Catholic belief, prayers and spiritual teaching
|THE DIALOGUE OF ST CATHERINE OF SIENA|
Dictated by her, while is a state of ecstasy, to her secretaries, and completed in the year of Our Lord 1370.
A TREATISE OF PRAYER
28. Of the excellence, virtues, and holy works of virtuous and holy ministers; and how such are like the sun.
"I will now speak to you, in order to give a little refreshment to your soul, and to mitigate your grief at the darkness of these miserable subjects, of the holy life of some of My ministers, of whom I have spoken to you, who are like the sun, for the odor of their virtues mitigates the stench of the vices of the others, and the light thereof shines in their darkness. And, by means of this light, will you the better be able to understand the darkness and sins of My unworthy ministers.
"Open then the eye of your intellect and gaze at the Sun of Justice, and you will see those glorious ministers, who, through ministering the Sun, have become like to It, as I told you of Peter, the prince of the Apostles, who received the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. I say the same of these others, who have administered, in the garden of the holy Church, the Light, that is to say, the Body and the Blood of My only-begotten Son, who is Himself the undivided Sun, as has been said, and all the Sacraments of the holy Church, which all give life in virtue of the Blood.
"Each one, placed in a different rank, has administered, according to his state, the grace of the Holy Spirit. With what have they administered it? With the light of grace, which they have drawn from this True Light. With light alone? No; because the light cannot be separated from the warmth and color of grace, wherefore a man must either have the light, warmth, and color of grace, or none at all.
"A man in mortal sin is deprived of the life of grace, and he who is in grace has illuminated the eye of his intellect to know Me, who gave him both grace and the virtue which preserves it, and, in that light, he knows the misery and the reason of sin, that is to say, his own self-love, on which account he hates it, and thereby receives the warmth of Divine love into his affection, which follows his intellect, and he receives the color of this glorious Light, following the doctrine of My sweet Truth, by which his memory is filled with the benefit of the Blood.
"You see, therefore, that no one can receive the light without receiving the warmth and the color, for they are united together and are one thing; wherefore he cannot, as I have said to you, have one power of his soul so ordered as to receive Me, the True Sun, unless all three powers of his soul are brought together and ordered in My Name. For, as soon as the eye of the intellect lifts itself with the pupil of faith above sensual vision in the contemplation of Me, affection follows it, loving that which the intellect sees and knows, and the memory is filled with that which the affection loves; and, as soon as these powers are thus disposed, the soul participates in Me, the Sun who illuminates her with My power, and with the wisdom of My only-begotten Son, and the fiery clemency of the Holy Spirit.
"See, then, that these have taken on them the condition of the Sun, for, having clothed themselves, and filled the power of their soul with Me, the true Sun, they become like Me. The Sun illuminates them and causes the earth of their souls to germinate with Its heat. Thus do My sweet ministers, elected and anointed and placed in the mystical body of the holy Church, in order to administer Me, the Sun, that is to say, the Body and Blood of My only-begotten Son, together with the other Sacraments, which draw their life from this Blood; this they do in two ways, actually, in administering the Sacraments, and spiritually, by shedding forth in the mystical body of the holy Church, the light of supernatural science, together with the color of an honorable and holy life, following the doctrine of My Truth, which they administer in the ardent love with which they cause barren souls to bear fruit, illuminating them with the light of their science, and driving away the darkness of their mortal sin and infidelity, by the example of their holy and regular life, and reforming the lives of those who live in disorder and darkness of sin, and in coldness, through the privation of charity.
So you see that they are the Sun, because they have taken the condition of the Sun from Me, the True Sun, because, through affection of love, they are one thing with Me, and I with them, as I narrated to you in another place, and each one has given light in the holy Church, according to the position to which I have elected him: Peter with preaching and doctrine, and in the end with blood; Gregory with science, and holy scripture, and with the mirror of his life; Sylvester, against the infidels, and with disputation and proving of the most holy faith, which he made in word and in deed, receiving virtue from Me. If you turn to Augustine, and to the glorious Thomas and Jerome, and the others, you will see how much light they have thrown over this spouse, extirpating error, like lamps placed upon the candelabra, with true and perfect humility.
"And, as if famished for such food, they feed upon My honor, and the salvation of souls, upon the table of the most holy Cross. The martyrs, indeed, with blood, which blood cast up sweet perfume before My countenance; and, with the perfume of blood, and of the virtues, and with the light of science, they brought forth fruit in this spouse and extended the faith, and, by their means, the light of the most holy faith was rekindled in the darkened.
"And prelates, placed in the position of the prelacy of Christ on earth, offered Me the sacrifice of justice with holy and upright lives. The pearl of justice, with true humility, and most ardent love, shone in them, and in their subjects, with the light of discretion. In them, principally because they justly paid Me My due, in rendering glory and praise to My Name, and, to their own sensuality, hatred and displeasure, despising vice and embracing virtue, with love of Me and of their neighbor.
"With humility they trampled on pride, and, with purity of heart and of body, came, like angels, to the table of the altar, and, with sincerity of mind, celebrated, burning in the furnace of love. And, because they first had done justice to themselves, they therefore did justice to those under them, wishing to see them live virtuously, and correcting them without any servile fear, because they were not thinking of themselves, but solely of My honor and the salvation of souls, like good shepherds, followers of the Good Shepherd, My Truth, whom I gave you to lead your sheep, having willed that He should give His life for you.
"These have followed His footsteps, and therefore did they correct them, and did not let their members become putrid for want of correcting, but they charitably corrected them with the unction of benignity, and with the sharpness of fire, cauterizing the wound of sin with reproof and penance, little or much, according to the graveness of the fault.
"And, in order to correct it and to speak the truth, they did not even fear death. They were true gardeners who, with care and holy tears, took away the thorns of mortal sins, and planted plants odoriferous of virtue. Wherefore, those under them lived in holy, true fear, and grew up like sweet smelling flowers in the mystic body of the holy Church (because they were not deprived of correction, and so were not guilty of sin), for My gardeners corrected them without any servile fear, being free from it, and without any sin, for they balanced exactly the scales of holy justice, reproving humbly and without human respect.
"And this justice was and is that pearl which shines in them, and which gave peace and light in the minds of the people and caused holy fear to be with them, and unity of hearts. And I would that you know that, more darkness and division have come into the world amongst seculars and religious and the clergy and pastors of the holy Church, through the lack of the light of justice, and the advent of the darkness of injustice, than from any other causes.
"Neither the civil law, nor the divine law, can be kept in any degree without holy justice, because he who is not corrected, and does not correct others, becomes like a limb which putrefies, and corrupts the whole body, because the bad physician, when it had already begun to corrupt, placed ointment immediately upon it, without having first burnt the wound. So, were the prelate, or any other lord having subjects, on seeing one putrefying from the corruption of mortal sin, to apply to him the ointment of soft words of encouragement alone, without reproof, he would never cure him, but the putrefaction would rather spread to the other members, who, with him, form one body under the same pastor.
"But if he were a physician, good and true to those souls, as were those glorious pastors of old, he would not give salving ointment without the fire of reproof. And, were the member still to remain obstinate in his evil doing, he would cut him off from the congregation in order that he corrupt not the other members with the putrefaction of mortal sin. But they act not so today, but, in cases of evil doing, they even pretend not to see. And do you know why?
"The root of self-love is alive in them, wherefore they bear perverted and servile fear. Because they fear to lose their position or their temporal goods, or their prelacy, they do not correct, but act like blind ones, in that they see not the real way by which their position is to be kept. If they would only see that it is by holy justice they would be able to maintain it; but they do not, because they are deprived of light. But, thinking to preserve their position with injustice, they do not reprove the faults of those under them; and they are deluded by their own sensitive self-love, or by their desire for lordship and prelacy, and they correct not the faults they should correct in others, because the same or greater ones are their own.
