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Life and Doctrine of Saint Catherine of Genoa
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CHAPTER XXXII

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.

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