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The Thirst for Souls - I

Presuppositions to Understand the
Thirst for Souls

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
From the height of the Cross, Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "Sitio" ("I thirst" Jn 19:28). He had thirst. And commentators agree that this thirst was not only a physical thirst caused by the great effusion of blood, but it was above all the thirst for souls that He had.

Mentions to thirst can be found also in other passages of the Scriptures. On one occasion Our Lord speaks of those who have a hunger and thirst for justice: "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall be satisfied." (Mt 5:6)

We can say that the soul has a thirst for Our Lord, as in the Psalm: "As the hart panteth after the fountains of water, so my soul panteth after thee, O God." (Ps 41:2). This symbolic mention inspired art and explains why we often see two deer drinking at a spring in Eucharistic symbols. This thirst is, evidently, that which the soul has for God. The desire we have to receive Communion, the Eucharistic nostalgia we have when we cannot go to Communion, is exactly that thirst.

There are, then, three types of thirst that we can distinguish:
    Christ Sitio

    From the height of the Cross Our Lord said ‘I thirst’

  • The thirst God has for souls;

  • The thirst that we have for God;

  • The thirst that we should have for the souls of others.
All three thirsts have this in common: They are purely spiritual cravings, a spiritual thirst in which the body plays no part. It is one soul that desires another soul.

Obviously, it is an ineffable thirst on the part of God, Who has no need of anyone, Who is perfect, Who suffices unto Himself and Who wishes to condescend to have thirst for us. The thirst of men for God is much less, except in the most ardent Saints. Then, there is a thirst that the apostle has for souls with whom he is helping to convert or to grow on the path of virtue.

What are the characteristics and reasons that explain this last thirst? What ultimately is this thirst and how does it act in souls?

This matter is very important so that we can ask ourselves:
  • To what measure we have this thirst for souls?

  • What should we do to make it grow in us?

  • What are the factors that can increase or decrease this thirst in us?
For us to know these things, we first have to understand why the human soul has this thirst, and how we should legitimately request it. Toward this end, it is necessary to prepare the ground in our souls by looking at souls who do not have thirst for other souls. What do they thirst for?

Possible positions to take before souls

I have the impression that there are two types of souls: There are some that have a thirst for souls and others that have a thirst for advantages.

The latter do not, properly speaking, have a thirst for souls. They pass their lives more or less indifferent to other souls, desiring only to have advantages, which can naturally be of different types: advantages of health, comfort, prestige, popularity or any other type.


The good life mentality: a materialist way of being

One form of this utilitarianism is a soul that enjoys the company or the conviviality of another because of the instinct of sociability, which imposes the need for being with others. Another form is a sentimental desire, the taste to be adored by another. But neither of these constitutes the thirst for souls. These are utilitarian modes turned toward one's own advantage.

Let me note here that the desire to be adored by others, the desire to enjoy a relationship with another soul, still represents a less vile form than an egoism that is purely utilitarian: "I have what I want. I'm well off; I have my house, my possessions, my body is well cared for; I listen to music that pleases my ears and have food on my plate that delights my palate. I have my servants/employees who carry out my orders; I have no need for anything or anyone else in my life."

This is a very vile form of utilitarianism turned only toward the body and which is obviously much lower than others turned toward the soul, even though the latter are also wrong.

family life

The warm familial life of the past is foreign to many modern families, each caught in his own world

There are many ways of being – from the past and the present – that show that historically we are descending from spiritual utilitarianism to a material utilitarianism. In the past, for example, in the family life there was an enjoyment of relationships of soul that was very intense and even constituted the principal end of the life of the family.

Today, this relationship is becoming increasingly less intense among family members. On the contrary, the exchange of practical advantages are increasingly taking center stage in familial relationships. That is to say, the family is moving from spirit to matter.

Romantic attractions

How is a romantic attraction, the romantic need of one soul for another, similar to and different from the thirst for souls? How exactly does that thirst for souls come to be? How can someone have it?

You see that we are moving into a zone filled with imponderables that can easily appear somewhat byzantine.

Regarding the distinction between a true thirst for souls and the romantic need of souls to live together, to be adored, etc., we have to consider the existence of three categories:
  • Those who have the need for merely material advantages;

  • Those who have the need for a relationship of souls, but an interested one;

  • Those who have a disinterested thirst for souls.
We will analyze these three types in the next article.



Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted July 10, 2019