Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part I, Chapter III
How Self-Love blames both the Soul and the Body, and wishes to rule them himself. - The Soul complains, and the Body, adhering to Self-Love, demands what its needs require.
Self-Love. I see your motives, which seem to me very reasonable when you do not go beyond the bounds of charity which God prescribed when he said: "Love thy neighbor as thyself." But, in the first place, the Soul has made no account of us, so that we have been actually in peril of our lives; and, on the other hand, I have seen the Body making too great a display to the Soul, of things that are unnecessary to both. In short, O Soul, you must restrain your impulses, and condescend to the necessities of your neighbors, your Body, and myself, if we undertake to live with you in that country of yours I have found nothing for myself; it is, in good truth, the very last of all places in which I should choose to take up my abode. As for you, O Body, it is enough for you to have the necessaries of life, since superfluities are as injurious to you as they would be to the Soul, were she to yield to you. But if you give them up, each of you will be able to live moderately, and according to his taste; I shall find it possible to remain with you, and being thus united, each will enjoy, with discretion, the advantages belonging to the others. If you wish, O Soul, to avail yourself of the Body, you must give it the requisite support, or it will complain; if you nourish it, it will be quiet, and you can use it as you please. In that case, both of you will be at peace, and I shall be obliged to go away, for I could not live with you. This is my opinion.
Soul. I am greatly displeased and dissatisfied to be obliged to condescend, in so many things, to the Body; and I fear that feeding it, under this plea of necessity, will lead to my taking part in its gratifications, and thus finally losing the greater for the less. Seeing both of you so craving, makes me fear that you will give me so much to do, that you will change me from spiritual into earthly; for, after tasting earthly things, I shall lose my relish for heavenly ones. I fear, too, lest the intellect should be defiled and the will corrupted. Help me, O my God!
Body. It seems to me that Self-Love has settled the question, and we may go on joyfully in company. As far as you are concerned, O Soul, do not forget that God would not have created the things that he has created, if they were injurious to souls. The Soul was endowed with so much power and dignity, that she cannot be held back without her own consent, for her will is so much respected by God that He never forces it. Neither I nor others, therefore, can take anything from you but by your own consent. You hold the reins; give to each what he needs, and then let him complain who will.
The Soul. What are these necessities of which you speak as indispensable? Tell me, that I may, once for all, provide for them, and never think of them again; the mere idea of them greatly disturbs me.
Body. I must have clothes, food, drink, and sleep; and be served, and amused, if you wish me to be in a condition to serve you when occasion requires; when you desire to occupy yourself with spiritual things, you must not weary me, for if I am taxed too much I shall not be able to attend to your affairs. But if you will look after my necessities, you can entertain your mind with the thought that God, who has made so many delightful things for this mortal body, has provided much greater goods for you, O immortal Soul! Thus God will ever be praised, and each of us be satisfied in his own way. If any difference occurs between us, our Self-Love, who is so wise, will adjust it, and we shall all be able to live together in most holy peace.
Soul. Come, then; I will provide for your necessities, since I cannot do otherwise; but I suspect that you have joined against me. Yet your words appear so reasonable that I am obliged to submit although I distrust you when I hear you so often refer to me, and say that you can do nothing without me. Perhaps, by the help of God, I shall one day escape your hands, and live in his service without you.