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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Friday, December 01, 2006


I feel a headache coming on. Here's today's can of worms, brought to us by our readers:

From KatDee:
(regarding St. Rose of Lima) But it always seemed to me that rubbing one's face with pepper and wearing a crown of thorns was self-aggrandizing; as if to say, "Look how holy I am! I'm suffering!"; after all, didn't Jesus say the hypocrites do as much? And aren't our bodies a gift from God that we're supposed to take good care of?

The thing is, KatDee, the saints weren't self-aggrandizing. They were very, very sneaky about their suffering. They wore spikes under their clothes and tried not to limp so no one would know they had tuberculosis in their hips.

St. Rose of Lima was aware that if her beauty caused boys to have...bad thoughts...she was causing them to sin, which by the way, is a sin on her. Somebody needs to explain this to Brittany Spears, post haste. I bring this up when I'd rather soak my brain in Palmolive dish soap than even mention it, because it's pertinent to our other two questions:

from Mikala:
I think I remember a saint who wrote that it is possible to live out some of your purgatory before death...I can't remember exactly who, maybe St. Catherine? Is this called being a penitent? or a "victim soul"?

from Alexa:
I think being a "victim soul" is for OTHER peoples' time in purgatory, not your own...but correct me if I'm wrong - and I'm sure Sister will.

I have a sense that God doesn't deal with measuring out much except justice.


I forgot all about "victim souls". I suppose it's good to be reminded, but it really can be a head spinner. Here goes.

I'm not so sure you can 'live out' some of your own purgatory time. It may be that some saint had some mystic message that said as much, but we may ignore anyone's personal revelations at our own discretion. I do believe that if you've had to suffer your whole life and you've managed to do that and offered it up and maintained a rosy disposition when you spent your life the color of unbleached flour, maybe you are spared the suffering of purgatory. But it's not my call. who knows what you were thinking behind your grin.

It's perfectly legitimate to offer up your prayers and sufferings for yourself for when you get to purgatory. That's part of the doctrine of indulgences. (Indulgences give you time off of your purgatory sentence, although since purgatory is outside of time there is no time in purgatory.)

Personally, it bugs me. It's like eating a hoagie in front of a starving man. The only excuse I can think of for racking up a boatload of indulgences to be used exclusively for yourself would be that you somehow believe there will be no Catholics left to pray you out of there after you're dead. I realize that everyone always believes that the world has never been worse than it is right now, and so must end at any moment, but history has proven them wrong.

Next point: a penitent is anyone who is doing penance, anyone who is sorry for their sins. Me, for example. All practicing Catholics. Probably Michael Richards. Obviously not Britney Spears.

The victim soul is a person chosen by God to suffer for the reparation of sins. That would definitely be all the saints who had the stigmata.

For some reason I think we often overlook the fact that the stigmata, while symbolic of the wounds of Christ on the cross, is in no way symbolic to the stigmatist. Bleeding painful puncture wounds are not symbolic if you have them.

So we have Padre Pio suffering for the sins of Brittany Spears, so to speak. Francis of Assisi taking on Ted Haggert's ilk.

The question that remains for me is this: does the victim soul choose back? Does the victim soul have to have the stigmata to be a victim soul? No, I don't think he does. He just has to be chosen by God to suffer. So....if the person has endless bad health, some awful disease, paralysis, whatever... can the person then 'become' a victim soul by offering it all up for the reparation of sin?

I imagine that the title 'victim soul' is a title like 'genius' in that you don't get to call yourself one. But you could certainly shoot for it.

But get this straight: we're not talking about when your feet hurt while you're standing too long in the gift wrap line. We're talking about getting cut in half by a train and living to tell the tale.

It does all give me a headache, as the whole idea of reparation gives me a headache because there is so much to repair and I worry about who crunches the numbers on this and if there's any hope of it ever coming out even.

I guess I'll do my bit and skip the Tylenol. Maybe make some brownies.

11 comments:

KatDee said...

