See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Friday, May 25, 2012

Looks Like I did a critique of Michael Voris' Victim Spirituality a couple of years ago... Redux


Just my personal opinion file. Originally posted: 9/27/10
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First of all, I am not qualified to determine who is or who is not a victim soul, or to express anything but a personal opinion on victim spirituality.  This whole concept came up because of the Michael Voris video on the subject of homosexuals.
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Let me just say I believe in the Catholic mystical theology regarding victim souls and victim spirituality.  The priest as victim with Christ and specially chosen souls who share mystically in the sufferings of Christ in his passion, and so on.  I recognize it is an extraordinary grace, yet commonly aspired to by devout souls, especially in the sense of the 'little way of St. Therese' wherein the offering of victim is to merciful love as opposed to Divine justice.  So I get the spirituality.
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My difficulty is with the terminology.
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My problem with the terminology as applied to homosexuals seeking to live in conformity to Church teaching and striving for holiness is that it seems inappropriate, especially in light of the sexual proclivities and fetishes associated with some segments of gay culture.  Whenever one discusses this stuff one gets all sorts of reactions, most tiring amongst them is "not everyone is like that", or, 'there you go again, always generalizing'.  Gay people have issues folks - big sensitivity issues - let me tell you.  Obviously some of them want to be 'victims' - and not in a good way Karen Walker.  Like I said - I'm not qualified to speak to the theology of the issue, but I doubt a simple layman with a S.T.B. is the most qualified person either.   These matters are between the soul and Christ and the spiritual director or confessor - who in that context should have the particular charism to discern these matters.  Speaking of these spiritual intimacies publicly is like casting pearls before swine.  Mystical theology is difficult territory even for the S.T.M's, S.T.D.'s and S.T.L's.
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Why?
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Having said that, I'll list my reasons for insisting the use of the term 'victim soul' as applied to homosexual persons seeking a life of sanctity in the Church is inappropriate.  (Only my opinion BTW.)
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No more drama.  "Just Jack!"  Many gay people have issues - oops!  I mentioned that already.  The 'it's all about me thing' is a form of narcissism of course.  The whining and complaining and 'poor me' thing is very much part of gay life - in some sense - no matter how many freedoms are accorded that segment of society, there is always more rights they need.  I know - that's not a PC thing to say. 
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The wrong focus.  As stated in another post, I think it is the wrong focus for people with SSA insofar that there is already a tendency towards self-pity and singularity associated with the homosexual inclination that could be exaggerated by imagining oneself to be some sort of 'special' victim.  It could be a way of unconsciously holding onto a gay identity, or cultivating a gay spirituality - and that is in error.
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"My daddy used to spank me will you take his place?"  I think there is danger a S/M fantasy could likewise be unconsciously indulged.  I once did a post on how most of the gay priests and religious I've known were into discipline and bondage - you see how that could transfer over to this type of spirituality?  You don't?  I do.  So even from the Roman Catholic ascetical/mystical theology perspective I think it's not a good term for SSA people. As I said to another commenter, the role of 'Camille' can be very seductive... think of how attractive to gay men images of St. Sebastian in bondage can be.  The other factor here is the negative connotation the term victim has in general popular culture.
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Singularity.  I've also met so-called victim souls - they were easily deluded and painful to be around.  If anyone tells you they are a victim soul - unless you are their spiritual director, but maybe even then - I'd say 'watch out'.  My point is that these are intimate matters between the soul and Christ, and anything that goes beyond the ordinary offering of oneself over and above the morning offering, or consecration to the Sacred Heart, or in the manner of St. Therese's offering to Merciful Love, or spiritual exercises on that order, must be subject to the discernment of proper spiritual directors.  It seems to me people just can't appropriate such titles to themselves and others without falling prey to illusion and frequently, exaggerated piety.  That is not to say souls are not called to be victims. 
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Common mystic prayer.
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Nevertheless, I believe the ordinary way  of common mysticism is the best and safest way.  I'm personally fond of the following direction from The Life and Message of Sister Mary of the Holy Trinity regarding victim spirituality: 
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Words of Our Lord:  363.  "I desire an army of apostolic souls consecrated to me by the vow of victim, not to expiate the sins of others by extraordinary trials;  but to choose the methods I chose:  Silence, immolation, radiating the triumph of the life of the Spirit...  I desire an army of souls..."
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366.  I ask four things:  
1)  To listen to me more than speak to me.
2)  To strive to reproduce my actions - my way of acting rather than words.
3)  To be before men as they are before God in a state of poverty that begs - not in a state of spiritual wealth that gives alms of its superfluity.
4)  To confine their efforts to spreading my spirit, my gentleness, and my kindness which does not dwell on evil, but overcomes evil by good.  By being exacting with no one but themselves, they will help souls by their silence and their respect, to receive the graces which their fidelity and their sacrifices will obtain from God.
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457.  "The state of victim is to bear without defending oneself, as I did in my Passion, insults, slander, mockery, brutality - to allow oneself to be stripped...  For more on S. Mary click here.
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The ordinary, little way...
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You see, this type of hidden 'victim' spirituality is very Eucharistic: silent, loving, ordinary - forgetting self - not focusing upon self or one's state, humbly uniting oneself to Christ's silent loving action in the Eucharist.
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My apologies to anyone offended by my flippancy regarding this subject - I hope this takes care of my side of the discussion and that you understand I am no authority and I am only expressing my opinion based upon a certain degree of experience.

Who knew I already wrote on this?  Patrick and Thom - thanks guys.

70 comments:

  1. I can't thank you enough for posting this, particularly the "ordinary way of common mysticism" part. It's consoling to see this explained and so practically. I'm encouraged by it and want to 'find God' in this way--I needed the reminder too.

    If it's ok, I may link up to this on my own blog.

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  2. ********Blogger scars********

    Mr. Terry wrote, "My apologies to anyone offended by my flippancy regarding this subject over the weekend."

