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Life and Doctrine of Saint Catherine of Genoa
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CHAPTER XII

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?’”

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