Vital Importance of the Catholic Marvelous in the Apostolate

by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Saint of the Day, Saturday, April 7, 1973

“A Roman and Apostolic Catholic, the author of this text submits himself with filial devotion to the traditional teaching of Holy Church. However, if by an oversight anything is found in it at variance with that teaching, he immediately and categorically rejects it.”

 The words “Revolution” and “Counter-Revolution” are employed here in the sense given to them by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in his book Revolution and Counter-Revolution, the first edition of which was published in the monthly Catolicismo, Nº 100, April 1959.


Men should consider symbolism on Earth by looking at material realities and at one another as signifying angels and as signifying God himself. There are many episodes in human life that remind us of God, and as such, they are symbolic of God Himself. For example, the most common fact in this world: a father or a mother cradling a child. What meaning does that have? The true father, the true mother, is God Our Lord in the highest heaven; for He did not just beget us, He created us.

We know that the life of our bodies comes from our parents, but our soul is created and infused to our body directly by God. Our parents are not the procreators of our souls; they are the procreators of our bodies and the most important thing we have is the soul and not the body. God is the father of our souls. However, God is the creator of Adam and Eve, who are the parents of all men. He is therefore our Father par excellence. Because of this, God Our Lord is our real father and our real mother. Our biological parents are parents only by secondary participation. The affection of our father and mother remind us of God’s tenderness, affection and solicitude.

If you leaf through the Scriptures a huge number of comparisons can be found in which God alludes to Himself as being father, as being mother, and then goes on to show that He is more than father and mother. Some of God’s phrases to the sinner, found in the Old Testament, say: even if your father or mother forget you, I would not forget you. In other words, even if man were to commit acts so heinous that his father or mother would reject him. God still would not because He is the source of all mercy and never abandons any human creature. God takes father and mother as symbols of Himself, inviting man to see something higher and invisible, which is Him, of Whom the father and mother are merely a symbol.

Are only fathers and mothers symbols? All existing authority on earth is a symbol of God. Take for example the most common authority there is, a shepherd leading his sheep. Our Lord Jesus Christ compared Himself to the good shepherd. In other words, He created the sheep and the shepherd and established a shepherd-sheep relationship, which is the image of the God-man relationship. Thereby indicated that when observing a shepherd herding his sheep we should remember Him directing men, guiding the history of mankind as a shepherd directs the movements of his flock.

So you find a countless number of material facts that relate directly to supernatural facts. There is a most beautiful fact that one can see on the old communion cloths that contain drawings of deer drinking from water sources. What does that mean? It refers to a psalm: Sicut servus ad fontes aquarum ita desideret anima mea ad te Deum—Just as the deer goes to the water fountain, so does my soul desire Thee, O my God. In the animal kingdom you see the meaning of a soul’s desire for God; the source of all water and origin of all things. What a beautiful comparison: God is the fountain from which all things spring. This is truly majestic! We see that even a spring is a symbol of God.

So, just as a deer runs to find a spring and stops to quench its thirst eagerly, so our soul runs on the paths of life hungering and thirsting for God. So our soul stops before God and drinks God. This is from the Old Testament.

But the Church applies it to the New Testament. How can anyone drink God? Or how can anyone eat God? This is a prophesy of the Holy Eucharist. So drinking or eating God appeases the Eucharistic hunger, the desire to receive Communion. For example, if Communists were holding a Catholic prisoner, the first time they allowed that soul to receive Communion he would feel as if he were in heaven. He would receive Communion like a deer quenching his thirst in a cold spring. You see, this can have a thousand applications.

I refer again to authorities. Not only is a father a representative of God, but also a king is the representative of God. How many times in the Gospel and in the Old Testament, God is compared to a king, giving to understand that if we want to have an idea of ​​how He is, we should contemplate royal authority. Not the person of the king, who even might be a fool, but the king’s authority, attributes, mission, power, the royal office and royal authority. It’s a ray of the light given to us to understand God.

Professors are representatives of God. While God teaches His creatures about Himself, and thus making Himself known to His creatures, is represented by the teacher, who is God. The superior who directs work so things proceed correctly is a symbol of God because God is commanding the entire universe to produce and the same can be said of all authority. For example, the authority of a military general symbolizes God commanding the good angels to defeat the evil angels and we can find countless other applications where we find God symbolized.

Well then, we could ask: if all material things represent something spiritual, are things happening in the Church somehow a recapitulation of what happened in ancient Church history or in the life of Our Lord? How should we consider the meaning of those early events in the Church?

