Life and Doctrine of Saint Catherine of Genoa

Introduction

The publication of the Life of Saint Catherine of Genoa at this moment is, for several reasons, opportune.

The reading of it will correct the misconceptions of many who honestly fancy that the Catholic Church encourages a mechanical piety, fixes the attention of the soul almost, if not altogether, on outward observances, and inculcates nothing beyond a complete submission to her authority and discipline.

The life of our Saint is an example of the reverse of that picture. It makes clear the truth that the immediate guide of the Christian soul is the Holy Spirit, and that her uncommon fidelity to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, made this holy woman worthy of being numbered by the Church among that class of her most cherished children, who have attained the highest degree of Divine love which it is possible for human beings to reach upon earth.

The mistake of the persons above spoken of arises from their failing to see that the indwelling Holy Spirit is the divine life of the Church, and that her sacraments have for their end to convey the Holy Spirit to the soul. It arises also from their not sufficiently appreciating the necessity of the authority and discipline of the Church, as safeguards to the soul from being led astray from the paths of the Holy Spirit.

Without doubt God could have, if He had so pleased, saved and sanctified the souls of men in spite of their ignorance, perversity, and weakness, by the immediate communication and action of the Holy Spirit in their souls, independently of an external organization like the Church. But such was not His pleasure, or His plan. For His own wise reasons, He chose to establish a Church which He authorized to teach the world whatsoever He had commanded, which He promised to be with unto the end of all time, whose ministry, sacraments, and government should serve Him, as His body had, to continue and complete, by a visible means, the work of man’s redemption.

Hence it is an entirely false view of the nature and design of the Church to suppose that it was intended to be, or is in its action, or ever was, or ever can be, a substitute for the authority of Christ, or the immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Christian soul.

The authority of the Church is no other that the authority of Christ, as He Himself has declared, “He that heareth you, heareth Me.” The sacraments are nothing else than the channels, or visible means, of communicating the Holy Spirit to the soul. It is the divine action in the Church which gives to its external organization the principal reason for its existence.

And it is equally false, and at the same time absurd, to suppose for a moment that the Holy Spirit indwelling in the Church and embodied in her visible authority, and the same Holy Spirit dwelling in and inspiring the Christian souls, should ever contradict each other, or come into collision. Whenever, by supposition, this takes place, be assured it is not the work of the Holy Spirit, but the consequence of ignorance, error, or perversity on the part of the individual; for it must not be forgotten, or ever be lost sight of, that it pleased Christ our Lord to promise to His Church that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against her,” and not to teach individual Christians.

The test, therefore, of the sincerity of the Christian soul in following the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, will be shown, in case of uncertainty, by its prompt obedience to the voice of the Holy Church. It is only when the soul goes astray from the paths of the Holy Spirit, it finds trammels to its feet, otherwise it is conscious of perfect liberty in the Church of God.

From the foregoing truths, the following practical rule of safe-conduct can be drawn. The immediate guide of the soul to salvation and sanctification is the Holy Spirit, and the criterion or test that the soul is guided by the Holy Spirit, is its ready obedience to the authority of the Church. With this rule there can be no danger of going astray, and the soul can walk in absolute security, in the ways of sanctity.

This is the way in which all the saints have trod to arrive at Christian perfection, but no life illustrates this truth more plainly, so far as we are aware, than the life of our saint.

There are others who think that the Church fosters a sanctity which is not concerned with this present life, rendering one useless to society, and indifferent to the great needs of humanity.

The love of God and the love of one’s neighbor as taught by Christ and His Apostles, are essentially one. If the saints of the Church were distinguished for their great love for God, they ought therefore to be equally distinguished for their great love for mankind. The one is the test of the other. If any man say, “I love God, and hateth his neighbor, he is a liar.” Such is the emphatic language of Saint John.

Let us apply this test, with the history of the Church and the biographies of her saints, in our hands. Take, for example, the religious orders, and it is a fair one, for nearly all of them were founded by saints, whose special aim it was to teach and practice Christian perfection, as understood by the Catholic Church. What do these pages of history and biography teach us? All that we possess of the classics, and of literature in every department, pagan as well as Christian, prior to the invention of the art of printing, we owe exclusively to the industry and labor of the early monks. Not a slight service. These men were for the most part the founders and professors of the great universities and colleges in England, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Ireland. The last were not the least, for the monks of Ireland were famous as founders of colleges and seats of learning in their own as well as in foreign countries. Monks were the pioneers in agriculture, and in many industrial and mechanical arts, while their monasteries became the centers of great cities, many of which still retain their names. They were the sowers of those seeds, which, being developed by time, men of our day claim all the honor of their results, but modestly, under the title of “modern civilization!”

“Idle monks and nuns” were they? They were, as a class, men and women who ate less, worked harder, and did more for intellectual progress, civilization, and social well-being, than any other body of men and women, whose record can be found on the pages of history, or who can be pointed out in this nineteenth century!

As for works of mercy, such is the superabundance of material, that it is difficult to know where to begin, and how to leave off.

The brotherhoods and sisterhoods in the Church, devoted to the care and relief of the sick, the orphan, the aged, the poor, the captive, the prisoner, the insane, and to the thousand and one ills that human nature is heir to, as well as those which are self-inflicted, who can count them?

True, there were some religious orders which were given almost exclusively to contemplation, but these were exceptional vocations, and were so considered by the Church. These had also a most important social bearing and practical value, which, however, this is not the place to demonstrate. But the great majority of her saints were men and women whose hearts were overflowing with warm and active sympathy for their race, consecrating their energies to its improvement spiritually, intellectually, morally, and bodily, and not seldom laying down their lives for its sake.

That the Church did not compel all her children, seeking Christian perfection, into one uniform type, is true. Governed by that divine wisdom which made man differ from man in his talents and aptitudes, she did not attempt to mar and wrong their nature, but sought to elevate and sanctify each in his own peculiar individuality.

Read the life of Saint Catherine, and in imagination fancy her in the city hospital of Genoa, charged, not only with the supervision and responsibility of its finances, but also overseeing the care of its sick inmates, taking an active, personal part in its duties, as one of its nurses, and the whole establishment conducted with strict economy, perfect order, and the tenderest care and love! Fancy this for a moment in the city hospital of Genoa in the sixteenth century, and seek for her compeer in the city of New York, or in any other city in the world, in our day, and if you find one, and outside of the Catholic Church, then, but not till then, you may repeat to your heart’s content, that she fosters a sanctity which turns one’s attention altogether away from this world, and makes one indifferent to the wants of humanity.

Saint Catherine’s life teaches another lesson to those whose mental eyes are not closed to facts as plain as the sun when shining at noonday.

We hear much said, and not a little is written, in the United States and in England, about the exclusion of woman from spheres of action for which her natural aptitudes fit her equally, and in many cases render her superior to men; of her partial education, and in many cases, the inferior position which she is forced to accept in society.

Strange that we hear no such complaints in Catholic society, or from Catholic women! Is it because they have been taught to hug the chains which make them slaves? or that they are denied the liberty of speech? or that their lips are closed by arbitrary authority? Not at all. The reason is plain. Women, no less than men, are free to occupy any position whose duties and functions they have the intelligence or aptitude to fulfill. They have the opportunities and are free to obtain the highest education their capacities are capable of. This, every Catholic woman knows and feels, and hence the absence of all consciousness, in the Church, of being deprived of her rights, of oppression, and injustice.

One has but to open his eyes and read the pages of ecclesiastical history to be convinced that in the Catholic Church there has been no lack of freedom of action for women. Look for a moment at the countless number of sisterhoods in the Church, some counting their members by thousands, all under the government of one head, a woman, and elected by themselves for life. Others again, each house forming a separate organization, with a superior of its own, elected for a limited period. In fact, there is no form of organization and government, of which they do not give us an example, and carried on successfully, showing a practical ability in this field of action, which no one can call in question. Then, there is no kind of labor, literary, scientific, mechanical, as well as charitable, in which they may not engage, according to their abilities and strength. Who shall enumerate the different kinds of literary institutions, schools, and academies under their direction, and confessedly superior in their kind? Who shall count the hospitals, the orphanages, the reformatories, the insane asylums, and other similar institutions, where they have proved their capacity to be above that of men? All roads are open to woman’s energies and capacities in the Church, and she knows and is conscious of this freedom; and what is more, she is equally aware that whatever she has ability to do, will receive from the Church encouragement, sanction, and that honor which is due to her labor, her devotion, and her genius.

Few great undertakings in the Church have been conceived and carried on to success, without the cooperation, in some shape, of women. The great majority of her saints are of their sex, and they are honored and placed on her altars equally with men. It is not an unheard of event, that women, by their scientific and literary attainments, have won from Catholic Universities the title of Doctor. Saint Teresa is represented as an authorized teacher, with a pen in hand, and with a doctor’s cap. It would carry us altogether too far beyond the limits of this preface to show how largely the writings of women in the Church, have contributed to the body and perfection of the science of theology.

In this respect also, our saint was distinguished. Her spiritual dialogues and her treatise on purgatory have been recognized by those competent to judge in such matters, as masterpieces in spiritual literature. Saint Francis of Sales, that great master in spiritual life, in whose city we have the consolation of writing this preface, was accustomed to read the latter twice a year. Frederic Schlegel, who was the first to translate Saint Catherine’s dialogues into German, regarded them as seldom if ever equaled in beauty of style; and such has been the effect of the example of Christian perfection in our saint, that even the “American Tract Society” could not resist its attraction, and published a short sketch of her life among its tracts, with the title of her name by marriage, Catherine Adorno.

It was fitting that the life of Saint Catherine of Genoa should be translated for the first time into English, by one who is now no more, but who was while living, distinguished, like our saint, for her intellectual gifts, for her charity toward the poor and abandoned, and in consecrating her pen to the cause and glory of God’s Church.

Isaac T. Hecker, Annecy, 7 October 1873

Chapter 1

Of the parents and ancestors of the blessed Catherine, and how at eight years of age she began to do penance; her gift of prayer, and of her desire to enter into religion, and her marriage against her will.

Catherine was born at Genoa in the year 1447. Her parents, Giacopo Fieschi and Francesca di Negro, daughter of Sigismund, Marquis di Negro, were both of illustrious and noble birth. On account of his merits, her father (a descendant of Robert, brother of Pope Innocent IV, who was uncle of another Pontiff, Adrain V) was created Viceroy of Naples, under King Regnier, in which office he remained until his death.

Although of very noble parentage, and very delicate and beautiful in person, yet from her earliest years, she despised the pride of birth, and abhorred luxury; so that when only about eight years of age, she was inspired with the desire to do penance, and beginning to dislike the soft indulgence of her bed, she laid herself down humbly to sleep on straw, with a block of hard wood under her head, in the place of pillows of down.

She had in her chamber that image of our Lord, which is commonly called “La Pieta,” and whenever she entered there, and raised her eyes to it, a violent pain seized her whole frame, caused by her grief and love at the thought of what our Lord had suffered for love of us.

She led a very simple life, seldom speaking with any one, very obedient to her parents, well skilled in the way of the divine precepts, and zealous in the practice of the virtues.

At the age of twelve, God in his grace bestowed on her the gift of prayer, and a wonderful communion with out Lord, which enkindled within her a new flame of deep love, together with a lively sense of the sufferings he endure in his holy passion, with many other good inclinations for the things of God.

At the age of thirteen, she was inspired with a desire for the religious life, and immediately communicated this inspiration to her spiritual father, who was also confessor to the devout convent of our Lady of Grace, in which she desired to become a nun, together with her pious sister Limbania. She earnestly begged the Father to make known her holy desire to the superiors of the convent above mentioned, and urge that they would deign to receive her into their company. When this prudent, spiritual father saw and heard such love for religion in one of so tender and delicate age, he began to represent to her the austerities of the religious life; the innumerable temptations of the enemy; the delicacy of her body, and many other things, to all of which Catherine answered with so much prudence and zeal, that the father was astonished, for her replies did not appear to him human, but supernatural and divine; and he therefore promised her that he would lay the matter before the superiors, which he did on the following day, at the same time communicating to them the prudent, remarkable answers of his spiritual daughter to his disclosures concerning the temptations and austerities of the religious life. After taking his proposal into deliberate consideration the superiors of the convent replied, that they were not accustomed to receive among them girls of so tender an age. To this the Father made answer that judgment and devotion not only supplied the want of age, but were better than years; still, they judged it inexpedient to receive her as it was contrary to their custom, which decision greatly afflicted the young girl who still trusted that Almighty God would not abandon her.

At the age of sixteen, she was married by her parents to a young Genoese of noble family, named, Giuliano Adorno; and although this step was contrary to her wishes, yet her great simplicity, submission, and reverence for her parents gave her patience to endure it.

But God, who in his goodness would not leave his chosen one to place her affections on the world and the flesh, permitted a husband to be given her entirely the opposite of herself in his mode of life, who caused her so much suffering, that for ten years, she could hardly support life, and by his imprudence she was at length reduced to poverty.

The last five of these ten years she devoted to external affairs, and feminine amusements, seeking solace for her hard life, as women are prone to do, in the diversions and vanities of the world, yet not to a sinful extent; and she did this, because, during the five first years, she suffered inconsolably from sadness; this was constantly increased by the opposition of her husband’s disposition to her own, which distressed her so much, that one day, (it was the vigil of Saint Benedict), having gone into the church of that saint, in her grief she exclaimed: “Pray to God for me, Oh, St Benedict, that for three months he may keep me sick in bed.” This she said almost in desperation, not knowing what to do, so great was her distress of mind; for during the three months before her conversion she was overwhelmed with mental suffering, and filled with deep disgust for all things belonging to the world; wherefore, she shunned the society of every one. She was oppressed with a melancholy quite insupportable to herself, and took no interest in anything.

But after these ten years she was called by God and converted in a marvelous manner, as will appear hereafter.

Chapter 2

She is wounded with divine love in the presence of her confessor. Manifestations of the love of God and of her own offences. The Lord appears to her carrying his cross, and she is taken up three degrees toward God.

The day following the feast of Saint Benedict, Catherine, at the instance of her sister, who was a nun, went to confession at the convent of the latter, although she had no desire to do so; but her sister said to her: “At least go to obtain the blessing of our confessor,” for he was indeed a holy man. The moment she knelt before him, she was wounded so forcibly with the love of God, and received so clear a revelation of her misery and faults, and of the goodness of God, that she had well nigh fallen to the ground.

Overpowered by these emotions, and by her sense of the offences she had committed against her dear Lord, she was so drawn away by her purified affections from the miseries of the world, that she became almost beside herself; and without ceasing, internally repented to herself, in the ardor of love: “No more would, no more sin.” And at that moment if she had possessed a thousand worlds, she would have thrown them all away.

Through the ardent flame of burning love with which she was enkindled, her good God, by his grace, impressed instantly upon that soul, and infused into it, all perfection, purging it of all earthly affections, illuminating it with a divine light by which she was enabled to perceive with her interior eye, his goodness; and in a word, united her with himself, and changed and transformed her entirely by the true union of a good will, inflaming her wholly with his burning love.

The saint while in the presence of her confessor lost entirely all consciousness through this sweet wound of love, so that she could not speak; but her confessor was not yet aware of this when he chanced to be called out, and left her so overwhelmed with grief and love, that she said to him, with great difficulty, when he returned: “With your consent, father, I will leave my confession till another time;” and she did so. Returning home, she was so on fire and wounded with the love which God had interiorly manifested to her, together with the view of her miseries, that, as if beside herself, she went into a private chamber, and gave vent to her burning tears and sighs.

At that moment she was instructed interiorly in prayer, but her lips could only utter: “oh Love! can it be that you have called me with so much love, and revealed to me at one view, what no tongue can describe?” For many days she could only utter herself in sighs, and wonderfully deep they were; and so great was her contrition for her offences against such infinite goodness, that if she had not been miraculously supported, her heart would have broken, and she would have died.

But when our Lord saw this soul still more interiorly inflamed with his love, and filled with sorrow for her sins, he appeared to her in spirit, with the cross upon his shoulder, dripping with blood which she saw was shed wholly for love, and this vision so inflamed her heart, that she was more than ever lost in love and grief.

This vision made such an impression upon her that she seemed always to see with her bodily eyes, her bleeding Love, nailed to the cross. Very plainly too did she see all the offences she had committed against him, and cried out continually: “Oh Love, no more sin, no more sin!” Her hatred of herself became so great, that filled with disgust she exclaimed: “Oh Love, if it be necessary I am prepared to make a public confession of my sins.”

After this she made her general confession with such contrition and compunction, that her soul was at once cleansed of its sins, for God had pardoned them all, consuming them in the flames of love, with which he had already wounded her heart; yet, to satisfy justice he led her through the way of satisfaction, permitting that this contrition and self-knowledge should continue for nearly fourteen months; and when she had made satisfaction, relieved her of the sight of her sins so entirely that she never beheld again the least of them, no more than if they had all been cast into the depths of the sea.

At that moment of her vocation, when she was wounded at the feet of her confessor, she seemed to be drawn to the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in spirit beheld all the graces, means, and ways, by which the Lord, in his pure love, had brought her to conversion. In this light she remained for more than a year, relieving her conscience by means of contrition, confession, and satisfaction.

She felt herself drawn with Saint John, to rest on the bosom of her loving Lord, and there she discovered a sweeter way which contained in itself many secrets of the bounteous love which was consuming her, so that she was often beside herself; and in her intense eagerness, her hatred of self, and her deep contrition, she would lick the earth with her tongue, and so great was the wain of contrition, and the sweetness of love, that she knew not what she was doing; but she felt her heart lightened, occupied with unbounded, poignant grief, and the sweet ardor of love. Thus she remained for three years or more, melted with love and grief, and with the deep and burning flames that were consuming her heart.

Then she was drawn to the open wound in the side of the crucified Lord, and there she was allowed to see the Sacred heart of her Lord burning with the same flames with which her own was enkindled; at the sight of this, her heart died within her, and her strength abandoned her. This impression remained for many years which were spent by her, in continual sighs, and burning flames, so that her heart and soul were well nigh melted, and she was constrained to cry out: “I have no longer either soul or heart; but my soul and my heart are those of my Beloved;” and in him she was wholly absorbed and transformed.

Finally, her sweet and loving Lord drew her to himself, and bestowed upon her a caress, by the power of which she was entirely immersed in that sweet Divinity to which she abandoned herself exteriorly, so that she exclaimed: “I live no longer, but Christ lives in me.” She knew no longer whether her mere human acts were good or bad, but saw all things in God.

Chapter 3

How the desire was given her to receive holy communion, and of its precious effects in her; of her sufferings when she did not receive, and how it seemed to her that she had lost faith, and walked by sight.

On the day of the Festival of the Annunciation of the glorious Virgin Mary, after her conversion, that is, after her loving wound, her Lord gave her the desire for holy communion, which she never lost during her whole life; and her Love ordered it in such a way, that communion was given her, without any care on her part, for she was, in a wonderful manner, provided with it in one way or another; and without asking, she was often summoned to receive it, by priests inspired by God to give it to her.

On one occasion a holy religious said to her: “You receive communion every day, how are you now satisfied?” and she answered him simply, explaining her desires and feelings. In order to prove her, he said to her: “Perhaps there may be something wrong in receiving communion so often:” and then left her. In consequence of this, Catherine, for fear of doing wrong, abstained from communion, but with great pain; and the religious, finding that she thought more of doing wrong, than of the consolation and satisfaction of communion, directed her to make daily communion, and she returned to her accustomed way.

