Considerations on the Conversion of Saint Paul

As Saint Paul was struck off his horse, he was shaken by the turn of events when Our Lord asked him the question “Why persecutest thou Me?” In other words, open your eyes! Examine your conscience!

Realize the fact that you are doing something which, if you make an upright examination of conscience, you will find that it is wrong.

Our Lord’s question was reminiscent of one Our Lord Himself asked the man who hit Him during His Passion:
“If I have spoken evil, give testimony of the evil; but if well, why strikest thou Me?”

 

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In fact, Saint Paul gave no answer to Him because he had none to give. He simply responded: “Who art Thou,Lord?” And he said “Lord” right away because he sensed Who it really was. Our Lord answered: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.”

By saying “Whom thou persecutest,” Our Lord made clear Who He is. He was telling Saint Paul: See Who I am.See Who you are persecuting, and therefore measure how hideous your crime is.

After this, Our Lord adds a somewhat mysterious statement: “It is hard for thee to kick against the goad.” The goad is the wind. He was saying that it is hard to oppose the wind. In this case, the wind is the blowing wind of grace that for a while had been calling Paul to conversion, but he resisted it. The context at least leads to this hypothesis.

Saint Paul answered in his own radical way. He wasted no time. He saw that he was wrong and placed himself at the service of God. He asked: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?” The Acts of the Apostles say that he was trembling and astonished as he asked the question. In other words, the blow had hit home. He was disoriented and afraid. He was shaken as he went through a short ordeal of a few minutes which completely changed him and shook his soul. Our Lord then said to him: “Arise, and go into the city, and there it shall be told thee what thou must do.

Why did Our Lord not tell him what to do right away? The whole dialogue took place while Saint Paul was blinded and prostrated on the ground. He was told to arise and go to the city and find out what he must do. In other words, he must receive Our Lord’s orders slowly, subjecting himself with humility like a child who takes orders from his superior.

Our Lord was telling him: Go, therefore, groping and advancing step by step, to find out what I want, because I am your Lord and command you as a servant, who is under his Lord’s orders and can do nothing else.

Thus, Saint Paul did not know what God wanted of him. He did not even know if God might want him to remain blind for his whole life. He, the great Paul, the excellent and illustrious Pharisee, was now going to enter the city of Damascus like a child, led by the hand. In other words, it was the complete breakdown of his pride. The text of the Acts ends thus: “But they leading him by the hands, brought him to Damascus.”

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In other words, he entered Damascus as a blind man. There he would be blind for a few days, until the scales would fall from his eyes.

The preceding text is taken from an informal lecture Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira gave on January 24, 1966. It has been translated and adapted for publication without his revision. –Ed.

Seeking the True Joy of Christmas

The manger was all Saint Joseph and Our Lady had to offer the Child Jesus. Thus, the evening was filled with unfathomable joys, but also had its sufferings.

The state of world events is so uncertain that it is impossible to know the conditions in which we will celebrate Christmas or what the New Year will bring. This is a Christmas in which Americans are filled with uncertainty, trials and insecurity.

One could rightly ask: “Is it proper to have these concerns during Christmastime? Shouldn’t we have only consolations, joys and satisfactions during this season?”

To answer this question, we should consider the first Christmas night. Saint Joseph and, above all, Our Lady were filled with inexpressible joy in the grotto in Bethlehem.

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However, before the Child Jesus was born, they suffered affliction. They had spent the night seeking a dignified place for Our Lord’s birth. Saint Joseph was humiliated seeing that his spouse would have to deliver the Christ Child in a stable where animals ate. While there could not have been a more stupendous event that evening, neither could there have been humbler surroundings.

The manger was all Saint Joseph and Our Lady had to offer the Child Jesus. Thus, the evening was filled with unfathomable joys, but also had its sufferings.

Although the Christ Child knew that Providence had dictated the conditions of His birth, it is possible that Our Lady and Saint Joseph did not know. They could have been filled with doubts concerning the reasons for their poor surroundings, perhaps even attributing them to a wrongdoing of their own. Though faultless, Saint Joseph, who was most responsible for providing for the Holy Family, probably asked Our Lord’s pardon for the lowly accommodations he had furnished for His delivery.

Nevertheless, the evening’s joys overcame all its sadnesses to such an extent, that the latter were completely forgotten.

We should celebrate Christmas in the same manner, though we be concerned with the crisis in the Church and breakdown of society and aware of our insufficiency to face these calamities.

Realizing that we are chosen to follow Our Lady throughout these troubling times should fill us with joy and overcome the sadness we endure for our personal failings and the godlessness that surrounds us.

