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Life and Doctrine of Saint Catherine of Genoa
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CHAPTER XIX

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.”

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