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    Geese people are sooo touchy, can't they just suck it up and accept that it's only your opinion and leave it at that. Aren't you allowed to have an opinion flippant or not and even if it isn't the same as ours? (It isn't your opinion that hurts people anyway but that it's often laced with truth which makes it painful.)

    You shouldn't have to blog about apologizing for your opinion.

    I can see Mr.Terry , your trying hard to get along with your brethren, I hope they're trying as hard to get along with you.

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  3. No ouchies here Mr. Nelson. And in my own way this was all I was trying to affirm from the outset - that victim spirituality is thoroughly Catholic and proper. I get your point about how the term may be misapplied in terms of celibate homosexuals. I'm no authority either and even less so than you so, thanks for your thoroughness. This and the other entries more than answers my initial comment question.

    Again, you never once offended me. You'll have to try harder for that to happen.

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  4. Terry, thanks for sharing these thoughts, I learned a lot. I had heard of the "victim souls" thing, and pretty well didn't understand it. This sheds some light.

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  5. Fr. Jordon Aumann OP on Victim Souls:

    "Offering Oneself as Victim. It would seem that it is impossible to go further in love of the Cross than to prefer sorrow to pleasure. Nevertheless, there is still another more perfect degree in the love of suffering: the act of offering oneself as a victim of expiation for the sins of the world. At the very outset, we must insist that this sublime act is completely above the ordinary way of grace. It would be a terrible presumption for a beginner or an imperfectly purified soul to place itself in this state. "To be called a victim is easy and it pleases self-love, but truly to be a victim demands a purity, a detachment from creatures, and a heroic abandonment to all kinds of suffering, to humiliation, to ineffable obscurity, that I would consider it either foolish or miraculous if one who is at the beginning of the spiritual life should attempt to do that which the divine Master did not do except by degrees." (14)

    The theological basis of offering oneself as a victim of expiation for the salvation of souls or for any other supernatural motive such as reparation for the glory of God, liberating the souls in purgatory, attracting the divine mercy to the Church, the priesthood, one's country, or a particular soul, is the supernatural solidarity established by God among the members of the Mystical Body of Christ, whether actual or potential. Presupposing the solidarity in Christ that is common to all Christians, God selects certain holy souls, and particularly those who have offered themselves knowingly for this work, so that by their merits and sacrifices they may contribute to the application of the merits of the redemption by Christ. A typical example of this can be found in St. Catherine of Siena, whose most ardent desire was to give her life for the Church. "The only cause of my death," said the saint, "is my zeal for the Church of God, which devours and consumes me. Accept, O Lord, the sacrifices of my life for the Mystical Body of thy holy Church." She was also a victim soul for particular individuals. Other examples of victim souls are St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Gemma Galgani, and Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity.

    In practice, the offering of oneself as a victim for souls should never be permitted except to souls of whom the Holy Spirit asks it with a persistent and irresistible motion of grace. It should be noted that, rather than contributing to the sanctification of the individual (although it does add something), this particular act is ordained to the spiritual benefit of others. The soul that would give itself in this way for the salvation of others must itself be intimately united with God and must have traveled a long way toward its own perfection in charity. It must be a soul well schooled in suffering and even have a thirst for suffering. Under these conditions the spiritual director could prudently permit a soul to make this oblation of self as a victim soul. Then, if God accepts the offering, the soul can become a faithful reproduction of the divine Martyr of Calvary."

    http://www.domcentral.org/study/aumann/st/st07.htm

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  6. yeah no offense given or taken here, either. good explanations and you're right that someone with ssa should not buy into the 'victim' mentality due to the ongoing battle against self-pity.

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  7. M - thanks very much for the passage from Fr. Aumann - your contribution is most welcome.

    Patrick - I'm no expert or authority as you know - so pass everything you think may be worthwhile on this blog by your spiritual director.

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  8. This "victim soul" thing all smacks to me of a torturing God who "allows" or "imparts" suffering on a person to "test" their faithfulness, love, or endurance. That is far from the God that revealed himself in Jesus. And it's far from the kind of God, whom I adore, that I will proclaim to others.

    There is plenty of suffering in the world, both by Christians and by non-Christians. That is quite enough. Even if a person is suffering and offers it to God, there is NO reason to broadcast it, make a spectacle of it, or give it a name and genre. There was one willing victim who freely offered himself for the redemption of the world. That's all that needs to be proclaimed.

    And as for worrying that specific groups will use the "victim soul" moniker as sign of victimization, self-pity, unending misery, and always wanting more, that could very well be because of the way that they have been treated/mis-treated by the humanity in time and history. Only we have the power to change how we treat others.

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  9. Mr. Terry: Your spiritual wisdom, insight and absolute clarity is a true gift; please do NOT feel that you have no "expertise" or voice...you speak of so much truth...
    yes... your insight into the "narcissistic" aspect of "gay personality" is right on...we don't need more false "sado-masochism"...
    and as for your insight into the "victim-soul" aspect...yeah; I believe that is a particular "mission", a particular "charism" that is GIVEN, not taken upon one's self (so often self-serving and absolutely self-aggrandizing, yeah?).
    Your comment upon the "Eucharistic" self-immolation is "spot on"...silent, hidden, vulnerable, absolutely obscure; that is the real test, I believe, and who knows how many hidden, Eucharistic souls, those who identity with the "Host"...those in our midst we may have absolutely no clue that exist; THAT is authentic.
    My previous comments about "victim-soul" in regards to those who suffer from "same-sex attraction" is really identical to your comments; it's not the "drama-queens", if you will, but the "hidden souls" (in imitation of St. Therese of Lisieux) who live for Jesus, who love Him above all, and offer their sufferings that they did not, in fact, bring upon themselves, but are in a sense, reparation for the sins of the world, especially the horrid abuse of men and women, children, prostitutes, "male companions,escorts", whatever. The disrespect and manipulation of so many, especially the young, is a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance.
    Those men (and women) who struggle mightily and resist the impulse to "use" another in any way is, to me,
    a great reparation...whether they are, in fact, "victim souls" is another matter.
    Your insight is very helpful. Thank you!