Now our good commentator Émile Mâle, a French art historian who was one of the first to study medieval, sacral French art and the influence of Eastern European iconography, applies this very high principle and makes very legitimate and very beautiful deductions.


He says: “The bishop has the fullness of the power of Order and is therefore pontiff in its plenitude.” As you know, the power of Order is that of celebrating Mass and giving the sacraments. However, being a priest is not the plenitude of the power of Order; that is being a priest with the power to consecrate other priests. This is a beautiful concept and it confirms the concept of spiritual prince, who is the bishop. The others can do something, but he has the power to enable others to do it, and so he is the prince. How beautiful!

Either a person is completely devoid of any notion of nobility or he is delighted with this. So the bishop is the pontiff; he has the fullness of priesthood. Now Our Lord Jesus Christ had the fullness of the priesthood, so the bishop represents Our Lord Jesus Christ. The whole Mass, its movements and history are the history of Christ’s life. So when the bishop enters and the choir sings, Our Lord Jesus Christ is born and the angels sing. While others move, the bishop goes to the altar and recollects himself, symbolizing the hidden life of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Who are the others? The Prophets, Apostles and St. John the Baptist who is the last of the prophets who paves the way for Him. Then you have the initial rites of the Mass, which represent the old prophecy.

Then the Apostles prepare the souls of the faithful to receive Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, and the Gospel is read. Finally, the bishop rises and begins the Mass. It is the beginning of the public life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which ends at Calvary, when the bishop consecrates and later communicates. Then he says: Ite, missa est—Go, the Mass is over, everything that had to be done has been done, all that had to be fulfilled has been fulfilled; go because all is perfect and with the choir chanting he leaves. The choir sings and he returns to the sacristy. It is Our Lord Jesus Christ retiring to the splendors of the Eternal Father.”

Isn’t it true that when one attends Mass like I just described, it has an altogether different meaning and is assisted with much greater fervor? Why? Because behind the visible reality is sought an invisible reality. Isn’t it true that life would have another meaning for you, another splendor if you accustomed yourselves to seek invisible things behind the visible? That is, the principles of the metaphysical world represented in the physical world.

For example, I am now giving you a quick lecture on the splendors of the Catholic Church. What is the meaning of this panorama? It has a thousand meanings. You may reflect upon the Apostles meeting with the neophytes whom they taught. They were repeating what I am doing now in ancient times.

You may say, but Doctor Plinio, Isn’t it conceited on your part to say you are repeating something the Apostles did? I answer: it would be intolerable pretentiousness if I were to compare myself to the Apostles equally. Comparing oneself is not placing oneself on an equal footing; comparing a firefly with the sun is valid because both emit light but I would never say that a firefly is equal to the sun, that is something completely different.

What am I doing with you? Apostolate. What is apostolate? It is what the Apostles did. Isn’t it nice to remember that two thousand years ago, men who came directly from fellowship with Our Lord Jesus Christ enchanted, taught others the good news in the dark night of paganism? Then, in the dark night of the neo-paganism, other men gathered around a man who repeats to them the good news and tells them things about Catholic doctrine they still didn’t know? Isn’t it true that this is good news for you? Gospel means good news. When you say the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ it means the good news of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Isn’t it true that this good news can give your life another dimension, another fragrance if you continually report back to historical episodes or invisible realities in Church history? It is good news because it changes your lives.

Isn’t it true that you should forge ahead? The Apostles were symbols of angels teaching one another about God. The angels taught one another about God—and then we reach the top of the summit, so high and profound that human words fail but the human spirit still sees a bit—the Three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity know each other entirely and perfectly and maintain a perfect inter-communication and this eternal communication is represented by the communication among the angels.

Then, at the very top of this summit we are in a kind of communication with God. As I speak, I see your gaze and I see what you are asking and also what you are not. With your look you make comments that stimulate me to say a word and in fact we are conversing. What we are doing here is an action that, in the final analysis, is modestly and humbly comparable to the relations among the Three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity.

So, here are forty-five minutes in the life of a Catholic when he always knows how to refer to higher, nobler and holier things with an insatiable appetite to climb to the highest heights. Isn’t it true that this would entirely change our lives?

