Letters Between Dona Lucilia and Dr. Plinio – Testimonies of a Relationship Steeped in Virtue

From their close, affectionate and supernatural relationship, which transcended the darkness of a world in deep crisis, Dona Lucilia and Dr. Plinio left a precious legacy to posterity…

“The most moving scene in my life,” Dr. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira once commented to his spiritual children, “was my encounter with my mother, who was no longer there, whom God had called to Himself. […] When I entered the room and saw her lifeless body, I realized that those hands that had so often caressed me would no longer caress me; those lips that had taught me so many things would no longer teach me… […]

“Never in my life had I experienced an emotion equal to or comparable to that. To explain to the three or four people who were in her room why I wept, but wept profusely, I said that Mama had taught me to love Our Lord Jesus Christ, she had taught me to love Our Lady, she had taught me to love the Holy Roman Catholic Church. That was all. Everything that I could possibly owe her, I owed her. And the way in which she did this so excellently increased the debt, and my affection for her could not be adequately expressed in words.”1

It would be hard to find a more moving testimony in the world, from a son about his mother. And the reason is that the union between Dr. Plinio and Dona Lucilia crossed, by divine grace, the limits of mere human love and rose to a profoundly supernatural level: much more than by the close degree of kinship that united them, they loved each other because they were Catholics and because they saw in each other authentic reflections of sanctity and love for God.

They left to posterity various examples of their close and virtuous relationship, one of which stands out for its originality.

On seeing Dona Lucilia’s face in a photograph, the late Fr. Antonio Royo Marínone of the greatest theologians of the 20th century – was impressed by the peace she conveyed and wanted to make contact with the writings of this venerable lady. He was told that, as she was a housewife, there was nothing but the voluminous correspondence she had had with her son in various circumstances throughout her life. He immediately expressed a desire to see this and, having analysed it with a critical eye, he concluded: “Dona Lucilia frequently expresses such sublime spiritual truths that the reader experiences sentiments similar to those produced by the inimitable epistolary writing of St. Teresa of Avila.”2 From this came his conviction, without anticipating the judgement of the Holy Church, that she was not just a Saint, but a great Saint, of the level of the reformer from Avila.

Vigorous and supernatural affection

An ardent Catholic leader from his youth, Dr. Plinio led a very active life and, for the success of his apostolate, he undertook several trips and participated in programmes that would take him away from the tranquillity of his home. For him and Dona Lucilia, this resulted in periods of more or less prolonged separation, during which, far from forgetting each other, they would take the opportunity to exchange touching tokens of affection and yearnings through letters.

Among many examples is an occasion when Dr. Plinio had to travel just before his mother’s birthday, April 22. Knowing how much his absence would be felt by her and with a heavy heart himself, he prepared an affectionate surprise for her in order to ease the pain of separation. He instructed some relatives to buy beautiful flowers to decorate the house and with them he left the following letter, to be presented to Dona Lucilia on the morning of that special day:

My dear little love,

I wanted you to receive my birthday greetings first, together with those of Papa, as soon as you awoke. Thousands of kisses, thousands of hugs, endless tenderness, and an ocean of “saudades” [yearnings – trans.]. Seldom have I made a sacrifice so great as that of scheduling a trip just before your birthday, which I would have so dearly loved to spend with you. But, my dear, it was indispensable to arrange things in this way. The departure was moved up; and implicitly, the same can be said of the return.

Today I will receive Holy Communion for you, and I will be thinking of you all day long… which, actually, is something I will be doing on the other days as well!

The flowers decorating the house were all bought by me. A thousand birthday greetings, beloved. May Our Lady give you everything.

Your fully-fledged and completely-spurred former “pimbinche” 3 requests your blessing with immeasurable affection and respect.


Later, Dr. Plinio’s father, Dr. João Paulo, wrote to his son about his wife’s reaction to receiving the letter: “Lucilia was very moved […] by the letter that was left here to be delivered to her that day: she wept copiously after exclamations of tenderness and longings and sank deep into prayer afterwards.”

In the exchange between Dr. Plinio and Dona Lucilia, trust was combined with vigilance: one relied on the other’s virtue, while protecting the other in times of trial
Dr. Plinio in the 1950s; to his right, a letter he wrote to Dona Lucilia in July of 1952

With no less affection than her son, Dona Lucilia wrote him the following letter, thanking him:

Beloved Son of my heart!

