Souls are more different than faces…

From the archives: There is no one else like you.

St. Therese had a saying, “Souls are more different than faces.”

I heard something similar growing up in Catholic school, under the wise and devoted instruction of glowing nuns in flowing habits who appeared to have vast insights into the mysteries of God.  I listened intently, but found it difficult to believe that each of the billions of people God had created was absolutely unique and unrepeatable.  But the nuns said it was true.

My friends and I seemed pretty similar as far as I could tell.  We might have looked different, but I didn’t see how our souls could be all that unique.  In fact, my best friend and I thought we were just about exactly alike.

But the nuns taught that each soul was created to reflect one of the Infinite Perfections of God with such beauty and intensity that even the angels would be in awe.  And they went on to say that no other soul created before or afterward could possess the same splendor reserved for that particular soul by God….not ever.

But, I was looking at faces.  And faces weren’t all that dazzlingly different, and some were almost identical…like twins.  So, what was up with all these billions of souls being so individually precious and so beautiful that even God was madly in love with them…with all of them?

First I had to get to know the Lover.  Then He began to teach me to look beyond the faces and to see His Beauty in my brothers and sisters.  And Therese and the nuns were right.  I began to see first the tremendous dignity of each person God has created, and then the fragile loveliness of a soul…more delicate than a butterfly’s wing, and I understood how terrible a thing it is to wound such a creature….one who bears the very Image of God.

And yes, they are all different from one another….so very different.  Many people are kind, but they express it in a myriad of ways and degrees..  It is the same with all the other virtues and attributes of God.  Each person is a unique and exquisite constellation of Our Father’s Image, imprinted on that soul alone….for all time.

Therese knew this, and that is why she always treated everyone alike, aspiring to have no favorites.  Her blood sisters in the convent often complained that she seemed to love the other nuns more than she loved them.  But that wasn’t true.  She felt great natural affection and familial love for her own sisters, but she knew how to look beyond such human affection, and to love others as God loved them.

When faced with difficult people, it can be helpful to stop and contemplate how much God loves that person.  He is truly looking at us and longing for us to gaze in admiration on His beloved creation….to see the potential He sees in them.  He desires that we do all in our power to help everyone He places in our path to become the fullness of His Image within them.

Whenever Therese saw another nun committing what appeared to be a “fault,” Therese would remind herself of all the good deeds the offending nun had accomplished, which Therese had not been privileged to see.

Blogging is an excellent venue in which the uniqueness of souls is able to shine, because there are no faces, no gestures, no audible voices.  There are only ideas, words, sharing, caring…..things of the spirit, rather than the flesh.

And here, we begin to see that bloggers….like snowflakes, are delightfully different from one another.  As I click around and read my favorite blogs and then check out a new blog or two, I am always amazed at the endless variety of expression….even though the bloggers I follow are very much in agreement with one another on matters of Faith and family.  Yet, each has a niche.  Each has a beauty found nowhere else.

And here in the blogging world, there is the rare opportunity of being able to admire souls, without being distracted by faces.

On those rare occasions in my parish when a baby is baptized during Sunday Mass, the cantor sings a song which begins, “You are God’s work of art…..”

You are!  We all are!  Like the song says, “There will never be another you…..”  God loves you so much, for you resemble Him in a way that no one else ever can.  You are so precious to Him that He is waiting to give you a new name in Heaven….a “secret” name, known only to you and to Him.

Just imagine…. all the beauty of creation from its dawn until its end someday is nothing compared to you, for you bear the very Image of God.  Truly you are God’s work of art!

Father, grant that we may not hinder your work in our souls, or in the souls of our brothers and sisters, as You, with Divine Love, Wisdom, Goodness and Power are at each moment refining Your Very Image within us.  We thank You that we are Your children, destined for Glory in the Kingdom of so Great a Father, through Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

…..to those who prove victorious I will give some hidden manna and a white stone, with a new name written on it, known only to the person who receives it.  (Rev. 2:17) NJB

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18 thoughts on “Souls are more different than faces…

  1. Patricia, I can see how this is one of your favorites. It’s lovely! What an uplifting and inspiring way to begin my day today by reading this! I was just thinking about souls last night, and how spotless we are at birth, and throughout our lives we dirty our souls with sin. We need a little polish now and then, through confession, to ready us to return to our Maker the way He intended us to be: clean, pure and holy. God bless you, my friend!

