Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part III, Chapter IX
Of the condition of the Body, and in what suffering Humanity found itself, living as though dead. - How God provided for it. - Of the joy experienced by the Soul in the interchange of love, and how she is left like one dead when deprived of it.
As the state of a Soul enkindled and glowing with divine love has been explained, something now remains to be said of the condition of the body. The body cannot live on love, like the Soul, but it is nourished by material food. And as God has willed to separate the Soul from earthly things and from her body, and engage her wholly in spiritual operations, therefore it is left without vigor and almost without nourishment, for all communication having ceased between it and the Soul, without which it has no strength, it becomes like a Soul deprived of God, like one dead, without enjoyment, without vigor, and without aid or comfort. And if God should for a long time keep the Soul thus vehemently occupied within herself, it would be impossible in the nature of things for the body to survive.
But God, who sees all things, provides for all necessities, and although, by reason of the union of the Soul with God, Humanity has little comfort, and can neither smile, nor relish food, nor sleep, nor take delight in the emotions of the Soul or the sensations of the body, nor in any earthly thing, yet God concedes it a sufficiency for the support of its wearisome life. And in order that every imperfection which exists in man may die in God (while man still lives upon the earth), God seems to open a vien and let out the blood of Humanity, the Soul meanwhile remaining as if in a bath, and when there is no more blood within the body, and the Soul is wholly transformed in God, then each goes to its own place, the Soul to her rest in God and the body to the grave; and this work is done in secret and by love alone. If you know how harassed and besieged is this poor Humanity, you would in truth believe that no creature suffers so greatly as itself; but because this is invisible it is neither credited nor understood, nor has any one compassion for it, especially as it is endured for the love of God. But I say (with all this for the love of God), it is necessary that this creature should live always as if dead, like a man hanging by his feet, who, notwithstanding, lives. And though it may be said, and truly, that the heart is contented, yet what enjoyment can the body have? Thus Humanity, no longer able to live according to its nature, appears to me to be always tortured and greatly afflicted. It lives, but knows not how it lives, nor on what food. It desires nothing, but remains in God, who pierces often this beloved heart with darts of love so keen that they almost destroy the body by the ardor of their penetrating and amorous flame, and absorbs the Soul in an obscure and hidden satisfaction from which she would never part, since in it she finds her own proper repose and natural beatitude, which God often reveals to the heart he loves.
But the body, constrained to follow the Soul (without which it cannot live or do aught, not being Spirit), remains during this time as if without a Soul and without human comfort, in almost mortal weakness, and knows not how to aid itself. Therefore in this necessity it is assisted by others or secretly provided for by God himself, for otherwise this creature would be as helpless as a little child, who having no one to care for it, can do nothing but weep until its wants are supplied. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that for creatures like this, God should provide particular persons to assist them, by whose means all their necessities both of Soul and body are supplied, for otherwise they would die. Behold how our Lord Jesus Christ left his beloved Mother to the special care of Saint John; he did the same for his disciples, and does it still for other devout persons; in such a manner that one succors another both in spiritual and temporal things with this divine union. And because people in general do not understand these operations, and have no such union, therefore particular persons are needed for such cares, through whom God may operate by his grace and light.
Those who behold such creatures and do not understand them, admire, rather than are edified by them; do not judge them, then, if you do not wish to err. But consider how besieged and how afflicted is this Humanity, living as if without life. She lives because God gives her the grace to live; but by nature her life would be impossible. When the Soul was able to give love for love, that love yielded Humanity a certain satisfaction which sustained it; but now, when the Soul is deprived of all sensible and active love, Humanity is left abandoned and forsaken, like one dead. But God performs another loving work, so secret and so subtle that the Soul becomes more noble and more perfect than before, by reason of the destitution and the nakedness in which God leaves her, so that without other support she rests, firm and stable, on him alone.