Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part II, Chapter III
Humanity, thus menaced, desires to know the cause. - This is promised her. - God, while seeking men, draws them by different means and inspirations. - Of her continual sorrow. How, in her affliction, she calls upon God to relieve her by one ray of his love. - When she comes to understand the grace God has given her, she is pierced by a new dart of love. - Of her confession and contrition.
Humanity, finding itself menaced by various sufferings, through which it must needs pass, being unable to defend itself, sought to know the cause for which it must endure a martyrdom without alleviation. It was answered interiorly, that a release would be granted in due season, and it became as one sentenced to death, who, having heard the sentence pronounced upon his evil deeds resigns himself to an ignominious end and thus sometimes escapes it.
"In my infinite and ever-active love," spake God, "I continually go forth in search of souls, in order to guide them to life eternal; and, illuminating them with my light, I move the free-will of men in many and diverse ways. When man yields to my inspirations, I increase this light, and by its aid he sees himself imprisoned, as it were, in a foul and dismal den, surrounded by a brood of venomous reptiles which strive to destroy him but which he saw not before by reason of the darkness. By the light I grant him, he sees his peril and calls upon me to free him in mercy from the miseries which hem him in on every side. I am ever illuminating him more and more, and, as his light grows clearer, and he discovers more plainly the dangers which surround him, he cries aloud and with bitter tears: `O my God! take me hence and do with me what thou wilt. I can endure all things if thou wilt release me from this misery and peril!'"
It appeared to this Soul that God turned a deaf ear to her lamentations; but he increased her light daily, and with its growth her anguish likewise deepened, for by it she saw not only her own danger, but that no way of escape was open to her. Long did she cry to God for help, for so he had decreed, and though he gave her no reply, he yet had regard to her perseverance, and kindled in her heart a hidden fire, while at the same time he reveled to her her imperfections. In this manner she was for a season restrained and overwhelmed in her own wretchedness. She ate no other bread, and lived in continual sorrow; moreover, as the light of grace increased, the flesh was consumed away and the blood cleansed from its superfluous humors. She was so weakened and afflicted that she could scarcely move, and in her desolation she cried aloud to God: Miserere mei Deus secundum magnam misericordiam tuam (Psalm 50).
And God, when he saw her entirely abandoned to his mercy and despairing of herself, revived her with a ray of his love whereby he made her see anew the magnitude of her defects, and that hell alone was their fitting retribution. She recognized, moreover, the singular grace which God had bestowed upon her, and as she beheld it, she was pierced afresh with love and grief at her offences against such great goodness. She began to confess her sins with such deep and extraordinary contrition that she seemed ready to perform every possible penance of soul and body.
Contrition, confession, and satisfaction, are the first works of the Soul after it has been enlightened by God. By this means she is freed from her sins and imperfections, clothed with virtue, and remains thus until she has formed the habit of virtue.