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Life and Doctrine of Saint Catherine of Genoa
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CHAPTER XXXVIII

How the sufferings she was to endure were revealed to her in spirit; and how dreadful they were to her humanity.—Seeing an image of the woman of Samaria, she asked of God that water.—Of a difference that arose between the spirit and humanity, and of other wonderful things.

Many graces were bestowed on this soul chosen of God, and many divine works were accomplished in her, during the year before she passed from this life to the Lord. And as things which take place suddenly cause greater terror, God revealed to her, at a glance, the order of his operations, and that she must die in great suffering, and made manifest to her this suffering, even her death. When humanity heard this she became almost frantic, and it seemed as if the soul must leave the body, for she could not utter a word.

When this terrible picture was removed, this holy soul uttered words of such ardent and inflamed love, that all present trembled at them; and although they were not understood by them, yet they were filled with wonder at beholding such an effect. While the revelation was taking place, the soul remained as lifeless as the body, having no sensibility to anything spiritual, being like one dead. She could not speak of this spiritual sight, neither give any idea of it, but her gestures and motions appeared so wonderful as to strike with awe and astonishment every beholder.

Her confessor was filled with dread at these things, considering the strict account to be rendered to God at the hour of death, when nothing is excused. What he beheld, remained impressed on his mind, and preyed upon it for many days.

When the spirit was occupied intently with divine Love, and heeded not whether humanity lived or died, so long as the soul could remain with God, humanity expostulated, saying: “You cannot continue in this way, and live. God does not design that I should yet die; and, certainly, you would do nothing but by the divine will. As I must live, whether you will or not, you must quit this burning flame, and condescend to bear with me, so long as it may please God; although I am sure that at any rate you will make me suffer enough; for every day you are gaining power, and becoming more intent on accomplishing your purpose, and in the end you will surely conquer.”

When the spirit found itself obliged to yield somewhat to humanity, if it had not been restrained by a divine power, it would have reduced that body to dust, to obtain the liberty to be entirely occupied with itself; and the body, on its side, would rather have endured a thousand deaths than suffer so much from the oppression of the spirit; and in its distress it would often exclaim: “Oh, wretched that I am! to be engaged in so frightful a conflict;” then, addressing the spirit it would say: “I know that you cannot endure me, because I hold you bound on earth, in exile, and deprived of the fruition of the unbounded love of God; but I cannot sustain this fire of the love of God, rather would I endure any other torture than one day in its burning flames.”

The spirit gradually consumed the human part, and reduced it to such exterior and interior weakness that it could no longer complain or make any of its former demonstrations. And the blessed one could sometimes only utter such words as these: Love of God, Sweetness of God, Purity of God. At another time she would be continually repeating: Charity, union, and peace; and sometimes only one word: God, God. At last she said nothing, for all her powers were confined within. On one occasion her heart was kindled by so burning a flame of love, that she could not endure it, and turning to a picture of the Samaritan woman at the well, she cried out: “O Lord, I pray thee, give me a drop of that water which thou givest to the Samaritan,” and instantly a drop of that divine water was given to her, which refreshed her more than human tongue can describe.

Sometimes the conflict between humanity and the spirit was so great that the soul found herself, as it were, suspended in the air, drawn up by her intense desire to reach heaven, and yet attached to earth by her human and inferior part. At length the superior part so far conquered the inferior, that the latter became more and more detached from earth, and although at first this seemed strange to humanity, and she was discontented, yet she soon began to lose all attraction for earth, and to enjoy these things which the spiritual part enjoyed, till at length the attraction of the spirit so far prevailed, that the two became reconciled and were satisfied with the same food, although the human part did not entirely forget the earth; but she was ever receiving such tidings from heaven that she became constantly more firm, more persevering, more joyful and satisfied, so as by degrees to attain repose. This drawing of the spiritual part towards heaven was a means of purification, and the higher she ascended, the more she became detached from all things natural, awaiting the moment when she would leave the body at death, as the moment when she would leave purgatory for heaven; for God in his grace makes the body of some persons their purgatory.

This holy soul continually suffered more and more from the favors of divine love; sometimes for five or six days she could hardly breathe, so great was the vehemence of this inward fire; and every attack was more violent than the last, obliging her to conceal herself from all creatures, to avoid their observation and wonder at her extraordinary condition. Her body trembled like a leaf during these attacks, although her soul was in perfect peace; sometimes even blood would flow from her nose, and she was so reduced that, for several days, her strength would not return, and it was only restored to prepare her for a fresh attack.

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