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The Tzadikim Nistarim

When reading the dialogue between Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka in "On Heaven and Earth," I came across a passage in which Rabbi Skorka describes what I have since discovered to be the Tzadikim Nistarim, or "the hidden righteous ones." According to some branches of Judaism, the hidden righteous ones are 36 righteous people who, through their goodness and humility, justify the continuation of the world. Essentially, from what I have come to understand, for the sake of these 36 holy people, God will not allow the world to be destroyed...even if the rest of the world has turned into an evil lot of heartless murderers. The lesson learned here is to be as righteous and holy as possible, because you may just be one of these righteous people and not know it.

I don't think there is a Catholic version of the Tzadikim Nistarim, but I do remember coming across something a tad similar when reading Sister Faustina's diary. In it, we hear Christ say the following:
"There are souls living in the world who love Me dearly. I dwell in their hearts with delight. But they are few. In convents too, there are souls that fill My Heart with joy. They bear My features (...). Their number is very small. They are a defense for the world before the justice of the Heavenly Father and a means of obtaining mercy for the world. The love and sacrifice of these souls sustain the world in existence" (Diary 367
Before reading "On Heaven and Earth," I often wondered who these loving souls were and if I was one of them. I think I have a long way to go before I can love God as I wish to love him because I hope to one day love God with a heart as fervent as that of St. Francis of Assisi and countless other saints who devoted their entire lives to serving God). When looking out for the people whose hearts have become a dwelling place for Christ, I often think of saints like St. Faustina Kowalska and Padre Pio. They certainly pleased God during their time on earth and probably helped countless souls due to their prayers, sacrifices, and suffering.
Image Credit: Our Catholic Prayers
I also think of the everyday unsung heroes of today. Perhaps there's someone in your acquaintance who will one day be declared a saint. Perhaps a few of these people delight God enough to, knowingly or unknowingly, sustain an increasingly awful world. When I think about these unnamed and under-appreciated saints-in-training, I sometimes find myself remembering some of the people I have seen in churches and pilgrimages around the world. Perhaps these people are one of the few who love Christ dearly and help prolong the coming of God's justice. And then there's the church ladies at home.

You probably have a few church ladies at your home church. These are the older ladies you often see in an otherwise empty church, adoring Christ in the Eucharist or praying fervently for their grandchildren and families. Sometimes, when I find myself praying in the chapel after confession, I suddenly find myself surrounded by a gaggle of tiny, Filipino women praying the rosary and doing the stations of the cross together. The older these women are, the more I appreciate them. The more I see of them, the more I love them. Though some of them carry stern expressions, the lines on their faces tell another story. There is joy in these women. Behind every stern reminder to their grandchildren to be quiet in the house of God, there is love. Love for God and love for the child they wish to teach. These women probably have bodies that are more in pain than ours on any given day, and yet they will kneel on the cold, marble floor of the Church when pansy Catholics, such as myself on occasion, prefer the comfort of padded pews. Perhaps these oft-unnoticed women are the Tzadikim Nistarim....or the holy souls that fill Christ's heart with joy.

...or maybe the Tzadikim Nistarim are the brothers and sisters out there in the humble convents and monasteries. They don't attempt to ride buses to campaign for certain candidates. However, they will march and pray barefoot in DC every year in silent defense of the unborn. Like Padre Pio, they take their vow of obedience seriously, knowing that their obedience to their superior is their obedience to Christ.

...or maybe the Tzadikim Nistarim are the innocent children of the world. I am often caught off-guard by the level of empathy children have for others. As awful as some kids can be, there are always children out there who will seek to comfort those who are sad or care for those who need help. I could tell you all kinds of stories about my little cousins or some of my previous students who performed random acts of kindness simply because it was the right thing to do and not because they could write it off during tax time.

...or maybe the Tzadikim Nistarim are those who suffer for God. These can be terminally ill patients that offer up their suffering in union with that of Christ's for the salvation of the world. I remember my family once visiting a very old relative of my dad's at a nursing home. This woman was so bent with age and sickness that she could barely lie down straight. She was in the last stages of her illness and suffered greatly, but if you were to look in her eyes you saw the promise of heaven. I will never forget how her eyes were fixed on a small image of Christ on the Cross, which hung above her bed. Her entire focus was on that image and her eyes were on fire with the love she had in her heart. This woman died with dignity and probably brought many souls with her to God through her intercession and suffering as a victim soul.

...and there are countless other holy souls out there who could potentially be one of the people in whom God takes delight in a world that always seems to get worse and worse.

Who knows, perhaps you too could one day become one of these holy souls if you put a bit more effort into loving and serving God and your fellow man.

Pax Vobiscum


  1. Very intriguing. Sister Faustina did not point to 36, but we all know that there are very few. I am quite sure I am not one of them, I will pray for them.

  2. No job is too small or too great for the 36. They never turn away from any task God gives them. They know that if something needs to be done, they might as well be the ones doing it. They are conscientious servants to all of humanity. They are not perfect, but rather are painfully aware of all their faults. They understand that there is no end to being good. They instinctively know what it means to be a decent human being. They insist on the absolute and never compromise their principles. They want to be good for the sake of being good. They are incapable of doing something that is not right. They might not even believe in God, but follow God's laws with their hearts. They see the root cause of all the troubles in the world. They feel deeply, cry in the inside, but laugh on the outside. They know that the last thing this world needs is another miserable human being, so they resist their own despair with everything they have. When the sorrow and the burden they take on becomes unbearable they wish that their souls be crushed out. They don't want to be a burden for God.

    1. Would you mind sharing where you learned about the Tzadikim Nistarim? Very intrigued and would like to read up on them some more if I can. Thank you for sharing!