Christ's Faithful People
|Here begins the treatise of obedience, and first of
where obedience may be found, and what it is that destroys it, and what is the sign of a
man's possessing it, and what
accompanies and nourishes obedience.
The Supreme and Eternal Father, kindly turning the eye of His mercy and clemency towards her, replied: "Your holy desire and righteous request, oh! dearest daughter, have a right to be heard, and inasmuch as I am the Supreme Truth, I will keep My word, fulfilling the promise which I made to you, and satisfying your desire. And if you ask Me where obedience is to be found, and what is the cause of its loss, and the sign of its possession, I reply that you will find it in its completeness in the sweet and amorous Word, My only-begotten Son. So prompt in Him was this virtue, that, in order to fulfill it, He hastened to the shameful death of the Cross. What destroys obedience? Look at the first man and you will see the cause which destroyed the obedience imposed on him by Me, the Eternal Father. It was pride, which was produced by self- love, and desire to please his companion. This was the cause that deprived him of the perfection of obedience, giving him instead disobedience, depriving him of the life of grace, and slaying his innocence, wherefore he fell into impurity and great misery, and not only he, but the whole human race, as I said to you. The sign that you have this virtue is patience, and impatience the sign that you have it not, and you will find that this is indeed so, when I speak to you further concerning this virtue. But observe that obedience may be kept in two ways, of which one is more perfect than the other, not that they are on that account separated, but united as I explained to you of the precepts and counsels. The one way is the most perfect, the other is also good and perfect; for no one at all can reach eternal life if he be not obedient, for the door was unlocked by the key of obedience, which had been fastened by the disobedience of Adam. I, then, being constrained by My infinite goodness, since I saw that man whom I so much loved, did not return to Me, his End, took the keys of obedience and placed them in the hands of My sweet and amorous Word -- the Truth -- and He becoming the porter of that door, opened it, and no one can enter except by means of that door and that Porter. Wherefore He said in the Holy Gospel that 'no one could come to Me, the Father, if not by Him.' When He returned to Me, rising to Heaven from the conversation of men at the Ascension, He left you this sweet key of obedience; for as you know He left His vicar, the Christ, on earth, whom you are all obliged to obey until death, and whoever is outside His obedience is in a state of damnation, as I have already told you in another place. Now I wish you to see and know this most excellent virtue in that humble and immaculate Lamb, and the source whence it proceeds. What caused the great obedience of the Word? The love which He had for My honor and your salvation. Whence proceeded this love? From the clear vision with which His soul saw the divine essence and the eternal Trinity, thus always looking on Me, the eternal God. His fidelity obtained this vision most perfectly for Him, which vision you imperfectly enjoy by the light of holy faith. He was faithful to Me, His eternal Father, and therefore hastened as one enamored along the road of obedience, lit up with the light of glory. And inasmuch as love cannot be alone, but is accompanied by all the true and royal virtues, because all the virtues draw their life from love, He possessed them all, but in a different way from that in which you do. Among the others he possessed patience, which is the marrow of obedience, and a demonstrative sign, whether a soul be in a state of grace and truly love or not. Wherefore charity, the mother of patience, has given her as a sister to obedience, and so closely united them together that one cannot be lost without the other. Either you have them both or you have neither. This virtue has a nurse who feeds her, that is, true humility; therefore a soul is obedient in proportion to her humility, and humble in proportion to her obedience. This humility is the foster-mother and nurse of charity, and with the same milk she feeds the virtue of obedience. Her raiment given her by this nurse is self-contempt, and insult, desire to displease herself, and to please Me. Where does she find this? In sweet Christ Jesus, My only-begotten Son. For who abased Himself more than He did! He was sated with insults, jibes, and mockings. He caused pain to Himself in His bodily life, in order to please Me. And who was more patient than He? for His cry was never heard in murmuring, but He patiently embraced His injuries like one enamored, fulfilling the obedience imposed on Him by Me, His Eternal Father. Wherefore in Him you will find obedience perfectly accomplished. He left you this rule and this doctrine, which gives you life, for it is the straight way, having first observed them Himself. He is the way, wherefore He said, 'He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life.' For he who travels by that way, travels in the light, and being enlightened cannot stumble, or be caused to fall, without perceiving it. For He has cast from Himself the darkness of self-love, by which he fell into disobedience; for as I spoke to you of a companion virtue proceeding from obedience and humility, so I tell you that disobedience comes from pride, which issues from self-love depriving the soul of humility. The sister given by self-love to disobedience is impatience, and pride, her foster-mother, feeds her with the darkness of infidelity, so she hastens along the way of darkness, which leads her to eternal death. All this you should read in that glorious book, where you find described this and every other virtue."
How obedience is the key with which Heaven is opened, and how the soul should fasten it by means of a cord to her girdle, and of the excellences of obedience.
"Now that I have shown you where obedience is to be found, and whence she comes, and who is her companion, and who her foster-mother, I will continue to speak of the obedient and of the disobedient together, and of obedience in general, which is the obedience of the precepts; and in particular, which is that of the counsels. The whole of your faith is founded upon obedience, for by it you prove your fidelity. You are all in general by My truth to obey the commandments of the law, the chief of which is to love Me above everything, and your neighbor as yourself, and the commandments are so bound up together, that you cannot observe or transgress one without observing or transgressing all. He who observes this principal commandment observes all the others; he is faithful to Me and his neighbor, for he loves Me and My creature, and is therefore obedient, becoming subject to the commandments of the law, and to creatures for My sake, and with humble patience he endures every labor, and even his neighbor's detraction of him. This obedience is of such excellence that you all derive grace from it, just as from disobedience you all derive death. Wherefore it is not enough that it should be only in word, and not practiced by you. I have already told you that this word is the key which opens heaven, which key My Son placed in the hands of His vicar. This vicar placed it in the hands of everyone who receives holy baptism, promising therein to renounce the world and all its pomps and delights, and to obey. So that each man has in his own person that very same key which the Word had, and if a man does not unlock in the light of faith, and with the hand of love the gate of heaven by means of this key, he never will enter there, in spite of its having been opened by the Word; for though I created you without yourselves, I will not save you without yourselves. Wherefore you must take the key in your hand and walk by the doctrine of My Word, and not remain seated, that is to say, placing your love in finite things, as do foolish men who follow the first man, their first father, following his example, and casting the key of obedience into the mud of impurity, breaking it with the hammer of pride, rusting it with self-love. It would have been entirely destroyed had not My only-begotten Son, the Word, come and taken this key of obedience in His hands and purified it in the fire of divine love, having drawn it out of the mud, and cleansed it with His blood, and straightened it with the knife of justice, and hammered your iniquities into shape on the anvil of His own body. So perfectly did He repair it that no matter how much a man may have spoiled his key by his free-will, by the self- same free-will, assisted by My grace, he can repair it with the same instruments that were used by My Word. Oh! blinder than the blind, for, having spoiled the key of obedience, you do not think of mending it! Do you think, forsooth, that the disobedience which closed the door of Heaven will open it? that the pride which fell can rise? Do you think to be admitted to the marriage feast in foul and disordered garments? Do you think that sitting down and binding yourself with the chain of mortal sin, you can walk? or that without a key you can open the door? Do not imagine that you can, for it is a fantastical delusion; you must be firm, you must leave mortal sin by a holy confession, contrition of heart, satisfaction, and purpose of amendment. Then you will throw off that hideous and defiled garment and, clothed in the shining nuptial robe, will hasten, the key of obedience in your hand, to open the door. But bind this key with the cord of self-contempt, and hatred of yourself and of the world, and fasten it to the love of pleasing Me, Your creator, of which you should make a girdle to yourself to bind your loins with it, for fear you lose it. Know, My daughter, there are many who take up this key of obedience, having seen by the light of faith that in no other way can they escape eternal damnation; but they hold it in their hand without wearing this girdle, or fastening the key to it with the cord of self-contempt, that is to say that they are not perfectly clothed with My pleasure, but still seek to please themselves; they do not wear the cord of self-contempt, for they do not desire to be despised, but rather take delight in the praise of men. Such as these are apt to lose their key; for if they suffer a little extra fatigue, or mental or corporal tribulation, and if, as often happens, the hand of holy desire loosens its grasp, they will lose it. They can indeed find it again if they wish to while they live, but if they do not wish they will never find it, and what will prove to them, that they have lost it? Impatience, for patience was united to obedience, and their impatience proves that obedience does not dwell in their soul. Oh! how sweet and glorious is this virtue, which contains all the rest, for she is conceived and born of charity, on her is founded the rock of the holy faith. She is a queen whose consort will feel no trouble, but only peace and quiet; the waves of the stormy sea cannot hurt her, nor can any tempest reach the interior of the soul in whom she dwells. Such a one feels no hatred when injured, because he wishes to obey the precept of forgiveness, he suffers not when his appetites are not satisfied, because obedience has ordered him to desire Me alone, who can and will satisfy all his desires, if he strip himself of worldly riches. And so in all things which would be too long to relate, he who has chosen as spouse Queen Obedience, the appointed key of heaven, finds peace and quiet. Oh! blessed obedience! you voyage without fatigue, and reach without danger the port of salvation, you are conformed to My only-begotten Son, the Word, you board the ship of the holy cross, forcing yourself to endure, so as not to transgress the obedience of the Word, nor abandon His doctrine, of which you make a table when you eat the food of souls, dwelling in the love of your neighbor, being anointed with true humility, which saves you from coveting, contrary to My will, his possessions, you walk erect, without bending, for your heart is sincere and not false, loving generously and truly My creatures, you are a sunrise drawing after you the light of divine grace, you are a sun which makes the earth, that is to say, the organs of the soul, to germinate with the heat of charity, all of which as well as those of the body produce life-giving fruit for yourself and your neighbor. You are even cheerful, for your face is never wrinkled with impatience, but smooth and pleasant with the happiness of patience, and even in its fortitude you are great by your long endurance, so long that it reaches from earth to heaven and unlocks the celestial door. You are a hidden pearl, trampled by the world, abasing yourself, submitting to all creatures. Yet your kingdom is so great that no one can rule you, for you have come out of the mortal servitude of your own sensuality, which destroyed your dignity, and having slain this enemy with hatred and dislike of your own pleasure have re-obtained your liberty."