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  10. I have not studied this like Fr. Aumann, but my understanding is that St. Thérèse of Lisieux was NOT a victim soul of the kind of being described. Her offering was to merciful love, adn I believe she chose that kind of offering precisely because she considered herself 'little' and incapable of being a victim soul in the way that other 'super-nuns' who take on great suffering for others were.

    My understanding is that the basis was not the tradtionally-conceived reparation in response to divine justice, but rather to console God by accepting the love He wishes to give that others refuse.

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  11. Thanks for this post. I felt like the video raised more questions than it answered. "Victim souls" can often be a rather mysterious concept. A family member once thought she needed to be one for her relatives who had fallen from the Faith. I don't know if it is that simple.

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  12. Father - you are very kind - however you know about these things much better than I do.

    Patrick - stay very close to Little Therese - as she surely is to you - I can see you understand what she teaches. When we are very little, we never have to preoccupy ourselves with these things.

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  13. Hey Terry & Nazareth Priest, being a Knight of the Immaculata isn't the same as offering yourself as a victim soul is it?

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  14. ck - I don't really know - but it is certainly safer - since it is total consecration to Our Lady - that way we do not have to concern ourselves with these things - it is very much like the little way. We are knights for Our Lady and will give our lives for her and her Son. We are more than conquerors, as St. Paul says!

    Father could answer this better than I however.

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  15. I'm glad to have some confirmation in this, Terry. As I think I said before, when I hear of victim souls and doing special things for God, it simply makes me anxious--not that I don't want to give God everything.

    It's good to see this connected to total consecration to Our Lady. I strive for exactly that. The way I figure, I don't even know what God wants most of the time let alone how to 'apply it', what to pray for, etc. So, I think the goal is to live generously and zealously whatever one's state in life but as you say, not concern ourselves with things that I think are too big.

    Why not just trust Mary and humbly try to 'empty' ourselves, giving it all to her to guide us? I think that is the most honest, reasonable path for a human being in the fact of the mystery.

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  16. Yes, ck, I believe that within the total consecration to Our Lady (whether de Montfort or M. Kolbe), the complete offering of self, in imitation of and within the Marian consent, is Eucharistic...thus the aspect of "victim" as well as "priest" (one who through baptismal consecration offers one's entire life to God)...is intimately connected with the Mass. And that is really, from what I know, the whole "victim-soul" spirituality is about...not about horrid suffering but of OFFERING, in union with Jesus' complete and obedient offering...and one's wounds and sufferings become the means of this offering; but always within a humble, silent and hidden way.

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  17. One thing I have a hard time fathoming - and maybe I'm reading too much into your post - is the extent to which it seems everything is sexualized for some poeple. Now, I may have gone through a phase in my life where that was somewhat true, where I oversexualized things because I was an overstimulated teen/early adult, but that hasn't been the case for some time. And, I find the more I grow in Faith, the less I see things through a sexual lens. Is this more a gay thing than straight? I don't know....I have some straight acquiantances that haven't gotten past viewing women, including their wives, as receptacles.

    This is sort of like inculturation of the Mass, which I'm generally not in favor of. I can see the danger of making a 'straight' or 'gay' or 'black' or whatever Catholicism.

    I had a priest commenter at my site say that Voris' video on 'Catholcis and homosexuality' was the most patronising thing he'd ever seen. I did not get that - I think he was trying to be charitable and relay the Doctrine of the Faith, but maybe he was. It's hard to know what's patronising to someone substantially different - if he had said reformed alkies/pain killer freaks like me are victim souls, I would not have agreed.

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  18. One thing I have a hard time fathoming - and maybe I'm reading too much into your post - is the extent to which it seems everything is sexualized for some poeple. Now, I may have gone through a phase in my life where that was somewhat true, where I oversexualized things because I was an overstimulated teen/early adult, but that hasn't been the case for some time. And, I find the more I grow in Faith, the less I see things through a sexual lens. Is this more a gay thing than straight? I don't know....I have some straight acquiantances that haven't gotten past viewing women, including their wives, as receptacles.

    This is sort of like inculturation of the Mass, which I'm generally not in favor of. I can see the danger of making a 'straight' or 'gay' or 'black' or whatever Catholicism.

    I had a priest commenter at my site say that Voris' video on 'Catholcis and homosexuality' was the most patronising thing he'd ever seen. I did not get that - I think he was trying to be charitable and relay the Doctrine of the Faith, but maybe he was. It's hard to know what's patronising to someone substantially different - if he had said reformed alkies/pain killer freaks like me are victim souls, I would not have agreed, but I don't think I'd have felt patronised.

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  19. Thanks Terri for balancing all this out.

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  20. One thing I don't understand about these "victim souls", and Catholic theology in general is this:

    If Christ died for our sins, if he suffered so we don't have to, then why does it seem, from looking at the lives of the saints, that God wants us to suffer and live in pain for all the ways we have offended Him?

    Why must someone besides Christ have to suffer here on earth punishments for offending God's justice?

    I know my sins have GREATLY offended God, and I know that I can never make up for what I have done. But why is so much Catholic spirituality focused on making up for our sins by suffering for them? Are we not supposed to be thankful because Christ died for us?

    I know my sins are much worse than anything Augustine ever did. Yet, I have the audacity to ask God for a happy marriage and a family, instead of doing what the saints did for lesser sins than mine - going out and beating the hell out of themselves and sleeping on rocks and stuff. I cannot do enough - never! And yet like I said, I have the audacity to pray - sometimes.

    To me, it sees o resto t

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    1. I don't know how to explain these things. But I recall Paul saying something that by his sufferings he makes up what is lacking in Christ's. not that his suffering were not complete - it's a mystery isn't it. But God loves us so much he grants us a share in the sufferings of Christ. so see how close he is to you? Even when you suffer.

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    2. Merc, it's when you feel most abandoned that you're closest to Him. This is where the cheezy picture of footprints in the sand comes in...where it looks like one person walking alone, it is, because He's carrying you.

