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Life and Doctrine of Saint Catherine of Genoa
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CHAPTER XXXI

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.’”

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