Here both the misery of the disobedient and the excellence of the obedient are spoken of.
"All this, dearest daughter, has been done by My goodness and providence as I have told you, for by My providence the Word repaired the key of obedience, but worldly men devoid of every virtue do the contrary; they, like unbridled horses, without the bit of obedience, go from bad to worse, from sin to sin, from misery to misery, from darkness to darkness, from death to death, until they finally reach the edge of the ditch of death, gnawed by the worm of their conscience, and though it is true that they can obey the precepts of the law if they will, and have the time repenting of their disobedience, it is very hard for them to do so, on account of their long habit of sin. Therefore let no man trust to this, putting off his finding of the key of obedience to the moment of his death, for although everyone may and should hope as long as he has life, he should not put such trust in this hope as to delay repentance. What is the reason of all this, and of such blindness that prevents them recognizing this treasure? The cloud of self-love and wretched pride, through which they abandoned obedience, and fell into disobedience. Being disobedient they are impatient, as has been said, and in their impatience endure intolerable pain, for it has seduced them from the way of Truth, leading them along a way of lies, making them slaves and friends of the devils with whom, unless indeed they amend themselves with patience, they will go to the eternal torments. Contrariwise, My beloved sons, obedient and observers of the law, rejoice and exult in My eternal vision with the Immaculate and humble Lamb, the Maker, Fulfiller, and Giver of this law of obedience. Observing this law in this life they taste peace without any disturbance, they receive and clothe themselves in the most perfect peace, for there they possess every good without any evil, safety without any fear, riches without any poverty, satiety without disgust, hunger without pain, light without darkness, one supreme infinite good, shared by all those who taste it truly. What has placed them in so blessed a state? The blood of the Lamb, by virtue of which the key of obedience has lost its rust, so that, by the virtue of the blood, it has been able to unlock the door. Oh! fools and madmen, delay no longer to come out of the mud of impurity, for you seem like pigs to wallow in the mire of your own lust. Abandon the injustice, murders, hatreds, rancors, detractions, murmurings, false judgments, and cruelty, with which you use your neighbors, your thefts and treacheries, and the disordinate pleasures and delights of the world; cut off the horns of pride, by which amputation you will extinguish the hatred which is in your heart against your neighbors. Compare the injuries which you do to Me and to your neighbor with those done to you, and you will see that those done to you are but trifles. You will see that remaining in hatred you injure Me by transgressing My precept, and you also injure the object of your hate, for you deprive him of your love, whereas you have been commanded to love Me above everything, and your neighbor as yourself. No gloss has been put upon these words as if it should have been said, if your neighbor injures you do not love him; but they are to be taken naturally and simply, as they were said to you by My Truth, who Himself literally observed this rule. Literally also should you observe it, and if you do not you will injure your own soul, depriving it of the life of grace. Take, oh! take, then, the key of obedience with the light of faith, walk no longer in such darkness or cold, but observe obedience in the fire of love, so that you may taste eternal life together with the other observers of the law."
Of those who have such love for obedience that they do not remain content with the general obedience of precepts, but take on themselves a particular obedience.
"There are some, My dearest daughter, in whom the sweet and amorous fire of love towards obedience burns so high (which fire of love cannot exist without hatred of self-love, so that when the fire increases so does this self-hatred), that they are not content to observe the precepts of the Law with a general obedience as you are all obliged to do if you will have life and not death, but take upon themselves a particular obedience, following the greatest perfection, so that they become observers of the counsels both in deed and in thought. Such as these wish to bind themselves more tightly through self-hatred, and in order to restrain in everything their own will. They either place themselves under the yoke of obedience in holy religion, or, without entering religion, they bind themselves to some creature, submitting their will to his, so as more expeditiously to unlock the door of Heaven. These are they, as I have told you, who have chosen the most perfect obedience. I have already spoken to you of obedience in general, and as I know it to be your will that I should speak to you of this particular and most perfect obedience, I will now relate to you somewhat of this second kind, which is not divided from the first, but is more perfect, for, as I have already told you, these two kinds of obedience are so closely united together that they cannot be separated. I have told you where general obedience is to be found and whence it proceeds, and the cause of its loss. Now I will speak to you of this particular obedience, not altering, however, the fundamental principle of the virtue."
How a soul advances from general to particular obedience; and of the excellence of the religious orders.
"The soul who with love has submitted to the yoke of obedience, to the Commandments, following the doctrine of My truth virtuously exercising herself, as has been said, in this general kind of obedience will advance to the second kind by means of the same light which brought her to the first, for by the light of the most holy faith she would have learnt, in the blood of the humble Lamb, My truth -- the ineffable love which I have for her, and her own fragility, which cannot respond to Me with due perfection. So she wanders, seeking by that light in what place and in what way she can pay her debt, trampling on her own fragility, and restraining her own will. Enlightened in her search by faith, she finds the place -- namely, holy religion -- which has been founded by the Holy Spirit, appointed as the ship to receive souls who wish to hasten to perfection, and to bring them to the port of salvation. The Captain of this ship is the Holy Spirit, who never fails in Himself through the defects of any of His religious subjects who may transgress the rule of the order. The ship itself cannot be damaged, but only the offender. It is true that the mistake of the steersman may send her down into the billows, and these are wicked pastors and prelates appointed by the Master of the ship. The ship herself is so delightful that your tongue could not narrate it. I say, then, that the soul, on fire with desire and a holy self-hatred, having found her place by the light of faith, enters there as one dead, if she is truly obedient; that is to say, if she have perfectly observed general obedience. And even if she should be imperfect when she enters, it does not follow that she cannot attain perfection. On the contrary, she attains it by exercising herself in the virtue of obedience; indeed, most of those who enter are imperfect. There are some who enter already in perfection, others in the childhood of virtue, others through fear, others through penance, others through allurements, everything depends on whether after they have entered they exercise themselves in virtue, and persevere till death, for no true judgment can be made on a person's entrance into religion, but only on their perseverance, for many have appeared to be perfect who have afterwards turned back, or remained in the order with much imperfection, so that, as I have said, the act of entrance into this ship ordained by Me, who call men in different ways, does not supply material for a real judgment, but only the love of those who persevere therein with true obedience. This ship is rich, so that there is no need for the subject to think about his necessities either temporal or spiritual, for if he is truly obedient, and observes his order, he will be provided for by his Master, who is the Holy Spirit, as I told you when I spoke to you of My providence, saying that though your servants might be poor, they were never beggars. No more are these, for they find everything they need, and those who observe this order find this to be indeed true. Wherefore, see that in the days when the religious orders lived virtuously, blossoming with true poverty and fraternal charity, their temporal substance never failed them, but they had more than their needs demanded. But because the stench of self-love has entered and caused each to keep his private possessions and to fail in obedience, their temporal substance has failed, and the more they possess to the greater destitution do they come. It is just that even in the smallest matters they should experience the fruit of disobedience, for had they been obedient and observed the vow of poverty, each would not have taken his own, and lived privately. See the riches of these holy rules, so thoughtfully and luminously appointed by those who were temples of the Holy Spirit. See with what judgment Benedict ordered his ship; see with what perfection and order of poverty Francis ordered his ship, decked with the pearls of virtue, steering it in the way of lofty perfection, being the first to give his order for spouse, true and holy poverty, whom he had chosen for himself, embracing self-contempt and self-hatred, not desiring to please any creature but only your will; desiring rather to be thought vile by the world, macerating his body and slaying his will, clothing himself in insults, sufferings, and jibes, for love of the humble Lamb, with whom he was fastened and nailed to the cross by love, so that by a singular grace there appeared in his body the very wounds of your Truth, showing in the vessel of his body that which was in the love of his soul, so he prepared the way.
