In my last article, I analyzed an aspect of the reaction of the Brazilian public to the personality of John Paul II.
This widespread reaction went like immense vibrations through large masses in all sectors of public opinion. In a tumultuous movement of joy, men of the left, the center, and the right, Catholics, protestants, schismatics, Jews, buddhists, mohammedans, spiritists, and atheists all came in droves to acclaim John Paul II.
This permitted one to descry in the jittery, and in many ways tormented, multitudes of our days, the hope that in contact with the personal — indeed most personal — gifts of Pope Wojtyla they would receive, in addition to effluvia of optimism, joy, simplicity and health, a peculiar know-how enabling them, by undisclosed formulas, to solve the problems of each individual, of each family, and of the whole nation.
Certainly, in the minds of Catholics, this hope was also accompanied by the conviction that Karol Wojtyla is the successor of Peter. But this noble conviction, based on faith, was the common denominator among Catholics only. Most of the time, the common denominator between Catholics and non-Catholics, as a person resplendent with specific individual gifts, was Karol Wojtyla. It was also their yearning to receive, in the deep abysses of affliction in which they find themselves, something that would sate their desire for freedom from cares, for peace and for plenty. From crisis of affliction to cravings for happiness, the swing of the pendulum produces much tension. From the depths of these desires of well-being, peace, and freedom from care that made millions of human breasts pant around John Paul II, I seemed to see rising, by the very play of this tension, the utopian dream of complete earthly felicity which so many of those present hoped to obtain, less from John Paul II than from Wojtyla.
This yearning left me concerned; for it appears with a potential for ingenuousness and a precarious emotional balance of which some demagogue could, at any moment, take sinister advantage.
Flawless concord, perfect and eternal peace among all men, all nations, and all doctrines, and complete happiness are not of this world. In this land of exile, shortages, dissensions, and catastrophes are inevitable. And because they are inevitable, a Christian vision of life leads one to circumscribe them as much as possible, but at the same time to resign oneself to them.
This hard lesson, so disagreeable to the neopagan of our day, is contained in a golden text of St. Louis Maria Grignion de Montfort, the incomparable apostle of devotion to Our Lady.
While expounding on the eternal struggle between the Virgin and the serpent, he shows us the lives of the peoples above all as a grand, tragic and incessant war between truth and error, good and evil, beauty and ugliness. This is a battle without which the earthly existence of man, deprived of its supernatural meaning, would lose its dignity.
In commenting on the words of Genesis (3:15): “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: She shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel,” the great Saint makes the profound observation: “God has established and promoted only one enmity, an irreconcilable enmity, one that will not only last but also increase until the end: the enmity between Mary, His worthy Mother, and the devil; between the sons and slaves of the Most Holy Virgin and the sons and henchmen of the devil; so that Mary is the most terrible enemy that God has set up against the devil” (Treatise on True Devotion to Mary, Vozes, Petropolis, 6th ed., 1961, pp. 54-55).
He goes on to describe the great war that inexorably divides mankind until the end of History. This war is nothing but the prolongation of the opposition between the Virgin and the serpent, between Her spiritual progeny and the demon’s: “God even gave Her, ever since the earthly Paradise, so much hatred for this accursed enemy of His, so much clairvoyance to discover the malice of this old serpent, so much strength to overcome, crush, and annihilate this proud and impious one, that the fear that Mary inspires in Satan is greater than that inspired by all the Angels and men, and in a certain sense, even by God Himself” (op. cit., pp. 55).
In this context, the “clement, loving, sweet Virgin Mary” sung so suavely in the Hail, Holy Queen, by the Mellifluous Doctor, Saint Bernard, is presented by St. Louis de Montfort as a veritable tower of combat (“Turris Davidica,” exclaims the Litany of Loreto).
The sons of Our Lady will battle against the sons of Satan all through History, even to the end of the world. Through the intercession of the Mother of God, her sons will win the final victory: “God did not only put an enmity, but enmities; and that not only between Mary and the demon but also between the offspring of the Most Holy Virgin and the offspring of the demon. That means that God has established enmities, antipathies, and secret hatreds between the true sons and slaves of the Most Holy Virgin and the sons and slaves of the demon. There is not the least shadow of love between them, nor is there any rapport between them.
The sons of Belial, the slaves of Satan, the friends of the world (for they are all the same), have always persecuted, even to this day, and will continue in the future to persecute those who belong to the Most Holy Virgin; just as Cain persecuted his brother Abel of old, and Esau, his brother Jacob, who are the figures of the reprobate and the predestined. But the humble Mary will always be victorious in the combat against this proud one, and so great will be her final victory that She will crush his head, the dwelling of all pride. She will always unveil his viperous malice, reveal his infernal plots, undo his diabolical councils, and protect her faithful servants against the claws of so cruel an enemy until the end of time” (op. cit., pp. 56-57).
Obviously, our days have also been, are, and will be shaken by this terrible clash. While not necessarily identifiable with the wars of this century, this clash nevertheless has some relation with them and above all an obvious relation with the innumerable revolutions that have shaken the West as predicted by Our Lady at Fatima.
The suppression of this struggle through an ecumenical reconciliation between the Virgin and the serpent, between the race of the Virgin and the race of the serpent, leading to an era in which the utopian cessation of this clash may bring about a merger of all rights and interests, a melding of all languages under a World Government, an era of abundance and care freeness—there you have the great utopia of which the masses must beware.
Behold the return, or rather the regression, to the proud Tower of Babel which neopaganism strives by all means to reconstruct. Behold the banner all woven of illusions and lies with which the demagogues of all eras try to draw the rebellious masses.
Here you also have what to me seemed a danger into which many may slip: by seeing our recent illustrious visitor not (or at least not so much) as the august Vicar of Christ but as an athlete or a demiurge in socio-economic matters, they may put so much confidence in the man as to end by underestimating or forgetting that he is the Vicar of God.
The preceding article was originally published in the Folha de S.Paulo, on August 12th, 1980. It has been translated and adapted for publication without the author’s revision. –Ed.