Gratitude is a virtue that normally passes from father to son. If a dedicated nurse cares for a wealthy man in his old age, justice demands that he leave her son a proportional legacy.
American, Catholic war hero, Col. John Ripley, shines as an example of a great man to whom we owe a debt of gratitude.
Since great men are really the nurses of a Nation, does not the country owe them and their descendants a legacy in gratitude for their sacrifices?
The illustrious writer Joseph de Maistre (who lived from 1753 to 1821) once received a letter from a French aristocrat who lamented her dull life, which she attributed to a custom by which ladies rarely wrote books. That was considered an elevated task reserved for men.
The writer wittily replied that she was mistaken. Ladies, he explained, are called to bear children which is far nobler than bringing forth a book.
This gentle answer undeniably holds a measure of truth. By cooperating with her husband, their marriage bears fruits and forms an abundant family. Thus, together with her husband, the wife deserves the merits his works receive.
Together, their untiring attention can provide their children an authentically Christian formation. This in turn, they will transmit to their immediate and distant descendants. Thus, the couple will yield one of the greatest works possible, a large, virtuous and lasting family. Therefore, the wife and children share the life, merits and rewards, the father deserves. This applies not only to families of high social standing, but even to the simplest families.
Since the French Revolution, with imbecilic joy and absurd hope the world has witnessed the mass destruction of "dynasties" great and small; of czars and mujiks, of aristocrats, bourgeois and laborers in the Christian West. This systematic destruction, from the Middle Ages through Modem Times, has been so merciless that many have no idea what we have lost.
During that period of history, the family's strength endowed it with a strong cohesion, which in turn inspired most family members to work in the same profession. As a result, some professions, like that of watchmaker, customarily became the privilege of certain families in their respective regions.
The industrial and commercial success of these professions depended upon factors only possible with the family’s cohesion. Unlike today, commercial warfare was deemed dishonorable and replaced with collaboration. Ties of marriage and family were used to unite various branches of the industrial or commercial structures, enabling them to become a vast unity.
An illustrious contemporary writer, being addressed as "Monsieur de..." by someone who thought he was a noble, quickly corrected him, "I am not a noble. But, I can tell you that from Charlemagne to this day every generation of my family has provided privates to the nation's military."
Dynasties of kings, lords great and small, magistrates, bourgeois, peasants, soldiers and sailors... France of the time could almost be defined as an ensemble of dynasties, showing how the institution of the family can project its light into the humblest recesses.
Who could remain indifferent to the beauty and vitality of such an order? Who can deny the sublimity of a society in which everything is elite, or at least, elites are found among every social sector?
This panorama clarifies Pius XII's concept of people and masses found in this famous text:
The people and a shapeless multitude (or, as it is called, 'the masses') are two distinct concepts.
The people lives and moves by its own life-energy; the masses are inert of themselves and can only be moved from outside.
The people lives by the fullness of life in the men who compose it, each of whom, at his proper place and in his own way, is a person conscious of his own responsibility and of his own views. The masses, on the contrary, wait for the impulse from outside, an easy plaything in the hands of anyone who exploits its instincts and impressions; ready to follow, in turn, today this way, tomorrow another.
From the exuberant life of a true people, an abundant rich life is diffused in the state and all its organs, instilling into them, with a vigor that is always renewing itself, the consciousness of their own responsibility, the true instinct for the common good.
The elementary power of the masses, deftly managed and employed, the state also can utilize; in the ambitious hands of one or several who have been artificially brought together for selfish aims, the state itself, with the support of the masses, reduced to the minimum status of a mere machine, can impose its whims on the better part of the real people; the common interest remains seriously, and for a long time, injured by this process, and the injury is very often hard to heal.
Hence follows clearly another conclusion: the masses, as we have defined them, are the capital enemy of true democracy and of its ideal of liberty and equality.
In a people worthy of the name, the citizen feels within himself the consciousness of his personality, of his duties and rights, of his own freedom joined to respect for the freedom and dignity of others. In a people worthy of the name, all inequalities based not on whim but on the nature of things, inequalities of culture, possessions, social standing, without, of course, prejudice to justice and mutual charity, do not constitute any obstacle to the existence and the prevalence of a true spirit of union and fraternity.
On the contrary, far from impairing civil equality in any way, they give it its true meaning; namely, that before the state everyone has the right to live honorably his own personal life in the place and under the conditions in which the designs and dispositions of Providence have placed him.
Against this picture of the democratic ideal of liberty and equality in a people's government by honest and far seeing men, what a spectacle is that of a democratic state left to the whims of the masses!
Liberty, from being a moral duty of the individual, becomes a tyrannous claim to give free rein to a person's impulses and appetites to the detriment of others. Equality degenerates to a mechanical leveling, a colorless uniformity; the sense of true honor, of personal activity, of respect for tradition and dignity, in a word all that gives life its worth, gradually fades away and disappears. And the only survivors are, on one hand, the victims deluded by the specious mirage of democracy, naively taken for the genuine spirit of democracy, with its liberty and equality; and on the other, the more or less numerous exploiters, who have known how to use the power of money and of organization in order to secure a privileged position above the others, and have gained power ("Discorsi e Radio messaggi di Sad Santita Pio XII, " Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, vol. 6, pp. 239- 240).
This society of "dynasties," made up of distinct social or socio-economic bodies is conducive to the people propelling the State, instead of being propelled by it. Thus, we are drawn to the question first posed by French royalists to the electorate regarding the popular monarchist restoration movement after the Second World War, "Le Roi? Pourquoi pas?" (The king? Why not?)
Remembering this past, whose vestiges still remain in Switzerland and elsewhere, a similar question comes to mind, “Social elites? Why not?”