"But you will say, 'Are not all the other religious orders equally founded on this point?' Yes, but though they are all founded on it, in no other is this the principal foundation; as with the virtues, though all the virtues draw their life from charily, nevertheless, as I explained to you in another place, one virtue belongs especially to one man, and another to another, and yet they all remain in charity, so with the principal foundation of the religious orders. Poverty belonged especially to My poor man Francis, who placed the principal foundation of his order in love for this poverty, and made it very strict for those who were perfect, for the few and the good, not for the majority. I say few because they are not many who choose this perfection, though now through their sins they are multiplied in numbers and deficient in virtue, not through defect of the ship, but through disobedient subjects and wicked rulers. Now look at the ship of your father Dominic, My beloved son: he ordered it most perfectly, wishing that his sons should apply themselves only to My honor and the salvation of souls, with the light of science, which light he laid as his principal foundation, not, however, on that account, being deprived of true and voluntary poverty, but having it also. And as a sign that he had it truly, and that the contrary displeased him, he left as an heirloom to his sons his curse and Mine, if they should hold any possessions, either privately or in community, as a sign that he had chosen for his spouse Queen Poverty. But for his more immediate and personal object he took the light of science in order to extirpate the errors which had arisen in his time, thus taking on him the office of My only-begotten Son, the Word. Rightly he appeared as an apostle in the world, and sowed the seed of My Word with much truth and light, dissipating darkness and giving light. He was a light which I gave the world by means of Mary, placed in the mystical body of the Holy Church as an extirpator of heresies. Why do I say by means of Mary? Because Mary gave him his habit -- this office was committed to her by My goodness. At what table does he feed his sons with the light of science? At the table of the cross, which is the table of holy desire, when souls are eaten for My honor. Dominic does not wish his sons to apply themselves to anything, but remaining at this table, there to seek with the light of science, the glory and praise of My name alone, and the salvation of souls. And in order that they might do nothing else, he chose poverty for them, so that they might not have the care of temporal things. It is true that some failed in faith, fearing that they would not be provided for, but he never. Being clothed in faith, and hoping with firm confidence in My providence, He wishes his sons to observe obedience and do their duty, and since impure living obscures the eye of the intellect, and not only the eye of the intellect, but also of the body, he does not wish them to obscure their physical light with which they may more perfectly obtain the light of science; wherefore he imposed on them the third vow of continence, and wishes that all should observe it, with true and perfect obedience, although today it is badly observed. They also prevent the light of science with the darkness of pride, not that this light can be darkened in itself, but only in their souls, for there, where pride is, can be no obedience. I have already told you that a man's humility is in proportion to his obedience, and his obedience to his humility, and similarly, when he transgresses the vow of obedience, it rarely happens that he does not also transgress the vow of continence, either in thought or deed; so that he has rigged his ship with the three ropes of obedience, continence, and true poverty; he made it a royal ship, not obliging his subjects under pain of mortal sin, and illuminated by Me the true light, he provided for those who should be less perfect, for though all who observe the order are perfect in kind, yet one possesses a higher degree of perfection than another, yet all perfect or imperfect live well in this ship. He allied himself with My truth, showing that he did not desire the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live. Wherefore his religion is a delightful garden, broad and joyous and flagrant, but the wretches who do not observe the order, but transgress its vows, have turned it into a desert and defiled it with their scanty virtue and light of science, though they are nourished at its breast. I do not say that the order itself is in this condition, for it still possesses every delight, but in the beginning its subjects were not as they are now, but blooming flowers, and men of great perfection. Each scented to be another St. Paul, their eyes so illuminated that the darkness of error was dissipated by their glance. Look at My glorious Thomas, who gazed with the gentle eye of his intellect at My Truth, whereby he acquired supernatural light and science infused by grace, for he obtained it rather by means of prayer than by human study. He was a brilliant light, illuminating his order and the mystical body of the Holy Church, dissipating the clouds of heresy. Look at My Peter, virgin and martyr, who by his blood gave light among the darkness of many heresies, and the heretics hated him so that at last they took his life; yet while he lived he applied himself to nothing but prayer, preaching, and disputation with heretics, hearing confessions, announcing the truth, and spreading the faith without any fear, to such an extent that he not only confessed it in his life but even at the moment of his death, for when he was at the last extremity, having neither voice nor ink left, having received his death-blow, he dipped his finger in his blood, and this glorious martyr, having not paper on which to write, leaned over, confessing the faith, and wrote the Credo on the ground. His heart burnt in the furnace of My charity, so that he never slackened his pace nor turned his head back, though he knew that he was to die, for I had revealed to him his death, but like a true knight he fearlessly came forth on to the battlefield; and I could tell you the same of many others, who though they did not actually experience martyrdom, were martyrs in will like Dominic; great laborers were these sent by My Father to labor in His vineyard to extirpate the thorns of vice, planting the virtues in their stead. Of a truth Dominic and Francis were two columns of the holy Church. Francis with the poverty which was specially his own, as has been said, and Dominic with his learning."
Of the excellence of the obedient, and of the misery of the disobedient members of the religious orders.
"Now that places suitable for obedience have been found, namely, these ships commanded by the Holy Spirit through the medium of their superiors, for, as I told you, the Holy Spirit is the true Master of these ships, which are built in the light of the most holy faith by those who have the light to know that My clemency, the Holy Spirit, will steer them, and having thus shown you the place of obedience and its perfection, I will speak to you of the obedience and of the disobedience of those who travel in such a ship, speaking of all together and not of one ship -- that is, one order -- in particular, showing you the sin of the disobedient and the virtue of the obedient, so that a man may better know the one by contrast with the other, and how he should walk if he would enter the ship of a religious order. How should he walk who wishes to enter this state of perfect and particular obedience? With the light of holy faith, by which he will know that he must slay his self-will with the knife of hatred of every sensual passion, taking the spouse which charity gives him, together with her sister. The spouse is true and prompt obedience, and the sister, patience; and he must also take the nurse of humility, for without this nurse obedience would perish of hunger, for obedience soon dies in a soul deprived of this little virtue of humility.
"Humility is not alone but has the handmaid of contempt of self and of the world, which causes the soul to hold herself vile, and not to desire honor but shame. Thus dead to himself, should he who is old enough enter the ship of a religious order, but however he may enter it (for I have told you that I call souls in diverse ways), he should acquire and preserve this affection, hurrying generously to seize the key of the obedience of his order, which will open the little door which is in the panel of the door of Heaven. Such as these have undertaken to open the little door, doing without the great key of general obedience, which opens the door of Heaven, as I have said to you. They have taken a little key, passing through a low and narrow opening in the great door. This small door is part of the great door, as you may see in any real door. They should keep this key when they have got it, and not throw it away. And because the truly obedient have seen with the light of faith that they will never be able to pass through this little door with the load of their riches and the weight of their own will without great fatigue and without losing their life, and that they cannot walk with head erect without breaking their neck; whether they wish to or not, they cast from them the load of their riches, and of their own will observing the vow of voluntary poverty, refusing to possess anything, for they see by the light of faith to what ruin they would come if they transgressed obedience, and the and of poverty which they promised to keep. The disobedient walk in pride, holding their heads erect, and if sometimes it suits their convenience to obey they do not incline their heads with humility, but proudly do so, because they must, which force breaks the neck of their will, for they fulfill their obedience with hatred of their order and of their superior. Little by little they are ruined on another point, for they transgress the vow of continence, for he who does not constrain his appetite or strip himself of temporal substance makes many relations and finds plenty of friends who love him for their own profit. From these relations they go on to close intimacies, their body they tend luxuriously, for being without either the nurse of humility or her sister, self-contempt, they live in their own pleasure richly and delicately, not like religious but like nobles, without watching or prayer. This and many other things happen to them because they have money to spend, for if they had it not they could not spend it. They fall into mental and physical impurity, for if sometimes from shame or through lack of means they abstain physically, they indulge themselves mentally, for it is impossible for a man with many worldly relations, of delicate habits and disordinate greediness, who watches not nor prays, to preserve his mind pure. Wherefore the perfectly obedient man sees from afar with the light of holy faith the evil and the loss which would come to him from temporal possessions and from walking weighed down by his own will; he also sees that he is obliged to pass by this narrow door, and that in such a state he would die before he would be able to pass it, having no key of obedience wherewith to open it, for as I said to you, he is obliged to pass through it. Wherefore it is that whether he will or no he should not leave the ship of the order, but should walk the narrow path of obedience to his superior.
