Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part II, Chapter X
The Soul discovers that she must make satisfaction voluntarily, and it seems to her that she is abandoned by God. - She calls upon others for help. - How Humanity, by whom she had been threatened, is put to the proof. - Of the sufferings of the Body when deprived of communications with the Spirit.
Soul. Lord, I see it to be necessary that I should atone for my dishonest appropriation of thy spiritual graces, and I begin to understand that as I have consented to take part with the body in sin, and have found pleasure in it, I must also consent that it shall be expiated by my own sufferings as well as by those of the body, and that I must pay, even to the last farthing. I see that I have secretly robbed thee of what was thine, and have appropriated many satisfactions, and delighted in many spiritual graces, without referring them all to thee as was my duty; namely, many sweet consolations in speaking, hearing, tasting, and in various other things. I perceive that this robbery was very serious, since nothing more precious could be stolen. For these are the things which essentially differ from all that is man's own. Nothing is of real value to him, except that which it pleases thee to give him by thy grace. Therefore it is necessary for us to comprehend that every grace proceeds from thee, and to thee it must be returned, if we would not be robbers: this robbery originated with the devil by whom we are continually tempted and by whom many are led astray.
But how shall I satisfy myself for this great and subtle sin, since I have neither strength nor feeling, either of soul or body? I know not whether I am alive or dead. It is hard to live in this world, and yet I must both live and suffer greatly, in order to expiate my offences. I seem to be abandoned by the divine and through the knowledge of that which, not to others but to thee alone, my God, is fully known, that I would always rob thee. Finding myself deserted on every side, give me at least one who can understand and comfort me, as is done to the condemned, that they may not wholly despair.
Then God comforted Humanity somewhat, and afterwards exercised her in that with which she had before been threatened. The body by degrees became infirm, being deprived of the correspondence of the Spirit, which held the powers of the Soul suspended and engaged, while the body remained naked, famished, wretched, and unconscious that this was the work of God. Hence, it rapidly consumed away and felt every slight evil as a great calamity, and its infirmity increased to such a degree that if it kept the Soul intent on some hidden operation, the body would not have been able to support itself. Exteriorly, too, he gave her a director adapted to her need, who comprehended the work of God within her. This was a great consolation, for her natural forces could not have sustained her under trials so great that they could neither be described by human tongue, nor, if described, be understood. Even if witnessed by the bodily eye they would be incomprehensible, so much greater was the interior suffering than the exterior, and so impossible was it for any way or kind of relief to be found. But God now and then afforded Humanity a little relief, and she seemed restored, although the interior oppression was constantly increasing. So she wandered about the house, wasting away, and ignorant of the nature of her malady, so subtle, hidden, and penetrating was that divine work.
Then she was assailed in a different manner and with strange and new afflictions, against which she struggled with all her powers. When God afflicted the body, he fortified the mind, and when the mind was suffering, he consoled the body, and thus supported each in turn. She continued in this state for about ten years, Humanity being always more and more unconscious of those hidden operations by which God held her, as it were, bound.
Afterwards he took from her her confessor, and everything else towards which she looked for help. Then the Spirit drew her forcibly to himself, because he, in turn, was drawn by God with a hidden love, so penetrating and powerful, though without delight, that it melted into itself both Soul and Spirit, while the bodily senses, with everything else, were absorbed in God.
This hidden love checked, purged, and exterminated all those sins of robbery which had been so secretly and cunningly committed, and thus in secret the penance was performed while the cause remained concealed. Humanity was so oppressed and crushed that she was constrained to cry to our Lord in piteous accents:
"Oh, my God! how hast thou abandoned me to such cruel sufferings, both interior and exterior! Yet, while I suffer I am still unable to complain, for even when I am most grievously afflicted, I am in secret satisfied by a sharp and searching flame of love, which is gradually consuming all my natural and spiritual strength, so that it is most strange to see a creature living thus deprived of vital force. My confessor, too, is taken from me, so that I can no longer take counsel of him, and so weak have I become that I can turn to nothing with any spirit. Interiorly I find the secret strength which was given me decaying, nor am I in a condition to receive anything from heaven, or earth, but am left like one dead. Yet I must live so long as it pleases God, though I know not how I can live without the help which I am not even able to receive when it is offered me."