Ambiences and Tendencies
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Ambiences, Customs and Barbarism

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
A thin and skeletal Msgr. Alfonso Ferroni after being tortured by communism
This poor old man looks like Job revived in the bitterest of his trials. His extreme thinness makes the general lines of his skeleton appear beneath the battered skin, wrinkled and bloodless. The muscles of the neck are powerless to hold the head erect, and thus it hangs to the side. The ears, due to thinness, protrude excessively. His eyes burn, half-mad, in the tragically dark depths of the orbits. His hands cannot even hold the weight of a cup.

We spoke of Job. The comparison is inexact. That holy man was plagued by the Devil with grave misfortunes, but these did not deprive him of the splendid vigor of his mind, which, under divine inspiration, described such sorrow in pages of a beauty unparalleled in the literature of all times.

In this unfortunate sick man, one has the impression that suffering has exhausted almost all the energies of the soul, whose life seems to be concentrated only in the gaze. A terrible gaze, oblivious to all the things that surround him, and imprisoned in the memory of tragic facts and ambiences that are like a nightmare in which his whole being is still immersed. At the same time, an admirable gaze that preserves a candor and dignity that are superior to all misfortunes.

On the face, only one detail suggests the idea that perhaps he is a man who prematurely wore out, who reached old age not through the course of time, but from a brutal treatment: His eyebrows remain black...

In 1952, this man was in the full vigor of life. His shoulders supported the weight of the episcopate, a burden so great that, as St. Jerome wrote, it would raise fear in the Angels themselves. His name is Msgr. Alfonso Ferroni, OFM, his nationality, Italian.

His Diocese in Laohokow, China, fell under the power of the communists, who subjected him to all manner of ill-treatment. He heroically refused to adhere to Marxism. And the result is what we see. The ferocity of Chu En-Lai's minions left its mark on this face. It is a splendid expression of two values in struggle: the supernatural virtue of the Catholic Church and the satanic infamy of Communism.

*

The same hallucinating environment of the Russian and Chinese dungeons, the same frenzied and exquisitely hateful cruelty inherent in Communism had another Prelate as a victim, far from China.

The multitudes pronounce his name with veneration. In this filthy swamp of amorality, immediacy, corruption and cowardice which is the modern world, he is the upright, disinterested, coherent and intrepid man of God who proved by martyrdom the authenticity of his immense detachment. Millions of men, thinking of him, feel the honor of being men. And his intrepidity, says the Vicar of Christ, causes admiration in the Angels of God.

Card. Mindszenty with several guards after being freed from Communist prison
In the picture at right, we see, after his release, Cardinal József Mindszenty in the Archbishop's Palace of Budapest, surrounded by his liberators.

The body, of a vigorous constitution, seems to have withstood the hard test. The face admirably expresses the manhood and keen penetration that made the Primate of Hungary famous. His vitality and agility denote the immense reserve of resources that this champion of the Faith can still place at the service of Jesus Christ.

But consider the gaze. With nothing, absolutely nothing senile about it, it nonetheless seems to evoke terrible scenes, unspeakable anguishes, torments that, without very special assistances of Divine Providence, would annihilate any man.

One sees that this Cardinal also was immersed in an ocean of moral or physical sufferings, which is a communist prison.

*

The ambiences and customs of Communism. We do not say ambiences, customs and civilization because what we should say is ambiences, customs and barbarism.

Looking at these pictures, how can one not understand the eventual legitimacy of a preventive war against Communism, in the terms spoken of by the Holy Father Pius XII in his last Christmas address?

Catolicismo, n. 74, February 1957
Posted November 24, 2017

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