Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part I, Chapter XVIII
Humanity laments and asks for something to do. - The Spirit consents and enjoins upon it that it should be obedient to all things, stopping at nothing for any pleasure or displeasure that it might feel therein. - Of the rules he wishes to observe; and of the prohibition he imposes upon it of forming no particular friendships.
When Humanity perceived that its path became daily narrower, it again addressed the Spirit, and said humbly and with great fear and reverence:
Humanity. I find that you have deprived me of every human, external consolation, so that I may count myself as dead to the world; and if you persevere in this strictness, I see that the time will come when I shall desire death rather than lead any longer such a life.
Spirit. I am willing to give you something external to do, but it will not be agreeable. You will even abhor it, but if you complain it will be the worse for you.
Humanity. I shall be entirely satisfied if only I can have some employment.
Spirit. I warn you in the outset that I wish to teach you what it is to be obedient, in order that you may become humble, and subject to every creature; and that you may be trained to this, you shall labor for your own support. I wish, further, that whenever and wherever you are called to perform works of mercy, you should go to the infirm and to the poor of every condition. I wish you never to refuse.
You will do, as if by instinct, all that I command you, even to nursing the most loathsomely diseased persons, and whenever you are called to this duty, even should you be conversing with God, I wish you to leave all and go quickly to your work and wherever you are led; never regard either the person who summons you or the work you are to do. I wish you to have no choice; rather let the will of every other creature be yours; let your own be always thwarted.
In these exercises, so terrible to you, it is necessary to employ you, because I wish to extinguish in you every inordinate pleasure or displeasure which it is possible to feel in this life. I will root out every imperfection, and allow you to pause for either pleasure or pain no more than if you were dead. This I will see for myself, for it is necessary to try you, and therefore I shall put you to every needful proof; when I give you something abhorrent to you to do, and see that you so feel or regard it, I shall keep you at it until you do neither. I shall do likewise in those things from which you might obtain any consolation. I will force you from them until you lose all sense of pleasure or pain that might proceed therefrom. And to try you in all possible ways, you shall always be occupied in that which is either pleasurable or painful.
Moreover, you will neither form any friendship for any one, nor retain a special regard for your own kindred; but you will love every one without partiality and without affection, the poor as well as the rich, friends as well as kindred. I would wish you not really to know one from another, to make friends with no one, no matter how religious or spiritual, or to seek intimacy with none. Let it be enough for you to do your duty, as I have told you, and in this way I wish you to conduct yourself in your conversation with creatures on the earth.