    • Anne, and I began my day with your most kind comment. Thank you! So, you’ve been thinking about souls too? How amazing it would be if we could see a soul at the moment of Baptism when Sanctifying Grace enters and it becomes the dwelling place of the Trinity! I also wonder about the indelible mark which is imprinted by three of the Sacraments. I can’t wait to see those! I am still fascinated that God is so in love with our souls. I read recently that He is only enamoured with the Divine, and thus seeing His Image in us and sharing His Divine Life with us makes us irresistible to Him. Father Gaitley has a new book out on the Trinity. I heard him discuss it on Catholic Answers Live, and it sounds amazing. He spoke of our Communion with the Trinity…so beautiful that God wants to share His Life with us! Ah yes, souls are fascinating…but only because God thinks so πŸ™‚

  2. This is wonderful, and is giving me so much to think about. I find myself smiling! Different souls are pop, pop, popping into my mind. Thank you for what can really be (no exaggeration) a life changing thought.

    • Nancy, I can’t wait to find out what you are thinking! I hope you will write some of your wonderful thoughts soon. Souls really are fascinating. When I look at all the flowers, and their endless variation, I think….yes, God can create a few billion totally unique souls! πŸ™‚
      He won’t run out of ideas anytime soon…lol. I think he spent some extra time on you though, because you are a treasure. The chapel gets more beautiful each time I visit. What a gift! I love praying the rosary in real time with usually about 100 other people. Thanks for always being such a loving presence, dear Nancy. Hugs and blessings….

  3. I also am smiling! What a great expression of the endless variety of souls and writers. That God dwells in each of us, that we bear the image of Him, is miraculous and overwhelming. So thankful for the beauty of your writing and all the intricately wonderful blogger friends I have come to cherish. God Bless.

    • Hi Cynthia…wish I could see that smile πŸ™‚ It truly is overwhelming how God created us in His Image. It’s such a great mystery, since we can’t see ourselves as He sees us…and I don’t see anything special when I look in the mirror! I love how in The Interior Castle, St. Teresa describes a soul in the state of Grace like a most pure and precious diamond. Thank you for your always kind and encouraging words. I wonder if you’ve ever written one of your exquisite poems on this subject? Yes, aren’t blogging friends amazing? I truly miss everyone..even on vacation. (don’t tell my husband! :)) I feel that these friendships are truly gifts from God during these very difficult times. So glad to know you, Cynthia! God bless you!

      • It is a blessing to know you and I so look forward to reading what you write: you are an inspiration! I can so see a book of your reflections and prayers. What a an amazing gift you share! Hope your vacation was great and I know what you mean about missing everyone while away (doesn’t mean we aren’t enjoying our husbands but,,,) Lol. I love St Teresa’s description of a soul in a state of Grace. I will sit with this image and state…thank you for suggesting it. Have you written any poems on this? Welcome back and have a wonderful and contemplative change of season!

        • Cynthia..do you sneak a peek at the blogs when you are on vacation? πŸ™‚ I rarely bring my laptop, and I don’t have a smartphone, but I do have a kindle fire which I always stash in my purse. I can’t bear to be completely out of touch. I’m such a newshound as well. I see an iPad in my future…God is so good to put up with me.

          Have you read The Interior Castle yet? I think you would love it, as well as the writings of St. John of the Cross, especially The Living Flame of Love, and the rest of his poetry. You sound like someone who has already read many of the spiritual classics, but thought I’d mention our wonderful Carmelite Saints…just in case! As for the change of seasons, our leaves go from green straight to brown, for the most part, here in the deep south. But, I’ll be reading your poetry and contemplating vicariously….. πŸ™‚

  4. Patricia,
    I agree with Nancy~this is a life changing thought. A friend had told me to see people as souls and not just as people or the faces we see in front of us. When I try to do this, it makes a huge difference in how I see that person, especially if it is someone I am finding difficult. The soul is what and who God created, and how God created them just as is His perfect plan. We are the ones, in our human frailty and weakness that splotch His perfection. By His grace we can all see past that.
    Thanks for this beautiful post.

    • Karin, I so much get where you are coming from! Isn’t it amazing what a difference it makes when we look at people as “souls?” There are some people I contemplate who are so very simple and unassuming, and it occurs to me that they have no idea, in their humility, how beautiful they are. These are the kind of people who uphold the world, I think. Then I see really annoying or even scary people. But when I think about their souls, I remember the dignity they possess as children of God. It’s sort of like putting on some 3-D glasses or something, isn’t it πŸ™‚ Suddenly everyone looks different. Your post on the pear tree…which I loved!….reminded me of this as well. It’s sort of the same idea. I’m laughing to myself, realizing how the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to these things, about which we wouldn’t have a clue otherwise. Thanks be to God. May He ever give us His Light! (Sorry so late in responding…was trying to get the First Friday link-up post in place.) God bless. Hugs to you, dear friend. PS Aren’t you supposed to be going on retreat around this time? Was thinking of you today….