      If you haven't read Come be my Light (Mother Teresa's letters), you need to. She spent years waiting to begin her order, feeling that God had abandoned her.

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    3. Yes, but it's this feeling of "I have no right to ask Him for things unless I pay Him back in suffering" or the "I am not really forgiven for my sins unless I suffer some excruciating penance" or "I will spend millions of years in purgatory unless I become a penitential religious" that bothers me.

      I can understand freely embracing suffering. I get that very much. It's this idea that I should be seeking it out or inflicting it on myself that I have trouble with.

      As it is, I DO want happiness in this life - I want a wife and a family. I want all that comes with that and of course I am also willing to accept the hardships. But it's not the life of a severe penitent or even a monk under the counsels. I don't want to accept the Counsels. So I feel I must be really stingy in God's eyes because I have no interest in freely chosen celibacy or poverty. I'll take celibacy if it comes to it (I my marriage isn't annulled), an I am learning to accept financial woes as an opportunity to grow in trust.

      But I still have this notion that I'm either gonna go to hell or at least to suffer miserably in purgatory for a loooooooong time unless I "pay God back" with pain or join a severely penitential order.

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    4. The problem is that nobody promised us happiness in this life, only the next one.

      God loves you. He doesn't want you to create additional suffering for yourself by feeling pressured to choose things that you don't want.

      Pray. Especially the rosary. Ask His mother to help you to become closer to Him. Spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament to be sure you remember that you love Him

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    5. I don't mean I seek ultimate happiness in this life. I mean I feel I am doing wrong or shortchanging God by seeking ANY happiness, especially my wish to have a wife in a loving and happy marriage, to have a family, etc.

      I mean, all the big saints saw that as second-class stuff, and didn't want anything to do with it.

      Yes, I want to serve God in a role as husband ad father, but I really do want it for myself too. And I feel so bad about that. If I *really* loved God would I want or like any earthly things?

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  21. To me, it seems to rest on this notion of God's majesty being so unassailable that it can only be satisfied by bloody, violent, suffering. That at all times he is furious and angry with the world, since most of what even the bet of us do is not perfect. While in this scheme, the "satisfaction" view of atonement, Christ makes up for this thirst for punishment and desire for bloody violent suffering, it seems that if God is this way, what he wants to do most is punish us, or at least make us feel the suffering we cause Him.

    I know that prayer, for example, can be helped by little acts of self-denial and sacrifice. But to my mind his seems like we're "making a deal" with God - I will suffer pain if you do this for me. I don't get it. I know that usually I do not pray enough for what I want either for myself or for others. I feel like my prayers "don't count" unless I am doing some extraordinary penance. And since were supposed to be praying every day, wouldn't this mean always suffering?

    Also, I really think sometimes that the things I pray for are not granted because I do not suffer enough - that seems like a trap though, to believe that the efficacy of prayed depends on how much suffering we "pay" God off with. I really want my wife back, but I know I haven't prayed or suffered as much as God wants - sure I pray for her every night, but for the most part I live life normally.

    So how do I even know if I am being punished or my prayers are not strong enough, or if God simply wants something else from me. He sure knows I dont *deserve* a good marriage.

    Anyway, all this reminds me of why I find it hard to love God on a personal level, or why He would ever love me, unless I become some sort of prayer warrior. And I *really* do not know how to be close to Mary without becoming a puritan. I know so many normal people who love and are devoted to her, yet I feel like the only way I can impress her is to never laugh at a dirty joke ever again, never watch non-religious movies, and of course to not have any sexual desires at all.

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    1. Our Lady thinks of us as little children - she doesn't really see our sins except as they are reflected in Christ's wounds, and she loves her Son so much she cannot help but compassionate these wounds, and dress them, and heal them. Believe me.

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    2. I wish I could explain to you how much He loves each of us. So much that dying on the cross to atone for our sins was the equivalent of God kissing humanity's owie. It was the littlest expression of His love for us. All He wants from us is our imperfect love. We can't pray enough or love Him enough but that's okay. The fact that we love Him is enough.

      Who told the story about two angels, one gathering the prayers of those who ask God for something, the other gathering the thanks of those who thank Him? Guess which angel was busier? Yes, the one gathering the prayers of those asking for something.

      We don't offer thanksgiving enough.

      Another good, if fluffy, read is Matthew Kelly's Rediscovering Catholicism. It's like cotton candy in comparison to BXVI's books but has a lot of good reminders for us.

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  22. "And I *really* do not know how to be close to Mary without becoming a puritan. I know so many normal people who love and are devoted to her, yet I feel like the only way I can impress her is to never laugh at a dirty joke ever again, never watch non-religious movies, and of course to not have any sexual desires at all"

    God made sex and said it was very good!
    Ask Jesus to introduce you to His Mother. They dance at weddings and drink wine you know?
    Praying the mysteries in 2009, I felt I was at different ages in my life, I saw that Our Lady, my Mother was there with me during those times, she wasn't judging me, that's not her job after all.

    I am no longer frightened to approach her, even with the history I have and the still too often active defects of character. I still sense Jesus and Mary's closeness.

    Like it or lump it, they love sinners.

    I just have to keep picking myself up when I fall and start all over again, on and on, seventy times seven a day if necessary.

    God bless you Mercury.

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    1. like it or lump it - haha! How true.

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  23. And you too. Btw, I got to use "Geordie" in a conversation the other day. :)

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  24. Away the lads, bonny noo-castle chat in America!

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  25. Mercury,

    I have very similar struggles as you describe here with the notion of reparation and such.

    Also, I have trouble sometimes with intercessory prayer, particularly the notion of certain saints being very close to God and never having their requests denied - things of that nature. I don't mean that I have a problem praying to saints for their help in itself - the issue is that one of the implications seems to be, at least to me, that God will do it for me because of THEM, but not because of me - essentially, that He does not really love or think highly of me, but because so-and-so asks, well, alright, He'll do it.

    I don't mean, as you suggest, that I think I *deserve* anything, or at least I hope not. But still, to try to hold the ideas that God loves us all so much and that He's always seeking to pour out His goodness on us, and then to consider the ideas of having advocates with God or middlemen, essentially (I mean no irreverence), together is hard for me.