With all my heart and with all my soul, I thank you for the affectionate letter that you left for me and that brought me so much comfort, and also for the lovely, “really very beautiful” white, red, yellow, and lilac gladioluses that Zili sent me in the morning. I wept, it is true but, “thanks be to God,” it was for joy at having received – I, who am so unworthy, so “liberal,” – the very great gift from the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Most Holy of a son who is so holy, so kind and thoughtful, whom I bless with all my soul and for whom I request every Divine protection and the Light of the Divine Holy Spirit. […]

Today I attended Mass and received Holy Communion for you in “my” Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, where I requested a Mass for you and for the success of your undertakings. […]

With many longings, […] I make a little cross on your forehead, and… cover you with kisses and blessings. A long and wistful hug, beloved Pimbinchen, from your affectionate “manguinha,” 4


It is undeniable that, in addition to an unusual affection, these missives denote a vibrant supernatural spirit. They were written by two deeply Catholic souls whose intention was not to satisfy an instinctive family affection, much less to receive pleasantries or compliments for themselves, but to strengthen each other in virtue. One was for the other the living representation of the goodness of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and of Our Lady, to whom they had a special devotion.

In fact, explaining his relationship with his mother, Dr. Plinio said: “I have often said how much I loved my mother and how much I respected her. I respected her as a mother, no doubt, but that was not the principal point. The main point was the union of souls between us, with our sights on God. As she mirrored for me the Catholic Church, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary – in short, everything that God had placed in her, in affinity with me – I loved her in a very special way. But it was more because I loved God than because she was my mother according to nature.5

On another occasion, he added: “I saw the Sacred Heart of Jesus and I liked Him as much as I could like Him, without any reservations or restrictions. [He was] the summit of what I could conceive. I had a similar impression of her, on a much smaller scope. It was as if He lived in her.6

Mutual support on the path of virtue

This union between them, so in keeping with God’s will, was a real support for Dr. Plinio in his hard-fought battles on behalf of the Holy Church and an immense – and perhaps the only – consolation for Dona Lucilia amid the sad isolation in which she was left by those around her, who did not understand her virtuous reserve in relation to the fashions and innovations inspired by the atheist spirit of the 20th century. It could be said that, along the stormy road to fidelity, the only support they had was one another.

João Scognamiglio Clá Dias, EP, an ardent disciple of Dr. Plinio and a great admirer of Dona Lucilia, comments in this regard: “Providence wanted to give him a mother who would be a true wellspring, a flowering garden of virtue and innocence, so that he would have before his eyes a model, a point of analysis, of repose, of attraction and support for his own innocence. Providence gave her all the graces that suited him, and then gave him all the graces that would be necessary for her to advance further than she already had. In a kind of Gothic arch, […] where one arch rests on the other, that is how I see the relationship between the two. […] She had been given the grace to recognize the innocence, righteousness and virtue of his soul. What sustenance that was for her!”7

Thus, the relationship between Dr. Plinio and Dona Lucilia was a magnificent blend of trust and vigilance: one relied on the virtue of the other and, at the same time, tried to protect the other from the pitfalls and trials of life.

On one occasion, Dr. Plinio told his mother about some invitations he had received, which appeared to be a dangerous occasion for his perseverance. Dona Lucilia’s maternal zeal was vehement:

Beloved Son!

Your letter of yesterday made me very apprehensive as you can easily imagine, because, while I have great confidence in your sentiments and in your faith, temptation is always temptation. You have to remember that we all know who Mephistopheles is, and therefore what you have to do is fly leagues away, clutching a crucifix! I find it interesting that he takes advantage of my absence to do his “work.” He likes the shadows!

Tell him8 you are going through a very special time in your life upon which your future may depend, and for which you need all your energy in order to withstand your military service which, given your dislike for exercise in general and the consequent lack of habit, tires you out along with the coursework for your four classes, as well as your job, and therefore you are asking him to postpone these invitations. Between you and me, may “God, in His infinite mercy permit” that they be postponed forever!!!