Here I draw two applications. The first application is this: you see the world could be entirely different if the clergy were to simply teach these things. Imagine, for example, that tomorrow, all priests in all the churches of São Paulo, instead of talking about social issues and defending terrorists, would speak about the angels as I just have. Imagine they made a serious, blessed explanation about this truth of Catholic doctrine which all of them studied at the seminary. The truth is, that they neither preach this nor is it part of their conversation. Imagine if I said: in fifteen minutes I am leaving and a priest is coming who will give you the same sermon he is giving tomorrow at St. Cecilia’s Church, so those who wish to stay, do so…

Now if I told you the contrary: “a priest will now come to continue what I am saying, but you will hear it from the anointed lips of a true priest,” I believe that many would stay. That is normal; for the word of the priest is bread for the faithful. How I like to have a priest tell me about the things of God!

With this, you understand how great the power of the Church is. Now here is a problem for you to solve. In today’s apostolate, if you studied and learned to teach these things to your apostolandos at the right time, what effect would it have on your ability to attract?

This is a real problem. I understand that you may laugh and say that I am crazy. I answer; that would undoubtedly be true if you spoke out of turn; one must have a sense of timing, but could there be a surer thing to do than to say it at the right time? I had not the least intention of dealing with this matter with you. For if I had such a plan that one day I would talk about angels; on another day, about saints and so on, that simply would not work.

One needs to catch the imponderables, guide the lecture where one sees there is an appetite in those with whom one is doing apostolate. In your concrete case, I believe Our Lady helped me discern how I should direct my comments about this text, isn’t this true?

I wonder if your apostolate would not multiply a thousand times if you had many of these issues in your mind and knew how to explain these matters to others. For if you just throw one of these marvels at someone like a stone, it will not do him any good, but when you have a lot of these things in your mind, you can find the right topic at the right time—but you must know them first.

One of you could say, but Dr. Plinio, I don’t notice when my apostolando wants something specific. I feel like saying: my son, you have a five-dish menu and your apostolando has one hundred cravings. The end result is that in the best hypothesis you have a 5% chance of figuring out what he wants. We are not talking the same language. This won’t work. You need to study and learn well and then feel what it is that you have that he wants.

Only then will the apostolate in Brazil and abroad really catch and take off. For if when a priest speaks he can get people to marvel so much, so can a layman speaking at the proper time. In other words, we fail to grow TFP ranks even more because we are not ardently convinced that Catholic doctrine has as many wonders as I am talking about.

Perhaps once in a while I could analyze some point of Catholic doctrine from this point of view to help you do apostolate. It would be an interesting course and an interesting way to give our meetings. I don’t mean that all Saturday night meetings should be like this. For the Spirit blows where He wills and grace comes at the right time. Making a course of religion as a result of this meeting would not have the mobility that things of grace often have. But it would be a good idea to occasionally take something like this and analyze it in its highest aspects.

For example, last Saturday I spoke about the thurible. What invisible realities do the rising incense represent from the thurible; spreading incense while dancing through the air, filling the whole Church nave with incense! This would a beautiful topic to cover at a given time analyzed from the perspective we’ve just covered.

Well, you could memorize these things and speak about them at the appropriate time when you are certain that it will do good for your apostolate. Then you could speak about the combat of angels and demons that took place in heaven; and how the combat between angels and devils is mirrored by thousands of combats and wars on earth. Since that was a war between high-level beings, it is to be assumed that all possible ways of combat on Earth were included there, at least in root form. How beautiful it is for us to rise from earthly warfare to angelic warfare.

I must say that this vision of things fills my soul very much and gives me beautiful meaning in life. It is outstanding when you travel and make an effort to see symbolisms in everything. Imagine arriving in Paris at the foot of the medieval, Gothic, Tower of Saint Jacques, smack in the middle of Paris, surrounded by vegetation that creates a certain void around it in relation to the city; it is filled with pigeons and birds that land on it while children play at its feet. It is a lofty Gothic tower that has escaped destruction and is visited today by tourists from around the world.

We could ask, what supernatural realities are represented in the Saint Jacques Tower? I wonder if that tower does not symbolize an ultramontane who retains the entire medieval spirit in today’s world.

It is a lofty and combative war tower isolated from contemporary life surrounded by the “vegetation” of his faith, drawing from the richness he possesses and giving life to his own things, blessed by grace that falls like dew on the soil of his soul. The birds represent souls that aspire to higher things as they come to land upon it, and in the shadow of the tower, pure and innocent children are welcomed to play in his presence.

After thinking about the Tower of Saint Jacques in this fashion, doesn’t it take on an altogether different meaning because of its symbolic representation? This is how traveling is beautiful, this is how it is beautiful to live, this is how a soul prepares for heaven and this is what makes us desire to be with God.