At the feet of the newborn Christ Child, we should thank Him for having called us to this struggle and these times. We should realize that we are only capable of resisting through His Redemption for which His birth was a necessary condition. We ought to express this gratitude through the intercession of Our Lady, the Universal Mediatrix, and Saint Joseph.

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We should ask Saint Joseph, Our Lady and the Christ Child for a soul continually mindful of Our Lady’s words at Fatima: “Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph!” Thus, we will be able to overcome all sadness and advance joyfully in the fight, seeking heroism and even sacrifice.

Thus, the TFP prays that Our Lady grant you this indomitable joy for Christmas and bring you ever closer to her and her Divine Son!
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The preceding article is taken from a Christmas greeting of Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira to The American TFP in 1980. It has been translated and adapted for publication without his revision. — Ed.

A Christmas Reflection

We gather to celebrate the beautiful feast of Christmas, a lovable tradition, established and handed down to us through the centuries. As the year comes to a close, we look back to find that last year ended in similar circumstances: generalized chaos and confusion as risks increase. Presently our situation is similar to last year’s with an even greater potential for confusion and even greater risk, while a general atmosphere of apprehension spreads over the whole country.

 

Peace in Truth is found in the Holy Roman Catholic Church

Yet, at this Yuletide, we recall the angelic chant to the shepherds on that rustic and poetic first Christmas Eve as the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to men of good will”.

Yes, peace is tranquility, but not just any tranquility.

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that “peace is the tranquility of order”. Where there is order there is real peace. Where there is an absence of order there is no peace. What exists is a veiled disorder, an artificial order, but no real peace.

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Peace exists, rather, in churches where Catholic doctrine is professed in its integrity; where people all love, understand and feel the same way because they are imbued with the Divine Holy Ghost, who is eminently a Spirit of Peace.

In temporal society we find this peace in a very few places, namely at such gatherings as these, where men live who indeed strive to give glory to God in the highest and, therefore, peace on earth reigns among these men of good will.

But you who are a supporter of Return to Order are also an agent of peace. You savor this peace, you appreciate this peace, you take it to your families, and thus bring them the law of Christ, the Faith of Christ, the order of Christ and the Reign of Christ. As you take into your families the doctrine of His Holy Catholic Church and live by its sweet rule and yoke, you have true peace.

This is the peace that our Lord Jesus Christ wanted to bring to the world and which He expressed in these magnificent words: Pacem relinquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis, “I give you My peace, I leave you My peace.” Which means, He gave them His peace, which is the tranquility of order, leaving this gift to men, to the world, at the time that He was about to leave earth to ascend to heaven.

Great and small gather around the manger

So, let us approach that heavenly crib of Jesus Christ, the King of Peace, the descendant of a regal dynasty from which also descended Mary Most Holy and Saint Joseph, who, nevertheless, now kneels in the capacity of a humble carpenter before the Savior just born of his wife, the Virgin Mother.

And before great potentates draw near the crib with precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, God wished for humble shepherds to approach and be received with tender love. Even the ox and the donkey were invited to warm Baby Jesus with their breath.

We must be soldiers of peace and soldiers of order

All this is peace; all this is order. We should be soldiers of peace and soldiers of order, fighting in an orderly manner as true soldiers of Christ in the Reign of Christ.

But aren’t these terms, peace and fight, contradictory? Isn’t peace concomitant with non-aggression? So how can we be “soldiers of peace”? Likewise, how can we call ourselves “soldiers of order” in case of war, when war is such a huge mess?

Nevertheless, peace is present when one fights against disorder through order. This must be well understood. Peace, the peace of Christ in the Reign of Christ exists when men are in order. But this peace does not exist only in non-combat. There is peace also when one fights for order against disorder.
There was also a great battle in heaven between Saint Michael the Archangel and the angels of fidelity and obedience against the angels of infidelity and disobedience. It was so great a battle that Scriptures describes it for us as a great battle was fought in heaven.

So, even at this moment peace did not cease to reign in heaven, because the good were on the side of God fighting to expel from the heavenly mansion the devils who, as agents of disorder, had become unworthy of it.

If there was a war in heaven, it was a war of health against disease, a war of life against death, a war of good against rebellious evil. This battle, by the very fact that it was a battle between what should exist against what should not exist, in itself is order.

In the contemporary world we are precious agents of peace in the measure that we fight against evil angels and those who are dedicated to spreading evil, the agents of war.

So also in the contemporary world we are precious agents of peace in the measure that we fight the evil angels and their minions in their multifaceted attack on faith, morality and good customs.

