Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part I, Chapter XII
How God once more manifested to the Soul the love with which he had suffered for her. - She sees the malice of man and the pure love of God. - Of the offering, which she makes of herself to God, and of the wound she receives. - Of the five fountains of Jesus. - Of his constant and jealous watchfulness.
Another sight was shown her, greater than the first, so much greater that no tongue could describe, nor intellect imagine it, and it was this: God showed her the love with which he had suffered for love of her. When the Soul saw this most pure and strong love wherewith God loved her, she was pierced with a wound so deep, so keen, that it made her despise every other love and everything that could interpose between herself and God, except it were God himself. In the light of this love she saw the malignity of man the the benignity of the pure love of God. These two visions never again faded away from her memory, and the one revealed to her the other; for, beholding the infinite mercy of God performing such works of pure love towards man, the Soul would have fainted from excess of delight if any more had been manifested to her. Such a vision, moreover, made clear to her the malice of man, seeing that great love of God continually employed in her behalf, almost, as it were, in spite of herself; for God, looking not at the sins that she committed, never ceased in his mercy to do her good in many ways, being moved by none of her offences but rather with pure love repairing them, always watchful for her benefit. Hereupon the Soul, turning towards herself, saw how sinful she had been in acting in opposition to the great goodness of God. And then she began to see the nature of man, with all his malice, as bad almost as God is good. But at this sight she fell into despair of herself, for man seemed to her the demon, with all his malignity; and if God had not in part veiled the sight, both Soul and Body would have fainted with fear. Hence as at the former vision of the divine love towards man she despaired within herself, as believing it to be irremediable, and wishing to lose no more time in seeking for a remedy, she turned, as her sole confidence, to God, her Love, and said to him:
Soul. Lord! I give myself to thee. I know not what I am fitted for but to make a hell by myself alone. O Lord! I desire to make this compact with thee: I will give this sinful being of mine into thy hands, for thou alone canst hide it in thy mercy, and so dispose of me that nothing of myself can any more be seen. Occupy me wholly with thy love, which will enlighten in me every other love and keep me wholly lost in thee, holding me so engrossed by thee that I shall find neither time nor place for self.
Her most sweet Lord made answer that he was content, and from that moment all thought and memory of self was lost, so that it never more disturbed her peace. On the other hand, a ray of love so burning and penetrating was infused into her heart and wounded her so deeply that in an instant it bereft her of every attachment, appetite, delectation, and natural quality that ever did or ever could belong to her. She was shorn of everything, though not without her own consent, by virtue of her correspondence with the love revealed to her, and by this she was so powerfully drawn that it astonished, absorbed, and transformed her. She sighed and lamented far more than when she beheld what a sinful creature she was.
This ray of love passed into her soul with the impression of the five wounds of Christ, as five fountains from which were flowing forth drops of blood and burning love for man. God gave her also the power to discern readily the nature of man; and she beheld alternately the one sight and then the other, so far as she could look upon them then the other, so far as she could look upon them and live. The sight of herself caused her no suffering, for her merciful God had relieved her of all sorrow on that account, and yet she saw herself plainly, and in what manner she was upheld by God. If ever God had left her to herself, she comprehended that she would have been ready to fall into all manner of wrong doing, for she saw herself as perverse as the evil spirit himself; but, finding herself in the hands of God, it was not possible in such good hands to feel any fear.
But the sight that tortured and consumed her was of that burning, divine love towards man; she said that no human tongue could describe how inflamed she was with that glowing fire. The love that God manifested to her made her instinctively reject whatever was displeasing to him, with a jealous watchfulness against the least defect; and her eyes were opened not to her sins only, but to her slightest imperfections and unnecessary practices. She heeded not the world, the flesh, nor the devil. All the devils who opposed her were not so strong as this soul in her union with God, who is the true strength of those who fear, love, and serve him; and so much the more because she did not perceive how she could be injured by self, it being in the hands of God and upheld by his goodness.