Thanks for responding to my question, Sister. There's a Pentecostal lady at my office who says she's grateful every time she has to deal with a difficult client, because it helps her be a better follower of Christ.

I suppose you could look at our questions the same way - not that you're not an exemplary follower of Christ.

Theodosius said...

Sister Mary Martha,
This question just came up in the 9th Grade Confirmation Class I'm teaching. I know the Holy Souls in Purgatory cannot pray for themselves or each other, however they can worship God. Can they pray for the Church Militant? I've aways believed they could, however, my co-teacher seems to believe they can't. I can't find a reference either way in the Catachism.

Waiting on your reply to end the Schism...thanks.

Sister Mary Martha said...

End of the Schism? Did I have a stroke and no one told me? Could you repeat the question?

I don't see why the souls in Purgatory couldn't pray for whomever they wanted. They have free will. But I have a feeling they might be a little busy getting their own ducks in a row.

And we never ask them to pray for us, nor to we ask any of the dead to pray for us unless they are canonized, because we just don't know where they landed for sure. Aunt Rosie could have been sweet as pie, but you don't know what she was thinking.

Theodosius said...

Sorry, I mean't the schism (little "s") in class. Thanks for getting back with me so fast.

Theodosius said...

Sister,
Below comes from the Catholic Encylopedia. It's still a toss up. Bellarmine and Suarez support my postion but their points come off like a couple of hippies. Besides, who I'm to question St. Thomas Aquinas? I'll go with no, the Church Suffering can't pray for us. Like you indicated, they are out of the (earthly) loop and got waaaay too much going on themselves.

Thanks again.

Do the souls in purgatory pray for us? May we call upon them in our needs? There is no decision of the Church on this subject, nor have the theologians pronounced with definiteness concerning the invocation of the souls in purgatory and their intercession for the living. In the ancient liturgies there are no prayers of the Church directed to those who are still in purgatory. On the tombs of the early Christians nothing is more common than a prayer or a supplication asking the departed to intercede with God for surviving friends, but these inscriptions seem always to suppose that the departed one is already with God. St. Thomas (II-II:83:11) denies that the souls in purgatory pray for the living, and states they are not in a position to pray for us, rather we must make intercession for them. Despite the authority of St. Thomas, many renowned theologians hold that the souls in purgatory really pray for us, and that we may invoke their aid. Bellarmine (De Purgatorio, lib. II, xv,) says the reason alleged by St. Thomas is not at all convincing, and holds that in virtue of their greater love of God and their union with Him their prayers may have great intercessory power, for they are really superior to us in love of God, and in intimacy of union with Him. Suarez (De poenit., disp. xlvii, s. 2, n. 9) goes farther and asserts "that the souls in purgatory are holy, are dear to God, love us with a true love and are mindful of our wants; that they know in a general way our necessities and our dangers, and how great is our need of Divine help and divine grace".

When there is question of invoking the prayers of those in purgatory, Bellarmine (loc. cit.) says it is superfluous, ordinarily speaking, for they are ignorant of our circumstances and condition. This is at variance with the opinion of Suarez, who admits knowledge at least in a general way, also with the opinions of many modern theologians who point to the practice now common with almost all the faithful of addressing their prayers and petitions for help to those who are still in a place of purgation. Scavini (Theol. Moral., XI, n. l74) sees no reason why the souls detained in purgatory may not pray for us, even as we pray for one another. He asserts that this practice has become common at Rome, and that it has the great name of St. Alphonsus in its favour. St. Alphonsus in his work the "Great Means of Salvation", chap. I, III, 2, after quoting Sylvius, Gotti, Lessius, and Medina as favourable to his opinion, concludes: "so the souls in purgatory, being beloved by God and confirmed in grace, have absolutely no impediment to prevent them from praying for us. Still the Church does not invoke them or implore their intercession, because ordinarily they have no cognizance of our prayers. But we may piously believe that God makes our prayers known to them". He alleges also the authority of St. Catharine of Bologna who "whenever she desired any favour had recourse to the souls in purgatory, and was immediately heard".

