Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part III, Chapter VI
The Soul asks various questions of our Lord. - What the martyrs have suffered for this love. - That charity is the shortest and most secure road to salvation, and that without it the Soul would rather cast itself into a thousand hells than enter the presence of God.
O sweet Jesus, my Love, what has brought thee from heaven to earth? Love. What has caused thee to suffer such great and terrible torments, even unto death? Love. What has induced thee to give thyself as food to thy beloved Soul? Love. What moved thee to send us, what still continually moves thee to send us, the Holy Spirit for our support and guide? Love.
Many other things can be said of thee. Through love thou didst appear in this world so poor, so abject, and so humiliated in the eyes of men, that thou wast not esteemed a God, but scarcely as a man. A servant, however faithful and loving, could not endure so much for his master, even were he to promise him heaven itself, because without that interior love which thou bestowest upon man he cannot patiently suffer any torment either of soul or body.
But thou, Lord, hast brought from heaven the sweet manna, this delicious food, which has in itself such vigor that it gives strength for every trial: as we have witnessed frist in thee, our most sweet Master, and afterwards in thy saints. Oh, how much they have done and suffered in the strength of the love infused by thee into their hearts, and by which they were so inflamed and united to thee, that no torture could separate them from thee! For in the midst of their torments a zeal was kindled that increased with their sufferings, and by it they were kept from yielding to the most cruel martyrdoms that tyrants could invent. The spectators saw only the weakness of the body, but the sweet and powerful love which God infused into the heart, and which is so vital and strong that he who abandons himself to it can never be lost, was hidden from them.
There is no briefer or securer way of salvation than this sweet nuptial robe of charity, which gives such confidence and vigor to the Soul that she enters the presence of God without misgiving. But if at death she is found destitute of charity, she is left in such an abject and wretched condition that she would seek the gloomiest and most wretched spot, rather than appear in the divine presence. For God, who is simple and pure, can receive into himself nothing but pure and simple love; and being a sea of love in which all the saints are plunged, it is impossible that even the slightest imperfection should enter therein: hence the Soul, naked of charity when she is separated from the body (aware of her condition), would cast herself into hell rather than approach so bright and pure a presence.
O pure love! Every stain of evil, even the least, is a great hell to thee, and even, by reason of thy vehemence, mere cruel that that of the damned. None but those who have experienced thee can understand and believe this. This love of which I speak, although in itself infinite, can be described in its gracious and familiar action in the beloved Soul, even as if it were one with her.