Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Red Rose of Suffering

In a package of a book ordered (hardbound of Scupoli's The Spiritual Combat), was tucked a small surprise gift from Owen Kubik, proprietor of Kubik's Fine Books. How did he remember that I am interested in victim souls? The kindness radiates blessings! Two small booklets revealed these titles: Why Do I Have to Suffer? and The Red Rose of Suffering.

A few days ago, I'd prayed for what victim soul might be read next. With the other books lined up, the prayer was for a something not too long and involved. The Red Rose of Suffering seemed perfect! What a gift!

The pamphlet revealed the story of a victim soul, unknown to many these days, but known in the Catholic world of 1949 through means of the Co-Missionary Apostolate. This was an idea developed sparked from the earlier fire of the Victim Souls of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Also, the example of St. Therese of Liseiux lent credibility to this apostolate started just ten years after her canonization.

A young woman, recently sent back to a sanitarium for tuberculosis treatment, was sent a magazine. In it, she read about how to become a co-missionary, to offer all of her thoughts, prayers, acts and sufferings one day a week, for a missionary priest to whom she'd be assigned. As it turned out, the young woman offered her very life, day and night.

The booklet includes her diary while in the sanitarium. It shows the progression of a frightened, angry, upset girl of 20 or 21, up to the last day she could write in her journal at nearly age 24.

Her missionary priest ended up being one who worked at the mission congregation's foundation in Illinois, but the woman referred to as "Gertrude" did not mind. In fact, her missionary priest was able to visit her two or three times, and encouraged her valiant efforts in prayer and suffering: as she was a true victim soul--a victim of love.

I was drawn into this young woman's humble suffering and plight. And when she transformed into a virtual saint, and her sufferings were faced with tremendous courage and love of God, with faith that Jesus was utilizing her very immolation of body as a means to strengthen the missionary priest--the effect was soul-binding! I have thought of this young woman since yesterday afternoon, and included asking her to bless me with her prayers this morning, at Mass.

It is strange how these acquaintances and then friendships come along and develop. The young woman's actual name is Margaret. She was one of a large family and had lived on a farm, was born in 1915 and died at age 24 and nearly four months, on Jan. 4, 1940. What she endured is written simply, and not at length, in the booklet. Not sure what has happened with the Co-Missionary Apostolate, but a little research will answer the question. Not all co-missionaries, of course, had tremendous sufferings to offer, but it is a beautiful reality that one can be spiritually linked and offer even a minute of our lives, to God, for the strengthening of another. The Co-Missionaries signed up to offer a day of the week. Margaret offered her life.

This morning, in confession while mentioning pride, at the conclusion the confessor was told of two experiences this past week. One included the deep sense of offering again to suffer and die for the Catholic Church: to be an immolation. This occurred on Sunday, and was part of something written and offered, said was a desire of the soul. The motive and intent of the desire and offering were scrutinized for a day, and then sent off. That noon, it was expressed to the person who would receive the writing, that it had come from the soul, and was meant sincerely. Yet, it seems odd in a way, to have the desire well up from time to time, and then the offering made, and then later to wonder why one would have such a desire, knowing that it would be the most difficult to endure--more and more suffering. Yet, it was out there, and offered, again. And reading unexpected gift, The Red Rose of Suffering, the day after, seemed odd, as well. Yet it wasn't too surprising. God does give us many signal graces.

So the soul expressed this renewed, fearsome desire--to suffer and die for the Catholic Church--to the confessor and asked, "Is it pride to have such feelings and make such offerings?"

He looked up and said with immediacy: "No. It is vocation."

Leaving the confessional to pray the penance before the Tabernacle, the soul had another little shiver of the strangeness of this vocation, and how it is not being refuted. And yet time extends like a rosary, with nights linking the days, and there is suffering on-going, but what will God do with these renewed offerings, if anything? There is no need to ask or be curious; just keep learning to love and wait in love.

It is lovely to have Margaret as yet another friend in Heaven.


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