What is a victim soul? A victim soul is someone chosen by God to suffer more in this life than most people suffer. The victim soul accepts this suffering willingly, out of love for Jesus Christ and in order that their suffering may be offered up for the salvation of souls.
Jesus said: “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34 KJV) Yes, that means suffering is a part of being a follower of Jesus, of being ‘saved’. Maybe that well-known Evangelical tract ‘The Four Spiritual Laws” needs to have a fifth law added, one about taking up your cross— suffering— as being part of the process of salvation.
Saint Paul teaches us that our own suffering can be ‘offered up’ for the spiritual benefit of others. “I Paul […] who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” (Colossians 1:23-24 KJV)
Is that last Bible verse ‘too Catholic”? No, it’s plainly stating God’s plan to let human beings participate in the great work of saving human souls. Jesus gave the Great Commission— the command to go out to all the world with the Gospel— to human beings, not to angels or to the Holy Spirit alone.
A Saintly Victim Soul
The Spanish nun Sister Josefa Menendez (1890-1923) experienced many visions, along with periods of excruciating physical and spiritual pain. In a vision, she was asked by Jesus to be a victim soul. She accepted.
Many canonized saints have had the stigmata— a miraculous display of the wounds of Christ, of the pains of crucifixion, or both. They also in this way are specially chosen by God to be victim souls as St. Paul was, with his ‘thorn in the flesh’.
A ‘Little Way’ of Following the Victim Soul Path
We are not all called to be victim souls in that way, just as we are not all called to be martyrs for the faith, or to be priests (presbyters, in the KJV) or bishops. But we are all called to take up our cross and to suffer the pains of our lifetime as a victim soul would.
Think of a nine-year-old girl whose pet kitten has just died. She is suffering. It is not the same degree of suffering as an Iraqi Christian girl who has just seen Isis terrorist crucify her parents and behead her brothers and sisters, or a Jewish girl who lost her whole family in the Holocaust. But to the girl who has lost the kitten, it is still suffering.
We all experience pains and disappointments in life. We may go to bed hungry at the end of the month when the food money runs out before the month does. We can miss out on life-experiences we want very much, like finding a marriage partner and starting a family. We may have sicknesses and injuries, or chronic fatigue syndrome, or a disability. We may be overweight in spite of all we can do to change that, and then have other people blame us and mock us for our medical condition. We may go through times when we feel like crying all the time and life seems gray and bleak.
We can’t stop ourselves from experiencing suffering. But we can choose what to do about the suffering that enters our lives. We can kick about it, or we can choose to be smaller, self-chosen versions of the victim soul, and offer our sufferings up willingly to participate in the work of Christ in saving the souls of others.
A prayer for ‘offering up’ our suffering:
Oh my Jesus, I offer this for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Non-Catholics may leave off the bit in italics, if you are uncomfortable with it.
(These are affiliate links, don’t click on them to buy the books if that bothers you.)
Marcus Grodi — What Must I do to be Saved?
Sister Josefa Menendez — The Way of Divine Love
- Have you experienced suffering, of any degree, in your life?
- How has that suffering affected you?
- Do you ever feel that there is something meaningful or beneficial in some experience of suffering that you’ve had?