Toltec said...

Sister Mary Martha,

I've been lurking at your blog for a while and am enjoying learning about the Roman Catholic faith. Since you are on a roll answering others' questions, I thought you might help me with mine.

I am confused about all the suffering by different parties (saints, living church members, the dead in purgatory, etc.) as reparation for sin. How does the suffering of Jesus figure into all this?

P.S. Thanks for making it so those of us who don't have our own blogs can participate.

Sister Mary Martha said...

I think I said the say thing, theodosius, without sounding like a hippie. I'm still drawing a blank on the schism.

Kasia said...

Sister, I think Theodosius was speaking flippantly of the disagreement between the two Sunday School teachers as a 'schism'. Just a little levity.

Thank you for answering my question about 'offering up'. I diligently offered up my embarrassment at having been so selfish and judgmental, and then on Friday I had the singular joy of having my feet go out from under me and falling hard onto concrete. While I didn't have the presence of mind to offer it up, I did manage to remind myself that "at least I'm not on fire."
:-)

Now I have another question for you. I'm an RCIA candidate, and yesterday we had the Rite of Acceptance/Rite of Welcome. (I blogged about it yesterday if you'd like the full story.) My question is, after the Rite my probably-going-to-be-sponsor and I hugged, and one of the Scripture reflection leaders hugged me too (I was pretty teary, as was my prospective sponsor). But in hindsight I sort of feel like I did something wrong, hugging them right up there in front of the chancel and the congregation. It seems like it wasn't exactly in keeping with the solemnity of the Rite. What's your opinion?

Thanks, Sister!

Anonymous said...

Whoa there! "Indulgences give you time off of your purgatory sentence, although since purgatory is outside of time there is no time in purgatory."

No, no no! It is why they had to change the indulgence modifier from a number of days to "plenary" or "partial"- because people were making the mistake of thinking that you got TIME OFF PURGATORY for an indulgence. No, it is TEMPORAL - repeat TEMPORAL - punishment for sin that you are relieved of!

You could look it up - anywhere!

Anonymous said...

Hello, Sister! What it means when we say that an indulgence works off a temporal penalty (as opposed to time in Purgatory) means this.

When you go to confession, you have a penance but you also need to do penance for a *certain amount of time*. Performing penances, offering things up, etc. work off this penance, as do indulgences.

I'm trying to pin down the origins of the theology of the victim soul. Have you ever read the stories of these women (and they are women)? They'll freak you right out.

theblessedgift said...

Hello,
Just wanted to answer some of the questions about victim souls. Victim souls are Chosen by God. If a person has an interest in becoming one they should express their interest in becoming one to Him. God is looking for many victim souls...
One only has to be willing and God will do the rest..
Being a victim soul is difficult, one should not look at the acclaim received from the extraordinary acts and allow that to dictate their decision.
They should come forth out of love for God to aid Him in any way possible.
The victim souls are not here for reperation of sin, but for the salvation of souls. The victim souls do work in the reperation of sin but that is secondary to the cause.
Gods purpose is for every one to be able to come to Heaven. Jesus's mercy is always there..
Many do not accept it..
For those who do not accept it..
They cannot receive....
Much of the time, victim souls are used as sacrifices willing to accept the chains of bondage that holds souls away from christ.
The soul no longer hindered by the bondage is of a better disposition to receive...
The victim soul suffers the burden of the bondage and ask God to remove it from them. Asking Jesus to have mercy on them, that they might be forgiven. That God might have mercy on them, so they can be free..
Then the Victim soul ask God to free the soul from its bondage to that it can be saved...
The soul that is now of a better disposition is willing to be saved...
Christ comes to the soul removes its bondage.. the soul ask for forgiveness of its sins... christ delighted in the souls return has mercy on the soul and grants forgiveness. The soul is now free in the grace of God and goes free..

This is a Simple minor explanation of what the victim soul does....