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When Gandalf wished for the One Ring to be destroyed, he gave the ringbearer a fellowship to take him there. After all, one does not   simply walk into Mordor. And without Gollum leading Frodo and Sam to Mt Doom, doubtless they couldn’t have made it. Dante too, needed Virgil to lead him through the circles of hell. Virgil’s Aeneas needed the Sibyl. To reach a place you need a map, or a guide to take you there.

 

We apply this principle in our spiritual life. There are the commandments of Our Lord to keep; the counsels of holy priests to follow; the example of the saints to imitate. What fool would say that he desires heaven, yet scorn the example of the saints, ignore the counsels of holy priests, and treat lightly the words of Our Lord? Moreover, the Catholic library overflows with intelligent tracts and treatises on the spiritual life, on prayer, fasting, mortification, love of God and of neighbour etc. Indeed, there are the Holy Scriptures, and commentaries explaining them. There are pocket catechisms, catechisms, and catechisms for catechisms. There are books on the virtues, books on each virtue, and books on the various virtues of the virtues in virtue of their virtue. In short, there is no shortage of words which  expound dogma, explain doctrine, and elucidate definitions, differences, and distinctions.

 

In addition to that spiritual warfare in our soul, there is also a pressing war we are fighting against the enemies of Christ in society. These enemies are invisible, in Satan and his demons. They are organised, in Freemasonry and the Jewish nation. They are often disorganised, having been formed without the explicit intention to oppose Our Lord, but rather as a result of man’s fall from grace.

 

How ought we to combat this? What ought our Catholic goals to be? What are the licit and acceptable means of achieving them? Which of these means will be most effective. How can you make these most effective in the political, educational, social, economic, financial, commercial, agricultural, and cultural sphere? Whom will these actions involve?

 

These actions will involve the young and old, is the answer of Jean Ousset. The rich and poor. Man and woman. Worker and intellectual. These actions will cover the least to the most challenging. They will occur consistently, and at all times. They will take place in the home, in the school, in the church, factory, farm, business, club, association, office and political party; with whatever resources (material, human, intellectual) are available. Wherever the orthodox Catholic structure and spirit does not currently reign, moral and effective action will have to take place! There is everything to do in all spheres. We must attack at all fronts!

 

The multi-headed monster of pantheism, naturalism, socialism, liberalism, communism, subjectivism, atheism, and modernism continues to rape, pillage, and plunder our society. Some, however, who used to serve this beast have converted to the faith. Their message?  Catholic circles lack tactics, strategy & grand strategy. Training and analysis are non-existent, or at least, not accompanied with that attitude which breeds success. It is this very problem, which Monsieur Jean Ousset addressed when he wrote ‘Action – A Manual for the Reconstruction of Christendom’ in 1959.

 

It is my aim in this book review: firstly, to convince you of the need to defend, propagate, and implement the doctrines of the Faith in society, i.e. the restoration of the Social Kingship of Christ; secondly, that this is not a romantic battle, but a winnable war; and finally, since our mind seems to compete with itself in coming up with objections whenever something new is proposed, I will assuage any doubts you have in acting for the implementation of Catholic principles in society. Ultimately, I hope you purchase this book, read it, and love it as I have.

 

Now, let me emphasise what my aim is not. I do not wish to write an ‘interesting’ article, nor something which you vaguely understand, vaguely agree with, and are vaguely pleased to read. God forbid, that an article intended to convince the reader of the need to fight, and to read the book, which is the blueprint of that fighting, invites the reader to sink deeper into his comfy sofa, gently tickling his ears to sleep. No, there have been enough Catholic leaflets, magazines and publications in this last century which have achieved that end perfectly. They have drained much money, much manpower and many minutes to no visible advancement of the Catholic cause. I certainly do not wish for this humble review to be added to that ghastly mountain of idle ink. It is the time for action. Smart, effective, principled action. I have no doubt, that what Mr Ousset has achieved, is the Catholic Counter-Revolutionary’s vade mecum par excellence.

 

First of all, let me convince you of your duty for Catholic Social Action. My first witness is Our Lord Himself. He taught us to pray thus: ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…' God created each angel different. Each (of those in heaven) fulfils His will and they do so in a hierarchy. With the higher angels giving knowledge to the lower angels. For us mortals on earth, His Will is that we know, love and serve Him. Heaven as a society also fulfils his will, with all her members being in perfect order with one another and ordered towards God. Does God not also wish that those societies on earth, the temporal as well as the spiritual, give the glory which is owed to him? Is the Lord meant to be King of our hearts only, but not of our societies? Is the family, the confraternity, the sports club, the city, the nation meant to be… atheist? ... impartial to God? That is not what Pope Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII and other popes taught. We pray that our country does our Father’s will. We believe that she must. If we believe, we must act.