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  26. Sort of in line with this - and let me say immediatley that I desire to be deeply devoted to Mary and do believe in her unique place in salvation history - I've heard at times the sort of joke that is meant to contain a grain of truth where Peter asks Mary how a particular person got into heaven after it was deemed, at the time of judgment, that that person could not go there. And Mary says that she let them in the back door.

    That kind of thing, while I think I understand what the intention is, is very confusing to me otherwise, I think it's theologically unsound, and again it suggests this "God didn't want you, but I convinced Him" sort of thing - as if Mary is more loving that God or something.

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    1. Our Lord will teach you over time about these things. He did me.

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  27. "I once did a post on how most of the gay priests and religious I've known were into discipline and bondage"....now that really made me think!

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    1. Same here - isn't it odd though?

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    2. I should add - there is a community in the area where the 'inmates' have a reputation for being light in the sandals. Anyway - I ran into a former member downtown shortly after he left the community, and he was all dressed up in leather. I burst out laughing.

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    3. Oh yes I've heard of some men leaving community & walking out in leather...

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  28. The concept of redemptive suffering is not about atoning for our sins. If it were then Mercury would be right to be confused ["If Christ died for our sins, if he suffered so we don't have to, then why does it seem, from looking at the lives of the saints, that God wants us to suffer and live in pain for all the ways we have offended Him?"] as this would seem to negate the saving grace/work of Christ's death/resurrection. The Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession where we make penance/receive absolution for the ways in which we offend God in our post-baptismal life.

    Redemptive suffering or victim souls is a unique co-operation with the ongoing work of Christ. Above, Terry alludes to St. Paul's writings where he says it is, in some sense, the call of every Christian to participate with Christ in this way Col 1:24-25, 1 Corinthians 12:26, Romans 8:17

    There was/is nothing lacking/wanting/insufficient in the sufferings of Christ. He is the head of the Church. However there are ongoing sufferings that are still 'wanting' and those yet to come within the life of the Church militant/the body of Christ.

    That's my best shot. Cheers.

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    1. Excellent - thanks very much Owen - see how important your ministry is.

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  29. Thanks Owen and Patrick!

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  30. VICTIM SOUL. A person specially chosen by God to suffer more than most people during life, and who generously accepts the suffering in union with the Savior and after the example of Christ's own Passion and Death. The motive of a victim soul is a great love of God and the desire to make reparation for the sins of mankind.

    Modern Catholic Dictionary

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  31. Funny, I couldn't find "victim soul" in the Catechism of the Catholic Church though.

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    1. You can find it in Garrigou-Lagrange - it is a mystical-theological description.

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  32. "But God loves us so much he grants us a share in the sufferings of Christ. so see how close he is to you? Even when you suffer."

    Thank you for this, Terry. I think it's sensible. Whereas I tend to think that our suffering is somehow something we have to go through to get closer to God, something like a payment or reparation or something (and perhaps there is validity in that), maybe, by virture of our suffering, we're already with God right then and there - He is so close to us then, as you say. And if God ultimately desires communion with us, then any explanation of suffering that would seem to separate us from the love of God would seem off to me, by virtue of what is God's will: communion with us, that all men be saved, etc.

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    1. St. Paul says nothing can separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ jesus.

      Yesterday's reading at Mass of Paul in jail, Christ appears to him amidst his sufferings and encourages him. Christ didn't come from heaven to do that - he was already present. Remember the temptations of St. Antony and even St. Catherine, when they complained to the Lord, "Where were you" amidst their terrible struggles - Jesus told them he was there with them during the trial. So you see that he is with us - indeed very close to us in the dpths of our anguish. It is why Therese said she preferred not to see - she preferred the darkness of faith amidst her trials. It is why St. John of the Cross uses ecstatic terms involving the dark night - "Oh sweet cautery!" and so on. The deeper the darkness, the deeper the love.

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  33. such a really good posting Terry...just...really good. (quite the wordsmith tonight, huh? :)

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  34. This seems stupid, but why does it seem that only the religious, the super-sufferers, the monks and nuns etc will ever get a chance to get so close to God in this life?

    We all know that most married saints lived nothing resembling a normal married life - and a lot of the even "outsourced" their children for this, and of course they almost all gave up relations with their spouse.

    So it seems to me that if one is happily married, living a happy, prayerful, and thankful life here, God's not being "paid off" enough, and if you avoid hell, purgatory's gonna be a bitch. The message I get is "sure it's nice to be married, but you're going to suffer for the fun you had in purgatory" or "it's okay I you choose a secular job over religious life, but you're gonna have to pay for that choice."

    This is all silly. But it's really why I am hesitant to even pray for my marriage, or for a future one at some point. I feel SO guilty because I don't wanna join religious life, don't want to look for suffering. I feel like if I'm not living a life of continence, if I own property or like anything bedsides God by the time I die, he will demand payment from me in purgatory. I literally dread marriage because of this - it's a satisfying and happy life if it's lived right, emotionally and physically. But of God wants suffering, why should I want what would make me happy?

    I feel like the choice to live in the world, the choice to not be a religious, the choice to not embrace total an complete continence - these are not choices at all, but they must have some "strings attached".

    This is my own craziness, but it really is what I gather from traditional spirituality and the saints.

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  35. Mercury,

    I think I know what you mean as I've struggled with similar questions myself. And I don't have an answer to what you ask. Perhaps Terry has some thoughts?

    However, I would like to say at least this: that the notion of suffering or self-denial = holiness is not necessarily the only view in traditional spirituality or the Saints.

    For instance, I've been reading this book on Marian Consecration by Fr. Mike Gaitley, MIC, and he writes in there of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who "used to give spiritual conferences to the men in his religious community, the novices. One day, he taught them a lesson they would never forget: "How to become a Saint." The future saint began by telling his listeners that sanctity isn't so hard. It's the result of a simple equation, which he wrote on the blackboard: "W + w = S." That capital W stands for God's will. The small w stands for our wills. When the two wills are united, they equal Sanctity."

