Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part I, Chapter XIII
Of the instinct which led her to cast off every superfluous thing, and even that appear necessary. - Of her instinct for prayer and her mortification.
An instinct was given her to despise herself, and to hold everything under heaven in no more esteem than if for her it did not exist. This love gave her the further instinct to deny the body not only all superfluous food but also many things that appeared needful, and the same with regard to clothing, and all society, whether good or bad. She was led into solitude of mind and body, and was reduced to herself alone. An instinct for prayer was also given her, so that she would have remained for hours together, on her bare knees, to the great discomfort of Humanity, which, although it resented and disapproved of this, did not refuse to serve the Soul, and to follow wherever she led.
All these instincts were called into action by God alone, for the Soul had no wish or aim but God, who had taken the direction, and wished to regulate all her desires and inclinations, and free her from all those that were human and worldly by giving her contrary ones. She was deprived of the use of fruits for which she had a natural inclination and an especial fondness. She ate no flesh nor anything superfluous, and when she needed food, that which she might eat appeared to be always at hand. That she might lose all relish of what she ate she was taught to carry always about her some dust of aloes, and when she found herself taking pleasure in any food or preferring one kind to another she secretly sprinkled it with a little of the bitter power before eating it. Her eyes were always cast down; she never laughed, and recognized no one who passed her, for she was so occupied with what was taking place within that her sense of exterior things was, as it were, dead.
She seemed ever discontented, yet was ever most content. She tried to rob herself of sleep by placing rough objects in her bed, but God would not permit this, for however she resisted it, sleep overcame her against her will. When Humanity saw all this spiritual ardor, and that itself was no more esteemed than if it were not, and that there was no help for it, it was greatly dissatisfied, yet, like a thief in prison who dares not utter a word in his own behalf because he knows the crime he has committed, it feared to make the matter worse, knowing that Christ, the Judge, was in anger against it. One hope it could have (and but one was possible), as when it is raining there is hope that bad weather will soon be over, and with this poor hope it waited in patience; but the Spirit in its vehemence restrained Humanity by so many bonds that it could find no relief but in sleep, and became withered, colorless, and dry like a stick; on this account the following conversation took place one day between the Spirit and Humanity: