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Life and Doctrine of Saint Catherine of Genoa
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CHAPTER VII

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.

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