The Great Works of Men

October 9, 2014

Great dreams are born of those who unite around sublime ideals. When we forsake our dreams, we put ourselves in the hands of bureaucrats in a regime of mediocrity.

Don Juan of Austria, the supreme commander of the Holy League against the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto. Painting by Sánchez Coello , Alonso

Don Juan of Austria, the supreme commander of the Holy League against the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto. Painting by Sánchez Coello , Alonso

This is because these great dreams are never the work of social planners, but rather the joint effort of great men, true elites, and peoples. Each member of a community lives and shares together the same original dream that serves to unite them under the blessings of God.

...beloved Children, forget not that charity is due even yesterday’s enemy who today languishes in poverty, you will show that you have done your “bene agere” by Saint Paul...

The charity of Marie Antoinette

Each enters with a contribution to the great work of constructing this collective yet highly practical dream of idealizing a better life together. There must be something of robustness, vigor, and ruggedness of the common people. There must be the varying degrees of culture, discernment, and sophistication of the intermediary layers of society. Finally, there must be those elites who, far from imposing their views upon a populace, refine and interpret what comes from below as their contribution to this dream that belongs to all.

King St. Louis IX. Painted by Emile Signol in 1839  and preserved at Versailles, Musée national du château and Trianon.

King St. Louis IX. Painted by Emile Signol in 1839 and preserved at Versailles, Musée national du château and Trianon.

When a society is blessed with great men, we could say they become almost prophets of this movement towards a dream. To the degree that they have deep roots in the whole of society, they sense where society must go and steer it in that direction. At times, God sends genial souls, such as King Saint Louis IX, who appear almost as angels in human form and hover over the multitudes, influencing and giving impetus to society and its economy. Indeed, this is true governance.

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Prayers at a roadside shrine before the harvest. Painting by Félix de Vigne.

Prayers at a roadside shrine before the harvest. Painting by Félix de Vigne.

Some might object that the natural conditions to reconstruct our metaphysical dreams no longer exist in our modern society. There is no longer that atmosphere of intense cohesion in the social unit. There is little attempt to practice the Commandments, much less the evangelical counsels. Standardization and massification have done much to rob us of our dreams and replace them with the bland uniformity of our days.

Sancta Maria Regina Pacis Chapel in Germany.

Sancta Maria Regina Pacis Chapel in Germany.

We can overcome these obstacles by embracing once again that “audacious dream” that so transformed the West. If we unite ourselves around that same supernatural ideal of a world turned towards God, it will serve to be the catalyst to recreate the conditions where an immense impossibility can once again be made possible. It is left for us to dream anew.

 

John Horvat II, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need To Go (York, Penn.: York Press, 2013), 328-9.

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