"Wherefore the perfectly obedient man rises above himself and his own sensuality, and rising above his own feelings with living faith, places self-hatred as servant in the house of his soul to drive out the enemy of self-love, for he does not wish that his spouse, Obedience, given him with the light of faith by her mother, Charity, should be offended; so he drives out the enemy and puts in his place the nurse and companions of his spouse. "The love of obedience places in the house of his soul the lovers of his spouse, Obedience, who are the true and royal virtues, the customs and observances of his order, so that this sweet spouse enters his soul with her sister, Patience, and her nurse, Humility, together with Self-contempt and Self-hatred, and when she has entered she possesses peace and quiet, for her enemies have been exiled. She dwells in the garden of true continence, with the sun of intellectual light shining in, the eye of holy faith fixed on the object of My Truth, for her object is My Truth, and the fire of love with which she observes the rules of the order, warms all her servants and companions.
"Who are her enemies who have been expelled? The chief is self-love, producing pride, the enemy of humility and charity. Impatience is the enemy of patience, disobedience of true obedience, infidelity of faith, presumption and self-confidence do not accord with the true hope which the soul should have in Me; injustice cannot be conformed to justice, nor imprudence to prudence, nor intemperance to temperance, nor the transgression of the commandments of the order to perfect observance of them, nor the wicked conversation of those who live in sin to the good conversation of My servants. These are a man's enemies, causing him to leave the good customs and traditions of his order. He has also those other cruel enemies, anger, which wars against his benevolence; cruelty, against his kindness; wrath, against his benignity; hatred of virtue, against the love of virtue; impurity, against chastity; negligence, against solicitude; ignorance, against knowledge; and sloth against watchfulness and continued prayer.
"And since he knew by the light of faith that all these were his enemies who would defile his spouse, holy obedience, he appointed hatred to drive them out, and love to replace them with her friends. Wherefore with the knife of hatred he slew his perverse self-will, who, nourished by self-love, gave life to all these enemies of true obedience, and having cut off the source by which all the others are preserved in life, he remains free and in peace without any war, for there is no one to make war on him, for the soul has cut off from herself that which kept her in bitterness and in sadness. What makes war on obedience? Injuries? No, for the obedient man is patient, patience being the sister of obedience. The weight of the observances of the order? No, for obedience causes him to fulfill them. Does the weight of obedience give him pain? No, for he has trampled on his own will, and does not care to examine or judge the will of his superior, for with the light of faith he sees My will in him, believing truly that My clemency causes him to command according to the needs of his subject's salvation. Is he disgusted and angry at having to perform the humble duties of the order or to endure the mockeries, reproofs, jibes, and insults which are often cast at him, or to be held at little worth? No, for he has conceived love for self- contempt and self-hatred. Wherefore he rejoices with patience, exulting with delight and joy in the company of his spouse, true obedience, for the only thing which saddens him is to see Me, his Creator, offended. His conversation is with those who truly fear Me, and if he should converse with those who are separated from My Will, it is not in order to conform himself to their sins, but to draw them out of their misery, for through the brotherly love which he has in his heart towards them he would like to give them the good which he possesses, seeing that more glory and praise would be given to My name by many observing aright their order than by him doing so alone. Wherefore he endeavors to convert religious and seculars by his words and by prayer, and by every means by which he can draw them out of the darkness of mortal sin. Thus the conversations of a truly obedient man are good and perfect, whether they be with just men or with sinners, through his rightly ordered love and the breadth of his charity. Of his cell he makes a heaven, delighting there to converse with Me, his supreme and eternal Father, with the affection of love, flying idleness with humble and continual prayer, and when, through the illusion of the Devil, thoughts come crowding into his cell, he does not sit down on the bed of negligence embracing idleness, nor care to examine by reason the thoughts or opinions of his heart, but he flies sloth, rising above himself and his senses with hatred and true humility, patiently enduring the weariness which he feels in his mind, and resisting by watching and humble prayer, fixing the eye of his intellect on Me, and seeing with the light of faith that I am his helper, and both can and will help him, and open to him the eyes of My kindness, and that it is I who permit this suffering in order that he may be more eager to fly himself and come to Me. And if it should seem to him that on account of his great weariness and the darkness of his mind, mental prayer is impossible, he recites vocal prayers, or busies himself with some corporal exercises, so that by these means he may avoid idleness. He looks at Me with the light which I give him through love, which draws forth true humility, for he deems himself unworthy of the peace and quiet of mind of My other servants, but rather worthy of pain, for he despises himself in his own mind with hatred and self-reproach, thinking that he can never endure enough pain, for neither his hope nor My providence fail him, but with faith and the key of obedience he passes over this stormy sea in the ship of his order, dwelling thus in his cell as has been said, and avoiding idleness.
"The obedient man wishes to be the first to enter choir and the last to leave it, and when he sees a brother more obedient than himself he regards him in his eagerness with a holy envy, stealing from him the virtue in which he excels, not wishing, however, that his brother should have less thereof, for if he wished this he would be separated from brotherly love. The obedient man does not leave the refectory, but visits it continually and delights at being at table with the poor. And as a sign that he delights therein, and so as to have no reason to remain without, he has abandoned his temporal substance, observing so perfectly the vow of poverty that he blames himself for considering even the necessities of his body. His cell is full of the odor of poverty, and not of clothes; he has no fear that thieves will come to rob him, or that rust or moths will corrupt his garments; and if anything is given to him, he does not think of laying it by for his own use, but freely shares it with his brethren, not thinking of the morrow, but rather depriving himself today of what he needs, thinking only of the kingdom of heaven and how he may best observe true obedience.
"And in order that he may better keep to the path of humility, he submits to small and great, to poor and rich, and becomes the servant of all, never refusing labor, but serving all with charity. The obedient man does not wish to fulfill his obedience in his own way, or to choose his time or place, but prefers the way of his order and of his superior. All this the truly and perfectly obedient man does without pain and weariness of mind. He passes with this key in his hand through the narrow door of the order, easily and without violence, because he observes the vows of poverty, true obedience, and continence, having abandoned the heights of pride, and bowed his head to obedience through humility. He does not break his neck through impatience, but is patient with fortitude and enduring perseverance, the friends of obedience. Thus he passes by the assaults of the devils, mortifying and macerating his flesh, stripping it bare of all pleasures and delights and clothing it with the labors of the order in a faith which despises nothing, for as a child who does not remember the blows and injuries inflicted on him by his father, so this child of the spirit does not remember the injuries, pains, or blows inflicted on him by his superior in the order, but calling him humbly, turns to him without anger, hatred, or rancor, but with meekness and benevolence.
"These are those little ones of whom My Truth spoke to the disciples, who were contending among themselves which of them should be the greater, for calling a child, He said: 'Allow the little ones to come to Me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven to be; whoever will not humble himself like this child (that is, who will not keep this childlike condition), shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. For he who humbles himself, dearest daughter, will be exalted, and he who exalts himself will be humbled,' which also was said to you by My Truth. Justly, therefore, are these humble little ones, humiliated and subjected through love, with true and holy obedience, who do not kick against the pricks of their order or superior, exalted by Me, the supreme and eternal Father, with the true citizens of the blessed life, when they are rewarded for all their labors, and in this life also do they taste eternal life."
How the truly obedient receive a hundredfold for one, and also eternal lift; and what is meant by this one, and this hundredfold.
"In them is fulfilled the saying of the sweet and amorous Word, My only-begotten Son, in the gospel when He replied to Peter's demand, 'Master, we have left everything for your love's sake, and have followed You, what will you give us?' My Truth replied, 'I will give you a hundredfold for one, and you shall possess eternal life.' As if My Truth had wished to say, 'You have done well, Peter, for in no other way could you follow Me. And I, in this life, will give you a hundredfold for one.' And what is this hundredfold, beloved daughter, besides which the apostle obtained eternal life? To what did My Truth refer? To temporal substance?
"Properly speaking, no. Do I not, however, often cause one who gives alms to multiply in temporal goods? In return for what do I this? In return for the gift of his own will. This is the one for which I repay him a hundredfold. What is the meaning of the number a hundred? A hundred is a perfect number, and cannot be added to except by recommencing from the first. So charity is the most perfect of all the virtues, so perfect that no higher virtue can be attained except by recommencing at the beginning of self- knowledge, and thus increasing many hundredfold in merit; but you always necessarily arrive at the number one hundred. This is that hundredfold which is given to those who have given Me the unit of their own will, both in general obedience, and in the particular obedience of the religious life. And in addition to this hundred you also possess eternal life, for charity alone enters into eternal life, like a mistress bringing with her the fruit of all the other virtues, while they remain outside, bringing their fruit, I say, into Me, the eternal life, in whom the obedient taste eternal life. It is not by faith that they taste eternal life, for they experience in its essence that which they have believed through faith; nor by hope, for they possess that for which they had hoped, and so with all the other virtues, Queen Charity alone enters and possesses Me, her possessor. See, therefore, that these little ones receive a hundredfold for one, and also eternal life, for here they receive the fire of divine charity figured by the number of a hundred (as has been said). And because they have received this hundredfold from Me, they possess a wonderful and hearty joy, for there is no sadness in charity, but the joy of it makes the heart large and generous, not narrow or double. A soul wounded by this sweet arrow does not appear one thing in face and tongue while her heart is different. She does not serve, or act towards her neighbor with dissembling and ambition, because charity is an open book to be read by all. Wherefore the soul who possesses charity never falls into trouble, or the affliction of sadness, or jars with obedience, remains obedient until death."
