EIGHTH DAY: Desire the Salvation of Souls
There is such joy in saving souls that one accepts suffering. And moreover, it is also true, there is such suffering in thinking of souls who are lost, who are about to get lost, that other sufferings are nothing compared to it. This is the nature of love (E068).
The more we are united to God in prayer, the more our eyes open to the spiritual distress of humanity, less visible but deeper than their physical sufferings. Fired up with the fire of charity, Pierre Goursat had a great desire to save souls; he could not remain indifferent to the loneliness and despair of all those who do not know the love of God: One must truly have this pierced heart, constantly saying to Lord: “But save the world! “ (E011).
Pierre often recalled an event that marked him deeply in his youth. One evening with Cardinal Suhard on the Montmartre hill, they looked out over the capital in silence. Suddenly, the Archbishop of Paris shared with Pierre his anguish for the salvation of the inhabitants of this great city of which he was the pastor: “And to think that I am responsible for three million souls, that the Lord will ask me to account for these three million souls! “
The ardent missionary zeal that animated the whole life of Pierre Goursat can only be understood through this interior fire that burned within him unceasingly for the “salvation of souls”: We must ask the Lord every day of our lives to give us this burning fire for the conversion of sinners (E051). Charity is the motor of the mission: “The love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14). This force that impelled Pierre to always go forward, despite the difficulties, is the dynamism of love that gives us this joy of undertaking to save souls (E050).
The purpose of our life is, in fact, to be saved and to participate in the salvation of others. God wants to save all and He calls men and women in every age to cooperate more intimately in this work of salvation. Pierre Goursat invited everyone to live the following stages of a very Theresian spiritual itinerary: “thirsting” for souls, interceding, making small sacrifices, offering oneself to God out of love. Pierre spoke about the Little Flower: When she was fifteen years old, she saw an image of Jesus on the cross that protruded from her Mass book, with this sentence: “I am thirsty, I am thirsty for souls. “And she said: “I ask the Lord to make sacrifices to save souls” (E053). And citing the example of Catherine of Siena, he said that she was on fire with the love of God and that Jesus had confided in her: “I suffered so much from the thirst of souls that the cross was a relief for me” (E014). Motivated by this desire to participate in the salvation of souls, we understand the importance of praying for all those who count on us: Let us ask the Lord to burn with love for our brothers who are sinners (E051).
Intercession conforms us to the prayer of Jesus, who is the only intercessor with the Father on behalf of all people, especially sinners (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2634). With Christ, the “high priest” who offered Himself for us once and for all on the cross (cf. Heb 7:25-27), we are invited to intercede for them urgently and unceasingly.
When he prayed at night, Pierre Goursat made St Dominic’s supplication his own: “But Lord, what will become of sinners? “Prayer of intercession is of great help for the living and the dead, even if we do not see the immediate fruits of it, and the Church encourages us to live this “apostolate of souls” by praying for “souls in purgatory”.
At a time marked by the search for comfort and self-fulfillment, Pierre Goursat did not hesitate to stress the importance of “small sacrifices“: Lord, my little sacrifices, take them in Your love, transform them by Your strength, to convert sinners (E051). He invited everyone to offer the trials, failures, humiliations, annoyances and inconveniences of life to help those in need of comfort. Taking a concrete example, he said that before going to sleep, one can pray like this: Lord, during this night when I’m going to be in my cozy bed, I pray to You for all those who have had all their blankets and clothes taken away and are forced to sleep on a damp slab in the cold of a dungeon. Lord, help them not to suffer too much and give them strength (E053).
Pierre invited those close to him not to aim for heroic deeds, for goals that are too difficult to achieve, but as Thérèse of the Child Jesus recommended, to begin with privations that do not cost too much (for example, picking up a pin or a piece of paper on the ground or smiling at someone who annoys us…): Make very small sacrifices, the smallest you can find (E046).
On the cross, Christ lived the gift of Himself to perfection for the salvation of all souls. By uniting ourselves to the offering He made of His life to the Father, we too can offer to God our renunciations for the redemption of the world. It was not His suffering, but the love with which He suffered that saved us. Pierre Goursat stressed that the effectiveness of our “little sacrifices” depends solely on the love we put into them: It is the intention that counts, because these little sacrifices are sacrifices of love, and love transforms everything. What counts is not what we do, but the love with which we do things (E056).
At the end of his life, Pierre founded the “Exaltation of the Cross” to encourage sick people to offer their sufferings for the salvation of the world. Speaking of Therese of the Child Jesus who was suffering a lot, he said: But she was so happy to save souls! She really had the fire of love in her. So what we must ask for is this fire of love, a fire infinitely greater than suffering (E050).
Learning the hidden value and the great spiritual fruitfulness of these “little sacrifices”, the desire to give ourselves to Christ and to make our life a “sacrifice” to God gradually grows in our hearts: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercy of God, to offer your persons as a living host, holy and acceptable to God: this is the spiritual worship you have to give” (Rom 12:1).
Pierre Goursat invited those close to him to offer themselves to merciful Love, as the Little Flower had done in 1895, at a time when people offered themselves as victims to God’s justice in reparation for the sins of the world. And he added: Surrender yourself to merciful love! To offer oneself as a victim to God’s Justice is terrifying, whereas one can truly surrender oneself to this merciful Love in complete trust (E051).