He points out the hideous (social) wounds; he goes into precise, living detail; he names by their name certain matters that we do not think about enough and he demonstrates the effects of these. Faced with these poignant realities in and around us, he sparks reflection, examination of conscience and resolution. All this has a deep impact, leading to and preparing the way for many changes.
Achieving change can and must begin with each person reforming him or herself. If we manage to do this, we will achieve profound social action and achieve change in the world. This will be so even without effective participation in state or other affairs, without anything resembling a ministerial, electoral or other program, without setting out any draft law or actual reform.
It will be achieved through stating and showing that, while the fundamental nature of things, societies, institutions, is not bad, it is the bad use that sinful man too often makes of these. And it will also be achieved by dint of stating and showing that, while what is willed by God is good and needs to be preserved and developed, what is desired by man outside of God and against God is detestable and needs to be changed.
This is exactly what Fr Gratry did. And undoubtedly there is something more than vague generalities in statements such as these:
that humanity, in its age of adulthood, must decide to better combat all forms of brutality;
that in a civilised world, humanity must cease giving such an important and sometimes beautiful place to those people he characterises as "men of prey" and "men of joy;"
that humanity must find better ways than in the past to combat those who kill and steal and this must be done in all forms and all fields;
that humanity must learn the use of freedom.
Undoubtedly it is more convenient to be defended than to defend oneself, to be led - I do not say to obey - than to behave; to be protected than to fight; but such is not the divine plan.
However, this is not the divine plan. It is clear from history as well as from contemporary events that it is more necessary than ever to struggle. More than ever an enlightened, free, energetic and persistent effort by each person is indispensable. And it needs to be understood more than ever how to bring people together and to renounce the divisions that weaken and lose us. This is how minds and souls will be raised up and at the right time, societies, peoples and nations.
by history, by contemporary facts, it is proven that, more than ever, it is necessary to fight; more than ever, the enlightened, free, energetic, persistent effort of each one is essential, and it is necessary to know, more than ever, finally, to unite with each other, to renounce the divisions which weaken us, which destroy us: thus Spirits and souls will arise, and when the time comes, societies, peoples, nations.
And won't this beautiful, profound and engaging theory of sacrifice, constantly placed before us, not have salutary effects in the social sphere?
Léon Ollé-Laprune, Eloge du Père Gratry, A la séance d'inauguration du buste au Collège de Juilly, Le samedi 8 février 1896.