Of the perversities, miseries, and labors of the disobedient man; and of the miserable fruits which proceed from
"Contrariwise, a wicked disobedient man dwells in the ship of a religious order with so much pain to himself and others, that in this life he tastes the earnest of hell, he remains always in sadness and confusion of mind, tormented by the sting of conscience, with hatred of his order and superior, insupportable to himself. What a terrible thing it is, My daughter, to see one who has once taken the key of obedience of a religious order, living in disobedience, to which he has made himself a slave, for of disobedience he has made his mistress with her companion impatience, nourished by pride, and his own pleasure, which pride (as has been said) issues from self-love. For him everything is the contrary to what it would be for the obedient man. For how can this wretch be in any other state than suffering, for he is deprived of charity, he is obliged by force to incline the neck of his own will, and pride keeps it erect, all his desires are in discord with the will of the order. The order commands obedience, and he loves disobedience; the order commands voluntary poverty, and he avoids it, possessing and acquiring riches; the order commands continence and purity, and he desires lewdness. By transgressing these three vows, My daughter, a religious comes to ruin, and falls into so many miseries, that his aspect is no longer that of a religious but of an incarnate devil, as in another place I related to you at greater length. I will, however, tell you something now of their delusion, and of the fruit which they obtained by disobedience to the commendation and exhortation of obedience. This wretched man is deluded by his self-love, because the eye of his intellect is fixed, with a dead faith, on pleasing his self-will, and on things of the world. He left the world in body, but remained there in his affections, and because obedience seems wearisome to him he wishes to disobey in order to avoid weariness; whereby he arrives at the greatest weariness of all, for he is obliged to obey either by force or by love, and it would have been better and less wearisome to have obeyed by love than without it. Oh! how deluded he is, and no one else deceives him but himself. Wishing to please himself he only gives himself displeasure, for the actions which he will have to do, through the obedience imposed on him, do not please him. He wishes to enjoy delights and make this life his eternity, but the order wishes him to be a pilgrim, and continually proves it to him; for when he is in a nice pleasant resting place, where he would like to remain for the pleasures and delights he finds there, he is transferred elsewhere, and the change gives him pain, for his will was active against his obedience, and yet he is obliged to endure the discipline and labors of the order, and thus remains in continual torment. See, therefore, how he deludes himself; for, wishing to fly pain, he on the contrary falls into it, for his blindness does not let him know the road of true obedience, which is a road of truth founded by the obedient Lamb, My only-begotten Son, who removed pain from it, so that he walks by the road of lies, believing that he will find delight there, but finding on the contrary pain and bitterness. Who is his guide? Self-love, that is his own passion for disobedience. Such a man thinks like a fool to navigate this tempestuous sea, with the strength of his own arms, trusting in his own miserable knowledge, and will not navigate it in the arms of his order, and of his superior. Such a one is indeed in the ship of the order in body, and not in mind; he has quitted it in desire, not observing the regulations or customs of the order, nor the three vows which he promised to observe at the time of his profession; he swims in the tempestuous sea, tossed to and fro by contrary winds, fastened only to the ship by his clothes, wearing the religious habit on his body but not on his heart. Such a one is no friar, but a masquerader, a man only in appearance. His life is lower than an animal's, and he does not see that he labors more swimming with his arms, than the good religious in the ship, or that he is in danger of eternal death; for if his clothes should be suddenly torn from the ship, which will happen at the moment of death, he will have no remedy. No, he does not see, for he has darkened his light with the cloud of self-love, whence has come his disobedience, which prevents him seeing his misery, wherefore he miserably deceives himself. What fruit is produced by this wretched tree?
"The fruit of death, because the root of his affection is planted in pride, which he has drawn from self-love. Wherefore everything that issues from this root -- flowers, leaves, and fruit -- is corrupt, and the three boughs of this tree, which are obedience, poverty, and continence, which spring from the foot of the tree; that is, his affections are corrupted. The leaves produced by this tree, which are his words, are so corrupt that they would be out of place in the mouth of a ribald secular; and if he have to preach My doctrine, he does so in polished terms, not simply, as one who should feed souls with the seed of My Word, but with eloquent language. Look at the stinking flowers of this tree, which are his diverse and various thoughts, which he voluntarily welcomes with delight and pleasure, not flying the occasions of them, but rather seeking them in order to be able to accomplish a sinful act, the which is the fruit which kills him, depriving him of the light of grace, and giving him eternal death. And what stench comes from this fruit, sprung from the flowers of the tree? The stench of disobedience, for, in the secret of his heart, he wishes to examine and judge unfaithfully his superior's will; a stench of impurity, for he takes delight in many foul conversations, wretchedly tempting his penitents.
"Wretch that you are, do you not see that under the color of devotion you conceal a troop of children? This comes from your disobedience. You have not chosen the virtues for your children as does the truly obedient religious; you strive to deceive your superior when you see that he denies you something which your perverse will desires, using the leaves of smooth or rough words, speaking irreverently and reproving him. You can not endure your brother, nor even the smallest word and reproof which he may make to you, but in such a case you immediately bring forth the poisoned fruit of anger and hatred against him, judging that to be done to your hurt which was done for your good, and thus taking scandal, your soul and body living in pain. Why has your brother displeased you? Because you live for your own sensual pleasure, you fly your cell as if it were a prison, for you have abandoned the cell of self-knowledge, and thus fallen into disobedience, wherefore you can not remain in your material cell. You will not appear in the refectory against your will whilst you have anything to spend; when you have nothing left necessity takes you there. "Therefore the obedient have done well, who have chosen to observe their vow of poverty, so that they have nothing to spend, and therefore are not led away from the sweet table of the refectory, where obedience nourishes both body and soul in peace and quiet. The obedient religious does not think of laying a table, or of providing food for himself like this wretched man, to whose taste it is painful to eat in the refectory, wherefore he avoids it; he is always the last to enter the choir, and the first to leave it; with his lips he approaches Me, with his heart he is far from Me. He gladly escapes from the chapter-house when he can through fear of penance. When he is obliged to be there, he is covered with shame and confusion for the faults which he felt it no shame to commit. What is the cause of this? Disobedience. He does not watch in prayer, and not only does he omit mental prayer, but even the Divine office to which he is obliged. He has no fraternal charity, because he loves no one but himself, and that not with a reasonable but with a bestial love. So great are the evils which fall on the disobedient; so many are the fruits of sorrow which he produces, that your tongue could not relate them. Oh! disobedience, which deprives the soul of the light of obedience, destroying peace, and giving war! Disobedience destroys life and gives death, drawing the religious out of the ship of the observance of his order, to drown him in the sea, making him swim in the strength of his own arms, and not repose on those of the order. Disobedience clothes him with every misery, causes him to die of hunger, taking away from him the food of the merit of obedience, it gives him continual bitterness, depriving him of every sweetness and good, causing him to dwell with every evil in life it gives him the earnest of cruel torments to endure, and if he do not amend before his clothes are loosened from the ship at death, disobedience will lead the soul to eternal damnation, together with the devils who fell from heaven, because they rebelled against Me. In the same way have you, oh! disobedient man, having rebelled against obedience and cast from you the key which would have opened the door of heaven, opened instead the door of hell with the key of disobedience."
How God does not reward merit according to the labor of the obedient, nor according to the length of time which it takes, but according to the love and promptitude of the truly obedient; and of the miracles which God has performed by means of this virtue; and of discretion in obedience, and of the works and reward of the truly obedient man.
"I have appointed you all to labor in the vineyard of obedience in different ways, and every man will receive a price, according to the measure of his love, and not according to the work he does, or the length of time for which he works, that is to say, that he who comes early will not have more than he who comes late, as My Truth told you in the holy gospel by the example of those who were standing idle and were sent by the lord of the vineyard to labor; for he gave as much to those who went at dawn, as to those who went at prime or at tierce, and those who went at sext, at none, and even at vespers, received as much as the first: My Truth showing you in this way that you are rewarded not according to time or work, but according to the measure of your love. Many are placed in their childhood to work in the vineyard; some enter later in life, and others in old age; sometimes these latter labor with such fire of love, seeing the shortness of the time, that they rejoin those who entered in their childhood, because they have advanced but slowly. By love of obedience, then, does the soul receive her merit, filling the vessel of her heart in Me, the Sea Pacific. There are many whose obedience is so prompt, and has become, as it were, so incarnate in them, that not only do they wish to see reason in what is ordered them by their superior, but they hardly wait until the word is out of his mouth, for with the light of faith they understand his intention. Wherefore the truly obedient man obeys rather the intention than the word, judging that the will of his superior is fixed in My will, and that therefore his command comes from My dispensation, and from My will, wherefore I say to you that he rather obeys the intention than the word. He also obeys the word, having first spiritually obeyed in affection his superior's will, seeing and judging it by the light of faith to be Mine. This is well shown in the lives of the fathers, where you read of a religious, who at once obeyed in his affection the command of his superior, commencing to write the letter o, though he had not space to finish it; wherefore to show how pleasing his prompt obedience was to Me, My clemency gave him a proof by writing the other half of the letter in gold. This glorious virtue is so pleasing to Me, that to no other have I given so many miraculous signs and testimonies, for it proceeds from the height of faith.
