Ambiences and Tendencies

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Simplicity vs. Vulgarity

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Contemporary man, child of the modern “massification,” which transforms a people into an immense, inorganic, proletarian and anonymous mass, considers dignity and distinction to be attributes exclusively of the higher classes. Vulgarity, lack of taste, and glum, sterile ambiences are associated with the masses. And, since the higher classes seem destined to disappear, drawing in their wake dignity and distinction, it seems that the world will be increasingly immersed in proletarian vulgarity.

It is enough to consider a photograph of Nikita Khrushchev or Fidel Castro, persons who are symbols of communist nations, to understand to what extreme vulgarity can go.

St. Bernadette Soubirous home and convent
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In contrast, our pictures show how much dignity, as well as temperate and pleasing composure, can imbue an ambience belonging to the poor – poor in money, but rich in soul.

In the first photograph, we have the poverty of an obscure but immortal family – the family of St. Bernadette Soubirous, the seer of Lourdes. The room serves as both bedroom and kitchen.

The large bed, with its curtain, is poor, but it gives an impression of repose, stability and unquestionable dignity. This impression is communicated by the whole room, accentuated by the pious pictures common among the people, and the spacious hearth around which the family members gather to warm themselves on winter evenings.

The Soubirous moved into this house in 1863. St. Bernadette, who entered a boarding school in 1860, never lived in it.

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After domestic poverty, we turn to the noble voluntary poverty of religious life. The second photograph shows part of the infirmary of Saint Gildard Convent, with the chair upon which St. Bernadette died.

Naturally, the ambience is different. But the poverty is indisputable.

Nonetheless, the draped beds, the spacious room, the statue, in short, everything expresses composure, dignity and recollection. Briefly, this ambience is a thousand times more restful and attractive than that of many luxurious cubicles in today’s modern “palaces.”

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Such is poverty when illuminated by the light of Christ and the smile of Mary Most Holy. It is calm, dignified, recollected, pleasant and discretely happy.

Catolicismo n. 160 - April 1964

Posted October 1, 2012

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