The concept of the victim soul derives from the Roman Catholic teaching on redemptive suffering. Such a person is one chosen by God to suffer more than most people during life, and who generously accepts the suffering, based on the example of Christ's own Passion.
In the apostolic letter "Salvifici Doloris" (1984), which deals with human suffering and redemption, Pope John Paul II noted that: "The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the Redemption. Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished. ..."
An exposition of the tradition of victim soul appears in the autobiography of saint Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul. In her view, the victim soul is a chosen one whose suffering is mysteriously joined with the redemptive suffering of Christ and is used for the redemption of others.
The Catholic Church does not officially designate anyone as a victim soul. The term comes from the testimony of those who have observed Christians who seem to undergo a kind of redemptive suffering. Victim soul status, even when genuine, is a matter of private revelation; therefore individuals are not bound to accept, as part of the Catholic faith, the legitimacy of any particular person for whom such a claim is made, nor the genuineness of any miraculous claims that have been made in connection with such a person.
Examples of victim souls are:
- Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart (1863 – 1899): the noble countess Droste zu Vischering and Mother Superior of the Convent of Good Shepherd Sisters in Porto, Portugal, wrote in her autobiography "I offered myself to God as a victim for the sanctification of priests" and added "I know that the Lord has accepted my suffering".
- Saint Gemma Galgani (1878 – April 11, 1903): wrote in her autobiography how Jesus told her "I need souls who, by their sufferings, trials and sacrifices, make amends for sinners and for their ingratitude."
- Maria Valtorta (1897 – 1961): whose spiritual life was influenced by reading the autobiography of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, as well as the life of Saint John Mary Vianney at the age of 28, before becoming bedridden, she offered herself to God as a victim soul. She later became bedridden for 28 years and reported visions of Jesus and Mary.
- Blessed Alexandrina of Balazar (1904 – 1955): whose Vatican biography states that she saw her vocation in life to invite others to conversion, and to "offer a living witness of Christ's passion, contributing to the redemption of humanity."
- Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905 – 1938): who wrote in her diary that Christ had chosen her to be a "victim offering", a role that she voluntarily accepted.
Although the notion of a scapegoat has been present within Judeo-Christian teachings for long, the Catholic concept of a victim soul is distinct and different from it, in that in this case the victim soul willingly offers the suffering to God, unlike the unwitting scapegoat scenario.
- Korson, Gerson. "What is a Victim Soul?", The Catholic Answer, Our Sunday Visitor, February 19, 2009
- The Blackwell Companion to Catholicism by James Buckley, Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt and Trent Pomplun (Dec 21, 2010) ISBN 1444337327 pages 396-397
- Louis Chasle; Sister Mary of the Divine Heart, Burns & Oates, London (1906).
- Visionaries: The Spanish Republic and the Reign of Christ by William A. Christian (May 30, 1996) University of California Press ISBN 0520200403 page 96
- Shepherd of Souls: The Virtuous Life of Saint Anthony Pucci by Peter M. Rookey O.S. M. (Jun 2003) ISBN 1891280449 CMJ Marian Press pages 1-3
- Vatican biography of Alexandrina Maria da Costa
- Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul: the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska (Marian Press, 2005), pp. 74-76, paras. 135-37.
- Freeze, Michael. They Bore the Wounds of Christ (Nov 1989) ISBN 0879734221 pages 60-61