"They feel themselves comprehended in the guilt, and they therefore lose all ardor and security, and, fettered by servile fear, they make believe not to see. And, moreover, if they do see they do not correct, but allow themselves to be bound over with flattering words and with many presents, and they themselves find the excuse for the guilty ones not to be punished. In such as these are fulfilled the words spoken by My Truth, saying: 'These are blind and leaders of the blind, and if the blind lead the blind, they both fall into the ditch.'
"My sweet ministers, of whom I spoke to you, who have the properties and condition of the sun, did not, and do not (if there be any now) act so. And they are truly suns, as I have told you, because in them is no darkness of sin, or of ignorance, because they follow the doctrine of My Truth. They are not tepid, because they burn in the furnace of My love, and because they are despisers of the grandeurs, positions, and delights of the world. They fear not to correct, for he who does not desire lordship or prelacy will not fear to lose it, and will reprove manfully, and he whose conscience does not reprove him of guilt, does not fear.
"And therefore this pearl of justice was not dimmed in My anointed ones, My Christs (of whom I have narrated to you), but was resplendent in them, wherefore they embraced voluntary poverty, and sought out vileness with profound humility, and cared not for scorn or villainies, or the detractions of men, or insult, or opprobrium, or pain, or torment.
"They were cursed, and they blessed, and, with true patience, they bore themselves like terrestrial angels, not by nature, but by their ministry, and the supernatural grace given to them, of administering the Body and Blood of My only-begotten Son. And they are truly angels. Because, as the angel, which I give you to be your guardian, ministers to you holy and good inspirations, so were these ministers angels, and were given by My goodness to be guardians, and therefore had they their eye continually over those under them, like real guardian angels, inspiring in their hearts holy and good thoughts, and offering up for them before Me, sweet and amorous desires with continual prayer, and the doctrine of words, and with example of life.
"So you see that they are angels, placed by My burning love, like lanterns in the mystic body of the holy Church, to be your guardians, so that you blind ones may have guides to direct you into the way of truth, giving you good inspirations, with prayers and example of life, and doctrine as I said.
"With how much humility did they govern those under them, and converse with them! With how much hope and lively faith, and therefore with liberality, did they distribute to the poor the substance of the holy Church, not fearing, or caring if for them and their subjects temporal substance diminished. And they scarcely observed that which they were really bound to do, that is, to distribute the temporal substance to their own necessity being the poor in the Church. They saved nothing, and after their death there remained no money at all, and there were some even who, for the sake of the poor, left the Church in debt. This was because through the largeness of their charity, and of the hope that they had placed in My Providence, they were without servile fear that anything should diminish to them, either spiritual or temporal.
"The sign that a creature hopes in Me and not in himself, is that he does not fear with a servile fear. They who hope in themselves are the ones who fear, and are afraid of their own shadow, and doubt lest the sky and earth fade away before them. With such fears as these, and a perverted hope in their own small knowledge, they spend so much miserable solicitude in acquiring and preserving temporal things, that they turn their back on the spiritual, caring not for them.
"But they, miserable, faithless, proud ones consider not that I alone am He who provides all things necessary for the soul and the body, and that with the same measure that My creatures hope in Me, will My providence be measured to them. The miserable presumptuous ones do not regard the fact that I am He who is, and they are they who are not, and that they have received their being, and every other additional grace, from My Goodness.
"And therefore his labor may be reputed to be in vain, who watches the city if it be not guarded by Me. All his labor will be vain, if he thinks by his labor or solicitude to keep it, because I alone keep it. It is true that I desire you to use your being, and exercise the graces which I have bestowed upon you, in virtue using the free-will which I have given you, with the light of reason, because though I created you without your help I will not save you without it.
