To Repair the Face of the World

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich and Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska

We visibly see the repairing process on a material, natural, and physical level. If a car or house has been damaged following an accident, then we see the repair work undertaken with the aim of restoring the material object to its original condition. On a natural level, the repair work undertaken to restore a town, or city, ravaged by floods, or an earthquake, is also seen. There is much pain and heartache involved in this restoration process which can take many years, impacting on a large number of people. Finally, on the physical level, we see the repairing process endured where someone recovers from injury following an accident, or illness. Again, there is much pain, and there is an acknowledgement that it is only through further pain and suffering that the body is healed. In the treatment of serious illnesses, the side effects of medication are often an unavoidable consequence of the recovery process. On these three levels, we see the repairing process; the efforts, pain, and endurance of individuals affected by injury, illness, accident, or natural calamity.

If we move into the moral sphere, the reparation process is invisible, in the sense that we cannot actually see the healing process experienced by the victim. We will witness the visible effects of the healing process in their change of attitude, and ability to get on with their lives. But we do not see the interior change process that has taken place; the ruminating thoughts, the heartache, and the struggle to come to terms with what has happened to them, whether it is on an emotional, physical, or sexual level. In a similar way, we do not see whether the perpetrator achieves true and sincere sorrow for the harm they have inflicted on the victim. The only person who really knows whether they are sincerely sorry for their behavior is the individual person themselves. To sincerely admit our wrong-doing, by taking full responsibility for our actions, is the sure path to developing a real understanding into how our actions have impacted on others. The real fruit of taking responsibility for one’s actions is the acceptance of God’s grace of repentance, and conversion of heart. This ideal does not always happen, and the interior process by which someone moves towards a conversion of heart happens invisibly. True healing and reparation on both sides comes from the repentance and conversion of heart of the offender, and the forgiveness of the offender by the victim.

It is only through God’s grace that we can truly forgive someone. Over time, the healing powers of the Holy Spirit will diminish the painful memories that wound our hearts. The Christian call to forgiveness is an incredibly challenging one; it can be made light of, as something expected of all followers of Christ. It is very difficult to forgive someone who has seriously harmed us, and truly will their good, their ultimate good, which is to be with us in heaven. Our Lord won us this grace to perform such a heroic act; without his grace, this would be impossible. The journey to the repentance and conversion of heart of the perpetrators of crimes, and the forgiveness and healing of hearts of victims, is where the personal drama of salvation and sanctification is played out on a daily basis. It is these two dramas that contribute to repairing the face of the world and, in so doing, help restore fallen mankind.

Spiritual Reparation
There is a deeper reparation process that takes place which is not only invisible, but is brought about by hidden souls vicariously suffering for the salvation of souls. Spiritual reparation is a mysterious and hidden process which is critical to maintaining the world’s existence, through preserving it from the full forces of evil. Without the gift of faith, this would seem an absurdity and exaggeration. But, then again, without faith, the idea that God would become man to freely submit his life to be crucified on the cross in order to win us the graces for our salvation and sanctification, is equally an absurdity. Spiritual reparation makes sense and is fitting, when viewed not only through the eyes of faith, but also in light of the repairing processes that occur on a material, natural, physical, and moral level.

The sufferings of victim souls throughout the history of the Church, closely resemble the sufferings of Jesus on the Cross. They have shared more intimately with his sufferings, and those of his mother Mary. We are all called to unite our sufferings with our Lord: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself, and take up his cross every day, and follow me” (Lk 9: 23). We all contribute in a mysterious way to the flow of grace into souls who do not believe in God, or who need strengthening to prevent their loss of faith, as well as those at the hour of their death. These are souls that, in many instances, we will not personally know. While this is the case, we will know them intimately in heaven. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich reveals to us the amazing oneness of the saints in heaven.

I saw innumerable cohorts of saints of endless variety, and yet in my soul, in my interior, they were all only one, all living and revelling in a life of joy, all interpenetrating and reflecting one another.1

It is not an exaggeration that we will all know every angel and saint in heaven with an intimacy which is beyond all human comprehension. The one human family will rejoice, praise and adore, our divine Savior in the glory of heaven. It does not seem at all possible that we could know intimately the billions of inhabitants of the eternal city. Compare our future eternal life to our everyday worries and concerns. The baggage we carry around with ourselves, our imaginations ruminating over past hurts, and our hearts hardened by perceived injustices. Not to mention the daily struggle of having to bear patiently with our neighbors. Some days, the Christian call to love our neighbor, and will the up-most good for them, which is their heavenly happiness to be shared intimately with ourselves, is both as difficult and far away as the wonder of our future life.

