What Characterizes Providential Men?

by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Saint of the Day, Thursday, December 30, 1965


“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.


They asked me to comment on a text about Charlemagne by Léon Gautier, an excellent 19th-century historian of the Middle Ages.

“Some small minds of our time are delighted to scoff at the vast and elevated souls among us who still believe in providential men. However, when you believe in God’s action on men and nations, nothing is more natural than to admit that certain people have a mission in history – and that is how they become known and consecrated. While God could rule the world directly without intermediaries, He deigns to make us participate in the administration of His immense empire. To lead men made of spirit and flesh, He uses men made of spirit and flesh. He sends them in due time, shapes them from all eternity, and without taking anything from their free will, uses them with their virtues to act on an entire nation, an entire race, and on the whole world. This is how God prepared Charlemagne; this is how He used him to build back in the world, the threatened kingdom of His Christ, and the destinies of His Church.”


With the academic precision typical of the 19th century, I think this text states, if not all, at least much of the essentials about providential men, in a definite sense of the word. Therefore, according to God’s intentions, there are two kinds of men.

Broadly speaking, all men serve Divine Providence and are, therefore, providential men even when they go to hell, even when they arouse heresies or commit crimes. In this case, they are providential a contrario sensu: they are still serving Divine Providence because God draws good from evil. Through another process, by the contrast between evil and good, He obtains that good becomes more worthy of being loved, and in this way, God still does good for souls.

Therefore, in a very broad sense, everyone is providential.

But there is a more providential sense, which is that of men whom He not only tasks with leading a common life and serving themselves but whom He marks to carry out a mission which is either for the benefit of temporal society or that of spiritual society. But in the vast majority of cases, providential men are obviously raised for the benefit of spiritual society and not temporal society, or temporal society insofar as it increases the glory of God in this life and promotes the salvation of souls in the next.

What characterizes a providential man?

In the first place, he must accomplish a task far greater than himself. No providential man has a stature up to what he should do because, in general, what God requires of providential men is so great that as to exceed human capacity. Secondly, because this providential action always has a supernatural aspect, which is the operation of grace on souls to whom a man can be a channel, but of which he is not the author; for no man can do what grace does, and so providential action is always much greater than providential man.

That is why we have great providential men. God takes men of great ability – Charlemagne was one of them – and uses these men to accomplish tasks even greater than they are.

But God can also choose souls that are not great but rather small, from whom He will draw fruits for something providential.

The spiritual childhood school of St. Therese of the Child Jesus has something in this sense. She was not exactly a great person, humanly speaking, except in some ways. But she was big in what was seemingly small, which is where the spiritual doctrine of the little way came out. It is an immense achievement in the history of spirituality and, therefore, of what is most central in the history of the world, which is the history of the Church. And it arose from her smallness. Therefore, the first trait of providential men is this: whoever he may be, his task is immensely greater than him.

Secondly, a providential man, in general, is made in such a way that he is only good to do the providential thing for which he was made. If he tries to do anything other than that, at least in 999 cases out of 1,000, if not in all cases, he goes nowhere. He is all built for that, all made for that, and good only for that. And if he does not do that, he is like salt that does not salt, made to be thrown out on the street and be trampled underfoot.

Another characteristic of a providential man: He has an understanding of, appetite for, and sensitivity to his mission that non-providential men do not. He has a perception of the thing, a sense of the thing, its importance, how it should be, the means to attain it; he has the means to bring people together to do that; he has the tactics, he has the blows, he has the ways to achieve that. We see that in a splendid way in the life of Charlemagne.

He was the powerful Emperor, the Patriarch, the magnificent, who made people enthused as a King should. He was the warrior who terrified all opponents of the Church. Even as a grandfather, he had no weakness. His white beard was said to be flowery. We can understand the sparkles, lights, and flowers on the white beard of a man who had grayed fighting for the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, while at the same time, he had a sense of Catholic Civilization that made him a theologian. He intervened in councils, discussed with bishops, and without being considered anticlerical, it was often his opinion that prevailed. Yet he had never studied theology. He would appear in regional councils of the Bishops of Gaul and demand that the thing goes well. He already had his suspicions and reasons. I will not go into that thorny point in history.

On the other hand, he was a tremendous warrior, but not just an individual warrior, not only a general but the head of a family of souls within his army. He gathered around him his famous pairs, which were reproductions of him, and these pairs, in turn, gathered the whole army around him. His army was almost like a religious order whose chief marched toward the enemy, praying and singing. Charlemagne led them all, brandishing his sword, exposing himself to all risks, and always fighting for the Catholic Church and for Christian Civilization. This is another trait of a providential man.

Another characteristic of a providential man, which is curious and very different from what people with a modern mentality imagine, is this. People with a modern mentality, especially in my dear ultra-new generation, a little glassy-eyed, etc., imagine that a providential man is a comic book hero who does everything, and it all works out. He has a magic eye and gets into trouble and escapes like superman. In the end, everything works out, and he never has a setback.

The providential man is the opposite of that. He is always in dire straits, in which many things are in danger of failing if he does not try hard and, above all, if he does not pray much and place all his confidence in Our Lady. This serious predicament, in which the thing almost crashes, often makes him a humiliated, persecuted, despised man with all the appearances of a defeated man. He is not always victorious; he is not always a man who has turned the heads of others into the ground on which he walks, but his head is often the ground for others to walk on.

If he confides in Providence and is faithful – the providential man is often not faithful, and things do not work out -, Providence assists him, supports him, encourages him, fires him up, and makes his work succeed. A providential man is absolutely subject to this requirement, namely, that the disproportion between his task and he appears clearly in the eyes of others and often finds himself in such situations that make it entirely clear that he would achieve nothing if it were not for grace. Without his fidelity, he would be devastated.

You may say: “But Dr. Plinio, I don’t know if this is quite true because I see that all providential men in history always worked out.”

I say: yes, my dear friend. That is because history only mentions the providential men who were successful. Many a providential man have been cast on the margins of history because they weakened, softened, slackened, sold themselves, or deteriorated, and thus were blown to bits.

You will say: “Well, but there are some that Providence favored so much that they couldn’t go wrong.” I answer: That is true. The Apostles, for example, were confirmed in grace. But that is a rare occurrence. Again, how many providential men are cast out on the road! On one of these roads was a fig tree, and from it hanged a providential man whose name was Judas Iscariot. So beware about optimism regarding providential men. This is so true that Bishop Mayer told me that, while being theologically certain that the Apostles were confirmed in grace, they did not know it. They fought and fought as if they were not.

Is there any other characteristic of the providential man?

We could say there is an imponderable characteristic. In general, a providential man has a certain aura. From his beginning, people who deal with him perceive certain predestination, an unusual factor that makes him a little separate and a little different from others; this appears in him, for example, as life appears on the human skin. (Who can say which part of this hand life is in? But look at this hand, and you see that it is not that of a corpse, but a living hand).

There is also something imponderable in the providential man who makes his mission appear in the eyes of everyone as if it was touched by Providence, sometimes from the cradle. This is a tremendous thing because a mega person thinks that he was prepared for something from the cradle. A mega person tends to play providential man, to feel a certain aura, and to manufacture the characteristics of that aura.

I was a contemporary of providential men that history has completely eliminated. I was not sure they were providential, but they were. There were a lot of technical points to indicate a providential man: his sleeves, his way of holding the sleeves, tying his tie, his airs, and style, etc., which indicated a providential man.

The age of socialism killed a lot of that. Everyone wants to be made of glass, and the glass man wants to be non-providential: a John Nobody to sink into his own “chacunnière”. But some remnants of megalice always float around the world, so this observation is always worth making.

The curious thing is this: What differentiates a mega from a providential man? It is something that few see, but it is a safe rule. All a mega wants is to show off and cause a good impression on others. As to the providential man, no matter how weak and sometimes even miserable, we gradually realize that he has some mission from Providence. That he really loves, sees, and understands earnestly in his heart. The thau is the sign of the vocation, has a relevant role in the vocation, and shines in it as a sign despite, at times, very thick clouds. This is precisely the point that indicates a permanent call from Providence to a great thing.

You can see how I went from dealing with a providential man to treating a man with a vocation. Is a man with a very special vocation, a vocation to join the Catolicismo movement, a providential man?

I say that he is a providential man within limits. He is not the entire Catolicismo.  But if he has a true thau and a vocation, he participates in the providentiality of the movement, and the movement is certainly a providential one. That is what the thau is in each one. It is a very special call for a very special work, a call for a higher understanding, which is sometimes addressed to people who are not very intellectual, to have a more special love, a more complete dedication, something that makes an individual faithful to his thau to be such that life would have no meaning for him except in function of his vocation.

That would be the note or factor of dedication that exists in it. In the first waves that constitute them, providential movements are formed by men who are providential men in greater or lesser degrees. So, dear providential men, not only those who are present here but of others who hear this recording, what prayer should we say to Our Lady as the year draws to an end?

She raised us when we did not deserve it. She continued to give us the graces that we often do not deserve. She has had, therefore, free and special love for us, and Hers is the highest of loves because it is not only made of tenderness but of the gift of a great cause, a great flag, a great service, and above all, a great sacrifice to make.

What should we ask Our Lady for this New Year?

In the Litany of Invocations, there is an invocation that I think we should constantly repeat, at least those who have an inner movement of the soul to do it: Ut mentes nostras ad caelestia desideria erigas, te rogamus audi nos – “that Thou may raise our souls to desires of heavenly things, we pray, Lord, hear us.”

What is this desire for heavenly things? It is evidently and fundamentally the desire to go to heaven. But the simple desire to go to heaven, however noble, however holy, is not enough to fully define the concept of heavenly things. On earth, we have things that are pictures of heavenly things, and we need to love these pictures of heavenly things to actually say that we have an appetite for the heavenly things in heaven.

These things, which are like heavenly things on earth, were given to us to learn to love those of heaven. We cannot go to heaven if we do not develop in us the desire for these heavenly things. This desire has as a necessary corollary: a relentless, militant, continuous, meticulous, inflexible hatred against the things that are contrary to heavenly things. Without hatred of hell, there is no true love for heavenly things, and without hatred of earthly things that are hellish-like there is no true love for heavenly things on this earth.

And what earthly things are like those in heaven? I indicate only one: the Reign of Mary. What is something on earth that looks like hell? The Revolution. The Counter-Revolution is the movement that must lead us to defeat the Revolution and establish the Reign of Mary, which is the image of heaven on earth.

In this case, we should ask of Our Lady to lift our souls, to achieve in them an operation of the Holy Spirit whereby we love the ideal of the Reign of Mary more and more and have an ever-greater desire for its establishment. And for that desire to be alive, to have a hatred for the current revolutionary order of things.

Having this hatred does not mean insulting the Revolution every now and then. That is good, but not enough. Something else is needed: A desire to leave one’s “chacunnière”. “Chacunnière” is the way in which we have no hatred for the Revolution because we are living well in a terrible order of things: we have our little bed, we have food, our little dad, our little mom, our little jobs, so we don’t hate this thing. We only hate something when we don’t fit in it and would prefer everything to stay inside. This is hate, and there is no true hate outside of it, but only an image of hate.

What does this hate mean to us? The Maccabees, of which you have certainly heard, who shortly before Our Lord Jesus Christ was the ultramontanes who rose up against those seeking to paganize Israel, and made a revolution that was a real Carlista war, a Vendean war before Christ, and who prepared the Advent of Christ, the Maccabees arose with this motto: It is better to die than to live without honor in a devastated land.

That is the feeling that must be active in us and the symptom of our love of heavenly things: I only console myself by the possibility of living to do Counter-Revolution and by being harmful to the Revolution as much as possible at all times of my day. And when I cannot be detrimental to the Revolution because I have nothing to do at the moment, I pray so that my prayer is the most precious weapon of the Counter-Revolution. If I am in a situation not appropriate to pray, at least I prove to God my love through my hatred so that my love can attract the grace that the Reign of Mary will come as soon as possible.

Therefore, we should ask Our Lady to give us the idea that for each of us, it would be better to die if we could not live in the ranks of the Counter-Revolution, fighting for the overthrow of the Revolution. And ask Her to give us such an ardent form of love for Her that we are fully imbued with this notion that it would be better to die than to live in a land devastated and without honor, which is the revolutionary land.

True faith is a real symptom that our souls have been elevated to the desire for heavenly gifts and heavenly things and are marching toward heaven, the eternal and perfect Reign of Our Lady, whom we learn to love by loving the Reign of Mary on earth.

That is the last recommendation for the last day of the year. May Our Lady help you all.