"I loved you before you were, and those My beloved ones saw and knew this, and therefore they loved Me ineffably, and through their love hoped so greatly in Me that they feared nothing. Sylvester feared not when he stood before the Emperor Constantine disputing with those twelve Jews before the whole crowd, but with lively faith he believed that I being for him, no one could be against him; and in the same way the others all lost their every fear, because they were not alone but were accompanied, because being in the enjoyment of love, they were in Me, and from Me they acquired the light of the wisdom of My only-begotten Son, and from Me they received the faculty to be strong and powerful against the princes and tyrants of the world, and from Me they had the fire of the Holy Spirit, sharing the clemency and burning love of that Spirit.
"This love was and is the companion of whosoever desires it, with the light of faith, with hope, with fortitude, true patience and long perseverance even until death.
"So you see that because they were not alone but were accompanied they feared nothing. He only who feels himself to be alone, and hopes in himself, deprived of the affection of love, fears, and is afraid of every little thing, because he alone is without Me who give supreme security to the soul who possesses Me through the affection of love.
"And of this did those glorious ones, My beloved, have full experience, for nothing could injure their souls; but they on the contrary could injure men and the devils, who oftentimes remained bound by the virtue and power that I had given My servants over them. This was because I responded to the love, faith, and hope they had placed in Me. Your tongue would not be sufficient to relate their virtues, neither the eye of your intellect to see the fruit which they receive in everlasting life, and that all will receive who follow in their footsteps.
"They are like precious stones, and as such do they stand in My presence, because I have received their labor and poverty and the light which they shed with the odor of virtues in the mystic body of the holy Church. And in the life eternal I have placed them in the greatest dignity, and they receive blessing and glory in My sight, because they gave the example of an honorable and holy life, and with light administered the Light of the Body and Blood of My only-begotten Son, and all the Sacraments.
"And these My anointed ones and ministers are peculiarly beloved by Me, on account of the dignity which I placed in them, and because this Treasure which I placed in their hands they did not hide through negligence and ignorance, but rather recognized it to be from Me, and exercised it with care and profound humility with true and real virtues; and because I, for the salvation of souls, having placed them in so much excellency they never rested like good shepherds from putting the sheep into the fold of the holy Church, and even out of love and hunger for souls they gave themselves to die, to get them out of the hands of the devil.
"They made themselves infirm with those who were infirm, so that they might not be overcome with despair, and to give them more courage in exposing their infirmity, they would oftentimes lend countenance to their infirmity and say, 'I, too, am infirm with you.' They wept with those who wept, and rejoiced with those who rejoiced; and thus sweetly they knew to give everyone his nourishment, preserving the good and rejoicing in their virtues, not being gnawed by envy, but expanded with the broadness of love for their neighbors, and those under them.
"They drew the imperfect ones out of imperfection, themselves becoming imperfect and infirm with them, as I told you, with true and holy compassion, and correcting them and giving them penance for the sins they committed -- they through love endured their penance -- together with them. For through love, they who gave the penance, bore more pain than they who received it; and there were even those who actually performed the penance, and especially when they had seen that it had appeared particularly difficult to the penitent. Wherefore by that act the difficulty became changed into sweetness.
"Oh! My beloved ones, they made themselves subjects, being prelates, they made themselves servants, being lords, they made themselves infirm, being whole, and without infirmity and the leprosy of mortal sin, being strong they made themselves weak, with the foolish and simple they showed themselves simple, and with the small insignificant.
"And so with love they knew how to be all things to all men, and to give to each one his nourishment. What caused them to do thus? The hunger and desire for My honor and the salvation of souls which they had conceived in Me. They ran to feed on it at the table of the holy Cross, not fleeing from or refusing any labor, but with zeal for souls and for the good of the holy Church and the spread of the faith, they put themselves in the midst of the thorns of tribulation, and exposed themselves to every peril with true patience, offering incense odoriferous with anxious desires, and humble and continual prayers.
"With tears and sweat they anointed the wounds of
their neighbor, that is the wounds of the guilt of
mortal sin, which latter were perfectly cured, the
ointment so made, being received in humility."