The Mystics of the Church
There are victim souls hidden in the world who, through their sufferings, win graces for those who are at-risk of losing their souls. The light and grace won for souls throughout the history of mankind will only be measured and understood at the final judgement. The mystics of the Church2 have shed much light on this mystery where the sufferings of victim souls, such as St. Padre Pio, and Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, bring to life the mysterious words of St Paul: “It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church” (Col 1: 24). On first hearing these extraordinary words, our initial reaction can be to question them, exclaiming how our Savior’s crucifixion was surely enough to win us the graces necessary for our salvation? If his death on the cross was sufficient then, how is it that we are called to complete what is lacking in his sufferings? We are called to pray for others, and perform acts of charity towards our neighbor, so shouldn’t our sufferings be of some benefit as well? Nothing in the eyes of God is created or permitted without purpose. As we suffer in this life in our created human nature, so our suffering has a meritorious element and purpose. Admittedly, God did not create suffering, as suffering and death entered the world after the fall. But in God’s great designs, he uses that which is negative to restore mankind. Our suffering is not only for our own salvation, but as with our prayers for our neighbor, and charitable works, our sufferings can also help others. Christ is our model, who passed through the agony of the cross to the glory of the resurrection. We, too, are called to “take up our cross every day” (Lk 9: 23) and unite our sufferings with Christ, fulfilling his desire that we help his mystical body, the church, which is made up of all our brothers and sisters in the one human family.

The mystics in the church, throughout the course of her history, have had a significant impact, whereby their visions of the invisible have increased the faith of those who are called to know and love God, without seeing, and only partially understanding, him. They visibly see the truths of the Church that we all accept with faith. Their authentic witness to a life, modeled on Christ, and the harmony of their supernatural experiences with the truths of the Church, can have a real and lasting impact on increasing the faith of God’s community. They make real and concrete what can seem abstract and completely unfathomable. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich describes vividly how she sees in her heart the people she would assist through her sufferings united with our Lord.

In her heart also did she hear the distressed cries of those whom she was appointed to succor, even though seas and continents lay between her and them; there, too, did she feel the agony of the dying whom she was to assist in their last moments by her sufferings and prayers. It was her heart that warned her of impending danger, either to the Church or individuals. She often endured distress of mind long before she clearly understood the cause. In her heart, she saw the thoughts, dispositions, the whole moral character of those with whom she treated, either actually or in spirit; there she heard impious words, blasphemy, etc., for the expiation of which God was pleased to accept the torments of His innocent creature… 3

Their calling in the Church is not only to increase the faith of believers, but significantly to share more closely in the cross of Christ. Their sufferings win graces for souls as they are called to be a silent and hidden witness immersed in the wounds of Christ, crucified in body and soul, for the greater glory of God. While reparation is made through the prayers and actions of the faithful, our Savior still continues to suffer mystically in his body, and “will agonize in his members” until all souls predestined to share in his glory, are safely home. The mysterious words in the passage below describes a law hidden in the wisdom of the heavenly father, and revealed through his son. “Since the death of Jesus, the law has not changed: souls are saved only by suffering and dying for them.”

The mystical body of Christ can no more live without suffering than our eyes without the light of the sun. On earth, the nearer a soul is to God, that is, the more it loves, the more it is dedicated to suffering. For souls that have received everything from the Church, is it not a noble vocation to live and immolate themselves for their Mother?… Until the end of the world, Christ will agonize in His members, and it is by these sufferings and this agony that the Church, His spouse, will bring forth Saints… Since the death of Jesus, the law has not changed: souls are saved only by suffering and dying for them. The eternally glorified heart of Jesus will suffer no more, it can no longer suffer; henceforth it is our turn…What happiness that it is our turn, and no longer His to suffer now!4

It is the suffering of the innocent who mysteriously expiate and win graces for souls as they imitate the holy and innocent victim at Calvary who suffered for each one of us. The suffering that entered the world through Adam has become the means whereby our redemption has been won. It is also the means by which we are all called to participate in God’s plan of salvation for mankind. Mysteriously, the mystics of the Church experience a deep joy amidst their sufferings, which they see and understand as being a precious gift from God.