In the contemporary world we are precious agents of peace in the measure that we fight the evil angels and their minions in their multifaceted attack on faith, morality and good customs

The peace that we desire for the coming year is the peace of order against the agents of disorder. Only then will we have the peace of order in the tranquility of order. So, let us be agents of order in the coming year, not only because we refuse to engage in useless battles, but also because we do choose to engage in the good fight of which Saint Paul speaks when he said of himself as he lay dying: “Lord, I fought the good fight, now give me the reward of Thy glory.” If we do this in the coming year as we have done this year, we can end the year with peace and hope.

In this generation of thieves and adulterers let us be souls on fire, souls burning with love and strong warriors engendered by Faith. We were not born only to rejoice, or mainly to be happy. We were born, above all, to fight; we were born, above all, to serve the Holy Catholic Church.

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Then whatever the furor of evil throughout the world, whatever their threats, we are agents of peace, we are children of Mary, and we are fighters of good order. Thus, by the grace of Mary we may say like Saint Paul and the end of next year: Lord, throughout this year we fought the good fight. Give us now during this year the reward of Thy glory.

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Adapted from a message of Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira to TFP Supporters on Dec. 18, 1992 at a Christmas gathering- Plinio Correa de Oliveira :Thomas Aquinas on Christmas

The Difference Between True Elites and False “Elites”

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“It is a blatant error to think that elites are made up only by privileged groupings disconnected from ordinary people.”

In more than one progressive-inspired publication I have run into the adjective, “elitist,” needless to say employed in a strongly pejorative sense. Indeed, it makes sense because from the psychological standpoint, the progressive philosophy is a fusion of all kinds of mediocrity, triviality and even vulgarity. Thus, it is viscerally contrary to any form of refinement or kind of elite.

By using that adjective—so questionable from a linguistic perspective—the more common progressives insinuate that every member of an elite is by definition a selfish, unproductive and mediocre snob full of vanity and only capable of joining with other “elitist” persons into parasitic cliques that conspire with one another on how best to extract the fruits of their neighbors’ labor.

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In light of this concept (what light!), the “elitists” supposedly gather in small groups and victimize the public at large.

Who can deny the existence of “elites” just like those described by the progressives? Shouldn’t every sensible man reject them? However, are these “elites” really elites?

These “elites” have abandoned everything that they should believe, forsaken their mission, and allowed themselves to be infected with gangrene and putrefaction.

In seeking to define a star, can anyone give an example of a dark celestial body that gives off no light? It would be like presenting a rotting cadaver as an example of a man.

This is precisely what progressives do with elites. Starting from their pejorative concept of “elite,” they perform some kind of magic trick in which all true elites end up as “elitists.” In so doing, they managed to label all privileged groupings as genuine bloodsuckers of the great majority of authentic hard workers.

Thus, in the eyes of the public, a perfectly shocking overall picture comes together that incites class struggle. It fits perfectly the needs of communist propaganda. On the one hand, are the great masses of the workers and, on the other, several select minority groupings who (maliciously fused together with the vain, lazy, mediocre and feckless “elitists” mentioned above) legitimately stand out for their excellence in cultural achievements, talent, education, selflessness in serving the nation or charitable work, etc.

The outcome of the clash between these groupings and the incited masses can only be the gobbling up of the “elitist” mouse by the communist cat…

Needless to say, the “anti-elitist” panorama that progressives present to foster this communistic perspective is false in nearly all its aspects. Two false aspects stand out at first sight. The first falsity is that every elite is necessarily an “elitist” in the pejorative sense of the word. We have already seen how arbitrary and unjust this statement is. The other is to claim that there are no elites in the public at large and particularly among the great masses of workers.

It is a blatant error to think that elites are made up only by privileged groupings disconnected from ordinary people. Such a classification would consign most people, by definition, to be a kind of huge gathering of mediocre people, some of which would be intellectually, culturally or morally handicapped. Thus, this classification would necessarily divide a nation into two categories separated by an abyss: the paradigmatic and the erroneous—the supermen and the sub-men.

At this point, it seems to me indispensable to recall a truth that not all historians and sociologists properly affirm as they should.

It is generally admitted that each people has the government it deserves. The corollary is that each people also has the elites (in the authentic sense, not the pejorative one) it deserves. What needs to be affirmed about true elites is that the appearance of elites, the good image they need to project, and the full diffusion of their beneficial action is largely made possible by their connection with the population as a whole. Elites do not remain intact and vibrant without often being enriched with values from the general population.

Because the crowds provide a proper interpretation and the communicative consensus inside a culture, they can contribute greatly to an elite assuming entirely the image and role it should. Conversely, elites only influence a people who are receptive to their message.

There is more. When there is a proper elite-people relationship, the people very often provide the inspiration for elites to develop something greater. To give only one example from a thousand, it would suffice to recall musical masterpieces by brilliant composers that are often inspired by simple folk songs.