    Now, one may well find this at the root of every saint's life, no matter how much they also talk about suffering otherwise. It would make sense to me that one would because Jesus Himself and Mary herself, at decisive moments of their lives, spoke in terms of abandoning themselves to God's will for them. In other words, it was God's will for them and not some generalized acceptance of suffering in itself (because that's more holy) that was the key.

    Of course, I think we could say, however generalized it may be, that suffering and sanctity do go hand in hand to some degree. Mostly everyone seems to suffer anyway, regardless of whether or not they want to be saints! And surely, St. Maximilian would not have seen his suffering as somehow apart from his embrace of God's will, just as our Blessed Mother and Jesus surely would not have.

    However, more and more, I think we're realizing in the Church that, again, for however valid a general relationship between suffering or self-denial and sanctity may be, we are individuals, persons, and God deals with each of us uniquely. St. Francis de Sales surely spoke in this way and one of the main points of St. Igantius' Spiritual Exercises is for one to know what is for God's greater glory in his or her own case - such is acheived only through prayer, through discernment. It is an entirely unique experience, in a sense. If it were not so, they St. Ignatius would have no need to lead people through the weeks of the Exercises meant to foster a proper disposition of heart wherein one can, like Mary, receive what is God's pleasure for such a person. Otherwise, Ignatius could simply rely on reason alone, and in conjunction with the formula of sanctity being about the greatest suffering or self-denial, simply have one reason one's way through his or her options to see what that would ential and choose accordingly - no direct encounter with God, no prayer, no real sense of personhood or individuality is needed necessarily.

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  36. continued...

    The real "formula," I believe, that is most important is the one of St. Maximilian regarding God's will. We need to have a greater sense of ourselves as persons unique before God, sensitive to how He is leading us. Even St. Faustina, no stranger to suffering for souls, seemed to stress this point about God's will above all.

    When she was ill one time during Lent (and so a time of penance and fasting), she tells of how a sister brought her some oranges (Diary 1023):

    "When the sister had left, I thought to myself, "Should I eat the oranges instead of doing penance and mortifying myself during Holy Lent? After all, I am feeling a bit better." Then I heard a voice in my soul: My daughter, you please Me more by eating the oranges out of obedience and love of Me than by fasting and mortifying yourself of your own will. A soul that loves Me very much must, ought to live by My will. I know your heart, and I know that it will not be satisfied by anything but My love alone."

    She loved God above all, though she was capable of acknowleding at least the gifts He gave her even apart from Himself.

    I know none of this helps to deal with the specifics of what is going on with your own situation, and I hope you're still able to speak with a spiritual director. But I hope to just perhaps convey a different way of considering these questions that is not as simple as I must seek out all and only suffering or what would for me constitute self-denial so as to please God.

    I also consider sometimes the possibility that perhaps there are men and women who desire the opposite of you (that is, to enter religious life or priesthood) and it is not God's will for them. Perhaps they receive marriage and family life as God's will and in that there is something of a self-denial that must occur. I know both of St. Therese's parents sought entrance into religious life but it wasn't to be. Again, I know that doesn't address your specific situation since you do not desire religious life, but perhaps just as a hypothetical to consider, it shows that it is overly simplistic to think that God would desire by default everyone to enter religious life. The Church of course never speaks this way and instead affirms marriage as a real vocation - though today with Pope Benedict who is very concerned for families and marriages. And given the status of marriage on the whole today, wouldn't it be an amazing call for someone to live as a married person in a saintly fashion, obedient to Church teaching, not contracepting, truly being faithful to his or her spouse, etc.?

    That's another generality, but again, maybe just something to think about.

    It's a matter of what is going on in your heart, I think - that's the bottom line - where is God leading you? Spiritual direction, prayer, perhaps an Ignatian retreat of some kind?

    And trust and an ongoing evaluation of one's image of God, pondering how He really is in one's heart (as Mary would), can lead you more deeply to Him and away from paralyzing generalities.

    Perhaps of some help: http://www.divinemercy.org/trust/trust-in-god-by-fr-sopocko.html

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    1. Thanks again, Patrick. I really have no idea how much I love God. I feel like if I ever do what I want, ever enjoy things for entertainment, and I am not totally willing and ready to just give up everything and always mortify myself, it must not be much. So this false idea of what God requires of me makes it so that I feel distant from God, like He is a tyrant.
      And even when I do mortify myself, it's soooo little: no meat, alcohol, or video games on Fridays, and 2 meals a day in Lent. I certainly eat oranges during Lent though!

      I feel like mortification is: every time I WANT to do something, it'd be better if I don't. Let's say a friend asks me out for a drink - I could go, but it's better if I dont. Or I could watch a movie, but it's better if I don't. Or I could eat something I like, but it's better if I don't.

      So I feel like if I EVER do anything I want to, even when it's not sinful (I try to not do what is sinful of course), I am shortchanging God because I am passing up an opportunity for mortification - I COULD always mortify, mortify, mortify. My SD assures me that this is simplistic, and sure you would too, but I don't understand it.

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  37. "You can find it in Garrigou-Lagrange - it is a mystical-theological description."

    If it was that important and border line doctrine and not private opinion, it would be in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, right?

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  38. Patrick...that was pretty magnificent.

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  39. Mercury,

    I'm not a spiritual director and so I can only share my thoughts for what their worth, meaning that they hold no weight or authority and are simply an expression of how I currently think about this after struggling (and continuing to do so) with similar ideas as you've articulated.

    It may seem obvious, but one of the things that stands out to me, especially explicitly in prior comments, is the fear present in your thinking, or even where God is seen as threatening or here in this last post as a tyrant.

    I don't know how much you love God either, and I don't know how much I love Him (there are times when I imagine how God would judge me if I died today and I honestly have no idea - that's how far away from any clarity I am about how God sees me personally), though I am consistenly drawn back to the belief (through the encouragement of priests and spiritual directors and other Catholics) that God loves me and that, ultimately, He wants nothing more than communion with me, and so I'm consistently challenged to think and act along those lines even when those other images of God appear to me to be more true - God as constantly threatening me or looking to punish me at every turn.