    • Lokking at souls through 3-D glasses~ I love that! As for my retreat, the retreat house where I usually go was hit hard by Sandy lasr year and they still have not re-opened. I have my name on a waiting list for an Ignatian retreat in MA. It is sceduled for October. I figure if God thinks I am ready for this type of retreat, He will open a space for me, πŸ™‚

      • Karin, I remember last year how you weren’t able to go by the sea like you usually do. I will say a prayer that you get into the Ignatian retreat. I have never made one of those, but I know several people who have, and they loved it. He will indeed open a space for you, if He wants you to go. That happened to me many years ago on my first Eucharistic Adoration Retreat. I had found a flyer a week before in the back of the chapel. When I called, they had a long waiting list. My sweet husband suggested maybe I could stay in a nearby motel and commute to the retreat. I was considering that when one night I got a call that they had a room for me. I really, really needed a retreat at that time, as we were going through difficult challenges with our son. God is so good! I hope you get that call too πŸ™‚ xoxo

  5. Patricia,

    From now on I’m going to look at people as souls. What a beautiful post! I especially like this part: “Blogging is an excellent venue in which the uniqueness of souls is able to shine, because there are no faces, no gestures, no audible voices. There are only ideas, words, sharing, caring…..things of the spirit, rather than the flesh.” I like how online friends are so accepting. Our appearances, mannerisms and other physical attributes don’t get in the way like they sometimes do in ‘real life’. I shall have to practise not letting these things get in the way when I’m relating to people face to face.

    After reading the comments, I now want to hunt out my copies of The Interior Castle and the Complete Works of St John of the Cross. I haven’t dipped into them for a while. I love imagining a pure soul as a perfect diamond too! I bet even that beautiful picture falls far short of reality.

    God bless!

    • Hi Sue…how is team Elvis doing? πŸ˜‰ Bet there are some beautiful souls at your house! I’m glad you liked that part about blogging affording us a unique opportunity to get to know people without the distraction of their appearance, voice, etc. It’s one of the things I love most about blogging. Here, I can truly be myself. I can write about what interests me, and I can share some of my deepest thoughts and longings, etc. And, I can find countless other people who are doing the same. In a way, I think my blogging friends actually know the real me better than many who are physically present in my life. I find it difficult to bring up the kind of things I write about here, in a normal conversation. I often think what a great gift God gives us here…to truly find like-minded friends. I am amazed at the beauty of each soul as I click from one blog to another…no two alike. It’s exciting to see the tremendous variety of souls, and their beautiful gifts and talents, and their love for Jesus, and their very unique way of expressing that. Imagine how Heaven will be when we will also “see” all these beautiful souls, more lovely, as you said, than St. Teresa’s diamond. BTW, do I sense a future Carmelite in our midst…one who already reads St. Teresa and John of the Cross….and we know she reads Therese! πŸ™‚ God bless you, dear Sue. You already sparkle like a diamond…so there is more to come for sure.
      Hugs across the world to you!

      • Patricia,

        You said, “In a way, I think my blogging friends actually know the real me better than many who are physically present in my life.” Oh yes! I understand that. I sometimes wonder what my ‘real life’ friends think of me when they read my blog. I reveal all kinds of things in writing that I never talk about in person. Maybe they think I am a bit weird! Actually I think such friends have an advantage over me. They know so much more about me than I do about them.
        I am also so grateful that God has given me like-minded friends through the Internet!

        I was drawn to St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross after Thomas died. I ‘met’ St Therese of Lisieux later. I knew about her of course, but we didn’t become friends until a few years ago. Now I apply her teachings to all aspects of my life, including homeschooling. My friend Suzie Andres made a beautiful connection between St Therese and unschooling, which is the little way of homeschooling, She wrote a book called “A Little Way of Homeschooling” which I try to promote on my blog, as an encouragement for all those mothers who feel overburdened with homeschooling.

        Hugs to you too, dear Patricia! xx

        • Sue, you are very brave! I haven’t told hardly anyone about my blog..even one of my sisters. I love being able to just be the “real” me…the one everyone always thought was off daydreaming πŸ™‚ The one who has a couple of dozen journals stashed in her closet. But what is most wonderful is that I’ve found a whole bunch of other “dreamers” who share their dreams with me…and their deepest thoughts and hopes and joys, and their love for God…and their prayers too. And someday we will all meet, and won’t that be something?! πŸ™‚

          I think St. Therese should be the patroness of homeschoolers (if she isn’t already.) I know she hated going to school, and was mostly taught at home by her older sisters. And gee, look how she turned out?! I love the way you have “unschooling.” Is that in the dictionary…yet? πŸ™‚

          God bless you, dear friend. I think we are both awake right now…although one of us should be in bed, as usual. Sending hugs to the Elvis house!

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