The role of the population in the formation of a country’s soul, and thus its culture, great men, and action in history, is so important that the people fulfill a particularly grand mission even in relation to functions normally seen as reserved for members of aristocracies (inherited or other kinds).

Indeed, in a certain sense, popular classes are conservative par excellence, more so than the upper classes. Thus, in Europe, for example, the old garb, dances, songs and ways of being—in short, typical regional customs—were maintained much more by the “country folk” than by the leading classes in large cities. In Brazil, the traditional poor black lady from the state of Bahia, the baiana, preserves tasty dishes and folklore, and more closely resembles the Brazil of old than many descendants of empire captains, baron counselors or colonels of the national guard.

If elites decay, it is hard for them not to drag the people down with them. If the people decay, it seems to me impossible that they not drag the elites down with them.

It is appropriate that we make distinctions between peoples. There can be an average people, a great people, an ascending people, a people reaching its apogee, and people in stagnation or decadence. It would not be too farfetched to say that the word elite can apply to everyone in a people on the rise or at its zenith. They would be an enormous elite from within which would arise, almost by distillation, smaller and more quintessential elites. This is because in an excellent people, there comes a general grandeur that is born from the harmonious joining together of the population that become an elite-people (or elite-majority) with the elite-minority.

I once wrote an article about Winston Churchill and his wife. Perhaps England would not have won the war without the leadership of this great man whose feminine version was his illustrious wife. However, the United Kingdom would have lost the war if it did not have a true legion of elite figures placed from top to bottom in its political, social, economic and military hierarchy, that took up the commands of the armed effort and civil resistance. Isn’t it true that the whole constellation of high, medium and small elites could only have done the good they did because the English people were a great people? In other words, is it not true that they were a people with a necessarily high number of average and even below average people, but few mediocre ones? Many were heroes in the battlefield. Yet more were “mini-heroes” in civilian life ready to sacrifice themselves in the rearguard, keeping their neighbors in high spirits both in the somber moments in bomb shelters from which they could hear the Luftwaffe destroying their cities, or in the gloomy hours when they saw their household budgets mercilessly eaten away by war rationing.

If instead of all those elites and heroes of so many differing ranks and profiles Britain had had, from Buckingham Palace down to the bottom of her coal mines, not great nor average but mediocre men, not heroic but spineless men, today she would be no more than an historic memory.

In the final analysis, progressives seek to pound into the minds of the public the idea of a conflict between elites and people. They do this by painting a false picture of reality that places a dark and yawning chasm between them. Such a portrayal is a sham. Such a gap only exists when both people and elites are more or less agonizing and separate from each other with small, artificial, select groups on the one side, and large anonymous masses on the other.

These considerations are becoming too lengthy. Let me close them by quoting a brilliant text on people and masses by Pius XII:

“The State does not contain in itself and does not mechanically bring together in a given territory a shapeless mass of individuals. It is, and should in practice be, the organic and organizing unity of a real people.

“The people, and a shapeless multitude (or, as it is called, “the masses”) are two distinct concepts. The people lives and moves by its own life energy; the masses are inert of themselves and can only be moved from outside. The people lives by the fullness of life in the men that compose it, each of whom—at his proper place and in his own way—is a person conscious of his own responsibility and of his own views. The masses, on the contrary, wait for the impulse from outside, an easy plaything in the hands of anyone who exploits their instincts and impressions; ready to follow in turn, today this flag, tomorrow another. From the exuberant life of a true people, an abundant rich life is diffused in the State and all its organs, instilling into them, with a vigor that is always renewing itself, the consciousness of their own responsibility, the true instinct for the common good.

“The elementary power of the masses, deftly managed and employed, the State also can utilize: in the ambitious hands of one or of several who have been artificially brought together for selfish aims, the State itself, with the support of the masses, reduced to the minimum status of a mere machine, can impose its whims on the better part of the real people: the common interest remains seriously, and for a long time, injured by this process, and the injury is very often hard to heal” (Radio message of Christmas 1944, in Discorsi e Radiomessaggi di Sua Santità Pio XII, Vol. VI, pp. 238-239).

Let the reader attentively consider what the much missed Pontiff says about a true people. He will see that, from top to bottom, a people is nothing but a healthy and magnificent interlocking of elites, the highest shining in gold and silver, the more modest in beautiful and noble bronze.

The antagonistic elite-people conflict, contained in the painful “elitist” adjective used by progressives is thus destroyed.

The preceding article was originally published in the Folha de S.Paulo, on December 28, 1977. It has been translated and adapted for publication without the author’s revision. –Ed.