At the end of the 60s, it was Dr. Plinio’s custom to invite some of his disciples, including some coming from other countries, to conversations on Saturday afternoons in the Giordano Pizzeria situated on Brigadeiro Luís Antônio Avenue. This simple and unpretentious location was for many years the setting for affectionate conviviality between father and sons.
A flower surrounded by horrors
It was there that he made some interesting remarks about innocence, as well as about those who abandon it. This conversation and Dr. Plinio’s reflections on such a crucial reality must have made a deep impact, for he recalled them perfectly more than ten years later, in a conversation with some followers:
“I took much notice of the fact that souls were insensible to primordial innocence. I remembered mine with nostalgia, but I sorrowfully lamented within myself to see the innocence of so many people lost, ruined, and the golden recess1 of their souls become a depository for all sorts of useless memories, a veritable interior rubbish bin! Every time I thought of this, a series of impressions – sadness, abandonment, infidelity and waywardness, along with the countless crimes, ingratitude and sins committed in the world – visited my mind so forcefully that they became associated by analogy to concrete images and figures, without my having the slightest intention of turning these into symbols. Rather, it was by natural correlation.”
In these words, the depth of his discernment of spirits can be clearly seen in analysing the phenomena taking place in the innermost recesses of hearts. Indeed, the description of these figures prompts the reader to speculate about the nature of this meditation, wondering whether, in reality, it was not a phenomenon of a mystical character:
“It was, for instance, a terrain full of bottle-shards – the type used atop walls – making it impossible to take a step without cutting one’s feet in the most cruel and bloody manner. Underneath there was dust-laden gravel, heated to burning hot by the sun, and in one corner there was a cactus with thorns. Everything there was hostile, but this cactus produced a flower, which, in the midst of those horrors, still retained a certain vitality with the possibility of becoming a marvel. However, if someone did not cross the field of bottle-shards to pick it up, it would wither.”
“There are moments, O my Mother…”
While he was thus thinking of the innocence of certain souls, reduced to a cactus flower surrounded by horrors, someone asked him if he could compose a prayer asking for the restoration of that springtime innocence. Then, with all naturalness he dictated, in one fell swoop, to those at the table:
“There are moments, O my Mother, in which my soul feels touched, in its deepest recesses, by an ineffable yearning. I long for the time in which I loved Thee and Thou didst love me in the vernal atmosphere of my spiritual life. I yearn for Thee, my Lady, and for the paradise which was placed in me by the great communication I had with Thee. Dost Thou not also, my Lady, long for that time? Dost Thou not long for the goodness which existed in that son that I once was? Come therefore, Thou who art the best of all mothers, and for love of that which was blossoming in me, restore me. Recompose in me that love for Thee, and make of me the complete realization of that son without stain which I would have been if I had not been so miserable. Give me, O my Mother, a repentant and humbled heart, and make shine anew before my eyes that which by the splendour of thy grace I had once begun to love so very much.2 Remember, O Lady, this David, and all the sweetness Thou didst place in him. So be it.”
Spontaneously and fluently, like water from a fountain, the prayer that would forever be known as the Restoration Prayer had sprung from Dr. Plinio’s lips.
The lamentation of a pure soul
Plinio at four years of age
It was the manifestation of a sentiment Dr. Plinio carried deep in his heart. “Evidently I composed it for others to pray, but it expressed my own soul; it is how I feel in the face of my innocence,” he would comment two decades later.
He gave even clearer explanations on a later date, allowing his uprightness towards the gifts received from Providence in the first quarter of his life to shine forth brightly: “Much of what is in the Restoration Prayer is a recollection of my childhood. I was greatly attracted by every kind of marvellous thing, and my soul was unimaginably innocent, brilliant and splendid!” And he added: “I said that prayer thinking of myself, for fear of not having preserved everything. I wish I could, before dying, repeat Our Lord’s prayer, altering it slightly. He said: ‘Of those You have given Me, I have not lost one’ (cf. Jn 18:9). And I would like to affirm: Of what You have given Me, I have lost nothing; I have not dropped even a single coin of my first graces! But I feared that this may not be so.”
In fact, he thought he needed to cleanse his soul of some possible stain, and thus restore the innocence that he feared he had in some way tarnished and for which he had an ineffable longing. And he would yet again, in the last months of his life, reinforce this idea, inspired by the desire to correspond to grace as perfectly as possible: “It is the inexorable fear of not having been as I should have been, lamenting at Our Lady’s feet and asking to finally be as I should have been. The Restoration Prayer could be summed up in this way.”
Yes, the Restoration Prayer is the interior sentiment, the lamentation of a pure soul, full of longing and wanting, at all costs, to re-establish a communication, a state of mystical relationship with Mary Most Holy and with the supernatural world, partly diminished by the trial of aridity, but in relation to which he considered himself unfaithful and lacking. He would traverse the decades in the hope of regaining that relationship and returning to that time of consolation, attaining the fullness of what he had once possessed.
For this reason, no one has recited this prayer with such profound devotion as Dr. Plinio, for whom it came to have such importance that, among the hundreds or thousands of prayers he composed, this was the only one he memorized and recited daily at the moment of concluding his thanksgiving after Communion.
However, it was not only to himself and his personal situation that he applied the significance of such beautiful words.