Once, when at the point of death, so ill that she was unable to take any sustenance, she said to her confessor: “If you would give me my Lord three times only, I should be cured.” It was done, and her health was immediately restored. Before receiving communion, she suffered severe pains about the heart, and said: “My heart is not like that of others, for it only rejoices in its Lord; and therefore give him to me.” It indeed seemed that otherwise she could not have lived, and if deprived of communion, her life would have consumed away in suffering. Of this there are many proofs, for if, on any day, she happened not to receive, she would pass it in almost insupportable pain, so that her attendants were filled with compassion for her, and believed it clearly, to be the will of God, that she should receive daily.

One day, after communion, God gave her such consolation, that she lost her consciousness, and the priest could not give her the ablution until she had been restored to herself, and she then exclaimed: “Oh, Lord, I do not desire to follow thee for these consolations, but only for pure love.”

Although she did not easily shed tears she awoke one night weeping, when she had dreamed that she was not to receive on the next day. But if, for any human reason, she could not have received it, she would have been patient and confident, saying to her Lord: “If thou wouldst, it could be given to me.”

She said, that at the beginning of her conversion, when this desire of communion was first given to her, she sometimes envied the priests who received whenever they wished, without causing remarks from any one. And it was her special desire, to be able to say the three masses on Christmas day; so that she envied no one in this world but the priests, and when she saw the Sacrament in the hands of one of them at the altar, she would say within herself: “Take it, take it quickly, to your heart, for it is the Lord of the heart.” To receive it, she would have gone miles, and endured fatigues beyond human power to bear.

When she was at mass she was often so occupied interiorly with her Lord, that she did not hear a word; but when the time came to receive communion she accused herself, and would say: “Oh! my Lord, it seems to me that if I were dead, I should come to life, in order to receive thee, and if an unconsecrated host were given to me, that I should know it by the taste, as one knows wine from water.” She said this, because, when consecrated, it sent a certain ray of love into the very depths of her heart.

She also said, that if she had seen the whole court of heaven, arrayed in such a manner, that there was no difference between God and the angels, yet the love in her heart would have caused her to know God, as the dog knows his master: and much sooner, and with less effort, because love, which is God, himself, instantly and directly finds its end, and last repose.

At one time, on receiving, she perceived such an odor and such sweetness, that she believed herself in Paradise, when suddenly she turned towards her Lord, and humbly said: “O Lord perhaps thou wouldst draw me to thee by this fragrance? I do not desire it; I desire nothing but thee, and thee wholly; thou knowest, that from the beginning I have asked of thee the grace that I might never see visions, nor receive external consolations, for so clearly do I perceive thy goodness, that I do not seem to walk by faith but by a true and heartfelt experience.”

Chapter 4

How she was unable to take food during Lent and Advent, being sustained by the Blessed Sacrament

Some time after her conversion, on the day the Annunciation of our Lady, her Love spoke within her, saying, that he wished her to keep the fast in his company in the desert, and immediately she became unable to eat, so that she was without food for the body until Easter, and with the exception of the three fast days, on which she had the grace to be able to eat, she took nothing during the whole of Lent.

She afterwards ate, as at other times, without disgust; and in this manner she passed twenty-three Lents and as many Advents, during which time she took nothing but a tumbler-full of water, vinegar, and pounded salt. When she drank this mixture, it seemed seemed as if it were thrown upon a red-hot surface, and that it was at once dried up in the great fire that was burning within her. How wonderful! for no one, however healthy, could bear a drink of this kind, fasting; but she described the sweetness that proceeded from her burning heart, as so great, that even this harsh beverage refreshed her.

This rejection of food, at first, gave her great trouble, for now knowing the cause, she suspected some deception; but when she, again and again, forced herself to take food, and her stomach rejected it, all her family, as well as herself, regarded it as a prodigy; for even when she attempted to eat, in obedience to her confessor, the result was the same.

This was the more remarkable, because at other times she could eat and retain her food, even up to the very day when Lent and Advent began. During the seasons when she could not eat, she practiced pious works more than at other times, she slept better, and felt stronger and more active; and she also went to table with the others, to avoid, as far as possible, all singularity; and even forced herself to taste something, in order to escape observation; then she would say to herself: “Oh if you knew what I feel within!” By this she meant the burning and pure love, and union with God, which those around her could hardly endure, so much were they astonished that she could not eat; but she paid no heed to them, saying to herself: “If we regarded the operations of God, we should look at the interior more than the exterior. Living without food is purely an operation of God, without my will; but it is nothing to boast of, or to cause surprise, for to him it is as nothing. The pure light shows us, that we should not regard the manifestations that God makes of himself for our necessities and his own glory, but only the pure love with which his divine majesty performs his work in our behalf, and the soul becoming these pure operations of a love which looks for no good that we can do, must needs love him purely, without regard to any particular grace which she receives from him, but looking to him alone, for himself alone, who is worthy of being loved without measure, and with no reference either to soul or body.”

Chapter 5

Of her great penances and mortifications

During the first four years after she had received the sweet wound from her Lord, she performed many penances, and mortified all her senses. She deprived her nature of all that it desired, and obliged it to take what it disliked. She wore hair-cloth, and ate no meat, nor fruit of any kind, either fresh or dry; and being by nature courteous and affable, she did great violence to herself, by conversing as little as possible with her relatives when they visited her, without any respect to herself or to them; and if any one was surprised by it, she took no notice.

She practiced great austerity in sleeping, lying down on sharply pointed things. As soon as she determined to do any thing, she never felt any temptation to the contrary. The fire within was so great, that she took no account of exterior things relating to the body, although she neglected no necessary work; and no temptations except those of her natural inclinations could affect her. This was the case throughout her whole after-life. She so resisted her natural inclinations, that they were completely destroyed. Temptations like insects, could not approach the flames of pure love enkindled in her heart.

Her eyes were always cast down. During the first four years of her conversion she spent six hours daily in prayer, for such was the obedience of her body to the spirit, that it dared not rebel, although it suffered keenly; and she thus fulfilled in herself the words: cor meum, et caro meo, exultaverunt in Deum vivum.

During these first four years, the interior fire that was consuming her produced such extreme hunger, and so quickly did she digest her food, that she could have devoured iron. She comprehended that this desire for food was something supernatural. She was also unable to speak except in so low a tone as scarcely to be understood, so powerful was her interior feeling.

Most of the time she appeared like one beside herself, for she neither spoke, nor heard, nor tasted nor valued any thing in the world; neither did she look at any thing.

Yet she lived in subjection to every one, and was always more inclined to do the will of others than her own. And it is remarkable, that although God even in the beginning made her perfect by infused grace, so that she was at once entirely purified in her affections, illuminated and peaceful in her intellect, and transformed in all things by his sweet love, yet it was the will of God, that the divine justice should be observed in the mortification of all her senses, which, although they were already mortified, so far as regarded the consent to any natural inclinations, even the slightest, yet the Lord allowed her to see what these were, and therefore, she very carefully opposed them.

She was sometimes asked, when practising such mortifications of all her senses: “Why are you doing this?” And she answered: “I do not know, but I feel myself interiorly and irresistibly drawn to do so, and I believe that this is the will of God; but it is not his will that I should have any object in it.” And it seemed indeed to be the truth, for, at the end of four years, all these mortifications ended, so that if she still wished to practice them, she could no longer have done so.

At that time, listening one day to a sermon in which the conversion of Mary Magdalen was narrated, she heard a voice in her heart saying: “I understand;” and by her correspondence with the preaching, she perceived her conversion to have been like that of Magdalen.

Chapter 6

How she was withdrawn by God from the use of her senses. Of three rules given her by the Lord, and of certain words chosen from the Our Father and Hail Mary, and from the whole of the Holy Scripture.

After the four years above mentioned, her mind became clear and free, and so filled with God that nothing else ever entered into it. At mass and instructions her bodily senses were closed; but interiorly, in the divine light, she saw and heard many things, being wholly absorbed in secret delights; and it was not in her power to do otherwise.

It is wonderful, that with all this interior occupation, God did not allow her to depart from the usual order. Whenever it was needful, she returned to her accustomed mode of life, answered the questions put to her, and thus she gave no cause of complaint to any one.

She was sometimes so lost in the sense of divine love, that she was obliged to hide herself, for she was like one dead. In order to escape such a condition, she endeavored to remain in the company of others, and said to her Lord: “I wish not, O sweet Love, for that which proceeds from thee, but for thyself alone!” She wished to love God without soul and without body, and unsustained by them, with a direct, pure, and sincere, love; but the more she shunned these consolations, the more her Lord bestowed them upon her. Sometimes she was found in a remote place, prostrate on the earth, her face covered with her hands, so completely lost in the sweetness of divine love, that she was insensible to the loudest cry.

At other times she would walk back and forth, as if lost to self, and following the attraction of love.

Sometimes, when she had been thus lifeless for the space of six hours, she would be aroused suddenly by the voices of persons calling her, and attend to their smallest wants, for she abandoned as hateful all right to self. On these occasions she came forth from her retirement, with a glowing countenance, like a cherub ready to exclaim: “Who will separate me from the love of God,” with all the other words of that glorious apostle.

Her love once said to her interiorly: “My daughter, observe these three rules, namely: never say I will or I will not. Never say mine, but always ours. Never excuse yourself, but always accuse yourself.” Moreover he said to her: “When you repeat the `Our Father’ take always for your maxim, Fiat voluntas tua, that is, may his will be done in everything that may happen to you, whether good or ill; from the `Hail Mary’ take the word Jesus, and may it be implanted in your heart, and it will be a sweet guide and shield to you in all the necessities of life. And from the rest of Scripture take always for your support this word, Love, with which you will go on your way, direct, pure, light, watchful, quick, enlightened, without erring, yet without a guide or help from any creature; for love needs no support, being sufficient to do all things without fear; neither does love ever become weary, for even martyrdom is sweet to it. And, finally, this love will consume all the inclinations of the soul, and the desires of the body, for the things of this life.”

Chapter 7

How even her humanity was affected by the burning fire of this love; how much she desired to die, and took delight in hearing masses, bells, and offices, for the dead.

When the use of her senses and facilities was thus lost, in her spiritual joy she said to her humanity: “Are you satisfied with being thus fed?” And humanity answered: “Yes,” and that she would sacrifice every enjoyment in this life for it. What must have been the joys of the soul, if even humanity, so contrary to the spirit, also took delight in peace and union with God?

This was the case from the beginning, but at last, that burning, interior flame burst forth, and caused a corresponding suffering in the body, so that she was often obliged to press her hand upon her heart for relief. She could not have endured these pains for two successive days, and after their intensity had passed away, her heart was left melted in a divine and wonderful sweetness.

God allowed her to remain for some days, in this state, and then permitted her to be assailed by another and still more violent attach, so that humanity, rather than take food, would have suffered martyrdom; therefore, when she looked on the dead, or heard offices and masses, or even a passing bell, she rejoiced as if she were going to behold that truth which she experienced in her heart; and she would rather have died than live separated from those things in which she found her support and consolation.

She became reduced to such a condition, that she had no rest but when she slept; and then she felt herself freed from prison, because her attention was not so continually riveted on God. Her desire for death remained for nearly two years, and she was always asking for it, saying: “O cruel death, why do you keep me so anxiously waiting for you?” This desire knew no why, nor how, and it continued until she began to make daily communion.

Filled with this desire, she addressed death, as “Gentle death, sweet, gracious, beautiful, strong, rich, precious, death,” and by every other name of honor and dignity that she could call to mind, and then added: “I find, O death, but one fault in thee, thou art too sparing of thyself to him who desires thee, and too ready for him who shuns thee; yet I see that thou dost all things, according to the will of God, which is without fault; but our irregular appetites do not correspond, for if they did so, they would rest on the divine will, in peace and silence, as death itself does, and we should have no more choice than if we were already dead and buried.” But she said, it really seemed, if there were any choice for her, that death was the thing to be chosen, because thus the soul is secure from ever offering any hindrance to pure love, and is liberated from the prison of this wretched body and of the world, which, with all their power, are continually engaging her, in every way, in their own occupations, while she regards them as her enemies to which she is outwardly subjected.

When she was performing cruel penances, the sensitive nature never opposed her, but was entirely obedient; but when inflamed with love, it was wonderful how restive it became, and how much it suffered. And for this reason, because in penances the spirit corresponded to humanity, and strengthened her for her share in the work, but afterwards, the spirit being separated from visible things, and God operating in it without means, humanity was left in abandonment, and suffered intolerably without any help. Humanity is indeed capable of penance, but is not capable of such burning love.

But everything was regulated by her merciful God, with the highest wisdom, which enabled the body to endure the most severe penance, and to live and rejoice in these agonizing flames, without complaining; and no one can know how severe is this suffering, unless he has himself experienced it.

Chapter 8

How the Saint devoted herself to pious works, and served in a hospital.

In the beginning of her conversion she devoted herself to good works, seeking for the poor throughout the city, under the guidance of the Ladies of Mercy on whom devolved this charge and who, according to the custom of the city, supplied her with money and provisions for the poor. She cleansed their houses from the most disgusting filth, and she would even put it in her mouth, in order to conquer the disgust it produced. She took home the garments of the poor, covered with dirt and vermin, and having cleansed them thoroughly, returned them to their owners. It was remarkable that nothing unclean was ever found upon herself: she also tended the sick with most devoted affection, speaking to them of their spiritual as well as of their temporal affairs.

She took charge of the great hospital of Genoa, where nothing escaped her watchful care, although her incessant occupations never diminished her affection for God, her sweet Love; neither did this love ever cause her to neglect her service in the hospital, which was regarded as a miracle by all who saw her. It is also remarkable that she never made the mistake of a single farthing, in the accounts of large sums of money which she was obliged to keep, and, for her own little necessities, she made use of her own little income.

There was once in the hospital a very pious woman of the third order of Saint Francis, who was dying of a malignant fever. She was in her agony for eight days, and during that time, Catherine often visited her, and would say to her: “Call Jesus!” Unable to articulate, she moved her lips so that it was conjectured that she tried to do so, and Catherine, when she saw her mouth so filled, as it were, with Jesus, could not restrain herself from kissing her, and in this way took the fever, and only narrowly escaped death. This, however, did not diminish her zeal in the service of the hospital, to which she returned immediately upon her recovery, and devoted herself to it with great care and diligence.

Chapter 9

Of her wonderful knowledge of God and of herself.

This servant of God had an almost incredible knowledge of herself. She was so purified and enlightened, so united with and transformed into God, her Love, that what she said seemed to be uttered not by a human tongue, but rather by one angelic and divine; which proves the truth that numble souls, thirsting after God, can often grasp what the mere human intellect can never attain or comprehend. She was accustomed to say: “If it were possible for me to suffer as much as all the martyrs have suffered, and even hell itself, for the love of God, and in order to make satisfaction to him, it would be after all only a sort of injury to God, in comparison with the love and goodness with which he has created, and redeemed, and, in a special manner, called me. For man, unassisted by God’s grace, is even worse than the devil, because the devil is a spirit without a body, while man, without the grace of God, is a devil incarnate. Man has a free will, which, according to the ordination of God, is in nowise bound, so that he can do all the evil that he wills; to the devil, this is impossible, since he can act only by the divine permission; and when man surrenders to him his evil will, the devil employs it, as the instrument of his temptation.”

And hence she said: “I see that whatever is good in myself, in any other creature, or in the saints, is truly from God; if, on the other hand, I do any thing evil, it is I alone who do it, nor can I charge the blame of it upon the devil or upon any other creature; it is purely the work of my own will, inclination, pride, selfishness, sensuality, and other evil dispositions, without the help of God I should never do any good thing. So sure am I of this, that if all the angels of heaven were to tell me I have something good in me, I should not believe them.”

This holy soul knew in what true perfection consists, and had, moreover a knowledge of all imperfections. There is nothing surprising in this, for her interior eye was enlightened, her affections purified, and her heart wholly united to God, her Love, in whom she saw things wonderful and hidden from human sense. She said, therefore: “So long as any one can speak of divine things, enjoy and understand them, remember and desire them, he has not yet arrived in port; yet there are ways and means to guide him thither. But the creature can know nothing but what God gives him to know from day to day, nor can he comprehend beyond this, and at each instant remains satisfied with what he receives. If the creature knew the height to which God is prepared to raise him in this life, he would never rest, but on the contrary would feel a certain craving, a vehement desire to reach quickly that ultimate perfection, and would think himself in hell until he had obtained it.”

Even at the beginning of her conversion, this holy and devout soul, inflamed with divine love, was wont to exclaim: “Oh! Lord, I desire thee wholly, for in thy clear and strong light I see that the soul can never be at peace until she has attained her last perfection. Oh, sweet Lord! if I believed that I should lose one spark of thee, I could no longer live.” Again she said: “It appeared to me, as I noted from time to time, that the love wherewith I loved my sweet Love, grew greater day by day, and yet, at each step, I had thought it as perfect as it could be, for love has this property that it can never perceive in itself the least defect. But as my vision grew clearer, I beheld in myself many imperfections which, had I seen them in the beginning, I should have esteemed nothing, not even hell itself, too great or painful that would have rid me of them. In the beginning they were hidden from me, for it was the purpose of God to accomplish his work by little and little, in order to keep me humble, and enable me to remain among my fellow creatures. And finally, seeing a completed work entirely beyond the creature, I am compelled to say what before I could not say, and confess how clear it is to me that all our works are even more imperfect than any creature can fully understand.”

This holy creature was accustomed to use the words: “Sweetness of God; purity of God,” and other beautiful expressions of the same kind. Sometimes she uttered expressions like these: “I see without eyes, hear without understanding, feel without feeling, and taste without tasting. I know neither form nor measure; for without seeing I yet behold an operation so divine that the words I first used, perfection, purity, and the like seem to me now mere lies in the presence of the truth. The sun which once looked so bright is now dark; what was sweet is now bitter, because sweetness and beauty are spoiled by contact with creatures. Nor can I any longer say: `My God, my All.’ Everything is mine, for all that is God’s seems to be wholly mine. Neither in heaven nor on earth shall I ever again use such words, for I am mute and lost in God. Nor can I call the saints blessed, nor the blessed holy, for I see that their sanctity and their beatitude is not theirs, but exists only in God. I see nothing good or blessed in any creature if it be not wholly annihilated and absorbed in God, so that he alone may remain in the creature and the creature in him.

“This is the beatitude that the blessed might have, and yet they have it not, except in so far as they are dead to themselves and absorbed in God. They have it not in so far as they remain in themselves and can say: `I am blessed.’ Words are wholly inadequate to express my meaning, and I reproach myself for using them. I would that every one could understand me, and I am sure that if I could breathe on creatures, the fire of love burning within me would inflame them all with divine desire. O thing most marvelous! So great is my love for God, that beside it all love for the neighbor seems only hypocrisy. I can no longer condescend to creatures, or if I do so, it is only with pain, for to me the world seems only to live in vanity.”

Chapter 10

How impossible it was for vain-glory to enter the mind of this holy creature. Of the light which hatred of self gave her, and of the value of our own actions.

Vain-glory could never enter her mind, for she had seen the truth, and distrusting herself, placed her whole confidence in God, saying always: “Oh Lord! do with me what thou wilt.” She had so little esteem of herself that it was pleasing to her to be reproved for any inclination she might have, nor did she ever excuse herself. So clear was the interior vision of that illuminated mind, and such deep things did she say concerning perfection that she could hardly be understood except by the most profound intellects. Among other things she said: “I would not wish to see one meritorious act attributed to myself, even if it were the means of insuring my salvation; for I should be worse than a demon, to wish to rob God of his own. Yet it is needful that we ourselves act, for the divine grace neither vivifies nor aids that which does not work itself, and grace will not save us without our cooperation. I repeat it; all works, without the help of grace are dead, being produced by the creature only; but grace aids all works performed by those who are not in mortal sin, and makes them worthy of heaven; not those which are ours solely, but those in which grace cooperates.” So jealous was she for the glory of God, that she was wont to say: “If I could find any good in any creature, (which, however, is impossible) I would tear it from her, and restore it all to God.”

Chapter 11

Of the revelation she had concerning purity of conscience, and of the opposition of sin to God.

Illuminated by a clear ray from the true light which shone into this holy soul she spoke admirable things concerning purity of conscience, saying: “Purity of conscience can endure nothing but God only; for he alone is spotless, simple, pure: of all things else, that is, of what is evil, it cannot endure even the smallest spark; this can neither be understood nor appreciated, if it be not felt.” Hence she had ever in her mouth, as a habit, this word Purity: she had also a cleanliness and purity most admirable in her speech. She wished that every conception and emotion of the mind should issue to from it undefiled and pure, without the least complexity, and thus it was impossible for her to feign a sympathy she did not feel, or to condole with others out of friendship, except so far as she really corresponded with them in her heart. The continual humility, contempt, and hatred of self, in this soul were at this time most remarkable. When, by the divine permission, she suffered such mental distress that she could scarcely open her mouth, she would then say: “Oh, Love! let me remain thus, that I may be submissive; for otherwise it would be impossible that I should not do something wrong. Oh, how good and admirable is the knowledge of a soul, which, being all protected, united, and transformed in God, her felicity, sees clearly, on one side, her own inclination to all that is evil, and on the other, how she is restrained by God, that she may not commit actual sin! One thing is certain; namely, that never is the soul so perfect that it does not need the continual help of God, even though it be transformed in him. It is true, that the nature of the sweet God is such, that he never allows these souls to fall, although the soul, left to herself, could fall if she were not thus restrained. But he only preserves those who never with their free will consent unto sin; and allows those to fall who do voluntarily yield assent thereto; for truly, having given us free will, he will not force it. Consequently, those who fall into sin do so by their own fault, and not by that of God, who is ever ready to aid the soul even after her fall, if she will allow herself to be aided, and will correspond to the divine grace which never ceases to call her, saying: `Turn from evil and do good, and be converted to me with your whole heart.'”

And therefore she said: “If the soul, fallen into what sins soever, corresponds to the grace of God and abhors her past sins, with a resolution and a will to sin no more, he immediately frees her from her guilt, and holds her so that she may not fall, nor through her own malice be separated from him, that is, from the observance of his commandments which are his will; to sin voluntarily, is to be separated from God. And not only is he ready, on his own part to do all this, but I see clearly with the interior eye, that the sweet God loves with a pure love the creature that he has created, and has a hatred for nothing but sin, which is more opposed to him than can be thought or imagined. I say, God loves his creature with a perfection that cannot be understood, nor could it be even by an angelic intellect which would fail to comprehend even its slightest spark. And if God wished to make a soul understand, it would be necessary to give her an immortal body, since by nature it could never endure the knowledge. For it is impossible that God and sin, however slight, should remain together, for such an impediment would prevent the soul from attaining to his glory. And as a little thing that thou hast in thine eye will not allow thee to see the sun, and as it is possible to compare the difference between God and the sun to that between the intellectual vision and that of the bodily eye, it is plain that the great opposition between the one and the other can never be truly imagined.

“Wherefore, it is necessary that the soul which desires to be preserved from sin in this life, and to glorify God in the other, should be spotless, pure, and simple, and not voluntarily retain a single thing which is not purged by contrition, confession and satisfaction, because all our works are imperfect and defective. Whence, if I consider and observe clearly, with the interior eye, I see that I ought to live entirely detached from self; Love has wished me to understand this, and in a manner I do understand it, so that I could not possibly be deceived; and for my part I have so abandoned myself, that I can regard it only as a demon, or worse, if I may so say.”

“After God has given a soul the light in which she perceives the truth that she cannot even will, and much less work, apart from him, without always soiling and making turbid the clear waters of his grace, then she sacrifices all to him, and he takes possession of his creature, and both inwardly and outwardly occupies her with himself, so that she can do nothing but as her sweet Love wills. Then the soul, by reason of its union with God, contradicts Him in nothing, nor does aught but what is pure, upright, gentle, sweet, and delightful, because God allows nothing to molest it. And these are the works which please the Lord our God.”

Chapter 12

Of the great and solicitous care which God operates in divers ways in order to attract the soul to himself, so that he seems to be in a manner our servant. – Of the blindness of man. – Of the many ways in which he is deceived by his own self-will.

“I see that the sweet God is so solicitous for the welfare of the soul, that no human being could have a like anxiety to gain the whole world even if he were certain to obtain it by his efforts; when behold the love he displays in providing us with all possible aids to lead us into heaven, I am, as it were, forced to say that this sweet Master appears as if he were our servant. If man could see the care which God takes of a soul, nothing more would be necessary to amaze and confound him than to consider that this glorious God, in whom all things have their being, should have so great a providence over his creatures; yet we, to whom it is a matter either of salvation or damnation, hold it in light esteem.”

“But alas! how can this be so? If we esteem not that which God esteems, what else should we esteem? O wretched man, where dost thou lose thyself? What dost thou with that time, so precious, of which thou hast such need? What with those goods with which thou shouldst buy Paradise? What with thy body, which was given thee to work for and to serve thy soul? What with thy soul, whose end is to be united to God by love? All these thou hast turned towards earth, which produces a seed whose fruits thou wilt eat with the demons in hell with infinite despair, because, having lost that glory for which thou wert created, and to which so many inspirations called thee, thou wilt then see that thou hast failed to secure it through thine own fault alone.

“Know for a certainty that if men understood how terrible is even one solitary sin, they would rather be cast into a heated furnace, and there remain, living both in soul and body, than to support such a sight. And if the sea were all fire they would cast themselves therein and never leave it, if they were certain of meeting the sin on doing so.” To many this will appear a strange saying, but to the saint these things had been shown as in truth they were, and such a comparison seemed to her but a trifling one; she added:

“It has happened to me to behold something almost too shameful to relate, and this is that man seems to live quite merrily in sin; it astonishes me that a thing so terrible should receive so little consideration.” She said again: “When I see and contemplate what God is, and what our own misery is, and behold the many ways by which he seeks to exalt us, I am transported beyond myself with astonishment. On the part of man, I see such a perversity and rebellion against God, that it seems impossible to bend his will except by the lure of things greater than those he enjoys here in this life. This is because the soul loves visible things, and will not renounce one but with the hope of four. And even with this hope, she would still seek to escape, if God did not retain her by his exterior and interior graces, without which man, whose instincts are naturally corrupt, could not be saved; for we are naturally corrupt, could not be saved; for we are naturally prone to add actual to original sin, and to continually tend toward earth for our satisfactions. And as Adam opposed his own will to the divine will, so we must seek to have the will of God as our only object, and by it to have our own disposed and annihilated. And as we cannot by ourselves discover our own evil inclinations, and our secret self-love, nor possibly annihilate our own self-will, it is very useful to subject our will to that of some other creature, and to do its bidding for the love of God. And the more we so subject ourselves for that divine love, so much the more shall we emancipate ourselves from that evil plague of our self-will which is so subtle and hidden within us, and works in so many ways, and defends itself by so many pleas that it is like the very demon. What it cannot effect in one way, it does in another, and this under many disguises. Now it is known as charity, now as necessity, justice, perfection, or suffering for God, or seeking for spiritual consolation, or for health, or as a good example to others, or a condescension to those who seek our advantage. It is an abyss, so deep and dangerous, that no one but God can save us from it. And as he sees this more clearly than we, he has great compassion for us, and never ceases to send us good inspirations and to seek to liberate us, not by forcing our free-will, but rather by disposing us in so many loving ways, that the soul, when she comes to understand the great care which God has taken of her, is forced to exclaim: `O my God, it appears to me that thou hast nothing else to think of but my salvation! What am I that thou shouldst so care for me? Thou art God who thus carest for me, and I am nothing but myself. Can it be possible that I should not esteem what thou esteemest? that I should not remain ever obedient to thy commandments, and attentive to all the gracious inspirations thou sendest me by so many ways?'”

Chapter 13

How she sees the source of goodness is in God, and how creatures participate in it.

“I saw,” said she, “a sight which greatly consoled me. I was shown the living source of goodness in God, as it was when yet alone and unparticipated in by any creature. Then I saw it begin to communicate itself to the creatures, and it did so to the fair company of angels, in order to give them the fruition of its own ineffable glory, demanding no other return from them than that they should recognize themselves as creatures, created by the supreme goodness, and having their being wholly from God, apart from whom all things are reduced to pure nonentity. The same must be said of the soul, which also was created immortal, that it might attain to beatitude; for if there were no immortality there could be no happiness. And because the angels were incapable of annihilation, therefore when their pride and disobedience robed them in the vesture of sin, God deprived them of that participation in his goodness, which, by his grace, he had ordained to give them: hence they remained so infernal and terrible that none, even of those who are specially enlightened by God, can possibly conceive their degradation. He did not, however, subtract all his mercy from them, for had he done so, they would be still more malicious, and would have a hell as infinitely immense in torture as it is in duration.

“God also is patient with man, his creature, while he remains in this world (although in sin), supporting him by his goodness, by which we are either tortured, or enabled to endure joyfully all grievous things, accordingly as he wishes to impart more or less to us. Of this goodness we sinners participate in this life, because God knows our flesh, which is the occasion of so much ignorance and weakness; and, therefore, while we are in this present life, he bears patiently with us, and allures us to him by hidden communications of his bounty: but, should we die in mortal sin (which God forbid), then he would deprive us of his mercy, and leave us to ourselves; yet not altogether so, because in every place he wills that his mercy shall accompany his justice. And were it possible to find a creature which in no degree participated in the divine goodness, it would be almost as bad as God is good.

“This I say, because God showed me somewhat of his truth, in order that I might know what man is without him; that is, when the soul is found in mortal sin, at that time, it is so monstrous and horrible to behold, that it is impossible to imagine anything equally so.

“No one need be surprised at this which I say and feel, namely, that I can no longer live in myself, that I am with a single motion of my own proper will, intellect, or memory. Wherefore, whether I speak, walk, remain quiet, sleep, eat, or do anything else, as if from my own proper self, I do not feel or know it. All these things are so far removed from me, that is, from the interior of my heart, that the distance is like that between heaven and earth; and if any of these things could by any mode enter into me, and give me such an enjoyment as ordinarily they produce, without doubt, I should be filled with misery, for I should feel it to be a retrogression from that which had formerly been shown me, and that it ought to have been destroyed. In this manner, all my natural inclinations, both of soul and body, are being consumed; and I know it to be necessary that all that is ours should waste away until nothing of it can be found; this is on account of its malignity, which nothing is able to overcome but the infinite goodness of God; and if it be not hidden and consumed, it will never be possible for us to be freed from this goad which is more than infernal, and which, so far as we are concerned, I behold to grow more horrible daily, so that one who was interiorly enlightened, yet had no confidence in God, would be driven to despair by the sight; so dreadful are we when compared to God, who, with great love and solicitude, continually seeks to aid us.”

It was still further shown to her in spirit how all the works of men (especially those which are spiritual), without the aid of supernatural grace, remain near God, without fruit, and are of little or no value. She saw also that God never fails to knock at the heart of man in order to enter therein and justify his works, and that none can ever complain that he was not called, for God is ever knocking, and not more at the hearts of the good than at those of the evil.

Chapter 14

How she was entirely transformed in God, and hated to say me or mine. – What pride is. – Of the error of man who seeks for plenty and happiness on earth, where they cannot be found. – What a misfortune it is to be without love.

And continuing her discourse, she said: “I have always seen, and I am ever seeing more and more clearly, that there is no good except in God, and that all lesser goods which can be found are such only by participation; but pure and simple love cannot desire to receive from God anything, however good it may be, which is merely a good of participation, because God wishes it to be as pure, great, and simple as he is himself, and if the least thing were wanting to this perfection, love could not be contented, but would suffer as if in hell. And therefore I say that I cannot desire any created love, that is, love which can be felt, enjoyed, or understood. I do not wish love that can pass through the intellect, memory, or will; because pure love passes all these things and transcends them.” She said also:

“I shall never rest until I am hidden and enclosed in that divine heart wherein all created forms are lost, and, so lost, remain thereafter all divine; nothing else can satisfy true, pure, and simple love. Therefore I have resolved so long as I live to say always to the world that it may do with my exterior as it wills, but with my interior this cannot be allowed, because it cannot, it will not occupy itself except in God, nor could it possibly wish to do otherwise, for he has locked it up within himself and will discover it to no one.

“Knowing that with all his power he is continually striving to annihilate this humanity, his creature, both inwardly and outwardly, in order that when it is entirely destroyed, the soul may issue with him from the body and thus united ascend to heaven; in my soul, therefore, I can see no one but God, since I suffer no one else to enter there, and myself less than any other, because I am my own worst enemy.”

“If, however, it happens to be necessary to speak of myself, I do so on account of the world, which would not understand me should I name myself otherwise than as men are named, yet inwardly I say: my self is God, nor is any other self known to me except my God.

“And likewise when I speak of being, I say: all things which have being, have it from the essence of God by his participation: but pure love cannot stop to contemplate this general participation coming from God, nor to consider whether in itself, considered as a creature, it receives it in the same way as do the other creatures which more or less participate with God. Pure love cannot endure such comparison; on the contrary, it exclaims with a great impetus of love; my being is God, not by participation only but by a true transformation and annihilation of my proper being.

“Now take an example: the elements are not capable of transformation, for it is their nature to remain fixed, and, because this is the law of their being, they have not free-will, and it is impossible for them to vary from their original state. But every one who desires to remain firm in his own mind must have God as his chief end, who arrests every creature at that end for which he has created it, otherwise it would be impossible to detain it; it is insatiable until it has reached its true centre, which is God himself.

“Now although man is created for the possession of happiness, yet, having deviated from his true end, his nature has become deformed and is entirely repugnant to true beatitude. And on this account we are forced to submit to God this depraved nature of ours which fills our understanding with so many occupations, and causes us to deviate from the true path, in order that he may entirely consume it until nothing remains there but himself; otherwise the soul could never attain stability nor repose, for she was created for no other end.

“Therefore, whenever God can do so, he attracts the free-will of man by sweet allurements, and afterwards disposes it in such a manner that all things may conduce to the annihilation of man’s proper being. So that in God is my being, my me, my strength, my beatitude, my good, and my delight. I say mine at present because it is not possible to speak otherwise; but I do not mean by it any such thing as me or mine, or delight or good, or strength or stability, or beatitude; nor could I possibly turn my eyes to behold such things in heaven or in earth; and if, notwithstanding, I sometimes use words which may have the likeness of humility and of spirituality, in my interior I do not understand them, I do not feel them. In truth it astonishes me that I speak at all, or use words so far removed from the truth and from that which I feel. I see clearly that man in this world deceives himself by admiring and esteeming things which are not, and neither sees nor esteems the things which are. Listen to what Fra Giacopone says about this in one of his lauds, that one which commences: O love of poverty. He says: What appears to thee, is not, so great is that which is; pride is in heaven; humility condemns itself. He says what appears, that is, all things visible and created are not and have no true being in themselves; so great is that which is, namely God, in whom is all true being. Pride is in heaven; that is, the true greatness is in heaven and not on earth; humility condemns itself, that is, the affections placed on things created which are humble and vile, not having in themselves any true being.

“But let us consider more attentively this matter namely this human blindness which takes white for black and holds pride for humility and humility for pride, and from which springs the perverse judgment which is the cause of all confusion. Let us see what pride may be. I say, according to what I see with the interior eye, pride is nothing else but an elevation of the mind to things which surpass man and are above his dignity, and whenever man abandons that which is, and which knows, and which is powerful, for that which in truth has neither existence, knowledge, nor power, this is not pride.

“This degrades him, and it generates that pride accompanied by presumption, self-esteem, and arrogance which occasions so many sins against charity for the neighbor; for man believes himself to be such as he appears in his disordered mind which is so full of miseries. Therefore God says to this proud man: If thou seekest, according to the nature of the created soul, for such great things as seem at present to be good and for that happiness which belongs to earth, know that they are not, they cannot satisfy nor afford contentment seek rather in heaven, where pride is lawful, and where it is not placed in things empty and vain, but in those which are really great, which always remain and which cause a sinless pride; but if thou seekest after worthless things thou shalt never find them and shalt lost those which thou shouldst have sought.

“If man’s eyes were pure, he would see clearly that things which pass away so quickly as do those which in this world are esteemed beautiful, good, and useful, could not truly be said to be so, such words being suitable only for things which have no end. Hence, man, if he prides himself upon temporal things, becomes unable to attain those that are celestial and eternal, degenerates into a vile and humble creature whose greatness is lost and who is degraded to the condition of the things he has always sought. Think, alas, what will become of this spirit so generous, created for the highest dignity and felicity, when it is immersed in the vile filth of its own depraved desires and held by its own demerits in abominations which will ever grow worse, but which will never end and which have no remedy? Alas! what pain, what anguish, and what desperate tears shall then be to this poor soul!

“We see and know by experience that only two causes could enable the spirit to remain in a place of torture: one of these is force, and the other the hope of a great reward for such endurance. What despair then will not man suffer when the force which detains him in hell shall never cease, and the pain shall have no remuneration? It is certain that our spirit was created for love and for felicity and this is what it is constantly seeking in all things; it can never find satiety in temporal things and yet is ever hoping that it may there attain it. Finally it deceives itself and loses that time which is so precious, and which was given it that it might seek God, the supreme good, in whom may be found the true love and the holy satisfaction which should be its true satiety and full repose. But what will it do in the end, when, having lost all its occupations, and discovered all its illusions and its vain hopes, and lost all its time, it remains deprived of every good, and, though contrary to its nature, must forever remain forcibly deprived of all love and felicity? This one thing alone is so painful and terrible to contemplate that to speak of it makes me tremble with fear.

“By this I comprehend what hell and heaven may be, because, as I see that man by love becomes one with God, in whom he finds all happiness, so, on the contrary I see that, deprived of love he remains as full of woes as he would have of joys (and that is infinitely) if he had not been so mad. Therefore, although we hear it said that hell is a great punishment, yet this does not appear to me to express it, nor can its gravity be truly told or comprehended, neither could it be represented to one as I understand it; only by the greatness of love in, the true and omnipotent God, can that which is opposed to it be measured.

“When I consider the blindness of those who, for the sake of things so vile and little, allow themselves to be stupidly led away into the abyss of such horrible and infinite woe, all that is within me is moved by a great compassion. In this connection I recall a possessed person who was forced by a religious to declare who he was: he cried out with great force: `I am that wretch who is deprived of love.’ He said this with a voice so piteous and penetrating that inwardly I was filled with pity, especially when I was hearing those words, Deprived of love.”

Chapter 15

How contrary to pure love is even the slightest imperfection. – Of the many means by which God ministers to our salvation. – At the point of death we shall esteem the opposition made to the divine inspirations as worse than hell itself.

“I see clearly,” said our saint, “that when pure love sees even the least imperfection in man, if the mercy of God did not sustain it, it would grind into powder not only the body, but even the soul itself, were it not immortal, knowing that so long as it is retained he must be deprived of love. I see that the cause of all these evils is that we are so blinded by the enormity of our sins that it is impossible to comprehend, as we should, the extremity of our misery, which is yet supremely necessary for us to know. When man is reduced to his last agony – and in that hour all joys flee from him and all evils present themselves without a remedy – I cannot find words to express the great pain and anguish which will then overwhelm his soul, and therefore I am silent.

“O unhappy man, in that hour wilt see how much more solicitous God has been for thy salvation than thou hast been thyself! Then thy whole life will pass before thine eyes, with all its opportunities for well-doing and all its rejected inspirations, and in one instant thou wilt clearly see the whole. Believest thou that thy soul must still live when it passes from such injustice into the presence of true justice? It is not possible for me to dwell upon this thought, for I find it so painful; I am constrained to cry out, Beware, beware, for the matter is of such infinite importance. If I thought I should be understood I would never say aught else. When I see men die as the beasts die, without fear, without light, without grace, and know how serious a thing this is, I should suffer for my neighbor the greatest pains that I could ever feel, if God did not sustain me. And when I hear it said that God is good and he will pardon us, and then see that men cease not from evil-doing, oh, how it grieves me! The infinite goodness with which God communicates with us, sinners as we are, should constantly make us love and serve him better; but we, on the contrary, instead of seeing in his goodness an obligation to please him, convert it into an excuse for sin which will of a certainty lead in the end to our deeper condemnation.

“I see that God, so long as man remains in this life, uses all the ways of mercy for his salvation, and gives him all the graces necessary to that end, like a benignant and most clement father who knows only how to do us good; and especially he does so in enduring our sins, which in his sight are so very great that if unsustained by his goodness, man would be ground into powder by them.

“But man does not comprehend this, and God graciously awaits and bears with him until his death; then he resorts to justice, although not even then is it unmixed with mercy, since in hell man does not suffer according to his deserts, yet woe be to him who falls therein, for truly he suffers greatly. And when I see man fix his affections on creatures, even, as he sometimes does, on a dog or a cat, or any other created thing, delighting greatly in it, doing all that he can to serve it, unable to admit into his heart any other love, and as it were, breathing by it, I long to exterminate these things which hold him thus employed and cause him to lose the great reward of the love of God which alone can satisfy and make him happy.

“Alas, this one word I will say about the just and holy ordinance of God, although I know not whether it will be understood. God has ordained man for beatitude, and that with more love than can possible be conceived, and all proper means to this result he gives him with infinite charity, perfection, and purity, so that man does not lose the least atom that is justly his; and, notwithstanding how many sins he may have committed, God never ceases to send him all needful inspirations, admonitions, and chastisements to lead him to that degree of happiness for which he created him with such heartfelt love. And he does this in such a way that when man shall behold it after his death, he will well understand that he never suffered himself to be led by the divine goodness, and that he has lost God solely through his own fault. Then the opposition he has made to such divine goodness will torture him more than hell itself; because all the pains of hell, however great they may be, are as nothing in comparison to the privation of the beatific vision which is caused by their own resistance.

“This is proved by divine love, which says that it esteems the smallest imperfection a greater evil than any hell that can be imagined. What, then, shall be said of that soul which in all things finds itself opposed to the divine ordinations, except that infinite woe awaits it, infinite tribulations, dolors, and afflictions, without remedy, without consolation, and without end, and that it shall be plunged in profound humiliation and infernal gloom.”

Chapter 16

That she understood her own nothingness, and therefore would not speak about herself. – Of her great faith in God. – How willful and malicious we are in ourselves, and how necessary it is to abandon all to God.

So great was the humility of this holy soul that she saw her own nothingness most clearly, and would never speak of herself, neither well nor ill. She said:

“As to the evil, I know well that is all my own, the good I could not possibly do of myself, for nothing cannot produce something.” Nor would she speak, as is customary, of being wicked, lest her lower nature might grow confident and presume upon the knowledge of its incapacity for good: and having such an opinion of herself, instead of desiring the esteem of others, she cut away even the root of presumption, saying:

“I will never say anything about myself, either good or bad, lest I should come to esteem myself of some importance: and when I have sometimes heard myself spoken of by others, especially if I were praised, I have said inwardly: `If you knew what I am within, you would not speak thus.’ And then, turning to myself, I say: `When thou hearest thyself named, or listenest to words which perhaps may seem to praise thee, know that they are not spoken of what is thine; for the only virtue and glory thou hast belong to God, and thou hast at least in thine earthly and carnal nature no more conformity with good than has the demon; but when evil is spoken of thee, remember that all could not be said which is in reality true; thou art unworthy even to be called worthless, because to speak of thee at all lends thee a fictitious value.'”

Hence, knowing herself, all the confidence of this great soul was in God, in whom she was so grounded and established that it was hardly to be called faith, for she saw herself more secure in the hands of God, her Love, than if she were actually in possession of all the goods and felicities which it is possible to desire or to think of having in this world; and having placed all her trust in God, and given him full control of her, she covered herself under the mantle of his providential care.

She became such an enemy to herself that nothing but necessity ever caused her to speak of herself at all, and she would never do so in particular but would generally say us; and she said: “The evil nature of man is pleased with being mentioned, and the greatest blow that can be given it is never to speak of it at all, and never make it of any account; therefore do not willingly name it in any manner.” And to her own nature she said: “I know thee and rate thee as thou deservest: thou canst not advocate thy cause with me.” And if an angel had come to say a word in favor of herself, she would not have believed him, so certain was she of her own malignity.

And, having this clear knowledge of herself, she was constrained by it to accept with resignation whatever might befall either her body or her soul, so that whenever she found in herself any defect or any pain, she would say quickly: “These things are caused solely by my own evil nature, and of this I am so certain that I know not how I could produce other fruits than these which are so hateful. I never could do so if God did not assist me. But I know well, having been shown by God the imperfections and malignity of our own inclination, that we can never, except by the help of divine grace, do anything but evil. Good is as hopeless to us as to the demons, and even more so, for, unlike them, we have a body and a free-will which ally themselves to our depravity and do all the evil they can, which is more or less accordingly as God abandons us to our own control.

“But, for one who desires to approach God, it is necessary to become the enemy of his enemies; and, as I find nothing that is worse than myself, nor that is more inimical to him, I am compelled to hold myself in more aversion than anything else whatever, and will even despise myself and count it to be worthless. And, on the other hand, I will detach my spirit from all the goods of both this world and the other, which I will henceforth regard as if they had no existence. I have implored God neither to suffer me to rejoice interiorly nor to grieve over any created thing, so that I may never be seen to shed a single tear. And I have begged him to take away from me the freedom of my will, so that I may no longer do what pleases me, but only what is according to his pleasure: all these things I have obtained from his clemency.

“Now, seeing me thus determined, my self said to me: `Grant me, at least, the consolation of not hearing myself thus spoken of: for, whatever I am, it is necessary that I should exist in some manner. There is no creature which is not suitably provided for according to its needs, and I also am one of God’s creatures.’ Then the spirit rose up and answered: `Thou art indeed a creature of God, but thou art not according to God, and if thou wishest to be so thou must be first despoiled of all thou hast previously acquired, first by original sin and afterwards by the actual sins which thou hast freely multiplied, and which are more odious in the sight of God than thou couldst believe were it told thee. And when I see thee more covered with secret sins than a cat is with hairs, I know not where thou findest courage to say that thou art of God. If I were so mad as to feed thee according to thy inclinations, which are so corrupt and contrary to the purity which God requires, I should do two evil and perilous things: one is that I should never satisfy thee, and the other that thou wouldst every day grow stronger and wound me more and more acutely; and as I am myself full of evil, thou wouldst attack me secretly and in an apparently spiritual manner, and then no one but God could overcome thee. Speak to me no more of thy crafty designs, for I have determined to disregard thee.

“‘Recommend thyself to God that he may aid thee, and I also will assist thee by his help. Moreover, I will pray him to consume all thy perverse inclinations and to restore thee again to that primitive innocence in which he created thee, for otherwise thou canst never be satisfied: no one can satiate thee but he who created thee and who alone knows all thy secret desires and can grant them without difficulty. Cease, then, to seek for other satisfactions, for however abundant may be thy possessions thou wilt still remain poor and in want; when once thou art justified, all will be given thee which heaven and earth can afford.

“Know then that I despise thee and would rather choose to be condemned to hell without thee, than to possess God through thy means. For a pure mind cannot suffer anything to come between itself and God, for it desires to possess him entirely and to be as pure and simple as he is himself. And this being so, how could it endure to be assisted by thee who art so hideous, and who would always glorify thyself unworthily over thy achievements? And although I know that such a thing could never be, it fills me with indignation to find that I have even imagined it or that any mind should ever conceive it possible!’

“Thus scorned, my self knew not what to answer, and never more had courage to assert itself: it no longer looked either at the body or the soul, toward heaven or toward earth; but I saw it remain always by itself with all its malicious inclinations, and had God permitted it, it would have done more evil against him than Lucifer himself. Yet, as I saw that God continually restrained it, this sight gave me no uneasiness, nor did it ever cause me any torment or suffering. Rather was the effect directly contrary, for he who loves justice is rejoiced when robbers are punished, and surely he who, being evil by nature, desires to become good by his own efforts, is a robber worthy to be punished in hell-fire.

“Hence, when I saw its malignant inclinations entirely subjected to God and by him executed and annihilated, I was greatly contented, and the more clearly I saw my own proper wickedness, so much the greater pleasure did I take in his justice. And truly, it appears to me that if I could fear anything it would be my own self – which is utterly evil; yet when I saw it in the hands of God I abandoned it to him with confidence, and never since then have I felt any fear concerning it; rather, I may say, that I never think about it and make no more account of it than if it in no way concerned me.

“I saw others weeping over their perversities and their evil desires, and forcing themselves to resist them; yet, the more they strove to remedy their defects the more often did they fall. And when any one spoke of this to me, I answered `You have woes and you weep over them, and I have them and I do not weep. You do evil and you lament, and I should do the same if the almighty God did not assist me. You cannot defend yourself, nor can I do so either; hence it is necessary that we should yield ourselves to him who only can deliver us from evil, and he will do for us what is wholly beyond our power. And in this way we shall find rest from this our evil self, which is always torturing itself to its own destruction: yet when it is imprisoned by God, it remains submissive and in silence.”

Chapter 17

In what manner God deals with one who corresponds with him. – And how the saint abhorred spiritual delights, and how God cast around her the chain of pure love.

This holy woman said that when God disposes a soul to correspond to him with her free will by placing herself wholly in his hands, he leads her to every perfection; thus has he dealt with one who, after she was thus called, never more followed her own will, but always stood waiting interiorly upon the will of God, which she so confidently felt to be impressed upon her mind that she sometimes said to him: “In all that I think, speak, or do, I trust in thee that thou wilt not permit me to offend thee.”

The following rule with regard to the intellect was given to this soul, namely: never to attempt to understand anything in heaven or on earth and, least of all, the spiritual operations in her self; and she obeyed so implicitly that she never more observed curiously anything in herself or in others.

If it were asked in what manner the intellectual powers were employed, I should answer that all the powers of the soul were always under the command and in the service of God, and when anything had to be done, at that instant, and in so far as necessity required, it was given her to know what she should do, and then the door was closed.

Of the memory she could give no account, for it seemed as if she were without memory and without intellect. This was not caused by any voluntary act of hers, but was the result of seeing herself so often and so suddenly moved to action, that she easily comprehended that it was God who was operating in her, and she remained occupied in him, and lost to all sense of time or place and without the will or the ability to do otherwise, except when God suddenly effected some change in her. Nor was she ever able to consider anything except what God at the moment proposed to her; in this manner she was attentive to whatever she was doing so long as necessity required, but when it was finished all memory of it passed with it.

The same thing was true of her affections, which were taken from her by her Love even at the beginning, and in such a way that she could no longer love anything created or uncreated, not even God himself, at least as he was revealed in those sentiments, in visions, delights, and spiritual correspondences which all others who beheld them estimated so highly, but which she on the contrary held in horror and sought to fly from. But the more she sought to avoid them the more were they given to her, and they increased in such a manner that her body was often entirely prostrated by them. Her soul, however, remained pure and serene, as if it were passed beyond such violence, and were filled with divine sweetness. And when this was over, she seemed to be improved both in mind and body. Yet she had no desire for such improvement, and sought for nothing but God, her Love, in comparison with whom she rejected all, even that which proceeded from him, as being of less value, or indeed as nothing.

This integrity of the will she held so cautiously and was always so hidden in God that no illusion, imagination or inspiration could interpose between them, nor even any truth which was not immediately from him.

Therefore when God took from her the burden and the care of herself, her spirit found itself all light and able to do great things, and the instinct of love which God gave it when it was thus separated from her proper self, was so swift and great and powerful that she could satisfy it nowhere but in God. Then God, seeing her so disposed and well prepared, cast down from heaven one end of the cord of his most upright, pure, and holy love, and with it held her so closely occupied in him that she readily understood that she sprang from him and corresponded with him. Yet, in all this her humanity had no share, and neither felt, saw nor understood it.

Thus she allowed this clear water to flow descending as from a living fountain; and by means of her love and of her great purity she saw every little defect which to her appeared offensive: and if it had been possible for her to tell the great importance of every least impediment to the divine love, even hearts of adamant would have been ground into powder by fear of them.

Chapter 18

How she did not desire love for God or in God, nor to have any medium between herself and God. – She could not see how love could be increased in her. – Of the peace of the soul transformed in God.

This holy Soul said that she never spoke of these great things to others without its appearing to her afterwards that she had told a lie – so weak were her words in comparison with that which she experienced through her pure and upright love. She said, therefore: “I do not wish a love which may be described as for God, or in God. I cannot see those words, for and in, without their suggesting to me that something may intervene between God and me; and that is what pure and simple love, by reason of its purity and simplicity, is unable to endure. This purity and simplicity is as great as God is, for it is his own.” At another time she said that she never felt like speaking of this simplicity and purity of love, as if she had a sensible experience of it, because it is entirely ineffable and above the capacity of man; yet she had it in such abundance that, whatever might be alleged or even proved to the contrary, she could not understand how it could increase within her. This must be understood to mean that, being always replenished with love, she could neither see nor desire more than that which at any moment held her satisfied; this, however, did not prevent love from continually purifying and cleansing this precious and elect vessel, and from ever increasing and more abundantly filling her.

And to prove this, she said: “Every day I felt myself lifted above those trifles which this pure love, ever harassing itself with those penetrating eyes that behold even those smallest imperfections which to other love appear perfection, was striving to cast out. This work is done by God, and man himself is not aware of it, nor does he see these imperfections; on the contrary, because such a sight would be insupportable to him, God shows him the perfected work as if it were without a flaw. Yet God does not cease continually to purify him, although he does it in a way not comprehensible to any intellect. It is written that even the heavens are not pure in the sight of God, by which it must be understood that such purity is not known, except by the help of a supernatural light which, without any assistance from man, works in him after its own pleasure, and ever cleanses him more fully until he is entirely pure. And this work God does secretly, because, when man yields himself wholly into the hands of God (which without divine grace he is unable even to wish to do), he can then see the enormity of even one trifling imperfection in the sight of God; and afterward, if he could see all those defects in himself which God is daily removing from him, he would be overpowered by his despair. Hence it is that these obstacles are gradually removed without man’s cognizance, and God continually operates in us by his sweet goodness so long as we remain in this present life.”

When the good God calls us in this world, he finds us full of vices and sins, and his first work is to give us the instinct to practice virtue; then he incites us to desire perfection, and afterwards, by infused grace, he conducts us to the true annihilation, and finally to the true transformation. This is the extraordinary road along which God conducts the soul. But when the soul is thus annihilated and transformed, it no longer works, or speaks, or wills, or feels, or understands, nor has it in itself any knowledge, either of that which is internal or external, which could possibly affect it; and, in all these things God is its director and guide without the help of any creature.

In this state, the soul is in such peace and tranquility that it seems to her that both soul and body are immersed in a sea of the profoundest peace, from which she would not issue for anything that could happen in this life. She remains immovable, imperturbable, and neither her humanity nor her spirit feels anything except the sweetest peace, of which she is so full, that if her flesh, her bones, her nerves were pressed, nothing would issue from them but peace. And all day long she sings softly to herself for joy, saying: “Shall I show thee what God is? No one finds peace apart from him.”

And as this process goes on, she is every day more profoundly plunged, immersed, and transformed in this peace, so that her humanity is every day more alienated from the world and from all things earthly and natural; and this in such wise that even the body no longer lives upon corporal food, and yet neither wastes away nor dies; on the contrary, this creature remains in health without using the means which are the cause of health, because it is no longer supported by nature but by an incomprehensible satiety which overflows into the body. And this is doubtless the reason why such a creature becomes so marvelous in her aspect, and especially in her purified eyes, which are like two ardent stars, enkindled in heaven, so that she appears truly like an angel upon earth.

This love is of so generous and excellent a spirit that it disdains to lose its time in anything, however beautiful and precious, except its own purity and splendor, from which issue translucent rays of ardent and inflamed virtue. Thus is she ever occupied, and all things else she esteems as no longer appertaining to her.

This work is constantly progressing, and every day the soul understands more clearly that the end for which man was created was truly for love, and to delight himself in this pure and holy love. And therefore when man has, by the assistance of divine grace, arrived at this desired port of pure love, he can afterwards do nothing (even if he wished or tried to force himself to do otherwise) but love and enjoy himself: this grace God gives to man in a manner so admirable and above every human desire or comprehension that without doubt, being still in this present life, he feels himself to have been made a partaker of the beatific glory.

Chapter 19

Of her earnest answer to a Friar Preacher who told her how much better he was prepared than herself for the divine love. – Nothing can hinder divine love, neither can it be deceived. – Also of its various conditions.

On one occasion a friar preacher, either to try her, or under some wrong impression, as often happens, maintained that he was better prepared for the divine love than herself, alleging as a reason, that on entering religion, he had renounced everything external and internal, and therefore he was more free and better prepared to love God than herself; and for many other reasons such as men can adduce, who are more learned than holy and devout, but especially because she was wedded to the world, and himself to religion.

When the friar had said many things of this kind, an ardent flame of pure love seized the blessed Catherine, with which her heart was so inflamed, that she rose to her feet and fervently exclaimed: “If I believed that your habit would add one spark to my love, I would not hesitate to tear it from you, if I could obtain it in no other way. Whatever you merit more than I, through the renunciation you have made for God’s sake, and through your religious life, which continually enables you to merit, I do not seek to obtain; these are yours; but that I cannot love God as much as yourself, you can never make me believe.”

She uttered these words with so much fervor and effect, that her hair burst from the band that confined it, and fell disheveled over her shoulders, so that, in her burning zeal, she seemed almost beside herself; and yet so graceful and decorous was her bearing, that all persons present were amazed, edified, and pleased; and she added: `Love cannot be checked, and if checked it is not pure and simple love.”

When she reached the house, she said, after the manner in which she was accustomed to speak familiarly with her Lord: “O Love, who shall prevent me from loving thee? not only in the world as I am” (meaning the married state), “but even if I should find myself in a camp of soldiers, I could not be prevented from loving thee. If the world, or if the husband could impede love, what would such love be but a thing of feeble virtue and mean capacity? As for me I know by what I have experienced that divine love can be conquered or impeded by nothing. It conquers all things.”

Catherine did not intend to say that the path to perfect love was as easy to seculars as to religious: but what she said applied only to perfect and pure love; because such a love breaks through all restraints and conquers all difficulties.

On being told that she might be deceived by the devil, she replied: “I cannot believe that a love which has nothing of self in it can ever be deceived.” And God communicated to her interiorly, that she was in the right, saying to her, that if it were possible for one to love even the devil with pure love, free from everything pertaining to self, malignant and odious as he is, he could not harm this soul, for pure love has such virtue that it would deprive him of his malignity. If, then, pure love has such power over one so wicked, who can doubt of a soul who possesses it? For if pure and simple love in any creature could be deceived, God cannot be.

Catherine being on one occasion greatly troubled and oppressed by her humanity, because she had consented, in order to sustain a feeble and infirm life, to use things lawful and permitted, God thus instructed her concerning these things: “I never wish you to turn your eyes towards anything but love, and there rest, unmoved by any novelty that may present itself, within and without, but be like one dead to all things; because he who trusts in me must never doubt himself. For all the reasoning, cogitations, alternations, and doubts, which man has concerning the spirit, proceed from that very evil root of self, for pure love transcends all human thoughts, and will not live in the soul, still less in the body of man according to their nature, but will do all things above the capacity of that nature, and all that it thinks and speaks is always above nature.”

Chapter 20

That God does not wish man to serve him through self-interest or through fear, but only through faith and love, and therefore he sweetly attracts his will. – The saint did not desire grace or mercy, but only justice. – That pure love fears nothing but sin.

This holy Soul being (as may be inferred from what has been already said) arrived at that state of perfection where she began to taste the fruition of eternal happiness, and regarding those who are still deceived by the passions of the present time, and know not how to hasten from that which is so wholly evil, was moved by compassion, and she said:

“O man, created in such great dignity, why dost thou lose thyself in things so vile? If thou shouldst consider well, thou wouldst easily see that all worldly things which thou desirest are as nothing when compared to those spiritual goods which God gives thee even in this life, which is so full of ignorance. Pray that thou mayst come hereafter to that celestial country in which are things which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive what God hath prepared for them that love him!”

If man clearly saw that by well-doing he could gain eternal life, and could imagine how great the happiness of heaven will be, he would always persevere in good; and even should he live until the end of the world, he would never occupy his memory, intellect, or will on any but celestial things. But God wishes that faith should be meritorious, and not that man should serve him through self-interest; and therefore he conducts him by degrees, although he always gives him sufficient knowledge to support his faith. But afterwards he gives him such aforetaste of eternal glory, that by a clear and certain perception which he receives at the close of this life, the faith of the man, thus replenished with heavenly delights almost ceases to be faith.

On the other hand, if man could know how greatly he must suffer hereafter for his sins, hold it for certain that for very fear he would not only abandon all things, but that he would not commit the smallest sin. But God does not wish to be served through fear, because, if man’s heart were filled with terror, love could find no entrance there. It is through love that God does not permit man to behold this dreadful sight, although he does in part discover it to those who are so protected and occupied with that pure love which casteth out fear that the doors cannot be shut against them. These souls see in heaven and earth things which tongue cannot express, and they are drawn by sweet allurements and gentle ways. This is what happens to those who allow themselves to be led by faith, and who, recognizing the benignant hand of God in all that befalls them, never reject it, but rather cleave to it strongly and follow it with joy.

But those who refuse so much goodness and deliberately persevere in living according to their own desires, will have at the moment of their death a vision so painful and so terrible, that, having in themselves even one defect, they will be unable to endure the sight. And, therefore amazed at such stupidity, the saint exclaimed: “O miserable man, who will not provide against a fate so unhappy, and caused only by thine own obstinacy! Thou thinkest not of it, yet know that it will befall thee when it is too late. In heaven nothing can enter which is defiled, and purgatory must cleanse thee before thou canst attain eternal felicity.”

“God,” she said, “leads man by a road intermediate between these two. He shows him always great tokens of his love, in order to attract man, who is naturally more inclined to act through love than fear. Yet he gives him also the motive of fear, that by it he may more readily abandon his sins. But neither the love nor the fear which God grants him are so great as to force man towards him, because it is his will that grace should be accomplished by free-will and faith, by which man does all that is within his power. The rest God effects by his good inspirations, which, when once man has yielded his consent, easily incite him to combat his rebellious nature, and, by the help of the great satisfaction which God imparts, to hold it at its true value.”

And therefore she said: “When I see that God is ever ready to give us all the interior and exterior aids necessary for our salvation, and that he observes our deeds solely for our own good; when, on the other hand, I see man continually occupied in useless things, contrary to himself and of no value; and that at the hour of death God will say to him: `What is there, O man, that I could have done for thee which I have not done?’ and that man will clearly know this to be true; I believe that he will have to render a stricter account for this than for all other sins, and I am amazed and cannot understand how man can be so mad as to neglect a thing of such vast and extreme importance.”

The vision which she had of all this was not represented to her mind in a manner so weak as that in which it is here recounted, but so clearly that it seemed to her that she could see and touch it. And doubtless he who should behold such a sight would rather choose death itself than offend God voluntarily, even in the least degree. This, however, did not cause her such wonder when she considered the great evils from which men are freed and the eternal joys to which they are destined and sweetly guided. Therefore she held herself in great aversion and did not hesitate to say: “In this life I desire neither grace nor mercy, but only justice and vengeance upon the evil-doer.” She said this with much earnestness, because she saw that the mercy and goodness of God toward his elect infinitely surpass their gratitude toward him and their sorrow for their sins, and therefore she could not endure that her own offences against her Love should go unpunished.

This appeared to be the reason why she cared little about gaining plenary indulgences; not that she did not hold them in great reverence and devotion, or esteem them of great value, but that for her own part she would rather be chastised and receive the just punishment assigned her, than by this satisfaction be released in the sight of God. The Offended seemed to her to be of such goodness, and the offender so much opposed to him in all things, that she could not endure to see anything which was not subjected to the divine justice, that so it might be well chastised. And, therefore, to abandon all hope of escaping this righteous pain she did not seek for plenary indulgences nor even recommend herself to the prayers of others, in order that she might be ever subject, and be punished and condemned as she had deserved.

What has just been said can be comprehended in the state of perfection to which the saint had been raised, and in which, being as it were secure of victory, she desired to combat purely for the greater glory of her Lord, and, like a valiant soldier, neither sought for nor desired any assistance. And being unable to support the sight of an offence against God, she said to him:

“My Love, I can endure all things else, but to have offended thee is a thing so dreadful and unbearable to me that I pray thee to let me suffer anything else than to see that I have done so. The insults that I have offered thee I am sorry to have offered, nor can I ever consent to offend thee more. At the hour of death show me rather all the demons with all their plains, for I would think it nothing in comparison with the sight of one offense against thee, however slight; though nothing could be slight which displeased thine infinite majesty.

“I know for certain that if the soul which truly loves, should behold in herself one thing which separated her from God, her Spouse, her body would be ground into powder. This I know by means of the extreme and unspeakable torments which I suffer from the interior fire which burns within me; and hence, I conclude that love cannot endure even the least opposition, nor will it remain with any one who does not first remove all obstacles and impediments in order to remain with it in peace and perfect quiet.”

Chapter 21

How she was disposed toward God and toward her neighbor. – What pure and simple love is.

This holy Soul was so regulated by God, that in all that was necessary and reasonable she satisfied every one; and although she was entirely employed in serving her sweet Love, yet she was never willing to displease her neighbor either in word or deed, but on the contrary always assisted him as far as she was able. She said, however, to her Lord: “Thou hast commanded me to love my neighbor, and I am unable to love any one but thee, or to admit any partner with thee: how then shall I obey thee?” And interiorly he responded thus: “He who loves me loves also all whom I love. It suffices that for the welfare of the neighbor thou shouldst do all that is necessary for his soul and body. Such a love as this is sure to be without passion; because it is not in himself but in God that the neighbor should be loved.”

Speaking afterwards on this subject, she said: “Before God created man, love was pure and simple, free from all taint of self-interest, and needing no restraint. And in creating man, God was moved by no other cause except his pure love. In all that he did for him he had no other motive or object. And as his love allows nothing to prevent it from doing all possible good to its beloved, and attends to nothing which is not necessary to that end, so the love of man should return to God all that it receives from him; and then, having no respect to anything but love, it will fear nothing, because it never seeks its own advantage.”

She said again: “Not only is pure love incapable of suffering, but it cannot even comprehend what suffering or pain can be, nor understand the wicked actions which it sees others do. And, were it possible for it to feel all the pains which are felt by the devils and the damned souls, it could never say that they were pains; because, in order to feel or comprehend pain, it truly is necessary to be without this love.

“The true and pure love is of such force that it cannot be diverted from its object, nor can it see or feel anything else. Hence it is useless toil to try to make such creatures employ themselves in the things of this world, for with regard to them they are as insensible as if they were dead.

“It is impossible to describe this love in words or figures which will not, in comparison with the reality, seem entirely false. This only can be understood, namely, that the human intellect is unable to comprehend it. And to him who seeks to know what it is that I know and feel, I can only reply that it transcends all utterance.”

Chapter 22

Of her vocation, which was like that of Saint Paul. – That she was freed from suffering by her great love. – How terrible is man without grace. – How great is the stain of even one slight defect, and still more that of a sin.

The vocation and the correspondence of this holy Soul were like those of the glorious apostle Saint Paul; that is, that in one instant (as was narrated in the beginning), she was made perfect. And this was evident, because in that instant and ever thereafter she proceeded not like a beginner but like one already perfect; for this reason she never knew how to give any account of the way to obtain perfection, because she herself had never attained it by acquired virtues, but simply by infused grace, which instantaneously wrought in her such effects as usually require the uninterrupted exercises of a whole life.

And being thus transformed in God, the fire of love which burned in her purified heart was as great at the beginning as at the end of her conversion – which was a miraculous thing. She said that after she was called and wounded with love she never experienced any suffering, either interior or exterior, either from the world, the devil, or the flesh, or from any other cause. This was the effect of her interior transformation in God, so that although many adversities befell her, nevertheless she never found her will opposed to them, but on the contrary she received all things as from God, and, thus mingled with his love, nothing failed to please her. Her humanity, too, was so subjected to the spirit that it never rebelled, although it was obliged to perform many penances; so that in her was fulfilled that saying: My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God (Psalm 83).

And therefore she said: “When I see the greatness of the spiritual operation, and behold how important is any offence against God or his grace, I find it impossible to conceive of any other suffering or any other hell, than to have sinned against him. All other pains which it is possible to endure in this life, are consolations in comparison with this; just as, on the other hand, all things inferior to God which may seem to have a sort of goodness are yet, in comparison with him, only evil; this however, I know well, will hardly be understood by him who does not know it by experience.

“On the other hand, I know not how man can be so blind as not to see that unless God sustains us by his grace, we are full of sorrow, bitterness, wrath, discontent, and woe, even in this present life, where, however, we are never entirely abandoned by him, no matter how great our sins may be. For, if a man could possibly live this mortal life, when entirely forsaken by God (excepting only the divine justice, failing which he would be annihilated,) I am certain that whoever beheld such a being would die. And not only he who beheld him, but he who, though far removed from him, should learn of his existence and comprehend the misery of his state, would also be deprived of life. To be abandoned by God is a thing too terrible and vast for human words to express, or human intellects to comprehend.

“Alas! with how many perils is man surrounded in this life! When I consider of what great importance are spiritual life and death, if God did not sustain me I believe that I should die. If I could have any desire, it would be that of expressing all that I feel and know concerning this; and if it were granted me to demonstrate what I wish by martyrdom, I do not believe I could find any torments which I would not joyfully undergo, if so I might warn man of the importance of this truth.

“When I beheld that vision in which I saw the magnitude of the stain of even one least sin against God, I know not why I did not die. I said: `I no longer marvel that hell is so horrible, since it was made for sin; for even hell (as I have seen it) I do not believe to be really proportionate to the dreadfulness of sin; on the contrary, it seems to me that even in hell God is very merciful, since I have beheld the terrible stain caused by but one venial sin. And what, in comparison to that, would be a mortal sin? And then so many mortal sins? Surely, if any one could behold all this, even if he were immortal, anguish would once more make him mortal. Even that slight and solitary vision which I beheld, and which lasted but an instant, if it had continued but a little longer would have destroyed my body had it been made of adamant.’

“But all that I can say concerning it seems false beside what I truly comprehend. For this vision brought me so near death that my blood congealed and my whole body was so enfeebled that I seemed to be passing beyond this life; but the goodness of God desired that I should live to narrate it.

“And afterwards I said: `I no longer wonder that purgatory is as terrible as hell, since one is to punish and the other to cleanse: both of them are made for sin, which is so horrible that both its punishment and its purgation must needs correspond with it in horror.’ Man could understand this if he considered his evil inclinations, and how wretched he is when left to himself. But God does not permit this vision to be seen except by those who are, as it were, confirmed in grace, and even these he allows to see only so much as will be for their own good and that of others. And he shows them also that goodness which rescues man from these great and incomprehensible perils to which he is subject, although he beholds them not; but God knows them and their importance, and therefore the great love he bears us moves him to compassion, and so long as we are in this life he never ceases to incite us to well-doing, in order that we may not be more deeply plunged into evil.”

From this may be seen how it was that the conversion of this Soul was accomplished, like that of Saint Paul, who, rapt into heaven, beheld the glory of the just, while Saint Catherine beheld the pains which sinners have merited by their crimes, how full of abomination they are, and how earnestly to be fled from.

Chapter 23

Of self-love and of divine love, and of their conditions.

This illuminated Soul said that she saw a vision of self-love, and beheld that its master and lord was the demon; and she said that self-hate would be a better name for it, because it makes man do all the evil that it wills, and in the end precipitates him into hell. She beheld it in man, as it were by essence, both spiritually and corporally, and in each of these ways it seemed so entirely incorporated with him that it appeared to her almost impossible that he should be purified in this life.

She said also: “The true self-love has these properties: First, it cares not whether it injures either its own soul and body or those of its neighbor, nor does it value the goods and reputation of either itself or others; for the sake of accomplishing its ends it is as rigorous with itself as with others, and will submit to no possible contradiction. When it has resolved upon any action, it remains unmoved by either promises or threats, how great soever they may be, but perseveres in its course, caring neither for slavery nor poverty, for infamy nor weakness, for purgatory, death, nor hell, for it is so blind that it cannot see these things or recognize their importance. If one should say to man that if he would abandon his self-love he would acquire riches, gain health, possess in this world all that heart can desire, and be certain of heaven hereafter, he would yet repel them all, because his heart is unable to value any good, either temporal or eternal, which does not bear the impress of self-love; everything else he despises and counts for nothing, while to this he becomes a slave, going wherever it wills, and so submissive that he has no other choice. He neither speaks, thinks, nor understands aught else. If he is called mad and foolish, he cares nothing for it, nor is he offended by the derision or others. He has shut his eyes and closed his ears to all else, and holds them as if they were not.”

She said moreover: “Self-love is so subtle a robber that it commits its thefts, even upon God himself, without fear or shame, employing his goods as if they were its own, and assigning as a reason that it cannot live without them. And this robbery is hidden under so many veils of apparent good that it can hardly be detected except by the penetrating light of true love, which always desires to remain uncovered and bare, both in heaven and earth, because it has nothing shameful to conceal.

“And, therefore, self-love never understands the nature of pure love; for pure love sees not how the things which it knows as they are in truth could possibly be possessed or appropriated; nothing would displease it so much as to find anything which it could call its own; the reason of this is that pure love sees not, nor can it ever see, anything but truth itself, which, being by its nature communicable to all, can never be monopolized by any. Self-love, on the other hand, is in itself an obstacle to truth, and neither believes it nor beholds it, but rather, confiding in itself, holds truth as an enemy and an alien.

“But the spiritual self-love is much more perilous than the corporal, for it is bitter poison whose antidote is hard to find. It is yet more artfully veiled, and passes sometimes as sanctity or necessity, or again, as charity or pity, hiding itself beneath almost infinite disguises, the sight of which causes my heart almost to faint within me.

“Behold also what blindness self-love occasions between God and man, and know that no evil can be so great as this; yet man does not perceive it, but seems to hold it as salutary, and to rejoice over what ought rather to make him weep.

“There is no doubt that, if man could perceive the many difficulties thrown by self-love in the way of his own good, he would no longer allow himself to be deceived by it; and its malignity is the more to be dreaded because it is so powerful that were but one grain of it in the world would be sufficient to corrupt all mankind. Wherefore I conclude that self-love is the root of all evils which exist in this world and in the other. Behold Lucifer, whose present state is the result of following the suggestions of his self-love; and in ourselves it seems to me even worse. Our father Adam has so contaminated us that to my eyes the evil appears almost incurable, for it so penetrates our veins, our nerves, our bones, that we can neither say nor think nor do anything which is not full of the poison of this love – not even those thoughts and deeds which are directed toward the purification of the spirit.

“For so great and hopeless an infirmity no remedy can be found but God, and if he does not heal us in this world by his grace, our defects must needs be cleansed hereafter by the fire of purgatory; it being necessary, before it is possible for us to behold the pure face of God, that we should be freed from all our stains. And, therefore, when I see how rigorous and severe is this purgation, and that it is not in man’s power to escape from self-love, or to see and understand the dangers of its hidden venom as it is necessary that he should, I long to cry out in a voice that should even pierce the heavens, `God help me, God help me,’ and continue this cry so long as life remains to me.

“Consider, then, that if this love is of such force that it makes man regardless of life or death, heaven or hell, how incomparably greater must that divine love be, which God himself infuses by his great goodness into our hearts. This love, unlike the other, has an eye not only to the welfare of our souls and bodies, but to those of our neighbor, and is careful to preserve his honor and his goods. It is benignant and gentle in all things and to all men; it renounces its self-will, and accepts instead the will of God, to whom it always submits. God, moreover, by his incomparable love, so inflames, purifies, illuminates, and fortifies its will that it no longer fears anything but sin, because that alone displeases God; and, therefore, rather than commit the least sin, it would choose to undergo the most atrocious torments that can be imagined.

“This is one of the effects of the divine love which gives man such liberty, peace, and contentment that he seems almost to enjoy heaven while yet in this life, and is so absorbed that he can neither speak, nor think, nor desire aught beside.

“This divine love, which thus separates us from the world and from ourselves in order to unite us to God, is our only true and proper love. When, then, it has been thus infused into our hearts, what more can we desire in this world or in the other? Death becomes a thing longed after, and hell loses its terrors for the soul which loves; for it dreads nothing but sin, which alone can separate it from its beloved. Oh, if men, and especially those who love, could only know how great and heavy a thing it is to offend God, they would know it to be the greatest hell that could be suffered: he who has once enjoyed this sweet and gentle love, and lost it through any fault of his, would suffer agonies like those of the condemned souls, and esteem no toils too great by which he might once more regain it. Long experience has taught me that the love of God is our life, our bliss, and our repose, and that self-love is continual weariness, misery, and death both in this world and in the other.”

