Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part II, Chapter IX
The Spirit, seeing the Soul brought to the gates of divine love, resolves to subject both Soul and Body to severe suffering. - He tells the Soul that he will separate himself from her, and that in order to recover her first purity, she must pass through many trials.
When the Spirit saw the Soul led to the portals of divine love, from which she was neither able to advance nor to recede, and saw, moreover, that she had been conducted thus far with much assistance from God, who had pleasantly occupied without wholly satisfying all her facilities, he thus spake:
Spirit. Now is the time for me to repay the Soul for what she has done to me. For many years I have been subject to her, and, with cruelties too great to be described, excluded from my home; for she was so restrained and oppressed by earthly things that the powers I possessed were not sufficient to enable me to attend to my own spiritual concerns. I called to my aid the certainty of death, the fear of hell, the hope of heaven, preaching, and all other aids afforded by the Church; and also divine inspirations, infirmities, poverty, and other worldly tribulations, in order that, deprived of all things earthly, she might, in her extreme need, when all other resources had failed her, have recourse unto God. But, though in her great necessity she sometimes turned to him and promised with his assistance to do great things, yet when that moment was passed she returned to her accustomed practices and I to my prison; and this has happened many times. But now that I see my Soul, with her senses, and also those of the body, arrived at a point from which she can neither advance nor recede, I will subject and restrain them all in such a way that they can neither impede nor retard me. Complaints will not avail them; they will be as much at my discretion as I have been at theirs; but I shall not be as cruel to them as they have been to me, for they never afforded me the smallest help, even when I was most oppressed and surrounded by my enemies. I will keep the Soul in restraint and in subjection, and inflict upon her, without mercy, all the suffering she can bear. I have her in my hands, and I will leave her so naked, desolate, and forsaken, that she will know not where to turn except for the bare necessities which will keep her alive to suffer a yet longer martyrdom; and this will be in secret in order that no one may give her any remedy. Not one of her members shall escape suffering until my work is finished; whosoever shall behold her in such torments will wish her dead, and she would herself wish it if she could do so without sin.
Soul. I have heard enough of your threats, and am sufficiently well acquainted with the prospect of what I am to suffer; but the reason of this suffering I have not been able to understand, although it has been promised to me.
Spirit. I mean to separate myself from you, and for the present I will answer you in words; hereafter I will do so more effectually by deeds which will make you envy the dead.
You have been conducted even to this threshold by many gentle means and divine graces, which you have assumed and appropriated to yourself, and have hidden them with a subtlety of which you are not yourself aware, for they have become your by such long use that no eye but that of God can discern them; neither would you believe it, did not God himself declare it. Gradually you will come to understand by experience, that even in the first light that was given you, you appropriated your share, and so of contrition, confession, satisfaction, prayer, and other virtuous acts; of interior and exterior detachment; of the sweet love of God, of the alienation of the bodily senses, so that they appeared as if dead because they were entirely controlled by the divine operation. And inasmuch as those works had long sustained your faculties, and the love of God was so strong and powerful within you, you seemed to yourself to be in heaven, and enjoyed it all within yourself as if it were yours by right, and had been bestowed on you by God as the reward of your merits. You did not return it wholly and entirely to him as you should have done in all simplicity and uprightness, and in this you have been dishonest and have defiled yourself, and therefore you must suffer all I have foretold you. Learn what a task it is to purge a soul here below and restore her with no further purgatory to her pristine purity. And when it is God's will to elevate her to a high degree of glory, it becomes more especially necessary, not alone to purify her but to make her pass through many cruel sufferings that she may gain merit by many and grievous pains.
When the time came which pleased God, he drew the Spirit so secretly and closely to himself, that it held no communication with the Soul nor the Soul with the Body, and both were left so bare and dry that it was hard for them to live at all, and especially at the first, when they were passing from one extreme to the other, although God was secretly attracting them by little and little. At length that befell the Soul, which happens to a bombshell, when the fire being applied it explodes and loses both fire and powder; thus the Soul, having conceived the fire of pure, divine love, suddenly lost that which had before inflamed her, and, deprived of all sensibility, could never more return to it. She resembled a musical instrument which, while furnished with strings, sends forth sweet melody, but, being deprived of them, is silent. So she, who had hitherto with the senses of both Soul and body, discoursed such sweet music, now, bereft of these, remained stringless and mute. When she found herself closely pressed by the Spirit, with no hope of relief (for she remembered all his threats), she cried to God, and said: