Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part II, Chapter VI
God reveals to the Soul that the body is to be purgatory for her in this world. - How necessary it is that man should deny himself and become wholly lost in God. - Of the misery of man when he occupies himself with aught beside, since he has no time but the present to acquire a treasure of merit.
The Lord. The cause of all the suffering through which you have to pass is better understood by experience than by reasoning. Yet know this: I make of the body a purgatory for the soul, and thus augment her glory by drawing her to me through this purgatory alone. And thus I am ever knocking at the door of the heart, and if man yields consent and opens to me, I lead him with continual and loving care to that degree of glory for which I created him. If he could see and understand the care with which I promote his salvation and his welfare, quitting and despising all ease, even were the universe at his command, he would abandon himself without reserve to me.
There is no martyrdom that he would not endure, if it would preserve him from losing this loving care which is leading him to the highest glory. I would draw him to me by love and faith alone, to which fear and self-interest are opposed, because they spring from the love of self, which cannot coexist with that pure and simple love which alone must absorb man if he would not cast off my care of him. Without this aid he could not enter into the clear depths of my love, for it would be a hell to him. And man, having no other way and no other time but this life in which to purify his soul by love and faith, and with the assistance of my grace, is it not a misery for him to occupy himself with aught beside, and thus lose the precious time which was given him for this work alone? Once passed, it will never more return. Listen then, O Soul, my beloved! listen to my voice; open thine ears to thy Lord who so much loves thee, who is ever caring for thee, and who alone is thy salvation! Steeped in sin as thou art, sunk in such misery and weighed down with evil habits, thou wilt never know the greatness of thy woes until my light unveils them to thee and frees thee from them!
Soul. Thou hast given me, Lord, many persuasive reasons why I should suffer as I have done and must still do; yet, I pray thee, if it please thee, satisfy my understanding concerning the cause of this suffering, for I need it greatly when I am overpowered by the vehemence of thy love.
The Lord. Thou knowest that when thou didst yield up thy will to me thou wert sunk so low that had I not prevented thee thou wouldst have fallen into hell. Thou wert borne away into sin and misery like one bound hand and foot. I granted thee light and contrition, by the help of which thou didst make thy confession. Thou hast performed many penances, and for a long time offered prayers and alms in satisfaction for thy sins. I left thee to struggle and torment thyself until thou wert well established in virtue, that thou mightest not hence forward fall into sin. I allowed thee to practice various virtues in order that thou shouldst be confirmed and take pleasure in them and never more turn to other enjoyments.
And now the Soul began to delight in spiritual things, and was assailed by many temptations, and was thus practised in the ways of God. The providence of God was also made plain to her in many trials and persecutions which she endured from men, from devils, and from herself. For, being accustomed to wrong-doing, it was necessary for her to combat all these enemies until she had destroyed them, inasmuch as it is they who were ever warring against her. And if it were not for our evil habits no one would ever be tempted except in consequence of the increase of grace, and this is a temptation which is without danger, because God sustains by his love those upon whom he permits it to fall.