"In order to show how pleasing it is to Me, the earth obeys this virtue, the animals obey it -- water grows solid under the feet of the obedient man. And as for the obedience of the earth, you remember having read of that disciple who, being given a dry stick by his abbot, and being ordered by obedience to plant it in the earth and water it every day, did not proceed to ask how could it possibly do any good, but, without inquiring about possibilities, he fulfilled his obedience in such virtue of faith that the dry wood brought forth leaves and fruits, as a sign that that soul had risen from the dryness of disobedience, and, covered by the green leaves of virtue, had brought forth the fruit of obedience, wherefore the fruit of this tree was called by the holy fathers the fruit of obedience. You will also find that animals obey the obedient man; for a certain disciple, commanded by obedience, through his purity and virtue caught a dragon and brought it to his abbot, but the abbot, like a true physician of the soul, in order that he might not be tossed about by the wind of vainglory, and to prove his patience, sent him away with harsh words, saying: 'Beast that you are, you have brought along another beast with yourself.' And as to fire, you have read in the holy scripture that many were placed in the fire, rather than transgress My obedience, and, at My command were not hurt by it. This was the case of the three children, who remained happily in the furnace -- and of many others of whom I could tell you. The water bore up Maurus who had been sent by obedience to save a drowning disciple; he did not think of himself, but thought only with the light of faith of how to fulfill the command of his superior, and so walked upon the water as if he had been on dry land, and so saved the disciple. In everything, if you open the eye of the intellect, you will find shown forth the excellence of this virtue. Everything else should be abandoned for the sake of obedience. If you were lifted up in such contemplation and union of mind with Me, that your body was raised from the earth, and an obedience were imposed on you (speaking generally, and not in a particular case, which cannot give a law), you ought, if possible, to force yourself to arise, to fulfill the obedience imposed on you, though you should never leave prayer, except for necessity, charity, or obedience. I say this in order that you may see how prompt I wish the obedience of My servants to be, and how pleasing it is to Me. Everything that the obedient man does is a source of merit to him. If he eats, obedience is his food; if he sleeps, his dreams are obedience; if he walks, if he remains still, if he fasts, if he watches -- everything that he does is obedience; if he serve his neighbor, it is obedience that he serves. How is he guided in the choir, in the refectory, or his cell? By obedience, with the light of the most holy faith, with which light he has slain and cast from him his humbled self-will, and abandoned himself with self-hatred to the arms of his order and superior. Reposing with obedience in the ship, allowing himself to be guided by his superior, he has navigated the tempestuous sea of this life, with calm and serene mind and tranquillity of heart, because obedience and faith have taken all darkness from him; he remains strong and firm, having lost all weakness and fear, having destroyed his own will, from which comes all feebleness and disordinate fear. And what is the food of this spouse obedience? She eats knowledge of self, and of Me, knowing her own non- existence and sinfulness, and knowing that I am He who is, thus eating and knowing My Truth in the Incarnate Word. What does she drink? The Blood, in which the Word has shown her, My Truth, and the ineffable love which I have for her, and the obedience imposed on Him by Me, His Eternal Father, so she becomes inebriated with the love and obedience of the Word, losing herself and her own opinions and knowledge, and possessing Me by grace, tasting Me by love, with the light of faith in holy obedience.
"The obedient man speaks words of peace all his life, and at his death receives that which was promised him at his death by his superior, that is to say, eternal life, the vision of peace, and of supreme and eternal tranquillity and rest, the inestimable good which no one can value or understand, for, being the infinite good, it cannot be understood by anything smaller than itself, like a vessel, which, dipped into the sea, does not comprehend the whole sea, but only that quantity which it contains. The sea alone contains itself. So I, the Sea Pacific, am He who alone can comprehend and value Myself truly. And in My own estimate and comprehension of Myself I rejoice, and this joy, the good which I have in Myself, I share with you, and with all, according to the measure of each. I do not leave you empty, but fill you, giving you perfect beatitude; each man comprehends and knows My goodness in the measure in which it is given to him. Thus, then, the obedient man, with the light of faith in the truth burning in the furnace of charity, anointed with humility, inebriated with the Blood, in company with his sister patience, and with self- contempt, fortitude, and enduring perseverance, and all the other virtues (that is, with the fruit of the virtues), receives his end from Me, his Creator."
This is a brief repetition of the entire book.
"I have now, oh dearest and best beloved daughter, satisfied from the beginning to the end your desire concerning obedience. "If you remember well, you made four petitions of Me with anxious desire, or rather I caused you to make them in order to increase the fire of My love in your soul: one for yourself, which I have satisfied, illuminating you with My Truth, and showing you how you may know this truth which you desired to know; explaining to you how you might come to the knowledge of it through the knowledge of yourself and Me, through the light of faith. The second request you made of Me was that I should do mercy to the world. In the third you prayed for the mystical body of the holy Church, that I would remove darkness and persecutions from it, punishing its iniquities at own desire in your person. As to this I explained that no penalty inflicted in finite time can satisfy for a sin committed against Me, the Infinite Good, unless it is united with the desire of the soul and contrition of the heart. How this is to be done I have explained to you. I have also told you that I wish to do mercy to the world, proving to you that mercy is My special attribute, for through the mercy and the inestimable love which I had for man, I sent to the earth the Word, My only-begotten Son, whom, that you might understand things quite clearly, I represented to you under the figure of a Bridge, reaching from earth to heaven, through the union of My divinity with your human nature.
"I also showed you, to give you further light concerning My truth, how this Bridge is built on three steps; that is, on the three powers of the soul. These three steps I also represented to you, as you know, under figures of your body -- the feet, the side, and the mouth -- by which I also figured three states of soul -- the imperfect state, the perfect state, and the most perfect state, in which the soul arrives at the excellence of unitive love. I have shown you clearly in each state the means of cutting away imperfection and reaching perfection, and how the soul may know by which road she is walking and of the hidden delusions of the devil and of spiritual self-love. Speaking of these three states I have also spoken of the three judgments which My clemency delivers -- one in this life, the second at death on those who die in mortal sin without hope, of whom I told you that they went under the Bridge by the Devil's road, when I spoke to you of their wretchedness. And the third is that of the last and universal judgment. And I who told you somewhat of the suffering of the damned and the glory of the blessed, when all shall have reassumed their bodies given by Me, also promised you, and now again I repeat my promise, that through the long endurance of My servants I will reform My spouse. Wherefore I invite you to endure, Myself lamenting with you over her iniquities. And I have shown you the excellence of the ministers I have given her, and the reverence in which I wish seculars to hold them, showing you the reason why their reverence towards My ministers should not diminish on account of the sins of the latter, and how displeasing to me is such diminution of reverence; and of the virtue of those who live like angels. And while speaking to you on this subject, I also touched on the excellence of the sacraments. And further wishing you to know of the states of tears and whence they proceed, I spoke to you on the subject and told you that all tears issue from the fountain of the heart, and pointed out their causes to you in order.
"I told you not only of the four states of tears, but also of the fifth, which germinates death. I have also answered your fourth request, that I would provide for the particular case of an individual; I have provided as you know. Further than this, I have explained My providence to you, in general and in particular, showing you how everything is made by divine providence, from the first beginning of the world until the end, giving you and permitting everything to happen to you, both tribulations and consolations temporal and spiritual, and every circumstance of your life for your good, in order that you may be sanctified in Me, and My Truth be fulfilled in you, which truth is that I created you in order to possess eternal life, and manifested this with the blood of My only-begotten Son, the Word.