Surely this advice and, more than anything, the affectionate concern with which it was given – in addition to the abundant maternal prayers – obtained from God copious graces that strengthened the young Plinio in the difficult moment of temptation. In addition, Dona Lucilia’s words show her clear awareness that her existence was a light in her son’s life and that, in her presence, the devil had little or no power over him.

The relationship between mother and son was an earthly reflection of the heavenly union within the Blessed Trinity
Dona Lucilia with her granddaughter in 1929; to her left, a letter she wrote to Dr. Plinio in 1930

The great need that Dr. Plinio had for this maternal presence in his life was demonstrated many times and in various ways, including in this letter of June 1950:

Luzinha most beloved from the bottom of my heart, […]

How very much I would like, my dear, to be able to hug and kiss you for a good while right now, to see you at least a little, to at least hear the timbre of your voice saying “beloved Filhão.” […]

But there can be no doubt that I am crazy about my dear manguinha, and that her kisses and embraces are for me a matter of primary, principal importance.

No less fervently, Dr. Plinio said at a meeting with some of his followers: “I could not conceive of a heavenly atmosphere that was not similar to the atmosphere I felt with her. […] Mother was a paradise for me until the moment she closed her eyes.9

Now, as the good and faithful son that he was, Dr. Plinio never missed an opportunity to make his mother feel the depth of his love for her, in order to “fill” the intense loneliness that surrounded her. He worried about every detail of her daily life and asked her many questions, giving his words a gentle conversational tone. The following letter, written on a different occasion, shows this well:

Manguinha of my heart,

How are you? I miss you immensely and wish to return right away to “Mother’s skirts.” […] And how is the daily life of Lú? Prudence? Reasonable hours? Much rest?

Here I continue to take every opportunity to recuperate from the fatigue of São Paulo. The climate is superb, as well as the food. In other words, everything is to my satisfaction, or at least it would be if Lucilia were at my side.

Always send me news of yourself. I want to know everything, even your dreams, nightmares, incidents on the street, etc.; in short, everything to do with my marquise interests me.

Thousands of kisses, my love. Pray for me. From the son who requests a blessing and who certainly loves you MUCH MORE than you love him.


Thus, between affectionate exhortations and, above all, continuous and devout prayers for each other, Dona Lucilia and Dr. Plinio walked together, amid the moral upheavals of their time, the winding path towards the Kingdom of Heaven, perpetuating their holy relationship across all distances, united in Jesus and Mary.

First flashes of a new grace

Faith tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Love of the Blessed Trinity, the Sacred Bond between the Father and the Son. In the entire universe, participating as it does in the perfection of its Creator, all stable and true unions only exist through the action of grace and the blessings of the Holy Paraclete, echoing, each in their own way, the beauties of the union between the Three Divine Persons.

Dona Lucilia and Dr. Plinio were undoubtedly a precious example of this heavenly conviviality, and of docility to the action of the Sanctifier, as evidenced by the elevation and virtue of their relationship, and so many other edifying aspects of their lives. Let us therefore implore them that, before the Most High, where we trust they are, they may obtain for us and for the whole world a new outpouring of the Paraclete that will purify the face of the earth from the mire of egoism and truly initiate upon it the reign of Jesus and Mary, in which God will finally be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28). ◊



1 CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Plinio. Conference. São Paulo, 23/12/1993.

2 ROYO MARÍN, OP, Antonio. Preface. In: CLÁ DIAS, EP, João Scognamiglio. Dona Lucilia. Città del Vaticano-Nobleton: LEV; Heralds of the Gospel, 2013, p.22.

3 Pimbinche was Dona Lucilia’s affectionate way of referring to her son during his childhood. The letters quoted in this article are taken from the work written about her by Msgr. João, mentioned above. The italics are from the originals.

4 The name by which Plinio called his mother when he was very little, being unable to articulate the word mãezinha – little mother – properly.

5 CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Plinio. Conversation. São Paulo, 4/4/1988.

6 CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Plinio. Conversation. São Paulo, 4/12/1985.

7 CLÁ DIAS, EP, João Scognamiglio. Meditação sobre a vida oculta de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo [Meditation on the Hidden Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ]. São Paulo, 8/9/1992.

8 Dona Lucilia refers to a person with whom Dr. Plinio had stayed during those days.

9 CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Plinio. Conference. São Paulo, 12/7/1980.



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