 

The virtue of Patriotism too dictates that we have a duty for Catholic Action. Patriotism is a sub-virtue of Justice. Justice being one of the four cardinal virtues. We have a debt to our country because she provides us with security, government, laws etc. The correct fulfilment of this debt is called patriotism. Now, the end of government is that it obtains the common good of her people. Since our most important good is the salvation of our souls, it follows that laws which reject this reality will be disordered, and thus produce a disordered country. Ousset points out that countries will always be unhealthy if they do not recognise Christ as King for this very reason. One only has to look at the constant strikes, to observe that our country is, well, unwell. Since we have a duty to our country, and since the good of our country is bound to its participation in the will of God, it is our patriotic duty to bring about the Catholic Social Order in our respective nations.

 

Second of all, it is no good to agree to this in principle, if, due to the size of the forces against us, we cower and resign ourselves. No, we must not think it vain to speak of matters such as the reconversion of our nation to the one true faith. Again, I have God as my witness. Do the Holy Scriptures not recount the many times the Israelites were outnumbered by their pagan foes on the battlefield and yet overcame them? Perhaps the words of Grandpa Lenin will comfort you: “If in 1917 there had existed in Petrograd only some thousands of men who knew what they really wanted, we should never have been able to take over power in Russia”, or maybe the words of Uncle Joe “Of all the possible assets, the most precious, the most decisive is cadres, people”.

 

What he means here is not quantity, but quality. This is a point which Ousset makes time and time again: we do not need many numbers, but an indefatigable few. Numbers are deceiving. This is why the progress of our action ought not to be judged on the number of members to a group. Of the number of groups. Of the amount of money received by the groups and projects executed. Anyway, most people are sheep, and will go along with whatever (a point the editor often makes). I often wonder, if a civil war could kick off in England, since all the men are too effeminate to fight, and would rather watch tiktok. Sure, nowadays there are many lootings etc. but these are sporadic, unorganised, unsustainable and petulant.

 

My point is that we’re more willing to die for what we believe than they are to live. We are prepared to fight everyday against something others think about once a year. Moreover, we have recourse to prayer, to the sacraments, to Our Lady. We have the Angels and Saints in heaven. How embarrassing is it, that our enemies who have pride and self-interest as their motives are more willing to fight and surer of victory than we, who have possession of the truth.

 

Ok, so there is a fight to be had and to be won. Now for the objections…

 

There are those who protest, that whilst this is a most noble pursuit, worthy of every endorsement and encouragement, they can’t possibly do anything. It’s not a lack of will, but simply the burdens of their duties of state in life which are prohibiting them. There is no time to read this book, and never mind acting on it. Au contraire good sir, it is your duty of state in life to fight for the Kingship of Christ. The societies you number, is not just that of your family, but also that of the Mystical Body of Christ and of the state.

 

Ah, how pitiable it is, that a Catholic man will think long and hard about the means to increase his personal prosperity and that of his family; but when it comes to the fate of society, even the brightest and most energetic are unconcerned. How long do people spend on trifles? Oh, I want to be an excellent husband, a reliable employee, a sociable parishioner. What of being a good citizen? The pagan Cicero thought that the life of politics was the highest and most noble, more than that of the philosopher, since its end was not just your good, but that of all your countrymen. Ousset notes, that whilst our inferior number is no obstacle to victory, if those in our ranks, especially the most capable, are sluggish and half-hearted, our cause is lost. At any other time than that of the Apostles, has the salvation of society depended on the efforts of so few  people?

 

Now, before I comment on prayer, I do not wish to offend pious ears if it comes across that I’m playing down its importance. I am not. Ousset himself titles his conclusion “The need for prayer”. But - and it’s a big but - prayer is not a substitute for effort, nor an excuse for   negligence. Have you ever been part of some sort of Catholic Action, which wasn’t effective, and towards the end of the event, someone commented that God saw our efforts and we will be rewarded? … or something like that. Whilst it’s true God sees our efforts, it isn’t a helpful  attitude in terms of effective action. For since the Catholic Social Order is something to be achieved in the temporal sphere, we cannot then excuse a temporal failure for a spiritual one. Rather, we should evaluate what went wrong, what we can do better, etc.

