Weekly Series on the Soul, Part 20

+JMJ+ Welcome to part 20 of our weekly series on the soul. Today I was reading a post by Dr. Robert Stackpole at the Divine Mercy website and I want to share it with you. Seems a woman was upset about something written in Divine Mercy In My Soul, St. Faustina’s Diary. The woman took offense “about the way St. Faustina writes of the superiority of the ‘religious’ way to holiness, in constrast to the way of ordinary, lay Christians.” Here’s the part of the letter quoted in the post:

Many passages in the Diary make dismissive comparisons between “religious” and “souls in the world.” I teach RCIA, and one of the fundamental things I try to get across – as taught in scripture, the Church Fathers, the documents of Vatican II, and such recent letters as Pope John Paul II’s “The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful” – is that Baptism calls each and every Christian to a life of great holiness. All of us are “religious” in that sense. … Maybe, like St. Peter, I’m just a little bit jealous. God forgive me, but this message [from the Diary] is unbearable, that those of us who are not vowed religious are second-class Christians automatically destined for a lesser degree of grace. … I mind very much that my life can never be as loving or bear as much fruit as that of a religious. God, who has saved us at a great price, deserves more than a “lesser choice” from each one of us. Each state in life has particular difficulties and particular advantages, but all states in life are unique opportunities for a sacrifice of praise … such was the great wisdom of St. Therese of Lisieux.’

Two things I thought of immediately here: 1) St. Faustina is not writing about any such thing, she is quoting what Jesus said to her (that’s what the words in bold print are for, to indicate that it is Jesus speaking, not St. Faustina); and 2) not only is the complaining woman showing signs of not having paid attention to the Diary but she doesn’t seem to be aware of what’s in St. Therese’s book, either.

I don’t know her name, let’s call her Karen. Karen takes exception to Jesus saying things like this: 

The great sins of the world are superficial wounds on My Heart, but the sins of a chosen soul pierce my Heart through and through.” “I am more deeply wounded by the small imperfections of chosen souls than by the sins of those living in the world.” Do you see how great is the difference [between the light of the moon and the stars in the night sky]? … Such is the difference in heaven between the soul of a religious and the soul of a faithful Christian.” 

Now I have to give her credit for reading the Scriptures, the Fathers, Church documents, and for being willing to help out with the RCIA. But, Lord, have mercy, this is just the sort of thing that gets my goat. People set themselves up as teachers when they still have so much to learn and they don’t give even a hint of realizing the fact. And don’t look at me that way. I go out of my way to point out that I am NOT a teacher, I’m nobody. I quote others at length and after careful consideration and checking with other sources, sometimes going to consult with other people whose knowledge and discernment I respect highly, certainly much more highly than my own. But what I’ve found in the RCIA, among some catechists, and others, is that a whole lotta people cannot be bothered to consider that anyone else might possibly know more than they do. Not even saints. Not even Jesus Himself. Oy. But I digress.

I don’t know where Karen got the idea that all paths to sanctity — lay or religious — are equal. As Dr. Stackpole says, “every state in life is unique and a can be a path to sanctity…but to argue that every state in life is, therefore, an equal pathway to the very heights of holiness is surely not true!”

Pretty sure that the Bible itself shows us the same thing. I seem to recall that St. Paul praises virginity and the unmarried state. Jesus mentions this, too, and His disciples seem scandalized. But neither St. Paul nor Jesus ever take back their words, as far as I know. 

Then there is St. Therese. Karen actually brings up St. Therese, of whom I had already thought. Hasn’t she read St. Therese? She lets us know she’s read her (or maybe she’s only heard of her) but she doesn’t appear to know about what St. Therese’s sister, Pauline, shared with her about how much grace a soul can hold and how some souls can hold more than others. 

St. Therese learns that God doesn’t give “equal glory to all the Elect in heaven” and she was afraid they would not all be happy. 

“Then Pauline told me to fetch Papa’s large tumbler and set it alongside my thimble and filled both to the brim with water. She asked me which one was fuller. I told her each was as full as the other and that it was impossible to put in more water than they could contain. My dear Mother* helped me to understand that in heaven God will grant His Elect as much glory as they can take, the last having nothing to envy in the first.”

That’s a pretty good way of explaining the difference between souls and their capacities for grace, happiness, holiness. There’s no reason to see that as unfair or demeaning or dismissive, as Karen would have it. Souls are different, that’s all, just like people. 

Thank you for visiting and reading. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, and may the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+

Notes and Links

  • St. Therese lost her mother when St. Therese was quite young and her older sister, Pauline, became like a mother to her. 
  • Article: Holier Than Thou?
  • Get a copy of the Diary: Paperback. Kindle. Leather. (Affiliate links. See Full Disclosure below.)

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