Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part I, Chapter XVI
Humanity prays the Spirit to act justly and with equity, reminding her that she had been the first to sin and that the body had been merely the instrument. - The Spirit proves the contrary, and shows who has been the cause of their fall. - The Spirit demonstrates also the necessity of purification here, and that it is better to suffer for a thousand years in this world than one hour in purgatory.
Humanity. I am, as you see, very dissatisfied and unhappy; I can escape from what you wish neither by reason nor by force; yet I implore you to satisfy me in this matter, and then you may continue what you have begun and I will have what patience I can. Oh, Spirit, you who are bringing me to justice, I pray you deal justly with me. You know that I am only a body, bestial, without reason, without prayer, without will, and without memory; because all these are in the spirit, and I work as an instrument and can do nothing but what you will. Tell me; have you not been the first to sin, with the reason and with the will? Have I been more than the instrument of sin, truly conceived and resolved upon in the spirit? Who, then, deserves the punishment?
Spirit. Your reasoning seems at the first sight to be very good; yet I believe I can refute it satisfactorily, as I intend to do.
If you, Humanity, never have sinned and never can sin, as you maintain, God, who has made the body to accompany the Soul wherever she goes, to heaven as well as to hell, must be as unjust judge; for, whoever does neither good nor evil should have neither reward nor punishment; but, since it is impossible for God to be unjust, it follows that my reasoning is sound. I confess I was the first to commit sin, for, having free-will, I cannot be constrained against it, nor can either good or evil be done if I do not first consent. If I resolve upon the good, heaven and earth yield me their support, and on every side I am encouraged to perform it; it is not possible that I should be impeded, either by the devil, or by the world, or by the flesh.
If I am bent upon evil, I find also support on every side, from the devils, the world, and myself, that is, from the flesh and its malignant instincts; and since God rewards all that is good and punishes all that is evil, it follows that all who aid in doing good will be rewarded, and all who aid in doing evil will be punished. You know that in the beginning I wished to follow my spiritual inclinations, and commenced with great impetuosity; but you assailed me with so many reasons and under the plea of such pressing necessity, that we were in continual conflict with each other; then Self-Love came as a mediator, disagreed with both, and led us so far astray that to please you and supply your needs I left the right path, and for this we shall be justly punished. It is true that if that great misery, mortal sin, is found among us, which God forbid, I, as the chief and the most noble, shall be more sorely tormented than you, but we shall both wish that we had never been created. Therefore it behooves us to purify ourselves, not alone from every stain of sin, but also from every smallest imperfection which we have contracted through our evil habits. I will tell you, moreover that God has given me a light so subtle and clear that of a surety, unless I fail before I leave you, there will remain in me no single taint of imperfection either of soul or body.
Note this well: How long, think you, will this season of purification last? You know well that it can endure but a short time. In the beginning it seems terrible to you, but as it goes on you will suffer less, because your wicked habits will be destroyed; do not fear lest you should want powerful support, for know that God, by the decree of his goodness, never allows man to suffer beyond his strength. If we regarded our own proper good, it would seem better to us to suffer here for a little than to remain in torments forever; better to suffer for a thousand years every woe possible to this body in this world, than to remain one hour in purgatory. I have briefly made this little speech for your comfort.