Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part III, Chapter VII
Our Lord questions the Soul concerning the love she feels and on what he has said to her. - The Soul responds according to her ability, but cannot express the intensity of her love. - She asks our Lord how the loving Soul can live on earth, and concerning her condition.
The Lord. What hast thou to say, O my Soul, of this sweet love, so dear to thee, which never leaves thee to thyself, is always speaking to thee comforting thee, inflaming thee, and revealing to thee some new and celestial beauty, that so thy affection for it may become more and more ardent? Tell me some of those loving words it speaks to thee when thou art with it alone.
Soul. I find myself repeating certain words which are understood in the depths of my heart, which is glowing with an amorous flame. These words, and this sentiment of love, I do not understand and am unable to express, for they are unlike other words. Love opens my heart and is ever making such gracious communications to it that it is wholly inflamed and dissolved in love; yet in particular can discern neither words, flames, nor love; the heart is seized, possessed, and held fast by a loving satisfaction.
Yet the Soul does not comprehend this work, although she perceives that in this visitation, love bestows all possible caresses upon the beloved Soul that a true lover can give when his affection is the greatest that can be conceived. This operation melts the Soul, detaches her from earth, purifies her, makes her simple, strengthens her, and draws her deeper and deeper into its loving flame. But she is not allowed to remain long in this great and penetrating fire, for humanity could not endure its vehemence; yet in the heart there remains always the impression that she is living in that love with God.
O love! thou absorbest this heart into thyself and leavest Humanity deserted on the earth, where it finds no resting place. It appears an exiled creature, with no object either in heaven or in this world.
O love, how burning and enamored is this Soul in which thou art performing such a work of love! I would that I knew how this creature lives upon the earth, both as to her body and her Soul, and how it is that she has her conversation as well with heaven as with creatures; I see her living a life very different from that of others, and one more for admiration than for edification. She sets no value upon anything: she appears like the mistress of heaven and the queen of earth, although she has nothing of her own; few can understand her; she is very free and fearless, and dreads not that anything can ever be wanting to her; she has nothing, and yet, to her seeming, all things are hers.
The Lord. The answer is not for men, blind and deprived of celestial light, who having their intellects occupied with earthly things, cannot comprehend my words; yet, I will answer for those who, aided by the divine ray, will be able to understand it. My love so delights the Soul that it destroys every other joy which can be possessed by man here below. The taste of me extinguishes every other taste; my light blinds all who behold it; all the facilities of the Soul are so possessed and bound by love that she is lost and understands neither what she has done nor what she should do. She is raised above herself and bereft of reason, memory, and will.
Creatures like these no longer take part in the things of this world, save through necessity, and then as if they knew them not. They are always occupied interiorly, and this prevents their being nourished by temporal things. God sends into their hearts rays and flames of love so subtle and penetrating that they know not where they are, but remain silently plunged in the serene depths of that love. And if God did not sometimes deprive them of this vehement love, the Soul could not remain in the body; yet, when he thus departs, he leaves the Soul so sweetly occupied in him that naught beside is seen, known, or understood. Rarely does she remember anything but what she has felt, and until the impression grows weaker it is impossible for her to think of her own affairs, however pressing they may be.