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 OBEDIENCE
6. 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