"I have also in My last words fulfilled your desire and My promise to speak of the perfection of obedience and the imperfection of disobedience; and how obedience can be obtained and how destroyed. I have shown it to you as a universal key, and so it is. I have also spoken to you of particular obedience, and of the perfect and imperfect, and of those in religion, and of those in the world, explaining the condition of each distinctly to you, and of the peace given by obedience, and the war of disobedience, and how the disobedient man is deceived, showing you how death came into the world by the disobedience of Adam, and how I, the Eternal Father, supreme and eternal Truth, give you this conclusion of the whole matter, that in the obedience of the only- begotten Word, My Son, you have life, and as from that first old man you contracted the infection of death, so all of you who will take the key of obedience have contracted the infection of the life of the new Man, sweet Jesus, of whom I made a Bridge, the road to Heaven being broken. And now I urge you and My other servants to grief, for by your grief and humble and continual prayer I will do mercy to the world. Die to the world and hasten along this way of truth, so as not to be taken prisoner if you go slowly. I demand this of you now more than at first, for now I have manifested to you My Truth. Beware that you never leave the cell of self-knowledge, but in this cell preserve and spend the treasure which I have given you, which is a doctrine of truth founded upon the living stone, sweet Christ Jesus, clothed in light which scatters darkness, with which doctrine clothe yourself, My best beloved and sweetest daughter, in the truth."
How this most devout soul, thanking and praising God, makes prayer for the whole world and for the Holy Church, and commending the virtue of faith brings this work to an end.
Then that soul, having seen with the eye of the intellect, and having known by the light of holy faith the truth and excellence of obedience, hearing and tasting it with love and ecstatic desire, gazed upon the divine majesty and gave thanks to Him, saying, "Thanks, thanks to You, oh eternal Father, for You have not despised me, the work of Your hands, nor turned Your face from me, nor despised my desires; You, the Light, have not regarded my darkness; You, true Life, have not regarded my living death; You, the Physician, have not been repelled by my grave infirmities; You, the eternal Purity, have not considered the many miseries of which I am full; You, who are the Infinite, have overlooked that I am finite; You, who are Wisdom, have overlooked my folly; Your wisdom, Your goodness, Your clemency, Your infinite good, have overlooked these infinite evils and sins, and the many others which are in me. Having known the truth through Your clemency, I have found Your charity, and the love of my neighbor. What has constrained me? Not my virtues, but only Your charity. May that same charity constrain You to illuminate the eye of my intellect with the light of faith, so that I may know and understand the truth which You have manifested to me. Grant that my memory may be capable of retaining Your benefits, that my will may burn in the fire of Your charity, and may that fire so work in me that I give my body to blood, and that by that blood given for love of the Blood, together with the key of obedience, I may unlock the door of Heaven. I ask this of You with all my heart, forevery rational creature, both in general and in particular, in the mystical body of the holy Church. I confess and do not deny that You loved me before I existed, and that Your love for me is ineffable, as if You were mad with love for Your creature. Oh, eternal Trinity! oh Godhead! which Godhead gave value to the Blood of Your Son, You, oh eternal Trinity, are a deep Sea, into which the deeper I enter the more I find, and the more I find the more I seek; the soul cannot be satiated in Your abyss, for she continually hungers after You, the eternal Trinity, desiring to see You with light in Your light. As the hart desires the spring of living water, so my soul desires to leave the prison of this dark body and see You in truth. How long, oh! Eternal Trinity, fire and abyss of love, will Your face be hidden from my eyes? Melt at once the cloud of my body. The knowledge which You have given me of Yourself in Your truth, constrains me to long to abandon the heaviness of my body, and to give my life for the glory and praise of Your Name, for I have tasted and seen with the light of the intellect in Your light, the abyss of You -- the eternal Trinity, and the beauty of Your creature, for, looking at myself in You, I saw myself to be Your image, my life being given me by Your power, oh! eternal Father, and Your wisdom, which belongs to Your only-begotten Son, shining in my intellect and my will, being one with Your Holy Spirit, who proceeds from You and Your Son, by whom I am able to love You. You, Eternal Trinity, are my Creator, and I am the work of Your hands, and I know through the new creation which You have given me in the blood of Your Son, that You are enamored of the beauty of Your workmanship. Oh! Abyss, oh! Eternal Godhead, oh! Sea Profound! what more could You give me than Yourself; You are the fire which ever burns without being consumed; You consume in Your heat all the soul's self-love; You are the fire which takes away all cold; with Your light You do illuminate me so that I may know all Your truth; You are that light above all light, which illuminates supernaturally the eye of my intellect, clarifying the light of faith so abundantly and so perfectly, that I see that my soul is alive, and in this light receives You -- the true light. By the Light of faith I have acquired wisdom in the wisdom of the Word -- Your only-begotten Son. In the light of faith I am strong, constant, and persevering. In the light of faith I hope, suffer me not to faint by the way. This light, without which I should still walk in darkness, teaches me the road, and for this I said, Oh! Eternal Father, that You have illuminated me with the light of holy faith. Of a truth this light is a sea, for the soul revels in You, Eternal Trinity, the Sea Pacific. The water of the sea is not turbid, and causes no fear to the soul, for she knows the truth; it is a deep which manifests sweet secrets, so that where the light of Your faith abounds, the soul is certain of what she believes. This water is a magic mirror into which You, the Eternal Trinity, bid me gaze, holding it with the hand of love, that I may see myself, who am Your creature, there represented in You, and Yourself in me through the union which You made of Your godhead with our humanity. For this light I know to represent to myself You -- the Supreme and Infinite Good, Good Blessed and Incomprehensible, Good Inestimable. Beauty above all beauty; Wisdom above all wisdom -- for You are wisdom itself. You, the food of the angels, have given Yourself in a fire of love to men; You, the garment which covers all our nakedness, feed the hungry with Your sweetness. Oh! Sweet, without any bitter, oh! Eternal Trinity, I have known in Your light, which You have given me with the light of holy faith, the many and wonderful things You have declared to me, explaining to me the path of supreme perfection, so that I may no longer serve You in darkness, but with light, and that I may be the mirror of a good and holy life, and arise from my miserable sins, for through them I have hitherto served You in darkness. I have not known Your truth and have not loved it. Why did I not know You? Because I did not see You with the glorious light of the holy faith; because the cloud of self-love darkened the eye of my intellect, and You, the Eternal Trinity, have dissipated the darkness with Your light. Who can attain to Your Greatness, and give You thanks for such immeasurable gifts and benefits as You have given me in this doctrine of truth, which has been a special grace over and above the ordinary graces which You give also to Your other creatures? You have been willing to condescend to my need and to that of Your creatures -- the need of introspection. Having first given the grace to ask the question, You reply to it, and satisfy Your servant, penetrating me with a ray of grace, so that in that light I may give You thanks. Clothe me, clothe me with You, oh! Eternal Truth, that I may run my mortal course with true obedience and the light of holy faith, with which light I feel that my soul is about to become inebriated afresh."
Letter of Ser Barduccio di Piero Canigiani, containing the Transit of the Seraphic Virgin, Saint Catherine of Siena, to Sister Catherine Petriboni in the Monastery of San Piero a Monticelli near Florence. In the Name of Jesus Christ.
Dearest Mother in Christ Jesus, and Sister in the holy memory of our blessed mother Catherine, I, Barduccio, a wretched and guilty sinner, recommend myself to your holy prayers as a feeble infant, orphaned by the death of so great a mother. I received your letter and read it with much pleasure, and communicated it to my afflicted mothers here, who, supremely grateful for your great charity and tender love towards them, recommend themselves greatly, for their part, to your prayers, and beg you to recommend them to the Prioress and all the sisters that they may be ready to do all that may be pleasing to God concerning themselves and you. But since you, as a beloved and faithful daughter, desire to know the end of our common mother, I am constrained to satisfy your desire; and although I know myself to be but little fitted to give such a narration, I will write in any case what my feeble eyes have seen, and what the dull senses of my soul have been able to comprehend.
This blessed virgin and mother of thousands of souls, about the feast of the Circumcision, began to feel so great a change both in soul and body, that she was obliged to alter her mode of life, the action of taking food for her sustenance becoming so loathsome to her, that it was only with the greatest difficulty that she could force herself to take any, and, when she did so, she swallowed nothing of the substance of the food, but had the habit of rejecting it. Moreover, not one drop of water could she swallow for refreshment, whence came to her a most violent and tedious thirst, and so great an inflammation of her throat that her breath seemed to be fire, with all which, however, she remained in very good health, robust and fresh as usual. In these conditions we reached Sexagesima Sunday, when, about the hour of vespers, at the time of her prayer, she had so violent a stroke that from that day onwards she was no longer in health. Towards the night of the following Monday, just after I had written a letter, she had another stroke so terrific, that we all mourned her as dead, remaining under it for a long time without giving any sign of life. Then, rising, she stood for an equal space of time, and did not seem the same person as she who had fallen.
From that hour began new travail and bitter pains in her body, and, Lent having arrived, she began, in spite of her infirmity, to give herself with such application of mind to prayer that the frequency of the humble sighs and sorrowful plaints which she exhaled from the depth of her heart appeared to us a miracle. I think, too, that you know that her prayers were so fervent that one hour spent in prayer by her reduced that dear tender frame to greater weakness than would be suffered by one who should persist for two whole days in prayer. Meanwhile, every morning, after communion, she arose from the earth in such a state that any one who had seen her would have thought her dead, and was thus carried back to bed. Thence, after an hour or two, she would arise afresh, and we would go to St. Peter's, although a good mile distant, where she would place herself in prayer, so remaining until vespers, finally returning to the house so worn out that she seemed a corpse.