When night fell, the physical sufferings increased, and were joined with moral sufferings. Night and suffering. The solemn silence of the night made it possible for me to suffer freely. My body was stretched on the wood of the cross. I writhed in terrible pain until eleven o’clock. I went in spirit to the Tabernacle, and uncovered the ciborium, leaning my head on the rim of the cup, and all my tears flowed silently toward the Heart of Him who alone understands what pain and suffering is. And I experienced the sweetness of this suffering, and my soul came to desire this sweet agony, which I would not have exchanged for all the world’s treasures. The Lord gave me strength and love towards those through who these sufferings came. This then was the first day of the year. 5

St. Faustina also described how the victim souls chosen by God hold off his divine justice. Like a sponge of love, they absorb the greatest chastisements. Like Christ on his cross, they placate our father in heaven, pleading for him to have mercy upon the world which ignores and rejects his invitations to love him.

I saw the anger of God hanging heavy over Poland. And now I see that if God were to visit our country with the greatest chastisements, that would still be great mercy because, for such grave transgressions, He could punish us with eternal annihilation. I was paralyzed with fear when the Lord lifted the veil a little for me. Now, I see clearly that chosen souls keep the world in existence to fulfill the measure {of justice}.6

The Divine Bank
While the mysteries of God’s grace are not bound by the laws of nature, they do, in their operation, follow a natural principle in relation to graces used or wasted. The “divine bank” requires that all graces are accounted for, and that the graces not accepted by souls, are paid back. This “debt” is repaired by chosen souls, who gather up what others have wasted.

Jesus is continually renewing His indissoluble union with the Church, His Spouse, and that He may present her spotless to the Father, He incessantly pours out upon her the torrents of His grace. But every grace must be accounted for, and few among those who receive them would be found ready for this, if the Heavenly Spouse did not at all times prepare chosen souls to gather up what others waste, to utilize the talents that others bury, and to discharge the debts contracted by the negligent.7

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich saw in her visions the purpose and nature of her sufferings, and how they repaired the graces lost through the negligence of the faithful, and how the “settling of accounts” is the invisible hidden work of Christ’ victim souls.

I had, for instance, to press honey from thistles with my bare hands, and carry it to the Blessed Virgin to pay off the balance of the Church debt. She boils and refines it, and mixes it with the food of those who are in need of it. This signifies the ecclesiastical year the faithful have neglected or squandered, grace which a right use would have changed into multiplied blessings, into sweet strengthening food, for which many poor souls are languishing. The Lord supplied all that was necessary from the Church Triumphant. The Church Militant must now render an account, must pay capital and compound interest, too. In this account, the honey had been omitted (God’s grace appears in the natural world under the form of honey) and it should have been represented. In the flowering season, it might easily have been gathered, a little care bestowed on the hives was all that was needed; but now it can be procured only with suffering and fatigue, for the flowers have disappeared, and thistles alone are to be found. The merciful Jesus accepts the pains and sufferings of some as an expiatory sacrifice for the omissions of others, and with blood-stained hands had the honey to be extracted from the thistles. The Blessed Virgin, the Mother of the Church, cooks and applies it where the gifts of grace, which it typifies, have been wanting during the year. Thus was my martyrdom established during those days and nights by manifold labors in a vision. The two Churches were ever before me and, as her debt was paid off, I saw the lower one issuing from its obscurity.8

On a natural level, we have to pay off the “debts” of others. The crimes that led to the economic crisis caused by the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 are being born by those who have been indirectly affected by those consumed with greed and deception. The only way the economy can be repaired is through innocent people paying higher taxes, experiencing pay freezes, and undergoing cuts to public services. The only way the economy can recover is by the multitude of those affected bearing the burden of austerity. In the supernatural order, the principle is the same. All the wasted and neglected graces have to be accounted for, and reparation made for these lost graces, which is born through the “pains and sufferings of some as an expiatory sacrifice for the omissions of others.”9

While the principle of paying back debt, and repairing is the same on a natural level, the key difference is that only a few chosen souls most fully repair for the world’s neglect in responding to God’s graces. On the natural level, it is the crimes of a few that affect a large proportion of mankind, where reparation is carried out by all those who are indirectly affected. They are conscious of their reparation through their wage freezes, and need to watch spending patterns more closely. Only those who are close to God are conscious that their suffering is fruitful, and of benefit to the salvation of the world. These souls are the very few, completely hidden in the wounds of our Savior. The reality is that the vast majority of us are unaware that we are squandering graces from heaven.

The Fruits of the Faithful
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich saw in her visions the fruits of her painful suffering which she endured through love for God, and his Church. In her vision, she describes how the Church in heaven supplied the Church militant here on earth with all the necessary graces. The immense light and power of heaven overshadows the darkness of the earth. The other-worldly power hidden in heaven is within the wounds of our glorified Savior. He is the mediator of all graces, accompanied in heaven by his Mother who is the treasurer of all graces. The angels and saints also assist in distributing and procuring the graces we require through their intercession before the throne of God.  The light and power of heaven can remain inaccessible if the faithful do not cooperate with God’s will through responding to his many graces.

