Catholic Virtues
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The Thirst for Souls - V

Contemplation of a Spiritual Nature

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
We have examined together the disordered and ordered way of contemplating Nature. Let me move on from natural matter – in the end the contemplation of the Rhine is only matter – to study contemplation of a spiritual nature.

This topic leads me to recognize that, no matter how beautiful nature may be, all of its beauties are much less beautiful than the human soul. And the human soul, that is, a man capable of thinking and desiring and of taking a proper position before things, is worth incommensurably more than the material things before which he takes a position.


Even the most magnificent waterfall pales before the value of the human soul that contemplates it

That is to say, Wagner – who, by the way, I censure – is worth more than the whole Rhine River. That a creature exists capable of interpreting the Rhine, analyzing it and forming a judgment and an act of will about it, is more elevated and more beautiful than the river itself.

I would need to have the idea of the worth of each soul in order to have the exact notion of the worth of the Universe. So long as I make considerations about a piece of grass or a wild flower, or fall into deep thoughts over a majestic waterfall or the Baltic pines, I remain on a lower level. For, as elevated as these meditations inspired by all that beauty may be, the human soul is worth more than all of them. If I am not capable of perceiving the spiritual beauty above the material beauty, I understand nothing of Creation.

I have the impression that this is one of the notions that contemporary man does not understand well. He does not understand the beauty of a soul, the great beauty of each soul, the soul of the least beggar you find on the street drunk.

I used to observe some beggars on Martim Francisco Street because I perceived in them, despite their extreme misery, a spark in the depths of their eyes. And that human spark, buried deep in the mud and the dirt, was an element worthy of special attention. In every human soul it exists, in every soul wherever it may be, disfigured by original sin, by actual sins, each one has at least a potential beauty, which is proper to that soul and which we should understand.

Now, I have the impression that this idea of the beauty of souls is something for which our education does not prepare us. It does not prepare us in our formation, in our way of being and for this reason we spend time together with others without knowing how to see them or understand them. We don't know how to have sentiments of either affinity or of heterogeneity for them, but rather only irritations, phobias and sympathies.


The poor drunk still has a spark that invites
grace to act in his soul

Even in a drunk, a person for whom we may feel repulsion, insofar as that soul has not condemned itself to Hell, there exists something in it that can be sought after by grace, visited by grace, something in it that can still come to be good. And we should perceive in that soul, even when it bears every possible fault, what it would be if it were good.

And then, perceiving the human soul in its order and splendor, by a type of almost archeological reconstitution, we can make an even greater censure of the man because we see what the drunk is doing in order to destroy himself completely. But, at the same time, we understand what he could be.

I will say more: I believe that it was this type of consideration that led Our Lady to have patience with the unfaithful Apostles when she saw them take that truly despicable position after the Eucharistic Supper. How did she continue to love them? One of the elements of that love was her consideration of the potential good in them and the knowledge that they would be transformed into holy men confirmed in grace, after the coming of the Holy Spirit at the Pentecost.

The authentic thirst for souls

If you have an idea of the beauty of souls as being worth more than material things, more than the whole Rhine, you rise to God when considering souls. It is something obvious. And by a question of affinity, which has its roots in metaphysics itself, that which touches beings of the same nature also touches each one of us – not by egoism, but by co-naturality, which is something different.

An example of the contrary can be found in the following case, which actually took place: A lady of almost 80-years-old went to ask to receive Communion in a Church. She did not have an automobile and had to take a bus or a taxi. When she spoke to the priest, the latter responded, "No, I cannot give you Communion. The Tabernacle was closed 10 minutes ago."

dying person

A priest carries the Holy Eucharistic to a dying person, despite inconveniences

The first thought that leaps to the mind is that here is a lady at an age when she can die. Who knows if this Communion might not be the last one of her life? It is a thought that should move any soul, and principally the soul of a priest.

But, there is more. The priest should look at that soul and think the following: "I, who know the value of the union of a soul with God, the happiness that God has in this, and the great good there is in this soul receiving God. Nonetheless, I do not care. Looking at this soul, seeing the concrete benefit she can have from receiving the Blessed Sacrament, I am indifferent about whether she receives this increase of virtue. Because it means nothing to me that this soul might improve. I am only thinking of the rules of my church, which I will fulfill for my convenience. I am lazy."

The priest was in the sacristy; he only had to enter into the chapel of the Most Holy and open the Tabernacle door. He was too lazy to take those 10 or 15 steps, open the Tabernacle and give her Holy Communion. For him, saving himself that effort was worth more than the increase of light, beauty and grace that this soul could receive.

He is a priest who does not have any sensus animarum (sense of souls). The account he will have to give to God for being like this, being baptized and a fortiori being a priest, is horrible to imagine. Should we be surprised that, when it comes time to give advice, he has no real concern? I am not at all surprised, it is quite natural: He did not understand anything about what an authentic thirst for souls is.

In the next article I will look at the thirst for souls and the Apostles of the Latter Times.



Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted September 9, 2019