Today we see all these things: mothers in whose bowels the love of their children decreases in intensity; husbands who cast an entire family into disgrace solely to satisfy their own instincts and passions; children who, indifferent to the misery or moral abandonment in which they leave their parents, focus exclusively on enjoying this life’s pleasures; professionals who enrich themselves at the expense of others and often show a cold, calculated cruelty that causes much greater revulsion than the extremes of wrath to which combatants can be led in wartime.
Indeed, acts of cruelty can more easily be gauged in war when those who commit them can claim, if not as an excuse, at a least as a mitigating circumstance that they were driven by the violence of combat. No such excuse can be given to something plotted and carried out in the tranquility of daily life. Above all, this is true when such acts are not isolated actions but inveterate habits which multiply wrongdoing indefinitely.
As it is now waged, war is an index of cruelty, but it is far from being the only manifestation of contemporary moral hardness.
He who is cruel is selfish. Man only harms his neighbor out of selfishness or desire to benefit from advantages to which he is not entitled. Thus, the only way to extirpate cruelty is to eliminate selfishness.
Now theology teaches us that man can only be capable of having complete and genuine self-denial when his love of neighbor is based on the love of God. Apart from God, no human affection can have stability or fulfillment. Either man loves God to the point of forgetting about himself – and then he will really know how to love his neighbor –or he loves himself to the point of forgetting about God – and then selfishness tends to dominate him completely.
“Ad Jesum per Mariam.” It is through Mary that one goes to Jesus. As we write on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, how could we not say a word of filial emotion before this Immaculate Heart [of Mary] that understood and loved the Divine Redeemer better than anyone else?
May Our Lady obtain for us some sparks of the immense devotion she had to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; may she kindle in us some of that fire of love with which she burned so intensely, are our wishes on this suave and soothing octave.
The preceding excerpts are taken from an article by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira originally published in O Legionário, on June 22, 1941. It has been translated and adapted for publication without the author’s revision. –Ed.