacred Heart of Jesus communicated His messages of love and the preaching of the angelic apostle who taught “True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin” were contemporaries of the Sun King.
The anti-revolutionary meaning of the message of Paray-le-Monial
The readers of Cristiandad certainly already know the requests Our Lord made to Louis XIV through Saint Margaret Mary. They are aware that the Sacred Heart foresaw great evils for France but promised to obviate them if his requests were fulfilled. Finally, they know that while Louis XIV did not heed the message – perhaps deceived by still poorly known maneuvers and misinformation – in the Temple prison Louis XVI promised to fulfill it. But it was too late, and the Revolution followed its course to the detriment of us all.
What we must retain of these events, for the moment, is that starting from the center of France – Paray-le-Monial — Providence sought to kindle in that most Christian kingdom an ardent bonfire of moral regeneration to forestall the calamities that later developed.
For the same purpose, however, Providence was also raising up another movement in the West of France.
A precursor and patriarch of the Counter-revolution
Like St. Margaret Mary, St. Louis Marie appears to have had no specific political thought. He foresaw great catastrophes for his country and for the whole Church. But his gaze fell only on the most profound spheres in which those catastrophes were being prepared. His writings allude to a wide-ranging religious and moral crisis which would bring all kinds of evils as if coming out of a Pandora’s Box. To avoid those evils he preached ardent sermons to which the peasants of pious Western France listened with great eagerness. In them he expounded the spiritual doctrine that he condensed in many works, of which the most important were the Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, the Circular Letter to the Friends of the Cross, and the Love of Eternal Wisdom.
Well analyzed, these three monumental books – unfortunately little known – are the refutation of all the false doctrines that would give birth to the monster of the Revolution. Undoubtedly, it is a sui generis refutation. The works of St. Louis Marie are not primordially intended to persuade the skeptics, sensual, or naturalists that they were wrong. His main concern was to forewarn fervent and lukewarm Catholics against those errors. Thus, his whole dialectics consisted in inculcating love of Wisdom to forewarn his readers against secularism or Luke warmness; to instill love of the Cross to prepare Catholics in an essentially sybaritic and mundane society against sensuality and an unbridled love of pleasure; to inculcate devotion to Our Lady through “holy slavery” to forearm readers constantly exposed to the snares of that real crypto-Calvinism that was Jansenism.
The dialectic is the same in all his books. He argues with Scripture, Tradition, the history of the Church and hagiography, that a Catholic cannot compromise with the spirit of the times and that every middle-of-the-road position between that spirit and a life of piety is nothing but a dangerous illusion of one’s senses or the devil.
Our Lady in Montfort’s preaching
It is necessary to note, in this whole system, that devotion to Our Lady, particularly as Queen of the Universe, Mother of God and men and Mediatrix of all grace, plays an absolutely central role. It is through this devotion that a faithful can attain, from God, Wisdom and love of the Cross. For Mary Most Holy is the means through which Christ came to us and through which we can go to Him. The more united with Mary we are, the more we will be united with Jesus. It is in Marian souls – intensely, ardently, filially Marian – that the Holy Ghost forms Jesus. Without Her one’s best efforts at sanctification will end in disaster. With Her, that which seems inaccessible to our weakness becomes accessible, the ways are, as it were, cleared, the doors open, and our forces, drawn from the channel of all graces, are multiplied a hundredfold. What really matters, thus, is to be a true devotee of Mary.
But this devotion has counterfeit versions. The Saint himself shows us what they are and warns against minimalists, and above all those who content themselves with a vain devotion made up only of formulas and external acts of piety. Perfect devotion, he teaches, consists in being slaves of Mary by giving her all our goods, spiritual and temporal, and by doing everything for Her, with Her and in Her.
Counter-revolutionary fruits of St. Louis’ preaching
St. Louis Maria was fiercely persecuted. Prelates, princes of the Church, the government itself fought him. Only the Pope and a few French bishops supported him. But in Brittany, Poitou, and Aunis he freely exercised his preaching, which lasted through many generations that remained profoundly faithful. When, during the Revolution, Christian civilization needed heroes to defend it in French lands, they arose more or less throughout the most Christian kingdom. But in a certain region the whole people took up arms in a massive, compact, impetuous and indomitable reaction. They were the chouans, whose memory no Catholic can evoke without the most profound and religious emotion. They were grandchildren of the same peasants St. Louis had formed in devotion to Our Lady. No impious and sacrilegious Revolution arose in the lands where St. Louis had preached and been heeded; on the contrary, there was crusade and Counter-revolution.
St. Margaret Mary and St. Louis de Montfort are very much needed today
It matters little to know up to what point the movements of Paray-le-Monial and the Vendee in the 17th century knew about each other. Their importance is not circumscribed to that time. Sons of the Church in this tragic 20th century, we can and must see both movements from only one perspective, and, united, make them our spiritual treasure.
The essential nexus that binds them together is so clear to the conscience of any individual faithful that it is not even necessary to insist about it. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the richest, most extreme and most delicate manifestation of our Redeemer’s love for us. And the way to go to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is through the Mediatrix of all graces. And thus one goes to the Heart of Jesus through the Heart of Mary. Apparently, St. Louis Grignion did not come to know this latter devotion, upon which St. Anthony Mary Claret shed so much light. But it is the point of junction between the message of Paray and the preaching of the Marian apostle of the Vendee; a point of junction which, be it said in passing, stood out so much in the Fatima apparitions.
But there are other links in addition to these great fundamental bonds. We will understand them well, in the glimpse of an eye, if we consider what France, Christian civilization and the world would be like today if the movements of Paray and the Vendee had been victorious in the 17th and 18th centuries. Instead of the Revolution, with its execrable sequels that drag us into the present vortex, we would have the kingdom of justice and peace: Opus Justitiae pax, as the coat of arms of Pius XII reads. Yes, the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ, which we are drawing ever farther away from.
This makes clear how extremely opportune the message of Paray and the work of St. Louis Marie actually are. They teach us that the underlying problem generating the present crisis is religious and moral. And they indicate the supernatural means whereby the universal Revolution of our days, the insolent and depraved daughter of the French Revolution, can be crushed. Only a good employment of these means can give rise, in the cultural, social or political fields, to reactions that prepare on this earth the Reign of Christy through the Reign of Mary.