Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part I, Chapter XI
How the Soul turns to God and perceives her own sinfulness, and also what she would have become had she continued her former course. - Almost in despair she bewails her offences. - Of the confidence with which our Lord inspires her, appearing to her spirit; and of the wound she receives.
The Soul then turned towards God, and in that clear light spoke thus:
Soul. O Master! what has moved thee to give such light to this Soul, so blind and so corrupt, thy enemy, who goes astray from thee, ever feeding upon sensual things, and who is so unwilling to be lifted out of that condition, that she always shuns whatever would elevate her? I am stupefied when I consider myself - a creature so entirely vile!
And while in this condition it was given her to see where she was, whither she was going, what would have been her end, and what she would have carried with her to that end had she persevered in her course. She saw at a glance all these things as they were, and as they would have been if God had not interposed. At which sight she was beside herself with fear and agitation, and could do nothing but weep, and sigh, and inwardly lament, thus bewailing her sad condition:
Soul. Oh, wretched and most miserable! had I continued in this course, how many trials and sorrows should I have brought upon myself in this world; and in the next have found myself the enemy of God, and condemned eternally to hell!
For a time this vision remained with her, and caused her such interior suffering that she could neither think of other things nor perform any cheerful action, but remained in a settled melancholy, and knew not what to do with herself, for she could find no rest; neither in heaven, which had no place for such as she, nor on earth, for she merited that it should swallow her up; nor did she feel that she had a right to appear among men, or to take heed of aught that concerned her comfort or discomfort. She saw that she alone had done all the evil, and earnestly desired that alone, and without help from any other creature, she might make satisfaction to the extent of her power; and for this reason she said:
Soul. I see that hell is my place, but I cannot reach it except through death. Alas! my God! what will become of me? I know not where to hide myself: I wander on, lamenting, and find no place of rest, for I am so stained with sin that I cannot appear where thou art, and yet I find thee everywhere. In this condition I am insupportable to myself. What, then, shall I do with this foul and tattered garment in which I find myself clothed? Tears are useless, sighs do not help me, contrition is not accepted, penances are fruitless; for nothing will satisfy for my sins if God will not be merciful and come to my assistance.
Thus the Soul remained almost in despair, powerless to make satisfaction, unable to have recourse to the mercy of God (for she found in herself nothing which could give her confidence, yet was not able wholly to despair), tormented within herself at the sight of the heavy burden which she carried, in agony of spirit at the evil she had done; she grieved interiorly, yet was unable to shed a tear, only heaving secret sighs which wellnigh consumed her life. She could neither speak, eat, sleep, smile, nor look up to heaven. She had neither spiritual nor natural feeling; nor did she know where she was, whether in heaven or on earth, but was like one stunned and senseless; gladly would she have hidden herself that she might not be found, nor be obliged to enter into the company of others.
So abstracted was she, and lost in this vision of the offended God, that she no longer seemed a rational creature, but like a frightened animal. And this happened because it was given her to see the greatness of her sins and the ruin that they caused - a sight which, had she beheld it longer, would have consumed her body had it been adamant.
But when God had left her to contemplate it until the impression could never be forgotten, he came to her assistance as we shall here relate.
One day in her dwelling our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to her interior vision, bleeding from head to foot, so that the blood seemed pouring in a stream from his body as he passed; and in secret she heard these words: "Seest thou this blood? it is shed for love of thee, and in satisfaction for they sins." At these words she was pierced with a deep wound of love for him, our Lord Jesus Christ, and at the same time her confidence returned and banished her despair, so that she began to rejoice a little in our Lord.