    When it comes to how I actually do try to respond to God and love, my sense is that fear is not a good motivating factor (and I distinguish here the kind of anxious fear you describe from a holy "fear of the Lord" as a gift of the Spirit) - perfect love is said to cast out all fear, and so I then tend to think, well, if I'm motivated by such fear, I'm probably not then motivated by love, and that's where I need to focus: I need to try to understand, perhaps if I can, why I am more fearful and not more open to doing something for the love of God; and secondly, trying to live more out of love for God rather than fear of Him. Perhaps it's my fear of Him - rather than His tyranny over me - that seemingly keeps Him distant.

    I know this may sound abstract, but it's made some sense to me as a I grow in self-knowledge. I've been able to at least distinguish at times when I feel fearful of God and so when I'm acting from fear vs. when I'm acting from love, which looks more like generosity that is "free" and not as self-concerned or anxious.

    When it comes to trying to decide in concrete cases how to discern when God might be inspiring some mortification vs. when it's just self-motivated or even a temptation, I'm inclined to think about the fruits of the Holy Spirit and whether they seem to evident in my soul at such a time. I think often about Jesus' yoke being 'light' and the Spirit as moving more out of love (for God or for another person) rather than out of servile fear that paralyzes the soul and destroys peace. Many saints have said, in one way or another, that God, for people seeking Him, works in peace and not in the disruption constatnly hounds someone's soul. For me, again, this has gone hand in hand with self-knowledge and it's something that continues.

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  40. continued...

    I think this approach can be connected too with bigger questions like vocational discernment and the fears surrounding embracing the desire for marriage over almost a compulsion to become a religious or priest. I don't think that God inspires people to their vocation through anything else ultimately by love of Him. Further, my sense has been that many who seem to have found God's will for their life vocationally speak of it (the vocation) as itself a gift - almost as if God has given them something and is doing something for them (even while they attempt to live for Him, yes) - and that, God's initiative and goodness and generosity - is the primary reality for such people. The question for them is always first and foremost what God is doing for them, how He is moving them in their life, rather than the self-focused what I am doing for God (or not doing for Him). The vocation is born in a posture of listening, discipleship, response, receptivity, in other words. And this is marked by those fruits of the Spirit - not that there is never any suffering or every day is happy or something, but that, fundamentally, one has tasted and seen how good the Lord is and love (God's first for us and then ours in return) is at the core.

    Finally, I had this quote from St. Francis de Sales in mind when I spoke of him yesterday:

    "When charity draws some to poverty and withdraws others from it, when she impels some to marriage and others to continence, when she shuts one up in a cloister and makes another leave it, she has no need to give an account to any one: for she has the plenitude of power in the Christian law, as it is written: charity can do all things (Cf. 1 Cor 13:7); she has the fullness of prudence, as it is said: charity does nothing in vain. And if any would contest, and demand of her why she does so, she will boldly answer: The Lord has need of it. All is made for charity, and charity for God." (Treatise on the Love of God, book 8, ch. 6)

    And just a final thought regarding mortification and such: my basic idea of discernment by way of observation of the fruits of the Spirit and connected with love (as with de Sales here) seeks to have first things first: so, the goal is always love, not the abstract goal of "mortification" or always and everywhere, "more of it."

    If my mortification is causing me to lessen in charity (perhaps I'm less patient that I should be with a friend because of all my fasting), then I think I need to reexamine it and see where things are off. In another way, perhaps in not denying myself much of anything lately, I've seen that I much more easily give in to little occasions of sin or temptations here and there and that I'm growing closer to some bigger sins, then perhaps I need to note that failure of love and whatever virtue in parituclar I'm growing farther from and try to make some adjustments to act accordingly.

    BUT, all this said, it's always with the understnading that self-perfection is not what this is about. God primarily makes us holy and even inspires our love, and so everything always with His grace, we're grateful for when we are faithful and do see growth, and humble like little children when we fall, knowing that God nevers abandons us and is always merciful.

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  41. I'm not sure what happened. It looks like what I wrote originally didn't post. So here was the first part of what I meant to write:

    Mercury,

    I'm not a spiritual director and so I can only share my thoughts for what their worth, meaning that they hold no weight or authority and are simply an expression of how I currently think about this after struggling (and continuing to do so) with similar ideas as you've articulated.

    It may seem obvious, but one of the things that stands out to me, especially explicitly in prior comments, is the fear present in your thinking, or even where God is seen as threatening or here in this last post as a tyrant.

    I don't know how much you love God either, and I don't know how much I love Him (there are times when I imagine how God would judge me if I died today and I honestly have no idea - that's how far away from any clarity I am about how God sees me personally), though I am consistenly drawn back to the belief (through the encouragement of priests and spiritual directors and other Catholics) that God loves me and that, ultimately, He wants nothing more than communion with me, and so I'm consistently challenged to think and act along those lines even when those other images of God appear to me to be more true - God as constantly threatening me or looking to punish me at every turn.

    When it comes to how I actually do try to respond to God and love, my sense is that fear is not a good motivating factor (and I distinguish here the kind of anxious fear you describe from a holy "fear of the Lord" as a gift of the Spirit) - perfect love is said to cast out all fear, and so I then tend to think, well, if I'm motivated by such fear, I'm probably not then motivated by love, and that's where I need to focus: I need to try to understand, perhaps if I can, why I am more fearful and not more open to doing something for the love of God; and secondly, trying to live more out of love for God rather than fear of Him. Perhaps it's my fear of Him - rather than His tyranny over me - that seemingly keeps Him distant.

    I know this may sound abstract, but it's made some sense to me as a I grow in self-knowledge. I've been able to at least distinguish at times when I feel fearful of God and so when I'm acting from fear vs. when I'm acting from love, which looks more like generosity that is "free" and not as self-concerned or anxious.