Like the prodigal son who returns to his father’s house
The Immaculate Heart of Mary – Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima, Cotia (Brazil)
Addressing his younger spiritual sons during a talk, he commented: “The Restoration Prayer tells the story of almost every soul. They came out of the baptistery innocent and took their first steps in life. Thereafter, how many of them lose this innocence, to a greater or lesser extent! The prayer thus refers to the paradise that was the communication with Our Lady during that time. There is no apt expression of the joy of childhood, of innocence, in which the Angels are present. Happy are those who have not lost it! Happy also are those who have recovered it! Happier still are those who ascend to Heaven with it!”
Although he always explained the meaning of this prayer as alluding to the diaphanous happiness of baptismal innocence, he also interpreted it in the sense of the graces given to someone at the dawn of their vocation. And he mentioned in a special way the case of those called to follow him and to be part of his work, who through infidelity had abandoned the paths of wonder and turned their attention to the banalities of the world. They must earnestly implore the grace of conversion, to which he had already given a name:
“It is the prayer of the ‘Grand Retour’3 par excellence. Whoever meditates on it point by point will see in it the attitude of the prodigal son returning to his father’s house. It is a soul once inebriated with joy in its relationship with Our Lady, but who then drifted far from Her in a miserable manner. He tried to live amidst death, and sank into sin, but grace pursues this ingrate and brings back memories from time to time. He recalls those moments, feels regret and asks Our Lady to restore the relationship.”
On another occasion, Dr. Plinio expressed how necessary it was to implore much more than the mere restoration of forsaken fidelity: “We ask for the reintegration in our soul of all that it has lost and, even more, that God give us, at the request of Our Lady, graces greater than those He would have given us if we had not lost it.”
The inexhaustible splendours of a prayer
On the other hand, he also wished to encourage his faithful children who, afflicted through no fault of their own by the eclipse of their first graces, should fervently pray the Restoration Prayer. Over the years, metaphors on this subject would follow upon one another in meetings and conversations, increasingly beautiful and sometimes truly wonderful, such as this one: “The Restoration Prayer is like certain birds that pass over the sea, dip one end of their wing into the water and then rise again. Thus, that good desire descends upon us and as we are touched by the tip of that ‘wing’, we revive. It is a minute when we feel as if the prayer request is fulfilled.”
Window from Burghausen Castle, Bavaria (Germany)
Or like the following, which seems to echo the Gospel parables: “A man had a picture in his house in front of which he often sat, because he loved to look at it. But he became blind and could no longer see it. Then people suggested that he sell it: ‘You don’t see this picture and it doesn’t bring you any advantage. You could, on the contrary, buy something more suited to your present situation, like a stereo system.’ While he understood the evident practical sense of the suggestion, he remembered the painting and understood the infidelity he would commit by selling it. For, even without seeing it, he relived what he once contemplated by keeping it close to him. This fidelity to the painting that he no longer saw is our fidelity to the morning splendour of our vocation when, by the disposition of Providence, we no longer see it. And a grace is attached to that text, by which we can bring that past to life by saying the prayer.”
Solidor Tower, Saint-Malo (France)
Perhaps even more consoling is the figure he used during a conversation: “The Restoration Prayer represents a look back amidst the struggle, to see if, in the difficulties of the present, by at least recalling the joys of the past we can find air to breathe and continue to advance.” And on another occasion, he explained the meaning of prayer by imagining the situation of a poor prisoner who exclaimed as he gazed upon a vast landscape: “How wonderful! But, unfortunately, I can only look at it from my prison window. The panorama is beautiful and I am enchanted, for I understand the beauty of the time when I rode at a gallop in the splendour of that green prairie.”
Yet how to describe the entire meaning contained in these simple lines? This is a prayer destined to span the centuries and to remain until the end of time, always repeated and meditated upon: a consolation and a maternal caress for those crushed by guilt or by trial, a sure beacon for the disoriented, a sublime perspective for those who wish to rise above the gloomy banality of a life without horizons.
It is a simple and grandiose prayer, both angelic and prophetic; a prayer of the crusades, a mystical prayer; a prayer like a refreshing dew, moving and poignant, made to move hearts of stone; a prayer of contemplation, full of meaning and symbolism; a prayer accompanied by gifts and graces, containing a mysterious force; a beautiful, useful and indispensable prayer, which points the way and conquers the impossible; a prayer of pardon and hope, which restores lost innocence; a prayer of confidence and joy, which makes us feel the affection of Our Lady; a Plinian prayer, calculated to move the Immaculate Heart of Mary. ◊
Taken, with slight adaptations, from:
O dom de sabedoria na mente, vida e obra de
[The Gift of Wisdom in the Thought, Life and Work of]
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. Città del Vaticano-São Paulo: LEV;
Lumen Sapientiæ, 2016, v.IV, p.243-251
1 By this expression, Dr. Plinio was referring to the remnant of innocence that he affirmed existed in the depths of many people’s souls, by which, with the help of divine grace, their return to virtue and goodness could be achieved.
2 In 1978, Dr. Plinio made an addition to the Restoration Prayer, wishing to further emphasize the notes of contrition and repentance, and definitively concluding its formulation. This passage appears in italics.
3 From the French: Great Return.