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Elias the Prophet – July 20 – Part III

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Biographical selection:

The renowed exegete and Jesuit theologian Fr. Cornelius a Lápide made the following exegesis on this verse from Scriptures: Then stood up Elias the prophet as fire, and his word burned like a lamp (Eccles 48:1):

"After the reign of Solomon, Elias became eminent among the heroes and illustrious men of Israel. With his zeal and strength of soul, he extinguished the idolatry and wickedness introduced by Solomon. God raised up Elias, who burned with zeal for God and for the true religion. ... Indeed, by his zeal Elias slew more idolaters than he converted."

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

It is the middle-of-the-road mentality that causes men to say that it is better for Catholics to build than to destroy. Following this line, it is also more appropriate for man to convert than to combat. And, therefore, it is better to have a spirit of conciliation, kindness, friendliness, that is, one of confusion and surrender for this is what it lead to – and not to fight the adversary as he must be fought.

A statue of Elias the prophet holding a bloodied sword

Elias the Prophet pictured with a bloody sword, after killing 400 prophets of Baal

This was an objection that was often made against the old Legionario [the Catholic newspaper directed by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in the 1930s and 1940s] and against Catholic Action at the time I presided over it. Unfortunately, at that time I did not know Cornelius a Lápide. But Cornelius, whose authority has the weight of law, deals with this topic very well and praises Elias, saying "He killed more idolaters than he converted."

One might object: "But how can this praise of Elias be justified? Isn't it better to convert than to fight?"

The answer is evident. If a person can be converted by a good argument instead of by splitting his head with the sword, one should prefer to convert him. This is something anyone can see; only a barbarian would think otherwise. The point is, however, that there are numerous cases of persons who are spreading every type of evil. If these people will not convert, it is necessary to fight them, because otherwise they will harm others.

In epochs of great evil, times of immense decadence, the hearts of men become hardened and obstinate against any argument or good deed, and men spread evil. To prevent them from continuing to do this great harm, that is to say, out of hatred for the evil they do and out of love for the good that is being lost, it is necessary to fight them. There is no other remedy.

It was not Elias who was guilty of repression; it was Solomon who favored sin, who brought sin into the bosom of Israel. So, if a middle-of-the road man is outraged by the severity of Elias, we can refute him by saying: You should become indignant over the prevarication of Solomon. Elias was the doctor, the surgeon who, through amputation, cut out the gangrene that Solomon had instilled in Israel. That is the crux of the matter!

Tradition in Action

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The Saint of the Day features highlights from the lives of saints based on comments made by the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. Following the example of St. John Bosco who used to make similar talks for the boys of his College, each evening it was Prof. Plinio’s custom to make a short commentary on the lives of the next day’s saint in a meeting for youth in order to encourage them in the practice of virtue and love for the Catholic Church. TIA thought that its readers could profit from these valuable commentaries.

The texts of both the biographical data and the comments come from personal notes taken by Atila S. Guimarães from 1964 to 1995. Given the fact that the source is a personal notebook, it is possible that at times the biographic notes transcribed here will not rigorously follow the original text read by Prof. Plinio. The commentaries have also been adapted and translated for TIA’s site.

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