Catholic Virtues
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The Thirst for Souls - VI

The Beauty of a Spiritual Soul

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
What is the best way to achieve having the thirst for souls?

The great means, of course, is prayer, because every perfect gift comes from the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of Our Lady. Therefore, the first thing is to ask.


All of nature and Creation was made as a complement for man to contemplate and rise to God

But, on par with prayer, we should be opened to this reality: How to understand that souls are the only things that have a true value in this world, and that if we do not have our spirits open to this love for souls, this thirst for souls (the word love is so overused that I prefer the expression thirst for souls, since it expresses that love in its most vivid aspect), if we do not have this, we will pass our lives like blind men, seeing nothing and not really living.

There is a very beautiful thesis of St. Thomas. He affirms that the value of the human soul is such that God would not have created the material universe if He had not created the spiritual universe. One of the reasons for the existence of the material Universe is for it to be a complement to the spiritual universe.

Material things would have no reason for being; they would not be ontologically possible and created by God if the spiritual were not already created. For God to create, for example, a single Rhine River and stay there watching it run, this is too small a matter for Him. Either it is to frame and complement man, or it is nothing.

I think that people have only a vague notion of this, if they have any notion at all.

What is the essence of the thirst for souls?

The essence is twofold: It comes from my attraction to God, which is born from my own condition as a spiritual being, but at the same time a contingent being. I understand that I am nothing, and that there is a Being Who is everything and toward Whom I should direct myself.

As for the thirst for the souls of others, it comes from the notion of the affinity of souls for God. From this we realize the beauty of a soul that is in accordance with God and the horror of it when it is not.

El mendigo - the beggar

A sensus animarum makes us see souls as they should be, even when they have fallen from the path

One element that plays a role here is co-naturality: With regard to what concerns my own nature, I am much more sensitive. Almost involuntarily, by instinct, independent of reason, it strikes me. I do not want these things to be deformed.

This should be conceived not in abstract terms, but in concrete ones. What if a soul, which should be a certain way if it is in accordance with God, falls into adoration of itself or into vulgarity and becomes the opposite? if I have the sensus animarum (sense of souls), the progress of that soul is a joy and its decline or stagnation is a torment for me. This speaks of the imitation of Christ. How does one imitate Christ if it is not like this? The whole life of Our Lord was this. It falls to us to be like Him.


In this series, I think it appropriate now to make a rapid recapitulation of what was presented on this topic, which we have touched here for the first time.


In His thirst for souls, Our Lord gave every drop of His Precious Blood

We began by recalling that in at least two passages of the Gospel, Our Lord speaks of thirst. The most notable was when, from the heights of the Cross, He said "Sitio" (I thirst). (Jn 19:28) By this He wanted to say that He had a thirst for souls.

Obviously He also had a physical thirst, caused by the Blood that poured from His wounds. But that material thirst, which led him to call out and ask for water, was a symbol of the enormous thirst for souls that He had. And all the interpretations of the Gospel that I have read until today affirm that this "sitio" was exactly this thirst for souls.

In the other instance, He refers to the hunger and thirst for justice (Mt 5:6) when He speaks of the blessed. Justice, in the Gospel, is not only the virtue by which one gives to each his due, but it is the conjunct of virtues, it is sanctity. Then, blessed are the souls who hunger and thirst for sanctity, because they will be satiated. So, here the word "thirst" appears the second time.

The value of souls

Applying these teachings to our life, we conclude that for someone to make a fecund apostolate, it is necessary to have a thirst for souls, that is to say, he should have a notion of what is the beauty of a soul, of how virtue gives the soul what it needs to be effectively beautiful. Because virtue puts order in the soul.

Our Lady

We should ask Our Lady to give us
a true thirst for souls

The spiritual nature, like anything in the material world, finds true beauty when it is ordered. In this way, virtue is, so to speak, the fine point of the beauty of the soul. The soul draws its beauty from virtue.

Now then, if it is true that the whole universe was created so that man should know it and, through it, know God, the masterpiece of the visible universe that we have before us is man. But, it is man principally as a soul rather than as a body, because there is nothing in nature more beautiful than souls.

I insist: there is nothing more beautiful than souls in the state of grace, just as there is nothing more horrendous than souls in the state of sin. In this way, the person who truly wants to have a good Catholic formation should recognize the virtue of souls and be ravished by it. He should have a great thirst for these souls to have virtue, because if he has a love of God, he shall have a thirst that these souls unite themselves to God. The truly apostolic person should have the thirst that Our Lord had for souls. He should have in himself the "sitio" of Christ.


Posted September 20, 2019