Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part II, Chapter XI
Of the brightness of eternal glory, and of the strength imparted to Humanity by a glimpse of it. - How God draws the Spirit to himself, so that it may be wholly occupied in him. - Of its sufferings. - What it is to live on earth while the Spirit is in heaven, and through what sufferings one must pass in order to escape purgatory.
Towards the close of this process, God came to her aid in a different manner. He sometimes revealed to her a ray of that glory towards which she approached, as the affections of the Soul and the bodily sensations became weaker. This revived her so much, both interiorly and exteriorly, that it supported her for many days; for although she beheld it but a moment, the impression, without any renewal, remained within. And she saw that God held her Spirit so fixed upon himself that he did not allow it to weaver for an instant. The longer this continued the more difficult it was to withdraw from it, the difficulty being too great for words to express. And this was by reason of that hidden Spirit which found itself drawn into greater depths the higher it ascended towards God, and continually losing its own strength as it became more and more absorbed in God, who thus spake to the Soul:
The Lord. Henceforth I will not have you interfere with my designs, for you would always rob me by appropriating to yourself what is not yours. I will finish the work, and you shall be unconscious of it. I will separate you from your Spirit, and he shall be lost in my abyss.
Humanity on hearing this was filled with consternation, and said:
"I am in misery. I do not live, and yet I cannot die, but find myself every day more and more oppressed, and, as it were, consuming away. When I beheld what it was to be centered entirely in God without a single moment's respite, and that I was myself the miserable creature who was to support this siege, and how very terrible it was, all my flesh was in torment. To remain thus steadily occupied in God, without a moment's wavering, is a thing for the blessed in heaven, who, lost to themselves, live only in him. That I should live in this way upon earth while my Spirit is in heaven, is a work surpassing all that I have known, and is the most terrible suffering that can be endured in this world."
It was shown to Humanity that whoever would enter life eternal without passing through purgatory, must die to this world while yet in it; that is, that all the imperfections of the Soul must be so consumed that she may remain absorbed in God. "But hearing thee weep, O Humanity! it is plain that thou art not yet dead, and thou must still live until thou findest life without impediment. When thy vivacity is all passed away, and thy sensibility is weakened, thou wilt have less to endure. Thou wilt not anticipate thy sufferings afar off as now thou dost, with agitation, but wilt abandon thyself to God, not through the powers of the Soul, nor through any instinct of nature, but purely because God has taken upon himself all these things, and works so secretly and subtly that he in whom the work is wrought is not himself aware of it."
This God does, that man may be sensible of the suffering inflicted on him, for otherwise he would feel it less, and if he comprehended what was going on, he would always be guilty of robbery, even if he were not led to it by his evil instincts, united to the bad habits, hidden in the depths of his soul. But God, knowing that man could not live in so great an extremity if he did not provide for him, does so secretly and in various modes and times, according to his necessity. At first the assistance is very evident, that he may with love persevere and form the habit of doing spiritual works; then, by degrees, God withdraws these supports whenever he finds the man strong enough to endure the battle. The greater strength he has at the beginning, the greater suffering he may look for toward the end, although God always assists him according to his necessities; yet he does this far more secretly than openly, and never ceases but at death.