Chapter 24

Concerning the three ways which God takes to purify the creature.

This holy Soul said: “I see three ways which God takes when he wishes to purify the creature.

“The first is when he gives it a love so stripped of all things that, even if it desired, it could neither see nor wish for anything but this love, which by reason of its poverty and simplicity, is able to detect every vestige of self-love; and, seeing the truth it can never be self-deceived, but is reduced to such despair of itself that it is unable to say or do anything which could afford it either corporal or spiritual consolation. And thus, by degrees, its self-love is destroyed, since it is certain that he who eats not, dies. Notwithstanding this, however, so great is the evil of self-love that it clings to man almost to the end of his life. I have seen this in myself, for, from time to time I have found many natural desires destroyed within me which had previously seemed to me very good and perfect; but when they were thus removed I saw that they had been depraved and faulty, and in accordance with those spiritual and bodily infirmities which, being hidden from me, I had not supposed myself to possess. And this is why it is necessary to attain such a subtlety of spiritual vision, in order that all which at first appears to us perfection may in the end be known as imperfections, robberies, and woes; all this is clearly revealed in that mirror of truth, pure love, in which all things appears distorted which to us had seemed upright.

“The second mode which I beheld, and which pleased me more than the first, is that in which God gives man a mind occupied with great suffering; for that makes him know himself, and how abject and vile he is. This vision of his own misery keeps him in great poverty, and deprives him of all things which could afford him any savor of good; thus his self-love is not able to nourish itself, and from lack of nourishment it wastes away until at last man understands that if God did not hold his hand, giving him his being, and removing from him this hateful vision, he could never issue from this hell. And when God is pleased to take away this vision of his utter hopelessness in himself, afterwards he remains in great peace and consolation.

“The third mode, which is still more excellent than either of these, is when God gives his creature a mind so occupied in him, that neither interiorly nor exteriorly is it able to think of anything but God, and those things which are his. Even the works which it performs it does not think of or hold in any esteem, except in so far as they are necessary to the love of God; and hence it seems like one dead to the world, for it is unable to delight itself in anything or to understand anything, even if it wished to do so, either in heaven or on earth; there is given to it also such a poverty of spirit that it knows neither what it has nor what it does, nor does it make any provision for what it should do, either with regard to God or to the world, for itself or for its neighbor, because it is not shown how it may do so, but is always held by God in union with him and in sweet confusion.

“In this way the soul remains rich, yet poor, unable to appropriate anything, or to nourish itself, because it is necessary that it should be lost and annihilated in itself, and thus find itself in God, in whom, in truth, it was from the beginning although it knew not how it was so.

“There is also the religious life, of which I will say nothing further, because all must pass through one of these three ways of which I have been speaking, and also because it has been sufficiently treated of by others.”

Chapter 25

The manner in which the saint was medically treated for bodily infirmity, when her suffering was from spiritual fire, and of other accidents that befell her.

The perfection of this saint, thus illuminated by God, the true light, could not be understood, for it did not manifest itself by outward acts but all her perfection was in the interior of her soul, in the view of herself and of her God, with whom she was united in an extraordinary manner, and also in secret interior conversations, some of which she repeated twice (although she could poorly utter them in words), not as they actually took place within, for they were unutterable, and she could only express them by similitudes.

The state of this soul was not passive, as it is wont to be with others, forso profound was her sense of the importance of what she saw, that it inflamed her heart to such a degree that she fell dangerously ill. It is easy to perceive from this, how far such a creature was removed from the common experience. Usually, men hardly feel any compunction for the sins they have committed, and of venial offences they scarcely make any account; but the body of the saint was almost rent in pieces when it was given her to see the greatness of even a venial sin, and if God had discovered to her one of these sins in herself, she certainly would have fallen dead.

Her sufferings were often so great that recourse was had to medical treatment, and letting of blood was ordered to relieve the burning fire of the spirit and restore the power of speech, but with little effect. Medicines were also administered when she seemed near her end, but they increased her suffering, although she took them in obedience. It then began to be understood that God was the author of these things, and she was left to struggle with her attacks without medicine, but it required great care and watchfulness to preserve her life. The devoted attendants who surrounded her were confounded, and she would sometimes say, in a voice scarcely audible: “Now my heart seems as if in ashes, I am consuming with love.” At other times, to relieve her humanity, she would go into a solitary apartment, and there cast herself upon the ground, crying: “O love, I can bear no more;” and, writhing in agony, the house would resound with her cries and lamentations.

Sometimes, when walking in the garden, she would address the plants and trees, saying: “Are you not creatures created by my God? are you not obedient to him?” And thus discoursing, she would obtain some relief to her sufferings, but if she perceived she was overheard, she suddenly stopped, and answered any one who spoke to her according to the necessities of the affairs of human life.

Chapter 26

Of the three things to which she could not consent, and of those which she could not refrain from desiring.

This soul had so close a union with God, and her free-will was brought into such subjection, that she felt no resistance nor choice, having conquered all things, more than humanity can comprehend; yet she said there were three things to two of which she could not consent, and a third which she could not but desire.

In the first place she could not consent to, nor commit any, even the smallest, sin. For having the greatest horror of sin, and having attained, through the sight of her own misery, to the greatest simplicity, she did not perceive it in others, and could not comprehend how men could consent to it, particularly to mortal sin; and if perchance she saw with her own eyes some inexcusable sin, still she could not understand that there could be in man the malice of sin, believing that others honored God as she honored him.

Secondly, and this, although obscure to the imperfect intellect, was clear to her, she could not unite with the will of God in suffering so cruel a passion, and she would rather have endured all the pains of all the souls in hell, than that her Love should suffer such punishment.

The third thing, and it was this that she could not refrain from desiring, was holy communion; for the holy communion is nothing but God himself. And in this she testified the great reverence and honor in which she held priests, namely, by affirming that if the priest had not been willing to give her communion, she would have taken it patiently, and not persisted; but wishing to receive communion, she could not say that she did not wish it.

Chapter 27

Of the sweetness of the divine precepts, and the advantage of temporal adversity.

All things took place in this holy soul in the order of true love; and she sometimes said to her Lord: “O Love! If others are bound to keep thy commandments, I am bound to keep them by a tenfold obligation, because they are sweet and full of love. Thou dost not command things that lead to evil; but to him who obeys thou givest great peace, love, and union with thyself. This cannot be understood by one who has not experienced it; for the divine precepts, although they are contrary to sensuality, are yet in accordance with the spirit which, by its nature, seeks separation from all the bodily senses, by union with God, to which union I find every other love of things inferior to God to be a hindrance.”

She saw that all things are necessary which God ordains, who is only waiting to consume interiorly and exteriorly all our corrupt affections, and that all wrongs, injuries, contempt, sickness, poverty, abandonment of relatives and friends, the temptations of the devil, mortifications, and all else contrary to humanity, are especially needful to us, that we may combat with them, till at length gaining through them the victory, our corrupt affections may be extinguished, until adversity appears to us no longer bitter, but sweet.

Whoever believes that anything good or bad can befall him, which can separate him from God, shows that he is not yet strong in divine charity; for man should fear nothing but to offend God, and all beside should be to him as if it were not. For herself, she said, that she seemed to see in her heart a ray of love proceeding from God, binding them together with a golden thread, and had no fear that it would ever be loosed; and this had been the case ever since her conversion. Her sweet Lord gave her such confidence that when she was moved to pray for anything, something within seemed to say: “Command, for love can do it.” Indeed she had every thing she asked, with all possible certainty.

She was wont to say: “The love of God is our proper love, for we are created for that alone; the love, on the contrary, for everything beside, ought in truth to be termed hatred, since it deprives us of our proper love, which is God. Love then God, who loves thee, and leave him who does not love thee, namely, everything beneath God; for all things are enemies to that true love. Oh! that I could make this truth be felt as I myself feel it: I am certain that there is no creature who would not love Him; so that if the sea were the food of love, there are no men or women, who would not drown themselves in it, and those who were at a distance from it would always be drawing nearer to it, that they might plunge into it; for every pleasure, when compared to it, is pain, and such riches does it confer on a man, that all beside should seem to him but misery.

“It makes him so light that he does not feel the earth beneath his feet; his affections are so fixed on things above that he loses all sense of suffering here below, and he is so free, that there is nothing to keep him from the presence of God. If you asked me: `What dost thou feel?’ I should answer thee: `What eye could not see, nor ear hear;’ but I am ashamed to speak of it in my poor language, for I am certain that all I can say of God, is not of God, but only fragments that fall from his table.'”

Chapter 28

The process of annihilation of man in God illustrated by the figure of the eating of bread. – Of her interior and exterior.

“Take a loaf,” said the saint, “and eat it, and after you have eaten it, its substance goes to the nutriment of the body, and what is superfluous passes away; for if nature retained it, having no need of it, the body would die. Now if that bread should say to the body: Why do you deprive me of my existence, for by my nature I am not satisfied to be thus reduced to nothingness? If I could, I would defend myself from thee, for it is natural for every creature to preserve itself, – the body would answer: Bread, thy being is designed for my support, which is more worthy than thee, and hence thou shouldst be more content with the end for which thou wast created, than with thy own being; for if it were not for thy end, thy being would have no value but to be thrown aside, as something worthless and dead. It is thy end which gives thee a dignity to which thou canst not attain but by means of thy annihilation. If thou wouldst live for thy end, thou wouldst care for thy being, but wouldst say: Quickly, quickly, take me from myself, and let me attain my end for which I am created.”

This soul became so detached, both exteriorly and interiorly, that she could no longer perform her accustomed exercises, for she had lost all vigor of mind and body. She had no desire to confess; but going to confession, as usual, she found that she had no part in any sin; and when she attempted to mention her offences generally, it seemed to her that she was deceiving; and through her entire detachment she was in possession of the greatest peace, of which she was never divested.

Chapter 29

The saint urged to give an idea of her state.

Of free-will this blessed one said, that when she considered carefully her vocation, she saw such great things effected by God in her, that it almost seemed as if she had been forced by him, for she could nowhere see her own consent, but rather it seemed to her that she had resisted, especially in the beginning, and the sense of this had inflamed her with a burning love. But generally, when speaking of it, she said: “God first arouses man from sin, then with the light of faith illuminates the intellect, and afterwards, with a certain satisfaction and zeal, inflames the will. And Almighty God does this in an instant, although we tell it in many words, and measure it by time.”

When the saint was sometimes urged by her spiritual children to give them an idea of her state in words, she would tell them it was impossible, but on one occasion she allowed a religious to interpret it, in order to gratify his desire to understand it better, which he did to her great satisfaction and joy; wherefore, with a benignant countenance, she exclaimed: “Oh my dear child, it is as you have said, and hearing you I feel that it is thus. You have said all that can be said, but the effect is incomprehensible.” Then the religious said to her: “Oh mother, cannot you ask of God, your Love, some little drops of it for your children?” and she answered joyfully: “I see this sweet Love so gracious to his children, that I can ask nothing for them, but that I may present them in his presence.”

This creature became at length like a cherub to look upon, so that she gave great consolation to every one who beheld her; and those who visited her found it hard to leave her. When she was about sixty-three years of age, her heart was inflamed anew with a ray of love. This dart was so powerful and penetrating, that she felt as if severely wounded in the region of the heart, and she suffered great bodily pain. After some days she was again inflamed with love, and it always seemed to her that the last wound was the greatest.

Chapter 30

Of her compunction for having desired death, every desire being an imperfection. – She relates her conversion to one of her spiritual children.

In the year 1507, while present at the office for the dead, she felt a desire to die. It was a desire of the soul that it might quit the body and be united with God. The body also desired it, that it might be freed from the torment which it suffered from the flames of love in the soul; these however, were only natural desires, to which her will gave no consent.

And as her desire was inspired by her Love who wished to purify her, and not from her will, as soon as she felt it, she suddenly exclaimed: “O Love, I desire nothing but thee, and in thy own way: but if it please thee, who dost not wish that I should die, neither that I should desire death, let me at least be present at the death and burial of others, that I may see in them that blessedness that is not bestowed on me.” Love consented to this, and for some time she was present at the death and burial of all those who died in the hospital, without any desire to die herself. And by degrees, the union of love increasing in that purified heart, she lost the desire to see others die, but still, whenever she spoke of death, she seemed filled with a new and joyful emotion.

At one time when she fell into ecstasies, and appeared as if dead, the persons around her, who did not understand her state, believed her to be suffering from what is commonly called vertigo. She herself, through humility and a desire to be unnoticed, on speaking of it to a religious, also called it vertigo: but the religious answered: “Mother, you need not use concealment with me: I entreat you for the honor and glory of God, to choose some person who will be satisfactory to you, and narrate to him the graces with which God has favored you, that when you are gone these graces may not remain hidden and unknown, and the praise and glory of God arising from them be lost.” To which she answered: “It shall be as you wish, if it is the will of my sweet Love;” and she would choose no other than himself who had given her this counsel, although she knew it would be impossible for her to narrate the smallest part of those interior communications between God and the soul; and of the exterior, she had experienced almost nothing.

At another time, in conversation with the same religious, she began to narrate her conversion and many other things, as well as she could, which have been faithfully collected and introduced into the present volume.

Chapter 31

How the saint left the whole care of herself to Love; and what means Love employed to purify her from her imperfections.

When Love had taken upon himself the care and control of everything, he never more abandoned it. “And I,” said the saint, “gave the keys of the house to Love, with full power to do all that was necessary, and I took no heed of body or soul, friends, relatives, or the world; but of all that the law of pure love requires I took care that the least part should not be wanting. And when I saw Love accepting the charge, and producing the effect, I turned towards him, and was occupied in watching this, his work. And he made me look upon many things as unjust and imperfect, which before had appeared to myself and others as just and perfect, and in everything was found defects. If I spoke of spiritual things, Love suddenly checked me, telling me that I must not speak, but let the flame burn on within, no word and no act escaping which should serve to refresh either soul or body.

“One day I asked my confessor if I should try to eat, that I might not cause any injury to the soul or body. Love answered me within, and my confessor from without: `Who is this who speaks of eating or not eating, under the form of a motive? Be silent, for I know you, and you cannot deceive me.’ Finding his eye so acute and powerful, I gave up all to him, asking God to do with me what seemed to him good; to strip me of all things and clothe me with his simple, pure, powerful, great, and burning love.

“And then Love exclaimed: `It is my will to leave every one naked, naked; neither will I have anything above me nor under me. And be it known to you, that such is my nature and condition, that I convert and change into myself all souls that can be changed, despoiling them of self.’ Love will be alone. If another should be in his company, the gates of heaven would be closed against him, for they are open only to pure Love. Let each one, then, leave himself to be guided by Love, that he may be conducted to that end which pure Love desires all to attain.

“Pure Love draws the soul to himself in a variety of ways, and when he sees her occupied with any affection, he marks all things that she loves as his enemies, and consumes them without sparing herself or her body; and although the nature of Love would destroy them by one blow, yet seeing the weakness of man, he cuts away little by little, and silently; for we cling so firmly to the object of our love, which we esteem beautiful, good, and just, that we will listen to nothing that opposes us; therefore Love says: `I will put my hand to the work, for with words I can do nothing; I will destroy all things that thou lovest, by death, infirmity, or poverty; by hatred and discord; by detraction, scandal, lies, and infamy; by relatives, by friends, and by thyself, till thou knowest not what to do, finding thyself cast out from all things that constituted thy delight, and receiving from them only pain and confusion; neither dost thou understand these operations of divine Love, all of which seem contrary to reason, both as regards God and the world; therefore thou dost cry and lament, striving and hoping to escape from this distress, and thou wilt never escape from it.’

“When divine Love has kept a soul thus in suspense, and, as it were, desperate, and disgusted with all things that before she loved, then he shows her himself with his divinely joyful and radiant countenance, and as soon as the soul perceives it, naked and destitute she casts herself into his hands, crying: `O blind one, what didst thou seek? what hast thou desired! here are all the delights thou hast sought! O divine Love, how sweetly hast thou deceived me in order to strip me of all self-love and clothe me with pure love abounding with every delight! Now that I see the truth, I have nothing to lament but my ignorance.'”

Chapter 32

How well regulated was the saint in all things. – Of the opposition of her spirit to humanity, and how humanity tormented her.

With this blessed soul everything was so well ordered, that wherever she had control, or could offer a remedy, she never could endure any disorder; and she could neither live nor converse with persons who were not well regulated, especially if they were those who appeared to have entered with herself the way of perfection; and when she saw them countenancing any imperfection, and taking part in any of those things which she had learned to abhor, she left their company.

She was very compassionate to all creatures, although merciless to their defects, so that when an animal was killed, or a tree cut down, she could hardly bear to see them lose the life that God had given them, but she would have been very severe in rooting out the evil from one who had brought it upon himself by sin.

She could not see her own sins, or realize that she must sometimes commit them, neither could she believe that others would sin; and so entire was the peace of her mind, that it seemed to substitute for bodily sleep. Such repose was, however, more refreshing to her body than natural sleep, for sleep takes off the mind from God. She was so restrained interiorly, that she was wont to say: “If I uttered a word, breathed a sigh, or cast a glance towards any person who could understand me, my humanity would be well content, as a thirsty person when given a drink.” Meaning by this that when she was pierced by the arrows of divine love, she lost all feeling and remained motionless, until God, as it often happened, relieved her from this occupation.

So opposite and repugnant was the spirit to humanity, that when humanity wept, the spirit laughed, and held her in such subjection as to reprove her, not only for every unnecessary action, but for every word, not permitting those around to offer her any alleviation in her trials, seeming ever lovingly to mock her by exciting her desires for these things with which she was accustomed to console herself, allowing her to taste all things, and then suddenly destroying all relish for them, till by degrees she had none left for any earthly thing, and could find no exterior or interior nourishment, and in this desolation a secret longing would come over her to hide herself, and weep, and lament.

Sometimes she would cast herself into the hedge of rose trees in the garden, and seize the thorns with both hands, without feeling the pain, so entire was the occupation of her mind. She would bite and burn her hands, to relieve the interior suffering that consumed her, and the most extreme external pain she esteemed as nothing. Her body was often so deserted by the spirit, that without any resistance on her part four persons could not move her from her seat. All these things were not done voluntarily, but by a spontaneous impulse; neither did she find any consolation upon the earth, but was constrained to shun those things without which others cannot live.

She found no solace except in her confessor, with whom she had an interior and exterior correspondence. But he, too, was taken from her, and her sufferings greatly increased, because there was nothing to which she could have recourse either in Heaven or on earth, and she was wont to say: “I am in this world like one who is away from home, who has left all his relatives and friends, and finds himself in a foreign land; when having accomplished the business for which he was sent he is ready to leave and go home, where his heart and mind are; for so ardent is his love of his own country, that a day of absence seems a year.”

She felt herself every day more and more restrained, like one who is confined at first within the walls of a city; then in a house without a garden, now in a hall, now in a chamber, then again in an antechamber; sometimes in a dimly lighted, remote apartment, then in a dark prison, her hands tied, her feet chained, her eyes bandaged, and without food; for no one could speak with her and she was left without hope of release but by death; she had no consolation but the knowledge that it is a merciful God who does all this in his love; and with this she was satisfied.

On one occasion, hearing some one repeat the words: “Arise, arise, ye dead, and come to judgment;” she cried aloud, in the excess of love: “Would that I could come now, now;” and all who heard her were astonished. With that burning love in her heart, it seemed to her that she could pass through the most searching judgment; for she saw nothing in herself for that judgment to condemn; she even took pleasure in the thought of it, for she earnestly desired to see the infinitely powerful and just judge, who makes all things tremble, except pure and simple love.

Chapter 33

How an evil spirit, that had possession of one of her spiritual daughters, named her Catherine Serafina.

This holy soul had, in the house with her, a spiritual daughter who was tormented by the devil, who frequently attacked her, even throwing her upon the ground, and by this violence driving her almost to desperation. This evil spirit even entered into her mind, and prevented her from thinking of divine things, so that it seemed to her that she was separated from God, and lost. She was beside herself, and fell so entirely under his diabolical will, that she became almost a demon herself. She was insupportable to herself, and found no peace except in the presence of her spiritual mother; for when they were together, at a glance they understood each other, one having the spirit of God, and the other its opposite.

One day this afflicted creature, vexed by the unclean spirit, knelt at the feet of the blessed Catherine, in the presence of their confessor; and the devil through her said: “We are both slaves by reason of that pure love that thou hast in thy heart.” and then, enraged with himself for having uttered these words, cast her upon the ground, winding about like a serpent. When she had risen from the ground, the confessor said: “What is the name of this woman, tell me,” and the evil spirit answered: Catherine, and would say no more. Then the confessor said: “Tell me her surname, is it Adorno or Fieschi?” and he would not answer; but the confessor insisted, and he at length said: Catherine Serafina, but he uttered these words struggling with great agony.

This afflicted being possessed a powerful intellect, and she lived in virginity. The Lord, perhaps, sent this affliction upon her to keep her humble. She died a holy death, but the evil spirit never left her until the very last moment.

The blessed Catherine, while reflecting on the opposition between pure love and the evil spirit, was accustomed to say that man did not consider the difference, and did not appreciate extreme love as he ought, “For truly,” she added, “he who does not know precious stones, does not value them.”

And, filled with compassion for the blindness of man, she said: “If by taking my blood and giving it to man to drink, I could make known to him this truth, I would give it all for love of him. I cannot endure the thought that man, created for the good that I see and know, should lose it

Catherine persevered in this way for about twenty-five years, instructed and directed by God alone, by a wonderful, divine operation. Afterwards, perhaps on account of the approach of old age and her extreme weakness, the Lord sent a director who took charge of her soul and of her bodily health; a spiritual person of holy life, in every way fitted for such a charge, to whom God gave the light and grace to know his designs in regard to her. He was chosen rector of the hospital where she lived, he heard her confessions, said mass for her, and gave her communion, whenever he could do so.

This priest, at the request of some spiritual persons who were devoted to the saint, wrote most of the present work, having urged and induced her to relate the extraordinary graces which God had conferred upon her, especially as this religious, by long intercourse, well understood the order of her life. The first time that she made her confession to him, she said: “Father, I know not where I am, as to my soul or my body. I wish to confess, but I do not see any offence that I have committed.” And the faults that she enumerated did not seem to her sins of thought, word, or deed; for she was like a child who, when in his childishness he ignorantly does something which he is told is wrong, suddenly changes color, and blushes, but not because he is sensible to the fault.

She sometimes said to her confessor: “I do not know how to make my confession, for I have not enough exterior or interior feeling to be able to accuse myself of having said those things on account of which I feel some stings of conscience. I would not fail to make my confession, and I do not know whom I am to accuse of my sins; I would accuse myself, but I cannot.”

When God was effecting anything within her that troubled her, she submitted it entirely to her confessor, and conferred with him; and he, by the divine light and grace, understood the whole, giving her such replies that he seemed to feel what she felt. This was a great consolation to her, so that she spoke to him with entire confidence, and could not be satisfied until she had discovered to him all she felt. When she was prevented from communicating to him anything that was upon her mind, she felt as if in burning flames, but after she had spoken of it to her father, she was tranquil and satisfied.

It was a great consolation to her that he could understand her by a glance, when she could not speak, allaying the violence of the burning fire within, and strengthening her exhausted frame. The interior action was so intense that it became necessary to divert her mind by external things, and that diversion was torture to her, for it did violence to her heart. At one time, having been in a weak state for several days, she took the hand of her confessor and raised it to her face, and the odor of it penetrated her heart with such a fulness of exterior and interior sweetness that it seemed supernatural.

The confessor asking her what was the nature of that odor, she answered that it was an odor that God had sent to comfort the soul and body in their sufferings; that it was so penetrating and sweet that it seemed as if it could bring the dead to life, and she added: “Since God grants it to me, I shall console myself with it so long as it pleases him.” The confessor, believing that as it was given through him he too could perceive it, raised his own hand to smell the fragrance of it, but there was none there, and it was told him that God does not give his good things to those who seek them, but only bestows them in cases of necessity, and for some great spiritual result.

The saint also said that she was permitted to see that this odor was a drop of the beatitude that the body with its senses will enjoy in heaven, through the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ; by which every one will be satisfied eternally in body as well as soul. Her body and soul were strengthened and refreshed for several days by the impression and remembrance of this odor.

On one occasion she said to her confessor, who was sometimes absent from her: “It seems to me that God has given you the care of me alone, and that you ought not to attend to any one else; for I have persevered during the twenty-five years in the spiritual life without the help of any creature, but now that I cannot endure such interior and exterior conflicts, God has sent you to me. If you know how terribly I suffer when you are absent, you would rather remain with me in my trials, than go in search of any recreation; and yet I would not ask you not to go.”

And indeed it appeared as if every remedy and relief that God allowed to her soul and body was given her by this confessor, who, at the moment provided her with thoughts and words, which were suited to her necessities, so that he was amazed at them himself, and when the occasion for them was past, no remembrance of them remained.

And because this continual intercourse and close familiarity roused some to murmur who did not understand the necessity for them, the confessor withdrew and was absent for three days, to ascertain whether this necessity was wholly divine without any human mixture, and to relieve himself from every scruple; but he repented making the trial, on account of the severe sufferings of the saint. Moreover, he was in secret reproved by God for his incredulity, when he had been so long a witness to so many supernatural signs, one of which would have been sufficient to convert a Jew; and after this his scruples never returned.

The saint continued for many years in this state of dependence on her confessor, and by the grace of God, through all his attendance upon her, in his fatigues and trials, his health never failed. When she concealed from him any interior operation, it was intimated to him by some divine inspiration, and he would say to her: “You have such and such a thing on your mind, and you wish to deny it to me, but God will not permit you.” At these words she was greatly surprised, and acknowledged that they were true, and afterwards was freed from her sufferings. Sometimes she would say to her confessor: “What do you think is in my mind?” and although he knew nothing of it, yet at that moment words were given him, and he told her the whole.

Chapter 34

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Chapter 35

Treatment of the saint by her husband, and how she obtained salvation of his soul from God, and also that of Sister Tommasa Fiesca, her companion.

As we have mentioned before, this creature, so favored by God, was married at the age of sixteen to Guiliano Adorno, who, although of a noble family, was of a perverse and stubborn temper, and conducted his affairs so badly, that he was reduced to poverty; yet she was always obedient, and patient with his whims and eccentricities, but at the same time she suffered so much from him that with difficulty she preserved her health, and became to reduced and wasted, that she was a most pitiable object. She lived in a solitary house, alone, to satisfy him, and never went out except to attend mass, and then return as quickly as possible, for she would endure anything rather than give pain to others.

Almighty God, seeing that this soul could be brought to great perfection, enabled her to support all this, without murmuring, in silence, and with the greatest patience. For the first few years she was kept in such subjection that she knew nothing of what was going on in the world; but, during the five following she sought to divert herself from the great vexations which her husband caused her, by associating with other ladies, and occupying herself with the affairs of the world as they did.

But she was soon after called by the Lord, and left this way of life, never to return to it again; and, by the goodness of God, she was permitted to live with her husband, as a sister with a brother. Her husband became a member of the third order of Saint Francis, and finally was visited by a severe illness, which he bore so impatiently that his wife became greatly distressed for the salvation of his soul. As his end approached, she withdrew into a retired apartment, and there, with tears and sobs, implored her sweet Love to save him, saying, “O Love, I beg of thee this soul: I pray thee give it to me, for thou canst do it.” Persevering in this for the space of half an hour, an interior voice at length assured her that she was heard, and returning to her husband’s chamber, she found him so calm and changed, that, by every word and act, he manifested his submission to the divine will.

This miracle was made known by the blessed one herself to a spiritual child of hers after the death of her husband. “My son,” said she, “Giuliano is gone: you know his eccentricity, which caused me so much suffering during his life, but before he passed away, my sweet Love assured me of his salvation.” It was plain that God had caused her to say this, that the miracle might be made known; for, afterwards, Catherine seemed to regret that she had spoken on the subject, but the person being very prudent, made no remark and began to talk of other things. After her husband had passed away in holy peace, and was buried, her friends would say to her that she was relieved from great trials, and to human reason she indeed appeared to be released from great oppression, but she answered that she was not conscious of it, that all things were the same to her, and that she only cared to do the will of God.

She also lost some of her brothers and sisters but so closely was she united with the sweet will of God, that she did not suffer any more than if they had not been her own kindred. And on account of this she could not understand why one of her companions of the same house of Fieschi as herself, and married as she was, should leave the world by degrees, for fear of turning back. After the death of her husband, this person became a nun in a convent of the Observantines of Saint Dominic, called also Saint Silvester; and twenty years after her profession, she was transferred to another convent of the same order, called the New Monastery, that she might reform it by introducing a stricter observance. She was called Sister Tommasa, was full of prudence and sanctity, and attained great perfection. She was superior of that monastery, and so burning was her zeal, that she was accustomed to write, compose, paint, and practice various devout exercises, in order to mitigate its violence. She wrote a treatise on the Apocalypse, and upon Dionysius the Areopagite, and other beautiful, devout, and edifying pieces. She painted with her own hand many holy countenances; the most remarkable is one of Piety, representing a certain very holy mystery, when the priest is consecrating at the altar. She wrought very delicately with her needle many pious subjects, among which is still seen in her first monastery, God the Father, surrounded by angels, with Christ and other figures of saints worked with great skill and dignity.

Many things are told of this mother’s devout life and exemplary conversation, so full of the fervor of divine love, by the nuns of her first and second convents, as well as by pious seculars who were her friends; also how happily she passed from this life praising the Lord. Her death took place in the year 1534, when she was more than 86 years of age. As we have mentioned, the blessed Catherine wondered how (when she was yet in the world) she could make such slow progress in contempt of the world; but she herself, on the other hand, said that Catherine, for so she called her, considered her desperate; and that it would be a dreadful mortification to her if she should turn back; Catherine was more surprised at this thought of turning back, and could not understand it. “If I should turn back,” she said, “I should not only wish my eyes to be put out, but that every kind of punishment and insult should be inflicted on me.”

The wonderful designs of God are manifested in these two women, belonging to the same period, and both married; one of whom was converted by infused grace and at once made perfect, while the other arrived at perfection by virtue slowly acquired.

Chapter 36

How a person, hopelessly ill, was cured by the prayers of the saint.

A man named Marco dal Sale, who was suffering from a cancer of his nose, after trying every remedy that could be devised by the skill of physicians, and finding no relief, became almost desperately impatient. His wife Argentina, seeing his condition, went to the hospital where the holy Catherine lived, and begged her to visit her sick husband, and pray the Lord for him; and the saint, as if under obedience, complied.

This blessed soul was so obedient, that if an ant had come to ask her to perform some act of mercy, she would at once have followed it. Catherine, having arrived at the house of the sick man, somewhat consoled him by a few humble and devout words. Returning afterwards to the hospital with Argentina, they entered a church called Saint Mary of Grace, and there kneeling, Catherine was moved to pray for the sick man. Having finished her prayer, she returned with Argentina to the hospital, and when the latter had taken eave of her and gone home, she found her husband so changed, that from a demon he had almost become an angel, and, turning to Argentina, he exclaimed with joy and tenderness; “Oh! Argentina, tell me who is that holy soul whom you have brought here?” and Argentina answered: “It is Madonna Catherine Adorno, whose life is most perfect.” The sick man then implored her, by the love of God, that she would bring her there again. The next day she complied with is request, and having related to Saint Catherine what occurred, brought her home with her again.

She knew, however, beforehand, the condition of this sick man, in the answer to her secret prayer; for she never made a special prayer except when interiorly moved to it by her Love, by which also she knew that it was favorably heard. When she entered the room the sick man saluted her, and continued weeping for some time, then said: “The reasons why I have asked you to come here again are, first, to thank you for your charity towards me, and then to ask of you one more favor, which I pray you not to deny me. After you left me, our Lord Jesus Christ himself appeared visibly to me, under the form in which he appeared to Magdalene in the garden, gave me his most holy blessing, pardoned my sins, and said that he appeared to me, because on Ascension Day I was to go to him; therefore, I pray you, most kind mother, that you may be pleased to accept Argentina as your spiritual daughter, retaining her always near you; and I pray you, Argentina, to consent to this.” Both answered him joyfully that they were content. After Catherine had gone, the sick man sent for an Augustinian Father from a monastery called the Consolation, and having carefully made his confession and received communion, summoned a notary and his relatives, and arranged all his affairs, satisfying every one. They all thought that his sufferings had turned his head, and told him to be comforted, that he would soon recover and that there was no need of his attending to these things; but he was too wise to be influenced by their persuasions. The vigil of the Ascension having arrived, he sent again for his confessor, again made his confession, and received holy communion; then he received extreme unction with recommendation of the soul, all with great devotion, in preparation for his journey. Night coming on, he said to his confessor: “Return to your monastery, and when the time comes, I will send for you. Every one having gone, he was left alone with his wife, and turning towards her with the crucifix in his hand, said: “Argentina! I leave you this for your spouse, prepare to suffer, for I assure you that you will have to do so,” which she indeed did, both mentally and from long continued bodily infirmity. He passed the night in exhorting and encouraging her to give herself entirely to God, to be willing to endure suffering, which is the ladder of ascent to heaven. When it was day, he said: “Argentina, God be with you, for the hour is come,” and having uttered these words, he expired, and his spirit knocked at the window of his confessor’s cell, crying: Ecce Homo; which when the confessor heard, he knew that Marco had passed to his Lord.

After the burial of Marco, the blessed Catherine received Argentina as her spiritual daughter, according to her promise, and this by a divine dispensation, for, if she had not had such a spiritual child, she could not have lived in the state of abstraction in which she was often thrown by the burning fires of her sweet Love. As she loved this daughter of hers very much, she took her with her whenever she went out; and one day when they were passing the before-mentioned church, Our Lady of Grace, she entered, and after making her devotions, she said to Argentina: “This is the place where grace was obtained for your husband.” The Lord permitted her to say this, that the miracle might be made known for our edification.

Chapter 37

Continuing an account of her extraordinary way of life, and her wonderful condition for some time before her death.

For nearly nine years before her death, the saint suffered from a malady not understood by physicians or by any one else. It was not a bodily infirmity; neither did it seem to her a spiritual operation; and it was very difficult on the part of those who attended her to know how to treat it. Medicine was of no avail, still less the support obtained from bodily sustenance; but at length a way was found to control it.

She was greatly debilitated, so that at times she appeared to be near her end. For a year before her death she did not eat in a week what another would require for one meal, and for the last six months she only took a little broth, refusing everything else.

She never omitted holy communion, except when absolutely unable to receive it, and in that case she suffered more from the deprivation than from all her infirmities: indeed, it seemed as if she could not live without this most holy sacrament. The vehemence of her spirit became at length so great that it shattered her bodily frame from head to foot; so that there was not a limb or nerve that was not tormented by her inward fires. She threw off blood and other s ubstances, so that it was thought that she retained nothing even of the very little she ate; and for the last two weeks she took nothing but the most holy communion. She could not sleep, her suffering was so intense, and her screams were dreadful.

The burning interior and exterior flames prevented her from moving or being moved. Her sufferings banished from her all friends and spiritual persons who could offer her any relief, so that she remained in perfect interior and exterior solitude. And she suffered, too, in another way. Her humanity would sometimes crave food so extremely, that it would make any effort to obtain it; and when it was offered, the appetite was gone and she could not taste it, but remained patient in her hunger.

She was so entirely abandoned to her sufferings, that she appeared as if transfixed to the cross, with no desire but for the blessed sacrament. On the other hand, she was so happy, and uttered such burning words of divine love, that all around her wept from emotion. Many persons came from a distance to see her, and speak with her, and recommended themselves to her, believing that they had been a creature more divine than human, as in truth she was. They beheld heaven in her soul, and purgatory in her agonized body.

She saw the condition of the souls in purgatory in the mirror of her humanity and of her mind, and therefore spoke of it so clearly. She seemed to stand on a wall separating this life from the other, that she might relate in one what she saw suffered in the other.

We are told of Saint Ignatius, that after his martyrdom his heart was opened, and on it was found inscribed, in letters of gold, the sweet name of Jesus, and who can doubt that if the heart of this loving servant of God had been opened, some wonderful mark would have been found upon it. The burning flames within even changed the color of the flesh about her heart, and if fire was applied to her body, she did not feel it, so much more powerful was the interior flame. But there is this difference between material fire and the flames of divine love, that the one consumes and destroys, while the other sustains and strengthens.

Chapter 38

How the sufferings she was to endure were revealed to her in spirit; and how dreadful they were to her humanity. – Seeing an image of the woman of Samaria, she asked of God that water. – Of a difference that arose between the spirit and humanity, and of other wonderful things.

Many graces were bestowed on this soul chosen of God, and many divine works were accomplished in her, during the year before she passed from this life to the Lord. And as things which take place suddenly cause greater terror, God revealed to her, at a glance, the order of his operations, and that she must die in great suffering, and made manifest to her this suffering, even her death. When humanity heard this she became almost frantic, and it seemed as if the soul must leave the body, for she could not utter a word.

When this terrible picture was removed, this holy soul uttered words of such ardent and inflamed love, that all present trembled at them; and although they were not understood by them, yet they were filled with wonder at beholding such an effect. While the revelation was taking place, the soul remained as lifeless as the body, having no sensibility to anything spiritual, being like one dead. She could not speak of this spiritual sight, neither give any idea of it, but her gestures and motions appeared so wonderful as to strike with awe and astonishment every beholder.

Her confessor was filled with dread at these things, considering the strict account to be rendered to God at the hour of death, when nothing is excused. What he beheld, remained impressed on his mind, and preyed upon it for many days.

When the spirit was occupied intently with divine Love, and heeded not whether humanity lived or died, so long as the soul could remain with God, humanity expostulated, saying: “You cannot continue in this way, and live. God does not design that I should yet die; and, certainly, you would do nothing but by the divine will. As I must live, whether you will or not, you must quit this burning flame, and condescend to bear with me, so long as it may please God; although I am sure that at any rate you will make me suffer enough; for every day you are gaining power, and becoming more intent on accomplishing your purpose, and in the end you will surely conquer.”