These were her exercises up till the third Sunday in Lent, when she finally succumbed, conquered by the innumerable sufferings, which daily increased, and consumed her body, and the infinite afflictions of the soul which she derived from the consideration of the sins which she saw being committed against God, and from the dangers ever more grave to which she knew the Holy Church to be exposed, on account of which she remained greatly overcome, and both internally and externally tormented. She lay in this state for eight weeks, unable to lift her head, and full of intolerable pains, from the soles of her feet to the crown of her head, to such an extent that she would often say: "These pains are truly physical, but not natural; for it seems that God has given permission to the devils to torment this body at their pleasure." And, in truth, it evidently was so; for, if I were to attempt to explain the patience which she practiced, under this terrible and unheard-of agony, I should fear to injure, by my explanations, facts which cannot be explained. This only will I say, that, every time that a new torment came upon her, she would joyously raise her eyes and her heart to God and say: "Thanks to You, oh eternal Spouse, for granting such graces afresh every day to me, Your miserable and most unworthy handmaid!"
In this way her body continued to consume itself until the Sunday before the Ascension; but by that time it was reduced to such a state that it seemed like a corpse in a picture, though I speak not of the face, which remained ever angelical and breathed forth devotion, but of the bosom and limbs, in which nothing could be seen but the bones, covered by the thinnest skin, and so feeble was she from the waist downwards that she could not move herself, even a little, from one side to another. In the night preceding the aforesaid Sunday, about two hours or more before dawn, a great change was produced in her, and we thought that she was approaching the end. The whole family was then called around her, and she, with singular humility and devotion, made signs to those who were standing near that she desired to receive Holy Absolution for her faults and the pains due to them, and so it was done. After which she became gradually reduced to such a state that we could observe no other movement than her breathing, continuous, sad, and feeble. On account of this it seemed right to give her extreme unction, which our abbot of Sant' Antimo did, while she lay as it were deprived of feeling.
After this unction she began altogether to change, and to make various signs with her head and her arms as if to show that she was suffering from grave assaults of demons, and remained in this calamitous state for an hour and a half, half of which time having been passed in silence, she began to say: "I have sinned! Oh Lord, have mercy on me!" And this, as I believe, she repeated more than sixty times, raising each time her right arm, and then letting it fall and strike the bed. Then, changing her words, she said as many times again, but without moving her arms, "Holy God, have mercy on me!" Finally she employed the remainder of the above-mentioned time with many other formulas of prayer both humble and devout, expressing various acts of virtue, after which her face suddenly changed from gloom to angelic light, and her tearful and clouded eyes became serene and joyous, in such a manner that I could not doubt that, like one saved from a deep sea, she was restored to herself, which circumstance greatly mitigated the grief of her sons and daughters who were standing around in the affliction you can imagine.
Catherine had been lying on the bosom of Mother Alessia and now succeeded in rising, and with a little help began to sit up, leaning against the same mother. In the meantime we had put before her eyes a pious picture, containing many relics and various pictures of the saints. She, however, fixed her eyes on the image of the cross set in it, and began to adore it, explaining, in words, certain of her most profound feelings of the goodness of God, and while she prayed, she accused herself in general of all her sins in the sight of God, and, in particular, said: "It is my fault, oh eternal Trinity, that I have offended You so miserably with my negligence, ignorance, ingratitude, and disobedience, and many other defects. Wretch that I am! for I have not observed Your commandments, either those which are given in general to all, or those which Your goodness laid upon me in particular! Oh mean creature that I am!" Saying which, she struck her breast, repeating her confession, and continued: "I have not observed Your precept, with which You commanded me to seek always to give You honor, and to spend myself in labors for my neighbor, while I, on the contrary, have fled from labors, especially where they were necessary. Did You not command me, oh, my God! to abandon all thought of myself and to consider solely the praise and glory of Your Name in the salvation of souls, and with this food alone, taken from the table of the most holy Cross, to comfort myself? But I have sought my own consolation. You did ever invite me to bind myself to You alone by sweet, loving, and fervent desires, by tears and humble and continuous prayers for the salvation of the whole world and for the reformation of the holy Church, promising me that, on account of them, You would use mercy with the world, and give new beauty to Your Spouse; but I, wretched one, have not corresponded with Your desire, but have remained asleep in the bed of negligence.
"Oh, unhappy that I am! You have placed me in charge of souls, assigning to me so many beloved sons, that I should love them with singular love and direct them to You by the way of Life, but I have been to them nothing but a mirror of human weakness; I have had no care of them; I have not helped them with continuous and humble prayer in Your presence, nor have I given them sufficient examples of the good life or the warnings of salutary doctrine. Oh, mean creature that I am! with how little reverence have I received Your innumerable gifts, the graces of such sweet torments and labors which it pleased You to accumulate on this fragile body, nor have I endured them with that burning desire and ardent love with which You sent them to me. Alas! oh, my Love, through Your excessive goodness You chose me for Your spouse, from the beginning of my childhood, but I was not faithful enough; in fact, I was unfaithful to You, because I did not keep my memory faithful to You alone and to Your most high benefits; nor have I fixed my intelligence on the thought of them only or disposed my will to love You immediately with all its strength."
Of these and many other similar things did that pure dove accuse herself, rather, as I think, for our example than for her own need, and then, turning to the priest, said: "For the love of Christ crucified, absolve me of all these sins which I have confessed in the presence of God, and of all the others which I cannot remember." That done, she asked again for the plenary indulgence, saying that it had been granted her by Pope Gregory and Pope Urban, saying this as one an hungered for the Blood of Christ. So I did what she asked, and she, keeping her eyes ever fixed on the crucifix, began afresh to adore it with the greatest devotion, and to say certain very profound things which I, for my sins, was not worthy to understand, and also on account of the grief with which I was laboring and the anguish with which her throat was oppressed, which was so great that she could hardly utter her words, while we, placing our ears to her mouth, were able to catch one or two now or again, passing them on from one to the other. After this she turned to certain of her sons, who had not been present at a memorable discourse, which, many days previously, she had made to the whole family, showing us the way of salvation and perfection, and laying upon each of us the particular task which he was to perform after her death. She now did the same to these others, begging most humbly pardon of all for the slight care which she seemed to have had of our salvation. Then she said certain things to Lucio and to another, and finally to me, and then turned herself straightway to prayer.
Oh! had you seen with what humility and reverence she begged and received many times the blessing of her most sorrowful mother, all that I can say is that it was a bitter sweet to her. How full of tender affection was the spectacle of the mother, recommending herself to her blessed child, and begging her to obtain a particular grace from God -- namely, that in these melancholy circumstances she might not offend Him. But all these things did not distract the holy virgin from the fervor of her prayer; and, approaching her end, she began to pray especially for the Catholic Church, for which she declared she was giving her life. She prayed again for Pope Urban VI., whom she resolutely confessed to be the true Pontiff, and strengthened her sons never to hesitate to give their life for that truth. Then, with the greatest fervor, she besought all her beloved children whom the Lord had given her, to love Him alone, repeating many of the words which our Savior used, when He recommended the disciples to the Father, praying with such affection, that, at hearing her, not only our hearts, but the very stones might have been broken. Finally, making the sign of the cross, she blessed us all, and thus continued in prayer to the end of her life for which she had so longed, saying: "You, oh Lord, call me, and I come to You, not through my merits, but through Your mercy alone, which I ask of You, in virtue of Your Blood!" and many times she called out: "Blood, Blood!" Finally, after the example of the Savior, she said: "Father, into Your Hands I commend my soul and my spirit," and thus sweetly, with a face all shining and angelical, she bent her head, and gave up the ghost. Her transit occurred on the Sunday at the hour of Sext, but we kept her unburied until the hour of Compline on Tuesday, without any odor being perceptible, her body remaining so pure, intact, and fragrant, that her arms, her neck and her legs remained as flexible as if she were still alive. During those three days the body was visited by crowds of people, and lucky he thought himself who was able to touch it. Almighty God also worked many miracles in that time, which in my hurry I omit. Her tomb is visited devoutly by the faithful, like those of the other holy bodies which are in Rome, and Almighty God is granting many graces in the name of His blessed spouse, and I doubt not that there will be many more, and we are made great by hearing of them. I say no more. Recommend me to the Prioress and all the sisters, for I have, at present, the greatest need of the help of prayer. May Almighty God preserve you and help you to grow in His grace.
The "Dialogue" may be purchased from DiCarlo Booksellers in the CRNET Marketplace or it may be ordered from Tan Books and Publishers, P. O. Box 424, Rockford, IL 61105, 1-800-437-5876.