 

Imagine a nun who is devoted to the care of the sick. Who, when accidentally poisoning a sick man by giving him the wrong medicine, simply says “but my good intention will merit heaven”. I doubt anyone would want to be treated a nurse of that attitude. Rather, the right     approach to prayer, is to pray as if our action were sure to be useless and to act as if our prayers could be of no avail. Or as St Joan of Arc puts it “The men at arms will give   battle, and God will grant them victory” or perhaps St Thomas More’s “The things I pray for, dear Lord give me the grace to work for” (that one sounds familiar… hmmmm.)

 

Nevertheless, there is a danger of relegating our interior life to the works of Catholic action. If we do not have a good interior life, then our active pursuits will be unfruitful, ineffective, and degenerative. For thoughts on the relationship of the inner life and catholic action a work such as ‘The soul of the Apostolate’ by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O (which was St. Pius X’s bedtime book), is recommended. But, Ousset’s focus is on action as such. And his point, that we must not say that defeat is victory, by excusing temporal failure with a spiritual excuse is important.

Perhaps you will plead a philosophical argument in objection to action. I am called to a higher life of contemplation, I cannot sully my soul with these worldly pursuits. After all, isn’t the contemplative life, higher than the active life? Yes and no. Yes, since our Lord told Martha (representing the active life) that her sister Mary (representing the contemplative life) chose the better path, and it will not be taken away from her. But no, as St Thomas Aquinas says: “The highest form of contemplation is that which superabounds in action”. By all means, strive to be contemplative and to love the inner life, but don’t think that action is   opposed to your pursuit of holiness.

 

Or trying to be prudent, you reckon that a general re-conversion of society needs to take place before we can hope institutions to be guided by the Catholic Faith. Nuh-uh, retorts Ousset. It is the re-establishment of a Catholic Social Order which will bring about this mass-conversion.

 

You may even try to appeal to the piles of books you already intend to read, and have promised others that you would read. Truly, if you believe that reading those books will glorify God more than this, who am I to object? But, if it’s between a third reading of the Lord of the Rings, a study which compares the differences of the Venetian and Florentine Renaissance, or Jean Ousset’s Action … (having quickly re-watch the extended editions of LOTR by way of compromise) go to Ousset.

 

I have shown to you our duty, both as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and as loyal citizens, that we must act to bring about the Kingship of Christ. To attempt to do so without a guide would be foolish. Let this be the guide, let this be the rallying point which we can refer to. It’s time for us to escape from the all-too-common pusillanimity which plagues Catholic circles, but instead to gird our loins, unsheathe our swords, gain something of the Crusader spirit, and conquer for Our Lord!

 

It’s also worth saying (since I haven’t said much in way of review) that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and was desperate afterwards to discuss with others the ideas contained. It certainly isn’t a drab, dull, dense dissertation dictating directives which I suffered to read out of a sense of duty. Rather, it’s witty, lively, avoids long metaphor, general ramblings and oversimplifications. It is principled and practical. It is the manual for the reconstruction of Christendom which deserves to be on all our bookshelves, on the tips of our tongues, and on the front of our mind.

 

To end with, here is how the publishers IHS Press introduce it.

 

“Action is a manual for the modern Catholic Crusader by one of the late 20th century's most respected and knowledgeable Catholic laymen.

 

Jean Ousset, one of France's foremost scholars of the Revolution, and a leader of the European anti-Marxist movement, founded La Cité Catholique in France in 1946 to spread the Social Reign of Christ. Action is one of his thorough and engaging -- yet practical -- manuals designed to inspire, motivate, and guide the modern Catholic     layman in the understanding and performance of his duty to fight, with every available and lawful means, for the implementation of Catholic principles in society.

 

Of particular interest is Ousset’s thorough, well-documented, and balanced treatment    of the relationship between the clergy and the laity in the struggle for the triumph of Catholic principles in the temporal order. Additionally, he makes a clear and commonsense case for when it is not only lawful but also imperative to collaborate with non-Catholics of good will for the implementation of the Church's Social Doctrine for the salvation of temporal society.

 

No man of good will concerned about the state of modern society - Catholic or otherwise -- who proposes to take some action in defence of what remains of Christendom can afford to be without this book. May God grant that it become a truly useful tool in the re-fashioning of a fervently and solidly Christian society.”

 

 - VCF, Sept. 2023

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Book Review:

"Action"

 

By Jean Ousset

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