In her vision, the fruits of the faithful, the flowering virtues, born from the seeds of grace, should have been gathered up by our heavenly family. Instead, only thistles remain, and it is only suffering with love offered as a pure and holy sacrifice to our Lord, that satisfies and, therefore, pays off the debt that has been incurred. Just as our Lord opened up heaven through his loving surrender on his cross at Calvary, so do victim souls, hidden in the world, open up the kingdom of heaven in souls on earth, through the graces they procure through their suffering. We are called by faith to believe that whatever our sufferings in life, they become fruitful if they are united to our divine Savior. They will have irreplaceable value in repairing his mystical body. We are invited to mysteriously contribute, in some small way, to paying off the debt incurred through the misuse or negligence of God’s graces. As a result, we can bring the light and love from heaven into souls on earth, thereby bringing them out of their obscurity and darkness.

The deeper reality revealed in the passage below contrasts starkly “the luxuriant garden” of heaven above the “desert waste” of the earth. One of the greatest hidden tragedies in the world is that the thousands of graces received from heaven are squandered.

I saw the immense treasures of the Church, and the little profit some of her members derive from them. It is like a luxuriant garden above a desert waste. The former sends down thousands and thousands of fertilizing influences which the latter rejects; it remains a waste, and the rich treasures are prodigally squandered. I saw the Church Militant, the faithful, the flock of Christ in its temporal state upon earth, dark, dark, and desolate; and the rich distribution of graces from on high received carelessly, slothfully, impiously … Such negligence must be expiated by suffering; otherwise, the Church Militant, unable to settle accounts with the Church Triumphant, would fall still lower.10

We are called to glorify God by offering our bodies as a gift back to him. We perform a life of virtue or vice in our body, which is instrumental to the performing of our actions. Significantly, we also suffer in our bodies; our response to the sufferings we experience in our life, from the daily irritations and annoyances, through to serious physical and psychological harm, determines our eternal destiny. Our response to suffering will ultimately determine whether we repair or destroy the mystical body of Christ. Suffering always brings to the surface what lies deep within us—anger, resentment, fear, sadness, or despair. With the help of God’s grace, an attitude of acceptance and, hopefully, a spirit of abandonment, can live within our souls. This will be most fruitful to the building up of Christ’s mystical body.

Our journey on earth is to prepare us for our heavenly life where we are called to adore Christ in the blessed Eucharist, praise him each day for the graces we have received, and intercede for our neighbors through prayer. All this activity repairs for those who do not pray, adore, or praise God. During our time on earth, we are called, through our sufferings, to repair in a unique way, the mystical body of Christ. In heaven, we will no longer repair and build up his mystical body through our sufferings, as in heaven there is only eternal happiness. Christ who is glorified at his Father’s right hand, desires that we let our bodies become a temple for the Holy Spirit to dwell happily and fruitfully. The greater he is grafted to us, the more his divine life will transform our souls, enabling us to offer our whole selves, and the sufferings experienced in our body, as a gift back to God.

  1. Very Rev. K. E. Schmoger, C.SS.R. The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich Volume 2, Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. 1976, p. 201.
  2. I am defining a mystic as someone who visibly sees what we believe through faith by means of visions, and other mystical phenomena within a life modeled on Christ, that evidences holiness. Many mystics are also victim souls. Within the writings on mysticism, such a person can also be referred to as a visionary. Beyond the scope of this essay is to explore this any further given the wealth of literature within the mystical tradition.
  3. Very Rev. K. E. Schmoger, C.SS.R., The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich Volume 2, Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1976, p. 22.
  4. Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. The Three Ages of the Interior Life: Prelude of Eternal Life Volume Two. Trans. By Sister M. Timothy Doyle, Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1989, pp 500-501
  5. Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul. Marian Press, Stockbridge MA, 2005, Entry 1454, p. 515.
  6. Ibid: Entry 1533, p 546
  7. Very Rev. K. E. Schmoger, C.SS.R. The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich Volume 2, Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1976, p. 2.
  8. Ibid: p. 82.
  9. Ibid: p. 82.
  10. Ibid: p. 81.
Brent Withers About Brent Withers

Brent Withers is originally from New Zealand. He is now living in Farnborough, England, with his wife and three young children. He returned to the Catholic Church about ten years ago after being away for about twenty or so years. He has previously published essays with the Homiletic & Pastoral Review. Presently, he is employed as a commissioning manager for mental health services in an inner London City borough.