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Life and Doctrine of Saint Catherine of Genoa
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CHAPTER XX

Humanity having tried both exterior suffering and interior distress, the Spirit allows her to choose between them.

When the Spirit had given Humanity a trial of all the misery above described, and made her to understand all that was to be done, he thus addressed her.

Spirit. Now that you have seen for yourself what before you had only heard of, what will you do? You have tried both ways, and one of these you must pursue. You may choose for yourself, however, but with the condition, that I will make you live with creatures in a state of great subjection, as long as it shall please me; in subjection so great that you will have no place in the world where you can turn for the least repose, and I shall look to it that this shall soon begin.

Humanity. I have seen and tried the two extremes, and however great and terrible are the miseries I have witnessed, heard of, and endured, yet I would choose rather to live in the midst of them than in the piercing light of that divine ray. I fear both exterior suffering and that interior divine light which terrifies me still more; and hence I am in great perplexity.

Spirit. If you choose one of these you will not have the other; but still I warn you that you will lose everything superfluous, in order that I may live, so far as possible, pure and disengaged, as I was created; to accomplish this, I shall disregard whatever opposes me.

Humanity. Since you are so determined, all further talk would be a loss of time. I submit to all you require, and give myself up into your hands, as one dead yet still alive. Would that I were dead.

The Spirit, wishing to annihilate Humanity yet further, and finding that to approach the filth and vermin of the poor, and to touch them, overcame her with disgust, said to her: “Take some of this vermin, put it in your mouth, and eat it, if you wish to free yourself from this loathing.”

When Humanity heard this, she was aghast for a moment; but she resolved at once to obey, and so doing was hence forward free.

These things were so contrary to Humanity, that no effort of nature could make them endurable; yet when she had forced herself to comply, her contentment was so great that it gave her courage for the future, and she was able to endure the outcries and complaints of impatient persons, and practice every kind of self-denial.

Thus the Spirit exercised her for about three years, all the while occupying her interior in such a manner that she performed all these acts without any interior consciousness of them, and she was made to persevere until she ceased to care for them.

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