    When it comes to trying to decide in concrete cases how to discern when God might be inspiring some mortification vs. when it's just self-motivated or even a temptation, I'm inclined to think about the fruits of the Holy Spirit and whether they seem to evident in my soul at such a time. I think often about Jesus' yoke being 'light' and the Spirit as moving more out of love (for God or for another person) rather than out of servile fear that paralyzes the soul and destroys peace. Many saints have said, in one way or another, that God, for people seeking Him, works in peace and not in the disruption constatnly hounds someone's soul. For me, again, this has gone hand in hand with self-knowledge and it's something that continues.

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  42. I'd also recommend a book by Fr. Jacque Philippe: "In the School of the Holy Spirit."

    A sample:

    http://frjacquesphilippe.com/assets/school_hs_intro.pdf

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  43. Mercury,

    I saw this today and thought you may like to read it:

    https://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/freedom-and-slavery-a-word-to-neurotic-christians/

    Stay thirsty, my friend

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  44. Mercury,

    Today I was reading a booklet on discernment called "Is Jesus calling you to be a Catholic Priest" by a Fr. Thomas Richter, published by the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors in 2008, and wanted to share a quote. Also, while the booklet is clearly directed towards men considering entering the seminary, the principles therein could be applied to anyone trying to find the Lord's will in any situation I think.

    "God does not reveal himself by fear or through fear. God does not scare a man into the priesthood, nor does he scare a man into marriage. God does not scare a man into celibacy, nor does he scare him from celibacy. God does not scare anyone into anything. God reveals his desires to us and draws us by a peaceful presence. It is the spirit against God who scares men into and out of things. The spirit against God reveals his desires through fear."

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  45. "Converted gay people often retain that characteristic - in a guy it is always unattractive. Even converted people will complain that incorrect terminology is used in their regard - "we are SSA, not gay." I don't know - they still quack like a duck. But I digress."

    Hi Terry--I hope, since I just did an entire post on my preference for using SSA versus "celibate gay" or other terms for myself, that you were not referring to me in the above statement.

    Be that as it may, however, I did not write my post as a complaint or desire to focus on myself or my own desires--nor do I consider myself a "victim soul." I just happen to think it is a better terminology and I understand that there are those who disagree. And in my post I left room for us both. So I hope you caught that too, and not just what may have seemed like a personal pet peeve. It was not meant as such. God bless.

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    1. Hi Richard - this is a an old post I republished - so definitely not - I did not intend this as a commentary on your post - which I thought was excellent BTW. In fact I forgot I wrote that remark here and I'll remove it because I now see the importance the clarification ssa stands for. Thanks for pointing it out.

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  46. I was pretty sure you didn't...but the timing was just rather ironic. Glad your post was put on Tito's list by the way...

    And may I return the compliment to you on your good words as well? I have not learned a lot about "victim souls" but those of us from SSA/LGBT backgrounds definitely are at times good at it. Funny how serious we all take ourselves.

    God bless!

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  47. Bridget7:39 PM

    I'm not sure if they'd be considered victim souls. It's simply their cross. Jesus said for us to pick up our crosses and follow him. All of us have crosses. We're all called to obey the same commandments, but we suffer temptations to break different ones. When we are tempted, we must either resist the temptation, or rationalize the sin. When the society where you live actively promotes and encourages the sin you're tempted to, it makes it harder to resist, and much easier to give in and rationalize the sin away, because the society has unhelpfully handed you the very lies you can tell yourself about it.
    Far as I'm concerned, people with same-sex attraction are ordinary people who are tempted to commit a particular sin. God wants them to fight this temptation like a warrior fights a dragon. Society would have you surrender to the dragon, sprinkle yourself with some salt and pepper, and march around the dragon's cave wearing a sign that says "Dragon Food".

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  48. Actually, it's important to know... Saint Therese, surely a woman of profound self-sacrifice, developed her little way of childlike trust in God -in contrast- to the Jansenistic victim spirituality of her day, which was embraced by many of the other Sisters in her convent, including the two founding sisters, and some of these actually went insane from practicing it; one of those founding sisters had been confined to her cell for many years for this reason. After her death, one of Therese's sisters heavily edited her autobiography for publication and brought it more in line with this conventional spirituality of the day--but somewhat altering Therese's meaning, including by speaking far more of victimhood then Therese actually did. For many years, only this edited version was available to the public, and it is still widely in print (the common John Beevers translation for example is the one heavily edited by her sister). Therese's authentic manuscript has been available for some years now, primarily via the ICS Publications edition translated by John Clarke. That is really the one people should seek out to read (but, don't bother with ICS's "study edition").

    I think that in our contemporary context particularly there is a certain heroism in the lives of same sex attracted Catholics who live a genuinely faithful life, though this can be said of anyone fighting the good fight to be holy, in contradiction to the prevailing culture. I agree "victim soul" is a poor choice of label for them. It has always seemed to me that idea of a "victim soul" is much more common in popular spirituality of pious Catholics, and regarded with considerable caution in the best sources of Catholic spiritual teaching. Partly via the mistranslation of St Therese's autobiography, this has come especially from St Padre Pio and his devotees. Padre Pio's spirituality was quite real, but I do not approach his sayings in the same way that I would look at a Doctor of the Church.

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    1. Very well stated Elizabeth, thank you - I could not have said it better.

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  49. Anonymous3:32 AM

    Very good, thanks!
    This "victim" terminology, it seems to me, brings more problems than solutions, especially because of the the growing narcissism in our culture.
    I know some good, pious people who are so obsessed with this victim stuff that they see cross in everything, literally. No free seat in public transport? Broken coffee machine? The boss is moody this morning? "Aaaaah, what a cross, sweet Jesus, I'm victim soul."

    My late saintly spiritual director suffered very much, but he never considered himself "victim soul". Neither did I, 'cause in all these sufferings he was so wonderfully free. He used to say "Suffering isn't important. Giving yourself to another is. A Christian is a man for others. Let Jesus be the center of your life, and you'll have no problem to bear anything. Day be day, step by step."

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