When the spirit found itself obliged to yield somewhat to humanity, if it had not been restrained by a divine power, it would have reduced that body to dust, to obtain the liberty to be entirely occupied with itself; and the body, on its side, would rather have endured a thousand deaths than suffer so much from the oppression of the spirit; and in its distress it would often exclaim: “Oh, wretched that I am! to be engaged in so frightful a conflict;” then, addressing the spirit it would say: “I know that you cannot endure me, because I hold you bound on earth, in exile, and deprived of the fruition of the unbounded love of God; but I cannot sustain this fire of the love of God, rather would I endure any other torture than one day in its burning flames.”

The spirit gradually consumed the human part, and reduced it to such exterior and interior weakness that it could no longer complain or make any of its former demonstrations. And the blessed one could sometimes only utter such words as these: Love of God, Sweetness of God, Purity of God. At another time she would be continually repeating: Charity, union, and peace; and sometimes only one word: God, God. At last she said nothing, for all her powers were confined within. On one occasion her heart was kindled by so burning a flame of love, that she could not endure it, and turning to a picture of the Samaritan woman at the well, she cried out: “O Lord, I pray thee, give me a drop of that water which thou givest to the Samaritan,” and instantly a drop of that divine water was given to her, which refreshed her more than human tongue can describe.

Sometimes the conflict between humanity and the spirit was so great that the soul found herself, as it were, suspended in the air, drawn up by her intense desire to reach heaven, and yet attached to earth by her human and inferior part. At length the superior part so far conquered the inferior, that the latter became more and more detached from earth, and although at first this seemed strange to humanity, and she was discontented, yet she soon began to lose all attraction for earth, and to enjoy these things which the spiritual part enjoyed, till at length the attraction of the spirit so far prevailed, that the two became reconciled and were satisfied with the same food, although the human part did not entirely forget the earth; but she was ever receiving such tidings from heaven that she became constantly more firm, more persevering, more joyful and satisfied, so as by degrees to attain repose. This drawing of the spiritual part towards heaven was a means of purification, and the higher she ascended, the more she became detached from all things natural, awaiting the moment when she would leave the body at death, as the moment when she would leave purgatory for heaven; for God in his grace makes the body of some persons their purgatory.

This holy soul continually suffered more and more from the favors of divine love; sometimes for five or six days she could hardly breathe, so great was the vehemence of this inward fire; and every attack was more violent than the last, obliging her to conceal herself from all creatures, to avoid their observation and wonder at her extraordinary condition. Her body trembled like a leaf during these attacks, although her soul was in perfect peace; sometimes even blood would flow from her nose, and she was so reduced that, for several days, her strength would not return, and it was only restored to prepare her for a fresh attack.

Chapter 39

How the spirit deprived her of her confessor, who concealed himself where he could witness her peace of mind in the midst of these tortures. – She had visions of angels. – Of the experiments tried by various physicians. – Of one who had come from England. – Of further divine operations.

On the 10th of January, 1510, during one of these attacks, all need of her confessor vanished from her mind, and she had no more desire to see him, either for the support and consolation of her body or her soul. She kept this thought secret for many hours, but expressed the contrary. This thought came from the spirit, who wished to deal with humanity without any intervention, and believed that the confessor, who thought she must do and say all she wished to do and say, might influence her too much, knowing, as she did, that all was by the ordinance of God.

When the confessor was removed, humanity was left desolate upon the earth, and could hardly endure herself, consuming away and yet living, because it was not God’s time for her to die. The confessor at one time concealed himself to watch the operations of God in this soul. She locked herself into her chamber, alone; and, in her agony poured out her lamentations to her Lord, exclaiming: “O Lord! what dost thou wish me to do in this world? All my interior and exterior senses are lost. I find nothing in myself like other creatures, but I am like one dead; no creature understands me. I am alone, unknown, poor, naked, strange, and opposed to all the world; neither do I know what the world is, and therefore I can no longer dwell with creatures on the earth.” She uttered these and many such expressions so piteously, that they would have melted the stones with compassion. The confessor, who was concealed and heard them all, was so moved that he was obliged to discover himself, and drawing near, spoke to her (for God had given him the grace), in such a manner that she remained consoled in body and mind for many days.

The sufferings of this blessed soul increased in violence, and her attacks became more frequent, and were sometimes too agonizing for human eyes to behold. She seemed writhing in flames of fire, and could not be kept upon her bed. Sometimes these tortures would continue for a day and night, without ceasing, and it seemed as if every moment must be her last. She lost sight and speech, but by signs asked that extreme unction might be given her, for she believed herself dying; but she lived to endure great sufferings, for through all that she had hitherto endured, she had remained in communication with God, and experienced great peace and interior joy in the midst of them; but now it was ordered that for a season she should be deprived of this divine communication, and should be left naked and desolate, with nothing to hold her to life but the conviction that this was the will of God concerning her. She would sometimes exclaim in her desolation: “It is now nearly thirty-five years, O my Lord, since I have asked anything of thee for myself; but now, most earnestly do I implore thee not to separate thyself from me. Thou well knowest, O Lord, that I could not endure it.”

She said this because, from the time she was first called by God, her mind had always been in union with him, and at peace, and hence the separation appeared dreadful to her; her soul became more resigned, but humanity more tortured, at every fresh attack. When she was able to speak, her words appeared flames of divine love, and so penetrated the hearts of those who heard them, that they were deeply moved, and filled with astonishment.

On one occasion she had four excruciating attacks in one night. So great was the distress of her nerves, that from her head to her feet there was not a spot free from suffering; she cried aloud in her agony, and those around her implored God to have mercy on her, but she could find no relief, and yet she said, during a pause: “Tongue cannot tell, nor imagination conceive the peace of mind that I enjoy, but as to the human part, all the sufferings that man could inflict are nothing to the pains I endure; and in these operations the spirit and humanity are both watching to observe the doings of God. It is not the spirit, but humanity that cries out in agony.”

In the intervals of this suffering, her body appeared in health, and free from any feverish affection. She laughed and spoke like a person in health, and told others that they must not be troubled on her account, for she was happy, but that they must strive to do right, for the ways of God were very strait.

She had at this time many visions of angels, and sometimes she was seen laughing with them. She smiled without speaking, and, as has been related, she beheld the joy of the angels, who consoled her and showed her the preparation for her future triumph. She also beheld the devils, but with little fear, for she was secure in her perfect union with God, which drives out all fear.

About four months before her death, after all the attempts of numerous physicians for her relief, another, more extraordinary, was made. Several medical men were summoned, who examined this suffering creature, investigated all the symptoms of her malady, and afterward came to the conclusion that it was supernatural, and no remedy of medical science could reach it. This she had often said herself, and refused to take the medicines prescribed her. But when the physicians persevered in their prescriptions, she took them in spirit of obedience, although with great pain and injury to herself, until the physicians themselves came to the above mentioned conclusion.

But there arrived from England a Genoese named Boerio, who had been for many years physician to the king of that country. He was surprised, when he heard of the fame of this holy lady, that she should speak of her infirmity as not natural and requiring no medical remedy. Hardly believing this report to be true, he obtained permission to visit her, and reproved her for the scandal she caused by rejecting medical aid, even accusing her of hypocrisy. To all this she humbly answered: “It grieves me much to be the cause of scandal to any one, and if any remedy can be found for my disease, I am ready to make use of it.” The physician, availing himself of her consent and obedience, applied various remedies, but at the end of twenty days, finding herself no better, she told him that she had submitted to his treatment in order to remove all scandal from his eyes, and from the eyes of others, but now he must leave the care of her soul to herself. For it was thus that the Holy Spirit (who worked and spoke through her) wished to confound the too great confidence of physicians in their science. After this Boerio held her in great reverence, calling her mother, and often visited her.

Chapter 40

Of the many visions which the saint beheld in her last days. – Of her acute sufferings. – How she could taste nothing but the blessed sacrament, and suffered in herself the pains of the passion of our Lord.

During the last days of her life, her acute sufferings still continuing, this blessed soul received impressions in accordance with the divine operations in the saint whose day was celebrated.

On the evening of Saint Lawrence’s day her body appeared to her in flames like his, and on the following day God visited her by drawing her upwards, towards himself. She remained immovable for more than an hour, with her eyes fixed on the ceiling of her chamber. She did not speak, but often smiled in sign of her interior joy. On returning to herself she told those around, who questioned her, that the Lord had showed her one spark of the joys of eternal life, and that her joy was so great that she could not restrain her smiles, and repeated only these words: “Lord, do with me all that seemeth good to thee,” which showed that the time was approaching when she was to pass from the fires of purgatory into that blessed life. Her sufferings were constantly increasing, followed by the sweetest consolation, until the vigil of the Assumption, when they became so great that all those around her believed her passing away to her Lord. When she was about receiving communion, she addressed many beautiful words to the holy sacrament, and to the persons present: words of burning love from the interior fire of her heart, so fervent and pious that every one wept with devotion.

The following day and the succeeding night she passed in torture, and received extreme unction at her own request, with great elevation. The next day she was in a state of such spiritual joy, that it burst forth in her countenance, which was radiant with smiles, to the admiration of those who beheld it. When the vision had passed, she answered to their inquiries that she had seen some most beautiful countenances, beaming with joy, so that she could not contain her delight; but the impression remained with her for seven days, so that she appeared better. The cause was manifestly supernatural, the change from death to life taking place so suddenly, and then again her return continually to a worse condition, as she was drawing nearer to her end.

An attack so severe followed this vision that she lost the use of her left hand and side, and a finger of the other hand. She lay speechless for several hours, with her eyes closed, and could not swallow, though the persons about her attempted to give her nourishment; but the divine work going on within her was to be accomplished without human aid.

Her thirst was always so great that it seemed to her she could drink all the water of the sea, and yet she could not swallow the smallest drop, or take refreshment from any created thing. She would sometimes attempt to taste of fruit, but as soon as it touched her lips she rejected it.

On the night of the vigil of Saint Bartholomew, she had a demoniacal vision, which threw her into great distress of body and mind. Being unable to speak, she motioned to have the sign of the cross made on her heart, and blessed herself; and by this it was understood that she was suffering from a temptation of the devil. She made a sign that a surplice, stole, and holy water should be brought her; this being done, in half an hour she was relieved. Oh! how wretched are those sinners who are carelessly awaiting this terrible presence, and a torment as terrible, it being so dreadful where there is no sin!

About the 25th of August, some liquid was offered her, which she took in obedience, but it caused her to scream from the distress it gave her. She afterwards fell into a state of great weakness, and asked to have the windows opened that she might see the sky. As night came on, she had a great many candles lighted, and then, as well as she could, she sang the Veni Creator Spiritus. When it was finished, she lay with her eyes upturned towards heaven, making signs, which led those about her to believe that she saw wonderful things.

Her countenance was radiant with joy, and she seemed just about to breathe her last; but recovering herself, she repeated again and again: “Let us go;” adding, “no more earth, no more earth.” When questioned as to what she had seen, she answered that she could not describe those things, but they were very pleasant.

On the 27th of the same month, she seemed as if left without any life of her own, and resting with her spirit alone in God. She dismissed every one from her apartment, saying: “Let no one enter this room except those who are absolutely needed.” She held no more conversation with creatures, except so far as necessity required, and when she had need of any service, she said only, “Do this in charity.” This was contrary to her usual habit, for she was accustomed to speak always with entire confidence and frankness to every one; and always expressed great gratitude for any service done her. But at this time she could not look upon any service as done to herself, but only for the love of God. This state she continued in for two days.

On the 28th of August, the feast of Saint Augustine, her sufferings were very great, and for some months before her death, she appeared to suffer much more on feast days, especially on those of our Lady, and of the apostles and martyrs. Often she cried aloud in her agony; but her silent sufferings were the greatest, when her tongue and lips were so parched with the burning fire within that she could not move them or speak. At such times if any one touched a hair of her head, or even the edge of the bed or the bed clothes, she would scream as if she had been wounded.

When she was unable to swallow the smallest morsel of food, or a drop of liquid, she could always receive holy communion; and sometimes when her confessor found her in such a state that he feared to give it to her, she would make a sign, with a joyful countenance, that she was not afraid, and often, on receiving her face was glowing and radiant with joy, like a seraph.

Sometimes she extended her arms as if stretched on the cross, and it seemed as if the stigmata were interiorly impressed on her, although they did not appear outwardly. On one occasion fresh water was brought her to cool her hands, and after bathing the palms, it became boiling hot, so as to heat even the stand of the cup, which had a very long stem. She also suffered greatly at this time in her feet.

As the burning fire within increased, her thoughts and imagination were filled with different sins, which she had never before thought of these, however, did not cause her any compunction but the remembrance of them gave her great pain. Her attendants, seeing her extreme weakness, and that she had not taken food for so long a time, on the 10th of the month of September assembled ten physicians, in order to ascertain if medical science could invent any remedy for her sufferings. After the most careful investigation of her case, they decided that her condition was produced wholly by supernatural causes, and was beyond the reach of medical skill, for all her bodily organs were in good order and showed no sign of infirmity; and they took their leave, lost in wonder and recommending themselves to her prayers.

On the 12th, she again received holy communion, but took no food; she also made a will naming the place in which she wished to be buried; then she lay alternately like one dead, motionless and speechless, or groaning with the internal flames that were consuming her and which raged so fiercely that black blood flowed from her mouth. Her body was covered with black stripes. After these attacks she became more and more exhausted, and on one occasion, having her eyes raised to the ceiling and fixed, she made so many signs to those around that they inquired of her what she saw, and she answered, “Drive away that beast;” but they could understand nothing more.

Chapter 41

In what manner, and at what time, she passed from this life to the Lord. – Many persons saw that blessed soul, under different forms, and in different ways, unite itself with God. – What happened to her confessor when he was celebrating the Mass of the Martyrs.

At length, on the 14th of September she had so violent a bleeding that her body seemed deprived of every drop of moisture. All the blood remaining within had been dried up by the fire that was consuming her. Her pulse was hardly perceptible, but her mind was clear. During the night she talked freely, and received communion as usual, continuing in the same state until seven o’clock on the following evening.

On Saturday night, as the morning of Sunday was approaching, she was asked if she wished to receive communion, to which she answered, “Not yet,” when she found that it was not the usual hour. Then, raising the finger of her right hand to heaven, she wished, it would seem, to show that she was going to make her communion in heaven, there to unite herself wholly with her Love, and triumph with him forever; and, as hitherto she had been separated from all earthly things, seeing that her hour had now come, she knew that she should need no more communions on earth; and at that moment this blessed soul peacefully and gently expired, saying, “Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit,” and took flight to her sweet and long-desired Love.

After her death that yellow tint which before was only seen about the region of the heart, diffused itself over her whole body, which signified that the divine fire had gradually consumed her whole humanity, which was preserved alive in the flesh until every, even the last particle was consumed; and then, free from every pain, she went forth from this purgatory, beatified, to take her place, as we must believe, in the choir of the Seraphim. For so purified was she by the divine fire in this life, it would seem that the Lord must have exalted her to such a glorious elevation.

This, her most happy transit, took place in the year 1510, on Saturday night, December 14th, as the hour of Sunday was approaching when she usually received communion. Among the persons present was one of her spiritual daughters, who saw the soul depart swiftly, and fly to God, without hindrance; and this sight gave her great consolation, and so much light, that she addressed those about her in words of burning love, exclaiming: “Oh! how narrow is the way by which we must pass, to arrive, without hindrance, at our home.”

Another spiritual daughter of the saint, who, by divine permission, was tormented by an evil spirit, suffered dreadfully at that hour, and the spirit being forced to declare the cause, said that he had seen that soul unite herself with God.

Her faithful physician was asleep, and awoke as she departed, hearing a voice saying to him, “Rest in God, for I am now going to Paradise.” At these words he called his wife, and told her that the Lady Catherine had died just at that moment, and it was found to be so.

Another person, who was praying, saw at the same hour Catherine ascending to heaven on a white cloud, and being very spiritual and devout, he experienced such joy and consolation at the sight, that he was like one beside himself, and although at a distance, he was as certain of her death and glory as if he had been present.

A holy, religious lady also saw her in her sleep, clothed in white, with a girdle about her waist. She told her companion that she had seen the soul of the blessed Catherine going to heaven, and in the morning, to her great joy, she found that it was so.

Another religious was at that hour rapt in spirit, and saw Catherine so beautiful, joyful, and content, that she believed herself in Paradise. She called her by her name, and told her many things which prepared her to suffer for the love of God, and determined her to change her life, which she did; and she was after heard to speak of the comfort she received from the memory of that vision.

It would be a long history to relate all the other persons who had the same vision, in various places, and under various circumstances. Her confessor had no notice of her death, on that night, nor the following: but the next day but one, happening to celebrate the mass for many martyrs, and not thinking, at the time, of that blessed soul, he had such a clear vision of her martyrdom, that he knew every word he uttered was appropriate to her sufferings; and his heart was so wounded with compassion and devotion, that he burst into tears, and was hardly able to continue the mass; but in the midst of his weeping he experienced great interior joy and satisfaction at the divine disposal and her repose.

All present at that mass – and they were friends of the blessed Catherine – could not restrain their weeping, so that the confessor himself was overwhelmed with astonishment, and could, with difficulty, finish the service. After it was concluded, he retired, and indulged his tears to relieve the oppression of his heart. So clearly was the great suffering of that chosen soul revealed to his mind, that all he had seen of it with his bodily eyes and known by long experience, seemed as nothing to the reality, and if God had not helped him, he would have died of grief.

Chapter 42

Of her burial, and how the body was preserved in the midst of great moisture and putrefaction. – How many prayers were granted by her intercession, and a person restored to health. – Of the order she gave to have her heart opened, which was not done.

The body of this saint was interred in the principal hospital of the city of Genoa, in which, for many years, she had served the sick. It was first put in a beautiful wooden case, near the wall under which it was not noticed that an aqueduct passed. It remained there nearly a year, and when it was disinterred, the tow laid around the body was filled and covered with large worms that had been generated by the moisture produced by the water; but not one had touched the holy body, which was entire from head to foot, and the flesh dried rather than consumed.

Crowds of people flocked to see this wonderful sight, so that it was found necessary to expose it for eight days. But as some depredations had been committed on it, it was enclosed in a chapel where it might be seen and not touched. It caused great surprise when the cloths that wrapped it, and even the wood of the coffin, were seen to be destroyed and spoiled, and the body uncorrupted and without a stain.

Many were graciously heard who recommended themselves to her, and among others a friend of hers, who was sick, obtained the favor of restoration to health. Her infirmity confined her to her bed, but having had a vision of the happy state of the blessed soul, she directed that she should be carried into the church and placed near the body. On applying the cloths that were about it to the place where her pains were most severe, and commending herself to the saint, she was instantly cured, and returned to her house alone, without any assistance. For this great favor received, she caused a mass of our Lady to be offered at each anniversary, and another on the Festival of the Assumption, and left provision at her death that these masses should be perpetual.

At present the blessed Catherine is held in great devotion, in consideration of her holy life, illuminated with such peculiar graces. She directed, some months before her death, that her body should be opened and the heart examined, to see if it were not wholly consumed by love, yet her friends did not venture to do it.

That holy body was placed in a marble sepulcher, erected in the church of the hospital; but it was afterwards removed to a less conspicuous tomb, on account of the inconvenience caused by the number of persons coming to visit it.

It remains for us to pray our most merciful Lord, that by the intercession of this blessed soul, he may bestow on us the abundance of his love, that we may all advance from virtue to virtue, and at length be united in eternal bliss with Him who liveth and reigneth eternally.